REGIMENTAL CHRONICLE 1963 REGIMENTAL DRESS by MAJOR M. R. PENNELL
"It has been suggested that an annual article in the chronicle dealing with various changes that take place within the Regiment may be of interest today and of value in future years. No article of this nature has appeared in the chronicle for well over a quarter of a century, consequently a record of changes since the last article appeared would need a Chronicle in itself."
Is it over-cynical to point out that these words, far from being an exhortation to produce something for this year's chronicle, are in fact the opening sentences of "The changing scene," which appeared in the 1938 chronicle? These pre-war articles covered a wide field, including organisation, drill, dress, equipment, and Regimental customs. Perhaps an account of all the changes since then in all of these spheres would need a complete shelf of chronicles, and of course many of the changes have been recorded in the general history of the Regiment as found in the chronicle since then. The present notes are simply an attempt to give the position on dress as it is at the moment.
It may be as well then to review the position of dress within the Regiment today, and hope that others will see that a record is made in the future. As the Regiment is serving in the Far East, it will be necessary to deal with two scales of clothing—for home service and for the tropics.
To deal with home service first, the normal dress for the Army today is No. 2 Dress. The somewhat ugly title is part of a scheme of some tidy-minded authority to have each and every order of dress numbered, in the manner of the Royal Navy. But it doesn't work out quite like that in practice. If the Regiment or indeed any part of the army, was ordered to parade in No. 7 Dress, there would be considerable scratching of heads. But the term No. 2 Dress is used universally, to distinguish it from the prewar service dress, to which it bears a marked family likeness.
No. 2 Dress puts the army back into khaki for ceremonial and everyday parades, after a long and unsuccessful attempt to dress it in the blues and greens of No. 1 Dress. The No. 2 Dress issued to soldiers throughout the army is standard in design, and regiments are distinguished only by buttons, badges, and titles. (Of course, such a generalisation cannot be taken as including the tribal regiments north of the border.) The Regiment wears the black rifle button, common to all Green Jacket Regiments, with its crown and bugle horn, and "43rd & 52nd" shoulder titles in black metal. (A proposal that all three Green Jacket Regiments should have a common shoulder title is under consideration.) Warrant officers wear the cord and small black button. Badges of rank for warrant officers and non-commissioned officers are black worsted on a rifle green background (the other two Regiments each have their own pattern). To conform to the ideas of the 60th and Rifle Brigade, the Regiment is going to give up the red sash, hitherto worn by warrant officers and Serjeants.
In an article that is supposed to deal with the uniform of the Regiment, it is nevertheless pertinent to mention where we differ from the other two Regiments in the Green Jackets Brigade, as postings between all three are a feature of our present life. If such postings cause too many changes and too much expense, they also cause a certain amount of cool feeling, and common ground is gradually being reached without hurting pride too much.
The accessories to No. 2 Dress are the No. 1 Dress cap—a Rifle green forage cap with the Green Jackets Brigade badge and black buttons, and black boots or shoes. In theory a khaki cloth belt is worn; in practice the riflemen buy a black plastic belt with white metal fittings out of their own pockets. It is an indication of their self respect that the Regiment can parade entirely in these smart belts. Later it is hoped that a shoulder belt will be issued to all ranks.
In the case of officers, the War Office laid down that No. 2 Dress would be exactly the same as the pre-war service dress. As so frequently happens, what is laid down and what is done are two different things. Each of the Green Jacket Regiments had its own service dress, differing in cut and colour. A standard design has been evolved, ensuring that officers in all three Regiments have to buy new uniforms. The pattern is the same as the Regiment's former service dress, with a slight change in shade, and black buttons and titles are worn, with the cord and small black button, and small black badges of rank. The Regimental! belt, when worn, has silvered fittings.
All ranks down to and including Serjeants, wear the Regimental whistle strap between the pockets, though this has also changed to black.
The shoulder belt is an innovation for the Regiment. The 60th and Rifle Brigade officers have always worn theirs with ceremonial uniform, and a case has recently been made for it to be issued to all ranks, so that the battle honours can be displayed by two Regiments which have no Colours. While the 43rd and 52nd carry Colours, we cannot really use this argument. The strongest we can say is that we should like to achieve a degree of uniformity within the Brigade. We are now going to give up carrying the Colours as we are a rifle regiment; we are adopting the shoulder belt, but with the Green Jackets Brigade badge on it. To ensure uniformity we would like to see the 60th and the Rifle Brigade use this badge too—but then what happens to the argument about battle honours? However, if the Treasury can be persuaded to pay for the belts for the riflemen, there is no need to be too concerned with the logic of it all.
The shoulder belt is at present worn with No. 1 Dress by officers and is to be worn on suitable occasions with No. 2 Dress. Eventually it is likely to replace the Regimental belt entirely.
No. 1 Dress is in an uncertain state. It is still worn by officers for certain ceremonial occasions, it is worn by the Band, and it is still in issue to a number of non-commissioned officers. But it is the intention that the army as a whole should wear No. 2 Dress for all ceremonial occasions. One can only say that the future of No. 1 Dress is in doubt, and leave it to history to say what happens. The Regiment changed its buttons from silver to black, on becoming a Green Jacket regiment, and adopted the handsome black shoulder cords, but we still wear blue light infantry trousers, and other ranks still have white piping round the shoulder straps, and silver chevrons for non-commissioned officers. Perhaps if this form of dress is going to die, it doesn't matter that its parentage is so visibly jumbled.
Instead of the infantry pattern greatcoat, officers now wear a khaki "British Warm" with black buttons. Gloves for all ranks are black— leather for officers and woollen for riflemen.
For the more serious sides of soldiering, combat dress is issued. This again is of universal pattern for the army, and is practical rather than elegant. The newspaper photographs which appear every time troops are flown to a new crisis are adequate to do justice to it.
A description of the Regiment's new mess dress, and the story of its birth, appear in the 1960 chronicle, and it would be vain to try and vie with that detailed authority.
In the Far East the predominant colour of our dress is jungle green. As normal working dress we wear bush jackets and shorts, with rifle green hosetops, khaki puttees, and black boots. Officers differ in wearing shirts instead of bush jackets, green stable belts, and puttees of a much lighter colour. Most of them affect the Regimental green hat instead of the green beret with Green Jackets Brigade badge.
For ceremonial purposes officers wear jungle green drill bush jackets and trousers, with the No. 1 Dress hat. For the time being the orderly officer wears a Regimental belt on duty, but we experimented last Waterloo Day when the officers wore their swords from black sling belts worn under the bush jacket, instead of wearing Regimental belts with swords.
In the jungle there is the tropical equivalent of combat dress—calf-length canvas jungle boots, jungle green trousers, khaki flannel shirts, and floppy jungle hats. Again, it is essentially utilitarian and makes no pretence to sartorial splendour.
As a tropical mess dress we wear either No. 1 Dress trousers or tropical weight black trousers, green cummerbund, soft white shirt and white tie, and a plain white drill mess jacket with no shoulder straps or badges of rank. The Serjeants' mess has adopted the same design, but has retained the shoulder straps and badges of rank, in silver braid on a dark green ground.
This is perhaps not the place to discuss items of equipment, as opposed to dress. The changes have been equally great over the years, but it is a rather more controversial subject, and tempers can wax hot in any discussion, especially amongst those who have to carry most on foot.
These notes may be enough to serve as a fresh starting point to keep track of the changes in the appearance of the Regiment. Perhaps the biggest change is in the attitude of the present generation towards individuality.
Perhaps never again will orders be published, as they were in 1816, saying: "Major-General Sir Denis Pack feels much pleasure in recording his opinion that the appearance of the 52nd Regiment on his late inspection justified all he has heard in praise of the system established in that Corps.; He thinks particular praise is due to the officers for the good example they set by their strict uniformity of dress and officer-like appearance in every respect."