Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

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    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
    Number of posts : 8

    Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Thu May 07, 2015 8:39 am

    Hi, I've got this variant of Niemoller webbing. Does anyone have any insight please as to its exact period and background? This variant doesn't have any pockets on the front padded straps and has a velcro panel for the waist belt in addition to the plastic belt buckle. It was purchased at a decent surplus store in Perth, Western Australia in the second half of the 80's. Cheers.

    https://i19.servimg.com/u/f19/19/21/83/49/niemol10.jpg

    mcoleman762
    Junior Sergeant
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    Name : Mike
    Location : Downeast Maine
    Registration date : 2009-02-18
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by mcoleman762 on Thu May 07, 2015 11:43 pm

    What you have there is a commercially made nutria Niemoller vest made by Adder.  These were available in limited quantities during the mid to late 80s.  There were a few items as part of the set:  an assault vest with a built-in extraction harness, a patrol vest with pouches for 40mm grenades, and a chest webbing.  All of them were similar to actual Recce issued webbing, but made from nutria Cordura instead of the green lightweight nylon.  The placement of pouches was also altered, and in some cases deleted.

    Although not actual Recce issue, these items are pretty rare in their own right.  Here's an example of the vest with the built-in extraction harness:



    Cheers,

    Mike

    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
    Number of posts : 8

    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Fri May 08, 2015 2:51 am

    Thanks for your reply Mike. looks like the $200 USD I paid for it may have been a little too much? Have you seen any images documenting this commercial Adder variant being used by the SADF or other forces e.g. US Rangers? I'm assuming Adder was a SA firm, was there much demand in the second half of the 80's for this sort of specialised webbing in SA outside the military? Cheers, Raf

    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Fri May 08, 2015 4:01 am



    Not having used or even held genuine Recce Niemoller webbing, how did the likes of the above Adder manufactured variant compare to the issued item in terms of workmanship and durability?

    mcoleman762
    Junior Sergeant
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    Name : Mike
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by mcoleman762 on Fri May 08, 2015 11:31 pm

    $200 back in the 80's was quite a chunk of change for something like this, especially since most folks had no idea of what this webbing was a copy of.  Remember, at the time the Recces were involved in some very secretive, clandestine operations, and their kit was pretty much unknown to the outside world.  So, someone buying this back in the day was purchasing something quite oddball.  As you suspected, demand for this type of kit was very low.  I can assure you however, that you have done well with your investment.  Genuine examples have been trading for between $350 to $450 over the last few years.  Heck, I saw one break the $600 mark a couple years ago, but others have sold for cheaper since then.  Your commercial variant would still be a $250 to $350 vest in today's market.

    I've never seen a photo of any of this Adder produced kit in use by anyone.  To be honest, this is only the third vest like this that I've seen in 25 years of collecting.  The other two are owned by a couple of my South African collecting buddies.  Same goes with my vest with the extraction harness.  I've only seen three others in collections besides mine.  This kit was made in very limited quantities, was purely for export, and was not sold within South Africa.

    Both Adder and Adro were front companies of legitimate SADF contractors.  They were set up to produce export-only kit and uniforms to help support some of the "external" operations of the South African security apparatus.  As such, the quality of both the kit and uniforms are top rate.  In regards to your vest, the YKK zippers and Fixlock clips of the pouches are exactly the same as used on the genuine Recce issued kit.  Construction is excellent, and of course the Cordura material is very durable.

    In case you haven't seen a genuine Recce issued Niemoller, I've attached photos of a Type 1 vest which is the type that was used during the Border War.  Current versions have the same basic layout, but have additional pouches.

    Cheers,

    Mike




    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
    Number of posts : 8

    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Sat May 09, 2015 12:51 am

    Thanks again Mike for taking the time to respond, the background is fascinating. Correct me if I'm wrong but the main concept and layout of the Niemoller webbing influenced the Bateleur webbing? I have an example of it but unlike my Adder webbing the manufacturer of the Bateleur wasn't shy about sewing in their brand name into the inside of the rear pocket (I haven't shown the label but it's by Back Packer).  My example has had its original large pocket ladder buckles replaced with 20mm Nexus side release buckles, arguably a more practical buckle design.

    https://i19.servimg.com/u/f19/19/21/83/49/batele10.jpg

    When was the Bateleur webbing first introduced (is my example the 1st variant?) and specifically for which branch of the SADF please?

    mcoleman762
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by mcoleman762 on Sun May 10, 2015 2:21 am

    Hey Raf,

    You're very welcome.  I certainly never turn down an opportunity to discuss SA kit with someone else who has an interest.  Very Happy

    The Bateleur 90 kit is strictly Parabat issue, and was intoduced after the change of government in '94.  It was made by three contractors: Texcraft, Three Spears, and Backpacker.  Generally, the Texcraft is considered the first type, Three Spears as the second type, and the Backpacker version the type three.  I'm not sure if they were necessarily a progression of design, or if they were made concurrently.  All of them have the exact same contract number.  The only version that is dated is the Three Spears type, and every single one I've seen was made in 1996.  I must say I like the Backpacker version best, as the black pouch re-enforcements are both practical, and look pretty cool.  Oh, and I like how the ladder buckles on yours have been changed with the Fastex type.  

    The Bateleur 90 assault vest does appear to have been influenced by the Niemoller vest, although I don't find it as good a piece of kit.  The matching chest webbing is a modern copy of the early 80s Parafox chest webbing.  Then there is the large rucksack that completes the set.  Again, made by all three manufacturers.

    Cheers,

    Mike

    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
    Number of posts : 8

    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Sun May 10, 2015 8:53 pm


    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
    Number of posts : 8

    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Sun May 10, 2015 9:06 pm

    I had a choice to buy the other manufacturer's version but could only afford one and chose the Backpacker variant for exactly the appeal you describe, i.e. the black pouch re-enforcements are both practical, and look pretty cool Cool


    Just three more questions please Mike:


    1) Was 'Niemoller' the surname of the designer of the webbing and what was his background? e.g. was he a rigger? Recce operator, etc.
    2) How was the knife sleeve on the front strap used and for what knife or range of knives precisely?
    3) Was the Niemoller webbing further modified/customised by the operators and if so what were some of the more common modifications? (e.g. my impression of the knife sleeve is that it may not have accommodated and/or secured preferred knives as well as required and needed alteration).


    Cheers,
    Raf

    mcoleman762
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    Name : Mike
    Location : Downeast Maine
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by mcoleman762 on Mon May 11, 2015 11:36 am

    1) Johan Niemoller was the designer of the original vest, as well as some other Recce issued webbing.  He was a Recce operator with a knack for designing webbing.

    2) Knives were attached to the knife sleeve by personal preference of the operator, and depending on which knife/scabbard combination he was using.  Although I've seen plenty of photos of knives attached to the sleeve, none of them are close enough to really examine the exact attachment method.  From what I can see, camo tape was often used to tape the scabbard to the left brace.  Recces had the leeway to use pretty much whatever bayonet/combat knife that they wished.  Popular examples were those made by Puma, Eickhorn, Arbuckle, Fairbairn Sykes, Gerber and K-Bar.  So pretty much anything was an option.

    3) I have quite a few photos of Niemollers in use, plus several examples in my collection.  Add to that numerous examples owned by my fellow collecting buddies, and I have a pretty good archive to examine.  I can honestly say, the vast majority weren't modified at all.  Sure, sometimes they were camo painted, but modifications such as adding pouches and such appear to not have been the norm.  The Recces had a bewildering amount of different types of webbing to choose from (between factory made items, and kit made by the unit rigger), that they could easily choose the best webbing for the mission at hand without requiring modifications.  If a mission required some specialized kit, it would be made from scratch by the unit tailor.  So, I'm not going to say that these vests were never modified, but photographic and physical evidence shows that it was a rare occurrence.

    Cheers,

    Mike

    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
    Number of posts : 8

    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Mon May 11, 2015 11:48 pm

    Thanks for the detailed response Mike, it's much appreciated Very Happy

    mcoleman762
    Junior Sergeant
    Junior Sergeant

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    Registration date : 2009-02-18
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by mcoleman762 on Tue May 12, 2015 11:42 am

    You're welcome!  If you have any more questions, feel free to ask, or send me a PM.  I don't have all the answers, but I've been at this whole South African collecting thing for a while, so my head is filled with all sorts of useless nuggets of knowledge.  Very Happy

    filupe
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by filupe on Thu May 14, 2015 12:18 pm

    Just came across this fascinating discussion ...

    I have the extraction harness assault vest in brown cordura as well - nice to know the history behind it.  As I recall there were ads in the back of Soldier of Fortune magazine in the late '80s selling these vests.  The cover of Osprey Publishing 'Elite' Series on the US Rangers depicts a Ranger wearing one of these armed with an MP5SD.  I also recall them being made in US ALICE type nylon but not necessarily SA made.






    I also have a Bataleur 90 vest - mine by Three Spears from memory.  I recently got in another similar vest but in 32 Bn Summer camo.





    Rafski ... where in Oz are ya', mate?

    Rafski

    Location : Australia
    Registration date : 2011-03-13
    Number of posts : 8

    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by Rafski on Thu May 14, 2015 9:07 pm

    Hi filupe,

    Thanks for your photos, I live in in sunny Western Australia Smile

    Ever since I got the Osprey book on the Rangers I wondered what that vest was until I saw photos of the Recce vest. But now I wonder what intell was used to inspire the Osprey depiction. A key piece of detail would be whether the artist's impression was based on documentary footage/photo of a Ranger wearing this vest, and when that footage/photo was taken as the Osprey book dates the outfit at 1981 I think. I love Osprey books and started buying them when I was a teen. They fuelled my passion for collecting uniforms and webbing, but over the years I've noticed a few inaccuracies in their depictions (aka artist's impressions). They're still a worthy piece of the puzzle when researching gear but I guess only one piece amongst many.

    It certainly does make sense that units like the Rangers were experimenting with different gear though, it used to even happen amongst elite Warsaw Pact forces which is an area of research I first got into back when I was a kid growing up during the Cold War in Poland. A close friend of mine was a commando in a little known unit within the Czech airborne in the 60's. He was personally trialling a uniform made from imported French cloth that decades later became the vz.85. So the practice of trialling other countries' innovations occurred on both sides of the Iron Curtain!

    But back to the Recce assault vest, it certainly would have been ahead of its time back when it was first developed and likely inspired some of the vest designs that the US produced later on. Thanks again for the photos! Very Happy

    mcoleman762
    Junior Sergeant
    Junior Sergeant

    Name : Mike
    Location : Downeast Maine
    Registration date : 2009-02-18
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    Re: Niemoller webbing variant - background / history

    Post by mcoleman762 on Thu May 14, 2015 10:10 pm

    Hi Filupe!  Thanks for adding your photos!

    Yeah, that color plate depiction in the Osprey book is totally bogus.  It took quite a long time, but during this last year I finally learned that the original Niemoller vest was introduced into Recce service in 1981.  The extraction vests were introduced a year or two later.  So, simply put, these vests didn't even exist yet when that depiction is supposed to be from!  I have to also agree with you Raf, in that although I love the Osprey books, there are certainly plenty of mistakes in them, and the color plates aren't always very accurate.

    Here's an example of the Recce issued hot extraction vest.  It's made from the same olive green lightweight nylon as the Niemoller vests.  These are still part of Recce inventory.

    Cheers,

    Mike


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