An immersion suit is a one piece garment that is worn on water to protect you from the elements. It keeps your clothing dry and if you were to go into the water, helps keep you warm until you can be rescued. Immersion suits have been used both militarily and commercially for many years and different patterns are in use with the RN for different purposes including those personnel using high speed craft such as RIBS. Another user of immersion suits are special forces such as the SBS who use a particular variant of the suit known as a FRIS, or Fire Retardant Immersion Suit. These suits were used for RIB work and when descending via helicopter over water and they differ from the standard naval patterns by having the entry zip at the back rather than diagonally across the chest. The suit is a one piece garment, with built in boots and silicone seals for the head and hands:
As this is for military use, it is dark in colour- civilian versions are more typically bright orange to make it easier to find someone in the sea. The suit has a large seal where the head would pass through, and this especially has degraded and stuck to itself. I could replace it, however as I am unlikely to ever use this suit it is not a priority!
The same seals are fitted at the cuffs:
The feet are an integral part of the suit and are a lighter blue in colour. Again these can be replaced if damaged without needing to scrap the entire suit:
To get into the suit, a large horizontal zip is fitted across the back of the shoulders. The wearer puts his arms and feet into the suit, then draws it up over his head before another person seals the zip for him:
These suits are essentially airtight so it is essential to remove as much air from the suit as possible before zipping it up. If a lot of air is left in the suit, it tends to collect in the feet and has the unfortunate result of tipping the wearer upside down in the water if they were to fall in!
As the suit is time consuming to remove, a zip is fitted to the crotch to allow calls of nature to be answered if required:
A small pocket is fitted on the calf of the right leg:
A set of pen pockets and a Velcro loop patch is fitted to the sleeve to allow insignia to be attached if required:
The inside of the suit has a large commercial label attached form the manufacturer, together with an NSN number hand written inside in permanent marker:
This suit was manufactured in 2000 by MultiFabs Survival Ltd, who are one of several survival equipment companies based out of Aberdeen. This makes complete sense when you remember that for the last forty years, Aberdeen has been the centre of the North Sea Oil industry and businesses have grown up in the city to support the various needs of those working in the extremes of the turbulent North Sea.
Clear, detailed photographs of the SBS are understandably rare, however some images of the unit wearing their FRIS have been released including this image of the unit operating from a RIB where the men are all wearing the black immersion suits. The details are hard to make out, but they would be wearing this pattern of suit:
I have never intended to collect special forces kit, however over time I have started to pull together a few bits of SBS kit and we will be looking at another piece later in the year.