The peaked airman’s cap has been part of the Royal Air Force’s uniform since the foundation of the service in 1918. Up until the late 1930s it was worn as the standard headgear of airmen with the blue serge breaches and high necked jacket. In the 1930s it was superseded by the field service type of side cap, but it made a reappearance after the Second World War. By this point the beret had become standard wear for day to day service, but this was not felt to be smart enough for parade duty so the traditional peaked cap was brought in as part of the RAF’s ceremonial uniform and has remained in service ever since with various modification to reflect the times in which they were made, serge giving way to manmade fibres as these became commonplace for uniforms in the 1960s. Tonight we are looking at an example produced in the early 1960s:The cap has a number of distinctive features of its era that would not be seen on later examples, most particularly the ‘hump’ shape on the crown which was popular for both airmen and officers at this period:The RAF has since made strides to eliminate this type of modification to the cap and it is highly unlikely that today’s airmen would get away with such a radical modification to eh cut of their uniform! The crown of the cap is in the standard blue grey fabric of the RAF, the band around the cap though is made of black knitted mohair:Note also the plastic button and vinyl chinstrap typical of dress caps since the 1960s. The peak is a very shiny black:Being manufactured in the 1960s the cap retains the leather sweatband inside and has details of manufacture, sizing and date stamped into the leather, complete with a /|\ mark:From this we can see that the cap is a size 7, made in 1962 by the Army and Navy Hat and Clothing Company. The cap was worn with standard staybrite RAF cap badge that has been in use since the 1950s. This particular cap came up ion the Huddersfield Second Hand market a month or two back and my thanks go to Michael Fletcher for kindly passing on this cap so I could add it to my collection!
I always like a bargain and so whenever I see a hint of camouflage in a pile of jumble I get a little excited. A few weeks back I spotted the distinctive colours of a piece of MTP poking out of a huge pile of clothes on my second hand market. Pulling said MTP out revealed it was a very nice MTP Moisture Vapour Permeable Cold Weather cap and the price was a very welcome 50p! The cap is designed for use in cold weather and so features a large pair of ear flaps that come down either side of the face to secure under the chin:These can also be lifted up and fastened to the top of the hat, much like a deerstalker:Velcro is fitted to the two flaps to allow either position to be adopted:The cap has a peak on the front of it, with a piece of wire fitted all along the brim:This wire allows the peak to be adjusted to suit the wearer’s preference and it will stay in that position. This is especially useful in the winter where winds are strong and the soldier’s hands are probably full with equipment and can’t be used to adjust the peak constantly.
At the back of the hat is a Velcro tab and simple plastic buckle that allows a degree of size adjustment:A piece of elastic is also included inside that helps keep the hat secure to the wearer’s head:An elasticated chin strap is fitted as well. Even just trying this on the strap was annoying so I would not be surprised if this elastic was frequently taken out in service:A standard label is sewn into the hat, here showing that this example is a ‘large’:Note also the colour of the fleece lining to the cap, here is a pale coyote brown. Earlier examples came with a black lining and at some point they swapped the colours over. Presumably this was because if worn with the flaps up, the black would show up like a sore thumb in the snow. These caps are very well made and like much modern British Army Goretex equipment they are very popular with hikers as a cheaper way of getting top quality wind and waterproof clothing. At the price this was a very nice addition to my collection.
The other ranks peaked service dress cap was introduced in the early Edwardian era and was used up until World War One. At this stage experience in the trenches led to the cap being modified to remove wire stiffening and rigid peaks. The trench caps of 1915 were a long way from the smart SD caps of pre-war days but suited active service conditions better. After World War 1 had ended The British Army smartened up its uniform again to better represent a peacetime army and the stiff service dress cap made a reappearance for the ordinary soldier. Although cut subtly different, the interwar other ranks service dress cap was very similar to that used before the war and it is one of these interwar period examples we are looking at tonight:This pattern was introduced in 1922 alongside the recut service dress jacket and was part of the post war move to bring the standards of the army back to a peacetime footing. It had been decided that the scarlet home service dress of the Edwardian era was not to be reintroduced due to the cost implication, so efforts were made to smarten up the service dress, which until that point had been for field use rather than for parade and walking out use. As well as making the jacket more fitted and introducing brass collar dogs, the cap was recut.
The peak on this cap is distinctly semi-circular rather the ‘D’ shaped and has a definite downwards angle, again indicative of interwar production:Later versions of the cap would make the peak almost vertical in the angle and this is more commonly found with post-WW2 examples of the cap. The underside of the peak is finished in a green leather effect:A brass tab is included inside the front of the cap that forces up the top of the crown, tensioning it and giving the cap its distinctive shape:These were frequently modified to subtly alter the shape of the cap to suit regimental requirements and it was probably the Regimental Tailor’s job to do this so that there was consistency across the unit. The cap has a decorative chin strap in brown leather, adjusted with simple brass slider buckles:A brass button is sewn to either side of the cap band to attach this strap to:This cap has an orange coloured artificial silk liner to it and leather cloth sweat band, sadly now badly damaged:Most caps produced by the military have black oil cloth linings but examples do exist with this type of liner so it is a perfectly legitimate variation of the cap. The sweat band was made of brown oil cloth, but this has not survived well in this example.
This cap was a lucky find on my local second hand market and seems to be in remarkably good condition for its age, even more unusual is that it is in a size large enough to fit my oversized head. I will be pairing this with my 1922 pattern service dress uniform to make a very smart walking out impression.
The Royal Irish Regiment was formed in 1992 by the merger of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The regiment originally had nine battalions but following various mergers and the draw-down of forces in Northern Ireland as part of the peace process and today just two battalions remain. The regiment has seen service in both Iraq as part of Operation Telic and in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick. Tonight’s object comes from one of those operational tours and is a desert DPM helmet cover with a tactical recognition flash for the regiment:The TRF takes the form of a green shamrock on a black square and is machine sewn to one side of the helmet cover:It was common in the regiment to sew the badge onto the side of the helmet cover, here we see an example of this type of cover with the TRF from 2008 in Afghanistan:There is an interesting story relating to this from 2010 as related by a member of the regiment, Corporal Tommy Creighton:
I saw a round hit the ground in front of me. My reaction was to lower my head, tilting it forward, and then I felt the thud against my helmet as the round struck me. When we got back to the patrol base, the lads were all saying how lucky I was. The round had struck me right on my ‘shamrock’ regimental badge, which I guess is kind of symbolic!
My helmet cover belonged to a Ranger called ‘Booysen’, and he has written his name in black marker on one of the elastic straps on the front of the helmet:This helmet cover is a large/outsize version and this is indicated on the internal label:This is just as well as the Mk 6 helmet I have is massive and anything smaller would have struggled to go over the dome!
Here we see a Ranger holding the later Mk 7 helmet, although the helmet and cover are different, the tradition remains and the TRF can be clearly seen sewn onto the side:I have seen a number of units who wore TRF patches sewn to the sides of their helmet covers, but the Royal Irish Regiment seem to have embraced the use of this insignia to a far greater extent than most other units. It certainly makes for a most attractive helmet cover and as it is the first badged example I have been able to add to my collection, I am very pleased to have got hold of it.
All three of the armed services have their own dedicated police forces. These police units all have distinctive insignia and uniform variations to make it easy to identify them. Whilst the army use red cap covers, the RAF police have white topped caps, and it is an example of this we are looking at tonight:This cap is worn by NCOs and is of the same design as a standard RAF parade cap, but with a white vinyl top rather than it being made in blue-grey fabric. The white top gives rise to the RAF Police’s nickname of ‘snowdrops’. The white cap was first introduced at the very end of World War Two, originally as a separate cap cover, becoming an integral vinyl top only later. This cap was produced in the early 2000s, and has a label stuck into the underside of the top with the size, 54cm, an NSN number and the identification of the cap type:The front of the cap has a pair of eyelets to allow a staybrite RAF cap badge to be attached:Note the black woven band around the cap, and the blue-grey fabric you can just see above it. This is far more obvious on the rear of the cap:The chinstrap is made of vinyl, secured with two black plastic buttons sewn on either side of the cap:A stiff peak is fitted, shiny black on the top and green on the underside:Note also the faux-leather sweatband sewn to the interior of the cap. These caps are worn both formally on parades:And whilst on duty:Officially the cap is only to be worn by NCOs below the rank of Warrant Officer, WOs wearing a standard blue-grey cap. Unofficially however it seems that some senior NCOs, taking advantage of the latitude their high rank entails, are now continuing to wear the white topped cap to make it clear that they are members of the RAF Police, the cap badge being substituted for the correct design for their rank.
The last dress cap we looked at on the blog was from the Duke of Wellington’s regiment here. Tonight we have another example for you, that of the a ‘Royal’ regiment:A number of different regiment use this combination of colours, including the Royal Artillery:This cap has a far more pronounced ‘saddle’ to the top than is often seen, with a very high crown at the front, falling away to both sides and the rear:This style was very popular during the Cold War, but regulations have tightened up since then and the more regulation version with the flat top is far more common today. The cap has a plastic stiffener inside to get this distinctive high shape. A deep red band is fitted all the way around the body of the cap and a small hole is let into the front of the cap to allow the slider of a cap badge to be inserted securely:You can just make out the piece of brass behind to protect the cap from the badge’s slider. The cap has a shiny patent leather style peak:This is made to look like green pebbled leather on the inside:Sadly this example is missing its chin strap and the small buttons that would have held this to the body of the cap.
The inside of the cap has a pale leatherette headband and a dark brown liner:Originally a paper label was stuck onto this giving NSN numbers etc. This has been removed so now the only sticker remaining gives the cap size:Sadly this cap is a small size, but it is beautifully made, as these things always are, and was an absolute bargain for £2…even if it doesn’t fit me!
Following the end of the Second World War the Canadian Army reviewed its uniforms and introduced a pair of new peaked caps for its troops. One was a lightweight summer cap, whilst the other was a winter cap made of brown serge wool:This cap has a broad peak to keep the sun off and a brown leather chin strap:This strap is secured to the cap by a pair of blackened Canadian army buttons, with King’s crowns on them:Interestingly though, despite the Queen’s crown coming into use from 1952 onwards, this cap wasn’t manufactured until 1954:From the label we can see that the cap was manufactured by the Buffalo Cap Company and is in a large 7 1/4″ size. These details are repeated on a small label sewn into the joint between crown and peak:Photos of these caps in service are hard to find, but I have been directed to this one of a parade in the 1950s where the caps can be seen clearly:These caps actually saw service in Korea but we’re not really suitable as related in Brent Watson’s book “Far Eastern Tour, The Canadian Infantry in Korea 1950-53”:
Helmets were seldom worn on patrol. Instead soldiers wore the equally useless Canadian peaked cap. Designed in late 1950 with the parade square in mind, the cap came in two patterns. The winter version was made of heavy serge and had no provision for ear coverage…Both patterns of peaked cap were incompatible with the hood of the poncho- another item of kit first used by the Canadians in Korea- and undermined its effectiveness. During the battle of Chail-li for example, the peak capped- and poncho clad soldiers of 2RCR were drenched by a vicious 30 minute wind and rainstorm that left them soaked and chilled.
It was quickly recommended that a broad brimmed bush hat, such as used by the British, be introduced to replace the peaked cap in combat.