Snow Suit Trousers

Following the Normandy landings, the US Army in most respects had far superior equipment and uniforms to their British and Commonwealth allies. However the harsh winter of 1944 and the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge highlighted one area where the British had a clear advantage over their American cousins. Whilst US soldiers were forced to improvise snow camouflage from liberated bed sheets, the British Army had a plentiful supply of white over-trousers and jackets. The white colour blended in with the snow blanketing continental Europe and the looseness of the cut helped break up the outline of the soldier. These baggy white cotton uniforms were simple garments designed to be worn over the soldier’s existing battledress, and seem to have had widespread distribution.

The earliest dates for these suits seem to be 1941-42, suggesting that they might have been introduced based on experience in the Norway Campaign. Regardless of the motivation behind their introduction, the snow over-suits were to prove invaluable once winter struck in 1944 and troops in the front line found themselves highly visible in the snow when wearing the dark brown battledress uniform.

kapelschelandwwinterToday we are looking at the trousers from such a set of snow clothing. This pair are made of simple cotton cloth, cut very baggy with a patch pocket on the left leg:

2F6B0ABB-5D5D-4E44-8953-A935E58922F2The waist is secured by a simple cotton tape drawstring:

98E2F861-112D-45C6-B8DF-6A4DED82C3E5Whilst the pocket is fastened with a brown ‘vegetable ivory’ (i.e. plastic) button:

000A74B7-F73D-48BA-9428-09226F1ECBEBUnfortunately the trousers are undated, but the label sewn to the seat reveals they were made by the CWS, The Co-Operative Wholesale Society:

A3DB987E-0BC9-4095-B6B7-3BA9C24BED16The large size range given on the label, from 5 foot 6 inches to 6 foot 8 inches, shows that the trousers were designed to be very loose and were never designed to have had a tight fit.

Unfortunately these trousers have a lot of storage dirt on them and I am still working out how to clean them without losing the details on the label. My current thought is to carefully unstitch the label, clean the trousers, and then reattach it in the original place. However given the unlikelihood I will be wearing these for re-enacting anytime soon I am in no rush to do anything that might potentially damage them. I also have a lead on a jacket to finish the set, but that will have to wait until more funds are forthcoming!

 

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One thought on “Snow Suit Trousers

  1. Pingback: British Army Snow Smock | Tales from the Supply Depot

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