The Kingdom of Belgium
Belgian Forces fighting alongside the Allies during World War Two included two airborne units, the Belgian Independent Parachute Company, and a Belgian Special Air Service (SAS) Squadron. Both units wore British-made Denison parachutist smocks in a unique, hand-painted "brushstroke" camouflage pattern that later spawned a large branch of derivative patterns that are still used today. Following the war, the Belgians reproduced several variations of the brushstroke pattern, which continued in use primarily with Airborne and Commando units well into the 1970s. Alongside the brushstroke pattern, Belgium also introduced its own indigenous camouflage pattern, nicknamed "jigsaw" for its resemblance to multicolored pieces of a puzzle. This pattern has continued in usage with Belgiam military forces (in various incarnations) into the present era, and variations have also been produced for her former colonial possessions in Africa.
Belgian Camouflage Patterns
- The British Denison smock (2nd pattern) brushstroke camouflage was worn by members of the Belgian Independent Parachute Company and SAS Squadron during the Second World War.
- A 1950-dated Belgian manufactured version of the British Denison smock using an early copy of the brushstroke pattern is seen here. This pattern would have been in service from the very late 1940s until circa 1952 with airborne and commando units. The design is actually quite unsophisticated, being simply wide brushstrokes of green and brown painted in a criss-cross pattern, in actually of less functionality than the original WW2 design.
- Introduced in 1951 for trials was a two-color "waves" pattern of large russet brown amoebic shapes on a grey background. This camouflage was worn by some members of the Belgian Volunteer Corps ("brown berets") serving in the Korean War, and probably saw limited service with Belgian airborne units, but seems to have been quickly discontinued and completely phased out of use by 1953. The design is printed on a medium-weight cotton twill fabric, which tended to faded significantly after prolonged use.
- First appearing in 1952, this variation of the original brushstroke pattern is often called "moon & balls." It can be distinguished from later Belgian derivatives by the faint brush trails of the overlapping colors and the unique "sawtooth" shape encountered infrequently within the pattern. Although worn primarily by Belgian airborne, commando and marine units well into the 1970s, the pattern was only in production from 1952 until 1956. The design was printed on several types of fabric, including light and medium weight cotton poplins, and heavier weight canvas.
- Introduced in 1954 and continuing in production until circa 1975 was the more traditional Belgian brushstroke camouflage seen below. In general the pattern consists of thick dark green & russet brown brushstrokes on a khaki background, although at least two or three variations have been documented in terms of color usage (some using significantly brighter hues) printed on both a heavyweight canvas and a mediumweight cotton fabric. Also issued exclusively to Belgian airborne, commando & marine units, it is believed the design was primarily intended for use outside of Europe, particularly in Belgium's African colonies. Although production discontinued in the 1970s, existing stocks continued to be issued well into the early 1990s.
- A variation of the above has been documented having a much brighter colorway, incorporating lime green and dark pinkish colored shapes on the standard khaki background. Examples of this variation are not nearly as common, suggesting this may have been a limited-production run.
- Belgium's indigenous and most long-lived camouflage design is the "jigsaw" pattern, seen below in its first incarnation (m/56). Introduced in 1956 and continuing in production with essentially the same features until the 1970s, this camouflage design again was generally restricted to use by elite units of the Belgian Armed Forces. The pattern consists of rusty earth, dark green and khaki green elements amidst smaller, black & white shapes. It is believed the design was primarily intended for use in Europe, although some stocks did reach Africa and even ended up in the hands of elite units from Belgium's former colonies such as Zaire. Most versions of this design were printed on a heavy canvas fabric.
- A second variation of the jigsaw pattern was introduced in the mid-1970s. This version has a much "darker" overall appearance, and was again utilized strictly by elite units of the Belgian Army and Navy. This version was printed on heavyweight cotton twill as well as lightweight poplin fabrics, the durability of the older canvas fabric having been discarded in favor of a soldier's comfort.
- In 1989 the Belgian Air Force introduced a camouflage pattern heavily influenced by the German Army trials of 1976. This pattern, consisting of black, rusty-orange, dark olive and olive-grey spots on a pale green background, is differentiated from the German Army flecktarn pattern in a number of ways, including the style and positioning of the spots, as well as the specific color combinations employed within the scheme. Uniforms in this pattern were primarily issued to Airbase Security Personnel, and their issue was discontinued in 2000.
- A third variation of the Belgian jigsaw pattern first appeared in 1999. A few years earlier, the Ministry of Defence had determed that a universally recognizable Belgian camouflage pattern was desirable and introduced a single type of uniform for wear by all military personnel. Produced initially in a variety of fabric types, the version considered "third jigsaw" pattern has a slightly condensed appearance compared to earlier designs. The standard combat uniform of the Belgian Armed Forces is now produced in medium weight ripstop fabric. Belgian 3rd pattern jigsaw camouflage has also been worn by units of the Luxembourg Army serving on peacekeeping missions outside of the nation.
- Increased participation in international peacekeeping missions as well as a Belgian commitment to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, prompted the development of a distinctive desert camouflage pattern, released in 2004. Consisting of light brown and greyish-brown shapes on a sandy background, the pattern retains the distinctive Belgian "jigsaw" design in a much more appropriate color scheme for deployments to arid regions. Belgian desert camouflage has also been worn by units of the Luxembourg Army serving in Afghanistan (ISAF).
- A fourth variation of the national jigsaw camouflage pattern first appeared in around 2005, and has since been replacing the previous incarnations as supplies are cycled out of the distribution system. The pattern has only been modified from the last version by the omission of the tiny bits of "white" that had traditionally appeared in the design. These no longer remain.