Category Archives: Northern Ireland

British Army Wooly Pully

Tonight we are looking at the standard British Army ‘Wooly Pully’ Jumper. This long serving piece of clothing has always been popular with servicemen and is available in a variety of colours for the different services- I wear a dark blue example in the winter with my Royal Navy No4 working dress. The jumper itself was a development from the wartime v necked jumper. Over the years it changed from tan to green, the wool became heavier and ribbed and drill material was added to reinforce the elbows and forearms and the shoulders:

untitledBy the 1960s the design of jumper had settled to more or less what it is today. My example is in the British Army green:

FA3CD974-DAD8-4517-A0EF-680A9E0B1BA2As can be seen the jumper is made of a tight knitted wool, with a round neck and reinforcements on the forearms:

000730CB-B88F-4A34-8030-E06F3CD81E18Reinforcement on the shoulders and shoulder straps to allow insignia and rank to be if needed:

D1A4AADA-2FCE-4514-A3AE-12B1996739F6The cut of the jumper is long and narrow, fitting tightly to the body and going down to just below the waist. The length of the arms is adjusted simply by rolling up the cuffs.

 Inside the collar of the jumper is the manufacturer’s label, showing that this particular jumper was made in 1987 by Remploy:

B001F339-0194-43DD-BA73-C4C0636AC9A8Remploy is a government owned company that provides employment for disabled people. At the time the jumper was made. Remploy had their own factories directly employing disabled people, with many of these working on government and military contracts. Since 2007 the factories have been progressively closed, with the emphasis changing to finding disabled people work in mainstream companies.

 Inside the neck of the jumper is a cord:

7481E819-1321-4EA3-A102-87C8EE7B8C26These were commonly fitted by soldiers to allow the fit of the neck to be adjusted. As the jumpers shrank, the necks also became baggy, leaving the hapless squaddie at the mercy of the RSM on parade. Cords in the neck allowed the neck to be tightened…hiding the shirt so he only had to iron the collar!

 On the arm of this jumper are the stripes of a sergeant below a wreathed ‘AT’:

4F2C070E-5B47-4004-8A0B-3C7A1DAFB2ECThe ‘AT’ shows the original owner of this jumper was trained as an Anti Tank gunner, although it is more likely he used a missile than a traditional anti-tank gun.

 The ‘wooly pully’ has been one of the most popular garments issued to troops in the second half of the Twentieth Century and has been widely copied by foreign armies, the police and private security firms.

1979 Pattern Body Armour

British Body Armour

The British Army was, arguably, rather slow to adopt the widespread use of body armour for troops. One of the earliest theatres where body armour was used on a regular basis was the streets of Northern Ireland during the troubles. The earliest body armour was made in America, however the British Army soon adopted its own covers, adapted for use on the streets of Belfast.imageMy example is typical of that used in the 1980s, being a ‘1979 Pattern Vest Fragmentation’. This was a revised cover for the US M1952A armour that covered the same ballistic core of the earlier body armour. It features rubber pads on each shoulder to prevent a rifle from slipping when brought up into the aim position and pockets on the lower abdomen for easy access to a personal radio system. The addition of pads on both soldiers is not to accommodate left handed firers (left hand firing not being officially permitted in the British Army) but rather to allow a soldier to fire from the cover of a wall to his left or rightimageThe sides of the armour are secured with cords (or in this case a shoelace) which allow the armour to be adjusted; they also allow the armour to be removed quickly if a soldier was injured by cutting the cords with a knife.imageThe use of so many practical design features- the cords, rubber pads and radio pockets indicates the ongoing evolution of armour throughout the period based on operational experience. These changes suggest an input in the design process from those who had to use body armour on a daily basis. Inside is a label detailing the care instructions for the cover:imageThese particular vests are still fairly easy to find and range between £25 and £50 depending on the condition and dealer, however they do seem to be creeping up in price and are becoming increasingly collectible as militaria collectors start looking beyond the two world wars to more recent conflicts.