Category Archives: Uniform

RAF Olive Green Foul Weather Trousers

It is not perhaps surprising that, considering how exposed many airfields can be, the RAF had some of the best waterproof clothing of the Cold War. Tonight we are looking at a pair of RAF issue foul weather trousers in olive green:imageThey are made from a double layered nylon with an elasticated waist. The fly has no buttons that could fall off and cause a problem if they were to be sucked up by an aircraft engine, instead a press stud and Velcro are supplied:imageTwo openings are provided to allow access to the pockets underneath the trousers:imageThese garments were introduced in the 1970s and were originally issued in four of the numbered non-metric sizes (0-3). By the time my pair were manufactured modern metric sizing had been introduced, as seen on the label:imageIn time these trousers were also adopted by the army and the description on the label changed to ‘Trousers, Foul Weather, OG’.

A Velcro tab is provided at the bottom of each trouser leg to allow it to be sealed against the elements:imageThese trousers were very good for their era- comfortable to wear and actually waterproof! They were sought after at the time, especially by those not technically due to be issued them! Today they are definitely a little harder to find than other items of army waterproof clothing. These were a lucky £1 find last week. My thanks go to Stephen Madden for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Cold War uniforms which was a great help in the preparing of this post.


Ceremonial Gloves

If you watch British military ceremonial parades, you will frequently spot the men and women on the parade ground wearing white gloves. White gloves are often seen as being particularly smart and a number of variations are available for issue depending on the weather. In most conditions simple cotton gloves are used:imageThese secure at the wrist with a small plastic button:imageIn the winter it is more likely that knitted woolen gloves will be issued to help provide a little more insulation for the wearer from the cold:imageA reduction knitted cuff helps keep them secure on the wrist in place of the button:imageIt must be said that wearing gloves is often seen as a mixed blessing. They do look smart and help avoid sweaty hands in the summer and cold hands in the winter. On the other hand they reduce grip on the rifle and make advanced rifle drill more challenging. These white gloves are tri-service and can be seen being worn by the army:imageThe Royal Navy:imageAnd the Royal Air Force: imageThe official instruction on care of ceremonial gloves issued by the RAF give some curious washing instructions:

White Cotton Gloves. When soiled should be washed on the hands using warm soapy water and rinsed until soap free and gently towel dried before carefully removing them from the hands and putting them aside to dry naturally.

Instructions are provided on the wear of the gloves:

Dress Gloves. The correct method of fitting a dress glove is as follows:

  1. A tape should be passed around the hand, just below the knuckle of the first finger and the thick of the palm, this measure in inches usually corresponds to the size of the glove. The donning of the glove is, however, the most important feature.
  2. The four fingers should be inserted into the glove to the fullest extent, the thumb lying on the palm of the hand, then and not before, the thumb should be eased into place.

Most ceremonial gloves are pool clothing items, i.e. they are kept in central stores and issued as required. The staff here are required to check over the gloves for damage::

RAF Pools Ceremonial White Gloves. The pool holding Unit is responsible for laundering of white gloves. On return from loan the gloves are to be examined for serviceability and those considered unfit for ceremonial wear are to be scrapped and replacement demands are to be submitted.

DPM Boonie Hat

The boonie hat has to be one of the most successful items of military headgear ever designed, as popular today with soldiers as when it was introduced over seventy years ago. Over the decades the design has changed subtly with a lower crown and wider brim being the most obvious changes, along with changes to fabric to match the current combat uniforms. Tonight we have our first example in the long lived Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM):imageLike other boonie hats, this one has a broad brim, with multiple rings of stitching to reinforce it:imageNote also the tab and eyelet for attaching a piece of string to act as a chin strap to. The broad brim keeps both sun and rain off the wearer’s face and neck. The crown of the hat has metal ventilation grills and loops for attaching camouflage  foliage to:imageThis example has a fairly early style of label sewn inside, it has an NSN number but is one of the early examples with this feature. It is also in a very generous size of 60:imageAs ever ARRSEpedia has a wonderfully irreverent description of the boonie hat:

At one time they were very hard to find and possession of one marked the individual out as either being one of them, someone who’d been to a hot posting like Belize, Hong Kong or Cyprus, or (more often than not) someone who was simply a big-timing walty cnut who’d been shopping at Silverman’s.

The variation of styles that can be achieved by their wearers is quite staggering. RLC mongs and RAF techies tend to adopt the ‘Eastwood’, whilst anyone worth their salt either alters theirs by cutting down the brim (the origins of this date back to Malaya, when peripheral vision was enhanced), or purchases a tailored SF-style example available from several commercial suppliers in that never ending pursuit of allyness.

In this photograph from Belize, these well camo-ed troops show off a selection of bush hats:image

Cold Weather Woollen Wristlets

Over the last few years I have slowly been building up a little selection of modern Arctic kit, with items such as crampons, survival guides and over-gloves. Many of these items are pretty inexpensive and today we have a set of woollen wristlets that cost me just £1:imageThese are made of white knitted wool and fit over the wrist to keep it warm, a hole being provided for the thumb to fit through:imageNote the cloth binding to protect the edges from catching and unravelling. A simple cloth label is sewn into each wristlet, with a crude /|\ mark on it:imageThese wristlets have been in service for many years, and the page in the MoD’s Black Book of Kit gives a date into service of before 1991:WristletsOne serviceman who was issued them reports: Wristlets are pretty good if you can get some. Keeps the blood flowing to your fingers warm.

Knitted woollen wristlets have been worn by British soldiers since at least the time of the Great War, with knitting patterns published for people at home to make them for the troops, this illustration comes from a period knitting pattern and the design is broadly similar to the arctic wristlet we have above:759e304fec48c14ce22c675846d397fa--wristlets-vintage-patterns

Tier Three Ballistic Shorts

Yesterday we looked at the tier one ballistic underwear, previously we have covered the tier two ‘combat nappy’ in our survey of pelvic armour. Tonight we come to the final layer of armour available to troops, the tier three combat shorts:imageThese shorts are designed to be worn in conjunction with the other two tiers, but are designed for use by those on patrol who need greater levels of protection- the lead man of a patrol or the metal detector operator sweeping for IEDs. Design trials of this armour took place in 2011 and they were then quickly distributed to troops in Afghanistan as an Urgent Operational Requirement. The shorts have separate soft armour fillers that fit inside special pockets around them, Unfortunately I do not have these filler plates, but this illustration shows their shape, as well as the little bag that can be used to store them in:Tier 3 protective clothingThe cover was issued in a sealed clear plastic bag:imageWith a sticker giving stores details:imageAs the shorts are designed to be worn over other clothing, the cut is generous, with a tie strap at the waist to fasten them:imageReinforced knee pads are sewn into the cover:imageThe groin region has a piece of mesh to encourage ventilation into an area that can easily overheat:imageA long pocket with soft armour runs down the outside of each leg:imageThis opens with press studs to reveal a long zip to ease getting into and out of the shorts:imageThe shorts and their armour inserts help to protect, amongst other things, some of the major arteries in the leg, such as the femoral artery. If this artery is severed a soldier can bleed to death very quickly, these shorts are designed to help minimise the risk. The garment was designed to be worn with the tier two armour so a large flexible gusset of plain green material is sewn into the front and back of the shorts over the groin:imageAs with the tier two armour, a standard green label is sewn inside the tier three armour, with a note to ensure it is worn the correct way round:imageDue to its more specialist nature, fewer sets of shorts were produced than other elements of the pelvic armour system. They were used however, as can be seen in this photograph of a private:British_soldier_private_Scott_littleton_with_new_Pelvic_protective_clothing_001My thanks to Michael Fletcher for his help in adding this one to the collection.

Tier One Pelvic Armour- Ballistic Boxer Shorts

A couple of months ago we looked at the Tier Two pelvic armour here. Over the next two nights we are going to look at the other two elements of this armour system, starting tonight with the ballistic boxer shorts:imageThese boxers are worn as a bottom layer beneath all the other layers of uniform and armour and are made of black ballistic silk. This ancient fabric is remarkably strong and is excellent at repelling tiny fragments of shrapnel, as witnessed by this still from a video of the shorts in action:imageThe shorts have a simple elastic waistband:imageAnd a white label (here very faded) sewn into the back:imageThe MOD published some information about the shorts in 2010:

The MOD has spent £10m on the new armour system to date. It balances protection with the necessary comfort and manoeuvrability for troops to undertake operations, enabling them to wear one or more of the protective layers depending on the task. They are already being worn by troops on operations, with 45,000 pairs delivered to Afghanistan and another 15,000 ready to be issued to deploying troops. A further 60,000 are to be manufactured and delivered to troops early next year.

The first layer of protection is a pair of shorts, which troops wear as underwear.

Using cutting-edge science and technology developed by the MOD and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the underwear is manufactured from scientifically-tested ballistic silk material that provides an initial level of protection to mitigate against the effects of blasts, including shrapnel.

They have been bought as an Urgent Operational Requirement worth £6m and are being manufactured by Northern Ireland-based Cooneen, Watts and Stone.

The BBC reported:

Alan Hepper, the principal engineer at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, says many factors had to be taken into account when creating the materials.

“The way silk is woven makes it very strong, with a very high ballistic efficiency. It may sound like an extravagant material, but in ballistic protection terms, it is the best we’ve found,” he says.

“The feedback from medical staff treating the injured suggests that it does make a noticeable difference.”

By all accounts the shorts were pretty comfortable and were a popular and easy to wear item of protection. Tomorrow we continue our study of the pelvic armour system with the Tier Three layer.image

Aircrew NBC Suit Coverall Inner

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:imageI 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:imageThis 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:imageThe 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:imageThis 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:imageA large label is fixed in the back of the overall indicating it was made by Remploy:imageThese 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!