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Post-War British Army Clothing Questions


Pedantic_Potato
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Good morning,

I have a couple random questions about the sizes and ways British Army combat dress was worn in the post-war years that I hope aren't too esoteric.  

1) What are the general size ranges for what I think are 1949 and 1951 Pattern Wool Collared Shirts? On a related note, anyone have a good shorthand estimate for the KF Shirts and earlier green wool collared shirts that appeared in the '70s? I do not, for a second, trust the "measurements" given on eBay and the likes. 

 2) I've noticed in period photos with soldiers wearing 1968 Pattern Smocks that some elect to "blouse" their smock "bottoms" (can't think of another word for it at the moment...). What was the purpose behind this? Also, how common was it to see 1968 Pattern Smocks with their associated Smock Hoods attached/used? 

3) If a soldier were to, say, wear just his combat shirt (wool, KF, GS) and trousers (DPM combat or OG lightweights) alone without a Combat Smock, then how would the trousers be secured? Would it be with a stable belt or a belt from the 1958 Pattern Web Equipment? Sorry if this is a bit of a naïve question, but I have only been able to find photographic sources from the 1990s with an answer to this question, and I am looking for what was done in earlier periods. 

I hope that all makes sense, and I look forward to any insight that you all may have about them. Happy Holidays!

 

P.S. I figure I might share an interesting photo I've found in my research since I made you read all that... Here's a cool webbing loadout from the Cheshire Regiment's Facebook page.

odd 1944 pattern waterbottle carrier contents.jpg

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I can't answer your question about sizes of shirts, but as for the rest the answer is "fashion".  It became very popular to blouse the combat jacket by tying the bottom drawcord tightish at the waist and then pulling the skirt down.  This resulted in the skirt pockets being folded in two and, if a belt were worn, its being round them making using the pockets impossible.  At the same time it bulked out the upper part of the jacket making it look a bit like a battledress blouse.  It was a very popular thing to do for a while, but, to me, never made any sense and I didn't copy it. 

The hood was very rarely attached - some units didn't even issue it to their soldiers.  Generally it was scorned because our training NCOs rightly railed against anything which reduced a soldier's senses in the field and wearing a hood diminished hearing - particularly if it was raining - so it was seen as being something no frontline soldier wished to do.  But, again, fashions change and later the smock was issued with a hood (as was, of course, the SAS smock even at that time).  So, merely fashion. 

The same applied to the combat cap - when the DPM version first appeared it had a great following, even being worn with a capbadge - for a very short time before it became unpopular for some reason - it was always more useful in the field than the alternative at the time which was a beret (the wearing of helmets in the field only became universal with the introduction of the plastic one, prior to that the "tin hat" was worn only in defence or under direct fire being carried for the rest of the time).  The credibility of the combat cap sank yet further as it became used as a headdress for recruits who had yet to earn the right to wear their regimental headdress by "passing off the square". 

Regarding holding up combat trousers... fashion.  At one time it was seen as very unprofessional to wear combats with a stable belt - your 58 pattern belt or something similar which avoided your having to break down your webbing, (you were only issued one web belt) such as a spare 37, 44 or 58 pattern web belt or the awful dark green plastic woven belt would be used.  Later, it became fashionable for units to wear the stable belt with combat dress as it probably is currently. 

Some regiments and corps adopt habits frowned upon by others and customs come and go.  in the 1960s, early 70s anyone likely to wear radio headsets used the "double pull" on his beret - cap badge in centre and roughly equal amounts of cloth each side.  That went right out of fashion by the mid 70s.  20 years later it was popular to wear the beret with the badge over the left ear while Paras wore theirs rather like a flat cap with the spare cloth pulled forward over the forehead.  Shrinking berets, on the other hand was always popular after the end of national service!

Looking at your photo above you will see that the full length of the boot is left clear of the trouser ends.  Again that was a fashion when high boots were introduced replacing ankle boots and puttees or web anklets.  Prior to that it had been fashionable to pull the bloused trouser ends as far down as possible concealing nearly all but the body of the boot.  Nowadays, it seems, the fashion is not to blouse the trousers at all.  

All these things change over time.  But, it is a really useful way to date old photos!

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The definitive details of sizes will be given in the Catalogue of Clothing and Necessaries. Although I have some components of this in terms of VAOS & COSA they relate the 1980-90s.

However in Clothing Regulations 1951 Pamphlet No.1 it lists the proportions of the various sizes of different items per 1,000 men.

Blouses, B.D. Sizes are: Ex small, small, 1 to 18

Trousers, B.D. follow a similar sizing.

I can scan the list if it is of interest. Curiously there is not a bulge of popular sizes in the middle range, but little peaks beyond the more popular sizes.

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Clive, 

I would certainly be interested to see that.

Shirts were made in nine sizes, certainly into the 1950s and early 1960s.

This was reduced to just four sizes when the wool mix combat shirt was introduced in 1971, sizes 0-3 were issued. Size 3 was around 48" chest. Anything larger than that was a "special measure" and had to be ordered. Outsize garment were usually named to an individual on the label. 

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Dear All,

On the DPM combat cap, it was the most horrible piece of kit imaginable.  I imagine that they were issued to recruits because no one else would wear them.  Just not fashionable!

The tin helmet was just not practical and 10FM68 is right about its use (of course it would have been effective for the purposes described).  The Kevlar helmet was so much better, so it is used much more.

10FM68 is right about it all being fashion and in particular with berets and there could be many different styles seen even within a company / squadron..  On his point about dating, I would imagine there was only a quite short window when Combat High boots were on general issue along with '58 webbing but my memory may fail me.

Finally, how do you a group of officers to dress identically?  Tell  them to come to the meeting in civvies!  

John

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In the above example, Clive, you quote blouses battledress - the word blouse was always used for a short jacket cut to the waist while a long one with a skirt below the waist could be a tunic, a jacket or a smock!  Shirts were shirts, I think!

As for the combat cap, I never really understood why they were so unpopular.  They were modelled on the Norwegian cap with ear flaps for cold weather.  I wore mine quite a bit in the field in preference to a beret. They had a peak which kept the sun or rain off the face, they were easy to keep in a pocket and easy to wash.  Gen Moore wore his Norwegian one throughout the Falklands campaign and he was a Marine and certainly no "crow".  And I have seen it worn in the field by individuals in SF quite happily.  I see one was produced in multicam but I have never seen it worn - just appearing, new, for sale on eBay. 

The more popular beret, by comparison was useless in sunlight, useless in the rain, difficult to wash, bulky to keep in  pocket and provided nothing beyond warmth for the top of the head.  It is interesting to see how wearing headdress in the Army is itself becoming less common.  Not long ago headdress was ALWAYS worn outside - no exceptions. Often it was worn inside as well.  Then the Police gave up on it and, it seems the Army is following suit - saves them having to salute in public I suppose!

I liked the bit about officers dressing the same in civvies!  ... Might be true... a bit...!

 

 

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1 hour ago, 43rdrecce said:

the wool mix combat shirt was introduced in 1971, 

Was that the awful, cheap thing with buttons which were too small to stay done up and a collar which had no "stand" and used to stick up above the HD pullover collar like a pair of wings?  Its only saving grace was that it wasn't scratchy, but it faded badly, the sleeves were too short - a horrible thing - its predecessors and its replacement which stayed until the end of combat shirts were so much better - mine still get an outing in retirement!

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27 minutes ago, attleej said:

On his point about dating, I would imagine there was only a quite short window when Combat High boots were on general issue along with '58 webbing but my memory may fail me.

I think this photo was taken when the Cheshires were in Hong Kong 84-86.  They have doubled up their water bottles and are wearing tropical DPMs while the observing NCO is in warm weather barrack dress and the civvy a lightweight suit.  (Plus it's sunny - so they aren't in Wales anyway!)

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38 minutes ago, fv1609 said:

Incidentally I would be interested in seeing any examples of any clothing marked "I" or "V"

Can't say I have ever noticed that.

Many thanks for posting the clothing list. Very interesting. There were clearly a lot of individuals of small stature back then. 

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12 hours ago, 43rdrecce said:

Shirts were made in nine sizes, certainly into the 1950s and early 1960s.

This was reduced to just four sizes when the wool mix combat shirt was introduced in 1971, sizes 0-3 were issued. Size 3 was around 48" chest. Anything larger than that was a "special measure" and had to be ordered. Outsize garment were usually named to an individual on the label. 

Would you happen to know if there was a pattern of sizes for the "wool mix combat shirt" introduced after 1971? i.e. size 2 fitted for 44" chest or similar measurements (size 1 = 40"/size 0 = 36"?)? 

On 12/26/2020 at 2:36 PM, 10FM68 said:

I can't answer your question about sizes of shirts, but as for the rest the answer is "fashion".  It became very popular to blouse the combat jacket by tying the bottom drawcord tightish at the waist and then pulling the skirt down.  

Regarding holding up combat trousers... fashion. 

Thank you for this trove of insights 10FM68! From wearing my massive pair of 1968 Pattern Smock and Trousers, I figured the blousing of the smock helped to get the "skirt" of the smock out of the way if you had to climb over obstacles or similar, but I don't think that holds much water given my lack of experience wearing them. 

I've seen images of British troops on bases in Afghanistan wearing stable belts with their combat shirts and trousers. I suppose that if you're lucky enough to get a nice fitting set of 1968 Pattern Trousers then you wouldn't really need a belt  necessarily...

11 hours ago, 10FM68 said:

As for the combat cap, I never really understood why they were so unpopular.  They were modelled on the Norwegian cap with ear flaps for cold weather.  I wore mine quite a bit in the field in preference to a beret. They had a peak which kept the sun or rain off the face, they were easy to keep in a pocket and easy to wash.  Gen Moore wore his Norwegian one throughout the Falklands campaign and he was a Marine and certainly no "crow".  And I have seen it worn in the field by individuals in SF quite happily.

A couple of the Royal Marine Mountain and Artic Warfare Training Cadre leaders wear a OG version of the cap that looks like they nicked a Norwegian soldier's combat cap and attached Royal Marine badges to them. I remember seeing this in "Behind The Lines" by the BBC from 1985. I can appreciate the features the DPM combat caps bring to the table over a beret, now just to find one for my outsize noggin'. 

11 hours ago, 10FM68 said:

I think this photo was taken when the Cheshires were in Hong Kong 84-86.  They have doubled up their water bottles and are wearing tropical DPMs while the observing NCO is in warm weather barrack dress and the civvy a lightweight suit.  (Plus it's sunny - so they aren't in Wales anyway!)

Looking back at the photo album on Facebook, you appear to be correct 10FM68. Here's a link to the full set: https://www.facebook.com/media/set?vanity=cheshiremilitarymuseum&set=a.2292546280846317.

It's an interesting set of web equipment loadouts that's for sure. The rightmost lad on the mortar seems to have a 1958 Pattern water bottle in what could be either a US or AUS M1956-type water bottle pouch. The soldier on the left of the mortar also seems to have mess tins in one of the 1944 Pattern water bottle pouches/covers. I love seeing all the little variations; it reminds me of the climbing harness loadouts of alpine climbers!

 

Thank you all for the informative replies! The primary sources were a great addition fv1609! 

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The 1971 combat shirts were sized as follows:

Size 0  36" 

Size 1  40"

Size 2 42"

Size 3 46"

Approximately, they are slightly larger measured across the chest, but allowing for movement those would be the maximum chest sizes. Anything larger than Size 3 would be special order. 

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On 12/27/2020 at 11:49 AM, fv1609 said:

Incidentally I would be interested in seeing any examples of any clothing marked "I" or "V"

I've been asked the meaning of these.

I = Suffering from an infectious disease

V = Suffering from VD

Probably just in a hospital setting.

Troop ships were required to carry 6 Jackets, serge, unlined (blue) for troops with VD. A humiliating but stark warning for everyone on board no doubt.

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2 hours ago, PetOp Pete said:

Yes please.

In return I can upload the STANAG 2335, version 3, sizing charts if that would be of use.

I've already done it, it is up there in an earlier post. I'm ok for 2335 thanks, although It would be interesting to see how it translated to DefStan 84-9 & 84-20. Sometimes things changed by design or simply get misunderstood and incorrectly become enshrined in a DefStan. You only have to look at STANAG & DefStans relating to the requirements, for or not for, bridge plates on trailers to see how STANAGs get misread.

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6 hours ago, PetOp Pete said:

Yes please.

In return I can upload the STANAG 2335, version 3, sizing charts if that would be of use.

Does that happen to show the conversions between Imperial sizes (numbered) and NATO (centimeters)?

I am unfamiliar with the "DefStan" acronym, what does it stand for (I figure probably "Defence Standards" from the UK)?

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1 hour ago, Pedantic_Potato said:

Does that happen to show the conversions between Imperial sizes (numbered) and NATO (centimeters)?

I am unfamiliar with the "DefStan" acronym, what does it stand for (I figure probably "Defence Standards" from the UK)?

No it doesn't show Imperial sizes, the nearest it gets is to show cross-referencing of some UK Metric sizes in use before NATO sizing codes were introduced.

DefStan, DStan, Defence Standards drawn up by the Director General of Safety & Engineering UK Defence Standardization on behalf of the MOD.  DefStans will sometimes be pretty much a transposition of the requirements laid down in a NATO STANAG or at least an interpretation of what was laid down. But many DefStans will consist entirely of UK requirements and expectations.

 

 

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On checking I see that I have these:

Catalogue of Clothing and Necessaries Section CK

Service Uniforms, Handwear, Headwear, Hosiery (Women) 1972

 

Catalogue of Ordnance Stores & Ammunition Section CK

Service Uniforms, Handwear, Headwear, Hosiery (Women) 1987

 

Catalogue of Ordnance Stores & Ammunition Section CP

Service Uniform (Men) No 1, No 2, and No 6 Dress 1980

 

Despite all items being NATO codified (ie have a NSN) they are not NATO sized. The Imperial sizes are given together with Imperial measurements. These documents predate Metrication of measurements & predate NATO sizing that was drafted in 2005 for STANAG 2335 2nd edition to be finalised in 2012 STANAG 2335 3rd edition.

So I think these documents provide what you need. They are quite extensive, so was there anything in particular you were interested in? Shirts presumably?

 

 

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Sorry for the delay in replying.

Thank you for clarifying the "DefStans" acronym Clive! 

With regards to the documents you list, the size measurements that I'm looking for would be associated with the Khaki (Karkee) Flannel Shirts from the early '70s and the wool-mix shirts used before the KF's introduction. After looking at a description of No. 1, 2, and 6 Dress, I don't think the document titled "Service Uniform (Men) No 1, No 2, and No 6 Dress 1980" would contain the size measurement information of the KF and earlier wool shirts (it looks like those would be associated with No. 8 Dress or 14 Dress).

However, I could be wrong as you have access to the document and I am only working off a secondary source's description (plus there's the individual variations like an officer wearing the No. 2 Dress khaki shirt and tie under a No. 8 Dress combat smock). 

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The wool mix shirt came after the KF, first in a darkish khaki then in an olive green - which used to fade badly to an almost grey.  KF shirts with collars attached, on the other hand were on issue from the end of the Second World war - once other ranks - ORs (your enlisted men) were allowed to wear the collar of the BD blouse open, they needed a shirt with a collar so a tie could be worn.  The 1949-pattern battledress couldn't be done up at the neck so was always worn with a collared shirt and either a tie or, in the field, sometimes, a face veil.  That shirt was made of khaki flannel.  The shirt which followed the wool mix was the shirt GS which was more like a heavyweight cotton. 

And it's no good trying to judge orders of dress by looking at officers as they have traditionally dressed differently from the ORs with all sorts of variations, some small, others very obvious.  For example even in the 1970s RE officers, on commissioning, were required to buy a light coloured khaki tie for wear with combat dress and a dark khaki tie for wear with Service Dress and barrack dress.  Equally, in many regiments officers until the mid-70s wore puttees of a different quality and shade of khaki to ORs.  And so it went on.  Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders officers wore grey shirts - the King's Regiment officers wore a bluish-grey shirt and, during the decades of the KF shirt (and the wool mix shirt) officers regularly wore their No2/barrack dress shirts with combat and working dress, which, in most cases, were a light khaki (while officers of the Guards and one or two other regiments wore a shirt of a darker khaki than the KF!)

Unlike most armies the British Army was never, and still isn't, truly unified.  It is made up of a collection of regiments and each regiment has its own way of doing things and is allowed a great deal of freedom by the Army Dress Committee - though less now than in the past.  The army was put together from regiments owned and raised by individuals, some of whom fought for the King and some of whom fought for Parliament during the Civil War - in other words, on opposing sides.  Each regiment wore a uniform designed, chosen and paid for by the man who raised it - the Colonel - hence the start of all the differences which continue to some degree today.

The trouble is, this is such an enormous subject it is impossible to cover all the variations, customs and so on in a thread such as this.  So I'm going to stop now!

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My mistake on the KF Shirts as I used that term to refer to the "wool mix," easily faded shirt you describe. I succumbed to using the shorthand I've seen from other forums and posts that referred to the "wool mix" one as "KF" or "Hairy Mary" (I think the collar label terms it "Shirt, Mans Combat") or similar. With that, I apologize for not being accurate in that regard and thank you for pointing that error out on my part. 

With regards to your statements on the endless variations of officer, OR, and regimental dress trends, I believe that period photographs are important to help keep one's head out of the weeds so to speak and focus their study. Looking at one soldier's dress and it individual idiosyncrasies is certainly easier to process and discuss than say a whole regiment's or theatre.   

To round this off and clarify a question that I asked at the start of this thread: What are the size measurements of various sizes of the KF Shirts that were introduced alongside 1949 Pattern Battledress and lasted in service until the introduction of the "wool mix" shirts in the 1970s? 

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