Uniforms of the British Army

The uniforms of the British Army currently exist in twelve categories ranging from ceremonial uniforms to combat dress. Uniforms in the British Army are specific to the regiment 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.
Senior officers, of full colonel rank and above, do not wear a regimental uniform ; rather, they wear their own 'staff uniform'.
As a rule, the same basic design and colour of uniform is worn by all ranks of the same regiment. There are several significant uniform differences between infantry and cavalry regiments; furthermore, several features of cavalry uniform were extended to those corps and regiments deemed for historical reasons to have 'mounted status'.

Full dress

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, 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 It was withdrawn from a general issue in 1914, but is still listed in the Army Dress Regulations, which speaks of it as "the ultimate statement of tradition and regimental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. Each regiment and corps has its own pattern, approved by the Army Dress Committee. 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.
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 Corps of Army Music Bands for ceremonial use. 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, or participating in the Lord Mayor's Show.
Most regiments maintain full dress for limited numbers of personnel, including musicians and guards of honour. However, all of these uniforms must be purchased and maintained from non-public funds.
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', which were originally used to distinguish specialist companies in line infantry battalions are now a distinguishing feature worn by musicians of non-mounted regiments and corps in ceremonial forms of dress.
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 Queen's Royal Dragoon Guards and Royal Dragoon Guards wear metal helmets with plumes, the plumes variously coloured to distinguish them. The Kings Royal Hussars, Queen's Royal Hussars, Light Dragoons, and the Royal Horse Artillery wear a black fur busby, with different coloured plumes and bags, 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 wear the caubeen.
Not all full-dress uniforms are scarlet; light cavalry regiments 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.


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 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: 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 Royal Welsh, Adjutant General's Corps, Honourable Artillery Company, 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, Royal Military Police Royal Army Physical Training Corps, Corps of Army Music, Honourable Artillery Company, The Royal Yeomanry
Yellow: Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.
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
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
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

Frock coats

One type of frock coat may be worn by officers of lieutenant general and above on formal occasions when not on parade in command of troops. 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.
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 dark blue.

Numbered orders of dress

Fourteen numbered 'orders' of dress are set out in Army Dress Regulations 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. Several orders of dress are only issued to officers ; others are only issued to personnel serving in particular climates or specific roles.

No.1: Temperate ceremonial

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, 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 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.
For most units, No. 1 dress consists of regimental headdress, dark blue tunic, trousers, overalls, or skirts. Units are distinguished by badges and the colours of the cap, tunic piping, vertical stripes on the trousers, and the colour of the collar for certain cavalry regiments. The tunic and trousers of the Royal Gurkha Rifles are rifle green. The Rifles wear a rifle green tunic with black trousers. The Royal Dragoon Guards and the King's Royal Hussars wear dark green and crimson overalls respectively. Cavalry regiments wear shoulder chains in place of shoulder straps. 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 Regiment and Royal Army Chaplains Department. 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; berets are worn by the Royal Tank Regiment, Army Air Corps, Parachute Regiment, Special Air Service and Intelligence Corps. Berets are also worn by officers and other ranks of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and by other ranks of the Royal Welsh with feather hackles, recalling the plumes worn on the full dress busby. The Royal Regiment of Scotland wear a regimental glengarry with cockfeathers taken from the former ceremonial uniform of the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Irish Regiment wear the caubeen, while the Brigade of Gurkhas wear a round Kilmarnock cap. The above headdress is also worn as part of Numbers 3, 10 and 11 dress.

No.2: Service dress (temperate parade uniform)

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. The Royal Regiment of Scotland wear a special pattern of jacket with a cut away front, worn with a regimental tartan kilt or trews. 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, 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 regiments and corps wear a leather Sam Browne belt or a cross belt. Infantry Warrant Officers Class Two and SNCOs wear a scarlet or crimson 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.
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, ; and of officers of The Queen's Royal Hussars who wear their "tent hat". On 'informal parades' officers in Nos 2 or 6 dress may wear a peaked khaki cap ; this item is not generally issued to other ranks except those in HCMR and King's Troop RHA.
Another item of headwear authorized 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 uniform

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. 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.
Since the 1970s this order has consisted of the same white tunic but is now worn with coloured No. 1 dress trousers. Head-dress, footwear and badges are generally as for No. 1 dress. Widely worn during the 1950s and 1960s this uniform is now usually restricted to military attachés in tropical postings and their personal staffs; units of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and The Royal Bermuda Regiment ; 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 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.

No.4: Warm weather Service Dress (officers only)

Issued to officers on first posting to a warm-weather area: the uniform is similar to No.2 dress but in a stone-coloured polyester / woollen worsted mix. No.4 dress may be worn on formal occasions when not on parade with troops.
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)

The "bush jacket" uniform. It is issued to all officers and ORs on posting to a warm-weather station. It consists of a tan bush-style four-button jacket worn with or without a shirt and tie underneath and tan trousers. It is worn by all ranks for parades, unless No. 3 dress is worn, and by ORs for all other occasions.

No.7: Warm weather barrack dress

The tropical shirt-and-trousers uniform, consisting of a stone-coloured short-sleeve shirt worn with stone-coloured trousers, and regimental headgear. Regimental/Corps stable belts may be worn in this order of dress.

No.8: Combat Dress

The current No.8 Dress, which was introduced as part of Project PECOC in 2011, is known as Personal Clothing System – Combat Uniform ; it is based around a Multi-Terrain Pattern 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 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, 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 – worn on the right arm of a combat uniform, this distinctive insignia denotes the wearer's regiment or corps.
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:
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 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 ; 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, 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 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 dress

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 or stable jacket : a short, working jacket in full-dress colours, which 19th-century officers paired with a uniform waistcoat for evening wear.

No.11: Warm weather mess dress

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

No.12: Protective clothing

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.

No.13: Temperate barrack dress

Khaki barrack dress trousers and the standard issued shirt from No.2 dress with pullover. The stable belt is often worn: a wide belt, made of tough woven fabric. The fabric of the belt itself is in regimental colours, either a single colour or striped along its length. It is traditionally fastened with a set of leather straps and buckles on the wearer's left-hand side, 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:
A regimental pattern coloured side hat may be worn at the commanding officer's discretion. Warrant officers customarily carry pace sticks when in this order of dress.

No.14: Shirt Sleeve Order

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)

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, 1942, and 1949. 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 or in tropical or jungle climates. Conversely it was too lightweight for cold weather or high altitudes. 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 dress

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. 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 camouflage.
Since 2011, No 5 Dress has no longer been issued due to the introduction of the Personal Clothing System – Combat Uniform.

No.9: Tropical Combat Dress

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 coats

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, 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. 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 and the Commissariat, stores and transport organs, were transferred to the British Army. The Royal Artillery wore dark blue tunics. Red tunics were however retained by the Royal Engineers, line infantry and most other units, including cavalry, except in India where drab coloured garments were introduced in 1848 and worn increasingly from 1857 on.
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. 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.
Not all Full Dress uniforms were scarlet. Historically, the great bulk of the British Army wore red or scarlet. 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 led to the full-dress use of 'Rifle green' uniforms in Rifle regiments. Line Infantry regiments though invariably wore scarlet, as did heavy cavalry.


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

Battledress and camouflage

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. 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 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 uniform. This "Personal Clothing System " 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.