Foamed neoprene is a rubber material with small air pockets within it that traps air and acts as an excellent insulator. It is also stretchy and comfortable to wear which makes it ideal for making items of clothing such as wet suits and gloves for those operating in cold water. Neoprene was the world’s first fully commercial synthetic elastomer and was introduced by DuPont in 1931. The term neoprene is now generic but was originally the trade name from DuPont’s chemical name Polychloroprene. Divers, powerboat crews and air sea rescue operators all use neoprene foam clothing to help keep them warm when exposed to cold water for extended periods of time. Some members of the RAF’s air sea rescue crews were issued brightly coloured suits and matching gloves for their work, in a flame orange and grey colour:
The bright colour makes the wearer more easily visible against the sea for both the helicopter winchman and the person being rescued. This flight kit is not easy to find and highly collectible on the surplus market so it was very nice to be given a pair of the gloves by a supporter of the blog and it is these gloves we are looking at today. They are made of grey neoprene:
The palms are reinforced with orange leather to protect them from wear when handling cables or ropes at sea:
The cuff of each glove has a rubber seal to prevent water from penetrating the glove from the wrist:
A small piece of glint tape is sewn onto the back of each hand so that at night it will reflect light from a search beam and can allow hand signals to be used with a helicopter above, even if visibility would be too poor to see the wearer’s hand alone:
The gloves are marked with a black ink stamp on the cuff, note the 22c prefix to the stores code indicating flight equipment:
As is always the case with flight equipment, they are very well made to enable them to withstand the rigours of extended service life as the last thing anyone wants is for them to fail at a crucial moment. I am slowly building up a mixed bag of flight equipment and these are a great addition to my ever expanding selection of aircrew gloves, there seems to be a myriad of designs to find and add to the collection!