In 2007 under a regimental restructure a number of infantry, light infantry and rifle regiments were merged together to form a single, seven battalion regiment (Five regular and two TA battalions) called ‘The Rifles’ this regiment was formed from:
- 1st Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, and the 1st Battalion Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment)
- 2nd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
- 3rd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Light Infantry)
- 4th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
- 5th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry)
- 6th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Rifle Volunteers)
- 7th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Royal Rifle Volunteers minus the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Company but with the surviving two Companies (F and G) of 4th (V) and 5th (V) Battalions of the Royal Green Jackets within The London Regiment)
The regiment adopted the rifle green beret as its headgear and tonight we are looking at an example:This beret is made from a dark green wool, with a leather sweatband. This is adjustable using a drawstring. Once the beret has been correctly adjusted, these are tied off and tucked inside the sweatband to make a neat appearance:The Rifles adopted a traditional light infantry/rifles bugle as their cap badge, here topped by the Queen’s St Edward’s Crown:Surprisingly the cap badge is of white metal, but it is not anodized aluminium stay-brite, however this seems to be the case for all of the regiments cap badges and must have been a conscious decision of the regiment when it was formed:The label inside indicates that this beret was specially made for the regiment, and is of very recent manufacture, dating back just a few years to 2015:What is really nice is that this beret has clearly been issued and used as it has the rifleman’s number and name written inside on the label:The rifles have had an eventful time over the last decade since they were formed, seeing regular deployment on active service. The 2nd Battalion, the 3rd Battalion and the 4th Battalion were all deployed in Basra in Iraq during some of the worst fighting of the Iraq War including the withdrawal from Basra Palace in September 2007.
The 1st Battalion undertook a tour in Afghanistan between October 2008 and April 2009 mentoring the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province. The 5th Battalion was one of the last British Army units to leave Iraq in May 2009. The 4th Battalion provided reinforcement cover for the elections in Afghanistan and to take part in Operation Panther’s Claw in Summer 2009. At the same time the 2nd Battalion was deployed to Sangin and was relieved in due course by the 3rd Battalion. The 2nd and 5th battalions of the Rifles returned for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan serving in the Nahri Saraj District in October 2011. In March 2018 the 2nd Battalion returned home after a six-month operational deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Shader.
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:
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.
Increasingly soldiers in the British army are having scopes and electronic devices mounted to the front of their combat helmets. Items such as night vision scopes are heavy and tend to pull both the helmet and the wearer’s head forward. To counter this effect balance weights can be fitted to the rear of the helmet to even out the load. A number of designs are in use, but tonight we are looking at an example commonly known as a ‘choc block’ by troops:The reason for its nickname is quite obvious and this counterweight consists of sixteen separate metal weights encased in rubber. The groves make it possible for the weight to follow the contours of the helmet and the actual weight of the counterbalance can be adapted by cutting away individual blocks. The White residue between each block is a form of talc used to prevent the rubber from sticking to itself and a full block like this weighs 565grams.
The rear of the block has four Velcro hook-panels that allow it to be mounted on a corresponding piece of loop Velcro on the rear of the helmet:Note that the original owner of this weight has inked his name in white pen along one side of the block. An NSN number is printed onto the rear as well:These items are not on general issue, but rather distributed to those most likely to need them such as members of special forces and air crews. As such they seem quite an uncommon item and I have struggled to find out much about them. There seems to be a number of different versions of helmet weights in service, of which this is just one.
Sometimes I struggle researching objects, even ones still in use today. Normally however if nothing else I can find a listing on a military surplus site offering another example for sale. Tonight however even that has been a blank so this is either such a rare piece that no one else has access to them as surplus, or it’s so useless no one else wants one! Tonight we are looking at what is described by its label as ‘hat, field, green’:This is a cap made of a Sealskinz type waterproof fabric that is designed to be worn under a helmet to keep the soldier’s head warm and dry in poor weather conditions. Here it can be seen being worn under a Mk VI helmet:The cap is described as green, but it is actually more of a muddy khaki colour, clearly designed to match the current MTP uniforms:Its design is actually more complicated that you would expect with a circular, two-piece crown:A short piece of elastic is fitted to the rear of the cap to offer some adjustment:The inside of the cap has a warm liner, covered in black fabric and a single white stores label:I have looked up the stores number online and it indicates that it is ‘clothing, special purpose’. There seems to have been two sizes made, a small/medium and a large/extra-large like this one. I suspect that this is designed for those serving in arctic conditions and is only issued on an as needed basis which might explain why I can find so little on the design. It is a very warm and comfortable piece of headwear, even if you look very ridiculous wearing it without the accompanying helmet!