Category Archives: Post WW2

Mk 6 Helmet Nape Protector

For service in Northern Ireland, the British Army issued an upgrade kit for the standard MK 6 helmet that converted it into something more suitable for dealing with rioting. The IS (internal security) pack consisted of a Perspex see through visor that could be folded down to protect the wearer’s eyes or lifted up when not needed and a nape protector to protect the back of the neck.

The back of the neck was vulnerable as there was an unprotected section below the helmet but above the collar where a man could be struck with a blunt object or where a projectile could hit and injure him. The nape protector is also fireproof and so prevents burning liquids such as petrol bombs from pouring down a soldier’s neck.

The nape protector was a piece of padded heavy duty green nylon, with a wire stiffener along its bottom edge:

Stitched ribs held the protector together and added further stiffness to it:

The nape protector was secured within the helmet with strips of Velcro, which married up with their counterparts on the inside of the helmet shell:

A label was of course attached with NSN number, year of manufacture and contract number:

Photographs can be seen of soldiers wearing these nape protectors whilst serving in Northern Ireland:

These protectors seem to have been first manufactured around 1986, just as the first MK 6 helmets were coming into service and production continued until at least 1999 as evidenced by my example.

Clansman Ancillaries Bag

Clansman was the British Army radio system in use from 1976 until 2010. The system had a huge array of parts, accessories and add ons and collecting all the features would surely be a challenge for any collector. As a system that was used extensively and has only recently been disposed of, some elements are readily available at ridiculously cheap prices. Recently I picked up a Clansman ancillaries bag at a show for £1, one of many dozens in a box:

The bag is made of butyl nylon and was used for carrying spare batteries, headsets, handsets etc. This diagram from the Clansman user manual illustrates some typical contents:

The bag has a pair of weather flaps under the main top flap to help protect its contents:

And a complicated set of friction buckles and straps to secure the lid of the bag:

A pair of plastic D rings are fitted to each side of the bag to allow a shoulder strap to be attached if required:

The rear of the bag has the NSN number for this component clearly stamped:

Some of the last users of the Clansman radios were the Cadet forces, and this account of them training on it comes from 2010:

On Saturday 22nd May, Cdt Borhara and Sgt Cotton (ATC) from 487 Sqn attended the Khaki Badger Clansman Radio conversion course at 1289 (Stratford) Sqn, for a lesson in how to use the VHF Provisional and Full skills in a practical setting, using Clansman 350, 351 and 352 radios.

The day started off with an introduction to the course by Sgt Caine, with a brief for what was going to happen on the day. With the sun blazing and the mood high, we got to work with the radios.

First lesson was a hands on introduction to the 350 Clansman radio, learning about its component parts and how to set up the radio to function correctly in the field. This day was a large learning curve for some of the staff in attendance, so the introduction was eye opening to say the least. Once familiar with the set-up of a 350 Clansman we moved onto the 351 parts and functionality, including the contents of an ancillary bag, how to use each part and how they were connected to the main radio.

Once familiar with the first two radios, we quickly learnt that a 351 and 352 radio are very similar, so looked at how to set up the radio for each configuration. After a brief lunch, we headed out into the scorching sunshine to carry out some practical exercises with the radios in our groups. Each group headed out to their own spot (in the shade!) and proceeded to set up the radios in the assigned configuration, erect a GSA antenna and carry out a radio check between all call signs. After some hands on experience with trouble shooting on the radio, we carried out some communication exercises using the VHF Provisional skills the cadets already had.

The day wrapped up with a demonstration of how to erect an elevated GSA antenna which was 25ft tall and took 6 cadets to put up.

Cdt Borhara enjoyed the day and found it interesting to see the difference between achieving his full VHF license and putting it into practice with real radios out in the field. Sgt Cotton, having never seen a Clansman radio before, learnt valuable radio skills which she is sure will be put to good use on the next Khaki Badger exercise later on in the year.

Thanks go to the Khaki Badger staff team for making the day both interesting and enjoyable.

1990s Talcum Powder Tube

Last year we looked at the modern issue tube of ‘talc, sterilised, dusting’ here. Tonight we look at another example, but from twenty years earlier:

This bottle even shares the same NSN number, but is made of green plastic with a small screw top that opens to reveal a dusting top with five small holes:

The front of the bottle is printed in black and reveals that it was manufactured in November 1994:

There are many different pieces of advice on how to care for your feet and whilst many ascribe to footpowder, not all find it appropriate. This infantryman shares his experiences:

There are as many opinions as people who’ve gone through it, but from personal (long, bitter, Infantry feet) experience:

1. Talcum powder largely useless. 2. Vaseline is brilliant for sore spots – eg a rubbing toe. 3. Oldie but goodie: rub a bar of soap inside the sock – just helps it not rub. 4. Forget all the goretex and other special socks. The best thing against your skin is a well fitting natural material (ie cotton) sock. Your feet are going to get wet, so don’t expect otherwise. 5. I ended up normally wearing a thin cotton inner sock, and a thicker outer sock. Both natural.

Make sure boots and socks are best fit possible, don’t go near all the ‘harden them with spirits’ stuff, and hope to toughen your feet gently over time. Keep nails short, wash feet regularly to keep ’em really clean, and try to keep blister free.

Some people never have foot trouble, others are unlucky. I wouldn’t waste any hard earned on special/hi-tech kit until you have sussed your own feet and their ‘tendencies’.

1948 Khaki Beret

The khaki beret was introduced in 1942 for wear by members of the Reconnaissance Corps and motor battalions of Infantry. It’s use was extended in 1943 to personnel of light scout car companies and in 1943 the army authorised its wear by colonels and above, standardising what seems to have already become standard practice. After the war the beret became the army’s standard headdress, although most wore the midnight blue version. The khaki example continued to be worn by some regiments however and tonight we have an early post war example to look at:

Unlike the GS cap, the beret is knitted as a single piece and when laid flat is a circular shape without any seams or stitching in the main body:

A pair of metal eyelets are sewn into the crown of the beret, just above the leather sweat band:

The size of the beret can be adjusted slightly due to a draw cord through the sweat band that is secured by a small bow at the rear:

The interior of the beret is black fabric, with sizing, date of manufacture and maker’s name stamped inside in white:

Occasionally unscrupulous sellers try to modify these to a wartime date in the hope of selling them for a higher price- changing an ‘8’ to a ‘3’ for instance. Happily this example has escaped this fate and remains in good condition and one advantage of buying a post war example is that you can be sure it’s genuine- if you were faking one you would make sure it was wartime dated!

Kangol was founded in Britain in 1920 and its name is an amalgam of three words: K was for knitting,the ANG was for angora, and the OL was for wool.

FAC Protractor

Ground attack aircraft are incredibly useful in offering close support to ground troops in combat, laying down a withering barrage of fire on the enemy and allowing troops to quickly take advantage of a tactical situation. Unfortunately it is also a very risky tactic as it is easy for aircraft to misread their targets and accidentally hit friendly troops, the so called ‘blue on blue’ incidents. One way to mitigate this is to have trained forward air controllers embedded with ground forces who can direct aircraft onto the correct targets without hitting friendly forces. This role has been around since the Second World War, but the tactics and equipment available to FACs improved drastically over the next few decades and in 1957 the Army Air Corps was founded with this role as one of its primary functions.

Amongst the equipment developed was a dedicated FAC ruler that allowed a forward air controller to quickly calculate the path of an air launched munition:

The ruler is made of clear plastic and has a number of different scales showing the distance needed for a bomb to fall at different speeds. This then allows him to calculate the precise point a bomb should be released and the number of seconds needed for the bomb to fall can be calculated:

Quite how to use this ruler is beyond me, but I am sure with suitable training all the scales would make perfect sense! Perhaps the most famous Forward Air Controller is Prince Harry: Widow Six Seven had just given them the signal over the radio:

Cleared hot.” Seconds later, a roaring could be heard as the US F15 fighter jets dropped two 500lb bombs on their targets. As one dropped a third bomb on a Talibanbunker, men could be seen on the ground scrambling out from their cover.

To the American pilots, the English public school voice responding to their “in hot” request and guiding their missile fire gave no clue that the army officer with whom they were communicating was a member of the British royal family.

The soldier they knew as call sign Widow Six Seven was Prince Harry, working in Afghanistan as a forward air controller [FAC] identifying Taliban forces on the ground, verifying coordinates and clearing them as targets for attack…

The prince had retrained as an FAC after being refused permission to fight in Iraq alongside the men he had led in his regiment as troop leader. He admits now he was regarded as a “bullet magnet”. As a compromise, he was allowed, under strict conditions of secrecy, to work from a fortified position a distance away from the frontline in Helmand province, calling in aircraft and observing enemy movements.

On screens known to the troops as Kill TV or Taliban TV, the prince watched live pictures of the action on the battlefield. Cornet Wales, the rank by which he is known in the army, would observe all movements within his own restricted operating zone [ROZ] and give jets permission to enter his air space when he felt it was safe to do so. The prince’s job was to study the pictures, looking for body heat or movement that would help pinpoint the enemy. “Terry Taliban and his mates, as soon as they hear air they go to ground which makes life a little bit tricky,” he said, sitting in the operations room at FOB Delhi “So having something that gives you a visual feedback from way up means that they can carry on with their normal pattern of life and we can follow them.”

As part of his battlegroup’s fire planning cell, one of Harry’s most important responsibilities is to prevent accidents such as planes being hit by mortars and artillery shells or becoming involved in friendly fire incidents.

The prince had retrained as an FAC after being refused permission to fight in Iraq alongside the men he had led in his regiment as troop leader. He admits now he was regarded as a “bullet magnet”. As a compromise, he was allowed, under strict conditions of secrecy, to work from a fortified position a distance away from the frontline in Helmand province, calling in aircraft and observing enemy movements.

On screens known to the troops as Kill TV or Taliban TV, the prince watched live pictures of the action on the battlefield. Cornet Wales, the rank by which he is known in the army, would observe all movements within his own restricted operating zone [ROZ] and give jets permission to enter his air space when he felt it was safe to do so. The prince’s job was to study the pictures, looking for body heat or movement that would help pinpoint the enemy. “Terry Taliban and his mates, as soon as they hear air they go to ground which makes life a little bit tricky,” he said, sitting in the operations room at FOB Delhi “So having something that gives you a visual feedback from way up means that they can carry on with their normal pattern of life and we can follow them.”

As part of his battlegroup’s fire planning cell, one of Harry’s most important responsibilities is to prevent accidents such as planes being hit by mortars and artillery shells or becoming involved in friendly fire incidents.

“My job is to get air up, whether I have been tasked it a day before or on the day or when troops are in a contact [with the enemy]. Air is tasked to me, they check in to me when they come into the ROZ and then I’m basically responsible for that aircraft,” he said.

Before any strike on a target, it is up to the FAC to set the coordinates and give final clearance to drop a bomb. Because of the constant demands for air support across southern Afghanistan, a key part of the prince’s job was also to “bid” for aircraft which could be British, US, French or from another allied country.

DDPM Mk IV NBC Smock

Last year we looked at the Mk IV NBC trousers in the desert DPM camouflage here. Tonight we are taking a look at the matching smock:

The army’s CBRN aide memoire notes that:

The MK 4/4A suit comes in 6 standard sizes and a special size. Know your own size. The suit is to be worn over at least one layer of outer clothing, normally a combat suit, together with underwear which covers the armpits and crotch. In hot conditions you may be instructed to reduce the clothing worn under the suit.

The smock is a direct copy of the standard temperate example we covered here, just in desert camouflage. The smock fastens up the front with a zip and Velcro fly:

The smock is adjustable with tapes and Velcro at the cuffs:

And waist:

The hood is elasticated to allow a close seal with the respirator:

The smock has four pockets, a pocket with space for pens (both the writing and the anti-nerve agent types) on the upper left sleeve:

And a larger pocket with a space for attaching a piece of detector paper of the right:

There are two further pockets on the chest, a plain one on the right breast:

There is another on the left with space for a soldier to write his name and rank:

The aide memoire sets out the prescribed format for writing on this pocket:

A variety of actual methods can be find for marking up these smocks (even in the official pamphlet where this was taken from there are photographs of soldiers who have marked up their smocks in a variety of different methods!) The official handbook gives this advice on donning the NBC suit:

Jacket Do up zip Fasten neck, waist and cuffs with Velcro fasteners Hood Pull up hood over the head, zip up, pull the flap up and fold over the front of the zip, secure the flap with Velcro fastener.

The label is sewn into the neck of the smock and has the NSN, description and sizing information:

Despite the DDPM camouflage being replaced by MTP a decade ago, huge stocks of the smocks are still in service with the Army and they crop up in the unlikeliest of places, including Salisbury in 2018 during the Russian nerve agent incident, a long way from any desert conditions:

Auscam Minimi 200 Round Belt Box

The Australian Army adopted the FN Minimi as its light support weapon in 1989 as the F89 and license built the weapon at Lithgow in Australia. The ammunition for the machine gun is belt fed and as well as loose belts, soft belt bags are used to carry the ammunition in to prevent it from snagging on foliage or getting damaged. We have previously looked at a British 100 round belt bag here, but tonight we have an example of the 200 round bag in Auscam to look at:

The main body is made of a heavy duty Cordua nylon, printed in the distinctive DCPU camouflage of the Australian Army, here rather faded:

The top of the bag has a plastic section that allows it to be attached to the weapon and guides the cartridges into the breach of the minimi:

Note the pictogram of the cartridge to make sure it is loaded the correct way around! This is repeated on the underside, along with the country of manufacture (Australia) and the date in the form of two ‘clocks’ with arrows indicating it was produced in December 1998:

To access the main section of the ammunition carrier, a large zip goes around the base with a press stud on the zip tab so it is not accidentally opened:

These ammunition bags can be seen being used by the Australian Army as you would expect, here a hundred round example which is slightly smaller than mine:

Interestingly I have found photographic evidence of the British Army using examples of the 200 round bag on their minimis in Auscam camouflage:

Quite why is not clear and whether this is an operational thing, an exercise etc. I couldn’t say, but it is certainly intriguing.

My thanks go to Michael Fletcher for again helping me add an interesting piece to the collection and fuelling my Auscam passion!