We have looked at the Mk II helmet on the blog before, here. Tonight we are looking at another example, specifically one with period scrim and camouflage on it:This helmet was given to me by the grandson of its original owner and has been stored in an attic for many decades, as such I am confident that the cover applied to it is genuine and wartime rather than a later re-enactor’s addition. The helmet is covered firstly in a layer of painted hessian sandbag material and then a finely woven net, with pieces of cord zig-zagged through to attach extra cover to:The two layers are more apparent on the underside of the helmet where the net’s drawstring has been pulled tight and the hessian backing can be seen at its perimeter:The method of camouflaging the helmet exactly complies with the army pamphlet on field craft which advised troops:
Put a hessian cover on your helmet to dull the shine, a net on top of that to hold scrim etc. and garnishing in the net to disguise the helmet’s distinctive shape, particularly the shadow under the brim.
The helmet is a shiny metal object with lines unlike anything in nature, it therefore stands out against a natural background. The layers of camouflage applied here serve different purposes. The hessian removes any potential shine from the helmet by covering the metal in its entirety. The net then breaks up the outline and allows further pieces of burlap or natural vegetation to be threaded through to reduce its ‘helmet’ like appearance and better blend into the background. This could be highly effective, but troops were warned not to take it too far as a moving bush was not realistic either!
Here troops form the Royal Scots Fusiliers clear a village during Operation Epsom in June 1944, each wearing the Mk II helmet, appropriately camouflaged and scrimmed:
There are still many items of very common militaria that have not been covered on this blog yet and every so often I take a look and realise I haven’t yet covered something that should be very basic. The CS95 pattern of DPM trousers is one such item and looking back I was surprised to find I hadn’t written a post about this yet. Therefore tonight we are going to take a detailed look at this particular item of uniform:The CS95 uniform was trialled between 1992 and 1995 and came into service in 1995. Whilst the shirts were a major departure from what had gone before, the trousers were less distinctive, the buttons being held on by tape being the most obvious feature. These buttons are used to secure the large patch pocket on the left leg:And the smaller rear patch pocket over the right buttock:The fly fastenings for the CS95 trousers consist of a zip:Along with a drawstring and button:As well as the drawstring, a pair of buttoned tabs allow the waist size to be adjusted:Draw strings are fitted to the cuff of each trouser leg:CS95 trousers have two labels inside, the standard sizing and stores label:And a second DCTA (Defence Clothing and Textile Agency) label:The design of CS95 trousers seems to have been a popular one, especially after the generally poor reputation of the 1985 pattern combat trousers and those made from ripstop fabrics:
Standard CS95 trousers are a better bit of kit. Comfy, easy to iron, smarter looking, and most importantly very fast drying in the field
The CS95 Trousers were produced in both temperate DPM, like this pair, and in Desert DPM for use in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Initial runs of the new MTP uniform used this pattern as well, but this was rapidly replaced with a new design and the older CS95 MTP uniform has become particularly hard to find and sought after by troops and collectors.
We end our little Australian odyssey tonight with one final object. When I purchased the 88 pattern webbing set I checked the interior of the pouches, just in case anything had been left behind. Normally I come up empty, but in this case I was lucky enough to find a little pack of Australian Army camouflage cream:The design of the packaging is very familiar as it is almost identical to the British Army version, however the shade of plastic used is lighter, and the printing on the outside indicates it is Australian in origin, along with an Australian NSN number:As one would expect for a sunny country like Australia, the camo cream also acts as a sun block. The inside of the packet is again very familiar, with three different colours of cream and a small mirror to help apply it:The shades are however very different to those used in the UK. Camo cream is issued in colours which complement the main uniform soldiers are wearing so here, instead of black, dark brown and dark green, the Australians use grey, a light green shade and a red brown colour.The colours of the cream, like those of the uniforms themselves, are designed to work most effectively in different Australian landscapes and pick up colours that are commonly seen there. In arid conditions the red-brown mimics much of the dust and soil seen in the landscape, whilst the green shades are better suited to some of Australia’s verdant jungles. When applying the camo cream, troops tailor the shades to the environment they are working in.This then brings us to the end of the Australian kit I picked up a couple of months ago. I am very pleased with this web set and I am slowly building up a nice little Australian collection- not an easy task in the UK where nearly everything has to be imported unless you can get lucky on EBay. As ever, I will continue to keep my eyes out for more interesting Australian pieces and cover them on the blog as I come across them.
The Mk 6 helmet was issued with a large number of different helmet covers, desert DPM examples for combat in hotter climes, a white example for use in the arctic and a blue version for UN peacekeeping duties. Until the introduction of MTP camouflage though, the most common type of helmet cover was the standard DPM fabric version and we are looking at a pair of these tonight:These are a simple fabric bag with a drawstring around the base:The helmet is put into the cover and the string drawn tight to prevent it from slipping off. Elastic straps are sewn to the outside of the covers to allow vegetation to be slotted in to improve the camouflaging of the helmet:Note how on this example the original owner has written his surname, “Whitehouse-Strudwick”, his service number ‘J8417010’, and his blood type, A Negative. A further piece of personalisation are the words ‘chill out’ written onto a strap in marker:The basic design of the helmet cover is very simple, however two reinforced panels are sewn into either side to protect the cover where it fits over the mounting blocks for a helmet visor on the Mk 6 helmet:These are just a slightly raised section on the base of the helmet over each ear, but clearly were expected to wear the cover out faster than the rest of the helmet so reinforcing was provided.
The inside of the cover has a printed stores label with information on which size helmets this cover is compatible with and the NSN number for the cover:Helmet covers were common areas for squaddies to indulge in a little personalisation, even more so than these examples. Common changes included removing the scrim elastic and adding glint tape. The authorities clearly got fed up with this as in 2012 the 1st Mechanised Brigade told its men:
Nobody is to modify their helmet cover in any way.
Helmet covers are to be worn as issued, without having the elastic removed.
Scrim is not to be worn on helmets.
Sniper tape is not to be seen outside of helmets.
We are soon to be issued new MTP helmet covers; anyone that modifies this equipment will face administrative action.
Those that have modified or unserviceable helmet covers will be ordered to remove them and they will wear no helmet cover at all.
This directive is to be in effect from 30 Jan 12.
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 a great fan of badged camouflage shirts, they are cheap, easily available and there are many different variations out there to collect, they also seem to have more character and more of a history to them than a mint unissued item. I suspect that in years to come these shirts will become increasingly collectible, but for now they remain cheap on the secondary market. We have looked at a number of these on the blog over the years and tonight it is the turn of an RAF badged desert DPM shirt dating from the War on Terror:The shirt is an absolutely standard CS-95 type example, but has a large ‘Royal Air Force’ title sewn above one breast pocket:And a three coloured tactical recognition flash on the sleeve:The RAF deployed large numbers of men and women to both Iraq and Afghanistan, not only as pilots and aircrew but also as ground staff, medical personnel and as part of the RAF regiment defending air bases. All these personnel wore the standard DDPM clothing of the period, with RAF and RAF regiment specific insignia sewn onto the uniforms. The scale of the RAF’s contribution in Iraq was commented upon in the Daily Mail in 2003:
Around 100 RAF warplanes will soon be in the Gulf in the biggest deployment of British offensive aerial firepower in modern times.
The announcement came yesterday, giving the strongest signal yet that an Anglo-American attack against Iraq is close.
The massive RAF contribution which also encompasses 8,000 personnel, now totals one-third of the service’s front line strength… today’s RAF is barely half the size of the 1991 force- so proportionately, yesterday’s orders represent the biggest operational commitment in decades.
Military experts said it is the largest possible strike force the RAF can muster, and will place a huge strain on the already hard-pressed service.
The deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were to keep the RAF busy for the next decade and even today men and women of the RAF are in these countries in a limited role supporting the local militaries.
There seems to have been a myriad of different types of camouflage cream issued and used by the British Army over the last few decades. I have now collected up three of four different variations of camo cream and tonight we are looking at a tube of brown camo cream from the 1990s. The tube is made of metal and contains just brown coloured camo cream:From the NSN number we can easily see that this tube was manufactured for the British, the -99- country code being the giveaway. The tube has a metal base plate on the bottom that is not attached to the rest of the tin, allowing a finger to be used to push up the stick of camo cream as it is used:A rubber cap is fitted to seal the top of the tube when not in use, this stops the brown camouflage from getting over everything and prevents it from drying out:This particular stick of camouflage cream was manufactured in 1997 by BCB International Ltd:This company has been around for over 160 years and is still in business supplying military and survival equipment to various countries including the UK. Their website outline the company’s history:
For over 160 years, BCB International have been designing, manufacturing and supplying personal Survival and protective equipment used by Soldiers, seafarers and adventures worldwide!
It started with a cough…
In 1854, a Dr Brown came up with a cough medicine and shipped some off to British troops suffering in the trenches in the Crimean war.
60 years later, Dr Brown’s Cough Bottle gave the initials for a registered company, BCB.
Taken over by a local Cardiff chemist Deryck Howell in 1949,
BCB remains a Howell family run firm to this day.
Wave of Fortune
A lucky encounter in the 1950s with British Defence Officials resulted in BCB designing for the world’s first life raft survival kit.
It cemented the company’s driving force CANEI: Continuous and Never Ending Innovation and sparked an impressive array of novel products including: shark repellent, ballistic protective underwear dubbed ‘Blast Boxers’ and an all-weather rations heating and barbecue cooking fuel called ‘FireDragon’.