Category Archives: Post WW2

Black Kestrel Patrol Boots

The Kestrel patrol boot was a medium weight set of boots issued to soldiers as a general purpose boot for short to medium patrols and exercises. It was not as good in cold weather as arctic boots, nor designed for use in extremely hot temperatures, but fitted into the mid-range where most exercises and indeed combat was expected to occur. These boots were designed to be lighter weight and more comfortable than earlier designs and incorporated fabric panels for breathability and robust soles for marching in. The boots were also produced in both brown and black, and it is the black pair we are looking at tonight:The boots were issued in a standard cardboard shoe box:On the outside a stores label has been attached with NSN number and sizing:Opening the box it can be seen that packaged in with the boots are a number of accessories:These include insoles and spare laces:A tube of boot polish:And an instruction leaflet:The boots themselves feature a deeply cleated rubber sole:And fabric panels let into the uppers to make the boots both softer and more comfortable and to aid the movement of air so the wearer’s feet don’t overheat:The boots fasten up the front with laces in a mixture of standard lace holes and quick lace hooks:A stores label is sewn into the tongue of each boot:One cadet user has given a detailed assessment of this pattern of boot that makes interesting reading, covering its use by cadets in detail:

Looking at them they looked a good pair of boots and felt very light when compared to the good old assault boots that were issued in the past – not a bad thing at all! 

Looking at MOD literature, the YDS Kestrel boots are a patrol boot which means they are suited to situations where the threat of combat is medium to low with a temperature range of -10º to +35º. Which makes them ideal for cadet use!  

It is also recommended that they are used with gaiters in wet weather which is something to keep in mind, although you don’t need to rush out a buy a pair.

First test was how they fit. After adjusting the laces, an easy job with the lacing loops on the upper part of the boot and the lace locks as well, I put them on had a quick walk around the house. No problems at all and no squeaking or creaking either!  

I decided to put them through a series of different environments to simulate the sort of things you’d come across in cadets: a two mile road walk, a two mile walk through muddy fields and woodland close to where I live, a two mile walk with a 10kg pack on and lastly a quick go on the outdoor ‘gym’ trail in the local park. 

On the first two mile walk I found the boots to be comfortable and I didn’t feel that my feet got ‘hot’ while walking. I stopped after about half a mile to adjust the laces – something I do with every pair of boots when heading out to ensure they fit snugly without rubbing.

At the end I had no rubbing or pinching on my feet and they still fitted nicely.  

Next up was a trek through a muddy field and through a local woodland. Now looking at the MOD advice I did this with gaiters on and again I found the boots comfortable to walk in. 

One thing I did note was that the soles held a lot of mud, but I purposely went through all the muddy patches to see how they did at the extreme end of muddy so it’s not a surprise they clogged up.

Now I didn’t go through any puddles deeper than about 50mm and in all honesty I avoided trying to wade through a stream as I know the fabric upper would get my feet wet and to be frank I don’t think doing that would be a true reflection of how they perform on cadet type activities.

After bit of a clean I headed out for a walk with a 10kg pack on to see how much support the boots offered and how comfortable they were walking in with a little weight on. 

Again I thought they were very comfortable and the high leg provided a good level of support for my ankle with no rubbing etc. and the boot flexed enough to allow my feet to spread slightly with weight as well.  

Lastly I headed out to the outdoor gym trail in the local park and went over the various obstacles to stretch and twist my feet to see how supportive these boots are over obstacles and the like.

As I expected having gone over the last few tests with them they were fine, comfortable and supportive with the fabric upper coming into its own moving and flexing with ease.  

So after putting the boots through a few tests and wearing them generally for a while I’d have to sum up by saying that I think these are a good cadet boot.

Yes they have a fabric upper which means wading through water may be an issue but in all honesty that’s not something that will happen a lot, if at all while on cadet activities. But that fabric upper also makes them comfy and easy to ‘break in’ as well – good news for cadet feet!

They are comfortable to walk and march in and clean up easily which is a big plus.

58 Pattern Webbing Overview

The 58 pattern webbing set was the mainstay of the British Army throughout the Cold War and although we have covered odd pieces on the blog before, a recent purchase of a nice clean set of webbing has given the opportunity to go back and look at the set as a whole and then study the missing components not previously covered.

When it was introduced the official list of changes from 1959 described the set as:

The above items of web equipment are hereby introduced to meet the requirements for an improved pattern of equipment for use in temperate and tropical climates. The equipment will enable the soldier in the field to carry his ammunition, rations, water, personal clothing and necessaries. Issue will be restricted to units as nominated by War office from time to time.

The new design comprises two orders, Fighting and Marching.

The main features are:-

  • Transference of the weight from the shoulders to the hips
  • Transference of the ammunition pouches from the front of the body to the sides of the waist belt.
  • The fitting of a yoke to the shoulder straps to provide greater stability

 

The design was to remain in manufacture for over thirty years and many of the components were updated and their design tweaked with experience. This example is a very late set, but shows the basic principle and the primary components:58 PatternThe water bottle and its carrier were not originally included in the set, and had to be retrospectively added. This component is not shown above, but we have covered it here. Also not illustrated is the large pack, which was universally detested for its poor design, again this has been covered previously here.

The web gear was attached using a combination of traditional wire ‘c’ hooks and also straps with metal hooks and loops that secured each piece to the belt or yoke:imageThe yoke itself was a major advance for this set of webbing as it was padded and far more comfortable than previous webbing sets and the 58 pattern set was to see service right through until the mid-1990s, with the Falklands campaign being its shining hour. By the fist Gulf War it was partially replaced by PLCE, but was still used by many troops who had not yet received the new PLCE web set.image76The first set of fitting instructions gives the following, comprehensive, overview of the set:

With this equipment a considerable part of the load is normally borne by the waist, but the import of the old adage “a change is as good as a rest” can be brought into effect by the simple expedient of unfastening the buckle of the belt, thus transferring the load entirely to the shoulders. The equipment can be assembled in “fighting order” or in “marching order” and by means of easily adjustable straps the load can be shifted whilst the wearer is on the move. The front of the body is kept free from encumbrances which might restrict certain movements.

The items of this equipment, which are not interchangeable with similar items of earlier types of webbing equipment, have been designed to accommodate the latest types of arms and accessories issued to the Services, including the lightweight pick and shovel.

Description of the Equipment

The main items of equipment are made of rotproofed and water repellent lightweight webbing, dyed to British Standard Camouflage Colour no 15.

The metal fittings are principally of light alloy with a dull protective finish which should not be removed. Quick release fittings have been used wherever possible to give quick access to the contents of the pouches etc.

The following are the component parts, which can be assembled in a variety of combinations to meet differing load carrying requirements:

  • Belt, Waist
  • Carrier, Cape
  • Pack
  • Pouch, Amunition, Left
  • Pouch, Ammunition, Right
  • Pouches, Rear (pair forming one item)
  • Straps, Utility (two)
  • Yoke

 

 

Softie Trousers

Following on from the softie jacket we looked at a few weeks ago, tonight we turn to the matching trousers, which are again made of a reversible soft shell construction, with thick padding inside. They can be worn with either a green side outermost:imageOr with the tan side showing:imageIn order to accommodate this reversible nature, the waist is secured with a pair of buttons, one facing outwards and one inwards, regardless of which way round the trousers are:imageA full length zip runs up each leg to allow them to be easily taken our off, even with boots on:imageNote also that the cuff is elasticated to help retain air inside the trousers and give the wearer another layer of insulation. A label is sewn into the garment with details of sizing, NSN number etc.:imageThese trousers are normally issued with a compression or ‘stuff’ sack, much like a sleeping bag which allows the air in them to be squeezed out and their size reduced right down for storage in a rucksack when not needed, sadly my example is missing this, but they are a fairly cheap and common thing to come across so I am sure one will turn up soon enough (I have already gotten lucky and found one for the jacket for £1!).

Softie jackets and trousers seem to be very popular with the troops, as one soldier explains:

Softie! All day, worth spending money on a good one, especially if you’re static for a decent while, packs smaller , keeps you drier , keeps you warmer, and you can use it as a pillow in its stuff sack if you are that way inclined.

The only criticism of the issue softie seems to be that it gets worn very quickly and even with its compression sack it is bulkier than the latest commercial designs. Many troops do buy Snugpak or North Face softies in preference to the issue examples, but equally many really like the standard army pattern.

1972 Pattern Butt Pack

Tonight we come to the fourth and final component of the 1972/75 webbing set; the rear haversack, more commonly called the butt pack:imageThis is a nylon haversack that sits at the rear of the webbing set and is designed to carry the same contents as the 58 pattern kidney pouches and poncho roll:- NBC kit, field rations, spare socks, wash kit etc. Whilst the pouch is larger than the kidney pouches of the earlier set, without the poncho roll the capacity remains small and this was one of the major shortcomings of the set.

The throat of the rear pouch secured with a drawstring:imageThis in turn was covered with the top flap. On the underside of this top flap are the maker’s details:imageAt the rear are a pair of plastic D-loops that allow the yoke to be attached to the pouch:imageBeneath these is a white panel used to write the soldier’s name and number on when in service:imageThe 72/75 pattern set does not have a separate belt, so the rear pouch attaches to the side pouches directly so straps and plastic frictions buckles are sewn to each side of the pouch:imageTwo variations of haversack apparently exist; a plain one and a type like this one that has a long pocket across the base:imageSome sources say this was for a machete, whilst others say it was for a pick axe head, which is what I have fitted it with:imageA loop with a friction buckle is also fitted to the top of the flap of the pouch:imageThis seems to have been used to allow extra items to be strapped onto the webbing.

This piece finishes my set of 72/75 pattern webbing and I now have a complete set:imageThese sets are scarce as they were a trials item half a century ago, but all the pieces are still available from one supplier (albeit not cheaply) so I am pleased to have finally finished the set and have a full set up as a soldier on exercise whilst trialling the new web set in the early 1970s:imageimageimageimageHaving worn the set, I can see why it was never adopted. It is flimsy and complicated and the carrying capacity is limited, as is the sets adaptability. On the plus side the butyl nylon is much easier to decontaminate than cotton webbing, but it would be another ten to fifteen years before a far superior design was adopted by British Army when the PLCE set became the standard load bearing set for the next thirty years or more.

I have deliberately named this as being the 72/75 pattern in this post rather than the 72 pattern as I have done previously. I have been informed that the term 72 pattern is a collectors’ term and the official designation was the 1975 pattern PLCE set- this name would today cause far more confusion as the pieces are all dated 1972 or 1973 and PLCE is more commonly associated with the 1980s and 90s sets.

Jacket, Overall, Green

In 1962 the British Army introduced a new work uniform to replace the denims that had been in service since before World War II. This was the ‘overall, green’ uniform made of a heavy duty green cotton. Although designed as work wear, it was a popular choice for combat uniform in the summer months in preference to the heavy 1960 pattern uniform. The uniform was very shortly lived, being obsolete by 1971-72 and in that time a variation made of poly-cotton was also introduced. Tonight however we are looking at the standard cotton jacket, officially titled the ‘jacket, overall, green’:imageThis jacket is a simple single breasted garment, secured up the front by large green plastic buttons, hidden behind a fly:imageThe hiding of the buttons was presumably to protect them from snagging whilst the soldier was working. A pair of epaulettes was also provided, each fastened by a green plastic button (buttons missing on this example):imageA pair of patch pockets are sewn to the skirts of the jacket, each cut with the flap on an angle:imageInside the jacket a draw string at the waist allows some adjustment so that it is not completely shapeless:imageA third, interior, pocket is also provided:imageThis is where the manufacturer’s label is sewn:imageFrom this we can see that this jacket dates to 1963 and is a size 5. Richard Emms Ltd seems to have been a clothing company in existence until 1991. I have found the following description of the factory in the period this jacket was manufactured:

In 1955 Jenny Clarke started working as a machinist at Emms, she also now lives in Scole. In those days the toll bridge was operated by Mrs Reeve the 1d. (old penny) foot or cycle charge was waived for Mill employees. At that time the old mill was used for storage of imported rolls of fabric, packing and offices with most of the work being carried out in the new factory “over the road.”

This was a prefabricated building of no architectural merit but fitted out as a fully operational clothing factory powered by electricity direct to each machine.

Electric sewing machines were arranged in rows, the machinists operating a production line passing the item on for the next process. To the rear of the machinists, material was cut out, steam irons and presses were operated. In all when working flat out it was a noisy place but a happy factory with respect between staff and management.

Emms had factories at Diss (on Victoria Road now Ridgeons) and Wilby Road, Stradbrooke. Altogether they were major employers but as the 60’s drew to a close increased competition from the Far East was eating away at their margins they also found it difficult to recruit machinists.

In 1971: F.W. Harmer & Co. Norwich bought the whole of Emms business. Harmers, who were well aware the business was in decline, introduced the latest management techniques. The time & motion man appeared along with his stop watch. The clothing boxes were replaced with a rail, staff bonuses suffered. But they struggled on until December 1989 when F.W. Harmer closed down Syleham with the loss of 100 jobs.

Mk 3/1 Cotton Bandolier

In the 1950s the British army introduced an update to their cotton ammunition bandoliers. The end of World War II had seen the MK 3 bandolier introduced with a light webbing carrying strap, the MK 3/1 added an extra row of cotton across the bottom edge to reinforce it. Originally issued to carry .303 ammunition, these bandoliers remained in service for the 7.62mm rounds as well. This example is typical of the post war bandoliers:imageThe bandolier has five individual pockets, each secured with a brass wire hook, passed through a hole in the cotton and folded over to secure it:imageEach pocket would carry two five round chargers, giving a total of fifty rounds per bandolier. The webbing strap is 1 1/8″ wide herringbone twilled webbing:imageThe reinforcing strap is clearly visible across the bottom:imageThe bandolier has a number of stamps, this one dates the bandolier to 1967 and shows it is a MK 3/1:imageA stamp on the rear shows it was filled by Radway Green on 20th June 1967:imageThere is also a random circular stamp which is poorly stamped so impossible to read:imageThese bandoliers remained in service throughout the SLR era, the rounds being used to refill magazines during quiet periods. Here troops in the Falklands War can be seen with the disposable bandoliers slung over their chests:imageThis account from the Falklands by Vince Bramley describes using these bandoliers:

The weight of the webbing was cutting into my shoulders, the bandoliers cutting into my neck. By resting the SLR on my webbing, I could reach up and pull then straps from my neck to help relieve the agony they gave me.

About three kilometres into the march, we stopped. I sat down quickly and swapped the bandolier straps over to my other shoulder, longing to rest for those vital five minutes we were given.

Arctic Bootees

The padded cold weather clothing liners have been covered on the blog before, with a range of trousers, parka liners and smock liners. Very similar in construction to these liners, tonight we are looking at a pair of quilted Arctic extreme cold weather bootees:imageThese are commonly referred to as ‘duvet boots’ by troops and were issued for wear inside tents and shelters in extreme low temperatures as a form of slipper. They are made of green polyester with a padded lining, secured in with zig-zag quilting stitching:imageThe top edge of each bootee is secured with green tape:imageWhilst stitched inside the top edge is a piece of elastic to help trap a pocket of air inside the bootee:imageThis pocket of air is warmed up by the wearer’s feet and acts as a very effective layer of insulation and helps keep the feet warm.

An NSN number, date and inspector’s mark are stamped into the interior of the bootee:imageThese seem to be dated 1990, but the stamp is so distorted that it is hard to be certain.

In this kit layout for a Royal Marine undergoing arctic training, the bootees can be seen circled:SKM_C30819041808470I have struggled to find much more information on these bootees, and I cannot say when they entered service, how effective they were nor even if they are still in service. If anyone can shed further light on them, please comment below.