Before the olive green PLCE webbing equipment was introduced in 1990, an earlier trials pattern of the webbing had been experimented with in the late 80s. Although clearly sharing the same lineage, every component of the trials set was different to a greater of lesser extent then the final production model. For the serious webbing colector, the ’85 Pattern’ PLCE set makes a challenging, although not impossible, set to build up.
Of all the trials PLCE web equipment, the entrenching tool cover is one of the easiest pieces to pick up, and as it was just £4, this seemed a good place to start! For reference, the eventual production version of this piece can be seen here. At first glance the similarities are obvious, both are a broadly triangular shaped pouch made of green nylon that allows a folding entrenching tool in its rubber case to be carried within:
The first feature to note is that the entrenching tool is held in the cover with a single webbing strap secured with a press stud, rather than the v-shaped strap and black plastic fastex buckle of the production version:
Turning to the rear we can see a large flap of fabric, secured with two press studs:
Underneath this are two pairs of belt loops, allowing the cover to be worn at two heights on a belt:
This is very different to the arrangement on the production carrier, which has a pair of plastic fastex buckles on the inner face of the carrier, and nothing on the rear at all. At the base of the trials cover is a single nylon webbing loop:
This allowed a piece of cord to be threaded across the base of all the pouches to help prevent ‘pouch bounce’ where the pouches flop around when the soldier runs.
This cover is fascinating, as it is clear that it is closely related to the 1990 pattern, but virtually no features of the design were carried across to the production version of the webbing. This of course is the point of trials webbing; the feedback from troops allows improvements to be made so that the production version is as well thought out as it is possible for it to be. Going forward, I am certainly going to keep my eyes out for more of the trials PLCE set as it would be very interesting to put a set together to tell the story of this long lasting webbing set’s origins.