A couple of weeks ago we looked at the 88 pattern belt. This was a fairly standard, 2 inch wide belt and was made of a heavy duty woven nylon webbing. This belt is not particularly ergonomic so was issued with a belt comforter from the webbings inception. This comforter consists of a large pad of foam, covered in Auscam fabric:The belt comforter prevents the belt from rubbing on the wearer’s hip bones and helps protect the user from ouches and equipment with sharp corners of hard protrusions that would cause discomfort over a long march. Loops are provided along the length of the comforter:These allow the belt to be threaded through:As mentioned in the post on the belt, these loops are a very close fit to the belt and the male half of the Fastex buckle needs to be removed from the belt in order to thread it through. As before this component was made by Wise Pearl Ltd in 2010:Whilst this comforter worked well, in service it was found to offer insufficient padding when carrying heavy loads, so it was not uncommon for two of them to be used one above the other to widen the area protected:
An essential element of any webbing set is the method of transferring loads to the shoulders, this was traditionally done by a pair of webbing shoulder straps, but since the Second World War most armies have adopted a padded yoke that offers a greater surface area and more connection points with the belt and its load. The Australian Army 88 pattern set uses a yoke that is commonly referred to as a ‘H Harness’ in Australian service. Initially this was very much ‘H’ shaped and made of the same Auscam fabric as the rest of the set. This component, however, was updated along with many other components in the set and it is the final pattern of yoke we are looking at tonight:The yoke uses a six point connecting system to attach it to the belt, distributing the load bearing around the body. At the rear two straps descend straight down the back:These have plastic buckles and are attached to the pouches like this:The black electrical tape is a common modification done to ensure the webbing stays at the correct adjustment for its wearer. Each of the two front arms of the yoke have two straps coming down:These attach in the same manner to the front of the webbing belt set. The main yoke part is padded with foam for comfort over the shoulders:The outer side of this portion of the yoke has a number of webbing loops that allow items such as grenades and first aid pouches to be attached here:An adjustable chest strap with a Fastex fastener is also provided:The yoke can clearly be seen in this photograph of cadets on a first aid training exercise:
We start our detailed look at the Australian 88 pattern web set by looking at the belt. The rest of the set is built around the belt so it is possibly the most crucial component in the whole set. It is made of a heavy duty woven nylon tape in a light shade of khaki brown:The belt secures with a plastic Fastex clip. The female portion of this is permanently attached to one end of the belt:The tape holding it onto the main belt being sewn on with heavy duty stitching:By contrast the male part of the buckle is free to move about and be taken off completely, incorporating a friction buckle into its design:Not only does this allow the belt to be adjusted for length, but in order to attach the belt through the hip padding, the buckle needs to be removed.
The belt is stamped on its reverse with an ‘NSN’ number (even though Australia is not actually part of NATO), the date and the manufacturer’s name:Wise Pearl Limited produced all the components of my 88 pattern webbing set. This company is based in Hong Kong and its website describes the business as:
Founded in 1991 Wise Pearl Limited is a developer and producer of high quality technical sewn products, mainly for sports, industrial and military markets. Its headquarters is in Hong Kong and it operates two wholly owned factories in China. The newest facility, wholly owned Wise Pearl Myanmar, is located in Myanmar’s principal city – Yangon – and has been in operation since June 2016. Our products are exported all over the world.
I am very pleased to say that tonight marks the start of a new mini-series of posts covering the last variation of the Australian 1988 Pattern webbing set. I have covered two pieces on the blog before, the early pattern of water bottle carrier and the later version of the Minimi ammunition pouch, but I have recently managed to add a homogenous 2010 dated set of webbing to my collection and we are going to look in detail at the various components on a Wednesday for the next couple of months.
The 1988 Pattern set was the first complete indigenously designed and produced webbing set used by Australia, previously the sets of accoutrements had been based off of foreign designs, the British 37 Pattern and the later US M56 sets being copied and modified to suit Australian needs, but neither design originating in the country.
The end of the Vietnam War saw major changes to the military uniforms and equipment in Australian service. Auscam was introduced as the first Australian camouflage pattern and a new webbing set was produced to match this, entering service at the very end of the 1980s:The design was based around a belt and H-Yoke, with a large padded section to protect the wearer’s hips. Originally a haversack was worn centrally on the back of the belt, but this was quickly dropped in favour of an extra Minimi pouch and an extra water bottle. The original designs used metal clips and had press button buckles, by 2010 all the fittings were in plastic and fixed Fastex buckles were used. There are numerous set ups of the webbing to be seen in photographs, mine is a typical example and has the following components:Here we see a bunch of Australian Cadets practicing with the F88 Austeyr battle rifle, all wearing various configurations of the 88 pattern webbing set:On operations the choice of pouches would depend on the load and weapons a man was carrying, one soldier explains:
I simply wore standard Australian army issue. I wore the normal webbing belt, a “double” belt comforter and 5x Minimi pouches, 2x water bottles and a bayonet. This was all held together with “fastex” plastic clips and DPCU tape
An Australian Cadet handbook explains about the system:
Webbing is designed to be versatile and interchangeable. Individuals will set up webbing to personal preference. Typical webbing will consist of the following pieces of equipment:
- Harness, There are many designs with different tether points. The harness should be comfortable to wear as it will help carry the load.
- Belt; Most of the pouches will connect to the belt. The belt should sit on the hips to help spread the weight of the load.
- Water Bottle & Pouches; Pouches designed specifically to carry water bottles. Common designs have an external pouch for carrying addition items.
- Pouches, Steyr or Minimi; Modern DPCU webbing pouches come in two sizes, Steyr or Minimi. As the name suggests, the pouches are designed for either the F-88 Austeyr or the F-89 Minimi. The Steyr pouch is designed to carry 3 Steyr Magazines whereas the Minimi pouch is designed to carry 200 rounds of linked ammunition. In the AAFC, both pouches are used to carry equipment with the Minimi pouch being favored due to its larger size.
- Bum Bag. Not as prevalent as they once were, the bum bag is a larger pouch that can expand to carry a significant amount of equipment. These days however, many people use Minimi Pouches instead.
- Comforter: Foam mat used to cushion the belt and help prevent chaffing.
We will continue with further in depth posts about the components in the coming weeks.
Tonight the blog starts the first of a five part series covering the Player’s Cigarette Card set ‘Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas’:This set was issued in the late 1930s and covers a wide range of the different combat and ceremonial uniforms of the militaries of the Empire. Each week we are going to look at ten of the cards, with the captions drawn from the back of the cards themselves:
Cape Town Highlanders
Under the Defence Acts of the Union of South Africa, every citizen between seventeen and sixty years of age is liable for military service in any part of South Africa, whether within or outside the boundaries of the Union. There is also a liability to compulsory service for all citizens between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five. The Permanent Force is recruited on a voluntary basis, service being for a period of three years; re-engagement for periods of two years is permitted up to the age of forty-five for privates and fifty for non-commissioned officers. We show a Regimental Sergeant Major of the Cape Town Highlanders; the Town Hall, Cape town, appears in the background.
Prior to the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the four self-governing Colonies of Cape Colony, Natal, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State each maintained volunteers and militia. Under the present Defence Acts of the Union, every citizen between the ages of seventeen and sixty is liable for military service in any part of South Africa. During the Great War, the union nobly played its part in defence of the Empire, and over 221,000 men served in the various theatres of war. Our illustration shows a sergeant of the Kimberley Regiment, with Kimberley Town Hall in the background.
The Union of South Africa Defence Force is divided into (a) the Permanent Force, which is recruited on a voluntary basis; (b) the Coast Garrison Force, supplementing those portions of the Permanent Force detailed for this purpose; (c) the Active Citizen Force, which corresponds to the Territorial Army in Great Britain; (d) the Commandos, formed form members of the Defence Rifle Associations; and (e) the Reserves. Enrolment into the Active Citizen Force is for a period of four years and re-engagement for periods of one year is permitted. Our picture shows a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the Witwatersrand Rifles: a view of Johannesburg appears in the background. The Witwatersrand, of which Johannesburg is the centre, is a region rich in gold-fields.
Regiment Louw Wepener
The Orange Free State, to which this regiment belongs, was one of the four self-governing Colonies which maintained Volunteers and Militia before the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. Military re-organization was then carried out by the Government in which General Louis Botha was Prime Minister and General Smuts the Minister of Defence. At the present time, the Defence Force of the Union is divided into five categories…We show a Sergeant of the Regiment Louw Wepener; in the background may be seen the Provincial Legislative Chamber (formerly the Raadzaal), Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State.
The Rhodesia Regiment
The Southern Rhodesia Defence Force originated with the early Pioneers and 1892 developed into a Volunteer force which served in the Matabele War and Rhodesia Rebellion. In 1899 it became the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers, with units in the principal centres and Rifle Companies in outlying districts. Volunteers therefrom served in the Boer War and the Great War. In 1926 the Defence Act was promulgated, instituting compulsory peace training, and the Rhodesia Regiment- of two Battalions- was formed from members of the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers and other citizens in the larger towns. We show a Sergeant of the Rhodesia Regiment in Drill Order, standing in front of the Drill Hall at Salisbury, S. Rhodesia.
The British South African Police
The police force of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia was originally recruited to accompany the Pioneers in the Occupation of Mashonaland in 1890, and later saw service in the Matabele War of 1893, the Matabele and Mashona Rebellions of 1896 and the Boer War. The Force was then known as the B.S.A. Company’s Police, after the Charter Company which was responsible for the government of the territory. The B.S.A. Police saw service in German East Africa (1915-18), and was also responsible for the capture of Schuckmansberg in German South-West Africa in 1914. We show a trooper (full-dress) in front of the Regimental Institute, B.S.A.P. Depot, Salisbury, S Rhodesia.
The British South Africa Police: Native Askari
The Native Police of Southern Rhodesia are recruited from the Matabele and Mashona tribes of the Colony, and from the adjoining territories of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Although forty years ago their ancestors were uncivilised, the present day recruits reach a high standard of discipline and efficiency. They work in co-operation with European members in all branches of the Force, while a special platoon of Askari performs guard duties at Government House. The H.Q. and Training School are at Salisbury. During the Great War numbers of them saw service in German East Africa. The background shows the Municipal Offices, Salisbury, S. Rhodesia.
Australian Light Horse
Members of all the Australian Light Horse Regiments served in the South African War and sixteen Regiments carry battle honours for the Great War. The members of the Light Horse Regiments, which are mostly drawn from the country areas, are volunteers who provide their own mounts. The regiments are numbered a far as possible with those of the Australian Imperial Force, but they also retain their old titles, “Royal New South Wales Lancers,” “Victorian Mounted Rifles,” etc., by which they were known before the Commonwealth took over control of defence matters in 1901. We show a trooper of the Australian Light horse; the City Hall, Brisbane, appears in the background.
Royal Australian Artillery
It is interesting to recall that “two pieces of ordnance” were erected in Sydney in 1789 at the time when the garrison in New South Wales was composed of British troops. From this small beginning has grown the Royal Australian Artillery, which includes Field, medium, Heavy, Anti-Aircraft and Survey Units. Like the other arms of the Commonwealth Military Forces, the Artillery is mainly composed of Militia enlisted on a voluntary basis. The uniform shown is worn by the Militia Field and Medium Batteries. Prior to the Great War, Australian Batteries saw service in Suakin, 1885, and in South Africa. The background shows the Residence of the State Governor, Sydney, N.S.W.
The Battalions of Australian Infantry, which are composed of voluntarily enlisted Citizen Forces, are numbered to correspond with those of the Australian Imperial Force, and every effort is made to maintain the traditions established in the Great War. Battalion areas are allotted on a territorial basis throughout Australia. In addition to their numbers, the Regiments have territorial titles e.g. the 1st Battalion is The East Sydney regiment and the 6th is The Royal Melbourne Regiment. The uniform depicted us typical, but some battalions wear uniforms similar to those of British Regiments. All battalions carry battle honours for the Great War. The Town Hall, Melbourne, appears in the background.
As regular readers may know, my favourite camouflage pattern is the Australian Auscam design. Although hard to find in the UK, I have slowly been building up a little collection of these over the last few years. The most common variation to find is the standard Auscam in shades of green. Far harder is the desert pattern and until recently I had a lone pair of shorts, that we covered here. Recently however I have found a shirt in the desert Auscam pattern and quickly snapped it up for my collection:Officially this pattern of camouflage is called Disruptive Pattern Desert Uniform of DPDU and this pattern and the uniform it went with have gone through a myriad of changes during a short service life. The first version, from 2001, was printed in 3 colours (brown and grey on a tan background) with 1/3 of the normal pattern missing and rushed into issue for the Australian Special Air Service Regiment deployed to Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). A second version from a year later used 5 colours: brown, lime green, grey, and a very light blue on a tan background. This was again issued to SASR in Afghanistan after the first version was found to be too light in colour for the terrain. This was followed by a third issue in: brown, grey, very light blue and purple on a yellow background. The cut was changed in the shirt with the bottom pockets being omitted and placed on the sleeves.This was replaced in 2006 by the current-issue DPDU. The colours remain the same as the previous DPDU. Changes to the uniform include repositioning of shoulder straps to the chest, the changes of the chest pockets and cargo pockets from the button-fastened flap of the pocket to zips and minor changes to the sleeve pockets. This shirt is one of this production run, as can be seen by the front of the shirt which has the centrally mounted rank slide and two large pockets:The shirt secures up the front with plastic buttons:And each sleeve has a large pocket on the upper arm:Note the large Velcro patches to allow insignia to be added and removed. Here we see the uniform being worn and some of the insignias that is attached to the sleeves:At some point I would like to get hold of these to complete the shirt. The lower sleeves have a second layer of fabric added to provide some reinforcement for when a soldier goes prone with his rifle:
The cuff secures with a fabric tab and Velcro. A standard Australian Army contract label is sewn into the shirt:As with most items of Australian Army clothing this shirt was made in Victoria and has the /|\ mark, still in use to this day in the country.
I am building up quite a little collection of items given away as freebies by the military as promotional or recruiting tools, but tonight’s object is the first Australian one I have found. At one point it was very common to have stickers applied to the side and rear windows of your car, and they were often given away free by organisations as a nice gift and an ongoing source of advertisement. This example probably dates from the early 1970s and depicts and aircraft carrier and the word ‘NAVY’ in big letters:The carrier is clearly a Majestic class ship and my initial thought was that this would be a Royal Navy item, however on the rear, as well as the instructions on how to apply the sticker, is the address of the manufacturer which is in New South Wales:With this being the case, the ship is either HMAS Sydney or HMAS Melbourne, the two ships being the only carriers of the class used by the Australians. Both these ships saw extensive use from the 1950s through to the 1970s when the first was paid off. The ships had been purchased form the British in the 1950s and served the Royal Australian Navy well until a combination of their age, the cost of replacements, the difficulty of manning carriers and a newly elected left wing government led to the Australians dropping their carrier capability in 1983.My thanks go to Paula and Richard Rodgers for kindly giving e this piece.