At the recent Military Odyssey Living History Show some camouflage buffs asked for more articles on modern camo, so here is Dutch M81 Woodland, writes Bob Morrison.
The Marine featured here is a combat engineer serving with the Dutch Korps Mariniers, or Marine Corps, in 2014 and much of this article was first published shortly afterwards in the old COMBAT & SURVIVAL Magazine; no longer available, unless you are fortunate in finding a second-hand copy.
From the mid-eighties onwards those Royal Netherlands Marine Corps (RNLMC) personnel serving with the battalion which formed the core of the Dutch element of NATO’s UK/NL Landing Force wore combat uniforms in a slight colour variation of British DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material) temperate or woodland camouflage fabric. The other Dutch Marine battalion wore uniforms in the US M81 Woodland pattern, but as part of the gradual restructuring of the Korps Mariniers following the early 1990s break-up of the Soviet Union the DPM camo was phased out and M81 Woodland camo was worn across the Corps for most exercises and deployments.
This Dutch Marine is an Assault Engineer from 14 Close Support Squadron of of 1 Marine Combat Group, photographed on the beachhead at Luce Bay near Stranraer during the initial amphibious landing phase of Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 14-1. His single low visibility chevron shoulder tabs signified that he was a Marine 1st Class (Royal Marine equivalent would be Lance Corporal) and he wore the KORPS MARINIERS black on light khaki shoulder title at the top of the left sleeve of his BDU-style (i.e. US Battle Dress Utility) combat shirt.
The Woodland camouflage pattern worn here is identical to the US M81 four-colour design of reddish brown, subdued grass green and black on a light tan background which was used by the US Army, USMC and US Air Force for non-desert theatres from the 1980s through to the introduction of the unsuccessful Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) in 2004. This M81 pattern was a derivative of the post-WWII era ERDL (Engineer Research and Development Laboratory) scheme which went through a couple of evolutions, with one of these being used by US Marines in Vietnam.
Like pre-UCP American combats, the Dutch shirt (blouse) and trousers (pants) were manufactured from a durable polycotton ripstop fabric and normally a matching helmet cover would be worn – see the top cover gunner in the group photo. The chest rig this Marine was wearing was in the coyote brown shade but others on the same exercise wore olive green or woodland pattern; again, see the group photo where the two on the right wear chest rigs and the two on the right wear COP vests. The boots worn by the featured Marine were black Meindls but I also spotted several of his colleagues wearing similar brown boots stamped Meindl MFSystem. Protective eyewear was the Sawfly model by Revision, with the yellow lenses which increase contrast in overcast light or misty conditions; on this exercise the West of Scotland was so misty that helicopter operations had to be suspended for a couple of days.
Unlike the Marines, at present the Dutch Army still mostly wears DPM but a number of prototype digital patterns have been fielded to a limited extent and there are plans to start introducing one of these patterns, with a similar colour palette to MultiCam/MTP, from 2020. The KCT (Korps Commando Troepen) Army Special Forces have operationally deployed in MultiCam uniforms to Afghanistan and The Sahel, and an Army SOF Support Unit from 12 Infanterie Bataljon was wearing MultiCam on the recent binational Exercise GREEN GRIFFIN 19 in Germany, so it is is a fair bet that M81 Woodland will also soon be phased out by the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps.
[Images © Bob Morrison]