It has been a while since we looked at any items of PLCE webbing on the blog, and so far all the pieces we have considered have been the later pattern, printed in DPM camouflage. When the webbing was first introduced in 1988 however, and throughout its service in the First Gulf War, it was produced in plain olive green. It is an example of this early pattern we are looking at tonight, in the form of a pair of ammunition pouches:This set of webbing was designed to operate with the then new SA80 rifle and each pocket has space for two magazines giving a total of eight magazines, with 240 rounds. Not only are the pouches green rather than DPM, but there are constructional differences to the later production pouches. One of the main ones being that these pouches are ‘handed’ i.e. there is a left and a right, whereas later pouches could be used on either side of the belt. The differences between left and right can be seen on the back when they are laid side by side:The fittings to connect the yoke are made of metal loops and angled to one side or the other:These were replaced with a plastic fitting that could be used in both directions in later iterations. The pouches also have a 58 pattern style wire ‘C’ hook for attaching to the belt rather than the ‘T-Bar’ used on later versions:Other features of the early pouch include an internal divider inside each of the ammunition pouches:Soldiers quickly realised that if they removed this and turned the magazines through 90 degrees they could fit three rather than two magazines in each pouch allowing a 50% increase in capacity. This feature was again standardised in later production.
Each pocket on the pouch is secured with a plastic ‘Spanish tab’ fastener:These fasteners allow quick access to the contents of the pouch, but were liable to come undone easily if the wearer was climbing down, facing a rockface for instance. The pouches were also fitted with an optional Velcro fastener for the pockets, however as Velcro could be noisy a cover was provided to block this off and silence it if the wearer preferred:Normally these pouches are found with markings stamped on the rear, these examples however have them stamped on the underside of the lids, and unfortunately they have not worn well so it is hard to make out the details of date:This is actually the first piece of early olive green PLCE I have picked up, and hopefully in the coming months I can track down the rest of the components and bring them to you in due course.