Category Archives: Uniform

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.

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.

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.

Mk 2 Arctic Mittens

I covered the MK 3 arctic inner mitten on the blog a few years ago here, and since then I have actually been using these mittens in very cold weather to keep my precious mitts warm-  and a very good job of it they do. As the name of those mittens implies, there were earlier patterns of these gloves and tonight we are considering their predecessors, the MK 2 design. Again these are made in DPM fabric, but this time it is not a waterproof nylon but a simple cotton:imageThe design has the same wide palm as the later design, but does not incorporate the non-slip bumps so grip would be necessarily poorer:imageThe same separate thumb is featured in this design, as is the optional index finger section to allow a rifle to be fired:imageA piece of elastic sewn into the mitten helps draw it in at the wrist:imageUnusually the liner of these kittens are manufactured in blue faux-fur pile, rather than the expected green or brown:imageA label is sewn inside each mitten indicating the mark number, size, manufacturer and contract number:imageWhilst this design is clearly not as advanced as the MK 3, they remain a serviceable and war pair of mittens that would have worked well in extreme low temperatures and I am now intrigued to find a MK 1 to complete the evolution of this garment…

Mk VII Tan Groundsheet Cape

The MK VII groundsheet cape in green is a very common piece of militaria, and although prices have risen sharply in the last ten years these capes are still easy to find. By contrast the World War II era version in tan is much harder to find even though they must have been produced in their millions. It was therefore very nice to be able to finally add an example to my collection recently and tonight we are going to have a look at this piece:imageThe design is identical to its successor, but in a light shade of tan rather than jungle green. The cape is essentially a rectangular ground sheet, with a triangular portion and a collar attached that allows it to be worn as a rudimentary waterproof:imageHere a soldier can be seen modelling the groundsheet cape:imageEach seam is secured with a strip of tape on the inside to improve its water repellent properties:imageFlat plastic buttons allow the cape to be secured up the front:imageWhilst a tab at the collar allows this to be drawn in for better weather protection:imageIn reality this fastening was pretty useless and water easily got down the neck of the wearer. The design was also criticised as even a small amount of exertion ensured the inside was as wet as the outside due to sweat. The design also directed water down to the back of the soldier’s legs where it quickly soaked through his trousers! Nor was the cape much good in its role as a groundsheet, a tent proving difficult to construct from the capes.

Despite these criticisms, the design remained in use for more than half a century and was often the only waterproof clothing a man had access to.

The neck of the cape is fitted with a small cotton loop that allows it to be hung up to dry:imageThe original owner’s name is written on this loop, the name being repeated inside the cape as well:imageAn oval maker’s stamp is visible on the inside of the cape but is unfortunately too indistinct to make out any details:imageIn service these capes were folded up and carried under the flap of the small pack:imageThis is not an easy process to do neatly, but there is an excellent tutorial by Rifleman Moore on YouTube that explains how to do this correctly and it is his method I have used to get my cape to the right dimensions.

Short Puttees

The DMS boots worn with short puttees were the ubiquitous choice of footwear throughout the 1960s and 1970s and it was only when the shortcomings of this system were highlighted in the Falklands War that it was finally superseded by one piece high leg type boots. The short puttees were less than half the length of their World War One counterparts but were made in the same style of khaki brown wool, with woven cotton tapes:imageThe material of the puttee was folded to a point and the woven tape sewn on:imageThe opposite end was merely doubled back on itself and sewn together to prevent the fabric from fraying and coming undone:imageWhen not being worn, it was typical for the puttees to be rolled up, with the tape wrapped around:imageShort puttees had been reintroduced in 1950 and the official list of changes recorded:

Clothing and Necessaries.- Puttees, short, re-introduction

  1. Approval has been given for the issue of one pair of puttees, short, to each British other rank serving in overseas commands and garrisons where tropical clothing is worn. Puttees, short, jungle will be issued in areas where green tropical clothing is worn and puttees, short in other areas. The scale of anklets web to be reduced from 2 pairs to 1 pair. On issue of puttees, short, one pair of anklets, web will be withdrawn and placed in normal maintenance stocks under local arrangements.
  2. Where no stocks of puttees, short, exist, demands for initial issue, plus normal maintenance stocks, will be submitted through normal channels. Issue will be made when supplies become available.
  3. When stocks of puttees, short, jungle become exhausted puttees, short will become the standard pattern for wear in all areas.

One old soldier recalls:

I wore “short puttees” in the TA in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and quite liked them, though I did hear stories of broken ankles being caused by them. imagePuttees seem to have been phased out in the mid-1980s, not always to the pleasure of troops some of whom were very fond of the short puttee:

In about 1985 I was still wearing DMS & Puttees, because of an earlier injury the medics had supplied them with extra padding and support. When on what the Royal Signals called their annual sqn. battle camp I was ordered, despite my protest and med chit to wear my brand new unbroken Combat High Boots for a CFT.

Result, I just managed to complete the CFT ,reported to medics to treat blisters, when I took my boots off so much blood ran out that I was immediately put on a saline drip.

I did not complain but medics where appalled and reported the matter to their boss the Senior MO of the Garrison.

I don’t know if it was related but within 3 months both the OC and me were posted and, ironically, both promoted.

I must say that once broken in and laced correctly I found the high boot gave good support and was especially waterproof compared to old DMS boot. I still have my last issue of boot which 20 odd years after discharge I still use in the worst winter weather.image

WW2 Aertex Vest

Army issue vests for the Second World War are really quite scarce and although I have half a dozen different examples of the underpants, it has taken until now for me to pick up an example of the vest. A number of variations of the vest exist, some with buttons around the neck hole to make the easier to put on and many seem to have been made of wool. This example however is a simple v-neck design made of white aertex cotton:imageThe neck is ‘V’ shaped and bound with white tape:imageThere would originally have been a label sewn into the neck but this has been removed, possibly it was scratching the wearer’s neck and he felt it would be better taken out.

The inside of the vest has a black ink stamp with a WD /|\ mark and a date letter of ‘M’:imageThe letter ‘M’ equates to 1944 so the vest can be dated to that year. The design of the vest includes a cut away at the seam on each side, presumably to help make it easier to put on and remove the garment and to improve its comfort:imageAs well as an item of underwear, vests were also used for PT:

I went to Fort George on the Moray Firth along the coast from Inverness; also the home of the famous Seaforth Highlanders Regiment. It was a bleak place to be in the month of November and in winter, particularly when running along the beach in a vest and shorts as part of the training schedule at that time early in the cold mornings.

Sadly this vest is a very small size and so I cannot try it for comfort, it is however an interesting and surprisingly scarce piece of wartime personal clothing.