Category Archives: War on Terror

Desert DPM GSR Haversack

The General Service Respirator began to be rolled out to priority troops in 2010 and at this time many troops on combat operations were still wearing DDPM uniforms, MTP being introduced simultaneously with the new respirator. The history seems a little muddy, but during this transition period a large quantity of haversacks for the new respirator were produced in the earlier pattern of camouflage. It is not clear if these were intended for combat troops with the new respirator until MTP came into widespread use, or if they were trials items used during the testing phase of the GSR. Either way large numbers were produced and being obsolete are easily available on the collectors’ market so tonight we are going to look at an example in detail.

The haversack, more properly called a ‘field pack’ is a large wedge shaped bag made of DDPM IRR Cordua nylon:imageThe inside of the pack is accessed through a large flap on the top of the pack, secured with both Velcro and press studs:imageThe inside of the pack is lined with a grey nylon and has the pack’s NSN number and designation printed on in black ink:imageA simple open pocket is sewn to one side of the pack:imageWhilst a shorter, but wider pocket is sewn to the opposite side, secured with a velcroed flap:imageA third much larger pocket is attached to the base and secured with a zip:imageThe pack is designed to be worn over the shoulder and an adjustable strap is provided for this purpose, along with a steadying strap to pass around the waist:imageThis pack was never intended to be permanently attached to a web set, however a belt loop is provided for this purpose if so desired:imageUnderneath this are a pair of T-Clips to allow it to be securely attached to a PLCE belt:imageThis pack was short lived and quickly replaced with the similar but not identical MTP version we covered here.

Mk 7 Helmet Cover

We looked at the Mk7 helmet a few weeks ago. Like all other recent British helmets, this design was intended to be used with a camouflaged cloth cover. Although the cover issued for the Mk6 helmet could be used, a specialist cover was developed that better fitted the shape of the Mk7:imageThis was delivered from the factory in a sealed plastic bag:imageA stores label is stuck to the outside of the bag, indicating that like so much modern British military equipment this cover was manufactured in China by the Cooneen Defence Ltd company:imageInside the packet is the MTP cover, laid out the revised shape is visible, designed to fit over the more PASGAT shape of the Mk7. The elastic straps for the scrim are also revised, just having two rings of elastic:imageA tab with a press stud is attached to the rear to help secure helmet mounted equipment such as goggles:imageLike all the other helmet covers issued over the years, this one is adjusted and secured by a drawstring:imageThe inside of the cover has a standard label:imageUnlike other helmet covers, this one includes a small bag of MTP scrim:imageThese are wedge shaped pieces of fabric about eighteen inches long that can be threaded through the elastic straps to break up the outline of the helmet:imageAlthough I have used these strips as they came, looking at service issued examples it seems as though it was common to cut the strips of MTP scrim lengthways to make them narrower and give the soldier more of them to thread through the helmet cover, providing a more scrimmed effect:image

Mk 7 Helmet

In June 2009 the British Army introduced a new combat helmet as an urgent operational requirement. This was the Mk 7 and it replaced the older Mk 6 and Mk 6A design, the shape of the helmet being updated in light of combat experience. Users of the older patterns of helmet had found it difficult to take up a prone position as the helmet dug into their body armour, tipped forward over their eyes and prevented them from firing easily. A new helmet was developed that had the same ballistic properties as the Mk 6A, but with a revised shape that allowed it to be used with body armour. The Mk 7 was a pound lighter than its predecessor and was produced in tan rather than green or black:imageThe helmet has an upgraded liner that features a mesh top section and padded panels around the head:imageThe chin strap was also upgraded with a three point suspicion system. The chin straps start at the back of the helmet:imageThey then run forward to two adjusting straps, one on either side:imageA leather chin cup is provided to hold the helmet in place:imageThis is fastened by passing the end strap through a metal loop and folding the tab back on itself. Two press studs secure it and prevent it coming undone:imageSome troops upgraded their helmets by replacing the press studs with a quick release buckle. Other changes made by troops included adding a loop to the rear of the helmet straps to allow it to be secured to body armour with a carabineer.

The manufacturer’s labels for these helmets are particularly inaccessible, being fixed under the rear of the liner. They contain details of the NSN number, a code for the manufacturer and a date, here 2011:imageJust one firm made the Mk 7 helmet, NP Aerospace Ltd who traded as Morgan Advanced Materials. The Daily Mail reported on the introduction of the Mk7 helmet back in 2009:

New helmets designed to help British troops to target the enemy are being rushed out to Afghanistan this weekend.

The Ministry of Defence is issuing the lighter headgear following soldiers’ complaints that the current helmet is unsuitable for firefights with the Taliban.

Five thousand Mark 7 helmets, along with new Osprey Assault body armour, are being sent to Afghanistan for the troops of 11 Brigade who are starting a six-month operational tour.

The new British-made Mark 7 helmet is the first major change for 20 years – and looks more like an American helmet than the current pudding basin style. It is shaped to allow a soldier to lie flat and shoot straight, without the rear rim digging into his body armour and tipping the front rim over his eyes.

British soldiers are frequently having to fight the Taliban crawling along the ground for cover. Many have complained that when they have to fire  while lying down, they struggle to aim quickly at what may be only a fleeting target…

The MoD’s Urgent Operational Requirement order for new helmets was accelerated by the introduction of US-made Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG) that sit higher on the soldiers’ SA80 rifles.

Lt Col Matthew Tresidder, chief of staff of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency, said 10,000 new helmets and body armour kits have been bought by the Ministry of Defence for £16million. The first 5,000 sets are going to infantry soldiers, engineers, drivers, medics, dog handlers and anyone who regularly goes ‘outside the wire’ of protected bases.

The remainder of the 9,000 servicemen in Afghanistan will continue to use the current protective kit.Royal Marine from 40 Cdo in Sangin, AfghanistanWhilst designed to make it easier for troops to shoot from a prone position, this was not to be the case in reality and just four years later the same newspaper reported that specialist troops, especially snipers, were having to remove the helmets in combat to make shots:

British Army snipers’ lives are being put at risk because they are forced to remove ill-fitting protective helmets before they shoot at the enemy.

Crack marksmen have complained that it is ‘near impossible’ to adopt a correct firing position when targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because of unsuitable kit.

Problems have arisen on the frontline when the back of the standard-issue helmets rub against the top of the ballistic plates in the cutting-edge Osprey body armour

The friction means elite UK sharpshooters are struggling to get ‘beads on’ insurgents laying deadly IEDs or planning ambushes because they cannot properly line up the target in their rifle’s cross-hairs.

 To overcome the issue, some troops have taken the drastic step of removing their helmets before taking a shot – running the risk that they themselves could receive a fatal bullet to the head.

A senior officer has admitted that the ‘problem’ is affecting specialist soldiers in the warzone.

He confirmed a major review of helmets was now underway after safety fears were highlighted…

A serviceman has written anonymously to the magazine, which is published with MoD approval, flagging up concerns.

He said: ‘Snipers throughout the Army are struggling to adopt a correct fire position whilst wearing a Mark 6, 6A or 7 helmet – especially when combined with the Osprey.

‘Firing from low-profile positions such as the prone are near impossible.

‘Most service personnel go as far as to remove their helmets, especially when a more difficult shot is required, causing obvious safety concerns.

The Mk7 helmet is now being replaced with Virtus equipment and has slowly been trickling onto the collectors’ market for a few years now (despite many reservist units still using the older Mk 6 and Mk6A helmets). Its service life was brief and apparently much of the army’s stock was sent to the Ukraine when withdrawn from front line duties, proving to be a popular choice amongst troops fighting the Russians there.

MTP Ammunition Bag

The Desert camouflage version of the grab bag was a popular piece of ancillary load bearing equipment and we looked at an example here. As with many items of equipment, when the new MTP camouflage was introduced an updated version of the grab bag was issued in the new pattern:imageThis bag is identical to the DDPM version and features the same external pouches. We have one large single pouch for a smoke grenade:imageTwo smaller pouches for fragmentation grenades:imageAnd three pouches across the front for rifle magazines:imageEach of these opens up to allow access to the interior, a piece of elastic helps hold the magazines in place until ready to be withdrawn:imageThe lid of the pouch features a velcroed easy access flap, the opening being surrounded by elastic to ensure it is easy to access the contents of the bag but there is no danger of anything falling out:imageThis particular bag has been issued and the original owner has written his name and number on the underside of this elastic portion:imageThe shoulder strap has a seperate MTP slider on it:imageThis has a rough fabric finish on the inside to prevent the bag from slipping as easily from the wearer’s shoulder:imageA standard label is sewn into the inside, with a different NSN number compared to the DPM version:imageOne user of the grab bag says:

I think the idea behind it being a grab bag is that you grab it an scarper.
It hold 9 mags which with the 6 or so you carry on your osprey, that’s your OP ammo sorted. Not many people wear vests over Osprey, just a few pouches for bullets on the front. A daysack with the grab bag under the lid = pouches to keep the ammo in one place. If you’re down 6/7 mags, you’re in the poopoo anyway. And maps, water, GPS, Leatherman NVG can all be stashed in there no dramas.

The Rifles Beret

In 2007 under a regimental restructure a number of infantry, light infantry and rifle regiments were merged together to form a single, seven battalion regiment (Five regular and two TA battalions) called ‘The Rifles’ this regiment was formed from:

  • 1st Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, and the 1st Battalion Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment)
  • 2nd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
  • 3rd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Light Infantry)
  • 4th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
  • 5th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry)
  • 6th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Rifle Volunteers)
  • 7th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Royal Rifle Volunteers minus the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Company but with the surviving two Companies (F and G) of 4th (V) and 5th (V) Battalions of the Royal Green Jackets within The London Regiment)

The regiment adopted the rifle green beret as its headgear and tonight we are looking at an example:imageThis beret is made from a dark green wool, with a leather sweatband. This is adjustable using a drawstring. Once the beret has been correctly adjusted, these are tied off and tucked inside the sweatband to make a neat appearance:imageThe Rifles adopted a traditional light infantry/rifles bugle as their cap badge, here topped by the Queen’s St Edward’s Crown:imageSurprisingly the cap badge is of white metal, but it is not anodized aluminium stay-brite, however this seems to be the case for all of the regiments cap badges and must have been a conscious decision of the regiment when it was formed:CaptureThe label inside indicates that this beret was specially made for the regiment, and is of very recent manufacture, dating back just a few years to 2015:imageWhat is really nice is that this beret has clearly been issued and used as it has the rifleman’s number and name written inside on the label:imageThe rifles have had an eventful time over the last decade since they were formed, seeing regular deployment on active service. The 2nd Battalion, the 3rd Battalion and the 4th Battalion were all deployed in Basra in Iraq during some of the worst fighting of the Iraq War including the withdrawal from Basra Palace in September 2007.

The 1st Battalion undertook a tour in Afghanistan between October 2008 and April 2009 mentoring the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province. The 5th Battalion was one of the last British Army units to leave Iraq in May 2009. The 4th Battalion provided reinforcement cover for the elections in Afghanistan and to take part in Operation Panther’s Claw in Summer 2009. At the same time the 2nd Battalion was deployed to Sangin and was relieved in due course by the 3rd Battalion. The 2nd and 5th battalions of the Rifles returned for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan serving in the Nahri Saraj District in October 2011. In March 2018 the 2nd Battalion returned home after a six-month operational deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Shader.

Osprey Helmet Bag

Part of the Osprey Mk II and Mk III body armour set included a pouch holding a helmet bag. The helmet bag is designed to give a soldier a safe place to stow his helmet when it is not needed, somewhere it will be secure, out of the way but easy to access if it needs to be quickly donned. A lot of troops issued with the PLCE sets used a climbers carabineer usually attached to one of the shoulder straps or the waist which was used to clip the Mk 6 helmet to. The Osprey system gave troops a dedicated bag for this and although I do not have the pouch it is stowed in, I do have the mesh bag:imageThe bag is designed to be large enough to fit a Mk 6 helmet in reasonably snuggly so that it doesn’t rattle around:imageThe neck of the back has a drawstring and an adjustable strap allows it to be attached to the Osprey system:imageAs well as the drawstring, two large Velcro panels are also provided to help secure the neck:imageI am not sure how popular this helmet bag was in service as I have struggled to find much information on it, one thing I did find referenced was its use as a dump pouch for used magazines. In combat there often isn’t time to carefully stow used magazines away, but equally a soldier does not want to just drop them on the ground where they might get damaged, lost or stolen by the enemy. A dump bag is just an open bag that used magazines can be dropped into until there is a lull in combat when they can be put back into pouches. This large open mesh bag would probably be well suited to this role and would obviously not be needed for its primary purpose when contact with the enemy had been made.

My thanks got to Michael Whittaker for kindly letting me have this piece.

Osprey Mk IVa Side Armour Carrier

It has been quite a while since I last covered the Osprey Mk IV set on the blog, we ran a major series of posts last year covering a lot of the different components. One item we did not look at then were the side armour panels and it is one of these we are considering tonight. These are a pair of add on panels that are used to fit extra hard plate side armour to the Osprey set to protect a soldiers flank. Each side panel consists of a flat piece of MTP cordua-nylon:imageThe front is covered with a set of PALS loops to attach pouches to:imageThe main feature of the side plate carrier is a large pocket that a ballistic plate can be slid into:imageThis is secured by a Velcroed flap. The rear of the panel has a set of straps to attach it to the rest of the vest:imageA small label indicates stores details:imageInterestingly the Osprey manual does not list these side plate carriers at all, instead just showing the larger cummerbunds that wrap entirely around the wearer’s body. This is a smaller and lighter alternative that just adds the plates to the side and was introduced as part of a mid life upgrade of the Osprey Mk IV to Mk IVA standard and allows the front ops panel to be retained whilst flank armour is worn.