The armour worn by medieval knights was made obsolete by the invention of more efficient ways of killing people. But the basic idea underlying it – protecting fragile human flesh in warfare – is still very much alive. One company that has taken modern-day body armour technology to new heights is VestGuard UK, some of whose products are now part of the arsenal against Somali pirates. Sir Galahad himself, the greatest of the knights of the Round Table, might don a Vestguard vest if he were sailing today through the Gulf of Aden in search of the Holy Grail.

A favourite amongst maritime security companies is the Covert Tactical Vest (CTV) used in combination with the Level III (3) Dyneema Hard Armour Plate. The CTV can be worn discreetly under clothing or overtly as part of a uniform. Compared with other vests in the market, it is thin and lightweight. The inside is made up of soft armour panels with a hard armour panel in front, thus shielding the wearer from shots fired from an AK-47 and other high-powered rifles. Vestguard UK says the vest can be used as well by ship’s crew.

The Dyneema plate, also known as LHAP or Lightweight Hard Armour Plate, is designed to withstand a 7.62mm NATO FMJ bullet. Gun enthusiasts (we’re not amongst them) will know what this means. According to VestGuard UK, batches are tested to ensure compliance with standards and the largest possible margin of safety. What’s noteworthy about the 1.38-kilogram LHAP is that it floats and provides ballistic protection even after exposure to water, diesel fuel or oil. It’s perfect, therefore, for maritime use.

Product images are courtesy of Vestguard UK. The company offers an array of other products to complement its body armour systems – from helmets and gloves to ear pieces and radio paraphernalia. Check out its website to learn more.

So what have the knights of yore got to do with Somali piracy? Well, what’s probably needed to tackle the problem is not a Round Table of shipping associations conducting letter-writing campaigns. Rather, a new Round Table of knights to actually carry out the anti-piracy campaign with the single-mindedness and selfless idealism of Galahad as depicted in the last two stanzas of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Sir Galahad’:

A maiden knight — to me is given
Such hope, I know not fear;
I yearn to breathe the airs of heaven
That often meet me here.
I muse on joy that will not cease,
Pure spaces clothed in living beams,
Pure lilies of eternal peace,
Whose odours haunt my dreams;
And, stricken by an angel’s hand,
This mortal armour that I wear,
This weight and size, this heart and eyes,
Are touch’d, are turn’d to finest air.

The clouds are broken in the sky,
And thro’ the mountain-walls
A rolling organ-harmony
Swells up, and shakes and falls.
Then move the trees, the copses nod,
Wings flutter, voices hover clear:
“O just and faithful knight of God!
Ride on! the prize is near.”
So pass I hostel, hall, and grange;
By bridge and ford, by park and pale,
All-arm’d I ride, whate’er betide,
Until I find the holy Grail.

Whosoever can and is willing to act as their King Arthur, the new knights, it seems, will not want for proper gear – thanks to companies such as VestGuard UK. ~Barista Uno

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