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: