SAS Altimeter Pouch

In the late 1960s a number of new items of webbing were quietly added to the stores catalogue to go with the 58 pattern web set. These were items for use by the SAS and were pieces of equipment that were felt to be useful based on operational experience and some experiments in unit with producing similar pieces of equipment unofficially. None of these items of SAS webbing are easy to find now, however the most common piece to come across today is the altimeter pouch.

The altimeter pouch is a small green webbing pouch for carrying an altimeter, the SAS had been operating in jungled mountainous terrain in Indonesia and Borneo and an altimeter was very helpful in determining a troopers height in this rugged landscape and how far up a particular mountain they had actually gone. The altimeter was small and round, so the pouch was shaped accordingly:imageA box lid fits over the altimeter and is secured with a single press stud, keeping the contents safe and secure within:imageDue to the size of the pouch it was impractical to have it mounted on the belt itself, so a pair of one inch drop straps allow it to hang below the waist belt:imageThe large eyelet is to allow a lanyard to be fastened, securing the altimeter to the pouch and preventing it being dropped and lost. Underneath is the faint markings of a stores code and date, it seems to have been made by MW&S in 1982:imageI have struggled to find much further information on the pouch, presumably due to the secretive nature of special forces there is not much out there on the pouch. I did however come across this photograph which I believe is a 1980s photograph of an SAS belt kit set up (the site I found it on is in Polish so I have no context I can give to the image). Here the altimeter pouch can be seen on the belt, but it is being used to carry a compass:img27If anyone has any pictures of the actual altimeters used with this pouch, please get in contact as it would be interesting to see what is supposed to fit inside the pouch!


  1. I’ve heard this refered to as the “Clinometer” Pouch but I’ve only ever seen it used for the prismatic compass. Pre year 2000, it was actually the most difficult item of SAS kit to acquire! Certainly in the late 1980s, SAS soldiers seemed to either prefer or have no choice but be issued the ’58 Compass Pouch.

  2. The belt kit photograph appears on page 29 in ‘The Special Air Service’ by James G Shortt (he of Arrse infamy) Osprey Men-At-Arms series number 116; credited to Terry Fincher. The description doesn’t go into any depth about the items shown except that it is a mixture of British 58 pattern with some US and Bundeswehr items ‘British Special Forces 1945 to present’ by the same author, Uniforms Illustrated 13, on page 35 shows the belt kit ‘as issued’ to include both 58 pattern compass and altimeter pouches together with two 44 pattern water bottle carriers, escape ration pouch and a ‘drop’ SLR magazine pouch all mounted on a 58 pattern belt supported by cross type braces.

    I cannot say what type of altimeter was being used at the time this pouch was manufactured, but
    altimeters were employed in the Malayan Emergency as ‘The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya’ manual 1958 notes in Chapter V: ‘The Pocket Altimeter – Held in a pool for issued as required, this equipment is of particular use when operating in mountainous country and is a useful aid in checking heights against a map.’ The manual provides a great resource for those interest in the campaign and is available as a reprint from Amazon.

    As to the type in use at that time, one example is shown on Plate VIII of the ‘Manual of Map Reading Part III, Field Sketching’, 1957 as seen in the photos below made by Thomas Watson Scientific Instruments Ltd. .

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