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1932 pattern life preserver

Waistcoat, life-saving, stole pattern, Stores Ref. 22C/55

This type of life vest was introduced in 1932 and represents an icon of the "Battle of Britain" era. Buoyancy relied entirely upon oral inflation of the rubber stole and three additional contoured kapok pads stuffed into the horse-collar shaped compartment of waterproof cotton. Missing an automatic inflation system it was recommended to wear it at least partially inflated when in flight. The waistcoat-shaped vest was fitted to the wearer by three buttons and two webbing tapes at the front. It lacked support straps around the legs which were reportedly added by some pilots "in the field". The 1932 pattern vest was manufactured in medium and large size and came in khaki or grey/green colour. In order to improve the chances of rescue, many aircrew painted their vests with bright yellow aircraft paint. Later issue specimen included fluorescent dye marker in a pouch attached to the left hand side.

The vest shown here is a Canadian made example manufactured by the Dominion Rubber Co., issued to both the RAF and RCAF. It differs from its British "cousins" only by being made of bright yellow fabric.

At the back it is stencilled "36 / 4 B R", the significance of which is unknown to us (any help from our visitors is welcome).

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