Category Archives: War on Terror

Osprey Mk II Collars

This week we are looking at the collars that can be attached to an Osprey Mk II set of body armour. The osprey Mk II was designed to be scalable, meaning that soldiers who needed extra protection, but were less mobile than normal infantry, could add extra pieces of soft armour to the basic vest. This applied to troops such as gunners on vehicles where they were not moving about, but were more vulnerable to enemy fire. In this case extra collars and arm brassards were issued:Osprey_body_armour_basrahTwo types of collars were issued, a full depth example, and a half depth version:imageEach of these collars divides into two halves, with Velcro at the centre:imageThis allows a ballistic filler to be fitted inside, a small flap opening at the wider end to allow it to be fitted:imageI don’t have the filler, so I have used cut up yoga-mats to fill out my collar and give it some stiffness. I can’t speak for the actual filler, but in this case it was a real pain to pit the yoga-mat filler as it was hard to get it to the end of the cover and I had to resort to a long wooden spoon to get it to sit correctly! Each half of the collar is separately labelled:imageThe collar fits to the vest with both Velcro and lift the dot studs:imageA loop is also fitted to the rear that loops around the carry handle on the back of the neck of the vest:imageOnce fitted the collar fits securely to the vest:imageA Velcro tab is included to secure the front of the collar around the wearer’s neck:imageThe neck armour was never popular amongst British troops, but it was noted by one army surgeon that the lack of uptake of the armour led to British troops having three times as many neck wounds as their American counterparts whilst on active service in Afghanistan. It has been suggested that their unpopularity was due to the uncomfortableness of wearing them, the difficulty of aiming a rifle when wearing a collar and that they interfered with other equipment soldiers had to wear. As few as 4% of officers who had served in front line operations had worn the collars, despite them being available.

Having tried my collar attached to my Osprey, I can confirm it was bulky and the weight with the proper fillers would be quite high so it is perhaps unsurprising they were not more widely adopted, despite their potential to save lives.


Royal Irish Regiment Helmet Cover

The Royal Irish Regiment was formed in 1992 by the merger of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The regiment originally had nine battalions but following various mergers and the draw-down of forces in Northern Ireland as part of the peace process and today just two battalions remain. The regiment has seen service in both Iraq as part of Operation Telic and in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick. Tonight’s object comes from one of those operational tours and is a desert DPM helmet cover with a tactical recognition flash for the regiment:imageThe TRF takes the form of a green shamrock on a black square and is machine sewn to one side of the helmet cover:imageIt was common in the regiment to sew the badge onto the side of the helmet cover, here we see an example of this type of cover with the TRF from 2008 in Afghanistan:183934There is an interesting story relating to this from 2010 as related by a member of the regiment, Corporal Tommy Creighton:

I saw a round hit the ground in front of me. My reaction was to lower my head, tilting it forward, and then I felt the thud against my helmet as the round struck me. When we got back to the patrol base, the lads were all saying how lucky I was. The round had struck me right on my ‘shamrock’ regimental badge, which I guess is kind of symbolic!

My helmet cover belonged to a Ranger called ‘Booysen’, and he has written his name in black marker on one of the elastic straps on the front of the helmet:imageThis helmet cover is a large/outsize version and this is indicated on the internal label:imageThis is just as well as the Mk 6 helmet I have is massive and anything smaller would have struggled to go over the dome!

Here we see a Ranger holding the later Mk 7 helmet, although the helmet and cover are different, the tradition remains and the TRF can be clearly seen sewn onto the side:ARMY'S Mk7 HELMET SAVES LIFE, AFTER LIFE, AFTER LIFEI have seen a number of units who wore TRF patches sewn to the sides of their helmet covers, but the Royal Irish Regiment seem to have embraced the use of this insignia to a far greater extent than most other units. It certainly makes for a most attractive helmet cover and as it is the first badged example I have been able to add to my collection, I am very pleased to have got hold of it.

3 Commando Brigade DDPM Windproof Smock

Tonight we are looking at a desert windproof smock from 3 Commando Brigade, but first a confession. When I bought this smock it had all the TRF insignia and glint tape still attached to the sleeves, however the shoulder titles had been removed at some point. The ‘Army Commando’ titles then were added by me, however they are a legitimate shoulder titles to wear with this flash as we shall see and unlike the more typical ‘Royal Marine Commando’ titles, I actually had a pair of these in stock! I am wary about badging up uniforms to units they were never originally from, however in this case I have less of an issue with it due to the original TRF patch and stitch marks as I feel this is more a restoration than a new creation.

The smock itself is a standard DDPM windproof smock, like the example we looked at here:imageAttached to the sleeve is a 3 Commando Brigade tactical recognition patch, introduced in 2002, in the form of a black Fairburn Sykes commando dagger on a green background:imageAlso attached is the reflective glint tape and the reinstated Army Commando titles. Although 3 Commando Brigade was a Royal Marine unit the army also had units serving alongside the marines and these were entitled to wear the TRF even if not commando qualified as it was a formation rather than a qualification patch. The following order description was given in 2011:


24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers (24 CDO REGT RE) Formed in 2008, the British Army’s 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers form a key part of 3 Commando Brigade. Their main role is to provide combat engineering support to the brigade. This includes the construction or destruction of fortifications, bridges and roads, the laying and clearing of mines and neutralizing IEDs. The Sappers of 24 CDO REGT RE go through full commando training, including the All Arms Commando Course, and can be drawn on to perform the traditional infantry role.

Also there is 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery The batteries of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, provide artillery support to 3 Commando Brigade in the form of 105mm howitzers, mortars and Naval gunfire. All members of 29 Commando are volunteers from other Royal Artillery regiments and are Commando trained.

Both support 3 CDO BDE and are titled ARMY COMMANDO’S.

With this in mind I felt quite justified using these titles on the smock. The same titles appear on the opposite sleeve, again following the stitching marks of the original insignia, and a Union flag appears along with the same glint tape as the other sleeve:imageWhen I acquired the smock it came with a single corporal’s rank slide on the front:imageThe name on the label has been crossed out, but can be seen faintly inked to the inside of the smock below and reads “Morrish”:imageI am a great fan of badged smocks and there is a huge variety of units out there to find, and the prices are often very reasonable like this example which only cost me £10. I can see these becoming more desirable as the years go on so they are an excellent area of collecting at the moment and could well prove a good investment, especially for rarer or more desirable units.

Osprey Mk II Body Armour Cover

Last week we looked at the Mk IV Osprey cover from 2010. Tonight we go back a few years and look at its predecessor, the Mk II which was developed at the end of 2006 and issued to troops on operations in early 2007. The original Osprey body armour had been the subject of close interest from the government’s Defence Clothing Integrated Project Team and they had identified a number of flaws with the design including PALS strips pulling undone, poppers which opened too easily and a general feeling that the first pattern had been poorly made. The Mk II updated not only the vest, but also the shoulder brassards and collars (which we will look at another week). Originally these covers would have contained a ballistic filler and hard plates, however these are virtually impossible to get hold of on the civilian market at the moment.

The vest is split into two parts, a front and a back:imageThese are fastened at the shoulder with an arrangement of Velcro and press studs:imageTo improve the reliability of the vest in service all press studs were now made one-directional rather than multidirectional as in the earlier design. This meant that the only came undone if pressure was exerted in the right direction and this massively increased their reliability in the field. Note also the folded down fasteners to attach the collar to the armour.

One immediate difference readers will note when compared to the later design, is that the armour for the vest sits proud in a separate pocket, rather than being integral to the vest like the Mk IV:imageThe large pocket unzips and allows a large hardened SAPI plate to be fitted covering the whole of the thorax. A smaller pocket is also included so the plate from the old ECBA can be fitted over the heart if a lighter, but less well protected, set up is preferred:imageThe same arrangement is fitted to the rear:imageNote also the black male Fastex buckles top and bottom for the attachment of a Camelbak water bladder and two fastenings are fitted along the bottom edge to allow a respirator haversack to be attached. Both sides of the vest are fitted with PALS loops to allow pouches to be attached as required:imageA handle is fitted to the top of the rear to allow an injured soldier to be dragged clear by his comrades if needed:imageOne of the changes made to the Mk II vest was to fit a waist cummerbund belt to improve the fit and comfort of the vest. These straps pass around the body of the wearer and secure with Velcro at the front:imageAnother change made was the addition of a short strap to the shoulder:imageThis is designed to be passed through the rear sling loop of an SA80 and supports the weapon from the shoulder in lieu of a standard sling.

A single rank strap is fitted to the front to allow a rank slide to be fitted if required:imageBoth sides of the vest have a label giving sizing and care instructions:imageThere were a total of eight different sizes of Osprey Armour produced: 170/100, 170/112, 180/104, 180/116, 190/108, 190/120, 200/116 and 200/124.

Osprey armour was very effective, but it was bulky and heavy, which coupled with high temperatures and heavy loads in theatre led to rapid fatigue amongst troops wearing it- the Afghan National Army working alongside British troops dubbed them ‘tortoises’ for their appearance and speed!800px-Sniper_During_Op_Oqab_Tsuka_in_Afghanistan_MOD_45149829For those whose life has been saved by the armour though, the weight is a small price to pay. Lance Sergeant Collins was shot at in 2008:

When I was shot I thought the worst, especially because it from only about 200 metres away and I think it was a 7.62mm round – that’s a high calibre bullet to be hit by. I was examined on the spot expecting to be told bad news but there was nothing there. The body armour had stopped the bullet and saved my life.

He came away with just some bruising- only a few years before this would have been fatal.

We will continue our study of osprey Body Armour next week when we start looking at some of the accessories used with the various marks of armour.

Knee/Elbow Pads

Many changes to operational clothing and equipment came out of the British Army’s experiences in the War on Terror. One change was the almost universal adoption of knee pads on operations, and frequently during exercises in the UK as well. The ground in Afghanistan and Iraq was often very rough indeed and patrols would frequently need to drop to one knee to scan the terrain. The rough nature of the terrain made doing this repeatedly very painful and it was decided that padded knee and elbow pads should be introduced in line with other countries’ modern infantry units. The basic British knee pads are made of a padded cup, covered in DDPM fabric:imageThey are secured with a pair of elasticated tabs with a piece of ‘hook’ Velcro on the end of each:imageThese are passed around the arm or leg and the ends attached to the loop portion of the Velcro on the front of each pad:imageThe inside of the pad has a black non-slip fabric that was designed to prevent them from sliding out of position too easily (it does not work particularly effectively):imageA single label is sewn into the rear of each pad with stores information:imageThe issue knee pads were often criticised for slipping down and moving round in combat. One user though found a workable solution:

In Afghan I found that the standard issued knee pads worked well. The trick to do with the tabbing I found was to just wear one (on which ever knee you favour) and have it loose so it sits around your ankle whilst walking/running/tabbing. It only take a second to pull up to your knee and if you can’t waste a second then it won’t matter as you’ll have far more important things to worry about.

Photographs of these soft issue knee pads in service are hard to find, as most soldiers replaced them with commercial designs, I have managed to find this image though of them being worn by a soldier from the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan in 2008:imageThese soft pads have since been replaced in service and a variety of knee pads produced by companies such as Blackhawk are more common today. They are not a bad design, there are just better designs out there that replaced them and these pads can be found from under £5 a pair in the collector’s market.

Osprey Mk IV Armour Cover

Tonight we are starting what I hope will turn into another of our semi-regular mini-series on the blog, much like the Canadian webbing series of last year. The Osprey series of body armour and accessories has been in service with the British Army since 2006 and has gone through four distinct marks. Osprey armour was a major advance on previous designs as it was scalable meaning it could be adapted for differing threat levels and had much larger hard plates than the old ECBA. This of course came with a trade off in that the armour was quite bulky and over the various marks changes were made to try and improve both ergonomics and protection. Sadly the plates on Osprey are virtually impossible to get hold of on the collectors market so it will just be the covers we will be looking at, along with the many, many accessories offered with each vest. Going forward I may try and mock up some plates with foam yoga mats to help bulk out the vests appropriately, and if I do I will try and post a suitable tutorial on the blog.

Tonight though we start, rather inappropriately, with the last of the Osprey series, the Mk 4 body armour cover:imageThis vest was introduced in 2010 and was the first to be made in MTP camouflage rather than the DDPM of the earlier models. The design is worn like a tabard over the head and two large panels wrap around and attach to the front with Velcro:imageThe front and back parts of the vest split apart at the shoulders:imageThe official pamphlet explains how to join the two segments together:CaptureThe right hand shoulder of the armour has a non-slip fabric attached to support the butt plate of the SA80 rifle when firing, with a raised ridge to help prevent it from slipping off the edge:imageNote also the original user’s Zap number and blood group, written on in marker pen. The soldier also wrote his name on the inside, telling us he was called ‘Mukasa’:imageThe opposite shoulder has a pair of PALS loops for attaching small items, and a plastic loops ring:imagePALS loops for the MOLLE system are all over the vest and consist of tapes of fabric, sewn at regular intervals to create a network of loops:imageThis is particularly apparent on the rear of the vest:imageThe top of the rear of the vest has a pair of heavy duty carrying handles so a casualty can be dragged to safety. Here the original owner has wrapped them in tape and written his Zap number and blood group again:imageAs was mentioned at the start, this armour is designed to be adaptable and shoulder brassards can be attached, using the Velcro and press studs around the shoulder:imageA range of collars can also be fitted, with fasteners around the neck. These tuck underneath when not needed:imageThe differing ranges of protection can be seen in this illustration from the official manual, we will look at the other components in the coming months:CaptureA belt can be fitted to the bottom edge of the armour, and loops are provided to run this through:imageThe internal armour for this cover is again adjustable and pockets allow a range of soft and hard armour to be fitted, in internal Velcroed pockets before a large zip secures everything:imageAs with most military equipment, large labels are sewn to each half of the vest with sizing and care instructions:imageI have only worn this armour once myself when I borrowed a set for a weekend exercise with the navy aboard Argus, here is yours truly looking remarkably warlike whilst practicing with a baton:imageI found the armour very impressive, but bulky compared to the older ECBA and it is interesting to note that when deploying in low risk situations such as on the streets of London last year, troops are still using the ECBA in preference to the Osprey or newer Virtus systems which seem to be reserved for combat roles.

We will return to the Osprey series over the coming weeks.

DDPM MOLLE Drop Leg Harness Panel

There seems to be a constant stream of desert DPM equipment out there to find, with webbing, pouches and other forms of equipment available in huge quantities and at low prices. This is great for the collector and it is well worth building up a selection now if you want them as experience says they will not be around forever. With this in mind, I have been very pleased to add this drop leg harness panel to my collection:imageThis panel is designed to allow a holster of similar piece of load bearing equipment to be worn on the thigh in a quick draw position. The pain body of the harness consists of a DDPM panel with a set of MOLLE loops sewn to it:imageThese allow a holster to be attached in a position to suit the wearer and the panel is large enough to allow a pair of spare magazine pouches to sit alongside. At the top is a strap with a loop to attach to the user’s waist belt:imageThis is adjustable and is secured with a lift the dot fastener and Velcro:imageA pair of straps are fitted to pass round the upper thigh, one end has a male Fastex buckle on it:imageWhilst the female fastener is attached to the panel itself with small pieces of elastic to ensure a secure fit to the leg:imageThe back of the panel has a breathable fabric that is distinctly ‘rough’ to the touch, presumably to help it grip to the user’s trouser leg to hold it in position more securely:imageA simple stores label is sewn to the back:imageThis design seems to have been fairly popular and a near identical version has been produced in MTP following the adoption of that camouflage pattern. Interestingly it appears sets of these with holsters and magazine pouches have been sold as surplus in the US where they are popular on the civilian market with shooters there.