During the Vietnam War Australian troops were routinely issued with a “fibre rope assembly, single leg, polyester fibre, 1in circ. 9ft long”, known to one and all by the much snappier term ‘toggle rope’. The name had originated in early hemp ropes which had featured a wooden toggle on one end to allow them to be joined together. Although the toggle had been deleted, the name stuck! The nylon rope was typically carefully coiled up into a single piece about a foot long:
A large loop was included at each end to allow the rope to be secured around or to other things including more ropes to make a longer length if needed:
Other uses for the ropes included helping troops cross rivers, to secure prisoners and to make stretchers in combination with bamboo poles. The ropes were normally carried looped around one of the ammunition pouches, using the grenade securing tabs to fasten through each loop, as seen here in this image from a 1983 training pamphlet where the rope is clearly visible:
The 1986 Australian Army Rifle Platoon pamphlet advised that they could be used to help cross fast or deep rivers:
- Hand Lines. When wading is dangerous, toggle ropes or rifle slings may be linked together to provide a hand line. A hand line will help prevent soldiers who lose their footing from being swept away, and gives
confidence to weak swimmers.
Another use for the toggle rope was during night operations in Vietnam when hand signals could not be used:
This problem was partly overcome by using a toggle rope tied to equipment on the back of each soldier for the soldier following behind to hold...Toggle ropes were to be used to assist movement in the dark by troops tying the toggle rope of the soldier ahead of them to a piece of their equipment which they placed on the ground while resting. The leading company (D Company 5 RAR) was scheduled to depart from the assembly area at 2300 hours. Troops were alerted in time and minor movement, including closing-up, occurred in preparation to move off, with the result that, in some instances, equipment attached to toggle ropes of the man ahead suddenly took off between the rubber trees in the dark, much to the consternation of the owners. In this way the Forward Air Controller lost his radio and one officer lost a bag containing maps and papers. (These were recovered in the assembly area next day.) As a result, the move commenced 15 minutes later than planned but, because of the bright moonlight, the easy going through the plantation along the side of the airstrip and the time reserve which had been allowed, all companies and ambush parties arrived in their allotted areas on time.
The rope can again be seen in this great study of a soldier training in 1971 at Enogerra:
The toggle rope has become an iconic piece of Australian kit and can still be seen today being carried in the field where it is remains a useful piece of equipment.