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Indiana Jones' Shoulder Bag

 

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One of the more useful items carried by Indiana Jones was his satchel/shoulder bag. A "found" item, the bag is a heavy canvas World War II-era “MkVII” (Mark Seven) British gas mask bag with the original cotton web strap replaced by a leather strap with a metal adjustment buckle.

civilian

The MkVII British Gas Mask Bag was issued to British troops and police forces during WWII as a precaution against a German gas attack (no, not from eating too much sauerkraut). Civilians were not issued MkVIIs, and instead had respirators in cardboard boxes around their necks or civilian duty respirators in drawstring haversacks. The MkVII Gas Mask Bag was a common site in the British Isles during the war, and you will see it often in pictures of “The Blitz.” There were many manufacturers of the MkVII, being produced in Great Britian, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and even India or the Union of South Africa.

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Interestingly enough, this bag actually did not exist at the time the first three Indiana Jones movies were supposed to take place, given that manufacturing of the MkVII did not start until 1941. However, the bag did exist by 1957, the setting of the fourth movie.

What did exist during the first three movies was the MkIV in 1935 and the MkV by 1936, which are very similar. The bag in the first movie may have probably been picked up at a surplus store in London. As to which version of the MkVII was used, Noel Howard from Berman and Nathans stated “I have no specifics on the bag and strap, we probably found a bag in our stock at Bermans and Nathans and adjusted it at the fitting.”

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The MkVII gas mask bag is Indy’s satchel in all four Indiana Jones movies. However, during Temple, there was one scene where a MkVI version was used instead. When Mola Ram and Indy fight over the bag with the Sankara Stones on the collapsed bridge, the bag that catches fire (with a fake side added) from Shiva’s “magic” is in fact a MkVI, not a MkVII. You can tell the differences between the two types of bags in a few of the main details. The MkVI has a small front D-ring, no lanyard disc, and an extra pocket flap. Even though the MkVI had three vents on the bottom of the bag and most MkVII's appear to have two generally, some MkVII bags have been seen with three vents or only one vent.

These following stills are from the 'fight for the stones' scene in Temple of Doom.
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There seem to be many different variations of the now famous MkVII bag. Color varies from mustard yellow (typically the Canadian ones) to an olive green. There are often different style snaps on the main flap and D-rings instead of O-rings for the strap attachment. While not a variation, some bags still have the original divider in the main compartment that separates the area into a mask part and a filter part, and some have this divider removed. Most likely, Indy's satchel would not have this divider still in place as it greatly reduces the storage capability.

In an effort to clarify for the collector, this page includes a list of known bag variations, together with photos and details which will help identify them. The list also includes various MkVI models as well. These are commonly used and also mistaken by collectors.

Model
Manufacturer
Identification & Details
Images (click to enlarge)
MkVII
  Green fabric; two brass snap closure; two brass vent holes (underside); nickel 'O' ring strap holders  
  Waring & Gilbow Ltd. Positively identified as one of the versions used in the films.
Designated by initials W&G, 1932 Ltd.
Production years: 1940–1943. Made respirator haversacks, as well as sundry other military supplies such as stuffable 'field beds'. W&G made most of their items from linen, rather than canvas.
w&g w&g
w&g w&g
w&g w&g
w&g w&g
w&g
  C. M. Co. Canadian Motorlamp Co. Production years known: 1941.
Bag shown was purchased from Noel Howard.
c.m. co.
  R.D. & Co. Company unknown.
Production years known: 1941.
rd & co. rd & co.
rd & co. rd & co.
rd & co. rd & co.
rd & co.
  W.E.&S. Ltd. Whiteley's Equipment and Supply Ltd. Production years known: 1942.
The bag was purchased at a local army surplus store in Vancouver BC, Canada.
we&s ltd. we&s ltd.
we&s ltd.
  M. & Co. Available in khaki.
Company unknown.
Production years known: 1941.
 
  J. & A.H. Company unknown.
Production years known: 1942.
 
  R.M.A. Company unknown.
Production years known: 1943.
 
  O.B.C.L. Company unknown.
Production years known: 1943.
 
  PSC Company unknown.
Production years known: 1941.
 
  H. & Sons Company unknown.
Production years known: 1942.
 
  Woods Company believed to be Canadian.
Production years known: 1941, 1943.
 
  G.M.H. & Co. General Motors Holden And Company.
Austrailian Make.
Production years known: 1941.
 
  M.C.& Co. Mulders Canvas & Co.
Austrailian Make
Mulders is a saddlery and tack shop that is still going strong.
Production years known: 1941–1942.
 
  G. & S. Ltd. Company unknown.
Production years known: 1941.
 
  Markings Unknown The Myers Store for Men.
Austrailian Make.
Also produced respirator bags (a private purchase item, made from a more linen-like fabric).
 
  Markings Unknown Louis Epstein Ltd.
Australian Make.
Used to be a military tailor and it's possible the bags they made were a private purchase item.
 
MkVI   Green and tan fabric; two flaps; in some cases, two brass snap closure; single and triple brass vent hole (underside); brass 'D' ring strap holders. Many of these are Canadian issue, designated by the Canadian Ordnance mark (an arrow within a C).  
  W&G Designated by initials W&G, 1932 Ltd.
Production years: 1942.
 
  H & Sons Company unknown
Production years known: 1941.
 
  Woods Company unknown - Canadian issue (usually indicated by yellow/mustard coloration).
Single underside drainage hole.
Production years known: 1941.
woods1 woods2
woods3

 

Indy's bag had its moment to shine in these scenes from The Last Crusade:
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Even though these are an authentic piece of militaria, and supply will someday run dry, it appears that like “a bad penny,” used and like-new versions of these bags keep turning up. However, reproduction bags (sans original style cotton straps) have also started appearing since 2002, and make for a good replacement bag if you can’t find an original. If properly weathered, they can appear identical to the appearance of the original WWII era bags. Also remember that original bags, being from WWII, can sometimes have a mildew smell and some rust stains on the metal parts (snaps, O-rings, lanyard, vents, etc), so it’s personal preference if you feel the need to clean/repair the bag.

As for the replacement strap, the cotton strap was removed and a leather strap with an adjustment buckle was added. The two ends of the strap can either be riveted, or for easier replacement, you can use Chicago Screws. In Raiders, the strap was a medium brown color, similar to his holster’s color, with a silver buckle in a squared off shape. In the other three movies, the strap was a very dark brown, almost black in some photos, with different buckles in all three. The Temple strap had a roller buckle. The Last Crusade strap also had a roller buckle, but it was bent partway between the middle and the top of the buckle. The Crystal Skull strap also has a bent buckle, but the bend is right at the middle of the buckle.

Close-up stills of the strap buckle from each film:
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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

In the first three movies, Indy typically wears the satchel on top of the shirt and underneath the jacket. You can remove the jacket and the satchel is still present. In Crystal Skull, when the jacket is on, it appears the satchel is worn on the outside of the jacket. This is the first time Indy has ever worn his satchel on the outside of the jacket in any of the movies.

KotCS bagstrap

 


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