was the new style of khaki
This article is about the fabric. For the color, see Khaki . Kaki, another name for the persimmon, is often misspelled "Khaki".Khaki is a type of fabric or the color of such fabric...
uniform introduced by the British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...
for use in the field from the early 1900s, following the experiences of a number of imperial wars and conflicts, including the Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...
. This variant of uniform continues to be worn today, although only in a formal role, as No. 2 Pattern dress.
In many of those conflicts, the bright red tunics worn by British infantry regiments had proved to be a liability, especially when faced by new rifles firing smokeless cartridges (this had been exacerbated by the white carrying equipment worn by the line infantry, the cross straps of which formed an X on the soldier's chest). The term Khaki
(Urdu for dust
) had come from India, where it was first worn by the Corps of Guides
The Corps of Guides was an administrative corps of the Canadian Army. -Formation:Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Brereton Rivers, a former officer cadet at the Royal Military College of Canada was one of the first of a small band of Canadian Military Intelligence officers serving in an organization that...
in 1846. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857 many British regiments took to staining their white tropical uniforms with tea leaves or other makeshift dyes in order to camouflage them. Rifle regiments had long used dark green uniforms (with blackened badges, buttons, and carrying equipment) as camouflage, and some units of the Volunteer Force's
The Volunteer Force was a citizen army of part-time rifle, artillery and engineer corps, created as a popular movement in 1859. Originally highly autonomous, the units of volunteers became increasingly integrated with the British Army after the Childers Reforms in 1881, before forming part of the...
London Regiment had adopted Hodden
Hodden or wadmel is a coarse kind of cloth made of undyed wool, formerly much worn by the peasantry of Scotland. It was usually made on small hand-looms by the peasants themselves. Grey hodden was made by mixing black and white fleeces together in the proportion of one to twelve when weaving...
grey uniforms for the same purpose. Numerous khaki uniforms were adopted by units in the field over the turn of the century, but the standardised Service Dress uniform was not adopted until after the Second Boer War.
For Other Ranks (Enlisted Men), the SD uniform originally comprised khaki wool (serge) trousers, a khaki wool tunic, with stand-and-fall (or Prussian
) collar, four pockets on the front, each buttoned closed by a flap with a straight (horizontal) edge, large, serge reinforcement patches over each shoulder, shoulder straps, and a pair of brass wire hangers on the back, over the kidneys, to support the belt. The front of the jacket was closed by five buttons, usually of a regimental pattern, arranged vertically. A peaked cap was provided, covered in the same khaki serge (including the stiff peak), with a leather chin strap (brown, for most regiments) held at either side by brass or horn buttons. This uniform was worn with ankle Ammunition boots
Ammunition boots, also known as Boots, General Service , were the standard footwear for the British Army from the Victorian Era until the late 1950s....
, and, in the field, Puttee
A puttee, also spelled puttie, is the name, adapted from the Hindi patti, bandage , for a covering for the lower part of the leg from the ankle to the knee, consisting of a long narrow piece of cloth wound tightly and spirally round the leg, and serving both as a support and protection, worn...
s would be wound up (or down) the length of the shins to the top of the boots. The carrying equipment worn with this uniform was normally the 1908 web pattern, made of fabric, and also khaki (though a lighter shade than the uniform).
The Officers' Service Dress was completely different, except in colour. The cloth used was tailored, smarter looking, and of more expensive wool. The jacket (not a tunic) had longer skirts and an open collar, for wear with a collared shirt and tie. The breast pockets were pleated and closed by scalloped
flaps, while those at the hips had straight edges. There was a shoulder strap on each shoulder, but rank was originally displayed on the cuffs, which were scalloped at the closure, and edged with herring-bone pattern khaki tape. Trousers or breeches,often of a riding style, and brown leather Riding boot
A riding boot is a boot made to be used for horse riding. The classic boot comes high enough up the leg to prevent the leathers of the saddle from pinching the leg of the rider, has a sturdy toe to protect the rider's foot when on the ground, and has a distinct heel to prevent the foot from sliding...
s were worn (even in infantry regiments, as officers traditionally rode on campaign). The carrying equipment was the leather Sam Browne
The Sam Browne belt is a wide belt, usually leather, which is supported by a strap going diagonally over the right shoulder. It is most often seen as part of a military or police uniform.-Origins:...
pattern, brown for most regiments, black for Rifle Regiments.
Officers also wore a khaki peaked cap, and although similar to the men's with a cloth visor, was made of superior materials and was of better quality. Unlike other ranks, officers were expected to pay for their own uniforms, pistol, sword and Sam Browne belt.
Scottish Highland pattern uniforms differed in the wearing of tartan kilt
The kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic heritage even more broadly...
s or trews
Trews are men's clothing for the legs and lower abdomen, a traditional form of tartan trousers from Scottish apparel...
, rather than trousers or breeches, and in alterations in the design of the tunic and jacket to make them resemble the traditional Highland doublet type - notably in cutting away the skirts at the front of the tunic to allow the wearing of a sporran.
Additionally, most Scottish regiments did not wear the service dress peaked cap, but either the Glengarry or Tam O'Shanter.
There were also lightweight uniforms for wear in warmer climates, known as Khaki drill
Khaki drill or KD was the term for a type of fabric and the British military uniforms made from them. Khaki Drill was worn as a combat uniform from 1900 to 1949 but is a variant, still referred to a Khaki Drill or KD's is worn by the UK Armed Forces, in non combatatant warm weather countries where...
. The Officer's was little different in cut, but the Other Ranks tunic was distinguished from the temperate service dress by having only the breast pockets. Both were made from a lighter cloth (both in weight, and in shade). Trousers were often replaced by Bermuda shorts
Bermuda Shorts, also known as walking shorts or dress shorts, are a particular type of short trousers, now widely worn as semi-casual attire by both men and women...
. The same headdress was generally worn, however, if worn at all - pith helmet
The pith helmet is a lightweight cloth-covered helmet made of cork or pith...
s, covered in khaki cloth, continued to be the norm in warm climates up to the Second World War.
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...
's service dress was adopted in the early 1920s and is of a similar design to the British Army service dress. However, unlike Army service dress, RAF service dress is of a blue-grey colour.
The Great War
This was the standard combat uniform of the British Army at the start of the Great War, and remained little changed throughout. With the numbers of uniforms produced, minor variations did appear, especially in the enlisted men's hat and the shape of the tunic collar. A soft version of the peaked OR cap was introduced, nicknamed the Gor Blimey
. This was an attempt at conservation, but had the advantage of being able to be stuffed into a pocket or even pressed underneath the new steel Brodie helmet
The Brodie helmet, called Helmet, steel, Mark I helmet in Britain and the M1917 Helmet in the U.S., was a steel combat helmet designed and patented in 1915 by the Briton John Leopold Brodie...
that began to be issued as the realities of trench warfare, and its attendant artillery bombardment, set in.
Although this was the standard combat uniform for the British Army and its subordinate colonial units (at least when serving in temperate climates), the armies of the Commonwealth countries (which originally referred to those with Dominion status) had their own variations on the theme. The Canadian tunic, by example, was closed by seven buttons, and it had a conventional tunic collar (all stand, and no fall), although the Canadian Officer's Service Dress was no different from the British Army's.
Officers' SD uniforms were modified during the War chiefly in that plain cuffs were introduced, with the rank insignia moved to the shoulder straps. The reason for this was that the old cuffs had made it too easy for enemy snipers to distinguish officers from men.
Scottish Highland regiments replaced the sporran during the war with a khaki cloth apron with a large, buttoned pocket where the sporran would sit.
The Second World War
The Service Dress uniform continued to be the field uniform of the British Army until shortly before the Second World War, although many units continued to wear it after the start of hostilities, and many Home Guard personnel continued to wear it throughout the War. Service Dress was officially replaced as the standard combat uniform of the British and Canadian Armies, however, in 1939, with the introduction of Battle Dress
Battle Dress was the specific title of a military uniform adopted by the British Army in the late 1930s and worn until the 1960s. Several other nations also introduced variants of Battle Dress during the Second World War, including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the...
. Service Dress continued to be used by officers, however, throughout the war as a walking about dress, and for semi-formal functions. Senior officers might rarely be seen in any other uniform. The Sam Browne belt had been replaced as carrying equipment for officers by the '37 Pattern web equipment, but continued to be worn with the Service Dress, usually reduced to the belt and one brace (worn as a cross strap), though a frog or pistol holster might be added as needed).
The Australian Army continued to wear its version of Service Dress as its standard combat uniform throughout the war.
Since the Second World War, Service Dress has continued in use as an intermediary between combat uniforms and Full Dress
Dress uniform , is the most formal military uniform, typically worn at ceremonies, official receptions, and other special occasions; with order insignias and full size medals...
. It is also referred to as Number Two (No. 2) Dress. The OR Service Dress, without shoulder straps, and with only the '08 Patt., or later the '37 Patt. belt, usually blancoed white or blackened, became progressively smarter. As worn today, the tunic has become a jacket, with an open collar for wear with collared shirt and tie, and cap, jacket, and trousers are all made from a smoother cloth than the rough serge. The uniform was often seen on Royal Military Police
The Royal Military Police is the corps of the British Army responsible for the policing of service personnel, and for providing a military police presence both in the UK, and whilst service personnel are deployed overseas on operations and exercises.Members of the RMP are generally known as...
personnel, and is frequently worn for parades and other ceremonial functions. In some regiments a beret is worn in place of the peaked cap.
The Officers' Service Dress has changed very little since its introduction, although riding breeches have largely been replaced by trousers, as officers seldom have horses.
When Battle Dress was replaced with green cotton combat uniforms in the 1960s, it was used, for a time, for similar roles as the Service Dress. Men's stand-and-fall collars were replaced on BD blouses, also, with open collars for use with shirts and ties. There was no need for two different uniforms for precisely the same occasion, however, and Battle Dress was eventually made obsolete, and the smarter looking Service Dress retained.