Uniform Description for the British Troops

Written by noel lawrence
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Uniform Description for the British Troops
Union Jack. (Union Jack Flag of Great Britain image by Dan Marsh from Fotolia.com)

"The Redcoats are coming!" declared Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride from Boston to Lexington on the eve of the American Revolution. Indeed, red was the British military's colour of choice long after the Beefeaters (the first permanent regiment of the British Army) were formed during the reign of Henry VIII. However, in more recent times, the uniform has evolved in order to make it more compatible with the demands of modern warfare.

19th Century Uniforms

Until the late 19th Century, British uniforms retained almost the same look from centuries before: red coats, white crossbelts and shiny brass buttons. Though this flamboyant uniform might seem like bullet-bait on the modern battlefield (where military dress is designed to camouflage soldiers with their environment), the battle tactics of the 1860s were very different. British soldiers used muzzleloading weapons that required them to get very close to the enemy to hit them accurately. As a result, no amount of green or khaki would have hid the troops at such close range.

Tactical Changes

As small arms became faster, easier to load, and more accurate, the traditional red uniform was much less tenable on the battlefield. Surprisingly, the British kept the colour for decades after the U.S. Civil War showed the impact of the new firearms. Not until the late 1800s did Britain issue a khaki uniform whose drab colouring helped camouflage soldiers. Even then, tactics lagged behind, and it took the carnage of WWI to convince generals that their troops should seek cover and stay hidden as opposed to fighting in standing battle formations.

19th Century Uniform of Soldiers' Wives

Wives of common soldiers in the ranks of British army wore a plain cotton dress with apron and a hairpiece called a "snood." They also were issued plain leather shoes. In contrast, wives of officers wore much more ornate dress in keeping with their position in the upper classes of British society. Similarly, the woman's uniform often reflected their profession. For example, a schoolmistress in the British army wore a skirt, blouse, and "zouave" waistcoats that were open-fronted jackets used by many volunteer regiments during the American Civil War.

WWI British Uniforms

During WWI, soldiers in the British army wore an outfit known as "service dress," a khaki uniform consisting of serge tunic with brass buttons, baggy breeches, peaked cap, leather belt, and hobnailed black leather ankle boots. Still faithful to the army's spirit of "spit and polish," the cap badge, collar badge, buttons, and brass fittings of the new uniform all required regular cleaning.

Modern Uniforms

Since WWII, most British uniforms began to incorporate disruptive pattern material (DPM) or camouflage material for concealing soldiers. The army also has developed literally hundreds of uniform combinations. For example, dozens of different berets are used to identify the regiment that a soldier belongs to, such as the Royal Tank Regiment or the Army Air Corps. At the same time, the traditional red coats are still retained for the ceremonial uniform used by the royal guard in front of Buckingham Place

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