At the outbreak of the Great War men flocked to the colours in unprecedented numbers. This sudden increase in numbers put great strains on a military used to a steady trickle of new recruits in peacetime. As well as being short of trained NCOs to instruct these new recruits and billets to house them even simple things such as uniforms and weapons were in short supply. It was not as simple as just ordering more uniforms- khaki cloth would take time to produce in large quantities and needed to be prioritised for troops on active service rather than training.
To solve this problem the War Office placed orders for 500,000 suits of blue serge as a stopgap measure for troops under instruction. This week’s image shows a unit kitted out in Kitchener’s Blues undergoing rifle drill early in the First World War:The men wear simple single breasted jackets, trousers and field service caps in the dark blue serge:In the case of the Bradford Pals, uniforms were supplied by the city with men issued two of the navy blue uniforms with caps. The local MP supplied the men with silver buttons emblazoned with the city’s coat of arms to sew on. As befitted a city built on the woollen trade the uniforms were made of the finest quality wool with good, colour-fast dyes used in their manufacture. The men of the Bradford Pals were delighted to hear that the blue dye in some Lancashire regiment’s uniforms had run as a result of cost cutting!
Returning to our postcard we can see that the men are armed with obsolete Charger Loading Lee Enfield rifles rather than the more modern SMLE:Again the latest service rifles were being sent to the front line so older rifles were pressed into service for training.
Despite the shortages of uniform, officers were still kitted out in khaki uniforms (at their own expense) and an officer can be seen standing in front of the men:Sadly I have no context for this interesting image and I do not know where it was taken or which regiment is represented.