Category Archives: PLCE Webbing

PLCE Entrenching Tool and Cover

Tonight on our continuing survey of the elements of the PLCE webbing set we come to the entrenching tool and its cover. This small lightweight tool is carried on the belt and is supplied with a DPM cover that connects to the rest of the PLCE set:imageThe rear of the case has a single loop, note also the original owner’s name marked with black pen:imageThe entrenching tool itself is stored in an olive green rubberised pouch:imageInterestingly this pouch has both a British /|\ mark, with a date of 1991, and a US stores code with a -00- country code on the NSN number:imageThis suggests that the rubberised covers were bought off the shelf from the States rather than being produced in Britain. The entrenching tool within the case is a virtual copy of the US army’s folding spade, this design becoming virtually universal across NATO:imageOpened out the tool can be used as a spade or a pick depending on the angle the head is set at:imageThe tool is made of steel and weights 2lb 4oz and although not as effective as a full size spade is still useful in the field. ARRSE explains:

If the enemy has a credible indirect fire capability then you need a digging tool, with you, on your belt kit. If not, then either replace the ETH pouch with another utility pouch, which you can fill with ‘comfort items’ or extra ammo as needed, or take the ETH out of the pouch, put your water bottle in it and use the extra space in your water bottle pouch. Admittedly the ETH is a pretty shit digging tool, but it is streets ahead of your racing spoon. Talk to a few people who have been under artillery fire for real before you discount it completely.

The cover for the tool has two nexus fasteners inside the main cover:imageSadly the label on this component is very faded, but I believe it was manufactured in 1992:imageThis would have been the first year of DPM manufacture for PLCE. The carriers have also found use as an additional water bottle carrier, with the bottles fitting neatly inside and secured with the top nexus fastener passing over the neck. Of all the items of PLCE this seems to have been one of the first to have been dropped in the field and many more recent photographs of soldiers wearing the set show they have removed the tool form their belt loads altogether.

PLCE Utility Pouch

It was recognised in the design of the 1990 pattern PLCE set that a general purpose pouch would be useful. This pouch could be used to carry ammunition, an extra water bottle, waterproofs or small items of personal kit and it was designed to be particularly flexible so it could be used anywhere on a belt order, unlike the kidney pouches of the preceding 58 pattern set that had to be attached to the small of the back. This example of the pouch is of the second pattern, produced in DPM camouflage rather than olive green nylon:imageThe fitting instructions for the PLCE set list this element as ‘Pouch, Utility, DPM, IRR’ and list its NATO stock number as 8465-99-132-1558. The lid of the pouch is secured with a quick release ‘Spanish’ fastener as used on the rest of the webbing set’s components:imageThe back of the pouch has a pair of belt loops:imageThese cover a pair of ‘T Bars’ to engage the waist belt of the set, and the loops themselves are secured with Velcro and press studs:imageThe top of the pouch has a plastic female nexus fastener and a pair of loops for the straps of the yoke to pass through:imageThe base of the pouch has a single eyelet to allow excess water to drain from the pouch if it gets submerged:imageThis example is marked inside as being made by Remploy in 1994:imageThese pouches were initially issued one per man, but subsequently as men customised their own webbing to suit operational requirements more than one might be used depending on personal preference.

PLCE Bayonet Frog

Continuing our occasional series on the PLCE webbing set, tonight we are considering the PLCE bayonet frog. This frog is made of DPM double layered 1000 Denier rubberised cordura nylon, with a plastic stiffener to the main body of the frog:imageThe top of the frog has a Nexus clip fastener that attaches to the scabbard of the SA80 bayonet when it is carried in the frog:imageThe rear of the frog has two different positions to attach it to the rest of the PLCE webbing set:imageThe fitting instructions noted ‘taller soldiers may find the Bayonet Frog more comfortable to wear if the upper fitting are used’. Under each flap is a pair of plastic T-Bar prongs that engage with the belt of the PLCE set, and the flap is then secured over with Velcro and press studs:imageA label on the bottom rear of the frog gives information about the item’s stores code, that it is infra-red resistant and that it was manufactured in 1992 by Remploy:imageAlthough the frog is designed to be attached to the belt, it was frequently adapted to sit in other locations to free up more space for pouches. Locations include attaching it to the side of a utility pouch or wearing it in the small of the back, the method of attachment is described by one soldier:

I have mine attached horizontally to the bottom of my yoke above the pouches. Use one set of press studded straps around each yoke strap, secured with tape if required. It sits nicely in the small of my back, out of the way of any snag hazards. The handle is easily accessible, even with a daysack or bergen on.

Early versions of the frog were made in plain olive green and since the introduction of MTP, versions have been produced commercially in this fabric as well.

PLCE Other Arms Pistol Holster

Whilst the PLCE webbing set was primarily designed for infantry use, one of the aims of the design was to allow it to be flexible for use by all branches of the forces. As such a number of holsters were produced that were compatible with the set, including one described as ‘Holster, Pistol, Other Arms’:imageThe holster is made of DPM infrared resistant nylon and has a large pouch on the front for a spare Browning magazine:imageA nylon tie, secured with Velcro, passes over the top to prevent the magazine from being lost:imageSadly I do not have a Browning Hi-Power to demonstrate how the holster works, so I hope my 1922 will suffice to show the general principle:imageThe gun is secured in the holster by a nylon strap that fits over the rear of the pistol grip and secured to the holster with both Velcro and a Newey fastener:imageBelow the holster is a green strap with a Nexus fastener, allowing the holster to be secured to a thigh strap if required:imageTurning to the rear of the holster, the belt fasteners are covered by a large flap, again secured with Velcro and Newey Studs:imageLifting the flap revels a T-Bar plastic tab that locates into the holes on the rear of the PLCE belt:imageAlso under the flap is the manufacturer’s label with the items description and NATO stores code (8465-99-978-5365):imageThe top of the holster has a metal triangular tab that allows the yoke to be attached:imageNote also the Velcro and popper that allow an optional flap to be attached to the holster to offer more protection to the pistol.

With the adoption of the Glock 19 these holsters have now become obsolete- the new weapon needing a specialist holster to engage all its safety features- as such these items of webbing are easily available on the surplus market for a few pounds. I must confess it is only recently that I have started paying much attention to the more modern areas of collecting, but the prices are excellent, in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan the items are easily available and I can see these items getting scarcer in years to come as interest in the conflicts increases- well worth investing in now if it interests you.

PLCE Belt

My thanks go to Edward Corry for tonight’s object, the first of what will be an on-going series over the next year or so looking at the components of the PLCE (Personal Load Carrying Equipment) webbing system in frontline use by the British Army until very recently and still used by the majority of support troops and both the RAF and Royal Navy. PLCE was introduced after the deficiencies of the 1958 pattern webbing system had been highlighted by the Falklands War; the cotton webbing of the 1958 pattern set absorbed 40% more water than an equivalent nylon which then froze in the South Atlantic winter and made it very uncomfortable to the wearer, the high levels of absorption also made decontamination after an NBC event difficult. With the imminent introduction of the new SA80 rifle, the opportunity was taken to introduce a new equipment set and this began to see service in 1990 just prior to the First Gulf War.

The belt is the element of the set that all others are built around so it makes sense to start here, the belt being made of green nylon and adjustable to a variety of sizes:imageThe belt has a series of loops on the back, that the various components attach to by metal prongs, whilst it is secured by a 60mm plastic ITW (Illinois Tool Works) Nexus buckle:imageThis webbing set was the first to use plastic components, the technology finally having advanced to a point where they were robust enough to replace metal fittings. The length of the belt is adjusted on the reverse side:imageThe belt has two nylon keepers to hold the excess webbing neatly in place once it has been adjusted to the user’s size:imageTwo metal d-rings are sewn to the rear of the belt to allow the back yoke to be connected to the belt:imageIt was found in service that the belt chafed uncomfortable for many users and a special hip pad was introduced that could be worn over the belt to improve the comfort of it. This belt is one of the more modern items in my collection and has a label indicating it was produced in 2007:imageThe label shows that the belt is a large and is marked ‘IRR’ indicating that Infrared reduction, respectively resistant (IRR) coating is applied which reduces its heat signature to that of natural foliage, when viewed through Infrared night vision systems. We will be considering the other components of this set in due course.