In 1967 the British Army once more updated its NBC clothing with a new and improved design. The NBC Suit No 1 Mk 2 was the first British NBC suit to come with a hood attached to the smock, rather than having it as a seperate piece and as such was a major advance on its predecessor. Today the Mk 2 is considerable harder to find than either the Mk 3 or the Mk 4, but I have been lucky enough to pick up both the trousers (which we will look at next week) and the smock. The mk 2 smock is made of charcoal impregnated fabric and is distinctive in having grey panels as well as green:
The difference in fabric is due to the suit having green reinforcing over areas that would be subject to a lot of wear such as the forearms and down either side of the chest and back where the straps of the equipment would rub. It must be said that this does not seem to have been a perfect solution as the Mk 3 would have the stronger fabric layer over the whole suit, rather than just segments.
It is the hood that makes the Mk 2 an advance, coming up over the respirator and covering the top of the head. A draw string is fitted around the hood to help get a nice tight seal around the top of the S6 respirator with a plastic slide buckle to hold it in place:
Elastic is sewn into the back of the neck to help draw it in here and again give a better fit around the mask:
A cloth tab and Velcro are used at the waist to help pull it in here:
The same tab and Velcro fastening is used on the cuffs to get a good seal around the wrist:
A small pen pocket is sewn to the upper arm of the left sleeve:
A label is sewn into the back of the smock just above the elastic:
The NBC Suit was issued in a vacuum pack to protect it until needed:
The packaging was designed to be easy to open, but that wasn’t always the case as recalled by one former user:
The British Army “Cold Weather Suit”. The best thing ever issued to a British Soldier to counter the really harsh Winters of the mid ’80’s in BAOR and a 2 piece “overall” to keep the dirt off your Combats. The only item that every Soldier did not want to receive as New. Reason being, one had to have a drastic fight with the Suit, and one always lost, just to get it open after removing it from its primary packaging let alone punching your way into a vacuum packed suit. Also a new suit was a real ** to get into your Poncho Roll, too stiff. Used ones were more flexible and softer, easier to pack.
Inside the vacuum pack is a label that indicated when this example was manufactured, in this case 1976, the last year of manufacture before the Mk III was introduced:
It must be said that the NBC suit was not a popular garment, as another user explains:
These were horrible to work in, even driving was a chore as they weren’t cut to fit if sitting for driving, did an EX with RAF(CHINOOK SUPPORT).Full kit, gloves with liners, boots, hood, helmet, and S6 respirator for 6 days. Absolute hell. There was a special radio microphone that clipped onto respirator. Nobody understood a word you said on the air.
Although they were replaced with a new pattern in 1976, the old Mk 2 suits continued on for training for many years to come as the Mk 3 was slowly rolled out. They can be easily recognised in photographs by the grey body panels:
Ours were one-piece coverall style, including the hood, no gaps.
Apparently the designers were afraid contaminants could get up between the jacket and trousers.
I never found it too uncomfortable other than being warm, which in Fall or Winter wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but after a Combat Turnaround in a HAS, it didn’t matter what you were wearing, you were covered in sweat anyway and at least the ‘bunny suit’ soaked some of it up 😉
In TOPP Low, you could shrug the top half down and let it hang around your waist, tucking the arms and hood in to keep them from flopping around since there were built in suspenders to hold it all on your shoulders, a little more convenient than trying to find a place to stow a jacket in case you needed it later.
As usual I remember a little incident from years gone by …
“After doing a CTA in Lahr, Germany while the Wall was still up and the Cold War was still on; after making sure my crew and the area was ready for Aircraft recovery, I wanted a coffee pretty badly.
I trudged up to the coffee boat and noticed that nobody was near it, this struck me as particularly odd since you normally had to push through a crowd, and I momentarily panicked thinking that the huge urn was empty and they were all in a state of shock.
Turns out the local hornets had discovered the sugar bowl and they were swarming on everything.
Big nasty German hornets, the kind that could take out one of our F-18 Hornets in A-A combat easily and without breaking target lock on the sugar.
I didn’t break stride, just masked up on the march, pulled the suit up, zipped it tightly around the mask and pulled my gloves on, just as I’d been not ten minutes before, completely ignored the buzzing buggers, poured a large cup and sugared it well as is my preference (making sure not to add any hornets in the mix) then wandered off to find a quiet spot for a smoke and a long sigh.
Senior Officers, Junior Officers, Warrant Officers, and the rest were just staring at me with jaws agape, which was even more satisfying considering they were wearing the same rig as me since we’d just had an NBC ‘alert’ as part of the exercise and were in a ‘standby, smoke ’em if ya got ’em’ stage, except for us on the Line who had just enough time for a quick puff and a plan before getting back to it.
(the actual ‘attack’ came later and we got to spend the night in shelters doing decontamination drills instead of sleeping.)
Wonderful times, may they never come again.
They should have known that nothing ever stands between an Armourer and coffee.
Saw some sets in a War Surplus store marked ‘insulated coveralls’, almost bought one but I have a few packed away somewhere.