We continue our look at the olive green PLCE equipment this week by considering the yoke. The yoke is one of the two critical components of a set of load bearing equipment (the other being the belt). In order to function properly it needs to be comfortable, support the weight of the items a soldier needs to carry evenly and be robust enough to withstand a lot of punishment (for a yoke that fails on every count readers are directed to the Canadian 64 pattern example!). The yoke used in the PLCE set draws heavily on earlier designs of British webbing for many of its features. The yoke has six points of contact with the belt/pouches. While two straps at the front attach either side of the waist belt’s buckle, four straps are fitted to the rear:Two of these attach to loops in the belt, whilst the two outermost straps pass forward under the arm pits to attach at the front to the main ammunition pouches, distributing the weight more evenly.
Extensive use of an open weave mesh is used to help reduce the effect of overheating on the wearer:This had first been trialled on combat vests in the 1970s, the PLCE yoke is entirely lined with this mesh on the underside:Mesh is strong, light and allows air to flow through it. Note also the dark green nylon patch for a place the user’s name and number could be written:Other features brought forward from the old sets was the ability to easily change the length of the straps by pulling on them. Here they are adjusted with friction ladder lock style buckles on the ends of the yoke:Finally the back of the yoke has a series of loops allowing auxiliary equipment to be attached if required:The PLCE yoke was a sophisticated piece of equipment and clearly thought had been given to feedback from previous sets. As ever though in the hands of the user things did not always go to plan. They needed careful adjustment to get a comfortable fit and soldiers sometimes substituted commercial pattern yokes or 58 pattern examples. It was also not unheard of for the secondary supporting straps to be removed from the yoke so more ammunition pouches could be added to the belt, defeating the whole point of effective weight distribution. Arrse gives the new recruit some advice on setting up a yoke:
Fit the load spreader (‘yoke’) to the rear of the belt and adjust it to the right length. Some people prefer to wear their belt higher than others, but it shouldn’t be supporting your tits, loosen the yoke until the belt is somewhere around your waist. Then lock off the straps by feeding them back and forth through the buckle. Adjust the front straps, but don’t lock them off as some adjustment will always be necessary. Finally adjust the lateral load spreader straps and lock them off as with the rear ones. Taping the straps should not then be necessary, but is always popular
Over the last month or so we have looked at a couple of pieces of olive green PLCE webbing. Now thanks to my friend and fellow collector, Michael Fletcher, I now have a complete wearable set of early PLCE:
As with the Canadian webbing earlier this year, to save overloading you and boring everyone to tears I am going to look at the components piece by piece each week for the next month and a half. I have already covered some of these pieces in their DPM form, but there are considerable design differences between early and later PLCE so we will revisit these components as they are different enough to warrant their own posts- it’s not just the colour that changes!
We kick off tonight with the PLCE utility pouch:The utility pouch is designed as a general purpose pouch that can be used for carrying extra ammunition, or a soldiers personal kit. Maximum flexibility was emphasised in the design, as seen on the rear:Here two sets of fabric loops and two brass c hooks give the user a choice of a high or low slung pouch:The top of the pouch has two metal D-rings that allow it to be fitted in place of the ammunition pouches on either side of the belt buckle- the rings being used to attach the yoke to:This was a major upgrade from the old 58 pattern set and gave far more flexibility. The black plastic female Fastex fastener allows the pouch to be attached to the rucksack should you so desire.
These early pouches do not have sewn in stores labels, but rather have the information printed straight onto the fabric:As can be seen this is no longer always very clear, but you can make out the NSN number and the /|\ marking fairly easily.
This early olive green PLCE is still available, but slowly becoming scarcer as it was only produced for a short period of time. As such it is an excellent set for the serious student of British load bearing equipments to start putting together whilst it is still easy to find.
My thanks go to my good friend and fellow collector Michael Skriletz for tonight’s post. South African webbing is generally considered to be the poorest quality and scarcest of all the Empire produced 37 pattern sets. I have slowly been building up my collection and can now count a small pack, water bottle holder, single basic pouch and one shoulder brace in my collection. Now I also have a selection of supporting straps for the set:The 37 pattern webbing manual describes the straps as:
These are interchangeable and each consists of a strip of 1-inch webbing, fitted with a buckle at one end and an eyeletted tip at the other.
This description is certainly correct for these straps, but a number of distinctive Sou African features are worth noting. The webbing is made of two thin layers and has distinctive stitch lines running the length of the strap to reinforce it:The buckle is not made of brass, but off a metal I believe is steel, that has now corroded slightly:These were frequently painted gold when new. The eyeletted tip is again made of a metal that easily corrodes, as witnessed by the staining to the webbing:A South African acceptance stamp is marked on the straps in a redish-purple ink, consisting of a /|\ mark inside a ‘U’:All of these straps were made by Daniel Issac Fram of Johannesburg, and we can see two distinct styles of manufacturer’s mark on the straps:Like all the other items of South African 37 pattern webbing, these are not easy to find and I am very pleased to have added another piece to the puzzle!
Following on from our recent post on the olive green PLCE ammunition pouches, tonight we are turning our attention to the water bottle carrier. My thanks go to Michael Fletcher for helping me add this one to my collection and effectively doubling my green PLCE collection! When the PLCE set was introduced it was agreed to continue with the black plastic Osprey water bottle that had been used with the old 58 pattern set, however the new set included a larger pouch to carry it in that made it much easier to remove the bottle than that used on its predecessor:The olive green colour indicates that this is an early production pouch, however as there are no visible markings on the pouch I cannot precisely date it. The pouch is secured on the front with the quick release ‘Spanish’ fastener:Like the ammunition pouches, this is supplemented with a Velcro fastener, covered with a noise reduction tab:The inside of the pouch has an internal divider:Normally this is tucked away to allow the full size of the pouch to be used for a water bottle, however by using the divider a set of mess tins and a hexamine burner can be carried in the pouch without rattling. The back of the pouch has a confusing array of flaps, loops and hooks:At the top we have a large flap secured with Velcro and lift the dot fasteners alongside a brass ‘C’ hook. The flap is used for attaching the pouch to a belt, whilst the brass hook prevents it from sliding along the length of the belt:This was less than effective, with full pouches coming loose under their own weight (the same problem the Canadian had with their 64 pattern canteen carriers which also relied on Velcro!), to counter this the attachments were replaced with plastic T-bar hooks on later models.
Beneath this is a plastic patch for writing the owner’s name and number:As can be seen, next to this is a small loop used for passing a piece of cord through to tie the pouch to others on the belt set. As usual a drainage hole is also included on the base:As with other pieces of olive green PLCE this pouch was only in production for a relatively small period of time, however they remain common and easily available but with the growing interest in the First Gulf War they will become increasingly collectible as time goes on.