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Matthew Allsopp

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The Shoulder Bag

Indiana Jones’ shoulder bag, or satchel, is actually a chronological anachronism. While Indy gallivants around the world in the mid to late 1930s, his shoulder bag is actually from the mid 1940s! In looking for a container in which Indy could store things like pencils, maps and bronze headpieces, the props people on Raiders settled for what is known as a Mark VII, or "MKVII," gas mask bag used by both British military personnel and British civilians during World War II

click to enlarge
Left, authentic 1943 MKVII gas mask bag.
Right, common found
accurate reproduction.

These bags were standard issue to everyone in London, because the government was concerned that Hitler’s attacks might involve poison gas. As such, hundreds of thousands of these bags were manufactured and issued. This was ideal for the production team on Raiders because they could acquire them cheaply and replace them often if one was destroyed in a stunt.

These bags can often be seen in other films doubling as World War I era gas mask bags, although this is also technically inaccurate. For Indiana Jones, this bag’s wide web strap was removed and replaced with a buckled leather strap. There are a number of good films in which you can see these bags in their proper environment, specifically Battle of Britain and Hope and Glory. In Temple of Doom, during the climactic scene with Indy and Mola Ram fighting over the bag, the crew used a Mark VI bag instead of a Mark VII, which is indicated by the three lower "drains" in the bottom of the bag instead of the usual two for the MKVII.

click to enlargeclick to enlargeclick to enlarge
2 screenshots from Raiders and ToDoom next to 1 from Battle of Britain,
showing the shoulder bag as it was intended to be used during the war.

Today these bags are quite rare, being over sixty years old. Some can still be found in military surplus stores but this is a difficult hunt. Many excellent reproductions are currently made.


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