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Operational Uniforms

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Operational Uniforms

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In the beginning, the soldiers of Bravo Group wore a huge assortment of uniforms, ranging from Portuguese Lizard camo, to Communist Block uniforms.  


An official camo uniform was designed for 32 Battalion based on the Portuguese Lizard Pattern camo uniform, which was in turn based on French Lizard Pattern.  32 Bn was to be the only unit in the SADF that had its own, distinctive camo uniform.  All other units wore the standard Nutria (Browns) uniform.  Of note is that the camo uniform was intended for use behind enemy lines, as it gave the 32 soldiers the appearance of Enemy troops who wore similar uniforms.  When at base, troops wore Nutria or camo uniforms with their distinctive camo berets.  When they were operational with other SADF units, the soldiers usually wore Nutria uniforms.  This was to avoid confusion and being contacted by friendly forces.

All 32Bn camo items were “sterile”.  There were no manufacturers’ labels, writing on buttons or any other way to identify it as South African made.  This was so that if captured, the troops could not be traced to a SA unit.  The only markings were an ink stamp or small silk label stating the size, L (Large), M (Medium) or S (Small). Some had paper labels.  

1 Recce 1st Pattern

This camo was used by 32 Bn, especially the Recce Wing and was adopted by the Recces (Reconnaissance Commandos) post 1976. The Recces made their own version and this had a slightly different coloration from the 32Bn version. It was made of a polly/cotton blend. It is also referred to as 32Bn 1stPattern Recce Wing camo.  There was quite a variation in dye colours with the different lots.  It was officially called Pattern 1. In this camo there are the following items:

Early style trousers – standard SADF style cut but with metal waist adjusting tabs on both hips. Two bellous cargo



Type 1 and 2 sets trousers – as far as I’m aware both these sets were of the same design, being standard SADF

cut. Wide belt loops, waist adjustment draw string, two hand pockets, two cargo pockets, draw string bottom of

trousers leg. No Field Dressing pouch on right hip.  


Portuguese style shirt – similar in cut to Portuguese shirt with the double lined elbows.  Two breast pockets with

V-shaped flaps, pleats and exposed buttons.



Type 1 shirt – similar to Portuguese shirt but no double lining on elbows.  Two breast pockets have V-shaped flaps, pleats and exposed buttons


Type 2 shirt – Field First Aid Dressing pouch on the right sleeve and a pen pocket on the left sleeve.  Two breast pockets with straight flaps and exposed buttons.  

All buttons SADF type.


1st Pattern Shirt Type 2

1st Pattern Portuguese style

                           Swallow tail/Kiko cap.




Type 1 jacket – rounded collar, four front bellous  pockets with V-shaped flaps, reinforced elbows.  All buttons are covered.


Type 2 jacket – similar to standard SADF bush jacket cut.  Two non bellous front pockets with straight flaps and covered buttons.  Drawstring hem, First Aid Field Dressing pouch on right sleeve, pen pocket on left sleeve.


Smock – Four front pockets with V-shaped flaps and covered buttons.  Two vertical zip pockets

 behind top breast pockets.  First Aid Field Dressing pouch on Right sleeve, pen pocket on left sleeve.  Hood tucked into the back of jacket.  Access through a zip.

Sgt Ponciano G Silva Soeiro


1st Pattern jacket Type 2

                          With special thanks to Roan Gouws

                            for his initial input and support!!

Roans Introduction

Summer and Winter camo -Pattern 2 (First Issued November 1976)


Used by all 32 Bn soldiers.  These camos were based on Pattern 1.  The Summer camo had a predominantly green colour base and the Winter camo a predominantly brown colour base.  There have been suggestions that the two camos were the other way around, with Summer being brown and Winter green but nobody has substantiated this, so I will stay with the widely accepted version.  These two camos were officially called Pattern 2.  In these camos there are the following items:

















Summer Shirt

Trousers – standard SADF cut, except there is just one cargo pocket on left trouser leg.


Shirt – Standard SADF cut. Two breast pockets with straight flaps.


Winter Trousers
Summer Trousers

Jacket – Standard SADF cut, but only two breast pockets with straight flaps and covered buttons.  

Drawstring hem.


Winter Shirt











Jacket Spes Recce Group camo specially made for the 32Bn Recce Group




Summer Jacket


Winter Jacket

Ops T-shirt

Olive Green

Left (A) the official 32 Beret.  The first assignment of original berets was specially made with the assistance of  Commandant Moolman from 101 Task Force and received in 1977.  In 1979 the original assignment was finished and no more Cmdt Moolman.  Falcon instructed SAMI to get a consignment of the original berets.  When the order arrived there was about 500 berets with a new camo pattern (B), Falcon instructed that the beret must be worn.  The next assignment was again the original ones.



Left; The flat sole jungle boot. Also available in Black and Green similar to the one on the right but also had a flat sole.



Swallow tail/Kiko cap.

Ops Undies

Jokingly referred to as Santa Maria's. It was not possible to carry a fresh supply while on Ops for 2 months so going commando (without) was the norm.




1990: Bush hat – only

Summer camo.










The 32Bn full leather boot was a flat sole (anti-tracking) and the leather seam was different from the standard SADF boot.





1990: Kevlar helmet cover – only Summer camo.


1986: Summer flat sole in green canvas. There was also a brown version for the winter camo. These were Test boots that never made the grade.

















Jersey with Camo elbow pads

1990: Poncho style raincoat that doubled as a shelter





           Of note, these items were supplied too late to be used  in operations and  were only delivered after the unit left the Angolan conflict.



There was also a great deal of tailor made items in all the camo patterns but these were not standard issue.


And then there is the famed camo beret (not worn on operations).  Once again 32 Bn stood out in that they were the only unit in the SADF with a como fabric beret.  The original camo was the South African Police 1st pattern.  Due to material shortages, it was not uncommon to see SAP 2nd pattern material versions and eventually the Beret material (pattern) was manufactured exclusively for 32 Battalion by a company in Bophuthatswana. The beret had a Buffalo head badge with a Corps balkie (Infantry was green yellow and black) underneath it.












2nd Pattern


SAP Camo
1st Pattern





(Left) The very first battle jacket  made of a very thick padded green canvas material and received after rejected by Spes Forces Regt in 1979.  Not long in use because very heavy, warm and unpractical.
(Left & Below) First issued in 1979 and continued up to 1981. It was also used by some individuals up to 1986 as there was no suitable replacement in the battle jacket series until '86.
(Above & Below) First issued in ???? and was still part of the inventory up to1983, this battle jacket was a "Do it Yourself" version with a basic double layered mesh jacket and separate pouches (below) that were mounted to each individuals preference. Not a very popular choice as it was too heavy, extremely hot and rather uncomfortable having large metal clips to attach the pouches.

Cartucheira: Battle Jackets

(Right & Below) During the period 1981 to 1986 the lack of a suitable replacement for the preferred battle jacket, members used either a chest webbing (see next chapter), earlier models, tailor made items such as the example below or the standard SWA Pat 83  issue brown battle jacket seen right.
(Left) Note the Summer Camo material and the Pistol + magazine pouches. Tailor Made.
(Above & Right) 1986 saw the arrival of a few new Spes Op items and besides a back pack, chest webbing & sleeping bag the long awaited battle jacket. The camo pattern was quite different from any other equip and was closer to a British or Kenyan pattern than the 32Bn camo uniform. The rubberised waterproof lining tended to be absorbed into the camo material over time thus darkening and eventually fading the original camo pattern.  (see chest webbing)
Of note, these items were supplied too late to be used  in operations and  were only delivered after the unit left the Angolan conflict.

(Above & Left) Delivered in 1990 this webbing was based on the Spes Force Regt design (Niemoller) with a few modifications and came in the 32Bn summer camo pattern.


Unfortunately the actual colours of the camouflage items below may vary from the original colours due to different lighting conditions and website editing however we aim to highlight the different patterns



All items shown on this page are original 32 Battalion issue (except where indicated and only used as an example) Many other "tailor made" items were fabricated and used by members over the years which was due to lack of supplies or based on personal preference & practicality



Any corrections, supplementary information and photographs of additional items will be greatly appreciated.

Cartucheira: Chest Webbing

(Left & below) In the earlier years many variations of Tailor Made webbings were used along with Pattern 80 chest webbings.
(Above) Eventually a standardised webbing was issued and came along with a backpack in a similar colour.
(Below & Right) In 1986 a camo chest webbing was issued. Originally the pattern indicated on the right but changed colour over time in use, seemingly due to the waterproofing inner liner as can be seen below .  
*Note: In the 1990 version of equip, there was no chest webbing as it had become impractical in later years given the type of operations.



Missing Data & Photos:

    -Greenish backpack with butterfly frame

    -Earlier versions


1990 Version
1986 Version with Butterfly frame from earlier version. The frame issued with this version killed your back with its metal bars & a rivet all coming together on your spine


Sleeping bags

1990 Version
The 1986 version was smaller and lighter but did not keep a person warm in winter.
Missing Data & Photos:

    -Green sleeping bag (still issued in '83)

    -The greenish blue one prior to that. 

    -Earlier versions


Other Ops Equipment

In general the Angolan members had a remarkable sense of direction while out on patrol but nothing matched the map & compass to get you where you had to be. Standard SADF issue was a mills compass (top left) that was not much good while on the move and given the terrain of Southern Angola there was hardly ever any outstanding features besides a tree 20-50m away. Any Infantryman will understand why the leader group procured a Silva (degrees) compass (centre left & left bottom) while on pass in SA with the last being the favourite as it had a mirror to help apply "black is beautiful" to the face. Later included in the 1990 version of ops equip.   
Black is Beautiful - was the common name for the camo cream used by white members to blend in. It came in many different types of containers similar to the one on the left 
Tasco Bino's similar to the one above was not always a useful item given the flat terrain but it was still handy to scout out  large Shona's before crossing
The strobe light was standard issue for the leader group but in the thick bush pilots couldn't spot the strobe at night so flares and fires were also used to mark a position once the aircraft was in close range. Needless to say, the ground force had to move after the Dak drop or Helicopter departed
Emergency Mirror not used for shaving but helped to apply black is beautiful. Discarded if your Compass had a mirror
Pocket saw. Never really used as the faithful "Catana" did the job faster 
The Machete (left) or commonly known in the Bn as Catana, was used on anything from cutting camouflage foliage, bivouac stakes (seen right) and even as a crude steak knife when blocks of frozen or fresh meat were available
Folding Spade. Carried on the outside of the kit (right) & amongst other things it was mainly used to dig in at night. It was also a handy chair when folded out at 90deg (left)
Cantil: 2Lt Water Bottles (left). The first batch was slightly different from the second (shown here) and they fitted into the side pouches of the Backpack or Battle Jacket. As with all other spes items they were sometimes scarce and a standard 1lt SADF bottle (right) were used to ensure the 8Lt ability was maintained because it could be up to 4 days before our foot patrol headed to the next water source
Field Dressing. Personal bomb bandages similar to the one on the left were carried by each member.
Can Opener (left). Std supply with Ratpack.

Esbit Stove (right) which phased out gradually as more & more bought Gaz products
Caneca. (left & above) This popular item was used for drinking, cooking & eating from. The first batch was very scarce & was slightly smaller than the second (shown here)
Gaz Stove and spare gas canister.
When all else failed even a Ratpack can (left) made a good stove


Looking at ration pack 's of modern day armies it humours me to see items such as wet-wipes (possibly for those with jippo's), tissues, foot powder, water purification tablets & pot scourers are amongst the list of luxuries included in a 24hr Ratpack. These items would have been discarded anyway as to carry 7-14 days rations, 8lt water, 1st Line+ ammo, radio + batteries, 2x 60mm mortars and all other camp equipment was no easy feat and had to be sustained for periods of at least 2 months without any vehicle support except possibly to drop off your next Re-Sup.


This Ratpack has passed its expiry date by a number of years as can be seen in the leaking tin and dehydrated cheesy's (processed cheese)


Menu: No 1

Ration Packs  (Ratpack)

Ratpack's were improved considerably over the period of the bush war and 32 Battalion played a great role in testing all the variations including, freeze dries, pre-cooked packs, the forerunner of the 2-tin pack (seen left) being one specially designed for 32 Battalion which came sealed in green plastic and with all labels in Portuguese. And then there was the famed Ops Forte rations (that only those involved could explain) which apparently included food dildo's specifically issued to compliment the forces UNITA appearance in a clandestine operation that was as sterile as one can get, except for the white leader group that looked and smelled like UNITA from a distance anyway. These dildo's were also known to burst without any aggravation.

There were 5 different menu's which provided a variation in the contents of the tins. The dried fruit and flavours of the energy drinks, super-C's, Tarzan bars, milkshake and Pronutro breakfast cereal also varied between the packs (around 3 flavours per item).


a) Canned Meat & Veg delights (Tabasco Required)f) Powdered Milkshake Formula k) Super-C Energy Sweets
b) Powdered Energy Drinksg) Dried Fruitl) Processed Cheese
c) Salt & Pepper Sachetsh) Coffee & Creamer (2 in 1)m) Energy Bars (Tarzan Bars)
d) Esbit Fuel Tablets (cooking) i) Tea & Creamer (2 in 1) n) Cardboard Packaging (Clear plastic wrapping)
e) Sugarj) Tomato, Chutney or Worcestershire Sauceo) Nuked Seepage

MISSING ITEMS (from photo above)

1. Matches 4. Pronutro Breakfast Cereal7. Can Opener
2. Dog Biscuits5. Soup Powder 
3. Bubble Gum (nothing to write home about)6. Plastic Bags (for mixing energy drinks etc)