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The standard pattern of camouflage adopted by the British armed forces from the 1960s. Designed to hide the shape of clothing and equipment at close range, but also managed to hide any attempt to make the clothing look tidy by pressing it. Despite the random pattern of brown, tan, green and black an RSM could still spot an oil or dirt stain from 100m, something he never seemed to keep to himself. Disruptive Pattern Material is (notably) also used officially by the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal and Indonesian forces, and in some cases the French Foreign Legion and Russian Spetznaz.


The first DPM used by the British Army was the hand-painted fabric used on the first Denison Smock issued to airborne troops in the early 1940s. A similar splinter pattern was also used on early lightweight windproof smocks, trousers and jump suits used by the special forces of the day, including SAS and SOE, and still in use as late as the 1970s.

(The combat clothing of the airborne forces of the WWII period is a complex subject. The following link (to a re-enactment group) is useful, and has both extensive narrative and illustrations :D Troop)

1960 Pattern field uniform - the last before DPM

The 1960 Pattern ('60 pattern) combat smock, separate hood and trousers, designed to replace the old Battle Dress, were made in a plain mid-olive green cotton fabric. This pattern of combat suit was very similar to the earlier '1953 Pattern' range British issue (though garments of this range were in fact labeled 'Smock (trousers, etc) combat, sateen'). This range was in turn modeled on a similar US design.

The 1960 Pattern range was of a high quality manufacture, featuring a poplin lining above the waist, waist-length zip and buttoned fly, two internal and four external double-stitched pockets, strengthened elbow pads, buttoned cuffs and a stitched collar with button-fastening tab. In the early production smock (up to about 1963) the upper sleeve was strangely and uncomfortably tight, though this was corrected in later production.

1966 Pattern field uniform - DPM introduced

The first DPM fabric design approved for general issue appeared in the 1960 Pattern DPM range, often known unofficially as the 1966 or '66 pattern. The disruptive camouflage pattern - visually similar to that current in 2007 and beyond - used the four basic Western European temperate colours of a sand base overlayed with leaf-green, dark brown and black.

The range appears to have consisted of Smock, combat and Trousers, men's, combat, both identical in design to the later version of the plain olive green 1960 pattern garments, though made in the new DPM cotton fabric. Although some smocks and trousers, like the 1960 Pattern olive green range, were lined with an olive poplin, many examples have been found with a tan poplin lining unique to this range.

It is possible that the infamous and unloved Cap, combat, DPM - also known disparagingly as the DILAC Hat - made its unwelcome appearance at this time.

A specialist garment known as 'Smock, windproof, 1963 Pattern', made primarily for SAS and SBS use, can be found in DPM fabric, and on the face of it this could indicate that the DPM fabric was used before 1966. However, this is yet to be confirmed; the few examples of these very rare and sought-after garments seen by the contributor all carry a label with a contract number later than 1966.

(Would-be collectors of 1966 Pattern should take great care when offered either smock or trousers as 1966 Pattern. The 1966 range is increasingly rare and hard to find, and some sellers who should know better confuse the 1966 and 1968 Pattern ranges. If you are unable to compare the construction details with a 1960 or 1968 Pattern garment just look at the label, if there is one - if it's DPM and labelled '1960 Pattern' it's a 1966 pattern item. Clear?)

1968 Pattern - the first DPM kit on general issue

Jacket - Combat DPM

1968 pattern jacket.

The 1966 Pattern garments had not been issued universally when the new 1968 Pattern field clothing appeared. This was similar to the 1966 Pattern, though with a number of detail changes to the design of both the combat smock and trousers, most apparently to simplify manufacture and reduce cost. Still made of a heavy cotton, both smock and trouser were now fully lined with poplin cotton.

The Smock, combat had a full-length metal zip and button fly, button cuffs, one internal and four buttoned external pockets (two on the chest, two below the waist) and a pen/rule pocket on the upper left arm, and draw-strings at both waist and bottom hem. The smock could be worn over a sleeveless quilted 'body warmer' waistcoat (Liner Jacket Combat) during cold weather.

There was also a separate and optional lined Hood, cold weather, combat DPM', attached to the collar of the smock as required, using the two epaulette buttons and a third button below the middle of the collar. The hood also has a draw-cord.

The trousers were provided with both belt loops and braces buttons and tapes. They had a conventional slash pocket at each hip, a buttoned patch pocket right rear, a buttoned FFD patch pocket on the right front and a deep buttoned patch pocket on each thigh. There was also provision for a draw-cord at the bottom of each leg.

At the same time the DPM design was revised slightly, though some 1968 Pattern garments were certainly produced in the earlier design of DPM fabric.

Although the '68 pattern uniform was adopted as standard and gradually introduced generally, many units (notably the Royal Marines and the The Parachute Regiment) continued to issue Denison smocks and the plain olive 1960 Pattern trousers until about 1972. Although this initially used extant stocks, 1960 Pattern Trousers, combat, were still being made well after 1968, and it seems likely that their use continued after that date because both Royal Marines and The Parachute Regiment wanted to dress a little differently from the common herd.

The Royal Marines and The Parachute Regiment stopped using the Denison smock with the introduction of the DPM Smock, Arctic, windproof and Para Smock.

The 1966 Pattern, or 1960 Pattern DPM range, was not issued to all, but the general distribution of the 1968 Pattern range is recognised as the first example of the universal issue of camouflage uniform in any army. With the 1968 Pattern range on general issue, specialist garments began to appear, also in the DPM fabric.

During the late 1970s, batches of the 68 pattern camouflage were used by the USAF Police Tactical Neutralisation Teams at RAF Upper Heyford as a temporary stand-in for the ERDL/M81 Woodland fatigues.

DPM Para Smock

The 'Smock, Parachutist', to be more precise, was introduced to airborne forces in the mid-1970s to replace the Denison Smock still in use until then by them and the Royal Marines. The Denison smock had been introduced around 1940 and revised from time to time until the last versions were made around 1972.

The new Smock, Parachutist, was basically a re-invention of the old Denison design, with many familiar characteristics, notably knitted cuffs, 'mandarin' collar, full-length blackened zip, and press-studs on the crotch flap. The two bellows chest and two bellows lower front pockets have a fold-over flap, and close with blackened copper press-studs; like those on the Denison smocks the first Smock, Parachutist, had press-studs made by Newey. There is also a left sleeve pocket to hold a rule and pen, as on the 1968 Pattern Smock, combat, two internal chest pockets and two internal lower back poachers pockets, and green cord drawstrings at the waist (internally) and the bottom hem.

There was no fitted hood, though a Hood, cold weather, combat could be fitted to the central hood button and the two epaulette buttons.

These early Smocks were the same 100% cotton as the contemporaneous Smock, combat, and were made from the now general 1968 Pattern DPM cotton fabric. Lined only on the shoulders and upper arm, the lower half showed white on the reverse side to the camouflage printing.

In the mid 1980s NATO sizing came in, and shortly after a small bellows FFD pocket was added to the tricep of the right arm. By this time the quality of material had gone down, and the fabric had a percentage of nylon in it. The pattern also became much darker with the browns and blacks making a higher percentage of the camouflage pattern.

DPM Sniper Smock and Trousers

A variation on the Para smock also introduced in the mid-1970s, end in many respects identical to it, this specialist garment features a crotch flap, relocated hip pockets, reinforced elbow and shoulder pads, metal sling hooks on the reverse of the upper arms and a series of tape loops sewn onto the garment for the attachment of natural camouflage materials. There are also buttons under the collar and on each epaulette, for the standard hood.

The matching Trousers, Combat, Sniper are very similar to the standard Trousers, combat, but with the patch pockets on the thigh raised and moved nearer the centre-line of the thigh to accommodate thick reinforced knee-pads sewn onto the outside of the trousers.

These garments are oddities that only the most ally would recognise.

DPM Windproofs - Smocks and Trousers

Smock – Windproof (Arctic)

The classic Arctic smock

Although there had been a very limited production of a Smock, Windproof in 1963 (see above), this garment was introduced in the mid-1970s for Arctic operations. The windproof uniform consisted of a lightweight, unlined, parka-type Smock, windproof, Arctic and Trousers, windproof, Arctic (really over-trousers), designed to be worn over quilted liners known as the 'Mao' or 'Chinese Fighting Suit'. As a result both garments are relatively long, loose fitting and capacious.

The early smock was manufactured from a high-quality lightweight gabardine material known as 'Ventile', and featured a two-way zip with Velcro storm flap. Wrist fastenings were also of the Velcro type, and the smock featured a wired hood and four roomy bellows pockets, two on the chest and two on the hips, with large buttons for ease of fastening while wearing gloves or mittens. It also has a rank tab in the centre front and back.

The Ventile trousers had Velcro-fastened slashes on the lower leg to enable donning over boots, and also featured two large bellows pockets on each thigh. This clothing was used extensively by the Royal Marines and AMF(L) in Norway. A white over-smock was produced to camouflage the wearer in snow conditions.

The Arctic smock is basically a variant of the SAS windproof design (below). In the mid 1980s NATO sizing became the norm and an FFD pocket was added at right tricep.

There was another design of Trousers, combat, windproof, different from the Arctic design though made in an apparently identical lightweight cotton fabric. This garment was conventional in design and cut, with two slash hip pockets, two bellows pockets on the thigh and closed by flaps and buttons, and two back pockets, each also with flaps and buttons. There were no openings down the legs for pulling on over boots. They had a buttoned fly, and were fastened at the waist by two fabric straps engaging with detachable metal chrome buckles at each side of the belt-line. There are no belt-loops, though there are laces in the lower hem of each leg.

SAS Smock

Introduced in the mid-1970s, this replaced the wartime-style splinter pattern windproofs in use by the SAS and SBS and the 1963 Pattern smock (see above). This was an exact copy of the wartime ones, with a small hood and four patch pockets. The material was of the heavy 100% cotton pale DPM type. In the late 1970s a revised design was introduced of lightweight cotton gabardine. With four large bellows pockets on the front, a left sleeve pocket and internal rear poachers' pockets. the hood was a much better design and the cuffs closed with Velcro as did the windflap. The hood had no wire support, unlike the Arctic windproof.

Main front closure was a large two-way zip. Again drawcords at the hood, internally at the waist and on the bottom hem. The pockets close with large green buttons that are frequently covered with green cotton tape to reduce shine.

DPM Parka

Parka - Cold Weather

Made famous during the Falklands Conflict

Introduced in the mid-1970s, this replaced the old Korea-type olive green 1953 pattern parka with its artificial fur liner and the very similar 1960 Patterm Parka, middle and Hood. The new parka was a knee-length design with a voluminous quilted hood with wired surround and front and nape adjuster draw-cords.

It featured a high neck double-ended zip with Velcro storm flap, Velcro wrist straps, four large pockets (the lower two of which were of bellows type) and a crotch flap. The parka had a removable quilted liner (Liner - Parka. Man's Cold Weather) not dissimilar to the 'Mao suit' or Chinese Fighting Jacket. This attached to the inside of the Parka by Velcro patches and was fastened at the front by Velcro strips. It had mesh armpit vents to prevent overheating.

The parka was designed to be worn over the combat suit as an extra layer in extreme cold weather. It was neither wind or waterproof but was nevertheless suitable for purpose and - when worn under a waterproof outer layer - was extremely warm and ideal for sentry duty. It was not designed for excessive movement, i.e. fighting, and the wearer would overheat relatively quickly with even moderate exertion.

As with other garments, the quality of the fabric used in these parkas also declined markedly in the late 1980s, with the inclusion of artificial fibres to the basic cotton weave. The parka - whilst still useful - is generally regarded as obsolete, though it is understood there are still some retained in stock.

NSN: 6405-99-132-2533

DPM Waterproofs

See Suit Crisp Packet.

DPM Headwear

A (thankfully) limited range of millinery, the use of DPM on everyday head wear never really took off. The 'Cap, Combat, DPM' - or Jap Hat, Crap Hat, DILAC Hat - is but only a distant memory, though THEY (and sprogs at ATR) still use it. The 'Cap, Cold Weather, DPM' (or Dangerous Brian Hat) is still in use, and the jungle hat is enjoying a renaissance - albeit in desert pattern.

DPM Flying Jacket

'Jacket, Aircrew, Combat'. Introduced in the mid-1970s, this neat jacket was designed to be worn with DPM Trousers, aircrew, combat, and worn over the olive green flying suit. Of superior design and finish to any other smock since the '66 pattern Smock, this jacket featured a spring or padded pen pocket, Velcro cuff- and neck-fastenings, lower bellows pockets with taped buttons, zipped slash-type chest pockets and a integral hood located in a zipped pocket at the neck. Earlier jackets were fully lined, while the more recent issues are only half-lined. This is undoubtedly a very smart and desirable item of kit, issued only to Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps flying crews.

The trousers have fitted braces and a multitude of pockets, mostly in places readily accessible to people who spend their lives sitting down.

After 1968 - the 1985 Pattern

Jacket - Combat DPM

1985 pattern jacket.

The shortcomings of the '68 pattern came to light during the 1982 Falklands Conflict, where the '68 pattern, which was originally designed with the weather conditions of the plains of Germany in mind, was deemed unsuitable for the prolonged exposure to the varied weather conditions found in the Falklands. From these experiences it was decided to develop a new uniform, which resulted in a new '85 pattern (often referred to as '84 pattern), which was designed to be lighter and faster drying, but failed in that it was not robust enough and ripped or fell apart all too easily.

The use of modern materials such as velcro, and the lack of durability did not go down too well with some soldiers and the result being that many reverted back to the '68 pattern due to its robustness and as a result, a mix match, rag tag appearance developed amongst the troops of mixed '68 and '85 pattern uniforms being worn.

Unlike the fully-lined '68 pattern uniform, '85 pattern was only partially lined in an attempt to lighten the uniform and aid in faster drying. The button cuff adjustments of the '68 pattern were also replaced with velcro. The unprinted material on the inside of the smock and trousers was also not dyed, meaning it was a bright white colour, which was considered by some to be a possible issue regarding camouflage if the uniform was being dried inside out in the field.

Both the jacket and trousers featured ridiculous bellows pockets that the substandard manufacture ensured fell apart after minimal usage, later production examples were improved with extra stitching around the pockets to increase their durability somewhat, while this additional stitching was a slight improvement, the pockets were still baggy and could easily catch on things. This improved pattern is sometimes referred to as '88 pattern. '85 pattern is best forgotten.

A major faux pas on the kitting front. '85 pattern jackets and smocks were of an inferior design to their predecessors and were directly responsible for the decision to get the next choice of combat suit right.

1990 Pattern

Designed in direct response to the complaints that arouse regarding the durability issues of the '85 pattern uniform, '90 pattern was an attempt to replace both the '68 and '85 pattern uniforms that were in use at the time. Despite being largely successful in improving on the durability of the '85 pattern uniform while also being fairly practical and comfortable, '90 pattern only really began to be issued properly from 1992-1994, meaning it was made obsolete almost instantly by the CS95 system introduced in 1995.

The jacket and trousers are recognisable by the use of large pocket buttons with extra zipped pockets behind the chest pockets of the smock, and no storm flap for the main zip. The material was also dyed a tan base colour prior to being printed with DPM, unlike the '85 pattern where the unprinted material on the interior of the uniform is white. These were, like the '85 pattern uniform, only partially-lined, but still made from more improved material than their '85 pattern predecessors. The uniform still featured bellows pockets like on '85 pattern, but with reinforced stitching on the pockets, improved materials and improved manufacturing quality, meaning they were not nearly as fragile. Similarly to the '85 pattern uniform, the cuffs also feature velcro adjustments. This pattern is sometimes called '94 pattern, possibly due to delays in it being issued to some units.

While short lived, '90 pattern was well received and lead to the development of the CS95 system, with some pieces of the CS95 uniform, such as the field jackets, being heavily inspired by and based on the '90 pattern uniform, with only slight changes such as the use of Canadian buttons and the re-introduction of the storm flap.

DPM Tropical Suit

Jacket - Combat Tropical

’Old school’ trops

The tropical/jungle DPM suit was also introduced, replacing the tropical OG uniform worn in Malaya and Borneo. This was unlined, and made of a lighter cotton fabric. The 'Trousers, Combat (Tropical)' had both zip and button fly (presumably to offer greater protection for all concerned), belt loops (though no braces buttons), a pyjama-style waist cord and a draw-tape at each ankle.

They had conventional slash pockets at each hip, a buttoned flap pocket at the right rear and another, deeper and gusseted, patch pocket on each thigh. The jacket had both zip and button closure, epaulettes, buttoned cuffs and two gusseted (bellows) patch pockets - basically a camouflaged shirt. In 1992, a new pattern of tropical uniform was introduced, replacing the light cotton fabric with an airtex-type material, often nicknamed 'teabag' material, this pattern is of darker colouration than the bright pattern of the '70s and '80s uniforms.

Image courtesy M&G.

Canadian Para Smock

The Canadian Para Smock is very different from the British DPM version. It is made of a nylon and is a much paler DPM with the sand and green elements reversed. It is closed by a bright brass two-way zipper. Cuffs close with press studs and the rest with 'lift the dot' fasteners as do the bellows mag-sized chest pockets and lower grenade pockets that also have elastic like the old '60 pattern jackets. The tail-piece has lift the dots and closes on three pairs of female closures at the front groin. There is also a poachers pocket closing by a small two-way zip accessible from the outside. Generally these smocks were only worn around barracks.

The Way Ahead

The 1990s saw a wider application of DPM, mainly due to advances in manufacturing and production. The most noticeable development was that of the desert pattern material. Though desert pattern DPM was trialed in the early 1980s, it wasn't until the Gulf War of 1990 that its use became widespread. The Gulf pattern DPM was of slightly different design that its trial predecessor - expediency and economy dictating a simpler two-colour pattern than that previously trialed. The basic tropical suit, hat, helmet and body armour cover was thus manufactured in this material and mass produced in haste.

Since then, DPM has appeared on PLCE and bergens - something that would have been unimaginable for general issue just a few years previous due to the cost of production. The sheer variety of specialist clothing such as Gore-Tex coveralls is staggering compared to what was available twenty years ago - and in both desert and temperate guises.

What does the future hold? DPM is to be superseded by the MTP pattern as part of the current PECOC Programme - a trend that is gaining momentum in several countries' armed forces, notably the US. Then it's only a matter of time before the 'original & best' camouflage pattern is consigned to the history bin.