Category Archives: War on Terror

MTP Rucksack Cover

Just as it had done with the desert DPM rucksack covers, the British Army introduced MTP pattern rucksack covers when that camouflage became standard issue to allow its DPM patterned bergens to continue in service. Bergens are a relatively expensive item of military kit, whilst a simple cloth cover is comparatively cheap and a simple way to ensure that supply chains were not clogged up waiting for replacement kit to replace serviceable bergens that just happened to be in the old camouflage.

The rucksack cover consists of a large piece of MTP fabric:imageThis has a drawstring around its edges that allow it to be secured over the bergen:imageA plastic slider buckle allows the string to be tensioned to give a secure fit:imageAs usual, a small white label is sewn inside with details of the item’s NSN number and date of manufacture:imageTwo MTP covers can be found, a smaller version designed to cover packs such as the daysack; here modelled by a Ghurkha on exercise:imageAnd a larger bergen cover like the example above, which can be seen here being used by a fusilier:image

Desert DPM Shorts

Following on from last week’s post on DDPM trousers, tonight we are looking at the accompanying pair of shorts:imageShorts were not initially issued to troops going out to Iraq and Afghanistan, however men quickly started cutting down spare pairs of DDPM trousers to create their own pairs for wearing off duty and the army decided to formalise this practice with an issue garment. The shorts are identical to the CS95 trousers, but cut off under the pockets, with a hem at the bottom of the leg:imageThe pockets are bellows design, with a triangular top flap. Note the small flap of fabric that allows the pocket to be completely sealed off when closed to help prevent sand getting in:imageA set of belt loops is provided at the waist:imageA standard white label is sewn into the rear of the shorts:imageOne interesting point is that the fabric used to make British army desert kit was a poly-cotton blend, as was the material used to make temperate clothing. The difference was that the desert kit was 75% Cotton to 25% polyester, the temperate clothing 75% polyester to 25% cotton. This meant that the desert kit was cooler, but more prone to wearing out quickly.

These shorts were only for use away from operations, as this soldier explains:

Shorts are only to be worn in down time and never ‘outside the wire’.
You are also issued sandals for the same situation to air your feet.
Neither of which can be worn around larger camps either (Bastion, Lash, Price etc) other than in your own area, as previously mentioned, at commanders discretion.
I’ve only seen the shorts in desert DPM but lads got their MTP trousers cut down by the tailor in Bastion for the same reasons.
Don’t think you’ll be on patrol in shorts though…our grandfathers may have fought in the desert in shorts but that’s not how we do things now…

As an Engineer, I sometimes allowed the guys to work in shorts and T-shirts if doing work within the confines of a CP.
FOB maintenance etc.
Helmets/Osprey would then go on if working at height above the wall.

Despite this ruling, they can be seen being worn in combat by base troops who went quickly into action such as mortar teams and artillery units, where personnel only had time to don body armour and helmets:105mm_dragon

DDPM CS95 Trousers

Throughout much of the War on Terror British soldiers wore desert DPM uniforms, the two tone sand camouflage coming to represent the standard appearance of soldiers in the press and on television screens. This pattern was to have shortcomings in Afghanistan when troops moved into the ‘green zone’ but in desert conditions it was an excellent choice of colour, especially in Iraq where the majority of the landscape was sand. The cut of the uniforms issued mirrored the CS95 uniforms produced in standard temperate DPM, but in the correct colour palette for the terrain.

Tonight we turn to another of those items that I should really have covered on the blog before, but haven’t for one reason another; the DDPM CS95 trousers:imageThese trousers are made of the standard desert camouflage with a dark brown pattern printed over a lighter coloured sand background. The trousers are generously cut for comfort and sport two large buttoned patch pockets on the thighs:imageA further pair of slash pockets are available at the waist:imageAnd a single buttoned rear pocket over the right buttock:imageThe fly is secured with a zip, whilst the waist is secured with both a drawstring and a button:imageWaist adjustment can also be made through a pair of button tabs on each hip:imageNote also the belt loops to pass a trouser belt through. The bottom of each trouser leg has a drawstring to allow them to be drawn in and bloused over the boot:imageAs is usual a white stores and sizing label is sewn to the trousers:imageThis design and pattern of trouser was ubiquitous for many years and can be seen in numerous photographs of troops deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. The introduction of MTP made them obsolete, but they survive in huge quantities and e collector should have no difficulty in finding a pair for the collection.image

Desert DPM GSR Haversack

The General Service Respirator began to be rolled out to priority troops in 2010 and at this time many troops on combat operations were still wearing DDPM uniforms, MTP being introduced simultaneously with the new respirator. The history seems a little muddy, but during this transition period a large quantity of haversacks for the new respirator were produced in the earlier pattern of camouflage. It is not clear if these were intended for combat troops with the new respirator until MTP came into widespread use, or if they were trials items used during the testing phase of the GSR. Either way large numbers were produced and being obsolete are easily available on the collectors’ market so tonight we are going to look at an example in detail.

The haversack, more properly called a ‘field pack’ is a large wedge shaped bag made of DDPM IRR Cordua nylon:imageThe inside of the pack is accessed through a large flap on the top of the pack, secured with both Velcro and press studs:imageThe inside of the pack is lined with a grey nylon and has the pack’s NSN number and designation printed on in black ink:imageA simple open pocket is sewn to one side of the pack:imageWhilst a shorter, but wider pocket is sewn to the opposite side, secured with a velcroed flap:imageA third much larger pocket is attached to the base and secured with a zip:imageThe pack is designed to be worn over the shoulder and an adjustable strap is provided for this purpose, along with a steadying strap to pass around the waist:imageThis pack was never intended to be permanently attached to a web set, however a belt loop is provided for this purpose if so desired:imageUnderneath this are a pair of T-Clips to allow it to be securely attached to a PLCE belt:imageThis pack was short lived and quickly replaced with the similar but not identical MTP version we covered here.

Mk 7 Helmet Cover

We looked at the Mk7 helmet a few weeks ago. Like all other recent British helmets, this design was intended to be used with a camouflaged cloth cover. Although the cover issued for the Mk6 helmet could be used, a specialist cover was developed that better fitted the shape of the Mk7:imageThis was delivered from the factory in a sealed plastic bag:imageA stores label is stuck to the outside of the bag, indicating that like so much modern British military equipment this cover was manufactured in China by the Cooneen Defence Ltd company:imageInside the packet is the MTP cover, laid out the revised shape is visible, designed to fit over the more PASGAT shape of the Mk7. The elastic straps for the scrim are also revised, just having two rings of elastic:imageA tab with a press stud is attached to the rear to help secure helmet mounted equipment such as goggles:imageLike all the other helmet covers issued over the years, this one is adjusted and secured by a drawstring:imageThe inside of the cover has a standard label:imageUnlike other helmet covers, this one includes a small bag of MTP scrim:imageThese are wedge shaped pieces of fabric about eighteen inches long that can be threaded through the elastic straps to break up the outline of the helmet:imageAlthough I have used these strips as they came, looking at service issued examples it seems as though it was common to cut the strips of MTP scrim lengthways to make them narrower and give the soldier more of them to thread through the helmet cover, providing a more scrimmed effect:image

Mk 7 Helmet

In June 2009 the British Army introduced a new combat helmet as an urgent operational requirement. This was the Mk 7 and it replaced the older Mk 6 and Mk 6A design, the shape of the helmet being updated in light of combat experience. Users of the older patterns of helmet had found it difficult to take up a prone position as the helmet dug into their body armour, tipped forward over their eyes and prevented them from firing easily. A new helmet was developed that had the same ballistic properties as the Mk 6A, but with a revised shape that allowed it to be used with body armour. The Mk 7 was a pound lighter than its predecessor and was produced in tan rather than green or black:imageThe helmet has an upgraded liner that features a mesh top section and padded panels around the head:imageThe chin strap was also upgraded with a three point suspicion system. The chin straps start at the back of the helmet:imageThey then run forward to two adjusting straps, one on either side:imageA leather chin cup is provided to hold the helmet in place:imageThis is fastened by passing the end strap through a metal loop and folding the tab back on itself. Two press studs secure it and prevent it coming undone:imageSome troops upgraded their helmets by replacing the press studs with a quick release buckle. Other changes made by troops included adding a loop to the rear of the helmet straps to allow it to be secured to body armour with a carabineer.

The manufacturer’s labels for these helmets are particularly inaccessible, being fixed under the rear of the liner. They contain details of the NSN number, a code for the manufacturer and a date, here 2011:imageJust one firm made the Mk 7 helmet, NP Aerospace Ltd who traded as Morgan Advanced Materials. The Daily Mail reported on the introduction of the Mk7 helmet back in 2009:

New helmets designed to help British troops to target the enemy are being rushed out to Afghanistan this weekend.

The Ministry of Defence is issuing the lighter headgear following soldiers’ complaints that the current helmet is unsuitable for firefights with the Taliban.

Five thousand Mark 7 helmets, along with new Osprey Assault body armour, are being sent to Afghanistan for the troops of 11 Brigade who are starting a six-month operational tour.

The new British-made Mark 7 helmet is the first major change for 20 years – and looks more like an American helmet than the current pudding basin style. It is shaped to allow a soldier to lie flat and shoot straight, without the rear rim digging into his body armour and tipping the front rim over his eyes.

British soldiers are frequently having to fight the Taliban crawling along the ground for cover. Many have complained that when they have to fire  while lying down, they struggle to aim quickly at what may be only a fleeting target…

The MoD’s Urgent Operational Requirement order for new helmets was accelerated by the introduction of US-made Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG) that sit higher on the soldiers’ SA80 rifles.

Lt Col Matthew Tresidder, chief of staff of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency, said 10,000 new helmets and body armour kits have been bought by the Ministry of Defence for £16million. The first 5,000 sets are going to infantry soldiers, engineers, drivers, medics, dog handlers and anyone who regularly goes ‘outside the wire’ of protected bases.

The remainder of the 9,000 servicemen in Afghanistan will continue to use the current protective kit.Royal Marine from 40 Cdo in Sangin, AfghanistanWhilst designed to make it easier for troops to shoot from a prone position, this was not to be the case in reality and just four years later the same newspaper reported that specialist troops, especially snipers, were having to remove the helmets in combat to make shots:

British Army snipers’ lives are being put at risk because they are forced to remove ill-fitting protective helmets before they shoot at the enemy.

Crack marksmen have complained that it is ‘near impossible’ to adopt a correct firing position when targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because of unsuitable kit.

Problems have arisen on the frontline when the back of the standard-issue helmets rub against the top of the ballistic plates in the cutting-edge Osprey body armour

The friction means elite UK sharpshooters are struggling to get ‘beads on’ insurgents laying deadly IEDs or planning ambushes because they cannot properly line up the target in their rifle’s cross-hairs.

 To overcome the issue, some troops have taken the drastic step of removing their helmets before taking a shot – running the risk that they themselves could receive a fatal bullet to the head.

A senior officer has admitted that the ‘problem’ is affecting specialist soldiers in the warzone.

He confirmed a major review of helmets was now underway after safety fears were highlighted…

A serviceman has written anonymously to the magazine, which is published with MoD approval, flagging up concerns.

He said: ‘Snipers throughout the Army are struggling to adopt a correct fire position whilst wearing a Mark 6, 6A or 7 helmet – especially when combined with the Osprey.

‘Firing from low-profile positions such as the prone are near impossible.

‘Most service personnel go as far as to remove their helmets, especially when a more difficult shot is required, causing obvious safety concerns.

The Mk7 helmet is now being replaced with Virtus equipment and has slowly been trickling onto the collectors’ market for a few years now (despite many reservist units still using the older Mk 6 and Mk6A helmets). Its service life was brief and apparently much of the army’s stock was sent to the Ukraine when withdrawn from front line duties, proving to be a popular choice amongst troops fighting the Russians there.

MTP Ammunition Bag

The Desert camouflage version of the grab bag was a popular piece of ancillary load bearing equipment and we looked at an example here. As with many items of equipment, when the new MTP camouflage was introduced an updated version of the grab bag was issued in the new pattern:imageThis bag is identical to the DDPM version and features the same external pouches. We have one large single pouch for a smoke grenade:imageTwo smaller pouches for fragmentation grenades:imageAnd three pouches across the front for rifle magazines:imageEach of these opens up to allow access to the interior, a piece of elastic helps hold the magazines in place until ready to be withdrawn:imageThe lid of the pouch features a velcroed easy access flap, the opening being surrounded by elastic to ensure it is easy to access the contents of the bag but there is no danger of anything falling out:imageThis particular bag has been issued and the original owner has written his name and number on the underside of this elastic portion:imageThe shoulder strap has a seperate MTP slider on it:imageThis has a rough fabric finish on the inside to prevent the bag from slipping as easily from the wearer’s shoulder:imageA standard label is sewn into the inside, with a different NSN number compared to the DPM version:imageOne user of the grab bag says:

I think the idea behind it being a grab bag is that you grab it an scarper.
It hold 9 mags which with the 6 or so you carry on your osprey, that’s your OP ammo sorted. Not many people wear vests over Osprey, just a few pouches for bullets on the front. A daysack with the grab bag under the lid = pouches to keep the ammo in one place. If you’re down 6/7 mags, you’re in the poopoo anyway. And maps, water, GPS, Leatherman NVG can all be stashed in there no dramas.