Uniforms and Equipment of the NZ Army Contingent in Somalia

The NZ Army contribution to the UNITAF and UNOSOM Missions consisted of;

  • NZ Supply Detachment, November 1992 to July 1993
  • Army personnel attached to 42 Squadron RNZAF, January to May 1993
  • NZ Supply Platoon July 1993 to January 1994
  • NZ Supply Platoon January 1994 to June 1994
  • Staff attached to UN Headquarters 1992 to 1995

Uniforms worn by the NZ troops in Somalia was based around the standard NZ Army Disruptive Pattern material (DPM) temperate uniform that had been introduced in the late 1980’s. Shirts would be worn with the sleeves rolled up and shirts untucked.

Each contingent would have variations of what and how items could be worn, but generally the combinations worn were not to dissimilar between contingents..

Ceremonial or Parade Dress

On rare ceremonial occasions the DPM Uniform would be worn with shirt tucked in with.

  • Blue UN Beret
  • Blue UN cravat
  • Stable Belt of the individuals Corps

Working Dress

Due to the harsh environment, a relaxed and comfortable working dress was adopted, which was worn in several variations including

  • T Shirt/Singlet, Shorts, Boots
  • T Shirt/singlet, DPM Trouser, Boots

The Green T Shirt was the standard issue NZ Army PT Shirt, however on occasion some individuals would wear DPM T-Shirts or green civilian T-Shirts.

Although issue of the Green Single hade ceased in the early 1980’s, some of the longer serving solders wore these older items.

The Black Shorts worn were either the standard NZ Army issue PT Short, “Singapore” Shorts or civilian items such as Canterbury Rugby Shorts.

Issue Green T-Shirt and Singapore Shorts
Old issue Single and DMP trou

Headdress

Headdress won by NZ Troops in Somalia consisted of.

  • NZ Army Beret with Corps Badge
  • UN Blue Beret
  • UN Blue Baseball cap
  • PASGT Kevlar Helmet

NZ Army Beret with Corps Badge

Usually only worn in transit from NZ to arrival Somalia

UN Blue Beret

Issued from UN Stocks in Theatre, apart from Ceremonial occasions, rarely worn

UN Blue Baseball cap

Issued from UN Stocks, worn on a daily basis

PASGT Kevlar Helmet

Worn on a daily basis. Use of covers on Kevlar helmets was not standardised, some were worn with covers others without covers.

NZ Manufactured Blue Covers designed for the PASGT helmets were utilised, these were plain blue with no markings.

Blue Covers designed for the M1 Steel helmet were also utilised as were covers designed for the M1 Helmet in the various types NZ DPM Pattern.

Blue UN Cover
No Cover
M1 Helmet DPM Cover

Boots

Although the DMP uniform was not designed for the climate, some consideration to climate appropriate footwear was given and Desert Boots were issued. Manufactured by New Zealand boot manufacturer John Bull, the Desert Boots were made of Tan Suede with synthetic rubber sole.

Each soldier was issued with two pairs of Desert boots, however a few individuals also wore the standard Black GP Boot.

Dress embellishments

Rank Insignia

As per the NZ Military conventions of the day, Rank insignia was worn as follows.

  • NCO Rank worn on a Brassard on the right shoulder,
  • Warrant Officer Rank on a wristband on the right wrist,
  • Officer Rank worn on a rank slide on the shoulder epaulets of the DPM Shirt.

Mission Brassard

The Mission Brassard was worn on the Left shoulder and consisted of the UN patch above a NZ Flag. There is evident of examples of the mission Brassard worn with the badges reversed as well. As Officers and Warrant Officers wore their rank on the shoulder and wrist, there are also example of the Mission Brassard worn on the right shoulder.

National Insignia

 In addition to the NZ Flag on the Mission Brassard, the a variation of the standard New Zealand shoulder tab that had been worn on overseas mission since the Second World War was worn affixed to the epaulets of each shoulder.

Trade and Appointment Badges

Some trade and appointment badges such as the Ammunition Technician Badge and Medic Red Cross were worn on the Mission Brassard.

Protective Vests and Body Amour

The New Zealand Army Body Armour of choice at the time was the Light Fragmentation Vest. A piece of kit totally unsuitable of the operating environment, which served more as confidence booster than as a practical protective measure.

From 1994 some of the Staff  posted to the UN HQ were issued with the much more capable Bristol Type 23 Body Amour

Load Carrying Equipment

Each NZ Soldier deployed to Somalia with the standard NZ Harness Webbing, being the early 90’s there was no set configurations with a variety of different pouches utilised with a basic set consisting a minimum of Two Magazine pouches and Two Water Bottles and First Aid Pouch.

Due to the operating environment and the impartibility of wearing harness webbing in vehicle at at the work place, most individuals seldom used there webbing with most sets spending the entire tour sitting under the individual’s cot, only to be dragged out for the occasional stand to.

Early on when the threat was perceived as low, a single spare magazine was carried in the pocket of the Frag Vest. As the treat level increased and the need to have additional ammunition at hand, many contingent member’s utilised a simple belt order consisting of pistol belt, Ammunition pouch and water bottle.

With the Infantry sections attached from July 93, some of the infantry lads utilised chest Rigs.

One set of unofficial soldier purchased vest webbing was worn by a member of the Third Supply Contingent from January 1994. This vest was worn over the Frag Vest and allowed the wearer to carry additional ammunition and items with no loss of movement when in vehicle or carrying out physical tasks. This set of vest webbing become a communal set and was also utilised the Infantry Section Commander if his tasks necessitated it.

Example of Belt Order with Ammo Pouch and Water Battle, Magazine in Frag Vest pocket
Example of Vest Webbing

Weapons Systems

The New Zealand Contingents in Somalia utilised the standard range of New Zealand Small Arms, including

  • Steyr AUG 5.56mm Rifle with 508mm barrel.
  • Steyr AUG 5.56mm Carbine with 250mm barrel.
  • C9 Minimi 5.56 mm Light Machine Gun.
  • Pistol 9 mm Automatic P226, note as this weapon had only been introduced into NZ Army Service in 1992, existing holsters for the retired Browning pistols were utilised.

Gallery

Photo credits;

  • The Somalia Journal 1992-1995
  • Authors Collection

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