Category Archives: Uniform

Kosovo T-Shirts

Following the breakup of the Former Yugoslavia civil war broke out. In 1999 a peacekeeping force, led by NATO, was sent into Kosovo to secure the area and prevent ethnic cleansing. The British contributed 19,000 troops to the mission, known as KFOR. As with many military operations, troops adopted unofficial t-shirts to mark their time in the area, and today we are looking at a small selection of these:The simplest of these t-shirts has an embroidered NATO star on it and the legend ‘Kosovo Force KFOR’ around it:Note also the small blue NATO symbol on the sleeve. The second of these shirts takes as its inspiration American gym t-shirts of the past, with the term ‘Kosovo Force Athletic Dept’ on the front and the ‘KFOR’ shield logo:The third t-shirt has an embroidered logo for Operation Agricola VII and the Multinational Brigade Centre:The Multinational Brigade Centre covered the areas of Pristina and Podujevo and was British led at the time. The fourth and final t-shirt of this set, plays on a popular advertising slogan for the sports company ‘Nike’. The front of the t-shirt says ‘JUST’ in big letters down the front with a blue NATO star:Whilst the rear says ‘DID IT’ with ‘Kosovo Force’ below and the KFOR shield logo:When NATO went into Kosovo it had a clearly defined mandate:

  • to deter renewed hostility and threats against Kosovo by Yugoslav and Serb forces;
  • to establish and maintain a secure environment in Kosovo, including public safety and civil order;
  • to demilitarise the Kosovo Liberation Army;
  • to support the international humanitarian effort;
  • to coordinate with and support the international civil presence.

Today, KFOR focuses on building a secure environment in which all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origins, can live in peace and, with international aid, democracy and civil society are gradually gaining strength. KFOR tasks have included:

  • assistance with the return or relocation of displaced persons and refugees;
  • reconstruction and demining;
  • medical assistance;
  • security and public order;
  • security of ethnic minorities;
  • protection of patrimonial sites;
  • border security;
  • interdiction of cross-border weapons smuggling;
  • implementation of a Kosovo-wide weapons, ammunition and explosives amnesty programme;
  • weapons destruction;
  • support for the establishment of civilian institutions, law and order, the judicial and penal system, the electoral process and other aspects of the political, economic and social life of the province.

Merchant Navy Officer’s Tunic

In 1918 George V authorised the first national uniform for members of the Merchant Navy. The uniform and rank scheme was entirely optional, many private companies already had such systems of uniform and rank based off that used by the Royal Navy, however it was adopted by many smaller firms and was in common use by many in the Second World War. Tonight we are looking at an example of one of these uniforms which dates from around the time of the Second World War:imageCompared to a Royal Navy officer’s uniform this is far lower quality, being made of a thin utilitarian wool fabric, reflecting the low rank and presumably low income of its original owner who would have had to purchase it himself. Two pleated patch pockets are sewn onto the breast of the jacket:

imageAll buttons are made of brass, with the standard merchant marine design:imageA pair of removable shoulder boards are used, rather than cuff lace. These are for a member of the engineering branch, as indicated by the purple piping to the braid:imageDuring the Second World War the First Engineer (or Chief Engineer Officer) had to hold a First Class Certificate in Steam and would have had considerable sea-going experience, he was responsible for the main and subsidiary machinery. Reporting to him was a Second Engineer who would always hold a First Class Certificate in Steam and would be gaining the experience required to permit him to seek a Chief’s post.

There were Third Engineers, Fourth Engineers, and so on, the number of them depending on the size of the vessel. All would usually have completed an apprenticeship ashore in heavy engineering, often in power stations or similar and after going to sea would have gained a Second Class Certificate in Steam. Ocean liners might have Senior and Junior rates such as Junior Seventh Engineer or Senior Ninth Engineer, depending upon the number of officers carried aboard.

The senior Engineroom ratings were the Donkeyman and the Greaser (Petty Officers), in addition to heading the “Black gang”, (engine room ratings) the former was responsible for the ship’s auxiliary power and for maintenance of cargo handling derricks, the latter ensured correct lubrication of all necessary parts of the engines and keeping the Firemen and Trimmers in order.

The Black gang, were the men who handled the coal and spent their working lives coated in coal dust as most ships were coal burning steamers. They were normally divided into two groups, the Firemen and the Trimmers. The firemen were the men who stood watches in the stokehold feeding tons of coal into the furnaces beneath the boilers to keep up a head of steam. The trimmers were the men who spent their lives in the ship’s bunkers (the hold which held the coal) and were responsible for loading barrows of coal with which they ran across planks of wood to the stokehold to maintain the piles of coal beside the men feeding the furnaces. They had to keep the level of coal within the bunkers trimmed (level) to prevent the ship becoming unstable.

Some ships carried Engineroom Storekeepers, experienced older ratings who controlled the issues of stores.

My own grandfather served during the war as a fireman on a variety of merchant ships, the heat and coal dust making for very unpleasant working conditions, especially in the tropics.ole_friele_backer_i_maskinen

CS95 Rip-Stop Combat Jacket

It is quite surprising considering how common they are, but I have only just bought my first CS95 combat jacket. I think like many collectors I sometime get blasé about commonplace items, but I am glad I have finally added this one to the collection. Just to quickly recap, the CS95 system used multiple layers of clothing to allow the wearer maximum adaptability. The combat jacket was usually the outer layer of this clothing, being designed to be worn over everything else, including a soldier’s Gore-Tex waterproofs (in reality the infantry wore it in this way to minimise noise, but everyone else seems to have worn the waterproofs over the combat jacket!). Early examples of these jackets were made of rip stop fabric, like this one:imageRipstop fabrics are woven fabrics, often made of nylon, using a special reinforcing technique that makes them resistant to tearing and ripping. During weaving, (thick) reinforcement threads are interwoven at regular intervals in a crosshatch pattern. The intervals are typically 5 to 8 millimeters (0.2 to 0.3 in). Thin and lightweight ripstop fabrics have a 3-dimensional structure due to the thicker threads being interwoven in thinner cloth. Older lightweight ripstop fabrics display the thicker interlocking thread patterns in the material quite prominently as in the case of this jacket.

The jacket is secured with a zip, with a velcroed fly over this:imageVelcro is also used on the cuffs:imageAs with other CS95 clothing, the slide for rank has moved from the shoulders to the front of the chest:imageFour patch pockets are fitted, each with a button held on with the characteristic fabric tape loops:imageA pair of vertical zip pockets are also fitted:imageThese jackets are typically worn bloused at the waist, so there is an elastic drawstring around the bottom edge:imageA label is sewn into the back of the jacket giving sizing and care instructions:imageThe rip stop fabric was quickly superseded by a more conventional poly-cotton blend. Although jackets such as this one are fairly common, the trousers in rip-stop fabric are considerably rarer.

Liner, Jacket, Combat

The 68 pattern uniform is well made and fairly thick, however it was recognised that it was still too lightweight for winter warfare and following their experiences in Korea the British Army wanted to make sure its soldiers could easily add layers to their uniforms to deal with colder conditions. Therefore a range of quilted jackets, body warmers and trousers were produced. So far I have just the body warmer in my collection, and it is this garment we are looking at tonight:imageThe body of the liner is made of green nylon, with a diamond quilting to hold the internal insulation material inside:imageThe edges are bound in cotton tape, and the jacket fastens with green plastic buttons:imageThis liner is a later example, as it has metric sizing details on the label:imageFrom the label it can be seen that the manufacturer was Kattenburgs, a company that had been making uniforms for the British military since the Second World War. Strangely a second label is also attached to the liner at the bottom hem that repeats the same information. I am wondering if this is a hangover from the manufacturing or stores system and would normally have been cut out before use:imageThe liner is fairly warm and when worn in combination with other elements of uniform would have helped keep the wearer protected from low temperatures. One user recalls:

Wore my sleeveless “liner, combat smock” a great deal on exercise (which frequently involved long hours slaving over an insufficiently hot radio). Still wear it occasionally, as it’s light and warm.

Another wearer noted:

They were very welcome bits of kit in the Falklands in 82.

As with so much of this sort of kit, these liners were manufactured in large quantities and are very cheap to find secondhand- this one cost me just £2!

Home Guard Cape

During 1940 British manufacturing was being stretched to its limits, both by the sheer volume of goods required, but also due to loss of capacity by enemy action. Priority for items such as clothing had to go to the regular forces, second line units like the Home Guard were a long way down the pecking order and various substitutes were provided that were unique to the force. Some of these substitute items were to remain in inventory throughout the war, others were to be quickly replaced when supplies of the original item were restored to normal levels. In the latter category was a garment unique to the Home Guard; the cape:

imageMy thanks go to Andy Dixon for helping me add this one to the collection. The Home Guard Cape was a replacement for the greatcoat which was in short supply in late 1940 after air raids had severely disrupted the clothing industry in the East End of London. The Home Guard needed an over-garment to cover their thin denim uniforms which were insufficient to keep the wearer warm on cold nights and it was suggested that an ‘Austrian Pattern’ cape be produced which would be simpler to manufacture than the service greatcoat. On 16th October 1940 500,000 capes were ordered, with delivery starting in November 1940. The cape is made of the same serge as the battledress, with five large buttons up the front:imageInside the top half of the cape is lined with shirting material:imageAnd two straps are sewn in to allow the cape to be attached to the shoulders:imageThis then allowed the cape to be opened and slung back out of the way:skmbt_c36417010509030_0001-copyThis hardly seems practical as the cape trails near the ground and would get very muddy very quickly! Two pockets are provided inside the cape:imageAnd a button and button loop are provided down the edges:imageThese allow the cape to be buttoned into rudimentary sleeves, as seen in this photograph of an officer inspecting a Home Guardsman:skmbt_c36417010509030_0001The capes came in five sizes and each originally had a manufacturer’s label sewn in, sadly my example has lost its original label, although the outline of the stitching where it was attached can be seen:imageThe War Office instructed that ranks were to be worn in the usual positions- easy enough for officers with their rank on shoulders, but much harder for NCOs- where about exactly should sergeants stripes or a Warrant Officer’s sleeve batch be sewn?

It is fair to say the capes were never popular, and as early as September 1941 moves were made to get rid of them and replace them with standard greatcoats. Although a buyer was sought for the surplus capes none could be found and they soldiered on until the War Office relented and made them obsolete in November 1942, supplies of greatcoats being sufficient by this point. These capes were quickly disposed of with little sadness, today therefore they are a rare and unusual piece of Home Guard uniform and when the opportunity came to add one to my collection I couldn’t turn it down!

Coveralls, Fuel and Lubricant Handlers

In today’s increasingly safety conscious world even the armed forces have to ensure they provide the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) to their personnel involved in potentially hazardous tasks. One of the most hazardous duties involves working with fuels and lubricants. Not only can they be highly flammable, they also have the potential to be corrosive or at least an irritant to a human being. Normal cloth overalls are fairly useless in these circumstances as they absorb rather than repel these substances and so still allow contact with the skin underneath. Special coveralls are provided to those who have to work in these areas, they have a tough impermeable layer over the front and sleeves:imageThis extends over the back of the shoulders as well, but the rear of the coveralls are unprotected, presumably to allow the uniform to breathe and help keep the wearer cool:imageNote also the elastic at the back of the waist to help improve the fit. The coveralls fasten up the front with a zip, which is in turn covered by a flap secured with press studs:imageTwo pockets are provided, one on the thigh and one on the breast:imageThese are each secured with Velcro. The neck of the coverall has the label, indicating it is a ‘Large’, giving the official designation ‘Coveralls, Fuel and Lubricant Handlers’ and the manufacturer ‘Multifabs Ltd.’ Of Derby:imageMultifabs specialised in protective clothing, including specialist equipment for the foundry industry and was in business from about 1980 to 1997 which at least gives us a time frame for this set of coveralls. I must confess that this is the only one of these I have ever come across, and it sounds as if they were not always issued even to those who did work with fuels. Even so it is an interesting and unusual addition to the collection.

DPM PVC Overtrousers

Earlier in the year we looked at the PVC British Army DPM waterproof jacket here. Tonight we look at the matching pair of trousers from the set. As would be expected these trousers are made from the same fabric as the jacket, printed in a fairly bright shade of woodland DPM:imageThe cut is generous allowing the trousers to be worn over the rest of the soldier’s uniform, with simple slash pockets allowing the wearer to put his hands through to access the trouser pockets beneath:imageThe cuff of each trouser leg has a drawstring to allow it to be tightened to help prevent water from entering:imageThe fly of the garment is secured by a single popper at the top and a drawstring, again the simplicity of the fastening due to the fact they are designed as over-trousers rather than to be worn in their own right:imageAs can be expected from wet weather gear, these trousers were expected to be regularly saturated in water, and a simple loop is provided on the inside of the waist so they could be hung up to allow them to dry off after use:imageThe label inside the trousers provides sizing, and a space for the original owner to pen his name:imageAs was mentioned previously these garments were not breathable which meant that if used for prolonged periods of time you got soaked through from your own sweat rather than rain water! This was not the only problem with the PVC waterproofs, as recalled by one ex-squaddie:

They had a PVC coating on the inside, if it didn’t condensate up inside, making your clothes wet, the PVC coating would crack or split and it would leak in.

Another wearer corroborates this assessment:

They leaked from the word go, especially the overtrousers and if you have ever driven a Ferret in the rain you’ll know exactly where the drip lands and why I paid good money for replacements that worked.

Happily for troops these days, these waterproofs have been superseded by modern fabrics like Gore-Tex that help the body to ‘breathe’ and keep the wearer drier for longer!