Category Archives: British Army

Mk IV NBC Smock

The Mk 3 NBC suit we looked at last month was very good for its day, but in the mid 1980s the British Army decided to update the design to accompany the new S10 respirator it was introducing. The Mk 3 was only available in olive green fabric, so a small batch of Mk3a suits were produced in DPM (we will look at an example of these at a later date). Whilst this was a definite improvement, the smock still needed to be pulled on over the head and it was felt that having a conventional zipped fastening up the front was a better design. This led to the next major version of the NBC suit, the Mk 4 and tonight we are looking at the smock:imageWhilst the camouflage fabric and front opening are the most obvious changes to the suit, perhaps more importantly was an improved fabric that was more effective at repelling chemical agents. The outer layer of the smock has a silicon treatment that helps waterproof the fabric from rain and allows liquid agents to spread over the surface rather than sinking in, aiding evaporation. A fluorocarbon finish was also applied which acts as an oil repellent, increasing its effectiveness against liquid agents. The suits were also designed to be fire retardant. Despite all this protection, the suit remains breathable preventing the wearer from overheating. When it was introduced this was one of the most effective NBC suits in the world and it remains in use to this day, underlining the general strength of its design.

Returning to the Mk 4 smock then, we can see that it opens up the front, with a metal zip that is covered by a Velcro flap:imageA piece of elastic is sewn around the edge of the hood to ensure a tight face seal with the respirator:imageVelcro tabs allow the sleeves to be adjusted:imageAnd the waist:imageA pair of large angled bellows pockets are sewn over each breast:imageThe stitching of these pockets only penetrates the first layer of fabric so it doesn’t compromise the suit. Another small pocket is fitted to one sleeve to carry pens etc.:imageA label is sewn into the collar giving sizing:imageIn all six different NSN codes are allocated to the DPM smock based on sizing:

160/092                Extra Small                          8415-99-130-6921

170/100                Small                                     8415-99-130-6922

180/100                Medium                               8415-99-130-6923

190/108                Large                                     8415-99-130-6924

200/116                Extra Large                          8415-99-130-6940

Special Fitting                                                    8415-99-130-6925

The underside of the label indicates that it was made by Remploy:imageThis suit was also produced in desert DPM fabric and at some point I will pick up one of those to accompany this example.

Wartime Signals Satchel Number 1

As regular readers will know I have been picking up bits of kit for my WS38 set radio slowly over the last couple of years. This week I was very pleased to pick up a wartime signals satchel to go with the set:imageI have previously looked at an example of a signals satchel here, but that example was a post war version in green canvas with white metal fittings. This example is the correct one for wartime use and will go nicely with the radio. This is officially a ‘Signals Satchel No 1’, had a stores code of ZA 6292 and was introduced on 27th May 1938. The main body of the satchel is made from pre-shrunk woven cotton webbing, with a box lid:imageThe lid is secured with a single strap and brass buckle to secure it:imageThe inside of the satchel is lined with cotton-drill fabric to help protect the contents:imageTwo variations of the signals satchel can be found, one with the shoulder strap sewn to the satchel itself, and the more common variety such as this one that has a standard 37-pattern shoulder brace secured with brass buckles:imageThe top of the satchel is printed with ‘SATCHEL SIGNALS’:imageThe inside of the top lid is clearly marked with the date 1942 and the manufacturer ‘MECo’:imageThe strap is also stamped:imageAccording to the instruction card the signals satchel should hold:

– 2 mics and 2 phones (one for the officer)

– 1 batteries, (spare)

– 1 hooks, brace (spare)

– The instruction card

The actual batteries and junction box should have been stored in a separate pack on the back, but by all accounts only the satchel was used for much of the time so the wireless operator actually had somewhere to carry his own personal kit!

As far as I am aware this satchel was made in both Britain and Canada. I have not seen Australian, Indian or South African examples but that does not mean there was not production in these countries.

Cold Weather Woollen Wristlets

Over the last few years I have slowly been building up a little selection of modern Arctic kit, with items such as crampons, survival guides and over-gloves. Many of these items are pretty inexpensive and today we have a set of woollen wristlets that cost me just £1:imageThese are made of white knitted wool and fit over the wrist to keep it warm, a hole being provided for the thumb to fit through:imageNote the cloth binding to protect the edges from catching and unravelling. A simple cloth label is sewn into each wristlet, with a crude /|\ mark on it:imageThese wristlets have been in service for many years, and the page in the MoD’s Black Book of Kit gives a date into service of before 1991:WristletsOne serviceman who was issued them reports: Wristlets are pretty good if you can get some. Keeps the blood flowing to your fingers warm.

Knitted woollen wristlets have been worn by British soldiers since at least the time of the Great War, with knitting patterns published for people at home to make them for the troops, this illustration comes from a period knitting pattern and the design is broadly similar to the arctic wristlet we have above:759e304fec48c14ce22c675846d397fa--wristlets-vintage-patterns

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

War Department Marked Safety Razor

It is odd that it has taken me nearly ten years of collecting to finally add a British Army marked razor to my collection. I must confess I have not yet found one ‘in the wild’ and this example came from eBay and cost rather more than I would normally pay, but it fills an important gap in my personal kit collection:imageThis safety razor has never been issued and came in its original paper packet from the store:imageThe razor itself breaks down into three parts, the handle unscrews and the top piece splits into two pieces:imageThe top cover of the razor is marked with the /|\ acceptance mark, a date of 1945 and a maker’s name of A.S & Co:imageI believe this stands for the ‘Autostrop Razor Company’. This was a London company and this advert for a different design of razor dates to 1919:Im1919DMYBk-AutoAlthough the US had issued safety razors in World War One, and many British troops had privately purchased them, the British Army still officially issued cut throat razors until 1926 when a contract was placed with the Gillette Company Ltd to replace these with safety razors. This created debate in the Houses of Commons:

Mr. STORRY DEANS (by Private Notice)asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is the policy of his Department to contract with manufacturers and not with merchants or agents for the supply of goods for the use of the Army; whether he is aware that the Gillette Company Limited, to whom a contract for safety razors has been given, is not a manufacturing company; that it does not own or work either the factory where the razors are made or the factory where the blades are made; whether he is aware that both these factories are owned by an American company; and what is the reason for departing from the usual practice of the Department in the case of this contract?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans) The normal practice of the Department is to place contracts only with manufacturers, but where the manufacturer has a sole selling agent we are perforce obliged to contract with the selling agent if we wish to purchase the goods. The razor-holders are to be made at Slough, and the blades in Canada.

Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX (by Private Notice)asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to a letter from the managing director of the Auto-Strop Safety Razor Company which appeared in the “Times” of 18th October; and whether it is a fact that the offer of that company would have provided for Army requirements of safety razors “without a penny of expense to the British Treasury”?

Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS Yes, Sir, my attention has been drawn to the letter. It is, of course, not customary to disclose tenders, but since the letter would give an entirely false impression, I think it right to say that, had the offer been accepted, it would have meant a cash payment of some 60 per cent. in excess of that under the existing contract.

Sir A. KNOX Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether that price includes the expense of the strops as well?

Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS I believe it includes some of the strops, but the rest would have had to be paid for extra.

The 1943 British Army Clothing Regulations indicate that a single safety razor was issued to each man at the start of his time in the army, but then was maintained form his own funds, with replacement blades and new razors being bought form the NAAFI rather than being issued by the military. The blades used in these razors were made of carbon steel rather than the stainless steel used in modern blades and this resulted in them rusting easily, so care had to be taken to clean and dry blades after use.

This little safety razor is definitely on the cheaper end of the scale, a contemporary Ever Ready example I have been using up to this point in my wash roll is far better made, however this is to be expected when military contracts are involved! For a review of the shaving capabilities of this little razor head over to the blog’s Facebook page for more information.image

Grenadier Guards McCalmont Cup Photograph, 1929

Tonight’s photograph was a very generous birthday present from my brother, the original photograph a very impressive 18 inches by 14 inches and mounted on card. The photograph depicts the winning team from the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards at the 1929 McCalmont Cup:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (9)The cup itself can be seen in the centre of the photograph, with a miniature version in front:SKM_C45817081108190 - CopyI believe this cup would have been for a shooting competition as the men are posing with Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (2)Interestingly one of the officers, with a particularly fine chest of medals, has a rifle as well:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (3)All the men in the photograph are experienced soldiers, with a multitude of proficiency badges on their sleeves:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (4)And the man sat on the front at the far right has an impressive four long service and good conduct stripes on his sleeves:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (5)These stripes indicate that this private had eighteen years of good conduct. As befits a Guards regiment the men’s uniforms are spotless, with brightly polished regimental buttons rather than General Service pattern examples. Each has a pair of white on red embroidered shoulder flashes with the regimental name:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (6)This affectation has remained with the Grenadiers to the present day, still being worn on the sleeves of modern Number 2 dress uniforms. They are also wearing regimental forage caps with gilded peaks, rather than a standard khaki service dress cap:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (7)The officers also show regimental insignia, with the distinctive elongated pips of rank peculiar to Guard’s officers:SKM_C45817081108190 - Copy (8)I have tried to identify anything further about the McCalmont cup and I believe it was run at the Pirbright Ranges by the London and District Rifle Meeting. As ever if anyone can help provide some more background get in touch.