Earlier this year we looked at the 1970s jungle DPM shirt here. Tonight it is the turn of the matching trousers to be considered. The trousers are made from the same lightweight DPM fabric as the shirt:DPM, or disruptive pattern material, had been designed in the 1960s, very much inspired by the patterns used on Denison smocks in World War Two. The pattern uses four basic colours, typically seen in western Europe- black, dark brown, mid brown and dark sand. These colours were modified slightly for tropical uniforms with more vibrant hues used that rapidly faded to pastel shades.
These trousers have large buttoned pockets on each thigh:A further pocket is provided on the seat:Buttoned belt loops are provided to help support the trousers:As is a drawstring through the waist that can help adjust the size:Note also the button fly using a row of small green buttons. The bottom of each trouser leg has holes to pass drawstrings through, allowing the bottoms to be tied off and bloused over boots if required:The label for the trousers is on the inside of the waist belt, sadly in this case the label has been washed clean, and a hand inked size of ‘8’ has been written on in its place:A size 8 pair of trousers equates to a waist of 32-33 inches and a seat of 38-39 inches:These trousers were used throughout the 1970s and 1980s until the introduction of the CS95 clothing in the late 1990s. These uniforms were worn extensively during jungle training in Brunei at the Jungle Warfare School there. The country is still used today for training, with a large British Army presence. The British Army in Brunei comprises an Infantry Battalion and a Bell 212 Helicopter Flight of the Army Air Corps. The climate of Brunei is well suited to jungle operations and the Training Team Brunei run jungle warfare courses for all members of the British Army ranging from Jungle Warfare Instructor Courses to long range patrolling and tracking. The Infantry Battalion is supported by the small British Garrison, which provides all logistic and administrative support.
Although the British Army had some limited experience with camouflage clothing through the Denison smock and camouflaged windproof issued in WW2, it was not until the mid 1960s that a concerted effort was made to issue camouflage uniforms to all troops. The design of camouflage adopted was called ‘Disruptive Pattern Material’ or DPM and in various forms was to last into the next century. DPM is made up of black, dark brown, mid green and sand colours in a complex pattern of splodges and swirls and black ‘twigs’ leading to a remarkably effective form of camouflage. Initially the uniforms were made in the new material to the earlier patterns for the 1960 pattern uniform, but a new and revised uniform was produced called the 1968 Pattern and this was to become the first camouflage uniform to be universally issued to British Forces. Tonight we are looking at the Smock from that uniform:The new design of uniform was an improvement on its predecessors as the cloth was better quality and the lining lighter resulting in a comfortable and popular uniform. It was fastened by a zipper and five plastic buttons. One major innovation with the uniform was the ability to button a hood to it:At the rear of the smock is sewn a tail of cloth that can be drawn between the legs and buttoned to the front of the smock in the same manner as wartime parachutists smocks:Note also the large pocket running across the back of the smock which is large enough to stow a rolled poncho, an NBC suit or the quilted liner that was available for the smock. As can be seen the smock is fully lined unlike later designs. On the breast are two angled, buttoned patch pockets:These are designed to still be accessible when webbing is worn, hence the angle to them. Note how pale the shade of DPM is compared with later patterns, partly this is due to fading from washing, but it seems universal, regardless of the condition of the uniform so they seem just to have used a lighter shade of dye. A further pocket is mounted on the left upper sleeve, with space for pens and pencils:A number of labels are sewn into the smock and the hood, identifying the garment and its stores code:
From this we can see the smock was made by James Smith and Co of Derby and is a size 4. Another label towards the bottom of the smock has care instructions:The 68 pattern uniform was replaced by a new design in 1984, but as this was far inferior to its predecessor the 68 pattern remained popular being both comfortable, practical and a sign of a supposed ‘old sweat’. These jackets are starting to command quite high prices on eBay, but they do come up fairly regularly through other, non collector, sources for much lower prices as the layman cannot tell the difference (and doesn’t care) between 1968 pattern, 1984 pattern and CS95 pattern jackets- they are all army jackets to most. As the iconic uniform of the Falklands War these smocks are going to become more collectable in the coming years so I would suggest picking one up if you find it cheap whilst you can as they will only go up in price as the supply dries up.
You might remember last year I picked up a pair of snow camouflage trousers (See here), I have now picked up the smock to allow me to complete a full suit:
The smock is designed to be pulled over the head and thus has no central fastening. It has pleated pockets over the breast, secured by brown plastic buttons:
The lower pockets are simple un pleated patch pockets secured by the same style of button:
The forearms are reinforced with an extra layer of fabric:
The waist of the smock is secured by a simple cotton tape:
There is a hood to the garment, secured by another cotton tape:
The hood was not often worn as it restricted head movement, hearing and peripheral vision. Below are a couple of reconstructions of a British soldier in winter 1944 wearing the full snow camouflage suit:
Following the Normandy landings, the US Army in most respects had far superior equipment and uniforms to their British and Commonwealth allies. However the harsh winter of 1944 and the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge highlighted one area where the British had a clear advantage over their American cousins. Whilst US soldiers were forced to improvise snow camouflage from liberated bed sheets, the British Army had a plentiful supply of white over-trousers and jackets. The white colour blended in with the snow blanketing continental Europe and the looseness of the cut helped break up the outline of the soldier. These baggy white cotton uniforms were simple garments designed to be worn over the soldier’s existing battledress, and seem to have had widespread distribution.
The earliest dates for these suits seem to be 1941-42, suggesting that they might have been introduced based on experience in the Norway Campaign. Regardless of the motivation behind their introduction, the snow over-suits were to prove invaluable once winter struck in 1944 and troops in the front line found themselves highly visible in the snow when wearing the dark brown battledress uniform.
Today we are looking at the trousers from such a set of snow clothing. This pair are made of simple cotton cloth, cut very baggy with a patch pocket on the left leg:
The waist is secured by a simple cotton tape drawstring:
Whilst the pocket is fastened with a brown ‘vegetable ivory’ (i.e. plastic) button:
Unfortunately the trousers are undated, but the label sewn to the seat reveals they were made by the CWS, The Co-Operative Wholesale Society:
The large size range given on the label, from 5 foot 6 inches to 6 foot 8 inches, shows that the trousers were designed to be very loose and were never designed to have had a tight fit.
Unfortunately these trousers have a lot of storage dirt on them and I am still working out how to clean them without losing the details on the label. My current thought is to carefully unstitch the label, clean the trousers, and then reattach it in the original place. However given the unlikelihood I will be wearing these for re-enacting anytime soon I am in no rush to do anything that might potentially damage them. I also have a lead on a jacket to finish the set, but that will have to wait until more funds are forthcoming!
Just to prove that not all my collection comes from the second hand market, these latest pickups came from EBay and the Car Boot Sale.
These shorts are Australian camouflage shorts as used by the Australian Army in Afghanistan. The camouflage is technically called ‘Disruptive Pattern, Desert Uniform’ (DPDU), but is commonly called ‘Auscam’. This is the third pattern desert camouflage and was introduced in 2002:The shorts have a label inside showing they were made in Victoria in 2006:They have Velcro adjusters on either side if the waistband and belt loops. I need to replace the front waist button, but otherwise they are a nice piece of uniform for the collection.
WW1 Boot Brush
This little brush is dated 1918 and has the W /|\ D mark and a makers mark for Vale and Bradhark:It is a good example of militaria appearing in the unlikeliest places. It was in a pile of brushes on a boot sale stall and I looked through on the off chance and got lucky. 50p for WW1 personal kit is a good deal in anyone’s book!
Swedish Side Cap
And now for something completely different… This is a 1939 pattern Swedish Permissionsmosa cap made of grey wool:
Inside is the three crowns acceptance mark for the Swedish Army and the size 58:On the front is the yellow and blue cockade of Sweden:Swedish militaria from World War Two is cheap and in superb condition as it was never used in anger. Makes a very different area of collecting…
A few little bits today, one of them not strictly appropriate for a blog on British kit, but I hope you will indulge me.
First Field Dressing
Once a soldier has been wounded in battle there is a very small window in which treatment is most effective. To help take advantage of this, all troops were (and still are) issued with a First Field Dressing:
The outer covering is in tan cotton with instructions printed on for its use. Inside are two small dressings and two safety pins to secure them:
This example has an outer bag dated July 1941 and the inner bandages dated February 1943, suggesting that they were still using a batch of earlier wrappers when these were packaged.
A very popular area of collecting is that of cap badges. Inevitably this popularity has led to fakes or restrikes, either for legitimate reenactors or to be passed off as real by unscrupulous dealers. Of these two I am sure the Drake Division one is a restrike and I have my doubts about the authenticity of the Machine Gun Corps one:
With these badges a few minutes searching on the web showed that the Drake cap badge was a fake as there should be a gap between ‘Auxilio’ and ‘Divino’ and there are insufficient lines of longitude. As these were only a couple of pounds each, I don’t mind they are repros and will do in my collection until I can find real ones at a price I want to pay.
East German Camouflage Jacket
I don’t normally collect militaria from other nations outside the empire, but I do have a secret love of different camouflage patterns from around the world. This jacket, though very faded, is an example of East German Strichtarn or raindrop/needle pattern camouflage:The camouflage uses a grey/brown cloth overprinted with small brown stripes, copied from Polish raindrop camo. This particular design of camouflage was introduced in May 1965 and is a typical Eastern Block Cold War pattern.