MESS DRESS by MAJOR-GENERAL SIR JOHN WINTERTON, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., C.B.E.
The War Office Memorandum, dated 18th May 1960, which gives approval to, and describes, the Regiment's new mess dress conceals a good deal of debate and some justifiable indecision on the whole subject of mess dress in recent years.
When I became Colonel in 1955 there was no uniformity of thought about mess dress within the Light Infantry Brigade and the Regiment was pursuing a line of its own. The current thought, at the time, was in favour of a rifle green mess jacket on the 'Canadian' pattern, i.e. with a high collar and a waistcoat buttoned up to the top which would conceal whatever undergarments the wearer chose to dine in. When I was a student at the Staff College in 1929-30 this form of mess dress was worn by Indian Cavalry officers and I was always fascinated by their gorgeous waistcoats ; I felt that these had great possibilities in the almost starchless post-war world. But a waistcoat in the sober, not to say sombre, hues thought suitable for a Light Infantry Regiment had the disadvantage of making the wearer look rather like 'buttons' and when a prototype was sent out to the Regiment in Germany it excited some unkind comments. A majority opinion in favour of retaining the white tie and waistcoat was expressed and it was suggested that we should have a green replica of our very handsome scarlet mess jacket with the white cuffs. A prototype was produced but the green jacket had none of the distinction of our scarlet jacket and it was in my opinion a monstrosity. We were saved from it by the impending departure of the Regiment for Hong Kong in 1956 a projected move which, owing to the Suez crisis, ended in Cyprus. A decision was necessary before the Regiment left and accordingly the War Office were consulted. They ruled that, whatever the pattern, the colour of mess dress would be the same as the pre-war full dress. A curious line of argument but I heaved a sigh of relief and the officers fitted themselves out with scarlet mess jackets.
The situation was, of course, changed by the transfer of the Regiment to the Green Jackets Brigade in 1958 but no action was taken until the Regiment came home in the summer of 1959; by this time, it should be noted, the Light Infantry Brigade had already adopted a green mess jacket. (The W.O. presumably having revoked their ruling.)
By this time, also, it had become clear to me, that the other two regiments of the Green Jackets Brigade were quite happy with their mess dress, which they had recently changed. Accordingly at the beginning of 1960 a decision was made to go for a mess dress as like as possible to the mess dress of the K.R.R.C. and R.B. but with our own regimental distinctions. A meeting was held in Colonel Andy Martin's office at Winchester at which one officer of the K.R.R.C. and one officer of the R.B. very kindly appeared in mess dress. Mr Welch of Welch and Jeffreys was also present. At this meeting I think we were all astonished at how well our white tie and white waistcoat set off the R.B. mess dress. In view of our 'red' history we felt we must have some red and this is the reason for the scarlet lining. The overalls were a concession to modern thought!
The War Office (Ord. 17), York House, Kingsway, London, W.C.2. Tel.: TEMPLE Bar 3511, Ext. 3826 54/Officers/4172 (WODC) 18th May 1960 Memorandum for:
Headquarters, The Green Jackets Brigade, Upper Barracks, Winchester.
Subject: Mess Dress—1st Green Jackets, 43rd and 52nd
Reference your letter No. BA/36 dated 22/4/60;
Please note that the War Office Dress Committee have approved the following patterns of Mess Dress—Home for wear by Officers of the 1st Green Jackets, 43rd and 52nd:
Mess Jacket: Rifle green cloth. 2" stand collar of Light Infantry Green Velvet. 1 1/4" mohair braid round body of jacket, forming barrels at the bottom of back seams. The mohair braid traced inside with Russia braid, forming an eye at each bottom corner in front. The back seams trimmed with double 1/4" black braid, forming in a single braid an Austrian knot at the top. Five waved loops of square cord in front with four rows of knotted olivets, two olivets on each loop. Scarlet lining.
Cuffs: Light Infantry Green velvet pointed with 1 1/4" mohair braid, traced at the bottom with Russia braid, forming an eye in the angle. The mohair braid extending to 6" from the bottom of the cuff.
Collar: Edged with 1" mohair braid, a lacing of black Russia braid below the mohair braid forming an eye in the corners and one small regimental button on Russian braid 2 1/2" from collar edge and one row of Russia braid on bottom of collar edge.
Two pockets: With 1/4" braid forming a crow's foot at each end.
Waistcoat: White washing Marcella with roll collar and four white buttons in self material.
Overalls: Black barathea with 2" black mohair braid stripe down each side. Colonel, Secretary, War Office Dress Committee.