Uniforms of the British Army

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Soldier's Kit Locker containing general-issue uniform.

The uniforms of the British Army currently exist in twelve categories ranging from ceremonial uniforms to combat dress (with full dress uniform and frock coats listed in addition).[1]

General principles[edit]

Uniforms in the British Army are differentiated according to the regiment (or corps) to which a soldier belongs. Full dress is the oldest form of uniform and presents the most differentiation between units; although there is then a 'steady thinning out of regimental features', through ceremonial dress, service dress, barrack dress and combat dress, a level of regimental distinction runs throughout.[1]

Senior officers, of full colonel rank and above, do not wear regimental uniform (except when serving in the honorary position of a Colonel of the Regiment); rather, they wear their own 'staff uniform' (which includes a coloured cap band and matching gorget patches in several orders of dress).

As a rule, the same basic design and colour of uniform is worn by all ranks of the same regiment (albeit often with increased embellishment for higher ranks). There are several significant uniform differences between infantry and cavalry regiments; furthermore, several features of cavalry uniform were (and are) extended to those corps and regiments deemed for historical reasons to have 'mounted status' (namely: the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Army Air Corps, Royal Logistic Corps and Royal Army Veterinary Corps).[1]

Full dress[edit]

Line infantry full dress (Duke of Wellington's Regiment): scarlet full dress tunic of pre World War I pattern, Home Service helmet of 1878.

Full dress is the most elaborate and traditional order worn by the British Army. Characterised by the historic red coat, as well as by elaborate headwear and other colourful items of dress, it was withdrawn from general issue in 1914 but is still listed in the Army Dress Regulations, which speaks of it as "the ultimate statement of tradition and regimental identity in uniform" and the "key" to all other orders of dress.[1] Each regiment or corps has its own pattern, approved by the Army Dress Committee.[2] They are generally a modified version of the pre-1914 uniforms; in the case of units created since the First World War, such as the Army Air Corps, the Full Dress order incorporates both traditional and modern elements.

Troopers of the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery in their blue light cavalry-style full dress uniform

Full dress is still regularly worn on ceremonial occasions by the Foot Guards, the Household Cavalry and the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. It is issued at public expense to these units and to the various Corps of Army Music Bands for ceremonial use.[3] Other units may obtain Full Dress on occasion, as it can be worn whenever a parade is attended or ordained by the monarch or a member of the British Royal Family, including ceremonial parades, state funerals, and public duties around royal residences (such as the Changing of the Guard). It is worn by all Household Troops attending the Lord Mayor's Show, and also when participating in guards of honour or recruiting drives.[4]

Lancers forming a guard of honour in full dress

Most other regiments maintain full dress for limited special categories: these include drummers (line infantry), buglers (rifles), trumpeters (cavalry), pipers (Scottish and Irish units) and in some cases guards of honour; however, all of these uniforms must be purchased and maintained from non-public funds.[5]

Historically, drummers, trumpeters and the like wore distinctive forms of dress for easy identification on the battlefield; this is recalled in the extra uniform lace worn by infantry regiments' corps of drums, and the different coloured helmet plumes worn by trumpeters in the Household Cavalry. Shoulder 'wings', which were originally used to distinguish specialist companies (e.g. of grenadiers or light infantry) within infantry battalions, are now a distinguishing feature worn by musicians of non-mounted regiments and corps in ceremonial forms of dress.

Not all full-dress uniforms are scarlet or red. The use of (dark) blue by the Royal Artillery dates back to the first half of the 18th century, and the same colour is used by several cavalry regiments and a number of support corps; rifle regiments, on the other hand, wear dark green.

Examples of Full dress uniform
Soldiers of the Irish Guards in Full Dress (as with the other regiments of the Foot Guards, a tall Bearskin is worn). 
Full dismounted dress of the Household Cavalry: the Blues and Royals (left) and the Life Guards (right). 
Full dress, Royal Regiment of Scotland (including scarlet doublet and feathered bonnet)[6] 
A non-commissioned officer of the Jersey Field Squadron Royal Engineers on duty in full dress uniform, 2012 
A warrant officer of the Royal Regiment of Artillery in full dress. 

Frock coats[edit]

Undress uniform was one step below Full Dress in level of formality. According to current dress regulations "the term covered Frock Coats, Patrol Jackets, and Stable and Shell Jackets and Mess dress"[1] Mess dress is now included among the numbered orders of dress (see below); of the other items, Frock Coats are still worn 'as Undress'[1] by certain officers (and also bandmasters) on certain occasions:

The Frock Coat may be worn by officers of Lieutenant-General rank and above (and Major-Generals in certain appointments) on formal occasions when not on parade in command of troops.[1] Dating from the 1830s or earlier, this item of uniform is a knee-length, dark blue, double-breasted coat with velvet collar and cuffs; it is usually worn with the peaked cap, but on occasion it is worn with the British Army cocked hat by certain office-holders.[7]

Frock coats are also worn by certain officers of the Household Division, Honourable Artillery Company and King's Troop RHA, although these are of different design: a single-breasted, dark blue coat with ornate black braiding and loops. Similar braided coats are worn on occasion by directors of music and bandmasters of bands affiliated to line cavalry regiments (in other bands they wear a plainer double-breasted frock coat (similar to that of senior officers but without the velvet) in dark blue (or green, in the case of the Rifles).[1]

Numbered orders of dress[edit]

Fourteen numbered 'orders' of dress (in addition to full dress) are set out in Army Dress Regulations[8] but Numbers 5 and 9 are listed as "no longer worn" having been replaced by the new 'Personal Clothing System' Combat Uniform (or PCS-CU for short).[1] Several orders of dress are only issued to officers (and SNCOs in some cases); others are only issued to personnel serving in particular climates or specific roles.


Uniform distinctions vary from one Regiment or Corps to another, and the following descriptions are a generalization. Also, while there are officially fourteen different grades (or 'Numbers'), many of these are rarely worn or are being phased out altogether.

No.1: Temperate ceremonial uniform[edit]

Other rank's
British Army No.1 Dress (Yorkshire Regiment)

No. 1 Dress, sometimes referred to as "blues", is a universal ceremonial uniform which is almost consistent throughout the British Army. No. 1 Dress is only worn on ceremonial occasions, and, in some regiments, by the duty officer. It is also regularly required to be worn by a short list of other units, senior staff officers, and officers appointed as aides to the Royal Family[9] and to the personal staff of senior officers in command. The order is not generally issued to all units, with the khaki No. 2 Dress functioning as the main parade uniform.

The origins of No 1 Dress can be traced back to various "undress", "patrol" or "frock" uniforms worn for semi-formal or ordinary duty occasions in the late 19th century. In its present form it dates from an order of dress issued at the time of the 1937 Coronation, intended as a cheaper alternative to the full dress uniforms that had been generally withdrawn after 1914. In 1947 a trial issue of what was now termed No 1 Dress was made with regimental distinctions as detailed below. Army units participating in the 1953 Coronation wore the new uniform as a temporary issue.

For most regiments and corps No. 1 dress consists of a dark blue tunic and trousers or overalls (or skirt) with a coloured peaked cap. Females should wear normal dark coloured tights when needed. Different units are distinguished by the colouring of the cap, piping on the tunic and of the welts or stripes on the trousers, as well as badges and in certain Cavalry Regiments by the colour of the collar.

There are some exceptions. The tunic and trousers of The Essex Yeomanry, The Rifles and Royal Gurkha Rifles (and of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, prior to its amalgamation into the Royal Bermuda Regiment) are rifle green, while the Royal Dragoon Guards and the King's Royal Hussars wear dark green and crimson overalls (tight fitting cavalry trousers) respectively. Cavalry regiments wear shoulder chains in place of shoulder straps.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland wears a short jacket called a "doublet" in Archer Green. Prior to amalgamation Highland regiments wore it with the kilt and sporran while Lowland regiments wore trews. The kilt or trews were in the individual regiment's tartan pattern.

In the full ceremonial order of No. 1 Dress, officers wear a waist sash of crimson silk while general officers wear a waist sash of gold and crimson stripes. Light cavalry regiments wear a lace crossbelt in place of the sash while Rifle regiments wear a polished black leather crossbelt. Other ranks wear a white buff or black leather belt with a regimental pattern locket, with a bayonet frog if carrying arms.


The No.1 dress peaked forage cap is worn by most but not all regiments; berets are worn in lieu by the Royal Tank Regiment, Army Air Corps, Parachute Regiment, Special Air Service and Intelligence Corps.[10] Berets are also worn by officers and other ranks of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and other ranks of the Royal Welsh in which feather hackles are displayed, recalling the plumes formerly worn on the full dress busby.[10] The Royal Regiment of Scotland wear a regimental glengarry with cockfeathers taken from the former ceremonial uniform of the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Irish Regiment wear the caubeen, while the Brigade of Gurkhas wear a round Kilmarnock cap.[10]

The above headwear is normally worn as part of Nos 1, 3, 10 and 11 dress (and with Nos 2 and 6 dress on formal parades).

No.2: Service dress (temperate parade uniform)[edit]

Other rank's
British Army No.2 Dress (Yorkshire Regiment)

Originally issued as a field uniform (see Service Dress (British Army)), this uniform is worn for most formal duties by all units. No.2 dress consists, for most corps and regiments, of a khaki jacket, shirt and tie with trousers or a skirt. The Royal Regiment of Scotland wear a special pattern of jacket with a cut away front, worn with a regimental tartan kilt or trews. Coloured trousers are worn by some units: crimson by the King's Royal Hussars and dark green by the Royal Irish Regiment and Royal Dragoon Guards.

All officers and Other Ranks now wear the same style and colour of Service Dress and it is issued for free to all. Officers are required to purchase the caps, belts and shoes for which they are given a cash grant. The only variations of the standard jacket are the jackets worn by the Foot Guards whose buttons are grouped differently depending on their regiment; and the Royal Regiment of Scotland who wear a "cut away" form of the jacket to be worn with kilts.

Regimental distinctions worn on No.2 dress can include collar badges (sometimes with coloured cloth backings), coloured lanyards worn on the shoulder, and arm badges. Regimental buttons are worn; for most units these are of gold or silver colour, with black buttons worn by The Rifles, Gurkhas and Royal Army Chaplains Department and Bronze by the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. Officers and Warrant Officers Class One of some (but not all) Regiments and Corps wear a leather Sam Browne belt (that of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards is of pig skin which is not to be highly polished) or a cross belt. Infantry Warrant Officers Class Two and SNCOs wear a scarlet (for WOs) or crimson (for SNCOs) sash over the right shoulder to the hip. Soldiers wear a white or black plastic waist belt with a plate buckle displaying the regimental badge in ceremonial uniform – a plain khaki belt in non-ceremonial.

Every regular army soldier is issued with one suit of No.2 dress. In general, issue of this order of dress to units of the Army Reserves is to all officers and SNCOs with pools of khaki uniforms being held by units for use by Cpls and below.[12]


In the ceremonial form of No. 2 Dress, the head dress is the same as that worn with No.1 dress, with the exception of the Brigade of Gurkhas, who wear the slouch hat and officers of The Queen's Royal Hussars who wear their "tent hat" (the only head dress worn without a cap badge or other distinction). On 'informal parades' officers in Nos 2 or 6 dress may wear a peaked khaki cap (which may also be worn with Nos 4, 7, 12, 13 and 14 dress); this item is not generally issued to other ranks (who would wear the beret or equivalent on these occasions) except those in HCMR and King's Troop RHA.[1]

Another item of headwear authorised (but not provided) for optional wear on informal parades in Nos 2 or 6 dress is the side cap; it may also optionally be worn with Nos 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13 and 14 dress.

No.3: Warm weather ceremonial uniform[edit]

Other rank's
British Army No. 3 Dress

No.3 dress is the warm weather equivalent of No. 1 dress, worn for specified overseas stations or assignments. With the introduction of No.1 Dress in temperate regions, No. 3 Dress was adopted as the tropical equivalent during the early 1950s. It comprised an all-white cotton drill high-collared tunic, cut in a similar fashion to the No. 1 dress jacket, plus white trousers. These were worn with the coloured No.1 dress cap. No. 3 dress was typically issued temporarily, being withdrawn from units on leaving the station. This order of dress dates back to white drill uniforms worn for "hot-weather" ceremonial and off-duty wear in India prior to World War I.[13]

Since the 1970s this order has consisted of the same white tunic but is now worn with coloured No. 1 dress trousers.[14] Head-dress, footwear and badges are generally as for No. 1 dress. Widely worn during the 1950s and 1960s (when Britain still maintained significant garrisons in tropical stations) this uniform is now usually restricted to military attachés in tropical postings and their personal staffs,[15] the Royal Bermuda Regiment (see below) and a few bands. The band of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment is entitled to a permanent issue of No. 3 dress. The Royal Bermuda Regiment, which has many ceremonial duties, issued No. 3 Dress as a summer uniform until the end of the Millenia, wearing No. 1 Dress (with red facings) during the rest of the year due to the chilly and often stormy weather. As most of its public ceremonial duties fall during the summer months, it now wears No. 3 Dress year around, with No. 1 Dress worn only as authorised by the Commanding Officer.

No.4: Warm weather Service Dress (officers only)[edit]

No.4 dress.

Issued to officers on first posting to a warm weather area: the uniform is similar to No.2 dress but in a stone coloured polyester / woolen worsted mix. No.4 dress may be worn on formal occasions when not on parade with troops.

When officers are taking part in parades and formations with other ranks in warm weather areas, they wear either No.3 or No.6 dress.

There had been an Other Ranks pattern of warm weather Service Dress, but this fell out of use after the 1950s.

No.6: Warm weather parade uniform (bush jacket)[edit]

The "bush jacket" uniform (in Australia, this is known as the "safari uniform"). It is issued to all officers and ORs on posting to a warm weather station. It consists of a tan bush-style 4-button jacket worn with or without a shirt and tie underneath and tan trousers. It is worn by all ranks for parades (as with No. 2 Dress), unless No. 3 dress is worn, and by ORs for all other occasions.

No.7: Warm weather barrack dress[edit]

The tropical shirt-and-trousers uniform, consisting of a stone coloured short-sleeve shirt worn with stone coloured trousers (kilt or trews for Scottish regiments), stable belt and regimental headgear.

No.8: Combat Dress[edit]

Other rank's
British Army No.8 Combat Dress (Yorkshire Regiment)

The current No.8 Dress, which was introduced as part of Project PECOC[citation needed] in 2011, is known as Personal Clothing System – Combat Uniform (PCS-CU); it is based around a Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) windproof smock, a lightweight jacket and trousers with a range of ancillaries such as thermals and waterproofs. Prior to 2011 separate designs of combat dress were provided for use in desert, temperate and tropical regions (numbered 5, 8 and 9, respectively, in the uniform regulations) all of which were replaced by PCS-CU.

PCS-CU is designed to be lightweight, yet durable enough to be used throughout rigorous activities soldiers find themselves performing[citation needed]; and with the idea that layers of clothing are warmer and more flexible than a single thick layer. The PCS-CU jacket is always worn loose, with sleeves rolled down; however an MTP pattern shirt was introduced in 2015 and this may be worn during the Summer months tucked into the trousers with sleeves rolled up. While the shirt may be worn during the Winter months, it is always worn with the sleeves rolled down.

Some Regiments and Corps wear a stable belt in No 8 dress whilst others restrict its use to Nos 13 and 14 Dress. On exercises and operations the stable belt is replaced with a plain green field belt, with nylon Personal Load Carrying Equipment and the Osprey body armour vest with pouches attached using the PALS system being worn for load-bearing purposes.

In the twentieth century the British army introduced Tactical Recognition Flashes (TRFs) – worn on the right arm of a combat uniform, this distinctive insignia denotes the wearer's regiment or corps (or sub division thereof in the case of the AGC).

A soldier of the Royal Gurkha Rifles

Working headress is normally worn, which is typically a beret. The colour of the beret usually shows what type of regiment the wearer is from. The colours are as follows:

Soldiers of 24 Commando (Engineer) Regiment wear the Royal Engineer cap badge on a green Royal Marine Commando beret.

A regiment or corps cap badge is worn on the beret or other head dress worn in No. 8 Dress. The badge is positioned above the left eye when a beret or a caubeen is worn; the badge worn on the Tam O'Shanter sits above the left ear. Uniquely D (London Irish Rifles) Company of The London Regiment wear their cap badge over the right eye, on their caubeen. Troops from other services, regiments or corps on attachment to units with distinctive coloured berets often wear the latter with their own cap badge. Colonels, brigadiers and generals usually continue to wear the beret of the regiment or corps to which they used to belong with the cap badge distinctive to their rank.

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers wears a feather hackle on the beret, they are now the only infantry regiment to wear the navy blue beret. Hackles are also worn by other regiments with Fusilier heritage: e.g. other ranks of the Royal Welsh wear white hackles on their berets (inherited from the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Royal Irish Regiment, instead of the beret, wear the Tam O'Shanter and the caubeen respectively, both of which feature hackles. The Tam O'Shanter is also worn by some UOTCs and Army Reserve units in Scotland.

Soldier of 4th Mechanised Brigade in Afghanistan, 2013.

Prior to the adoption of PCS-CU, the beret was often substituted by the Mk 6 Combat Helmet with a DPM cover (or desert DPM if worn with No.5 Dress); this has since been replaced by the Mk 7 helmet with a MTP cover and some scrim netting for the insertion of additional camouflage. In jungle conditions, the helmet is usually substituted by a MTP bush hat – or equally in cold conditions, a MTP peaked hat (Cap, Extreme Cold Weather), a rolled woollen tube known as a cap comforter, or other specialised headgear. When the British Army finds itself in peacekeeping roles, regimental headress is worn (where the tactical situation allows) in preference to the helmet or MTP hat, in order to appear less hostile to local civilians. When working for the United Nations, soldiers will wear the pale blue UN beret.

No.10: Temperate mess dress[edit]

Other rank's
British Army No.10 Mess Dress (Yorkshire Regiment)

The British Army's temperate mess dress includes a waist-length short jacket, with which men wear trousers, overalls or a kilt; and for women a long skirt. No. 10 dress is normally worn by sergeants and above for formal evening functions. Colours vary greatly from unit to unit but generally match those of the traditional full dress of the regiment or corps. Thus mess jackets can be scarlet, dark blue or green with facings and waistcoats in regimental colours. Two basic patterns of jacket are worn: the high collared "cavalry" style and the open-fronted one with lapels formerly worn by officers of infantry regiments. The version of No. 10 dress worn by officers frequently includes elaborate braiding on the waistcoats.

Mess dress was derived from the shell jacket (infantry) or stable jacket (cavalry): a short, working jacket in full-dress colours, which 19th-century officers paired with a uniform waistcoat for evening wear.[1]

No.11: Warm weather mess dress[edit]

A white jacket is substituted for the coloured one of temperate mess dress. Waistcoats are not worn.

No.12: Protective clothing[edit]

This order of dress includes various types of protective clothing ranging from standard overalls to specialist kit worn by aircrews, chefs, medics and others.

No. 12 also covers whatever day-to-day working dress may be authorised at a local or regimental level. Formerly an olive green shirt and trousers were often worn, but this has been replaced with smart Combat Dress: ironed shirt and trousers worn with beret and stable belt (identical to that of No. 7 Dress).

No.13: Temperate barrack dress[edit]

Other rank's
British Army No.13 Barrack Dress (Yorkshire Regiment)
Royal Irish Rangers: soldiers and officers in Numbers 8, 14, 10, 1, 2 and 12 orders of dress, flanked by a bandsman, bugler, piper and drummer in versions of (rifles) full-dress.

Khaki barrack dress trousers (as issued under the Future Army Dress (FAD) programme) and the standard issued shirt from No.2 dress with pullover. The stable belt is often worn: a wide belt, made of a tough woven fabric. The fabric of the belt itself is in regimental colours, either a single colour or striped along its length (the origin of these combinations is often traditional, derived from historic uniform colours and facings, and may coincide with the design of a particular unit's TRF). It is traditionally fastened with a set of leather straps and buckles on the wearer's left hand side (in some units to their front), but may alternatively have a metal locket arrangement, or a plate at the front bearing regimental, or formation insignia. The stable belt is worn over the pullover by some Regiments and Corps.

Some regiments' officers and WOs may wear coloured pullovers in place of the green pattern; the following regimental patterns and colours are authorised:[18]

A regimental pattern coloured side hat (officially described as a field service cap) may be worn at the commanding officer's discretion. Warrant officers customarily carry pace sticks when in this order of dress.

No.14: Shirt Sleeve Order[edit]

As for No.13, but with the shirt sleeves rolled up to above elbow level or the issued short sleeve barrack dress shirt. The pullover is not worn.


No.5: Battledress (1939–1961)[edit]

Battledress (BD) refers to the combat utility uniform issued from 1939 to the early 1960s, often incorrectly called the Pattern (19)37 uniform, that replaced the No.2 Service Dress. It consisted of a short jacket called a blouse and high-waisted trousers made of khaki wool serge worn with a beret or side-cap. It was also issued in RAF Blue-Grey for the Royal Air Force, Navy Blue for the Royal Navy / Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, and Dark Blue for the Civil Defence Corps. Officers were permitted to have the collar of the BD jacket tailored to have faced lapels, allowing the wearing of a shirt and tie underneath, inspiring the later American M44 'Ike Jacket'. Originally introduced in 1939, design modifications were made in 1940 (Austerity Pattern), 1942 (Pattern (19)40), and 1949 (Pattern (19)49). It became a smart barracks and walking-around dress with the introduction of the Jungle Green combat dress uniforms in the mid-1940s and is synonymous with the British soldier of the 1940s and 50s.

The Battledress had some drawbacks. The uniform was designed for the temperate clime of the United Kingdom or Northern Europe. It was found too heavy for wear in summertime, the sunnier climate of Southern Europe (like the Mediterranean Theatre) or in tropical or jungle climates (like the Pacific Theatre) and too lightweight for cold weather or high altitudes (like Korea). It was also very difficult to iron due to the complex series of pleats. It became obsolete in 1961 and No.2 Service Dress was reintroduced in its place in 1962 for barracks and parade use.

No.5: Desert combat dress[edit]

A British soldier of the Royal Artillery, in No 5 Dress

Desert combat clothing is listed as: hat, jacket and trousers DPM and is issued to soldiers posted to Cyprus and the Middle East. As issued during the 1991 Gulf War, this uniform was identical to the No. 9 DPM tropical uniform, except for the multi-tone desert camouflage. This was quickly replaced with a two-tone desert version of DPM camouflage (the base colour and one other). Smocks were also available in the desert DPM, including the SAS pattern windproof smock. Covers for combat helmets and body armour were also made in this camouflage prior to their replacement by Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) camouflage.

Since 2011, No 5 Dress has no longer been issued due to the introduction of the Personal Clothing System – Combat Uniform (PCS-CU).

No.9: Tropical Combat Dress[edit]

No.9 dress is no longer provided, being replaced by PCS-CU. It was made from cotton or poly-cotton DPM material of a lighter weight than pre-Combat Soldier 95 No 8 Dress The jacket was similar in cut to a shirt and had epaulettes fitted to the shoulders. Its sleeves could be rolled above the elbow and the shirt tucked into the trousers for a smarter appearance for example in barracks. There is a large pocket on each breast, closed with a button-down flap, and a first field dressing pocket on one sleeve. This uniform was normally worn with a DPM bush hat; out of the field, regimental headdress was often worn. The trousers had button down belt loops, when carrying equipment was not worn, a uniform belt was worn in these loops.


Red coats[edit]

Prior to the English Civil War of 1642–51 the only significant instances of uniform dress in British military culture occurred in small bodyguard units, notably the Yeoman of the Guard. During the Civil War the Parliamentary New Model Army adopted a fairly standardised pattern of red clothing, a practice which continued with the small regular English Army of the Restoration period.[20]

By the end of the 17th century, the English army uniform's colour (England not yet having joined with Scotland to form the United Kingdom), was largely settled on red with few exceptions. The practice of distinguishing regiments by different facings was in general use by the early 18th century. In the decades after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, British Army uniforms trended towards extravagance rather than practicality. That trend was reversed during Crimean war with the adoption of looser fitting tunics and more practical headdresses. Red coats were however retained, except in India where drab coloured garments were introduced in 1848[21] and worn increasingly from 1857 on.[22]

General issue of full dress uniforms ceased at the start of the First World War. The Household Division resumed wearing their scarlet and blue full dress in 1920, but for the remainder of the Army it was only worn by regimental bands, or else on certain limited social or ceremonial occasions (an example of the latter was the 1937 Coronation when mounted detachments from participating cavalry regiments were issued with full dress uniforms for the occasion).[23] The reason for not generally reintroducing the distinctive full dress between the wars was primarily financial, as the scarlet cloth required expensive red cochineal dye.[24]

Not all Full Dress uniforms were (or are) scarlet. Historically, the great bulk of the British Army wore red or scarlet (with the Royal Artillery distinctive in blue).[1] In the early nineteenth century, the success of élite Hungarian Hussars and Polish Lancers inspired the creation of similar units in other European armies, which also adopted their highly-distinctive forms of dress; in the British army these light cavalry uniforms were mostly dark blue. At the same time, the formation of regiments of Riflemen (who had always worn dark green rather than red, for reasons of camouflage) led to the full-dress use of 'Rifle green' uniforms in Rifle regiments. Line Infantry regiments though invariably wore scarlet, as did heavy cavalry (with the exception of the Royal Horse Guards ('The Blues') and the 6th Dragoon Guards).[25]


In January 1902 the British army adopted a universal khaki uniform for home service wear, the Service Dress, after experience with lighter khaki drill in India and South Africa. The traditional scarlet, blue and green uniforms were however retained for full dress and off duty "walking out dress" wear. Details of these colourful uniforms varied greatly between regiments and branches of the army.[26] The early use of camouflage in the form of plain khaki reflected the exigencies of colonial war and the freedom allowed, and taken, by many of the officers who fought it. The adoption of khaki for active service resulted from the development of weapons of greater accuracy range combined with smokeless powder during the late 19th century, making low-visibility on the battlefield a matter of priority.[27]

Battledress and camouflage[edit]

In 1938, the British Army adopted a revolutionary and practical type of uniform for combat known as Battledress; it was widely copied and adapted by armies around the world.[28] During the Second World War a handful of British units adopted camouflage patterned clothes, for example the Airborne Forces' Denison smock and the windproof suit. In the late 1960s the Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) camouflage uniform was adopted across the whole of the British Army. It remained in service, with periodical updates, for the next 40 years. From 2009 it began to be replaced by a new Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) uniform. This "Personal Clothing System (Combat Uniform)" has been developed for use across the British Armed Services, making use of the latest in clothing technology. Unlike the different versions of DPM issued for use in different terrains, the new MTP kit is issued in just one version, designed to function effectively across a variety of terrains, meeting a need identified in recent combat experience.

See also[edit]

Full dress Home Service helmet, with the cap-badge of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers within the Brunswick star.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Army Dress Regulations 2017". WhatDoTheyKnow. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  2. ^ British Army Dress Committee (August 2005). Joint Service Publication 336: The Defence Supply Chain Manual. Vol. 12, Part 3, Pamphlet 12   (3rd ed.). Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  3. ^ -->British Army Dress Committee (August 2005). Joint Service Publication 336: The Defence Supply Chain Manual. Vol. 12, Part 3, Pamphlet 12, Sect. 1   (3rd ed.). p. Para. 117, 119. 
  4. ^ British Army Dress Committee (August 2005). Joint Service Publication 336: The Defence Supply Chain Manual. Vol. 12, Part 3, Pamphlet 12, Sect. 1   (3rd ed.). p. Para. 105. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  5. ^ British Army Dress Committee (August 2005). Joint Service Publication 336: The Defence Supply Chain Manual. Vol. 12, Part 3, Pamphlet 12, Sect. 1   (3rd ed.). p. Para. 104. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  6. ^ Section 604 Dress Regulations for the Army 1900
  7. ^ http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/Rifles_Dress_Guidance__2012_Srl_7.pdf
  8. ^ British Army Dress Committee (August 2005). Joint Service Publication 336: The Defence Supply Chain Manual. Vol. 12, Part 3, Pamphlet 3, Sect. 1   (3rd ed.). Retrieved 29 July 2008. 
  9. ^ British Army Dress Committee (August 2005). Joint Service Publication 336: The Defence Supply Chain Manual. Vol. 12, Part 3, Pamphlet 3, Sect. 3   (3rd ed.). p. Para. 313. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  10. ^ a b c British Army Dress Committee (August 2005). Joint Service Publication 336: The Defence Supply Chain Manual. Vol. 12, Part 3, Pamphlet 15   (3rd ed.). p. Annex A. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  11. ^ Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter is wearing Colonel's (not Maj Gen's) Rank as he is in his uniform as the Colonel of The Regiment
  12. ^ The Defence Supply Chain Manual, JSP 336 (3rd Edition), Volume 12, Pamphlet 7, Clothing regulations and scales Territorial Army (all ranks)
  13. ^ R.M. Barnes, page 281 "A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army" First Sphere Books 1972
  14. ^ Paragraph 16, Dress Regulations for the Mercian Regiment, January 2009
  15. ^ Royal Artillery Standing Orders: part 5 – Dress
  16. ^ "Yorkshire Gunners honoured for Service in Iraq and Afghanistan". Ministry of Defence. Earlier in the day, in what marks a historic change in the history of one of the Batteries from the Regiment – 4/73 (Sphinx) Battery, the traditional dark blue beret of the Royal Artillery was replaced with a khaki-coloured beret. The change came about as a result of the Battery working closely, in times of war, with the Honourable Artillery Company 
  17. ^ Royal Air Force Regiment Association, Birmingham Branch Newsletter Issue No. 267, September 2011, Page 6
  18. ^ Material Regulations for the Army, Volume 3, Pamphlet 16, Optional Items of Dress (Note that Mat Regs have now been replaced by Army Dress Regulations so this reference is no longer current)
  19. ^ AGC PRI shop – Black ALS woollen jumper http://www.shopagc.co.uk/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=55&cat=Clothing
  20. ^ Barnes, R.M.. (1972). A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army. First Sphere Books. pp. 220–221. 
  21. ^ "Khaki Uniform 1848–49: First Introduction by Lumsden and Hodson", Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, JSAHR 82 (Winter 2004) pp 341–347
  22. ^ Carman, W.Y. (1968). British Military Uniforms from Contemporary Pictures. Hamlyn Publishing Group. pp. 153 & 154. 
  23. ^ Barthorp, Michael. British Cavalry Uniforms since 1660. p. 158. ISBN 0-7137-10438. 
  24. ^ Carman, W.Y. (1968). British Military Uniforms from Contemporary Pictures. Hamlyn Publishing Group. p. 158. 
  25. ^ Major R.M. Barnes, pages 295–296 "A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army", First Sphere Books 1972
  26. ^ Haswell, A.E. (2009). Vanished Armies. Shire. pp. 9 to 18. ISBN 978-0-7478-0739-1. 
  27. ^ Mollo, John. Military Fashion. p. 210. ISBN 0-214-65349-8. 
  28. ^ Kannik, Preben (1968), Military Uniforms of the World in Colour, Blandford Press Ltd, ISBN 0-71370482-9 (p. 245)