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"Royal Navy battledress" Topic

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750 hits since 27 Mar 2017
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willlucv27 Mar 2017 9:06 a.m. PST

I have found quite a few references to Royal Navy ratings and officers being issued with battledress in navy blue with a few detail changes. When did they do this? Was this done on an entire crew basis or optionally based on individual requirements? Didn't they also wear the Brodie style infantry helmet or was this a different type? What colour shirt did they wear with this? Any period photographs would be most appreciated.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member27 Mar 2017 11:27 a.m. PST

Hmm. A very quick look at my basic references only refer to the RN adopting khaki drill and, in 1941, a khaki serge battledress, both worn with naval headdress. Pretty much the same story for the Royal Marines.

Now, the RAF DID wear battledress made in blue-grey serge, as per their service dress uniform, and with the Brodie helmet.

I'd be curious to see if anyone else finds supporting material for this blue serge battledress! That would be a striking uniform for a shore party, etc.

bsrlee27 Mar 2017 12:29 p.m. PST

Have a look for photos of the D-Day landings, there should be naval shore parties somewhere in there. At least 'The Longest Day' thought dark blue battle dress was RN and they were pretty good for gear – most of it was original equipment purchased as surplus stores.

laretenue27 Mar 2017 1:58 p.m. PST

Blue battledress looks good. But for Overlord all RN Commandos, Beach Masters etc seem to have worn khaki BD with RN headgear and appropriate badges of rank on sleeve or shoulder. However navy BD was worn by RN and RM personnel embarked on warships and crews of landing craft, together with roll-neck jumbers, duffel coats etc. I seem to remember that blue BD may have been worn by some RN personnel ashore/inshore in earlier operations, whether landings in the Mediterranean or maybe Commando raids.

laretenue27 Mar 2017 2:29 p.m. PST

Take a look at this – RN signaller wearing blue Rating's jersey with BD, and RA Observer showing Combined Ops badges and splendid disdain for footwear regulations:


This looks quite strange – 'HMS Pongo', a combined RA/RN communications team of mixed personnel. Note one RN Rating apparently wearing sailor's vest under khaki BD blouse and beret (presumably Commando green):


Note for non-Brits: 'Pongo' is the term of endearment reserved for the British Army by the Royal Navy. I imagine normal Pongo Warrant Officers would have suffered heart attacks at the sight of all those open collars.

laretenue27 Mar 2017 2:30 p.m. PST

And I shall wait to see Piers B run up a vignette of these people …

willlucv27 Mar 2017 2:31 p.m. PST

Interesting, cheers everybody. I think the helmets were pretty similar too, although presumably worn a size larger to accommodate the anti flash gear. I've seen servicemen dressed in all sorts of stuff, regulation dress probably wasn't much cop in the middle of the Atlantic.

willlucv27 Mar 2017 2:36 p.m. PST

Super photos laretenue! I love obscure subject material like this.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member27 Mar 2017 4:09 p.m. PST

Yes, very instructive!

attilathepun4728 Mar 2017 12:05 a.m. PST

There is an Osprey/Elite title, "The Royal Navy, 1939-45," by Ian Sumner, published in 2001. Firstly, the Royal Navy never officially used the term "battledress" for the blue version--it was "Dress No. 5A, Working Dress," according to the uniform regulations for officers, and not sanctioned until 1943.

It originated quite contrary to regulations much earlier in World War II because the prescribed working uniform for officers was not very suitable for wartime work in small vessels and boarding parties or landing forces. Enterprising officers of the coastal forces obtained actual army battledress, by fair means or foul, which was then dyed navy blue (which is actually quite black). It was worn either with shoes or boots and a standard service cap, except a gray Mark II helmet (World War I style) was to be donned whenever at action stations. It could be worn with either white or blue shirt and tie, or a knit turtleneck sweater in cold weather. This uniform was only to be worn aboard ship; its use on duty ashore in friendly territory or on leave was strictly prohibited.

There is no mention of a corresponding blue "battledress" for ratings, but there were one- or two-piece blue suits of working overalls, which were the normal wear aboard corvettes and smaller vessels. These would appear rather similar to battledress, especially when worn with full equipment for landings.

There were 22 Royal Naval Commandos during World War II. These wore actual army equipment and khaki battledress with naval patches. One difference was that when not wearing steel helmets, their headgear was a khaki knit cap, not a beret. The Combined Operations Bombardment Units mixed Royal Artillery and R.N. personnel ashore to coordinate naval bombardments. The naval personnel dressed like the naval commandos, but some were known to have adopted blue berets.

There was also 30 Commando, renamed 30 Assault Unit in 1944. This combined members of all three services, trained in demolitions and intelligence gathering, and operated with Special Service forces. It went in with or even ahead of the lead elements of amphibious invasion forces to gather enemy documents before they could be destroyed. One section consisted entirely of naval personnel. It also wore army battledress with naval patches, but officers sometimes wore green berets with naval cap badges.

Pontius28 Mar 2017 6:27 a.m. PST

Blue battledress was certainly in use until at least 1977. When I joined BRNC Dartmouth that year we were all issued with a suit of it in heavy serge. We wore it in lieu of No 5 dress (standard reefer jacket and trousers) until everyone had received their No 5s.

It was a horrible, prickly fabric which made you itch terribly. The best way to overcome that was to shave the inside with a dry razor! And the only way to get a decent crease in it was to rub the inside of the crease with soap before ironing.

We only wore BD with white shirts, which, even in those days, had detachable collars. Once our No 5s arrived I don't think I ever wore BD again.

Personal logo 22ndFoot Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 9:25 a.m. PST


It was still issued to us in 1984. You forgot to mention that if you got blanko on it from your gaiters it would never come off.

Still wore detachable collars too.


Pontius29 Mar 2017 2:08 p.m. PST

22ndFoot – I'd forgotten the blanko, from the belt as well as gaiters.

Personal logo 22ndFoot Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2017 5:49 a.m. PST

Pontius, don't forget an occasional sneaky coat of Kleer from the NAAFI on your boots either. I always think of that whenever anyone on here is discussing Future/Kleer ink washes.

Chouan Inactive Member31 Mar 2017 1:45 a.m. PST

I wore a stiff separate collar in full dress in 1985, but only in full dress. Battledress was still being issued at that date.
It was a war economy uniform adopted by the Merch as well, as it used less wool.

Chouan Inactive Member03 Apr 2017 1:15 p.m. PST

I sailed with a Second Mate who wore it on the middle watch in the late 70's.

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