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  1. #1
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    Question Kilts in UK Army battle dress uniform

    Having seen Dunkirk over the weekend, I was pushed to ask a question: The did the Highland Regiments eliminate the kilt in the battle dress uniform? It was my understanding that it occurred sometime in early 1940. I'd assumed that units already in France wouldn't change in the field. Also, there are photos of the Highland Brigade pipers in POW camps in full kilt. This won't be much of a spoiler but Highlanders in the movie are not kilted. So, when did the uniforms change?

    -Eric from Seattle (first time poster)

  2. #2
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    Well met Eric. Glad to have you with us. Any questions concerning the kilt are interesting to me. I expect our historians will sound off soon and give us both information. Thanks for the question.

  3. #3
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    The Highland Division fought in their kilts during the Battle of France in 1940 and some of those taken prisoner and many were as the 51HD fought as part of the rear guard, at that time wore their kilts until their release in 1945. So, "sometime" in 1940, is the rough date when kilts were officially withdrawn from Unit combat situations, although individuals managed to circumnavigate----as one does in the British army on occasion------those regulations and still fought in the kilt. Tommy Macpherson to name but one, was a notable example of this.
    Last edited by Jock Scot; 25th July 17 at 04:55 AM.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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  5. #4
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    The kilt was dropped around the time of Dunkirk because higher authorities deemed it not suitable for modern combat. The Cameron's were I believe the last regiment to resist and were rewarded the blue hackle by the king in lieu of wearing the kilt operationally. Kilts for regimental pipes and drums were also in the rear kit that followed troops into combat so that's why after a victory you see sometimes pictures of pipers playing in kilts. Like Jock said, kilts didn't completely disappear because some individuals with the right attitude slipped through the rules and still carried on. Mad Jack Churchill was a very colourful example and kilts even appeared on some airborne troops because one of the battalions was Cameron's converted to the airborne role.

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  7. #5
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    The decision even made the news in far off Australia, the Cairns Post reporting it on 31 May 1940:

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/42247318

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  9. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Scott View Post
    The decision even made the news in far off Australia, the Cairns Post reporting it on 31 May 1940:

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/42247318
    Well now we have a pretty close date and allowing for a small intercontinental news time lapse perhaps, thank you. I always had an idea that May/June 1940 might be about the time the "powers that be" made the decision.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

  10. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jock Scot View Post
    Well now we have a pretty close date and allowing for a small intercontinental news time lapse perhaps, thank you. I always had an idea that May/June 1940 might be about the time the "powers that be" made the decision.
    This provides some additional information:

    Extract from 'Return to St. Valéry' by Lieutenant General Sir Derek Lang

    The Division was commanded by Major General Victor Fortune.

    In January 1940 they embarked at Southampton for Le Havre.

    It was during the preparation that the War Office decided that the kilt was not appropriate for modern warfare and the order was given to hand them in.

    Lieutenant Colonel Wimberley commanding the 1st Battalion The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders wrote :

    "An attack has been made on the Highland Regiments as to their wearing their kilts in battle in Europe... the kilt as a battledress was being attacked from three angles. On the grounds of (unit) security, on grounds of its inadequacy in case of gas attack and on grounds of difficulty of supply in war. There was also the tinge of jealousy - why should the kilted regiments be given preferential treatment to wear a becoming kilt. The thickness of the kilt and its seven yards of tartan was extra protection. It was traditional in all highland regiments never to wear any garment in the way of pants under the kilt. But anti-gas pants were issued."

    The 5th Gordons had a symbolic parade at Bordon in January 1940 before embarkation in which a single kilt was ceremonially burned. A stone memorial marked the spot inscribed "We hope not for long". The 1st Camerons somehow managed to avoid the order and some were still wearing the kilt at St.Valéry.

    The HD signs were removed and replaced with St.Andrews crosses and stags heads on green and purple background. The GOC, Major General Victor Fortune, however continued to wear the HD on his uniform.

    From: http://51hd.co.uk/history/mobilisation#ixzz4nyS88MlQ
    Last edited by Bruce Scott; 26th July 17 at 02:15 PM.

  11. #8
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    Thank you Bruce, its seems January 1940 is when the kilt was deemed "unsuitable" for combat use by the War Office. Earlier than I thought, but nice to know.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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  13. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jock Scot View Post
    ...although individuals managed to circumnavigate----as one does in the British army on occasion------ regulations
    Not just the British Army. I speak from 20 years and one day of experience in the US Army.
    "Don't give up what you want most for what you want now."
    Just my 2˘ worth.

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  15. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by duke_19_62 View Post
    Not just the British Army. I speak from 20 years and one day of experience in the US Army.
    I am not qualified to venture an opinion on what the US Army get up to, so I bow to your superior knowledge there.
    Last edited by Jock Scot; 28th July 17 at 01:42 PM.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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