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Sam Browne

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Quick Overview

The device became the mainstay of British Army Officers following its adoption during the Second Boer War.  A different arrangement of the ‘Sam Browne’ was popular with British Officers and Commonwealth Armed Forces which consisted of a wide belt with two vertical supporting straps-one over each shoulder. 

Sam Browne

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Product Description

Sam Browne Belt

The Sam Browne belt is a wide belt, usually leather, which is supported by a strap going diagonally over the right shoulder. It is most often seen as part of a military or police uniform. Due to its former use as equipment for carrying a sword, it is traditionally only worn by those to whom a sword would historically have been issued, namely officers. The Sam Browne belt is named after Sir Samuel James Browne, VC. began his service in India in April 1849 as Second in Command of the 2nd Regiment of Punjab Cavalry, the unit which also later took his name (22nd Sam Browne’s Cavalry). During this period, officers always wore swords when in action and as an everyday part of the uniform.  The sword hung from a metal clip on the waist belt called a ‘frog’.  However, the scabbard which held the sword, tended to slide a lot when the wearer was running, which meant it had to be held steady whilst the sword was being drawn.

 During the horrendous Indian Mutiny of 1857 which claimed the lives of thousands, Captain Sam Browne was serving with the 2nd Punjab Irregular Cavalry.  On the 31st August 1858, Browne was engaged in fighting near Seerporah.  Charging rebel cannon, he was attacked by its crew.  Receiving two sword cuts, Browne was wounded in the left knee and the left arm which had been severed at the shoulder.  Browne survived the injuries but without a left hand which meant he was now unable to draw or control a sword. Browne came up with the concept of wearing a second ‘belt’ which went over his right shoulder which held the scabbard where he could draw the sword.  The cross-shoulder belt would hook into a heavy leather belt which had ‘D-rings attached for accessories.  Browne’s design also incorporated a pistol in a flap-holster on his right hip and included binoculars with case.

 Many infantry officers began to find the design quite ingenious and the usability quote convenient and there the belt quickly raised in popularity among the officer corps particularly the Infantry officers.  Other Cavalry officers in the Indian Army began wearing Browne’s ‘belt’ and it soon became a standard part of the uniform. The belt was then officially recommended for universal issue - within the Indian Army - in 1882. Long after he retired, in 1898 Sam saw his design finally accepted for Home Service, in the U.K.

It is interesting to note that Infantry Officers sometimes wore a variant that used two suspender straps instead of the cross belt.  This variant was supposedly invented by Sir Basil Templer Graham-Montgomery, 5th Baronet Stanhope who was a lieutenant in the 60th Rifles in 1878.  There still is a fierce debate as to whether Graham-Montgomery modified Browne’s design or vice versa. Despite its decline, the ‘Sam Browne’ is still used by military forces around the world, but in less numbers.  Its use has been relegated to ceremonial purposes rather than an aid to battle, whichever way the Sam Browne belt remains a significant part of the uniform accouchement of any and every commonwealth infantry officer.


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