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"British full dress, when did it finally disappear?" Topic


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1,068 hits since 29 Mar 2017
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Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 4:42 p.m. PST

I am curious about exactly when full dress vanished from regular use in the British army of this era. Was it still generally issued to all ranks after the introduction of the 1901 service dress? You still see illustrations and photos showing soldiers in the traditional scarlet and regimental headdress right up until 1914. Was full dress restricted to purely ceremonial use? I saw today a newsreel film of a body of horse cavalry leaving Dublin Castle in full dress while an infantry guard presented arms in service dress, possibly during the wartime era. Was full dress turned in at the start of the Great War and then simply not reissued (except to the Household Guards)?

I just wonder if the sight of full dress on British soldiers suddenly vanished in 1914 or had already gone away after 1901.

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 4:59 p.m. PST

From A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army by Major R. Money Barnes: "The last year in which the whole army wore full dress was 1914, as, after the war it was confined to the Household Cavalry, the Guards, regimental bands and officers attending levees. Other troops only wore it on special occasions such as the Command Tattoos, the Royal Tournament at Olympia, etc." and "After khaki service dress came into use for general purposes (1902), full dress was only worn on guard duties and ceremonial parades." and "Walking out" dress consisted of the full dress tunic and trousers, round forage cap, belt and swagger cane. Sergeants carried bayonets, this distinction evidently being a relic of the days when they wore swords (up to 1855). This dress had to be worn when off duty out of barracks."

jowady29 Mar 2017 8:34 p.m. PST

IIRC when Princess Anne married Mark Phillips they had to develop an full dress uniform for him to wear as his Regiment didn't have one.

gunnerphil30 Mar 2017 12:04 a.m. PST

What do you mean by full dress uniform? No 1 dress uniform? What we used to call blues? That was still around in mid 80 and guess a version still around.

Most Regiments and Corps had own version. Think only SAS did not have a version.

PeterEm30 Mar 2017 1:45 p.m. PST

In the book "A Strange War", which describes the wartime activities of the 2/5th Somerset Light Infantry, one volunteer describes an issue of 400 red full dress "old SLI" uniforms to the recruits training on Salisbury Plain. This was in Autumn 1914, and was presumably down to the widespread shortage of khaki kit at that time. The recruits wore them long enough to go home on leave and be photographed in them. I'd expect other regiments to have done much the same.

willlucv Inactive Member30 Mar 2017 1:56 p.m. PST

I think Piper meant; When did soldiers stop wearing dress uniform in battle/normal circumstances rather than ceremonially?

I think battle dress for the want of a better term got plainer and more functional from about the middle of the 19th century. British troops were serving in the back of beyond on colonial duties, being well turned out would have been a visual shorthand for Empire, but being toffed up to the nines on a day to day basis would have become unsustainable. Plus it became more internationally acceptable to wear muted colours, camouflaging oneself would have been previously regarded as damned unEnglish

Ramming31 Mar 2017 3:20 a.m. PST

When I was in the Kings troop RHA in the 70's we were still opening new packets with soldiers no 1 dress shell jackets marked WD (War Department) 1907.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2017 11:35 a.m. PST

I was meaning Full Dress as it is in the regulations -- this was the pre-1914 Full Dress (i.e. scarlet tunics, various headdresses, blue trousers with red stripe). Only the Guards returned to this for parades and ceremonial after the First World War (and again after WWII, when the concept of "No. 1 Dress" was launched as a substitute -- but No. 1 dress is NOt, strictly speaking, Full Dress, which has never been abolished, simply not generally issued or authorized except for the Household troops and military bands and maybe occasional guards of honor for state occasions. Not Full Dress as combat/service dress, which is a different thing.

I was more interested in the transition time post-Boer War and up to WWI, when the khaki service dress became the normal working uniform (and basis for the combat uniform) for the army but Full Dress was still worn and, I think, still generally issued to all ranks. Or was it? Was Full Dress for home service and general functions already vanishing after 1901, despite it still being the "official" uniform often shown in art, photographs, etc.? (Think about all the examples of British Army uniforms in our painting reference books that show regiments in their full dress up until 1914 -- and then it abruptly ends. So what happened to all those thousands of uniforms when the Great war broke out? Had they already gone, or were they turned in to regimental stores and never used again? Why wouldn't they have continued in use for home service ceremonies, at least, as a morale booster?

Royal Marine10 Apr 2017 1:25 p.m. PST

Royal Marines always have had full dress. And mini-skirts, cocktail outfits and something for the weekend.

spontoon11 Apr 2017 12:18 p.m. PST

I didn't think it had disappeared!

janner28 Apr 2017 11:42 a.m. PST

IIRC when Princess Anne married Mark Phillips they had to develop an full dress uniform for him to wear as his Regiment didn't have one.

Mark Phillips was with the Queen's Dragoon Guards at a time when they still have a regimental band, who wore ceremonial dress when the rest of the regiment were in blues, aka patrol dress. The dress regulations covered ceremonial, but none but the band master normally wore the officer's version, link

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