Category Archives: War on Terror

RAF Desert DPM Shirt

I am a great fan of badged camouflage shirts, they are cheap, easily available and there are many different variations out there to collect, they also seem to have more character and more of a history to them than a mint unissued item. I suspect that in years to come these shirts will become increasingly collectible, but for now they remain cheap on the secondary market. We have looked at a number of these on the blog over the years and tonight it is the turn of an RAF badged desert DPM shirt dating from the War on Terror:imageThe shirt is an absolutely standard CS-95 type example, but has a large ‘Royal Air Force’ title sewn above one breast pocket:imageAnd a three coloured tactical recognition flash on the sleeve:imageThe RAF deployed large numbers of men and women to both Iraq and Afghanistan, not only as pilots and aircrew but also as ground staff, medical personnel and as part of the RAF regiment defending air bases. All these personnel wore the standard DDPM clothing of the period, with RAF and RAF regiment specific insignia sewn onto the uniforms. The scale of the RAF’s contribution in Iraq was commented upon in the Daily Mail in 2003:

Around 100 RAF warplanes will soon be in the Gulf in the biggest deployment of British offensive aerial firepower in modern times.

The announcement came yesterday, giving the strongest signal yet that an Anglo-American attack against Iraq is close.

The massive RAF contribution which also encompasses 8,000 personnel, now totals one-third of the service’s front line strength… today’s RAF is barely half the size of the 1991 force- so proportionately, yesterday’s orders represent the biggest operational commitment in decades.

Military experts said it is the largest possible strike force the RAF can muster, and will place a huge strain on the already hard-pressed service.

The deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were to keep the RAF busy for the next decade and even today men and women of the RAF are in these countries in a limited role supporting the local militaries.


Osprey Pistol Magazine Pouch

Among the many pouches produced for the Osprey IV system was a small pouch to carry spare 9mm magazines for the service pistol. By this stage traditional holsters had been largely replaced by hard shell plastic designs so a soft holster was not part of the Mk IV complement of equipment, however extra magazines would be required to be carried so a set of dedicated pouches was clearly desirable. The pouch is made of an MTP printed fabric with a top flap that has a more open weave than many of the other pouches in the Osprey IV set:imageThis change of fabric was presumably to give extra strength on a thin top flap that would otherwise be in danger of breaking if the more standard fabric had been used. The large top flap covers the base of the magazine and is secured with a large Velcro fastening to make it harder for the pouch to be accidently opened:imageThe magazine itself slides inside to make a secure fit, but one that allows it to be easily withdrawn:imageThe magazine used here is for a Browning Hi-Power, in service more modern magazines would have been carried, but this is the only double stack pistol magazine I have access to and illustrates the concept just fine.

A single MOLLE strap is fitted to the rear to allow the pouch to be secured to the vest:imageThe weight of even a full pistol magazine is negligible so one strap would be more than adequate. Under the strap is the standard Osprey label, printed on fabric and sewn to the rear of the pouch:imageThese pouches were not only used for carrying pistol magazines, but also occasionally saw service on operations to carry morphine syringes in a safe and secure pouch that allowed easy access in case of emergency. Although not what the designers had originally envisaged this sort of adaptation is typical of how soldiers use equipment when deployed on active service and this seems a very sensible secondary use for the pouch.

British Army Emergency Bandage

We have looked at a number of post war first field dressings over the years on the blog and these served the British military well for many decades. However once serious combat operations started in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s it became clear that it was time to look for an alternative dressing. The British Army settled on the ‘Emergency Bandage’ also commonly called the ‘Israeli bandage’. As its name would suggest, this bandage was developed by an Israeli medic in the 1980s who had noticed that the bandages used to0 control bleeding all dated form the 1940s and that his training was to use a rock to help increase pressure if a wound would not stop bleeding with just a bandage. He felt there had to be a better solution than this and began developing a bandage with a built in pressure bar in 1990/1991. Today the bandages come both with and without a pressure bar, indicated on the package. Large sales really began in 1998 and today they are a common sight with militaries around the world.

The examples produced for the British Army come in a plastic pouch that keeps them completely sterile:imageOn first aid courses British military personnel are taught how to use this packaging to make an improvised flapper valve for sucking chest wounds. Note the British NSN number printed just above the use by date sticker. The back of the package gives instructions on how to apply the bandage:imageThe Emergency Bandage is an elasticized bandage with a non-adhesive bandage pad sewn in. The bandages can have a built-in pressure bar, which allows the soldier to twist the bandage around the wound once, and then change the direction of the bandage, wrapping it around the limb or body part, to create pressure on the wound. Aside from this, the pressure bar also makes bandaging easier. A closure bar at the end of the bandage means that it clips neatly into place and will not slip.military-green-emergency-bandage-with-mobile-padThe bandages come in three different sizes: 4, 6, and 8 inches wide. They are similar to elastic bandages that are used to treat sprain injuries, but they have three unique features:

  1. the sterile non-adherent dressing that is designed to allow removing the bandage without reopening a wound.
  2. the pressure applicator or the pressure bar that is placed directly over the wound to stop the bleeding by applying pressure. It facilitates wrapping in various directions. This is a useful feature for stopping bleeding in groin and head injuries.
  3. the closure bar that is used to secure the bandage and to apply additional pressure to a wound. The closure bar can be used by a “simple sliding motion with one hand.”

The British examples delete the torsion bar, the decision being that the elasticated nature of the bandage was sufficient, but were otherwise were the same as the standard Israeli design. Here we see instructions for applying one of these bandages, again please note that British examples do not have the torsion bar depicted below:CaptureHere two British Army medics treat a wounded Afghan National Army sergeant in the back of a Chinook. The Emergency bandage can be seen on the patient’s leg, interestingly this bandage does seem to have a torsion bar suggesting that they might be using US issue bandages rather than British ones:Capture2A few years ago these bandages were very expensive and fetched up to £15 on the surplus market. Today they are far easier to find and this one cost me just £1. I now have a pair of them and they accurately fill out part of my individual first aid kit on my Osprey Mk IV set.

MTP Osprey Mk IV Smoke Grenade Pouch

The standard set of pouches issued with a set of Osprey Mk IV body armour included two for smoke grenades, We have taken a look at smoke grenades on the blog before, in this post. If you have seen our previous posts on Osprey pouches, it will come as no surprise that this pouch is very similar to previous examples, but sized appropriately to carry a single smoke grenade:imageThe lid is secured with both a tan plastic Fastex clip:imageAnd a piece of Velcro to ensure the grenade does not come out accidently:imageAs with all these pouches, a pair of heavy duty straps are fitted to the rear to allow it to be attached using the MOLLE system:imageAnd a small label is sewn to the bottom rear of the pouch with stores numbers on:imageThis is just a quick post this week as there is very little to say about this pouch that hasn’t been covered in other posts, however it has been included for completeness and to help make this series a useful reference to those researching the Osprey Mk IV.

DDPM Osprey Holster

After a few weeks looking at MTP osprey components, this week we return to the slightly earlier DDPM items with a look at the desert pistol holster, issued extensively during the operations in Afghanistan and used to carry the Browning Hi Power and Sig P226 issued to troops at the time. The holster is a simple open topped design, made in desert DPM infra-red resistant Cordua nylon:imageA top strap goes over the back of the pistol and secures the gun into the holster with a simple press stud:imageA plastic adjustment buckle is fitted to the rear of this strap to allow it to be tightened to hold different weapons effectively. The holster is designed to be used with the MOLLE straps and PALS loops of the Osprey system so two straps are fitted to the rear:imageThere is one long and one shorter strap to conform with the shape of the rear of the holster. Beneath these is a series of loops that allow the straps to be interwoven with the straps on the Osprey vest to allow a secure fit:imageA label is sewn to the rear as well and indicates that this holster was manufactured in 2011:imageInterestingly the design of holster is open at the bottom, leaving the muzzle of the pistol exposed:imageThis seems an odd choice for a piece of kit designed to be used in the desert where there is a high likelihood of dirt and dust getting into the muzzle of the gun. I suspect though that it was felt that gravity would remove most traces of debris that entered the barrel and it was better to allow it to fall away than leave it in the bottom of a holster where it would gather and could start abrading the weapon or turning into an abrasive paste with the oil coming off of the weapon.

These holsters were commonly worn either on a drop leg panel or strapped to the chest on the Osprey body armour cover.

Osprey Mk IV Belt

Tonight we turn to one of the more curious elements of the Osprey Mk IV set, the waist belt. This component is listed in the Osprey user’s guide and seems to have been issued with the rest of the pouches but I am struggling to find any information on if it was ever actually used, and how it was intended to be worn. My best guess is that it was designed to go over the vest to help tighten it, but I am struggling to find anything concrete so if you can help please comment below.

The belt is made from heavy duty MTP Cordua nylon and features a padded front section:imageThe belt splits into two parts:imageSecured together with Velcro at the front:imageAnd rear:imageThe back part of the belt is elasticated, with the strap split into two pieces. The inside of the front part of the belt has a distinctive ribbing to it and curves in slightly along its length:imageThis would aid the belt in gripping anything it was wrapped around, like the Cordua nylon of the Osprey vest of the fabric of a uniform.

A label is sewn to each of the Velcro tabs on the rear of the two belt halves:imageThere are a number of different sizes of belt produced for different sized soldiers, this is a small but medium and large examples are also available. As a later production piece, this belt has a proper NSN number, rather than just saying ‘N.I.V.’ (Not in Vocab).

Osprey Mk IV LMG Pouch

One of the larger pouches issued with the Osprey Mk IV is that for 100 rounds of LMG. This pouch is made of the standard MTP cordua nylon and is deep enough to hold 100 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition for the GPMG:imageThe belted ammunition sits inside and adds a considerable weight to the pouch:imageAll this weight requires the pouch to have substantial PALS straps on the rear, with multiple loops to ensure it attaches to the vest securely and doesn’t come away in combat:imageThe pouch is closed with a large box lid:imageSecured with a heavy duty tan plastic Fastex clip:imageAs ever a label is sewn to the rear with stores information:imageThe weight of ammunition was always a factor on operations. One ex-British Army soldier explains what men typically carried in Afghanistan:

I always carried 6 magazines of 28 rounds each of 5.56mm for my personal weapon plus perhaps that many rounds again either loose or in clips which could be speed loaded into the magazines. We also each carried not less than 200 rounds of 5.56mm belt ammunition for the Minimi light machine gun and/or 200 7.62mm belt rounds for the GPMG. I can’t remember exactly but it certainly was around 30 lbs of ammunition alone.

Each man in a foot patrol would have carried that much, the gunners carried more link ammo because their main weapon was the GPMG or Minimi. It depended on the job. If we were part of a force going on a full offensive op then it’s likely we would have carried much more but as we were mainly in a defensive roll due to our main task we depended heavily on close air support . We were taught to be disciplined with the ammo and to make every shot count. No spray and pray. If we had to, one guy could start breaking down some of the 5.56 belt ammo and load it into empty magazines. So in reality each guy had at least 300 rounds. That’s a lot of bullets in the real world.

The gunners carried 600+ rounds for their machine guns so between us we could bring a lot of firepower to the fight for a prolonged period. I promise not one round was fired unless an enemy fire position had been spotted which was usually easy due to the very low standards of the local Taliban fighters. Most of their lead flew right over our heads and contacts didn’t last long because we spotted and then smashed them or they ran out of ammo very quickly and then ran away.

In vehicles we would have brought with us several thousands of rounds of 5.56 and 7.62 ammo in boxes and rounds for the .50 cal if we had one. In addition there might have been boxes of rounds on belts for an automatic grenade launcher and plenty of bombs for the mortar if we were equipped with those weapons.

We had the occasional contact with Taliban forces made up of foreign fighters. These guys were more motivated and smarter soldiers (less likely to be high!) than the locals and much better trained so contacts with them lasted much longer, 4 hours or so, and could be very tricky, fast moving battles. With close air support from fast jets, attack helicopters and drones on our side the Taliban never got the upper hand but in the period of time between the start of the contact and when the first attack helicopter arrived on the scene, the foreign fighters could be very bold and would try their best to get close to our defensive positions. A lot of ammunition was needed at times like this. When the AH’s arrived which could take anything from 10 minutes to an hour, their cannons would turn the most persistent Taliban into high protein fertiliser.

Along with Electronic Counter Measures we carried on our backs, spare batteries for the ECM, water, ammo, weapons and body armour which alone would easily be half your load, plus whatever other stuff you were told to carry for some military reason, it was all very heavy. I don’t think that civilians realise how heavy all this equipment is and how tough it is to work with it all on. Soldiers, especially those in ‘teeth arms’ regiments deployed to Afghanistan, would regularly be patrolling and fighting out on the ground on foot in 100F degree heat carrying 60+ lbs of equipment and ammunition. We would occasionally have to move in non-tactical but still dangerous situations carrying over 100 lbs of stuff. This might explain why my knees, hips and back are so painful and stiff now.Operation Zangal Haf