Khaki drill

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Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, GOC of Malaya at the time of the Japanese invasion, wearing the officer's KD bush jacket
The Black Watch in the Battle of Magersfontein, 1899, showing an early version of the khaki drill jacket, combined with kilts

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 and was most often used in desert and tropical service. A variant, still referred to a Khaki Drill or KD's, is worn by the UK Armed Forces in noncombatant warm weather countries where the British are actively serving (e.g. personnel stationed at R.A.F. Akrotiri in Cyprus will wear any of four working variants of this uniform). Generally KD was a series of different uniform patterns of light khaki cloth, generally cotton, first worn by British and British Empire soldiers in the Boer War. Canada developed its own pattern after the First World War, and the uniform was commonly worn in Canada, with officers again having the option of finer garments privately purchased. In the Second World War, Canadians serving in Jamaica and Hong Kong wore Canadian pattern KD; the I Canadian Corps troops in Italy wore KD supplied in theatre by the British, generally of British, Indian or US (War Aid) manufacture.

North Africa and the Mediterranean[edit]

British Commonwealth infantry manning a sandbagged defensive position near El Alamein, 17 July 1942.

In the early campaigns in North Africa and the Mediterranean theatre, British troops wore khaki drill (KD) shorts or slacks with long sleeved Aertex shirts. The tan color, paler shade of KD was more suited to desert or semi-desert regions than the "dark khaki" or brown serge used in Battle dress. When the Allies moved up through Italy, however, two-piece khaki denim battledress overalls were increasingly preferred. By 1943, the KD shirt began to be replaced by a more durable cotton KD bush jacket.

Far East[edit]

Lt Gen. Arthur Percival, led by a Japanese officer, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Allied forces in Singapore, on February 15, 1942. All wear standard KD with shorts.

In the Far East, the British found themselves at war with the Japanese while equipped with the impractical KD uniform. Shirts and trousers had to be dyed green as a temporary expedient until more suitable jungle clothing became available. A new tropical uniform in Jungle Green (JG) was quickly developed – a JG Aertex battledress blouse, a JG Aertex bush jacket (as an alternative to the blouse) and battledress trousers in JG cotton drill. In the hot and humid conditions of Southeast Asia, JG darkened with sweat almost immediately.[1]

Post World War II[edit]

The 2/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles in JG marching through Kure soon after their arrival in Japan in May 1946 as part of the Allied forces of occupation.

The khaki battledress was used until the late 1960s, and various uniform items in KD, JG and OG remained on issue to soldiers serving in the Mediterranean, Middle East or tropics after the war. By the end of the 1940s, however, stocks were becoming depleted, and a new 1950-pattern tropical uniform was made available in both KD and JG. It was poorly designed, with an ill fitting bush jacket in the much-maligned Aertex, and suspender buckles that dug in to the hips when marching in full kit. Eventually the much more practical Gurkha regiments’ JG shirt was copied, replacing the 1950-pattern bush jacket. All the same, troops still sought out the older, wartime, issues of the better KD, JG and OG kit.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Burns, Michael G. (1992). British Combat Dress Since 1945. Arms & Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-984-9. 

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