Category Archives: Uniform

Canadian Army Combat Coat

It has been a while since we looked at any post-war Canadian army uniforms and equipment. Last year we took a detailed study of the Canadian 64 pattern here, one of the defining features of this set was the lack of an ammunition pouch, troops carrying magazines in the pockets of their jackets. It is one of these jackets we are looking at tonight:imageOfficially these are known as ‘Coat, Combat, Mk II’ and were a modification of a design of jacket introduced in 1964. This design of uniform was a major departure for the Canadian Army and was the first uniform that was designed to not be ironed or starched. Bright insignia was replaced with subdued rank and name badges and it was forbidden to dry clean or iron the uniform due to the nylon reinforcements. The Mk I uniform carried four magazines for the C1 rifle, the Mk II though had provision for 6 magazines and had a waist drawstring added.

Two angled pockets are fitted to the chest:imageThese are reinforced with nylon and can each hold a C1 rifle magazine:imageTwo further, larger pockets are sewn onto the skirts of the combat coat:imageThese each have internal nylon pockets as well:imageTwo magazines can be carried in each large pocket, although the fit is extremely tight on this particular coat:imagePlease note that I am using SLR magazines rather than C1 magazines as I do not have the latter so this might explain why they are not a perfect fit! All the fastenings on the combat coat are secured using buttons that themselves are sewn on with tapes rather than thread:imageIt is interesting to note that this feature was in use by the Canadians thirty years before the British adopted it in the CS95 series of clothing! This combat coat has epaulettes on the shoulders for rank insignia:imageHowever as it was worn by a sergeant his rank is sewn to the sleeves. The rank is in subdued green, but has a rather nice embroidered Canadian maple leaf above it:imageThe original owner’s name is embroidered on a cotton tape sewn to the chest:imageSadly the original label for this combat coat is completely unreadable, however this design was produced between 1969 and 1982 so it is most likely from the 1970s. Although very popular, this garment had one fundamental weakness. It was made of a 50% cotton 50% nylon blend so it was not flame retardant and could catch fire easily. It also had a tendency to pick up oil stains that were very hard to shift and if bleached went an interesting pink colour! Despite these flaws, the combat uniform was much liked by troops and saw service for many years, indeed it was still used into the 2000s by cadets who, for political reasons, were not issued Cadpat uniforms for field exercises.

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1960s Polyester Army Socks

Update: My thanks go to Rich for providing us with some reminiscences of actually wearing these socks, and his impressions of them.

In the early post-war period polyester was seen as something of a miracle fibre. It was easy and cheap to produce, didn’t crease and was completely rot proof. The British army recognised these traits and quickly adopted polyester for army issue socks:imageThe army had already been using rot-proofed socks in the jungle, but these were never very effective and polyester seemed an affordable and workable solution. These socks date from 1966 and are made from knitted dark-green polyester thread. The base of the socks have the date, foot size, stores number and /|\ mark printed on in white lettering:imageThese socks have clearly never been issued or worn as this lettering would very quickly flake off with wear and washing. The design of the socks are entirely conventional, with an elasticated top to them to help hold them up:imageIt is fair to say that these polyester socks were never popular. Soldiers complained that they were hot, scratchy and made the wearer’s feet sweat excessively. Indeed many accounts of footwear in the sixties and seventies comment on the likelihood of getting athletes foot from wearing these socks in combination with DMS boots!

If of questionable utility in their original guise, the humble sock was repurposed by squaddies for a variety of things. The tops were often cut off them and sewn into the ends of the sleeves of a combat smock to create a knitted cuff to keep the draughts out. I also have an example of a commando bergan where old army socks have been used to make padding over parts that might dig into the soldier’s back.

Rich explains:

And they never wore out. I still had three pairs in the early 1990s, although this in part was due to my discovery of Socks, Men’s, Arctic in 1984, and then shortly afterwards civilian ‘Commando Socks’ prior to their issue. They were too warm for summer use, and didn’t provide any insulation in winter; this, combined with a strange sliding effect of your feet in the boot caused by ‘shredded wheat’ insole which was also nylon (informed that this was to reduce blisters), meant that they were consigned to barracks only use when alternatives were unavailable.

There was no worse feeling than having slept in these socks in an issued down-filled sleeping bag to find after donning your DMS boots and puttees that some of the feathers had migrated from the bag and worked their way into the weave of the socks; meaning that the shaft of the feathers would scratch your feet all day with no chance of respite by removing your boots.

Another use I have seen for one of these socks was as a ‘cosy’ for a 44 pattern water bottle. Purpose? To deaden noise; camouflage; insulation or to aid cooling; to use as a hot water bottle – who knows?

 The other failings for these socks were: the stitching used at the heel and the toes was quite abrasive; the socks never really took to the shape of your feet which meant that they tended to ruck especially when wet or sweaty; provided no cushioning whatsoever, and when wet the top of the sock chaffed your lower calf badly. The only ‘positives’ were they were fairly quick to dry, and were extremely hard-wearing which is probably why they were procured; that and possibly the hope that you would seek to purchase alternatives, thereby saving the government money.

These socks are now starting to get quite rare, especially in a nice unissued condition like this pair. Most have been worn and thrown out so if you do come across a pair it would be well worth picking them up to add to a Cold War load out- just don’t bother trying to wear them!

MTP Windproof Smock

A number of different DPM and Desert DPM smocks have appeared on the blog over the years, but tonight we have the first example of a windproof smock in MTP:imageIn design this is externally very similar to the DDPM example we looked at here. The front of the smock fastens with a concealed zip, and a tab for a rank slide is positioned centrally on the chest, along with two small zipped pockets:imageFurther large patch pockets are sewn to the skirts of the smock, secured with a button flap:imageThese pockets are actually fleece lined, as can be seen on the inside of the smock:imageTwo further patch pockets are fitted, one on either breast, opening the left hand pocket reveals pen lops and a small inner pocket with a button hole:imageThis is designed to hold a small compass for field work. Finally pockets are sewn to the upper sleeves of the garment, with a small union flag sewn to the pocket flap:imageWhen wearing multiple layers of clothing ventilation can become important, so under each arm pit is a zippered hole to allow air in to this sweaty part of the body if needed:imageTo help make the smock comfortable, a mesh liner is sewn to the upper half of the jacket:FullSizeRenderA drawstring waist is also provided inside the smock, below the mesh liner:imageAs with the DDPM version, this smock has a hood, with an integral wire to help stiffen it and let it hold the shape the wearer wants:imageAs ever this can be rolled up and secured to the collar with a button tab.

The cuffs of each sleeve have a large Velcro tab allowing them to be drawn tight to get a warm seal and prevent cold air form entering the smock:imageThe smock uses the familiar plastic buttons secured with cotton tapes, as seen on all British Army field uniforms since 1995. Spares are sewn into the inside of the lower skirt of the smock:imageA standard label identifies the smock, gives sizing and NSN number and care instructions:FullSizeRender1This particular pattern of smock seems to have first been issued about 2009 and was popular amongst the men who received it:

They are warm in the winter, even in just a t-shirt or norgy, and cool in the summer (especially when the side vents are opened up). The fleece pockets are good too…

Another user said:

The smock is actually very good, I’ve never been told to do press ups for having my hands in those fleece pockets, in fact I haven’t seen anyone told to do press ups for that “offence” since I left the regulars, perhaps this jacket should be arketed to TA bods only! The mesh on the pockets doesn’t snag on anything, it’s under the actual pocket, and the stuff on the inside does its job really well. Overall, it’s a very good bit of kit.

The only criticism was it could be a bit heavy, especially when wet, but most users seem to have liked the smock and it was fetching high prices on the surplus market when first issued. Prices have dropped now that it has been on issue for eight or nine years and examples can be found for around £25 each.

RAF Police Cap

All three of the armed services have their own dedicated police forces. These police units all have distinctive insignia and uniform variations to make it easy to identify them. Whilst the army use red cap covers, the RAF police have white topped caps, and it is an example of this we are looking at tonight:imageThis cap is worn by NCOs and is of the same design as a standard RAF parade cap, but with a white vinyl top rather than it being made in blue-grey fabric. The white top gives rise to the RAF Police’s nickname of ‘snowdrops’. The white cap was first introduced at the very end of World War Two, originally as a separate cap cover, becoming an integral vinyl top only later. This cap was produced in the early 2000s, and has a label stuck into the underside of the top with the size, 54cm, an NSN number and the identification of the cap type:imageThe front of the cap has a pair of eyelets to allow a staybrite RAF cap badge to be attached:imageNote the black woven band around the cap, and the blue-grey fabric you can just see above it. This is far more obvious on the rear of the cap:imageThe chinstrap is made of vinyl, secured with two black plastic buttons sewn on either side of the cap:imageA stiff peak is fitted, shiny black on the top and green on the underside:imageNote also the faux-leather sweatband sewn to the interior of the cap. These caps are worn both formally on parades:947107272And whilst on duty:untitledOfficially the cap is only to be worn by NCOs below the rank of Warrant Officer, WOs wearing a standard blue-grey cap. Unofficially however it seems that some senior NCOs, taking advantage of the latitude their high rank entails, are now continuing to wear the white topped cap to make it clear that they are members of the RAF Police, the cap badge being substituted for the correct design for their rank.

British Army Anti-Static/Self-Wicking T-Shirt

In the military there are certain items of kit that are handed out like sweeties, whether you want them or not. One case in point is the anti-static t-shirt. This is a self-wicking t-shirt made from synthetic fabric that is designed to help draw sweat away from the body and keep the wearer either warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Opinions on these t-shirts are mixed to say the least- some love them others hate them, but one thing is certain there are a lot of them about! A quick count up in my collection revealed I had eight of these, some still in their issue bags. I don’t recall ever setting out to buy one, but I still seem to have a pile!

The T-Shirt is available in brown, black or olive green fabric:imageIt comes in a plastic bag from stores:imageWith a stores label stuck to the outside of the packet:imageThe t-shirt is of a fairly regular design, but a close up of the fabric is useful:imageThe t-shirt has a series of hollow filaments inside that draw moisture (i.e. sweat) away from the body and to the outside where it can evaporate off. This fabric is widely used for gym wear and is supposed to be more comfortable for the wearer than traditional cotton. It does have its downsides though as these filaments can build up deposits of sweat and gunk over time and this can be difficult to remove by washing, leading to a sweaty body odour smell emanating from the garment.

Soldiers’ opinions on the T-Shirt vary, some really like it:

I quite like the new issue t shirts, they keep you incredibly warm when worn as a base layer under a regular cotton t shirt and then with layers on top of that; I was quite happy in -11’C a few weeks ago with just the two old and new issued t shirts, a norgie and a combat jacket. Although the stench retention is a very real issue.. not that I have ever taken hygiene in the field seriously at all

Others are less keen:

I thought those issued desert wicking T shirt were utter garbage. The ones with the tiny little holes in them, colour of dodgy-curry sh1t the morning after. Seemed to retain underarm smell more than other ones too. Maybe it’s because I’m a smelly fcuker though, who knows?

As with most modern British Army uniform, these t-shirts are made in China, and instead of having a maker’s name on the label, they just have a contract number:imageI have worn these t-shirts myself in hot climates and I must confess that personally I did not warm to them particularly, I found that the type of fabric used rubs and chafes and after a full day wearing them you have quite sore nipples!

RE Staff Sergeant’s Fawn Barrack Dress Shirt

The British Army has long had an order of dress known as ‘barrack’ dress. This is a uniform that is smarter than combat uniform, but more comfortable and less formal than a dress uniform. For many years this consisted of a fawn short sleeved shirt with green lightweight trousers, often worn with a regimental stable belt and a peaked blues cap, however regimental distinctions can arise (such as this regiment’s choice of trousers!):barrack_dressThe shirt however remains consistent and is a fawn coloured poly cotton shirt of a conventional design:imageThis comes in a wide range of sizes, as indicated in the stores catalogue:CaptureButtoned patch pockets are fitted to each breast, with curved bottom corners:imageButton down straps are fitted to each shoulder for officers to display their rank insignia:imageIn this case however the original owner of this shirt was an NCO, so his insignia is sewn onto the sleeve:imageThis is the distinctive rank insignia of a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Engineers. As is typical, a label is sewn into the back of the shirt with sizing, NSN number and a space for the soldier to write his name and number:imageThe sizing includes a collar size, here 45cm and in this case we can see that the shirt was originally worn by a soldier named ‘Pascoe’.

92 Pattern DPM Temperate Trousers

My thanks tonight go to Jon Kempson for his help in identifying the specific pattern of tonight’s object that allowed me to go away and research it for you! Prior to the introduction of CS95 combat clothing in 1995, a new pattern was introduced in 1992. This replaced the woefully inadequate designs the army had been using since 1984 (this pattern was notorious for the pockets dropping off at a glance!). This intermediate pattern was used as a test bed for some of the features that would be rolled out in CS95 clothing but also to replace the earlier 84 pattern garments as maintenance stocks. One of the first areas that the new clothing addressed was the printing of the DPM fabric itself. The 84 pattern clothing had used the traditional method of printing the DPM camouflage on white cotton, however as the garments were now unlined this presented a potential hazard if the interior of the fabric were to become visible to the enemy. The 92 pattern was thus printed onto pre-dyed fabric, the shade chosen being the lightest tan colour of the four colour pattern. There were problems getting the dyes entirely correct for this initial production run, so the early garments have a distinctive ‘yellowish’ tinge to them. It is an example of these early production trousers we are looking at tonight:imageThe interior of the trousers reveals the tan-yellow shade the fabric was pre-dyed in:imageThe trousers themselves are pretty conventional, having a button and tape waist fastening, and a zip fly:imageTwo slash pockets are fitted, one on each hip:imageEach leg has a large button down patch pocket:imageButton down belt loops are fitted and a small degree of waist adjustment is catered for by two button tabs on the waist band:imageTies are fitted to the bottom of each trouser leg so they can be drawn in, and bloused if required:imageThe label has the sizes in metric, but at this date manufacture was still in the UK, unlike today where it is more cost effective to get the Chinese to make them for us:imageThis pattern of clothing seems to have first appeared amongst troops at Warminster in 1992 and saw extensive use during the peacekeeping in Bosnia in the early to mid-1990s, with a second production run in 1993-1994 correcting the colour issues with the early production run. With the introduction of CS95 clothing, the pattern was slowly superseded and replaced with the newer design. The development of British camouflage uniforms is sadly very under-researched and there is little published information out there on the development and variations of the classic British DPM uniform, as ever I will keep tracking down pieces like this and hopefully we can continue building up the history on the blog.