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:The rear of the case has a single loop, note also the original owner’s name marked with black pen:The entrenching tool itself is stored in an olive green rubberised pouch:Interestingly 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:This 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:Opened out the tool can be used as a spade or a pick depending on the angle the head is set at:The 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:Sadly the label on this component is very faded, but I believe it was manufactured in 1992:This 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.
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:The 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:The rear of the frog has two different positions to attach it to the rest of the PLCE webbing set:The 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:A 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:Although 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.
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’:The holster is made of DPM infrared resistant nylon and has a large pouch on the front for a spare Browning magazine:A nylon tie, secured with Velcro, passes over the top to prevent the magazine from being lost:Sadly 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:The 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:Below the holster is a green strap with a Nexus fastener, allowing the holster to be secured to a thigh strap if required:Turning to the rear of the holster, the belt fasteners are covered by a large flap, again secured with Velcro and Newey Studs:Lifting the flap revels a T-Bar plastic tab that locates into the holes on the rear of the PLCE belt:Also under the flap is the manufacturer’s label with the items description and NATO stores code (8465-99-978-5365):The top of the holster has a metal triangular tab that allows the yoke to be attached:Note 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.