Category Archives: Body Armour

Osprey Mk II Collars

This week we are looking at the collars that can be attached to an Osprey Mk II set of body armour. The osprey Mk II was designed to be scalable, meaning that soldiers who needed extra protection, but were less mobile than normal infantry, could add extra pieces of soft armour to the basic vest. This applied to troops such as gunners on vehicles where they were not moving about, but were more vulnerable to enemy fire. In this case extra collars and arm brassards were issued:Osprey_body_armour_basrahTwo types of collars were issued, a full depth example, and a half depth version:imageEach of these collars divides into two halves, with Velcro at the centre:imageThis allows a ballistic filler to be fitted inside, a small flap opening at the wider end to allow it to be fitted:imageI don’t have the filler, so I have used cut up yoga-mats to fill out my collar and give it some stiffness. I can’t speak for the actual filler, but in this case it was a real pain to pit the yoga-mat filler as it was hard to get it to the end of the cover and I had to resort to a long wooden spoon to get it to sit correctly! Each half of the collar is separately labelled:imageThe collar fits to the vest with both Velcro and lift the dot studs:imageA loop is also fitted to the rear that loops around the carry handle on the back of the neck of the vest:imageOnce fitted the collar fits securely to the vest:imageA Velcro tab is included to secure the front of the collar around the wearer’s neck:imageThe neck armour was never popular amongst British troops, but it was noted by one army surgeon that the lack of uptake of the armour led to British troops having three times as many neck wounds as their American counterparts whilst on active service in Afghanistan. It has been suggested that their unpopularity was due to the uncomfortableness of wearing them, the difficulty of aiming a rifle when wearing a collar and that they interfered with other equipment soldiers had to wear. As few as 4% of officers who had served in front line operations had worn the collars, despite them being available.

Having tried my collar attached to my Osprey, I can confirm it was bulky and the weight with the proper fillers would be quite high so it is perhaps unsurprising they were not more widely adopted, despite their potential to save lives.


Osprey Mk II Body Armour Cover

Last week we looked at the Mk IV Osprey cover from 2010. Tonight we go back a few years and look at its predecessor, the Mk II which was developed at the end of 2006 and issued to troops on operations in early 2007. The original Osprey body armour had been the subject of close interest from the government’s Defence Clothing Integrated Project Team and they had identified a number of flaws with the design including PALS strips pulling undone, poppers which opened too easily and a general feeling that the first pattern had been poorly made. The Mk II updated not only the vest, but also the shoulder brassards and collars (which we will look at another week). Originally these covers would have contained a ballistic filler and hard plates, however these are virtually impossible to get hold of on the civilian market at the moment.

The vest is split into two parts, a front and a back:imageThese are fastened at the shoulder with an arrangement of Velcro and press studs:imageTo improve the reliability of the vest in service all press studs were now made one-directional rather than multidirectional as in the earlier design. This meant that the only came undone if pressure was exerted in the right direction and this massively increased their reliability in the field. Note also the folded down fasteners to attach the collar to the armour.

One immediate difference readers will note when compared to the later design, is that the armour for the vest sits proud in a separate pocket, rather than being integral to the vest like the Mk IV:imageThe large pocket unzips and allows a large hardened SAPI plate to be fitted covering the whole of the thorax. A smaller pocket is also included so the plate from the old ECBA can be fitted over the heart if a lighter, but less well protected, set up is preferred:imageThe same arrangement is fitted to the rear:imageNote also the black male Fastex buckles top and bottom for the attachment of a Camelbak water bladder and two fastenings are fitted along the bottom edge to allow a respirator haversack to be attached. Both sides of the vest are fitted with PALS loops to allow pouches to be attached as required:imageA handle is fitted to the top of the rear to allow an injured soldier to be dragged clear by his comrades if needed:imageOne of the changes made to the Mk II vest was to fit a waist cummerbund belt to improve the fit and comfort of the vest. These straps pass around the body of the wearer and secure with Velcro at the front:imageAnother change made was the addition of a short strap to the shoulder:imageThis is designed to be passed through the rear sling loop of an SA80 and supports the weapon from the shoulder in lieu of a standard sling.

A single rank strap is fitted to the front to allow a rank slide to be fitted if required:imageBoth sides of the vest have a label giving sizing and care instructions:imageThere were a total of eight different sizes of Osprey Armour produced: 170/100, 170/112, 180/104, 180/116, 190/108, 190/120, 200/116 and 200/124.

Osprey armour was very effective, but it was bulky and heavy, which coupled with high temperatures and heavy loads in theatre led to rapid fatigue amongst troops wearing it- the Afghan National Army working alongside British troops dubbed them ‘tortoises’ for their appearance and speed!800px-Sniper_During_Op_Oqab_Tsuka_in_Afghanistan_MOD_45149829For those whose life has been saved by the armour though, the weight is a small price to pay. Lance Sergeant Collins was shot at in 2008:

When I was shot I thought the worst, especially because it from only about 200 metres away and I think it was a 7.62mm round – that’s a high calibre bullet to be hit by. I was examined on the spot expecting to be told bad news but there was nothing there. The body armour had stopped the bullet and saved my life.

He came away with just some bruising- only a few years before this would have been fatal.

We will continue our study of osprey Body Armour next week when we start looking at some of the accessories used with the various marks of armour.

Osprey Mk IV Armour Cover

Tonight we are starting what I hope will turn into another of our semi-regular mini-series on the blog, much like the Canadian webbing series of last year. The Osprey series of body armour and accessories has been in service with the British Army since 2006 and has gone through four distinct marks. Osprey armour was a major advance on previous designs as it was scalable meaning it could be adapted for differing threat levels and had much larger hard plates than the old ECBA. This of course came with a trade off in that the armour was quite bulky and over the various marks changes were made to try and improve both ergonomics and protection. Sadly the plates on Osprey are virtually impossible to get hold of on the collectors market so it will just be the covers we will be looking at, along with the many, many accessories offered with each vest. Going forward I may try and mock up some plates with foam yoga mats to help bulk out the vests appropriately, and if I do I will try and post a suitable tutorial on the blog.

Tonight though we start, rather inappropriately, with the last of the Osprey series, the Mk 4 body armour cover:imageThis vest was introduced in 2010 and was the first to be made in MTP camouflage rather than the DDPM of the earlier models. The design is worn like a tabard over the head and two large panels wrap around and attach to the front with Velcro:imageThe front and back parts of the vest split apart at the shoulders:imageThe official pamphlet explains how to join the two segments together:CaptureThe right hand shoulder of the armour has a non-slip fabric attached to support the butt plate of the SA80 rifle when firing, with a raised ridge to help prevent it from slipping off the edge:imageNote also the original user’s Zap number and blood group, written on in marker pen. The soldier also wrote his name on the inside, telling us he was called ‘Mukasa’:imageThe opposite shoulder has a pair of PALS loops for attaching small items, and a plastic loops ring:imagePALS loops for the MOLLE system are all over the vest and consist of tapes of fabric, sewn at regular intervals to create a network of loops:imageThis is particularly apparent on the rear of the vest:imageThe top of the rear of the vest has a pair of heavy duty carrying handles so a casualty can be dragged to safety. Here the original owner has wrapped them in tape and written his Zap number and blood group again:imageAs was mentioned at the start, this armour is designed to be adaptable and shoulder brassards can be attached, using the Velcro and press studs around the shoulder:imageA range of collars can also be fitted, with fasteners around the neck. These tuck underneath when not needed:imageThe differing ranges of protection can be seen in this illustration from the official manual, we will look at the other components in the coming months:CaptureA belt can be fitted to the bottom edge of the armour, and loops are provided to run this through:imageThe internal armour for this cover is again adjustable and pockets allow a range of soft and hard armour to be fitted, in internal Velcroed pockets before a large zip secures everything:imageAs with most military equipment, large labels are sewn to each half of the vest with sizing and care instructions:imageI have only worn this armour once myself when I borrowed a set for a weekend exercise with the navy aboard Argus, here is yours truly looking remarkably warlike whilst practicing with a baton:imageI found the armour very impressive, but bulky compared to the older ECBA and it is interesting to note that when deploying in low risk situations such as on the streets of London last year, troops are still using the ECBA in preference to the Osprey or newer Virtus systems which seem to be reserved for combat roles.

We will return to the Osprey series over the coming weeks.

Tier Three Ballistic Shorts

Yesterday we looked at the tier one ballistic underwear, previously we have covered the tier two ‘combat nappy’ in our survey of pelvic armour. Tonight we come to the final layer of armour available to troops, the tier three combat shorts:imageThese shorts are designed to be worn in conjunction with the other two tiers, but are designed for use by those on patrol who need greater levels of protection- the lead man of a patrol or the metal detector operator sweeping for IEDs. Design trials of this armour took place in 2011 and they were then quickly distributed to troops in Afghanistan as an Urgent Operational Requirement. The shorts have separate soft armour fillers that fit inside special pockets around them, Unfortunately I do not have these filler plates, but this illustration shows their shape, as well as the little bag that can be used to store them in:Tier 3 protective clothingThe cover was issued in a sealed clear plastic bag:imageWith a sticker giving stores details:imageAs the shorts are designed to be worn over other clothing, the cut is generous, with a tie strap at the waist to fasten them:imageReinforced knee pads are sewn into the cover:imageThe groin region has a piece of mesh to encourage ventilation into an area that can easily overheat:imageA long pocket with soft armour runs down the outside of each leg:imageThis opens with press studs to reveal a long zip to ease getting into and out of the shorts:imageThe shorts and their armour inserts help to protect, amongst other things, some of the major arteries in the leg, such as the femoral artery. If this artery is severed a soldier can bleed to death very quickly, these shorts are designed to help minimise the risk. The garment was designed to be worn with the tier two armour so a large flexible gusset of plain green material is sewn into the front and back of the shorts over the groin:imageAs with the tier two armour, a standard green label is sewn inside the tier three armour, with a note to ensure it is worn the correct way round:imageDue to its more specialist nature, fewer sets of shorts were produced than other elements of the pelvic armour system. They were used however, as can be seen in this photograph of a private:British_soldier_private_Scott_littleton_with_new_Pelvic_protective_clothing_001My thanks to Michael Fletcher for his help in adding this one to the collection.

Tier One Pelvic Armour- Ballistic Boxer Shorts

A couple of months ago we looked at the Tier Two pelvic armour here. Over the next two nights we are going to look at the other two elements of this armour system, starting tonight with the ballistic boxer shorts:imageThese boxers are worn as a bottom layer beneath all the other layers of uniform and armour and are made of black ballistic silk. This ancient fabric is remarkably strong and is excellent at repelling tiny fragments of shrapnel, as witnessed by this still from a video of the shorts in action:imageThe shorts have a simple elastic waistband:imageAnd a white label (here very faded) sewn into the back:imageThe MOD published some information about the shorts in 2010:

The MOD has spent £10m on the new armour system to date. It balances protection with the necessary comfort and manoeuvrability for troops to undertake operations, enabling them to wear one or more of the protective layers depending on the task. They are already being worn by troops on operations, with 45,000 pairs delivered to Afghanistan and another 15,000 ready to be issued to deploying troops. A further 60,000 are to be manufactured and delivered to troops early next year.

The first layer of protection is a pair of shorts, which troops wear as underwear.

Using cutting-edge science and technology developed by the MOD and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the underwear is manufactured from scientifically-tested ballistic silk material that provides an initial level of protection to mitigate against the effects of blasts, including shrapnel.

They have been bought as an Urgent Operational Requirement worth £6m and are being manufactured by Northern Ireland-based Cooneen, Watts and Stone.

The BBC reported:

Alan Hepper, the principal engineer at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, says many factors had to be taken into account when creating the materials.

“The way silk is woven makes it very strong, with a very high ballistic efficiency. It may sound like an extravagant material, but in ballistic protection terms, it is the best we’ve found,” he says.

“The feedback from medical staff treating the injured suggests that it does make a noticeable difference.”

By all accounts the shorts were pretty comfortable and were a popular and easy to wear item of protection. Tomorrow we continue our study of the pelvic armour system with the Tier Three layer.image

Body Armour Filler

Over the last year we have looked at a number of different body armour sets, or more specifically we have looked at the covers for although I have touched on the fillers, we have never actually taken a close look at what’s under the cover. A chance purchase of a spare set of filler at The Yorkshire Wartime Experience (destined for my AFV armour cover) affords us a good opportunity to look at the body armour filler used in a large number of different British body armour sets. The body armour filler was introduced in time for the Gulf War and is made of a woven aramid and nylon, with a green PVC cover:imageThe cover prevents water from getting into the ballistic filler which would not only add weight, but reduce its ballistic properties. The filler is excellent at stopping low velocity fragments such as those from grenades or shells, and it can also cope with low powered pistol calibre rounds, it cannot protect the wearer from high velocity rounds such as those fired from a rifle.

The filler has a broad section that covers the back, and two flaps that come down over the shoulders, leaving a space at the front for the cover’s fasteners to allow it to be easily taken on or off:imageThe filler needs to be fitted into the cover the correct way round, so a small white label is fixed on both sides, one warns the user that is they can read it with the cover on, they have out it in the wrong way round!imageThe second should be visible through the opening on the cover and includes sizing and care instructions, as well as the ubiquitous NSN stores number:imageAs these fillers are still serviceable, with newer designs of cover, they have remained in service longer than the the camouflage covers. The covers are therefore really easy to find, the fillers are slightly scarcer but they are still out there and I am keeping my open for another couple to fit in various covers I have in my collection.

WW1 Postcard of Troops outside a Barrack Hut

This week’s postcard is a fine group shot from the Great War of soldiers posing outside a barrack hut:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (2)I suspect that this photograph was taken as part of a training course as the soldiers display a wide variety of cap badges. Three officers are seated in the centre:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (3)Regiments represented include the Royal Berkshires:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (4)Royal Army Medical Corps:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (6)Northumberland Fusiliers:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (5)Machine Gun Corps:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (7)And The Royal West Kent Regiment:SKM_C45817051611140 - CopyThe men display an interesting assortment of belts including leather 1914 pattern examples:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (8)And 2” wide webbing belts:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (9)I particularly like the jack russell dog being held by the chap on the front row:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (10)Other features to note are the duckboards the men at the front are sitting on:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (12)And the corrugated iron used in producing the hut behind them:SKM_C45817051611140 - Copy (11)Note also the palm frond and large sack leaned up against the hut. The essential role hutted accommodation played in the Great War is often overlooked, but it was the only way to quickly house recruits and men and hutted encampments sprang up all over Britain and France. These huts are largely all gone now, but many have survived as WI Halls, Scout Huts and Community Centres. A dedicated team of volunteers down south has been saving these buildings as they become earmarked for demolition and restoring them to their original splendour. Take a look here for more information on this fantastic project.