Certain items of military clothing get a cache about them that makes them very popular with serving soldiers, this is especially true if they are items of clothing only issued to specialist units, or they give the impression the wearer is an ‘old hand’. The Arctic Windproof Smock is one such piece of clothing. It was issued in small numbers to those involved in cold weather combat and was a well designed and liked item of clothing. Production was always limited, as was their distribution and far more soldiers wanted the smock than could ever acquire it through official channels. Silvermans, a well known London seller of militaria and private purchase clothing therefore arranged production of the garment privately for sale to those members of the armed forces or public who wished to purchase it and today we are looking at an example of this smock that was produced by them and then used by a serviceman before it was generously donated to my collection.
The smock is made of the standard temperate pattern of DPM and the most obvious feature is the large hood, with an internal wire stiffener running round the edge of it to help it maintain its shape:
A plastic draw fastener is used at the neck to help draw it in:
And a tie is fitted to the rear to help maintain the shape of the hood over other headwear such as arctic hats or helmets:
Whilst the hood is a very distinctive feature of the arctic smock, it was most usually carefully folded down and secured instead:
Other distinctive features of this pattern of smock are the central rank slide mounting, introduced long before it became standard practice on the CS95 clothing:
Alongside the rank slide are a pair of generously sized breast pockets and the use of sniper tape over the top of each button is noticeable:
These are a modification made by the previous owner in service and perhaps serve a couple of purposes- they make it harder for the threads holding the buttons on to become frayed and damaged so it is less likely the buttons will come off and it also reduces the shininess of the plastic. The same tape is applied to all the exterior buttons on the smock. Here we see the arm mounted pocket for a first field dressing which has had the same treatment:
The opposite sleeve has a small pen pocket:
The cuffs of the smock have a touch and close (Velcro) fastening that allows them to be tightened to better keep air inside the smock, an essential part of the insulation process in arctic conditions. A layer of air is trapped inside the smock that is then warmed by the wearer’s body heat and helps keep him warmer:
A pair of voluminous pockets are sewn to the skirts of the smock, the large pockets being a particularly welcomed aspect of the design:
The pockets continue inside the smock with both internal pockets:
And a large ‘poacher’s pocket’ across the back of the smock:
This was designed for soft kit to be carried in, adding some padding to the base of the spine and keeping items dry and warm from the wearer’s body heat.
A label is sewn into the smock and this mirrors official British Army practice, complete with sizing and NSN number, but lacks the contract numbers that would be found on an example made for official British Army use:
Silvermans had such a reputation amongst squaddies, that it even warranted its own ARRSEpedia mention:
A legendary military surplus equipment shop off the Mile End Road in London’s East End. Silverman’s is part & parcel of army (and no doubt the other services’) folklore, with generations of squaddies having spent their hard-earned beer tokens in this fine emporium.
In the days before Gucci kit became widely available, the only way to avoid looking like a total 1098 spakker was to dish out some readies on some half-decent gear that actually fit the wearer and was brand new – and therefore hadn’t been issued (to someone else) so many times as to be totally buggered.
Silverman’s was/is good for ancillary items like stable belts and Victor berets, but was also a Godsend for essential items like (size Long) ’58 pattern sleeping bags that didn’t smell like they’d had a Labrador dossing in them. Luxury!
It was also the number one place for finding rare and elusive kit that made the (eventual) wearer’s life easier either around camp or in the field, such as flying boots and tropical kecks. It was impossible to look even remotely ally without at least one trip to Silverman’s.
Silverman achieved notoriety during the build up to the Gulf War of ’90/’91 when hapless squaddies were being sent to theatre in unsuitable non-desert kit. This was still being hurriedly knocked up in Chinese sweat shops, but ol’ Silverman had shelves full of the stuff, and was (allegedly) subject to an investigation as to his acquisition practices.
Mr Silverman himself is a nice old boy, but he can afford to be with the money he makes off soldiers buying kit which is better than the junk they are typically issued