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.


DPM Second Pattern PLCE Rifle Grenade Pouch

Today we are used to the idea of an underslung grenade launcher for the SA80, this has been used very successfully in conflicts for the past fifteen years. Before this was introduced though, the SA80 was issued with a rifle grenade that fitted over the muzzle of the rifle and was fired by a cartridge from the breach of the gun itself:imageTo accompany this grenade, a special pouch was created as part of the PLCE webbing systems. Originally in olive green, this carrier was later produced in DPM:imageThe original design was a full pouch, this DPM version though is just a skeleton pouch. Two white plastic cups in the base of the carrier hold the noses of the grenades:imageTwo little lids are provided, one for each grenade:imageStraps underneath the lid help hold the tails of the rifle grenades secure:imageThe pouches are designed to be used in a number of ways and so the back of them is very ‘busy’:imageA flap is provided on the back for a belt to pass through so the pouch can be worn on the belt:imageUnder the flap are a pair of ‘T’ bar fasteners that lock into the belt of the PLCE system:imagePrimarily however it was expected that a pair of pouches would be zipped to a bergan in place of one of the standard side pouches. In order to do this a heavy duty zip is fitted round the outside rear of the pouch:imageFastex clips are also fitted to allow a shoulder strap to be fitted or to attach the pouches to the day sack yoke:imageThis particular pouch dates back to 1997:imageThe muzzle launched rifle grenade was only a short lived concept, the much smaller and more effective underslung launcher replacing it and rendering these pouches obsolete. As such they are readily available on the surplus market and a cheap addition to the collection.

Royal Navy Boot Brush (Part 2)

Last year we looked at an example of a Royal Navy boot brush here. Last week I was lucky enough to find another example of these brushes:imageThis example is a little smaller than the previous brush, but allows me to make up a nice pair:imageLike all these brushes, this one is dated, here it is 1919:imageAnd to show it is Royal Navy owned, it is stamped with an abbreviation for ‘Admiralty’:imageIt is this stamp that has warranted a post on a subject we have ostensibly already covered. Here the boot is marked as ‘ADMY’, the previous example was marked ‘ADLY’:imageQuite why this variation in marking exists is a little puzzling as one would suspect that the stamp for ownership was already made up, rather than being made of individual letters. That being the case the abbreviation should be standardised, but it is not. I wonder if the marking is dependent on which naval institution took delivery of the stores and marked them up. Whilst of no great significance I thought this was an interesting variation that might be of interest to some- all Royal Navy boot brushes are hard to find so it is instructive to have a pair to contrast.

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.

Tangled Web Book Review

Regular readers will know that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Canadian webbing. Therefore I have been looking for a copy of tonight’s book, Tangled Web, Canadian Infantry Accoutrements, 1855-1985, by Jack Summers for quite a while. This book was first published in 1989 and it is, as far as I am aware, the only book covering the use of webbing and leather accoutrements by the Canadian Militia and Army. The book covers a wide variety of load bearing equipment from the earliest leather sets used with percussion muskets up to the 82 pattern design that had just been introduced when the book was published. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout, but as is often the case with books of this age all the illustrations are in black and white- this does not distract from their usefulness and many rare images of troops wearing the articles appear alongside photographs of the objects themselves.81snKx+B9uLThe book is divided thematically based on the type of weapon in use by the Canadian Army at various times in its history. This book very much focuses on the items themselves, modifications made in the field and depots and feedback on their utility based on user reports. It is not a book about Canadian manufacture of accoutrements or the specifically Canadian methods of production, so there is no coverage of companies such as Zephyr Loom and Textile Ltd or of uniquely Canadian features such as resin dipped strap ends. This however is not the aim of the book and there is plenty of uniquely Canadian information between the covers to make it worth tracking down a copy. As well as the modern sets we have covered on the blog before (the 51, 64 and 82 pattern sets) the book also covers in detail the pre-WW1 Canadian sets such as the Oliver leather equipment set and the numerous modifications made to them in Canada based on experience on the Western Front.Capture1Summers has an easy writing style and it helps that he provides context of the various conflicts Canada was involved with at the period each set was being used- I for one knew virtually nothing about the Fenian Raids on Canada in the Victorian era so this background was very much appreciated. This book covers a long period of history and it is nice to see the stop start nature of military procurement. On occasions incremental changes are made to equipment, at other times in history it is a revolutionary leap and this comes across nicely in a way that is not always the case with books covering a shorter time frame.Capture2There is no denying that this book is a specialist title, but it is packed full of information and well worth tracking down a copy if you have a particular interest in Canadian accoutrements. Sadly it seems to have been out of print for a number of years and copies are not easily available in the UK. If you are in the US or Canada this seems to be less of an issue. It is currently listed at £70 for a volume on Abebooks, however it is possible to find the book for less if you are willing to import from North America or check EBay regularly. My copy came from the latter site for £20 and this is a book well worth snagging if you can find a copy at a reasonable price.Capture3

1980’s Royal Navy Men’s Rain Coat

Whilst my father has retained all his uniform and papers from his time as an officer in the RNR in the 1980s, he has only gifted a very small number of items to my collection but one of them is this example of a man’s Royal Navy raincoat:imageThis is a dark blue single breasted overcoat of a design first introduced in 1986. Up until that point there had been separate coats for officers and men, but this design was a universal pattern to be used by all. Unlike foul weather jackets for use at sea, this rain coat was for wear ashore and was a smarter form of outer wear for inclement weather. Identical coats but in a dark green colour were produced for the Royal Marines. The coat secures with a row of buttons up the front, concealed under a fly. A pair of pockets are fitted, one to each side of the lower portion of the garment:imageThese are unusual in that they are just slits, allowing access to the inside of the coat and the trousers beneath. A pocket is included, but it is an open design and is not attached completely to the opening:imageThe jacket has a typical 1980s RN stores label with details of sizing and NSN number:imageMy father was promoted from Sub Lieutenant to Lieutenant in this period and made the alteration by blocking out the ‘S’ part of his rank. His service number indicates he was nominally attached to Chatham naval base before it closed- I do not believe he ever actually went there when it was operational though and this would have been merely an administrative attachment rather than anything with a greater significance.

I will be honest and say that I have struggled to find much substantive written about this type of raincoat and if anyone can help with more information please leave comments below.

1884 Aldershot Camp Photograph

Most postcards and photographs that appear on the blog on a Sunday night date to the twentieth century- earlier examples are typically from the 1890s but it is rare to come across images from before then and certainly at a price that your author is willing to pay! Tonight’s image is unusual then in dating from 1884 and is a handsome group shot of what I believe are Rifle regiment officers with their wives and friends:SKM_C284e18022611470This is actually pasted to a card back in the ‘carte de visite’ style typical of the period. The men appear to be wearing dark green patrol jackets and most have ‘pill box’ hats worn as ‘undress’ caps in the period:SKM_C284e18022611470 - Copy (2)The officers on the right are wearing glengarries and so I am advised they are likely from a Scottish rifle regiment as these caps were not worn by English units at this period:SKM_C284e18022611470 - CopyAn officer seated at the front with a small dog appears to be wearing a ‘torin’ style cap:SKM_C284e18022611470 - Copy (3)The Torrin was an Austrian inspired side cap, much like the later field service cap but with a more rounded crown.

The rear of the image dates this photograph to 12th August 1884 and shows it was taken at Aldershot:SKM_C284e18022611471The name on the bottom of ‘Howland Roberts’ is likely referring to Sir Howland Roberts, 5th Baronet of Glassenbury, Kent (1845-1917) who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 3rd (London Irish) Voluntary Battalion, Rifle Brigade.

My thanks goes to Jack Fortune for his help with this image. He has suggested that these officers might be part of the 1st Battalion Cameroonians (Scottish Rifles) who were posted to Shorncliffe near Aldershot in 1884. Interestingly the Times of 11th August 1884 mentions that this unit was due to depart for Glasgow from Aldershot on 14th August which would tie in nicely with this image and indicate that these were indeed officers of this regiment. The 15th August saw this report published:

The hired transport Poonah, belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, left Portsmouth for Glasgow yesterday afternoon with the 1st Battalion of the Scottish Rifles from Aldershot. The embarking strength of the regiment consisted of three field officers, five captains, seven sub-lieutenants, one medical officer, 35 sergeants, 457 rank and file, 39 women and 68 children. Thirteen men were left sick at Aldershot, 63 were on leave and 49 were in Egypt.

The Times also tells us that there were a large number of volunteer rifle regiments at Aldershot on 12th August 1884, the day being used for a number of different large scale exercises. It is entirely possible that the non-Scottish officers in the group photograph belong to some of these units. Interestingly there are a number of men in civilian dress in the photograph and quite who they are remains a mystery. It was common to open a military exercise up to civilian relations at this era, especially for officers, and these are perhaps brothers or friends:SKM_C284e18022611470 - Copy (4)This would also explain the women in the photograph who are clearly well to do as they are wearing fashionable clothes of the era:SKM_C284e18022611470 - Copy (5)Although not the clearest image I have ever come across, the early date and more importantly the fact it has a caption on the back make this an interesting little photograph.