Category Archives: Uniform

Royal Navy Tropical Shorts

During the Second World War British naval ratings in tropical regions normally wore a uniform of white shorts, white cotton flannel, black socks and black ankle boots:

Tonight we are looking at an example of a rating’s white cotton shorts:The white shorts worn by ratings, senior rates and officers were all very similar and there are a number of patterns based on where and when they were manufactured, with ‘bazaar’ made examples also thrown into the mix. I suspect that from the RN’s point of view, as long as they were white and looked roughly in line with the proper pattern they weren’t too worried about minor detail differences! It is normally the waistband where differences can be found, many using a pair of brass friction buckles to secure them. This example however uses two white plastic buttons:White buttons are also used to secure the fly:Button down belt loops are provided around the waist to hold an RN money belt:The belt worn with this uniform was usually white as the blue example rubbed dye off onto the shorts. Slash pockets are provided on each hip:This example has a small label sewn into the inside of the waist band indicating it was made by Harrods in 1943 and is a 34” waist:Shorts had long been in use with the British military and no-one thought too much about them. It was therefore a shock to British sensibilities when complaints were received in Florida of all places. GS Guinn in his book “British Naval Aviation in World War II: The US Navy and Anglo American Relations” explains:

In Florida, the Royal Navy’s standard tropical white shorts were frowned upon as being offensive to local tastes and so, unless cadets were in their formal whites, they spent most of their time in khaki trousers and long sleeved khaki shirts. British trainees were unable to understand the nature of the offence to which shorts could give rise. They expected Americans to behave and think like British citizens and were surprised when they did not.

QARANC Male Nurse’s Jacket

In 1992 there was a restructure of army medical services in the British Army and male nurses were transferred from the Royal Army Medical Corps to the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. Male nurses are still relatively uncommon, but are a growing part of the corps and they have certain items of specialist clothing for their work. Tonight we are looking at a man’s nursing jacket from the QARANC:This is a white cotton tunic, secured up one side and to the neck with removable white plastic buttons:These buttons are secured in with small split rings to allow them to be removed easily for washing. The design of the button itself is very similar to those used on World War 2 era denim uniforms, again these were designed to be easily removable for laundering. The back of the jacket has a sewn in half belt to provide a more structured fit:A single patch pocket is sewn on the breast and on this is affixed an embroidered patch showing the Corps’ cap badge in red on a grey field:The only other insignia on the jacket is a red on grey patch with a lance corporal’s stripe on it on one sleeve, this indicates a healthcare assistant- all qualified nurses are ranked at least a full corporal:Inside the tunic is a label indicating size and NSN number with a space for the owner to write his name and number:In recent years the QARANC has been involved in every conflict the British Army has fought in, offering vital medical support to Britain, her military allies and civilians in theatre. The British Legion’s website gives us one case study of a QARANC nurse, Ben Poku:

After signing up, Ben did three months of basic training which came as a shock. It was unlike anything Ben had experienced before.

“It’s tough, but it prepares you so that you’re ready when you go to a new or hostile environment.”

It was when Ben started passing the basic infantry tactics that he knew he was ready to become a soldier. Though he’d joined up to be a nurse, Ben found himself in the artillery doing an infantry role before he knew it.

But the desire to help those in need hadn’t gone away though. After three years in the artillery, Ben took the chance to pursue his dream of becoming a nurse. So in 2003, whilst Ben was training on artillery guns in Germany, he started the process of transferring over to the prestigious Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps. As the nursing branch of the British Army, QARANC can trace its origins back to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Ben went ahead to study at the Defence School of Healthcare Studies, getting his nursing degree while he was also being deployed in Iraq. While there he treated multi-nationals, such as Iraqis and Americans, as well as British troops.

“It was a challenge to go over there in a nursing role and apply the training I was doing, but it was a great introduction into becoming a nurse.”

Ben’s childhood dream has come true. He’s been a nurse for over a decade. In that time he’s worked abroad as well as around the UK.

He’s currently posted at Headley Court where he works on the neurological ward helping injured soldiers get back to Service or leave to become civilians.

CS95 Air Cadet’s Shirt

We have looked at various examples of the CS95 DPM shirt on the blog over the last couple of years and I must confess I am only picking up new examples for my collection if they have interesting patches and markings on them. Tonight we have a nicely badged example that saw service with a member of the Air Cadets:The ‘Air Cadets’ is an umbrella term for young people who are members of either Combined Cadet Forces (RAF) which are run in over 200 schools across the UK and those who are members of Air Training Corps groups which are small local detachments of cadets dotted across the country. Both organisations are volunteer services that give teenagers the chance to learn more about the RAF, volunteer and take part in various aviation related activities. The Air Cadets are of course closely aligned with the RAF and wear very similar uniforms- indeed much of their equipment and uniform is either military surplus or produced under the same contracts but in smaller sizes to the regular uniform. This shirt for instance has the same NATO sizing and details as any shirt issued to the military, it is often just the smaller sizes that are indicative of cadet use:Above the breast pocket of the shirt is a large ‘Air Cadets’ patch sewn on to clearly identify the organisation:A large and detailed tactical recognition flash is sewn onto one shoulder:The Air Cadets are given the following guidance on wearing the DPM uniform as combat clothing:The DPM uniform is now being superseded by more modern MTP uniforms within the cadet force- permission being given to wear them in 2014. This guidance on insignia placement from the Cadet’s website therefore applies to the newer uniform, but is indicative of what has been sewn onto the CS95 shirt above:

Leather Desert DPM Gloves

Hand protection in hot climates is always problematic. These days it is common for soldiers to be issued with gloves to help them grip their rifles and to offer some protection to their hands whilst patrolling urban environments. The problem with gloves is that they can become very warm, especially in already arid conditions. To meet this dual challenge, the British Army issued a lightweight desert glove in a desert DPM fabric:These gloves are made of a very thin leather- the material being ideal as it is durable, non-slip, provides a level of breathability and is thin enough to keep overheating to a minimum. The back of the gloves have an extra thickness of this leather over the knuckles to help provide a bit more protection:A nylon strap passes over the wrist to allow the gloves to be tightened:With a corresponding strip of elastic and friction buckle on the opposite side:The label in the inside of one of the gloves indicate that these are a size 10 and has the NSN number for the garment:The official description of the gloves is interesting:

8415-99-490-4287 GLOVES,COMBAT,WARM WEATHER MATL HAIR SHEEP LEATHER;INFRARED REFLECTIVE(IRR); DESERT DPM;UNLINED W/WEBBING WRIST STRAPS & PADDED KNUCKLES;SIZE 8

From this it seems the leather used to make the gloves comes from sheep rather than the more usual pig or cow leather, which might explain why it is so soft and pliable. Interestingly the same stores catalogue refers to the gloves being available in temperate green DPM but this does not seem to have been the case and there are reports of soldiers dying the desert gloves green for use in woodland environments.

When I received these gloves I tried them on, of course, and was quite surprised to find tucked inside the little piece of cardboard with the care instructions printed on it:By all accounts these gloves were well liked by those issued with them and they definitely have the feeling of being a well-made piece of kit. As with so much of this desert kit left over from Afghanistan and Iraq they are eaily available at low prices.

 

Royal Navy Seaman’s Jersey

As part of their everyday uniform in winter, British sailors were issued a woollen seaman’s jersey to be worn under their serge jumpers. This garment was made of dark blue wool, tightly knitted in a Guernsey style:This jersey was worn with No’s 1, 2, 3 and 4 dress by all Class II Seaman and was used from the start of cold weather until the beginning of April. The jersey is in a traditional style and similar garments had been in use since the Great War. The jersey has slightly tighter cuffs to help keep the wearer warm:The same reduction knitting is used around the waist to draw it in:Cotton reinforcing patches are sewn into the edges of the collar to help prevent it splitting and unravelling at an obvious weak point:This clearly was not entirely successful as there is extensive darning on one shoulder:These jerseys are often seen in period photographs being worn instead of the white cotton flannel:It was not supposed to be worn on its own, but in the relaxed attitude of smaller ships during the war it was often used in just this manner, as seen being modelled by a few sailors here:These jerseys remained in use until the late 1960s or early 1970s. One wearer recalls:

I remember wearing the blue wool Sea Jersey during the months of October to March while in training, and I also wore them when I was on duty in blues with red badges (with silk but no collar/lanyard) during the winter months prior to being rated SR – can’t say I missed them – I considered them similar to scotchbrite pads!!. I also recall wearing the sea jersey when travelling from one place to another in uniform, when classified as ‘duty’ but with the collar & silk worn but no lanyard.

One Piece Quilted Thermal Liner

There are some , frankly, ridiculous pieces of military uniform out there. The military have often regarded function as being more important than style and some truly unflattering pieces of clothing have been forced upon the unfortunate wearer (KD combination suits anyone?). In the vein of ridiculous clothing pieces tonight we are looking at a one piece thermal liner:I can find very little about this piece of uniform and my guess is that it was for tank crews and similar personnel who were operating in cold conditions, such as the plains of West Germany during the cold war. The garment is made of the same green quilted nylon as other liner garments of the period (see here for a vest). Whilst jackets, vests and trousers seem pretty common, the one piece overall seems much scarcer. The liner is secured up the front by a long metal zip:A knitted collar is provided to make it more comfortable and keep the heat within the suit:These garments can become very sweaty, so open mesh is sewn under the armpits:And in the groin:This provides ventilation at points most likely to become overheated. The most obvious disadvantage of a one piece suit is that it makes answering the call of nature very difficult. The solution can be seen when we turn the liner around:A large ‘bum’ flap is provided on the seat of the suit:This is secured by Velcro and pulls open to give a large hole suitable for defecation:I wonder how practicable this would have been in reality as one would presumably wish to wear underwear beneath the liner and this would be difficult to take down without removing the whole liner! A single label is sewn into the neck of the liner, you can just make out the size ‘medium’ beneath the owner’s name and number:It has been suggested that this label is the right size and shape for clothing developed by ‘SCDRE’ the Store & Clothing Research and Development Establishment who were responsible for prototyping and testing new pieces of uniform during the Cold War. This would suggest that the reason why I can find so little information on the liner is that it is a trials garment that never went into widespread production. If anyone can help fill in more of the blanks, please comment below…

Royal Navy Blue Jean Collar

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to pick up a full set of uniform to a Royal Navy Rating from the Second World War. We will be taking a closer look at the individual components of this grouping over the coming weeks, and tonight we start with one of the most iconic pieces of uniform worn by sailors, the traditional sailor’s blue jean collar.The collar dates back to at least the 1830s, but there were no definitive patterns until 1856 when it was greed that there would be two rows of white stripes on the blue jean collar, however consultation with the Commanders in Chief of Devonport and Portsmouth and their officers resulted in the agreed pattern having three rows of white stripping. These were applied as separate hand sewn pieces of white piping until 1941 when a new composite printed tape was introduced allowing them all to be attached as a single piece by machine rather than hand sewn:The underside of the collar is lined with a white and blue striped shirting fabric:It is here the owner stamped his name to identify the collar as his:To wear the collar it was placed over the flannel before the wearer put on his jumper and secured with the various tapes and loops:The following description of how to wear the collar comes from Martin Brayley’s excellent book on Royal Naval uniforms of the Second World War:

The rear of the collar lay on the shoulders, while a central section draped down the spine. Two extension pieces ran to the front over the shoulder, through a half twist at the front with two tapes that were then passed through loops on the spinal section before being fastened with a bow at the front. The two extension pieces were connected a the front by a small strip of fabric. To improve the appearance of the collar front this strip was normally cut allowing the front sections of the collar to ‘cut away’ inside the jumper and much higher than would otherwise be possible.

This particular collar retains its manufacturer’s label that helps date it to 1941:Later examples of the collar buttoned to the top of the sailor’s trousers and did away with the complicated tapes, today Velcro is used to secure them into the No1 dress uniform and small buttons help hold it down so it is not caught by the wind and flicked up, as seen here:We will return in detail to more World War Two rating’s uniform pieces in the coming weeks and months.