By the outbreak of the Second World War it had become clear that the kilt was no longer suitable for modern warfare, and the War Office decreed that kilted regiments would in future be dressed in battledress like all other troops; trousers used less fabric, were easier to keep clean and considerably cheaper than the kilt. One commanding officer of a kilted regiment remarked:
An attack has been made on the Highland Regiments as to their wearing their kilts in battle in Europe… the kilt as a battledress was being attacked from three angles. On the grounds of (unit) security, on grounds of its inadequacy in case of gas attack and on grounds of difficulty of supply in war. There was also the tinge of jealousy – why should the kilted regiments be given preferential treatment to wear a becoming kilt. The thickness of the kilt and its seven yards of tartan was extra protection. It was traditional in all highland regiments never to wear any garment in the way of pants under the kilt. But anti-gas pants were issued.”
Despite this the regiments fought to keep hold of their traditional kilts and during the Battle of France many stretcher bearers in Scottish regiments continued wearing the kilt:Tonight we are looking at a WW2 era kilt from the Gordon Highlanders:As can be seen the kilt is made of heavy worsted wool in the tartan known as Government Sett with yellow stripe. The Government sett was a basic blue and green tartan as worn by the Black Watch, different coloured stripes were woven over this basic design to give regiments their own design of tartan. The apron at the front of the kilt is plain, whilst the back of the kilt has knife pleats:The kilt is made of between eight and nine yards of fabric and is consequently fairly heavy. It is lined at the waist with white cotton fabric:The bottom of the kilt is not hemmed as it would not hang correctly, but the fabric is selvedged to prevent fraying. The kilt wraps across the body, with a single buckle passing through a slit on the left side and a pair of buckles on the right:These were issued unattached so the garment could be adjusted for size. This kilt is marked with a /|\ stamp and letter code R for 1948:A label gives sizing information and is sewn inside the kilt:There would also have been two cotton tapes sewn in to loops on the waist to allow the kilt to be hung, sadly only one remains on this kilt:A plain cotton kilt apron would have been worn over the top of the kilt in the field, protecting it and offering further camouflage. Despite its abandonment as a front line garment the kilt continued to be worn off duty by those men who already had them, and officers were permitted to buy surplus other ranks kilts for their own use. As the most obvious symbol of the regiments Scottish heritage, the kilt was worn wherever possible and many Scottish regiments ensured they had sufficient quantities to equip their men for the victory parades in 1945.