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:Whilst 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:A piece of elastic is sewn around the edge of the hood to ensure a tight face seal with the respirator:Velcro tabs allow the sleeves to be adjusted:And the waist:A pair of large angled bellows pockets are sewn over each breast:The 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.:A label is sewn into the collar giving sizing:In 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:This suit was also produced in desert DPM fabric and at some point I will pick up one of those to accompany this example.
I love rummaging through ‘£1’ boxes and sheets at living history shows. Most of the time it is a load of old junk, but these piles can yield a nice selection of very cheap items of militaria if you are prepared to root through and find the diamonds in the rough. The Yorkshire Wartime Experience at the beginning of July yielded a nice selection of these cheap finds and one of those is the subject of tonight’s post, an aircrew NBC liner coverall:I actually picked up two of these garments, the one above I have removed from the packet and a second one I have left sealed up:This coverall is actually quite a clever design. Unlike most NBC gear which is worn over other clothing and is heavy and overheats the wearer, this garment is designed to be worn underneath a flight suit and is impregnated with charcoal to offer protection in NBC environments. It sacrifices durability for lightness and comfort, but as it is under a flight suit in an aircraft this is less of an issue than for a garment worn in combat on the ground. These garments date from 1991, as can be seen by the paper label inside the packaging:The coverall has a centrally mounted zip, protected with a piece of foam so it does not damage the thin material when it is vacuum sealed, a simple round neck is provided without any form of collar:This allows greater comfort when it is worn under another article of clothing. Note the black lining where the fabric is charcoal impregnated. Elastic loops are sewn into the bottom of the legs to pass under the wearer’s feet to prevent the legs from riding up:A large label is fixed in the back of the overall indicating it was made by Remploy:These garments are easily available, presumably large quantities were made and never used and have now passed their expiration date so they have been surplussed off. Quite what I am going to do with them, I don’t know, but at £1 each I wasn’t going to leave them there!
A month or so back we looked at the Canadian 64 pattern respirator haversack here; since writing that piece I have been very happy to add a Canadian C3 respirator that would have been carried in the haversack to my collection:This mask is contemporaneous with the British S6 mask, being first manufactured in 1960, but is far less sophisticated. It is clearly closely based on the earlier British lightweight respirator from the Second World War, just updated for the Cold War. Looking at the mask we can clearly see the similarities, with the same side mounted canister, general shape of the mask and the screw fitting for a microphone seen in the post war British lightweight respirator:Updates have been made however, with the head harness being made of more modern man-made materials:The ‘snout’ of the respirator boasts a distinctive piece of silver mesh:This is also visible on the inside of the mask:Above this is a distinctive triangular shape, moulded into the rubber:The facepiece of this mask is marked as being made in 1970 by ‘GTR’, General Tire and Rubber:There were two manufacturers of this mask, the other being ‘Baron’. This respirator is a ‘Normal’ size- other smaller and larger sizes would have been produced in limited numbers for those with odd shaped faces. The canister for this mask uses a 60mm thread and is mounted on the side of the mask:A piece of tape around this section has a date of June 1971:The canister itself is made of pressed metal with a large screw thread on the top allowing it to be changed relatively easily by the wearer.These masks were used throughout the 1970s and were only phased out of Canadian service in 1989. Amazingly export sales of the mask continued into the early 1990s, by which time the design was decidedly obsolete.
We are nearing the end of our review of the Canadian 64 pattern webbing set, but there are still a couple of nice pieces to go and tonight we are looking at the respirator case:Canada had adopted an updated respirator in the 1950s known as the C2, and this was further improved in the early 1960s to become the C3. These respirators were stored in a specialist pouch that was slung on the left hip as part of the actual webbing set, with cotton webbing versions issued with the 51 pattern, and an updated plasticised cotton version being introduced as part of the 64 pattern set. The respirator case is a large bag, with a side opening to allow the mask to be placed inside. The opening is sealed by rolling it up and attaching a piece of Velcro as a fastener:The webbing tab allows the user to easily open it, even when wearing NBC gloves. A large pocket is provided on the front of the haversack for gloves, spare canisters, decontamination equipment etc:This is secured with two metal press studs. A second pocket is fitted to the opposite edge to the haversack’s main opening:This is far smaller and has internal dividers to allow it to carry anti-nerve agent epipens, again a cotton tab is provided for easy access when wearing gloves. As with the rest of the items of the 64 pattern webbing set, the method of attachment to fasten the haversack to the belt is woefully inadequate, here consisting of two Velcroed loops:Markings consist of a single stamping on the bag that indicate the haversack dates from November 1982 and was made by ‘Manta’:The use of plasticised cotton was actually far more appropriate for this component than the earlier cotton version, being much easier to decontaminate on a potential Cold War nuclear battlefield.