Uniforms of the British Army

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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] Uniforms in the British Army are specific to the regiment (or corps) to which a soldier belongs. Full dress presents the most differentiation between units, and there are fewer regimental distinctions between ceremonial dress, service dress, barrack dress and combat dress, though a level of regimental distinction runs throughout.[1]

Soldier's Kit Locker containing general-issue uniform (Army Air Corps).

Senior officers, of full colonel rank and above, do not wear a 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] British army source the uniforms with different suppliers, mostly from their colonies in the past.[2]

Full dressEdit

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. It generally consists of a scarlet, dark blue or rifle green high-necked tunic (without chest pockets), elaborate headwear and other colourful items. It was withdrawn from a general issue in 1914, but is still listed in the Army Dress Regulations, which speaks of it as "the ultimate statement of tradition and regimental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 and corps has its own pattern, approved by the Army Dress Committee.[3] 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. Gloves as worn with Full Dress uniform are white for all ranks in all regiments and corps, with the exception of The Rifles, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, the Royal Army Chaplains' Department, and the Royal Irish Regiment, who all wear black gloves in Full Dress. This is also the case with the Frock Coat and Numbers 1 and 3 dress. In addition, the Life Guards, the Blues and Royals, the Queens Royal Dragoons, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Royal Dragoon Guards, and the Royal Lancers all wear white leather gauntlets when mounted.

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 Royal Corps of Army Music Bands for ceremonial use.[4] 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), or participating in the Lord Mayor's Show.[5]

Lancers forming a guard of honour in full dress

Most regiments maintain full dress for limited numbers of personnel, including musicians and guards of honour (in some cases). However, all of these uniforms must be purchased and maintained from non-public funds.[6]

Historically, musicians were an important means of communication on the battlefield and wore distinctive uniforms for easy identification. 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' are now a distinguishing feature worn by musicians of non-mounted regiments and corps in ceremonial forms of dress. Originally, wings were embellishments in some foot regiments, so that, in 1750, nineteen out of forty-nine foot regiments wore them, although they had been forbidden in 1730. In December 1752, the wings were reserved for grenadier companies only, followed by the light infantry in 1770.[7][8] Within less than three decades, these initially small and modest features grew in size, became stiffened and lavishly trimmed with lace and fringes. After a design change, in 1836, the wings disappeared by the end of the Crimean War, 1855, and became solely the privilege of military musicians.

Headgear, as worn with full dress, differs considerably from the peaked caps and berets worn in other orders of dress: field marshals, generals, lieutenant generals, major generals, brigadiers and colonels wear cocked hats with varying amounts of ostrich feathers according to rank; the Life Guards, Blues and Royals, 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards and Royal Dragoon Guards wear metal helmets with plumes, the plumes variously coloured to distinguish them. The King's Royal Hussars, Queen's Royal Hussars, Light Dragoons, and the Royal Horse Artillery wear a black fur busby, with different coloured plumes and bags (this is the coloured lining of the busby that is pulled out and displayed on the left-hand side of the headdress), as do the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Royal Signals, despite not being hussar regiments. As the uniforms of Rifles regiments traditionally aped those of the hussars, a somewhat similar lambskin busby is worn by The Rifles and the Royal Gurkha Rifles, with coloured plumes to distinguish them. However, these busbies do not feature bags like in their hussar counterparts. The Royal Lancers; as well as the band of the Royal Yeomanry, feature the czapka, or 'lancer's cap'. The plumes and top of this headgear historically distinguished the various Lancer regiments. The Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Welsh Guards and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards wear bearskins, as do officers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers; whose other ranks, however, wear the flat-topped fusilier cap. The Royal Regiment of Scotland wears the feathered bonnet, as do pipers in the Scots Guards and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment, Mercian Regiment, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, Royal Anglian Regiment, Yorkshire Regiment, and Royal Welsh, as Line infantry regiments, wear the dark blue Home Service Helmet with a spike ornament on top, as do the Royal Engineers, Adjutant General's Corps and Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Army Veterinary Corps and Royal Army Dental Corps wear the Home Service Helmet, but with a ball ornament on the top rather than a spike. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment wear a white helmet with a spike ornament on the top. The Royal Tank Regiment, Army Air Corps, Parachute Regiment, Special Air Service, Intelligence Corps and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment wear berets; as they do with all orders of dress. The Royal Irish Regiment, as well as the pipers of the Queen's Royal Hussars and the Irish Guards wear the caubeen.

Not all full-dress uniforms are scarlet; light cavalry regiments (hussars, light dragoons and lancers) and the Royal Artillery have worn blue since the 18th century, while rifle regiments wear green. The seven support corps and departments in existence in 1914 all wore dark blue dress uniforms, with different coloured facings. Hussar and Rifle regiments' tunics feature cording across the chest, while that of the Royal Lancers and Army Air Corps features a plastron in the facing colours.[9]


Each regiment and corps of the British Army has an allotted facing colour according to Part 14 Section 2 Annex F of the British Army dress regulations. Where full dress is currently not used, the notional colours can be ascertained by the colours of the mess dress; if the regiment in question has not been amalgamated with another. The Intelligence Corps, SAS and SRR have no design on record for full dress, and the Intelligence Corps mess dress colour of cypress green would make this unlikely for full dress, and the full dress facing colours of the SAS and SRR can be inferred from their beret colours (like the Parachute Regiment) according to this section of the regulations. The London Regiment and existing Yeomanry regiments have a variety of colours for their various sub-units.

Blue: General officers and Colonels, The Life Guards, 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, The Royal Dragoon Guards, The Queen's Royal Lancers, Foot Guards Regiments, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, the Royal Welsh, Adjutant General's Corps, Honourable Artillery Company (Artillery dress), Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers

Scarlet: The Blues and Royals, Queen's Royal Hussars, Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Artillery, The Rifles, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Educational and Training Services (part of Adjutant General's Corps), Royal Military Police (part of Adjutant General's Corps) Royal Army Physical Training Corps, Royal Corps of Army Music, Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry dress), The Royal Yeomanry

Yellow: Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

Crimson: The King's Royal Hussars, Army Cadet Corps

Buff: The Light Dragoons, The Mercian Regiment

Royal blue: The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment

Maroon: The Parachute Regiment, Royal Army Veterinary Corps

Dark blue: The Royal Anglian Regiment, The Queen's Own Gurkha Logistics Regiment

Black: Royal Corps of Signals, Army Legal Services (part of Adjutant General's Corps)

Blue velvet: Royal Engineers, Queen's Gurkha Engineers, The Royal Logistic Corps

Black velvet: Royal Tank Regiment

Brunswick green: The Yorkshire Regiment

Piper green: The Royal Irish Regiment

Cypress green: The Intelligence Corps

Cambridge blue: Army Air Corps, Small Arms School Corps

Emerald green: Royal Army Dental Corps

Purple: Royal Army Chaplains Department

Ascot grey: Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps

Dull cherry: Royal Army Medical Corps

Slate grey Royal Gibraltar Regiment

Frock coatsEdit

One type of frock coat may be worn by officers of lieutenant general and above (and major generals in certain appointments) on formal occasions when not on parade in command of troops.[1] They are a knee-length, dark blue, double-breasted coat with velvet collar and cuffs. It is usually worn with the peaked cap but is occasionally worn with a cocked hat by certain office-holders such as the Major-General commanding the Household Division, Gold Stick and Silver Stick and the Constable of the Tower.[11]

A different type of frock coat is worn by certain officers of the Household Division, Honourable Artillery Company and King's Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery. These are also dark blue but are single-breasted and 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 for The Rifles).[1]

Numbered orders of dressEdit

A selection of uniforms mostly worn in the British Army as worn by the Yorkshire Regiment.

Fourteen numbered 'orders' of dress (in addition to full dress) are set out in Army Dress Regulations[12] but many of these are rarely worn or have been phased out altogether. Numbers 5 and 9 have 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 senior non-commissioned officers in some cases); others are only issued to personnel serving in particular climates or specific roles.

No.1: Temperate ceremonialEdit

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

No. 1 Dress, or "dress blues", is a ceremonial uniform, worn on only the most formal of occasions and by senior staff officers, aides to the Royal Family,[13] and to the personal staff of senior officers in command. It is not generally issued to all units, with the khaki No. 2 Dress functioning as the main parade uniform.

No. 1 dress originated in the "undress" uniforms ('blue Patrols') worn for semi-formal or ordinary duty occasions in the late 19th century. It was first issued in its current form for the 1937 Coronation, intended as a cheaper alternative to the full dress uniforms that had been generally withdrawn after 1914. It became known as No. 1 Dress in 1947. Army units participating in the 1953 Coronation wore the new uniform as a temporary issue.[14]

For most units, No. 1 dress consists of a dark blue stand collared tunic, matching trousers, and peaked cap, caubeen, or beret depending on the regiment. Female members may wear skirts with tights in place of the trousers. Units are distinguished by badges and the colours of the cap, tunic piping, vertical stripes ("welts") on the trousers, and the colour of the collar for certain cavalry regiments. The Rifles wear a rifle green tunic with black trousers. The Royal Gurkha Rifles wear matching tunics and trousers of rifle green. The Royal Dragoon Guards and the King's Royal Hussars wear dark green and crimson trousers respectively. Cavalry regiments wear shoulder chains in place of shoulder straps, and for officers "overalls" (tight-fitting trousers historically worn by mounted troops).[15] The Royal Regiment of Scotland wears a short jacket called a "doublet", in Archer Green. Prior to amalgamation, Highland regiments wore the doublet with the kilt and sporran while Lowland regiments wore trews, both in the individual regiment's tartan.

In the full ceremonial order of No. 1 Dress, officers wear a waist sash of crimson silk and twisted cord epaulettes; 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, as do the Special Air Service[16] and Royal Army Chaplains Department (who have a unique pattern of tunic that features an open step collar instead of a stand collar. Other ranks wear a white, buff, or black leather belt with a regimental pattern locket, with a bayonet frog if carrying arms.

The peaked forage cap is worn by most regiments exceptions being:

The above headdress is also worn as part of Numbers 3, 10 and 11 dress (and with Number 2 and 6 dress on formal parades).

No.2: Service dress (temperate parade uniform)Edit

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

Originally issued as a field uniform, 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. Coloured trousers are worn by some units: crimson by the King's Royal Hussars, 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 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 "cutaway" 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, arm badges, and unusually for the Educational and Training Services Branch blue socks are worn.

Regimental buttons are worn; for most units, these are of gold colour, with black buttons worn by The Rifles, Royal Gurkha Rifles and Royal Army Chaplains Department, silver by the Special Air Service, Special Reconnaissance Regiment, Honourable Artillery Company and Small Arms School Corps 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 corporals and below.[20]

In the ceremonial form of No.2 dress, the headdress is the same as that worn with No.1 dress, with the exceptions of the Brigade of Gurkhas (who wear the slouch hat); and of officers of The Queen's Royal Hussars who wear their "tent hat" (the only headdress 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 authorized (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 uniformEdit

Other ranks'
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.[21] 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.[22]

Since the 1970s this order has consisted of the same white tunic but is now worn with coloured No. 1 dress trousers.[23] 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;[24] units of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and The Royal Bermuda Regiment (see below); plus a few army bands and officers of the battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles stationed in Brunei.

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 millennium, wearing No. 1 Dress (with red facings) during the rest of the year due to the cold and often stormy weather. As most of its public ceremonial duties fall during the summer months, it now wears No. 3 Dress year-round, with No. 1 Dress worn only as authorized by the Commanding Officer.[25]

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 made in a light khaki shade defined in Section 01.87 of the Army Dress Regulations as "stone".

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 stone coloured bush-style four-button jacket worn with or without a shirt and tie underneath and stone coloured 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 dressEdit

The tropical shirt-and-trousers uniform, consisting of a stone coloured short-sleeve shirt worn with stone coloured trousers (tartan kilt or trews for Scottish regiments), and regimental headgear. Regimental/Corps stable belts may be worn in this order of dress.

No.8: Combat DressEdit

Other ranks
British Army No.8 Combat Dress (Yorkshire Regiment)
A British soldier, left, of the Queen's Royal Hussars wearing a Tent Hat with No.8 Dress.

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 subdivision thereof, these being the ALS, ETS, RMP, MPGS, and SPS, in the case of the AGC).

Working headdress 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 Commando beret.

A regiment or corps cap badge is worn on the beret or other headdress 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 an MTP cover and some scrim netting for the insertion of additional camouflage. In jungle conditions, the helmet is usually substituted by an MTP bush hat – or equally, in cold conditions, an MTP peaked hat (Cap, Extreme Cold Weather), a rolled woollen tube known as a cap comforter, or other specialized headgear. When the British Army finds itself in peacekeeping roles, regimental headdress 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 dressEdit

Other ranks'
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 dressEdit

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

No.12: Protective clothingEdit

This order of dress includes various types of protective clothing ranging from the 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 combat dress shirt and trousers worn with beret and stable belt (identical to that of No. 7 Dress).

No.13: Temperate barrack dressEdit

Other ranks
British Army No.13/14 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.

In 2018 it was announced that although Nos 13 and 14 Dress remain an authorised order of dress to be worn on appropriate occasions, Barrack Dress trousers, skirts and short-sleeved shirts were to be withdrawn.[30]

It consists of khaki barrack dress trousers (as issued under the Future Army Dress (FAD) programme) and the standard issued shirt from No.2 dress with a pullover sweater. The stable belt, a wide belt made of tough woven fabric, is often worn. 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:[31]

A regimental pattern coloured side cap may be worn at the commanding officer's discretion. Some warrant officers in a few regiments customarily carry a Pace stick when in this order of dress.

No.14: Short Sleeve OrderEdit

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

British soldiers wearing Desert Combat Dress including body armour covers and bush hats.
Sergeant of the Royal Bermuda Regiment (right) in No. 9 Dress with a Jamaica Defence Force soldier

Battle Dress refers to the combat utility uniform issued from 1939 to the early 1960s that replaced No.2 Service Dress. It is often incorrectly called the "Pattern 37 uniform" from the pattern of web gear and accessories introduced earlier in 1937. 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 40), and 1949 (Pattern 49). It became a 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.

Battledress had some drawbacks. The uniform was designed for the temperate climate of the United Kingdom or Northern Europe. It was found too heavy for wear in summer, the sunnier climate of Southern Europe (like the Mediterranean Theatre) or in tropical or jungle climates (like the Pacific Theatre). Conversely it was 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 dressEdit

A British soldier of the Royal Artillery, with No.5: Desert combat dress shirt and trousers.

Desert combat clothing is listed as: hat, jacket and trousers DPM and were issued to soldiers and other British military personnel posted to Cyprus, the Middle East and Afghanistan. As issued in 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.

No.8: Temperate Combat Dress Para Smock with a tactical recognition flash and rank insignia.

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

No.8: Temperate Combat DressEdit

Prior to 2011 this was based on a woodland variant of Disruptive Pattern Material.

No.9: Tropical Combat DressEdit

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 coatsEdit

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. Other than these royal bodyguards, there was no standing English Army before the English Civil War, only the permanent, but part-time, Militia for home defence and temporary forces raised for expeditions abroad. Scotland, which remained independent from England until the 1707 Acts of Union created the Kingdom of Great Britain, also raised a standing Scottish Army after the English Civil War (known in Scotland and Ireland as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms), which merged with the English Army in 1707 to create the British Army. During the Civil War the Parliamentary New Model Army adopted a fairly standardized pattern of red clothing, a practice which continued with the small regular English Army of the Restoration period.[33] The Scottish Army initially appears to have issued grey uniforms but began to imitate English Army practice by adopting red uniforms from the 1680s.

By the end of the 17th century, the colour of the uniforms of the English Army was largely settled on red with few exceptions. Red tunics became the norm for line infantry, including foot guards, and certain other units. 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 the Crimean War with the adoption of looser fitting tunics and more practical headdresses. At the time, the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Sappers and Miners, and the Commissariat Department and transport organs were not part of the British Army but of the Board of Ordnance. After the Crimean War, the Board of Ordnance was abolished and these units (with the Royal Sappers and Miners having been amalgamated into the Royal Engineers) and the Commissariat, stores and transport organs (re-organized ultimately into the Army Ordnance Corps and the Army Service Corps, both since amalgamated into today's Royal Logistic Corps), were transferred to the British Army. The Royal Artillery wore dark blue tunics. Red tunics were however retained by the Royal Engineers (the pre-Crimean War, officer-only Royal Engineers and the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners, made up of other-ranks, originally wore blue jackets, but first wore red during the Napoleonic Wars), line infantry and most other units, including cavalry, except in India where drab coloured garments were introduced in 1848[34] and worn increasingly from 1857 on.[35]

Until 1873 the other ranks of most infantry regiments wore tunics in madder red. In that year the brighter shade of scarlet was adopted, having previously been limited to officers, sergeants and all ranks of certain regiments of cavalry.[36]

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).[37] 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.[38]

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).[39]


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 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.[40] 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 and range combined with smokeless powder during the late 19th century, making low-visibility on the battlefield a matter of priority.[41]

Battledress and camouflageEdit

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.[42] 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.


From the time of the New Model Army broad-brimmed Flemish hats were worn. After the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 Monmouth Cap, a broad-brimmed, low-crowned felt hat, with one side of the brim generally turned up, was introduced. Then came the tall Flemish hat which developed into the low-crowned Carolina hat and the tricorne hat. During James II’s reign the grenadier cap was introduced for grenadiers. Scottish Highland infantry regiments from about 1763 wore feather bonnets.

At the beginning of the 19th century the shako was introduced. In 1811 a lighter, smaller version of it was adopted. In 1816 an improved ‘Prussian’ style of black felt shako with a glazed top was issued. This soon evolved into a shako much wider at the top and rather bell shaped. In 1844 the so-called Albert shako was substituted. However during the Crimean war it proved impractical for active service and the round, undress, Kilmarnock forage cap was worn by most of the regiments engaged. The Kilmarnock forage cap was superseded in kilted Highland regiments by the Glengarry bonnet in 1851. After the Crimean War a lighter shako, after the French style of the period, was introduced, and in 1868 the last model of British shako: smaller and tilted a little more to the front, was introduced. Cap comforters were introduced in the late 19th century as an informal working headdress.

Following the Battle of Waterloo, all members of the newly named Grenadier Guards were permitted to wear the bearskin.[43] This privilege had previously been restricted to the grenadier company of the regiment.[44] In 1831, this distinction was extended to the other two regiments of foot guards (Coldstream and Scots) in existence at that date.[45] Bearskins were subsequently adopted by the Irish Guards and the Welsh Guards when raised in 1900 and 1915 respectively.[46]

The Home Service Helmet was introduced in 1879 and the Foreign Service pith helmet was used in hot climates. During the early years of the 20th century the blue Field Service Cap, the Brodrick cap and the Slouch hat were all worn. In the First World War, a khaki Balmoral bonnet was introduced in 1915 for wear in the trenches by Scottish infantry. This came to be known as the "bonnet, tam o' shanter". The Brodrick cap was unpopular and was replaced in 1905, by a round khaki peaked cap used until the outbreak of World War II. In 1938 the Field Service Cap of the 1890s was re-introduced in a khaki version and during WWII it gave way to the General Service Cap. Cavalry regiments and the Tank Corps wore soft berets. After the war the beret proved a useful, practical and comfortable cap and is still used.[47]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Army Dress Regulations 2017" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  2. ^ "Paddelaters | Ww1-wwI-british". www.paddelaters.com. Retrieved 2023-01-26.
  3. ^ 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.[dead link]
  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. 117, 119. Archived from the original on 2007-11-06.
  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. 105. Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  6. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  7. ^ Liliane and Fred Funcken, British Infantry Uniforms. From Marlborough to Wellington, London: Ward Lock Limited, 1976, p. 18, p. 20, note 5.
  8. ^ Carl Franklin: British Army Uniforms of the American Revolution 1751-1783, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84884-690-6, p. 358
  9. ^ Major R. M. Barnes, Plates XX and XXII "A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army", First Sphere Books edition 1792
  10. ^ Section 604 Dress Regulations for the Army 1900
  11. ^ "The Rifles: Dress Guidance" (PDF). Ministry of Defence.
  12. ^ 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.). Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 29 July 2008.
  13. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  14. ^ Barthorp, Michael. British Cavalry Uniforms Since 1660. pp. 165–166. ISBN 0-7137-1043-8.
  15. ^ Barthorp, Michael. British Cavalry Uniforms Since 1660. p. 166. ISBN 0-7137-1043-8.
  16. ^ Shortt, James G. The Special Air Service. p. 38. ISBN 0-85045-396-8.
  17. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  18. ^ a b "ARMY DRESS REGULATIONS (ALL RANKS)" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. November 2016.
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ The Defence Supply Chain Manual, JSP 336 (3rd Edition), Volume 12, Pamphlet 7, Clothing regulations and scales Territorial Army (all ranks)
  21. ^ Shortt, James G. The Special Air Service. p. 37. ISBN 0-85045-396-8.
  22. ^ R.M. Barnes, page 281 "A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army" First Sphere Books 1972
  23. ^ Paragraph 16, Dress Regulations for the Mercian Regiment, January 2009
  24. ^ Royal Artillery Standing Orders: part 5 – Dress
  25. ^ Royal Bermuda Regiment: Quick Reference Guide to the different Orders of Dress
  26. ^ "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
  27. ^ Royal Air Force Regiment Association, Birmingham Branch Newsletter Issue No. 267, September 2011, Page 6
  28. ^ "47 Regiment Royal Artillery". Ministry of Defence.
  29. ^ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/948567/Binder3.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  30. ^ ABN: 59/18, Withdrawal of items of barrack dress uniform, 22 Mar 18.
  31. ^ 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)
  32. ^ "AGC PRI shop – Black ALS woollen jumper".
  33. ^ Barnes, R.M.. (1972). A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army. First Sphere Books. pp. 220–221.
  34. ^ "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
  35. ^ Carman, W.Y. (1968). British Military Uniforms from Contemporary Pictures. Hamlyn Publishing Group. pp. 153 & 154.
  36. ^ Major R.M. Barnes, A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army. Sphere Books Ltd, London (1972), p.257
  37. ^ Barthorp, Michael (1984). British Cavalry Uniforms since 1660. p. 158. ISBN 0-7137-10438.
  38. ^ Carman, W.Y. (1968). British Military Uniforms from Contemporary Pictures. Hamlyn Publishing Group. p. 158.
  39. ^ Major R.M. Barnes, pages 295–296 "A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army", First Sphere Books 1972
  40. ^ Haswell, A.E. (2009). Vanished Armies. Shire. pp. 9 to 18. ISBN 978-0-7478-0739-1.
  41. ^ Mollo, John. Military Fashion. p. 210. ISBN 0-214-65349-8.
  42. ^ Kannik, Preben (1968), Military Uniforms of the World in Colour, Blandford Press Ltd, ISBN 0-71370482-9 (p. 245)
  43. ^ Major R.M. Barnes, page 116 "Military Uniforms of Britain & the Empire", Sphere Books Ltd, London 1972
  44. ^ Fisher, David (27 July 1989). The Grenadier Guards. p. 34. ISBN 0-85045-284-8.
  45. ^ Stadden, Charles (1973). Coldstream Guards. p. 51. ISBN 0-85524-111-X.
  46. ^ Carman, W.Y. (1985). Uniforms of the British Army. The Infantry Regiments. p. 29. ISBN 0-86350-031-5.
  47. ^ Styles of headdress

External linksEdit