South African 70 Pattern Webbing Overview

Today we start a major new series of posts on the blog over the coming weeks that will cover the South African 1970 pattern set of webbing. This webbing was introduced at the start of the 70s, as the name would suggest, and was to see service throughout the decade in the Bush Wars the South Africans were involved with in this period. It would continue in front line service, being updated slightly when the nation moved from the R1 to the R4 rifles, until replaced with the 1983 pattern assault vest in the 1980s.

The 1970 pattern webbing was heavily influenced by the British 1958 pattern, certain features such as the kidney pouches clearly originating in that set, but other features were based on experience. The rucksack was not attached to the rest of the webbing, but had its own integral shoulder straps so could be worn on its own if desired. There are also numerous ammunition pouches dotted all over the webbing to allow extra R1 magazines to be carried for sustained periods in the bush. It was also recognised early on that soldiers adapted their webbing based on operations and personal preference, so the design allows for extra bits to be clipped on and off with ease. The small patrol pack (not illustrated here) can be worn on its own or clipped to the rucksack to increase carrying capacity. Similarly the ammunition pouches and water bottle have a male press stud on the rear that allows them to be attached to a seperate trouser belt to make up a belt set of webbing.

  1. Belt
  2. Yoke
  3. Rucksack
  4. R1 Ammunition Pouch
  5. Kidney Pouches
  6. Water bottle and carrier
  7. Poncho roll

The designer of the set, M.J. du Toit explains the story behind the design:

Before going into the army in 1966, I acquired a set of SADF issue webbing which was called Pattern 61/64 and which had been based on the British Pattern 58 webbing. Having always been a collector of webbing and uniforms, I started modifying the set, to my own design, for my use when I got called up.

I started my national service in January 1966 and did my basic training at 1 SSB at Tempe, Bloemfontein. After basics, I move across to 1 Parachute Battalion to do the jump course. (Course no: 36 V).

During basics, I used the issued Pattern 61/64 but at Parachute Battalion, I used my modified version of Patter 61/64 which was the embryo of Pattern 70, which was still to come.
During May/June 1966 I was spotted using my modified version and was brought on orders to the O.C. and asked where I got it from. I told him I had modified the issue set as I thought it was uncomfortable and unpractical. At that meeting, I was introduced to Colonel J.T Nell from the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.) department of defence research. (Armscor did not exist at that stage.) He was then leading a project, on behalf of the SADF, to design a newset of webbing for the SADF.

He got me off the army for 10 days and sent me to a company called I.B. Joffe in Langlaagte, West Rand, who was currently helping him with the sewing and sampling of some earlier basic webbing
designs. During those 10 days, I further converted my modified Pattern 61/64 to what was to become Pattern 70.

After the army, I joined I.B. Joffe in 1967 and was involved in a lot of further field testing of Pattern 70 with the CSIR. In about 1969 I left I.B. Joffe and became involved in civilian clothing manufacture but remained in contact with Colonel Nell and helped with the design of some aspects of the SADF brown field combat uniforms. In about 1977 I joined Armscor and was seconded to 1 Reconnaissance Commando as their textile technician. This involved the manufacture of special clothing, boots, webbing, and fire force jackets as well as the packing and maintenance of parachutes, etc. It was during this time that I designed the SADF Paratrooper Slangvel Jump Jacket and trouser, helmet cover and parachute inner carry bag. During this period, I did a Parachute Riggers Course at PISA. (Parachute Industries of South Africa.) and aparachute packers course at I Parachute Battalion.

After Armscor, I joined SAPHI (South African Pith Helmet Industries.) and while there, designed Pattern 80 webbing. Pattern 80 was never an official military requirement but an initiative on my part to offer Parachute Battalion and Recce Commando something different. Only about 100 sets were ever made and filtered into service but it died a natural death because the military were not interested as they still had Pattern 70 in stock and in use.

The next official set of webbing to appear was Pattern 83, which I had nothing to do with.

One user of the webbing explains something of its use:

The ‘groot sak’ literally ‘big bag’ was the rucksack. The skeleton webbing had a two piece adjustable belt, and a separate webbing belt was issued as mentioned above. Operationally the kidney pouches were a waste of time and ‘gyppo’ webbing was made up with the belts taken off and sewn together, and the yoke attached to carry the load. One could then carry several water bottles and 4 ammo pouches.

As usual, over the coming weeks we will be looking at each component in turn in more detail, so hopefully this will build up into a useful resource for a forgotten set of webbing for another former British Empire country.

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