Creating an impression: British Infantry, Temperate Climates 1969-1985

Cold War, Creating an impression

First things first, this uniform is an approximation for airsoft purposes, it’s still a working progress (as any impression should be). It is absolutely not the typical British soldier in several respects, which I will detail.

My reason for putting this load out together was to have something which complimented my M16A1, which really didn’t work well with my WWII British Battledress and 37 Pattern Webbing. I’ll refer to the M16 from this point on as ‘Armalite’, as this was how it was largely referred to by the British at this time.

Also, there is no magazine in the rifle. I know this, I was in the safe zone, hence no magazine in the gun!

Research

Contrary to expectation, British forces have used the Armalite rifle since pretty early on. While the Self-Loading Rifle (SLR)* is the iconic British service rifle of the Cold War, there have been roles where the Armalite has been used as an alternative. These fall into two categories:

  1. Where a lighter rifle with lighter ammunition is required
  2. Where select fire is needed to provide automatic fire where a light machine gun would be unsuitable

The majority of the former situation applied only really to Special Forces units, the SAS, SBS and Pathfinders for example. I’ll do these as separate impressions as there are many variations between operations.

14291797_10205456373328271_8751738197624849664_n

The latter situation applied in a couple of places, Northern Ireland and the Falklands. Although not in every case, some units were given an Armalite for every ‘brick’ (which was the term used for a group of around four men). This was typically carried by the section commander as a little extra firepower, one supposes as an upgrade on the Sterling SMG, which by all accounts was not popular.

Brit_solja

Northern Ireland, as a Corporal, this chap was probably in charge of a brick, hence the Armalite.

The picture above is pretty typical of urban Northern Ireland in the 1970s, at a later date I shall came back and do this load out as well.

Although Trousers, Lightweight (plain, Olive Drab/OD and DPM 68 pattern smocks were commonly mixed, soldiers also wore matching 68 Ptn Jackets and Trousers, along with mashups including but not limited to: wooly knitted pullovers, trops (tropical issue trousers), flak jackets, private purchase para smocks, not to mention an assortment of water and wind proofs.

PA-1703356-1024x850

Lieut. General Sir Harry Tuzo, GOC Northern Ireland, (centre) with a Military Police escort in Newry.

Headgear varied depending on the conditions. Berets were common headgear, comfortable and fairly warm. When patrolling through streets on peacekeeping operations these were seen as more ‘normal’ and approachable than a steel helmet, and certainly more comfortable to wear for prolonged periods.

Steel helmets were often worn with nets and heavily scrimmed, as you can see below, however they were worn without scrim during riots,  replaced with a visor.

BRITISH ARMED FORCES IN GERMANY 1945 - 1975

On the feet and ankles, DMS (Direct Moulded Sole) boots were the norm, though private purchase boots were sometimes worn. DMS boots were just to the ankle, so puttees were worn as extra support and theoretically sealing boots against dirt ingress (apparently this is effective against sand). During Second World War, puttees were largely replaced with anklet gaiters, which were much quicker to put on and take off and did not require careful tying. For reasons best know to the higher-ups, after the war the army went back to puttees.

 

*For those outside the UK, you would better recognise the SLR as the FN-FAL, though locked to semi-automatic only.

 

The Impression

This is an approximation for an infantryman not in a frontline role where combat was imminently expected.

On my head, I have a black beret with General Service Corps badge. This is sufficient for now until I decide what regiment to portray. If I wanted to add camouflage to this, loosely folding a scrim scarf over it to cover the colour and break up the outline is historically valid.

_DSF9596

The General Service shirt should, for other ranks, be worn over the collar of the combat jacket.

_DSF9597

The webbing setup is a light belt kit, as used in Northern Ireland where patrols were not usually longer than a day and threats were within a fairly limited scope. This belt did have a First Field Dressing (FFD) attached with electrical tape for fast access near the buckle. Most of this is 58 pattern, with a few exceptions.

The pouches visible in the photo below are from left to right: Left ammunition pouch (with loops for bayonet), compass pouch, 37 pattern ammunition pouch and holster for .455 Webley (this is of course not standard issue, but when running a sniper rifle in airsoft it is  good manners to carry a sidearm). This will be replaced in time with a Browning Hi-power and suitable 58 pattern holster. On the right is a later-issue S6 gas mask bag. When skirmishing I use this to carry my scrim scarf as a gas attack is unlikely, and it is more comfortable to fall on than an S6.

_DSF9598

The trousers are the 68 pattern type. Until you have worn these, it’s not obvious to someone who is used to more modern equipment why ‘lightweights’ were so named. These are more closely related to the Battledress trousers of the last war than to modern issue, they are very thick and heavy, supported by braces and high-waisted. An FFD pocket is stitched on the front like battledress.

_DSF9599

The TRF is a fictitious one, just to complete the look. Under this are corporal stripes that came with the jacket.

In use, this setup is very comfortable in cool, wet conditions. When moving through thick brush and thorns, the jacket and trousers provide very good protection. Even running around quite a lot, I found the clothing breathable and fast drying. I’m yet to try it on a hot day.

_DSF9600

Personally, I am quite fond of the puttees. They provide a little extra support, even with the high-ankle boots. However the trousers do pull out easily, though this may just be that they are on the short side.

With the webbing, it is quick to get magazines out but hard to close in a hurry. I’m producing a set of reproduction M16 pouches to play with to see if they are an improvement.

_DSF9601

 

Equipment and sources

Most of this equipment is not available as reproduction.

Webbing

In the UK, it is easy to find sets of 58 pattern webbing for next to nothing. Not so long ago people struggled to give it away, but now you can buy sets online easily for £10-25 in worn condition. Silvermans usually has some, and if you want them in brand new they have those too… at a price. They also have some rare trials versions produced in nylon, which was one attempt to make it more suitable for use in NBC warfare.

If you shop around on eBay and collectors groups, you may find it for less.

 

Berets

Berets used in the 60s-80s are much more like modern berets than those used in WWII. A modern one is pretty close, though if you can find a beret with a slightly large crown it’ll look better. With cap badges, make sure they are for a unit/regiment that existed, there have been many amalgamations since the end of WWII.

Helmet

If you wish to wear a helmet, the MkIV turtle helmet is your best option. You can find them in various conditions from £25-40. A helmet net and scrim is used for anything outside of fighting in built up areas.

Puttees

For puttees you want the short, ankle type rather than the long, knee-length ones. You can find these on eBay for £10-15 a pair. If you are buying used ones, make sure the ribbons you tie them with are intact. They should be about 70cm long ideally.

Boots

DMS boots are easily had, for £15-20 used if you shop around. If you want to buy new, Soldier of Fortune have them for £40.

Clothing

GS shirts are available very cheaply, even the most expensive used ones are £7 or so in the UK. At Varusteleka they had some selling for £3 each a while ago. If you can’t find some for some reason, you can also legitimately use ‘Shirt, man’s, combat’ (known as the Hairy Mary), which is a green wool collared shirt. Itchy as buggery, but warm. Nice when you get used to it.

Some soldiers also replaced their issued shirts with US-made ones.

The 68 Pattern outer layers will be the most difficult to find. Looking on eBay will be your best bet, expect to pay £15-30 for trousers and about the same for a jacket. Absolutely DO NOT FORGET to buy a pair of braces. Grey elastic and leather braces as issued can be found for £5-10. Beware of retailers selling items as 68 Pattern when they are not, later patterns of DPM are darker and with chunkier splotches. You can avoid wasted funds by comparing the offerings to the patterns on Camopedia.

Scrim scarves of this era are two-coloured, a sort of weak green-black or green-brown, almost blue-tinted. They are found on eBay, Web-Tex make a good version.

Weapons

Your options for a typical British Soldier are reasonably broad for this era.

L1A1-10

The SLR

Ares produce an L1A1 SLR replica which I’ve heard many good things about. You can get it with a wood stock for early impressions and it comes with black plastic as standard.

L1A1-11

The Armalite

There are of course countless AEG M16A1s that would be suitable and endlessly modifiable. My M16 is a WE gas blow-back, with modified nozzle to remove the locking lugs (which cause no end of problems) and flat hop.

The Sterling

If you want a sub-machine gun, the Sterling was widely used by those in support and command roles. It was also widely detested. Airsoft versions seem to have a custom gearbox so be prepared to modify standard parts for repairs.

The L42A1

 

This was the standard sniper rifle of the Army from 1970, taking over from the No.4 (T). It was a re-chambered No.4 to 7.62 with a new magazine and the No. 32 scope modified for the new cartridge. You can see the progress of the L42A1 being made here at VA.

Side-arms

Side-arms were not issued as standard to British forces, they were for support, command and special forces types. However for Airsoft it’s considered good manners to carry a side-arm if you have a rifle running above 350fps. You can carry a Browning Hi-power in a 58 pattern holster or a revolver as I have. Privately purchased pistols were carried, though frowned upon, bans being enforced more or less depending on circumstances.

 

If you enjoy this content, ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

The Battle of Guadalcanal

Game write-up, WWII

Those who follow Vintage Airsoft on the Facebook page will know I attended the 34th Infantry’s WWII Pacific game last week at Fireball Squadron. I thought I would give a little writeup on the day as these games really summarise what WWII airsoft games are all about for me.

13701037_1556731174634764_6917937850205247728_o

The game format that the 34th run is based on missions. Each squad has to accomplish as many of these as they can, they choose which missions they do when. As a result, friendly and opposing teams are tracking across the field randomly, never knowing exactly where everyone else is. As a result, you can go for an hour not seeing another squad, then have a solid half-hour contact with both enemy squads!

13724076_1556730941301454_7532353967394876524_o

This randomness means you never know exactly when or where a firefight will be. You may lay an ambush carefully, wait for 20 minutes and the enemy is as likely to appear behind you as where you wanted them to be!

13710665_1556732057968009_1035743645650927127_o

For my part, I played Japanese. Our squad had a very quiet morning, only the one contact. We spent a lot of time patrolling the field, achieving lots of objectives. We came close a few times, with the US Marines clearly operating at the next set of buildings or defensive lines, but held our fire in order to complete our missions13765724_1556732241301324_3409418459314172379_o

The missions varied, there were several where we had to sabotage various facilities, placing bombs to ‘destroy’ targets. The loud bangs sometimes drew in the enemy, so it was wise to bug out as quickly as possible.

There were also search and destroy missions, where you had to simply go out and get kills from enemy squads as well as supply runs or treasure retrieval.

13717289_1556732331301315_7476387656128870935_o

For me, the highlight of the day was a Banzai charge. The squad got as close as we could to a Marine squad without being spotted, as soon as they saw us and started to fire, most of us jumped into a sprint, yelling and screaming “BANZAIIIIIIII!!!!” at the top of our voices. I went in with the Luger, firing off a magazine as I charged. About 15m away from the Americans, I copped two shots in the torso and went down. One of the great things about the format is that instead of shouting ‘Hit!’, raising a hand and walking away, you scream out and ‘die’, as dramatically as possible. This is disconcerting for people who have never seen it before but it does add to the immersion value. Once you get into it, it is also quite fun in its own right. It certainly makes taking a hit more enjoyable.

13719516_1556731347968080_3182840814547442745_o

If not all your squad are killed in a contact, there are two bandages per player that allow you to be medic’d back into the game twice. One prolonged contact in the afternoon, all my squad around me had been wounded and I was on my last Sten magazine. I ended up having to do a dance of death with my opponents, shooting and moving position, waiting for them to move up to a place where I could land my shots on them. At a crossroads in the path around which this contact happened, three of my team were lying injured, with one of the enemy.

Fortunately I had a good view of this and when people came up the path I was able to jump out with the Luger and emptied a magazine at them, taking them down. I pulled back for a bit and waited again. A Marine came back from further ahead to try and medic one of his teammates back into the game and I shot him with a short burst from the Sten. At that point enough of the Marines were out of action for me to feel comfortable healing my own teammates. Three healed, we started to pull back to our HQ, leaving the Marine squad ‘dead’ at the crossroads.

13724879_1556732327967982_3394278286955255478_o

There were also a lot of contacts where our squad got slaughtered, quickly or otherwise! One mission was to achieve two confirmed kills, we set up an excellent ambush at a checkpoint with lots of hard cover. As the US troops came into view,crossing the road about 20m away I opened fire with the Sten. Unfortunately, it turned out that both Marine squads were together at this point, resulting in our being flanked from the back, right and killed to a man!

13735656_1556731771301371_6594056660192709137_o

The sheer unpredictability of this style of game is what makes it so attractive. You have to be on the ball constantly, there is no doss period as you make your way to the start point of a mission, as soon as you leave your HQ you are fair game! You may be contacted before you reach your objective, while you are carrying out the mission or on your way back. The enemy can come from any direction, at any time. There are quiet periods, but that makes you appreciate the fight even more when it does come.

 

If you are able to make it to a game with the 34th Infantry I highly recommend it. You can find them at Fireball Squadron, near Sutton Coldfield.

 

Photographs are kind courtesy of Pedro @The Airsoft Project.

If you would like to get involved with WWII airsoft in the UK, you can find the WWII airsoft forum here.

P.S.: This rare airsoft beauty featured in the game. A Type 14 Nambu pistol, this is the first I have seen in the flesh. A truly lovely replica, with very good handling characteristics._DSF7665

PIAT: Part Two

Anti-Tank, Area-effect, PIAT, Weapons, WWII

PIAT Part One was quite a while ago now and the project had to take a bit of a back seat for a while. Since then it has undergone a few changes to improve it and get it working!

Firstly, the shell holder is now welded onto the receiver for strength and simplicity. The whole unit now strips from the back.
_DSF6891

The back now uses a bayonet locking lug system to hold the internals in place.

_DSF6892 The trigger mechanism is now also smaller and smoother to operate, so it now looks like this:
_DSF7051

With the prototype shell in place! The production shells will be much more authentic in shape, this is just a proof of concept at this stage.

_DSF7090

Time for a first coat of paint. Panzer green will do to prevent rust for now, though surviving examples are painted everything from a forest green to a chocolate brown.

_DSF7092

Time for a bit of bang:

If you like the look of this piece and would like a build of your own or want to support this project please do get in touch! Email us on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or get in touch via our Facebook page.

Don’t forget to visit our Etsy page HERE.

PIAT: Part One

Anti-Tank, Custom builds, PIAT, Products, Weapons, WWII

Using CAD has started to become a bit of a habit… The PIAT was no exception!

I wanted to use a massive spring in this, even though there are more practical ways of firing a shell it’s true to the original and has some serious man-points attached!

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 18.38.15

This is actually my second design, my initial design was slightly different internally and used the direct power of the spring to drive the projectile. Although this worked in my initial experiments, once I made the piston captive (necessary to stop half a kilo of steel from smacking someone in the face) the ball barely fired. The redesign will use a CO2 shell or blank-firing mechanism depending on use._DSF5532

_DSF5534

The buttplate is 2mm folded steel, welded into place purely for aesthetic reasons, as the original was stamped steel. Once polished up that is how it will look.

Sight units next: foresight and rear sight are different shapes but much the same idea. I fitted them together before welding so that they would line up correctly.

_DSF5535

_DSF5537

With these two units complete, I could make the trigger mechanism. This is my version one, I have since then made some refinements that will make it smoother to use.

_DSF5540

One spring resets the second sear. You can see in this photograph that the spring pushes the sear up very high, this ended up being a problem as the force of the mainspring would make it almost impossible to actuate the mechanism. The next version fixes this by keeping the second sear at a usable height against the piston.

_DSF5542

All welded in place, ready to be cleaned up.

_DSF5545

Testing rig prior to making the piston captive. I also ended up making lightening cuts to the piston to improve travel speed. You can see the size of the spring in this shot, at one point I was unfortunate enough to be in the way of the piston when the sear slipped and it gave me a smart upper-cut to the chin. Fortunately it was only at half-cock otherwise I would have been in a pretty bad way!

_DSF5546

So, I’ll admit I have skipped a bit ahead here but the back end of the launcher was pretty well finished at this stage except for some adjustments to be made just before completion. Like the original, re-cocking is achieved by standing on the buttplate and lifting the rest of the launcher. I set to work on the fore-end that would hold the projectile.

This is a spare piece of mild steel tube I had left over from a previous build. I marked out the cutout on the top and removed it with an angle grinder.

_DSF5852

I then cut out a steel disk for the back of the head, drilling the centre for the ‘spigot’ (the steel rod that in the real version would fire the explosive charge in the shell) to come out of. This could then be welded in place along with the collar that attaches the head to the body. Five screws distributed around the circumference hold it in place.

As well as the mainspring, at this point I added a smaller spring that sits around the spigot to absorb the shock of the piston finishing its travel. This spring just bounces freely off the back of the head.

As I said at the start, this is the point where testing became less successful. Without the weight of the piston carrying the tennis balls I was firing originally they only just left the barrel. As a result, the design is being modified to take CO2 grenades. In the longer run it will also be able to fire blanks for re-enactment purposes.

 

 

If you are interested in this build, have any questions or would like a build of your own, let me know! Our email is: enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or you can contact us through our Facebook page!