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Combat and Working Dress Uniforms of the Royal Military Police in the period 1940s to the 1980s,
with a passing nod to the Shirt, KF (Shirt, Khaki Fibre)
a.k.a. "Hairy Mary", "Shirt, Itchy" or "Shirt, Scratchy", and other less printable names!

British Army uniforms have tended to have a workmanlike function, where comfort has not always been the first consideration (or any consideration, come to that). The end of the Second World War saw the basic operational (that is, non-ceremonial) uniform consisting a brown coloured Battle Dress jacket and trousers, Black polished Ammunition Boots (leather hob-nailed boots with toe and heel plates, or "Blakies", on the soles), and ashirt, which was a tough cotton weave with no collar, as was a common fashion with working mens before the war.

Shortly after the cessation of the war however, the enlisted mans' shirt featured a removable collar, where previously only Officers' Shirts had possessed a removable collar, as was the fashion of the mid- to late-1930s, when BD kit was designed and issued for the first time.

In addition, following the war, the use of berets instead of SD Caps and forage caps (berets, it must be said, were also cheaper to produce and in general used less material in the post-war ration-gripped Britain), became the norm for most regiments. For the newly renamed Corps of Royal Military Police however, the SD cap with scarlet cover was retained as, at the time, it was considered that the use of the cap contributed to the air of authority a Military Policeman had to have. The Bridage of Guards also retained the SD Cap, it being seen as a more traditional British Army mode of dress.

Webbing wise, the RMP now standardised on blankco'd white webbing with polished brass parts, for all duties, whereas the majority of the British Army only used white webbing for dress and ceremonial parades. For the RMP this wasn't very tactical, but it was highly recognisable, none the less. In hot climates, whilst wearing shorts, a white tape was wrapped around the sock, to provide yet another recognisable feature.

In some regiments, such as the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines and certain, shall we say, specialist units, the large pack of the 37-44 webbing was replaced with the '42 pattern Bergan, an 'A' frame rucksack variant. More comfortable than the Large pack, it also had a greated capacity - something like 50% more than a 44-pattern Large pack, in fact - which greately aided these units in their tasks, given that they were expected to be able to be largely self-sufficient for twice the intial period of more conventional troops, once operating in the battle area.

The standard combat helmet by the end of the war had become the Mk III "Turtle" helmet, which had almost completely replaced the earlier Mk II "Tommy" helmet, and which had provided admirable service for well over two decades.

Cold weather-wise, above the shirt layer, little changed; the thin v-necked wool pullover was still issued, and, in 1944, a new design, while still possessing a v-neck format, took a single element from the slightly earlier issue 'Commando Jersey': Cloth patches over the sholders and elbows, which tended to prolong the life of the pullover.

It was still made of a thin single-ply wool, however, so has little in the way of heat retention however, it was better than nothing in the midst of the bitter German Plains winters.

Of particular interest with this particular pullover pattern, is that the shoulders came with two slots on each shoulder: one large one towards the shoulder, the other, smaller, near the neck, both running through the cloth shoulder patch. The larger of the slots was used to thread the shirt epaulette, the smaller used to button the epaulette in place on the shirt, through the slot. Colour-wise, initial wartime issues were the same as the earlier version; later on, perhaps in the post-war issues, the colour changed towards a grey-green shade of olive drab.

Anecdotal evidence from servicemen of the time suggests that quality control was, to say the least, rather poor in the colour control department, and different sources report different colours. Some report the colour to be similar to Battle Dress, a light to mid brown colour; others report it to be anything from olive green to a greyish-green colour.

The example we have seen in a recent photographs in the UK recently suggests that the colour was somewhere in-between, perhaps a similar shade to what is generally referred to most of the world as Light Olive.

In any case, as with all things that are up to 60 years in the past, while a great many of the varying and disagreeing reports can be landed at Times Doorstep, another equally plausible reason for the conflicting reports on colour are easy to understand: Wartime stocks of material, including wool and dyes, were (to coin a phrase) rather thin on the ground, so a certain amount of variation in colour was to be expected, even in the immediate post-war years.

It is not known if enlisted - NCO and SNCO - rank insignia were to be applied (sewn on) to this pullover; the earlier version, without the cloth patches and epaulette slots was not intended as outerwear, and thus rank insignia were not to be applied, as it was always to be worn under a Battle Dress Blouse.

Certainly, for the second version of the pullover, Officers were catered for, as their epaulettes already bore their rank insignia, so it is plausible to assume that these garmets were initially intended for Officers: irrespective of this, all ranks appear to have been issued them.

1950s

Fashions change, and so do army uniforms. In the early 1950s a new shirt, still Army Brown in colour (like the Battle Dress), began to be issued. Made from a thick wool mix, and for the first time on an issue working shirt, possessing a fully attached collar, the shirts were certainly warmer than the older cotton shirts, but being a rough form of wool mix, they had a rather annoying property: They itched the body - and particularly the back of the neck - something horrid.

Soldiers, however, particularly British ones, are an ingenious lot. Out came the razor blades, and shirt shaving was the order of the day. Primarily, they shaved the back of the neck and collar areas, to reduce or even eliminate the itchy neck caused by the shirts. Wearing the shirts even became something of a badge of honour for some soldiers, who often made snide jokes about the RAF and RN, who issued cotton shirts to their personnel, which did not, of course, irritate the skin.

The rest of the Army, lacking that masochistic edge, opted for the more sensible choice: Shaved inside shirt collars, and a PT (Physical Training) shirt worn underneath; as this was a 'V' neck shirt, SNCOs tended to look the other way, and in basic training, it helped cut down the time required to change into PT kit at lesson change-over anyhow!

Another dodge away from Shirts KF was the use of a different shirt altogether: In tropical areas, since the latter part of WW2, the army had been issuing "Shirts JG" or "Shirts Jungle", instead of Shirts KF (which were obviously not suited to tropical regions). The Shirt JG was issued in places such as Malaya, Borneo, Kenya, Aden, Cyprus, Belize, British Guiana, and Hong Kong, was made from a thinner but tougher Cotton Aertex material, was a "Jungle Green" colour, and was a darn sight more comfortable to wear than a Shirt KF, as it didn't irritate the skin. The result was that many troops brought these back from their tropical postings, and having got used to them, started to wear them in temperate areas as well, often to the dismay of their SNCOs. This dodge would exist right up to the late 1970s, even after the withdrawal of Shirts JG in 1958. Over time, the upshot of this would be many different versions of issue shirt being worn within the same unit, depending on how rigid a Regimental Sergeant-Major a squaddie had.

Also about this time, a slight improvement in footwear was introduced. Beloved of the Brigade of Guards and Foot Drill Instructors Army-wide, the Ammunition Boot, dating back to before World War Two, was relegated to parades and ceremonial duties, with the introduction of the Boot, DMS, or Directly Moulded Sole. Quieter on hard surfaces due to the use of rubber compounds in the sole instead of hobnails, the boot also had markedly better performance over rough ground due to the use of these better sole materials and forms of tread patterns incorporated into the sole as well.

At about the same time, wide-scale troops trials of a replacement for Battle Dress began to take place, most noticably in the BAOR (Berlin) and Korean theatres of operations. Apparantly inspired in part by the Denison smock used by Airborne forces, the prototype "Smock, Combat" was a three-quarter-length zip-and-button fronted jacket with two inside (one each side) and four outer pockets (one chest and one waist pocket either side), none of them bellowed; drawstrings were inserted at waist and hem to allow for a more snug fit.

At the same troops trial, replacement trousers, combat, of the same material, were also issued, and information to hand suggests that they only possessed four pockets; one buttoned rear pocket, two waist pockets (one each side), and only one thigh pocket, much like the late issues of battle dress trousers, and none of them bellowed. Very few photographs of this pattern exist, but one notable photo is reproduced in D. G. Sheffields' book "The Redcaps" [1].

Points to note in the photograph: The new DMS Boots, with what appear to be both putees and gaiters (Puttees on the officer (identified as 2 Lt I. Cameron (later Brigadier), and gaiters on the NCO, identified as Cpl E. Simpson), 37 pattern webbing which, judging by the photo, is not white, but green (and thus more tactical); note the two forms of cap; Cpl Simpson is wearing the SD Car with red RMP cover, 2 Lt Cameron is wearing the standard officers' cap, although no red cover is apparent. Also note the Stirling SMG, only recently at that time introduced into the British armoury of weapons, having just replaced the Sten Gun. 2 Lt Cameron is still using the Webley revolver, judging by his webbing holster.

Photographic evidence (to be found in "British Web Equipment of The Two World Wars" by Martin J. Brayley, published by The Crowood Press, ISBN 1-86126-743-6, pp54, bottom photo) also suggests that on or about 1953, a new pullover, quite possibly the penultimate fore-runner to the later 'Jersey, Heavy, Wool', was issued to troops on UN operations in Korea. Given that the winters there are many orders of magnitude more bitter than those in Germany, this is not that surprising, as the general issue thin single-ply wool pullover would have been about as useful as a chocolate fire guard in those conditions. The colour of this pullover is unknown (the photo is monochrome), but the crew-neck thick ribbed wool construction is plain to see, as is the surprising lack of cloth patches over the shoulders or elbows. Rank insignia on this pullover were applied by means of a slip-over brassard, there being no epaulettes (or slots for such) on this pullover either. Servicemen from that period of time who served in BAOR have offered no recollections of this pattern of pullover so it is possible that, lacking further information to the contary, this was an exclusively Korean Operations issue pullover.

In 1958, a sea change in load carrying occurred with the beginning of the withdrawal of the 37-44 patterns of webbing, and the introduction of 58 webbing. Slightly lighter than it's forebearers (though not by much, as it was still made from thick cotton canvas material), the major change was that soldiers no longer had to "make with the Blanco", as the webbing was issued already dyed by the manufacturer (so as to provide as uniform a colour as possible). It also simplified the assembly of webbing, and the ease of stripping or reassembly, as well as providing slightly larger pouches and packs for rations and kit; the ammunition pouches were resized downwards as well, to be large enough to hold three Self Loading Rifle magazines in each pouch (for a battle load of 120 rounds plus a couple of hand grenades as well).

However, like most things in the British Army, change took time, and it was not unusual to see different units - especially RMP units - still using the old 37pattern webbing into the late 1960s. Never the less, this was a time of change for the Army, and a change in uniforms was on the cards as well (see below).

Given that these new items of webbing were already dyed green, and blanco was also being withdrawn, new white leatherwork was also intruduced for dress and ceremonial parades for use with number one and two uniforms as well. The RMP, having lost the now traditional "Christmas Tree Order" white 37 pattern webbing and cross strap when 58 pattern webbing was introduced, used the new dress white leather belts and cross-straps for their general day to day Policing duties thereafter.

The Denison smock, issued now to all Airborne component units (including the Para Provost of the RMP), was significantly modified in the 1959 Pattern. This had a higher hem line, and was much less baggy. This was because wearing it over the personal carrying equipment (but under the parachute harness) while parachuting was no longer accepted practice. The '59 Pattern retained the full length zipper and knitted wool cuffs, but the flannel lining of the collar was changed from khaki to light green. The most obvious difference to the eye, however, was the change in pattern and colours of the camouflage. The pattern became less random and more defined, with broad, vertical brush-strokes, and greater contrast between the base light khaki and the overprinted tones. The green was much darker than previous versions, and the brown was now chocolate, rather than brick. Where green and brown overlapped, they formed a fourth, darker, olive brown colour. This was the basis, allegedly, for the later DPM pattern clothing [2].

1960s

Over this time, the Shirt KF had not changed much, except in material, from it's second world war predecedssor. At first styled to resemble a three-buttoned pullover shirt like it's fore bearer from the thirties, the shirt was actually a fully conventional button-up-the-front shirt; a later issue in the early 1960s, while retaining the overall cut of the new shirt, dispensed with the illusion of being a pullover shirt, and became a completely conventional shirt, and started to look like what we now think of as a military style shirt, with epaulettes and pleated pockets, even if the material was still the "wool mix, itchy, soldiers for the irritation of".

Next up was a change in the shirt pockets. Out went the bellows pockets, in came flat pockets, the idea being that the shirt was not a beast of burden, but merely a skin-level covering: The jacket and issued webbing were the beasts of burden instead, went the commentary from above (well, the soldier was as well, but that's another story).

It was also about this time that Battle Dress was made obsolete, with the new 1960-pattern American-Influenced Olive Drab coloured "Smock, Combat" and "Trousers, Combat" being issued from roughly 1961 or so instead, and a vast improvement on Battle Dress they were too;

The '60 pattern combat smock, with separate hood and trousers, was designed to replace Battle Dress. Made in a plain mid-olive green cotton fabric, this pattern of combat suit was similar to the 1953 Pattern Trials issue, and was modelled on a similar US design (the so-called M65 Field Jacket and Trousers). Of a high quality manufacture, featuring lining above the waist, waist-length zip and buttoned fly, two internal and four external double-stitched pockets, strengthened elbow pads and a stithed collar with fastening tab, is was in part lighter in weight, and easier to wear, than Battle Dress, although the canvas strapped Gaiters were later replaced with wool mix tie-up Putees again (following their abolition following the introduction of Battle Dress in 1938 or so). For the RMP, it signalled the beginning ot the end of blanco'd white webbing, and a more tactical approach to combat areas. The number one and two dress, though, still retained white belts [3].

The next issue of Shirt KF in the late 1960s retained the new cut and style, but changed colour and name. Out went Battle Dress Brown and the "Shirt, KF", in came the "Shirt, Mans, Combat" and a form of Olive Green, to match the new Combat Clothing issue, a colour that was to become fairly universally recognised as the standard uniform green for the British Army.

In 1966, a new respirator, the S Mk 6, replaced the older "Respirator, Lightweight", which like a lot of older kit, dated back to the latter half of the second world war. The S6 (made famous fourteen years later in the Iranian Embassy Seige by the Special Air Service) was developed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, and manufactured by the Birmingham & Leyland Rubber Company; heavier than the Respirator Lightweight, it featured larger eyepieces, a new synthetic webbing, and an innovative air seal around the inside of the facepiece to improve fit and comfort of the mask; the pressure inside the seal could be adjusted by means of a tap inside the nosecup. At the same time, a new pouch, the Respirator haversack, was also issued, to combine with the new 58 pattern webbing. This first pattern of 58-pattern Respirator Case was made from canvas, as was the rest of the webbing; later issues of the respirator haversack (as it became named) in the 1970s were made from a form of Nylon and Butyl Rubber, which was easier to decontaminate.

Sometime between 1967 and 1969, the MP armlet (arm band), whose bearers many soldiers tended to try to avoid, was replaced. Out went the reasonably tactically sound red sewn-on print on black material, and in came a more easily noticable - and thus rather less tactically minded - Scarlet Armlet with black sewn-on printing. This was worn with all modes of dress on the right arm. It is highly noticable at this point in time that for a considerable while - ever since the end of the Second World War, in fact, the only British soldiers permitted to wear an armlet - whatever the form - on the right arm, were members of the Royal Military Police; all others, including Regimental Police, Logistics Control, and so on, were required to wear their own armlets on their left arms.

There are, in fact, one or two anecdotal stories regarding this, and it is alleged that in the 1970s, one particular Regiments' RPs were paraded outside a guard room in Germany on the orders of an RMP Corporal, who unapologetically informed the Provost Sergeant of that Regiment that "Only RMP can wear an armlet on the right arm. Have your men swap arms, or they get jailed!" A small disagreement followed, with the nearest RMP Officer being called in to tell the Regimental Adjudent (a Captain) that the RMP Corporal was correct, and that the Adjudant could also be subject to arrest for allowing the right arm practice to carry on. Needless to say, the RPs changed arms rather rapidly! Sadly, no evidence backs this excellent story, but it does make for a good tale!

Also in 1967, a new pullover was issued. Recognisable as the penultimate stage in the evolution of the NATO "Wooley Pully", the "Jersey Mans Wool Heavy" possessed a thick ribbed construction, with drawstring crew neck, cloth patches on the shoulders and elbows, and button down epaulettes. The wrists ended in cloth patch hems, presumably to prevent fraying. It would appear that all ranks were issued this jersey, and such photographic evidence as has currently been found tends to support this.

It is interesting to note that this jumper is a very strange green - almost dark brown - colour, with very light tan - almost cream - coloured cloth patches. The shoulder patches are also rather wide - they partially wrap around the collar of the jersey, a feature not seen before in British Army jerseys.

The back of the April 1969 copy of Soldier Magazine (photo extract above) shows a soldier - with his wife or girlfreind - walking in uniform in Cyprus wearing such a jersey, and the colours in that photo are a close match to the example on the right. Below those two photos, you will see a photo showing all three post war pullovers and jerseys for whih we have solid photgraphic evidence. Note the different shades of colour - these are typical colours, not faded from repeated cleanings - Bottom centre - post war pullover. Top right: 1960s pattern. Top left: late 1970s to pressent day pattern.

A year later, in 1968, a new form of combat clothing was issued to the army. For the first time, army-wide, camouflaged clothing was on issue, hitherto only being available to the Parachute Regiment in the form of the Dennison Smock, a design in various forms that dated back to the second world war. Still retaining the general cut and style of the 60 pattern olive green combat clothing, and popularly named after the year of issue, '68-pattern DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material) was a veritable hit with the Army. It finally reached full issue for the Army in the early 1970s. Unfortunately for the Army though, they didn't change the design or material of the shirt.

1970s

In the 1970s, the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland were getting to their bloodiest, and Operation Banner (the Military name for the collective anti-insurgency operations in the province) was gearing up for the long haul, with no end to the violence in sight.

The early 1970s saw a new form of uniform become authorised as Number 13 (and in summer months, No 14) dress. Widely known as Barrack Dress, it consisted the Brown No 2 shirt, Trousers made of a cotton drill, and Shoes, DMS. The belt used was the Stable Belt, and each regiment had its own colours for it. Originally, stable belts were worn by cavalrymen in the working dress they used for cleaning the stables and tending to their horses, but in the 1950s they spread to all branches of the armed forces, adding a splash of colour and individuality to the drab khaki working uniforms. Initially Stable Belts were resisted by many senior officers, who saw them as too individualistic, but they soon became accepted throughout the forces [4].

In 1972, a nylon version of 58 webbing was made to a very limited issue, as part of a small-scale uniform and kit troop trial. One interesting outcome was the forunner to what we now know as the British Army Assault Vest of the late 1990s - the 72 Pattern assault vest, consisting four pouches on a form of vest with toggle closure. Not many were issued, and the vast majority apparently went to the SAS.

One interesting product from these trials that emerged almost a decade later in the mid 1980s, was the Working Belt, a nylon belt that was fabricated from a thin strip of webbing from a roll, cut to length, adonised lightweight fastnings and nylon beltkeepers added, and passed to the soldier 'in the raw', ready to be assembled. Its use was intended as an in-barracks belt only, but tended to be used in most areas of work, including the field, where it was often used to keep a soldiers' trousers up! Speaking of trousers, the same time also saw the introduction of Lightweight olive green trousers ("Trousers, Lightweight, Green") to the army, as a working trouser, to save the DPM trousers from excesive wear and tear when not on exercise or operations. These continued to exist, minus the map pocket on the left leg, well into the 21st century.

Also during the mid 1970s, what became widely known as the "Mao Suit" or "Chinese Fighting Suit" started to be issued as part of the normal Clothing Issue for Temperate Areas: The Quilted Waistcoat and Trouser Liners were of an olive green nylon and synthetic filler construction, and remarkably good at their job, as they added that oh-so-handy extra layer of insulation for bitter BAOR Winter nights (and days), but suffered a couple of problems: First, when wet, they became an encumberance, despite being synthetic, and second, one had to strip down to almost the skin layer of the legs to remove them, which in the field was a major buggeration factor for the squaddies concerned. never the less, when combined with the thermal underwear (Long Johns) that was already a part of teperate issue, the overall intended effect was generally effective in keeping a squaddie reasonably warm in BAOR.

The late-1970s also saw another wollen jumper issued to troops. Featuring all the refinements from earlier versions over the years, it was a consistent Olive Green colour, with epaulette tabs secured with small squares of Velcro, and was sadly to be the last of the thick ribbed wool jumper versions the Army would issue, when it was finally replaced in the late 1990s by a somewhat thinner (and most likely cheaper) jersey.

At the same time, the widely used World War two '42 pattern Bergen, was replaced by the '72 Patt "Rucksack, SAS", which became more widely known over time as the "SAS Bergan" and to a lesser degree as the "Rucksack Airborne Troops". This had a square external frame that would also later used for carrying the Clansman PRC 351 and 352 radio sets in the 1980s; indeed, often the straps from the frame would be 'borrowed' and attached to the bergan itself, making for a reasonably comfortable backpack that would conform to the shape of the bearer's back, even if there was little ventilation there due to the lack of a frame. Following on from the troops trials, another smaller rucksack was developed from the Rucksack SAS, becoming the more widely available "GS Bergan".

While the GS Bergan was not normally on issue to most non-teeth arm regiments (Arms, Corps, and Services were normally left issuing the smaller and poorly named "Large Pack" of 58 webbing), troops tend to purchase things that make their lives in the field a darn sight easier: Backpacks are one such investment, and as usual, GS and SAS Bergans often found their ways to the surplus market, and thence back into military service via a soldiers' private purchase. Given the amount of kit a soldier often wound up carrying in the field, it's a wonder that unit PRI shops didn't carry more bergans in stock - they'd likely as not've made a mint!

In 1974, the SD cap was finally retired from RMP issue - (and a very unpopular move this apparently was), being replaced by the Scarlet RMP Beret instead.

In 1974/5, another DPM pattern was released, slightly darker than the '68 pattern, though still using the same cut for the jacket and trousers.

At the same time, lighter, more user-freindly DPM combat clothing was issued for tropical use in places like Belize and Hong Kong (to name but two places); immediately noticed by more alert soldiers in surplus shops soon thereafter (military kit had a way of somehow materialising on the surplus market soon after issue, sometimes by over-production, sometimes through more nefarious means), one regiment in particular was keen on the "Jungle trousers" as they were known - the Parachute Regiment.

It soon became something of a badge of service for a "Para" to be wearing jungle Combats on exercise and operations; that the officers tended to follow suit in a lot of cases only confirmed this. The habit spread thinly across the army (Private purchases of kit are permitted in the British Armed Forces, Regimental Sergeant-Majors not with standing), and in many regiments, soldiers often bought the lighter, more comfortable Jungle trousers. The fact that the camouflage pattern on them was somewhat brighter than the issue temperate DPM did not, it has to be said, seem to matter.

There was one theatre of operations however, where Jungle Pattern clothing was expressly forbidden: Northern Ireland. 1972, the bloodiest year of "The Troubles", saw some of the nastiest escalations against the security forces, including petrol bombings during the many riots there. The use of Molotov Cocktails (bottles filled with petrol and thrown at troops with a lit wick inserted) was especially rampant in these riots, and it was discovered fairly early on that the jungle-pattern combat trousers melted on soldiers when caught in molotov bombings, as were the new Trousers Lightweight, which were also banned from street duties in the province for a time. Instead, the more creative Paras tended to the use of the older pattern Olive Green trousers from the 49 pattern Jungle issue, if they could find them, instead of DPM trousers.

1972 also saw the introduction of an item that would become a classic piece of coveted squaddie gear - the Northern Ireland Patrol Glove, or "N.I. Glove"; With padded fingers and a padded back strap for comfort in suporting a rifle on a wall, this glove became an instant hit amongst troops in the province, and was highly sought-after with troops outside the province.

In 1977, the Denison smock was finally withdrawn, in favour of the Para Smock. Materially it was not constructed of the Denison’s heavyweight twill, but was instead made from the same material as the ’68-Pattern combat jacket. However, it was cut like the Denison smock, with snap-fastened (but now bellowed) pockets, a full length zipper but no buttons down the front, wool cuffs, and a 'diaper flap' on the outside of the back. Again, it was issued to all Airborne component units, and once again, became something of a status symbol to those units so equipped [5].

In the late 70s came both the second pattern of "N.I. Glove" (which lacked the padded fingers, but retained the padded backstrap), and the Northern Ireland Patrol Boot, or "N.I. Boot", a boot optimised for street use, with a softer sole for more silent walking, and coupled with the softer sole, a slightly more shock-absorbing boot, providing a measure of comfort for soldiers on patrol in that troubled province. That it had been spurred into issue by the private purchase of "Doctor Marten" brand 'air soled' boots (they were popular with police and skinheads at the time, making for a wide range of retail outlets), was blithly ignored by Army kit procurement chiefs, of course. Once again, squaddie common sense (and wallet power) had been followed by later official issues of kit!

The late 70s also saw the issue in Northern Ireland of the first half-decent waterproofs in British Army history - the 'Jackets Foul Weather' were constructed of an olive green coloured nylon, with Velcro and Zip fastening, gathered at the waist and lower hem with elastic. It also possessed two pockets and a rollup hood. There were also trousers to match, but they were seldom seen. This tended, once the MoD had their act in order, to replace the squaddies purchased use of Barbour and Belstaff Waxed Jackets - which put certain persons noses completely out of joint, as these items were formerly only thought of as used by officers only!

Later issues were - to say the least - budget versions of the first JFW issues because while yes, they were olive green, and possessed zip and press stud fastening, and yes, they helped keep squaddies dry in the driving winter (and truth be told, spring, summer, and autumn) rains, they also had the unwanted property of making more noise when a soldier moved then a battallion of troops eating Smiths brand crisps, as they were made from a very thin and noisy nylon material! An even later issue of the self-same type of kit replaced the press studs with velcro - which was even more noisy! Never the less, they were all popular for the waterproofing alone, so much so in fact, that many sets never made if back to the stores, instead going for holidays abroad to BAOR!

1980s

The 1980s and the Falklands War were a turning point in a lot of Army kit design and philosophy.

Prior to the Falklands War, the army had been trialling new boots, the Boot Combat high, a higher-than-ankle boot that extended the height of the boot to roughly half-way between the ankle and calf; with a direct moulded sole, possessing more lower-leg support than the issue DMS boot, and allegedly supplied to regimental stores just prior to the outbreak of the war, they only became widely available and issued following the return of the troops from the war. This was a sore (literally in a few cases of trench foot down in the Falklands) issue with many soldiers, but life went on.

In all its' guises however, the Shirt KF was still the combat shirt of the temperate and cold weather Army. Click the photo for a larger version in a new window (635kb). Photo Copyright Bob Shackleton, with thanks to Gordon Smith at Naval History dot net. More photos of the Royal navy in general, and Royal marines on Ascension, may be found at Naval History dot net.

Notice the wide variety of shades of shirt colour; this obviously isn't a colour photo (mores the pity), but the odds are excellent that not only are there green Shirts KF there, but all brown as well as all issues, shades and colours inbetween Battle Dress brown and olive green.

You will also notice that the Royal Marine circled in red is wearing a non-issue shirt - look at the chest pockets - this would not normally be tolerated in the Army, especially in the UK and BAOR, but in an operational area like Ascension and the Falklands, it would probably not be a major concern; I can't speak to the Royal Marines, of course, but I'd imagine a similar mindset would apply there too!

Sometime around 1982/1983, the armlet, scarlet, MP, was withdrawn for tactical use, and a new, slightly more tactically sound, brazzard introduced, bearing a red patch and black lettering.

It took another ten or so years from, the 1960s for the Army and MoD to relent, but in the late 1970s trials of a new shirt, the "Shirt, GS", a tough cotton mix, a heck of a lot smoother to the touch than the existing shirt, easier to keep pressed (and thus worthy of an RSMs praise), and most importantly to the MoD, cheaper to buy, was deemed a success; within the next ten years, it had completely supplanted the wool mix Shirts KF (as they were still known in the army), and were standard issue until well into the 1990s, when the Soldier '95 and Soldier 2000 pattern of combat clothing was released.

By the mid-to late 80s, the highly popular N.I. Boots often found their way to units in BAOR, along with extended DMS & "Bundy Para Boots" (the German Para Boot, very thick, very warm, and very sought-after in Paratroop circles).

1984

The main drawback with the '68 Pattern was that being made as a fully-lined thick cotton jacket, and three-quarter-lined thick cotton trousers set, the uniform was heavy, and took rather a long time to dry once wet which is not, it has to be said, a very good property for military operational clothing. A short-term and rather drastic squaddie-level solution was to remove the inner lining, making for wat was also-termed the "summer weight jacket". A similar methodology was executed at squaddie level to NBC suits (or "Noddy Suits" because of the hood of the NBC smock) by removing the activated charcoal-impregnated liner, which, while nice and warm in winter months, was hot, uncomfortable, and overly heavy for use in the hot BAOR summer months.

Officially, and partly, the problems regading the heavy DPM combat kit was now solved by the introduction of a new foul-weather system, the jacket and trousers, wet weather, in the early 1980s, mostly from around late 1982. Replacing the nylon crisp-wrapper-like olive green waterproofs issued in Northern Ireland, and made instead from rubberised polyvynilchloride (PVC), the overjacket and overtrouser set were initially hailed when word of their issue made the rounds in the normal Army manner (i.e. lightspeed rumour intelligence or RumInt (pronounced "Roo-Mint")), as they were theoretically better at keeping soldiers dry than the poncho that had hitherto served as both waterproofs and a rough overhead shelter (well, with a little paracord, string, or bungee cargo clips anyhow).

Initial squaddie euphoria subsided however, when it was discovered that soldiers sweated bathloads whilst wearing them, as the rubberised inner lining to the jacket was an excellent insulator, with no way to get rid of the sweat varour other than opening the jacket up and getting th rain on ones' front again. In addition, they rustled loudly when the soldier moved, so wearing them while trying to remain tactical was a big no-no; again, the soldier got wet. Later versions of this kit issued from roughly 1988 or so were made from PVC, without the rubberised inner lining, making them easier to wear, but just as noisy.

In 1984, the other half of the solution was issued: the 84 pattern DPM jacket and trousers; lighter, more generously cut, and possessing bellows pockets, the jacket was half-lined, and the trousers unlined. This issue also finally disposed of puttees and gaiters, a pair of elasticated "trouser blousers" or "Twists, trousers" instead being issued to allow the trousers to be bloused just below the top of the new BCH (Boot, Combat, High). Introduced at the same time were a lighter form of the artic-issue padded jacket and trouser liners, or "Chinese Fighting Suit", made of a cotton/nylon mix, intended to make up for the lack of the built-in lining of the 68 and 74 pattern clothing.

1986

Introduced in 1986 as a replacement for the S6 NBC Respirator, the S10 NBC Respirator was manufactured by Avon Rubber. Featureing a butyl rubber facepiece, with two round supposedly scratch-resistant eyepieces (the author actually managed to scratch his on one occasion, Lord knows how!), and an adjustable rubber head-harness. Various other improvements to the S6 were made as well, most noticably the introduction of a drinking straw and on/off valve tap to allow the wearer to safely drink from their canteen in contaminated environments (a replacement waterbottle cap was provided for this purpose. Naturally, a new drill was devised to make use of this feature!).

1987

Following on from an American procurement decision to incorporate Kevlar, a DuPont proprietory material into combat helmets, the MoD bought in a commercial design by NP Aerospace, which was designated the GS Mk 6 Helmet. Made from an especially tough form of nylon with glass reinforced plastic layers, (rather then the more expensive DuPont Kevlar), it replaced the last steel helmet design - the Mk 5 Turtle helmet - in Army service [6].

The next major issues of clothing and kit were in the 1990s, which is outside the scope of Cold War Provost, and which will therefore not be detailed here.

Final Comments:

[1] "The Redcaps", D.G Sheffield, ISBN 1-85753-029-2; Plate 25 (between pages 80 and 81).
[2] The Denison Smock, from Wikipedia.
[3] In part, from From ARRSEpedia.
[4] Stable Belts, from Wikipedia.
[5] The Denison Smock, from Wikipedia.
[6] The Mk. 6 Helmet, from Wikipedia.

Thanks to "Willard", "Ian0263", "Forces80", "Scrimnet", and "Highlander" over on the c.20 forums, and Oggy on the WWIIreenacting forums, for their several very helpful comments on this topic, assorted members of the RMP Association for their extremely helpful assistance in clarifying many details in this article, Bob Shackleton for permission to use his photographs (he also grants permission to use them to anyone, so that the imagery is not lost to the ravages of time, so e-mail him to let him know where and how you're using them!), and also to Colonel Baber and his staff at the RMP Museum for their continuing assistance in this research!

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