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Digging Tools

Part 4

Image Collection 3

Gavin K. Watt

The two-piece entrenching tool (E-Tool) was part of the Pattern 1908 [P08] Webbing set of the Great War. The tool was carried in a web case suspended from the waist-belt on top of the buttocks. The cast steel head had a shovel blade and a pick and was contained inside the case with the wooden helve threaded through two web loops on the outside. The E-Tool was only of marginal utility, so soldiers reinforcing the line or going into the attack were given General Service [GS] shovels and picks to be able to better maintain tren-ches or consolidate on the objective.

Despite the E-Tool’s shortcomings, its use was continued in the Second War. The Pattern 1937 case was only slightly modified from the P08 version and was again mounted on the waistbelt below the small of the back or off to one side. A later helve design had lugs at one end to mount the No.4 spike Bayonet as a prod for locating landmines.

By mid-1944, the E-Tool was all but abandoned. Infantrymen going into action instead carried the GS shovel or pick through their webbing. The method of carriage varied by unit with some troops putting the shovel’s blade in front of their chest as additional protection from shell or grenade fragments. No matter where these tools were placed in the webbing, they were awkward to carry and a menace when going to ground.



Jean Bouchery, From D-Day to VE-Day, the Canadian Soldier (Paris: Histoire & Collections)

Michael A. Dorosh, Canuck Battledress, Weapons and Equipment – Clothing and Equipping the Canadian Soldier 1939-1945 (Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc., 1995)

Brian L. Davis, British Army Uniforms & Insignia of World War Two (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1983)


1. A soldier of the Royal Canadian Regiment, 1CID uses his Entrenching Tool to dig a slit trench at Motta, Italy in Oct43.
(LAC, PA116844)


2. A Royal 22nd Regiment (1CID) Bren Gunner in a sangar, a protective position built out of piled rocks, receives a rum ration from his sergeant near Campobasso, Italy in Oct43. Visible are a GS T-Handled shovel, a pickaxe and an E-Tool.
(LAC, PA190296)


3. Men of the Anti-tank Platoon, Support Company, Perth Regiment, 11CIB, 5CAD in their first action have their E-Tools suspended on the left side of their webbing, Arielli, Italy, 17Jan44.
(IWM NA10962)


4. Infanteers of the Cape Breton Highlanders, 11CIB, 5CAD move into their first action heavily laden with E-Tools on their left side and Shovels and Picks thrust through their Small Packs, Arielli, Italy, 17Jan44.
(IWM, NA10971)


5. Two soldiers of the 48th Highlanders, 1CID digging in near Ortona, Italy, Dec43. One employs the standard D-Handled GS Shovel; the other, what appears to be a civilian version.
(LAC, PA167658)


6.An infanteer of 3CID during D-Day rehearsals in England carries a GS Pickaxe head under the straps of his rump roll with its helve trapped under a set of Utility Pouches.


9. A lance-corporal in Battle Order webbing, with his T-Handled Shovel thrust under his Small Pack, is prepared to advance on Caen, 25Jul44.
(LAC, PA163403)

7. Les Chaudières, 3CID at the Orne River in Normandy moving up in Fighting Order webbing with Shovels and Picks thrust through their web braces. Jun44.
(LAC PA131783)


8. An RCE sergeant digging a slit with Pick and Shovel at Ifs, Normandy. 25Jul44.
(LAC, PA132729)


10. A Bren team of the South Saskatchewan Regiment, 2CID in a couple of very shallow slits dug with their D-Handled Shovel at the Oranje Canal, Holland, 12Apr45.
(LAC, PA113908)


11. A rifleman of the Regina Rifles, 3CID with a Pickaxe thrust through his Fighting Order webbing sits on the edge of a slit trench while waiting to advance through Moyland Wood outside Calcar, Germany, 14Feb45.
(LAC, PA177577)


12. A soldier with his Shovel thrust through the front of his Fighting Order webbing, Groningen, Holland, 14Apr45.
(LAC, PA130949


13. Men of the Algonquin Regiment, 10CIB, 4CAD moving up to the Hochwald Forest outside Udem, Germany. Two soldiers have their Shovels carried through the front of their webbing, 01Mar45.
(LAC, PA147771)


14. A section commander, 15th Scottish Division, 1Cdn Army with his Shovel thrust through the front of his webbing, Nijmegen, Holland, 08Feb45.
(LAC, PA189236)



Left to Right:
Canadian "D Handle" shovel in restored condition.
British "T Handle" in original finish. The meaning of the red stripe is unknown.
British "T Handle" restored with a painted blade.
British "T Handle" in original finish.


Shovel Blade Details
Left: Typical British
Right: Canadian Bulldog brand. Patent date 1925


Typical picks. The larger size also saw use during the First World War.


Close-up view of typical pick handles.

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