My thanks go to Edward Corry for tonight’s object, the first of what will be an on-going series over the next year or so looking at the components of the PLCE (Personal Load Carrying Equipment) webbing system in frontline use by the British Army until very recently and still used by the majority of support troops and both the RAF and Royal Navy. PLCE was introduced after the deficiencies of the 1958 pattern webbing system had been highlighted by the Falklands War; the cotton webbing of the 1958 pattern set absorbed 40% more water than an equivalent nylon which then froze in the South Atlantic winter and made it very uncomfortable to the wearer, the high levels of absorption also made decontamination after an NBC event difficult. With the imminent introduction of the new SA80 rifle, the opportunity was taken to introduce a new equipment set and this began to see service in 1990 just prior to the First Gulf War.

The belt is the element of the set that all others are built around so it makes sense to start here, the belt being made of green nylon and adjustable to a variety of sizes:imageThe belt has a series of loops on the back, that the various components attach to by metal prongs, whilst it is secured by a 60mm plastic ITW (Illinois Tool Works) Nexus buckle:imageThis webbing set was the first to use plastic components, the technology finally having advanced to a point where they were robust enough to replace metal fittings. The length of the belt is adjusted on the reverse side:imageThe belt has two nylon keepers to hold the excess webbing neatly in place once it has been adjusted to the user’s size:imageTwo metal d-rings are sewn to the rear of the belt to allow the back yoke to be connected to the belt:imageIt was found in service that the belt chafed uncomfortable for many users and a special hip pad was introduced that could be worn over the belt to improve the comfort of it. This belt is one of the more modern items in my collection and has a label indicating it was produced in 2007:imageThe label shows that the belt is a large and is marked ‘IRR’ indicating that Infrared reduction, respectively resistant (IRR) coating is applied which reduces its heat signature to that of natural foliage, when viewed through Infrared night vision systems. We will be considering the other components of this set in due course.

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