It seems odd that I have been collecting militaria for over ten years now, and only this year have I finally added a DPM bergen to my collection, and then quite by accident. I was displaying some kit in the front garden for VE Day and a neighbour approached me and asked if I would be interested in a bag of modern army kit before it went in the bin as I was obviously a collector. I of course happily accepted and the bag everything came in was a short back bergen:
The bergen was introduced alongside the rest of the PLCE webbing set in the late 1980s, but at that time was produced in green nylon. When the main PLCE set moved over to DPM, the bergen did likewise. There are two different sizes of bergen, a long back and this, the short back. Ideally a soldier needs an example of each for correct weight distribution. When he is wearing his webbing set, the short back is most appropriate and the load is transfered down, through the webbing and onto the hips. If he is marching without the webbing set, a long back bergen is appropriate as that is, as the name would suggest, longer and still moves the load to the hips. The short back example we are looking at today has a capacity of 90L.
The bergen is made of DPM cordua nylon and has a metal interior frame to give rigidity and correctly distribute the load:
As the bergen is carried on the shoulders, a pair of rucksack type straps are attached. These are combined with heavy padding across the back to make the bergen as comfortable as possible, even with heavy loads:
Loops are fitted at various parts of the bergen to allow utility straps to be threaded through and additional items strapped to the outside. A small pocket is fitted to the front of the bergen to carry items that might be needed in a hurry such as high energy ration bars, hexi stove etc:
Zips and fastex clips are fitted to either side to allow side pouches to be attached:
The two side pouches greatly increase the capacity of the bergen:
The 2003 RAF deployment aide memoire recommends that the right hand side pouch be used for NBC equipment, the left hand side for clothing and equipment to sustain a man for 24 hours and the main bergen should contain what a man needs to sustain himself with limited resources in an austere environment for 14 days. It recommends that these be packed in waterproof bags to protect them.
The bergen itself is reasonably waterproof, and has a nylon weather flap around the mouth with a drawstring to tighten it:
The DPM bergen had a long service life, being quite expensive to start with the MoD issued MTP elasticated covers when the camouflage pattern was updated rather than pay out to replace all the bergens straight away. This particular example is an early DPM version, the label revealing it dates back to 1994:
I’ve been told by Brits that the front pouch was for a canteen and cup.
C.W.L. on the label is possibly Compton Webb Limited.
Kev is correct – C.W.L is Compton Webb Limited.
WELL DONE THAT MAN!
Spot on! You deserve to have been given a free PLCE backpack – and in such decent condition!
Until now, I’ve never heard anyone else recommend buying both sizes. At 5’9″, I had to have both sizes, the shortback I bought being returned to stores when I left service (’cause I don’t wear CEFO in Civvie Street).
I’d just add that anyone buying DPM PLCE should try to get the EARLIER DPM PLCE stuff. The newer stuff has a short shelf life: the foam padding hardens under certain conditions (unknown at present). The straps are thinner and sometimes almost dayglo! Soldiers of my era would mistake the later issue PLCE as imitation – I did! I reckon the MoD opted for cheaper, shorter shelf life DPM PLCE because they knew they’d be replacing it with MTP within a few years; they didn’t need it to last particularly long.
My longback which I was issued in 1990 is still going strong, used daily for shopping (I cycle). Heavy today and pedalling hard into wind – I’m getting too old for this…