From Red Coats to Disruptive Camo – 250 years of British Army Uniforms

Sticking out like a sore thumb? For more than 150 years, British soldiers marched into battle wearing their best parade square finery -- red coats adorned with bright coloured facings, white cross belts and rows of gleaming buttons. In those days, there was little need for camouflage -- muskets were notoriously inaccurate so infantry fought in the open, packed in tight formation, sometimes only a few yards apart. On a smokey battlefield colourful and conspicuous attire actually helped troops tell friend from foe. With the advent of long range rifles, rapid fire weapons and modern artillery in the late 19th century, keeping out of sight became the order of the day. Accordingly, the British army traded in its iconic crimson tunics for khaki battledress.

Sticking out like a sore thumb? For more than 150 years, British soldiers marched into battle wearing their best parade square finery — red coats adorned with bright coloured facings, white cross belts and rows of gleaming buttons. In those days, there was little need for camouflage — muskets were notoriously inaccurate so infantry fought in the open, packed in tight formation, sometimes only a few yards apart. On a smokey battlefield colourful and conspicuous attire actually helped troops tell friend from foe. With the advent of long range rifles, rapid fire weapons and modern artillery in the late 19th century, keeping out of sight became the order of the day. Accordingly, the British army traded in its iconic crimson tunics for khaki battledress.

A READER FROM THE U.K forwarded us this infographic (SEE BELOW). It charts the evolution of the British soldier from the Seven Years War right up to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Allie May Redmond reached out to MilitaryHistoryNow.com in October and invited us to share her diagram with readers. We’re happy to take her up on the offer. Click on the image below to view her graphic in its splendid entirety. And make sure to check out the accompanying commentary.

By the way, if you (yes, YOU) have any images, video, stories or even infographics of your own you’d like to share with MHN’s growing audience, send them our way.
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JBI-The-British-Infantry-Uniform-in-War-Time-V2

5 comments for “From Red Coats to Disruptive Camo – 250 years of British Army Uniforms

  1. Iain
    20 August, 2014 at 5:49 am

    A good if fairly simplistic overview but what about the 45 year period between the end of WW2 and Op Granby?
    Suez, Korea, Aden, Malaya, Borneo,Northern Ireland, Falklands, The Cold War
    Or indeed the Balkans conflicts of the Mid 1990’s?

    • admin
      20 August, 2014 at 8:19 am

      True. Even just a Falklands War era uniform would have been a nice addition.

  2. Tristan
    22 August, 2014 at 6:14 am

    What about the uniforms of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and the London Scottish?

    Both regiments where early adopters of camouflage with the KRRC in Brunswick green and the London Scottish in Hodden Grey. Both matched the environments of the wars that they fought in.

    As Lord Elcho said “A soldier is a man hunter. As a deer stalker chooses the least visible of colours, so ought a soldier to be clad.”

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