Click to escape. Subject to Crown Copyright. Britain
Category: Uniforms/All Forces

Click to go up one level

Home ] Category Index ] Australia ] [ Britain ] Canada ] France ] New Zealand ] Poland ] USA ] USA 2 ] Flying Tiger ] USSR ] Germany ] Germany 2 ] Germany 3 ] Germany 4 ] Italy ] Japan ]

British uniforms of the 20th Century were traditionally plain, even dull.

Each image is a thumbnail. Click to enlarge. If image Auto-reduces, click Icon on lower right hand side.

  • Captain in British SAS, DSO MC GM MM

The maroon and blue Pegasus patches identify members of the elite British Special Air Service (SAS) paratroops.  

The red beret is also part of the paratrooper uniform, here worn with the unique SAS "Who Dares Wins" cap badge.  

Our Captain initially served as a Sergeant in an Infantry Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and he won his Military Medal (MM) on the Retreat to Dunkirk.

The George Medal (GM) was awarded when he saved a French child from drowning during the period of the "phoney war" in France before Hitler launched his Blitzkrieg.

Click to enlarge
Among his decorations is the African Campaign ribbon (the Africa Star), worn with a small silver rosette device. This indicates that his participation in the North African campaign was with a unit not attached to either the 1st or 8th British Armies; otherwise there would be either a small silver "1" or "8" instead. 

He wears his parachute qualification wings proudly over his left breast pocket, as opposed to his upper right sleeve.  This was a privilege granted to those who had made at least three jumps behind enemy lines.  The Sten gun, accused by some as being finicky and unreliable, was not the choice of many Paratroops, but when silenced was almost impossible to hear firing. 

The SAS was initially created as a land based desert raiding force to weaken Rommel's North African logistics network as well as to hinder aircraft operations. The reference to "Air Service" was originally a ruse. Their first successful raid happened in December of 1941, when two groups, with our Captain, at that time a Lieutenant, destroyed 61 aircraft at two airfields. When the force ran out of explosives, SAS soldiers began to use their personal weapons to shoot out the controls. 

Another raid was launched soon after; this time twenty seven airplanes were destroyed. For individual bravery and  excellence of battlefield command he was awarded the Military Cross (MC) on this second raid.

The SAS operated in Europe as well; in one operation (codenamed Houndsmith), our Captain and 143 other men were parachuted with jeeps and supplies into an area close to Dijon, France. All told, the SAS inflicted 7,733 German casualties in Europe. 4,784 prisoners were captured and 700 vehicles were destroyed or captured. 164 railways were cut, seven trains were destroyed and thirty-three were derailed. The SAS was also used to "mop up" German war criminals. They hunted down senior SS and Gestapo agents and brought them before the War Crimes Tribunal. It was for leading a successful team in this work that won him the temporary rank of Major and the DSO.

Click to enlarge

Following the German invasion of Poland the British Expeditionary Force was sent to the Franco-Belgian border in 1939. Our Captain was there as a young baby faced Corporal who started his moustache to add a little visual seniority. 

His prewar service as a Cadet meant early promotion. His Unit sustained heavy losses and mounted a fighting withdrawal. Here is where he won the first of his 2 Military Medals "For Bravery in the Field" while attacking a motorized MG Section.

By the time his Unit was evacuated to England he was a Sergeant acting as a Warrant Officer. A mate who had been badly wounded gave him the well worn Sam Browne belt. 

He now gave up his rifle and started to wear the .38 caliber Mark 4 Webley pistol. He was wounded during the evacuation by a strafing Messerschmitt. Note the wound badge on his left fore-arm.

Back in the UK the Battalion regrouped and he was posted to 1st Battalion 8th Lancashire Fusiliers which became part of  4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Division arrived in India in June 1942, was sent to Burma in April 1944 and back to India in April 1945. As a Sergeant he won a Bar to his MM while serving with Brigadier 'Mad Mike' Calvert as one of Major General Wingate's famous Chindits. 

It was also here that he won a battlefield commission to Lieutenant and his skill and daring as a leader soon saw him promoted Captain. He finished the war without further incident and after demobilisation went on to a successful business career.

The RAF allowed a wide latitude from regulation uniform, especially among its pilots.  Many sported colorful ascots instead of the prescribed black woolen necktie.  

Others, like this officer, eschewed neckwear altogether in favor of a turtleneck sweater.  His pilot's wings identify him as a flyer, and the twin stripes of braid on his cuffs show that he is a Flight Lieutenant, equivalent to the U.S. rank of Captain.  

His only visible service ribbon is that of the Distinguished Flying Cross.  However, if you were to lift his left lapel, you'd find the unofficial "flying boot" badge of a pilot who has returned to his unit after being downed behind enemy lines.

Click to enlarge

During the Battle of Britain he flew the famous British fighter plane, the 'Supermarine Spitfire'. Later in the war he was transferred to a unit that flew Hawker Hurricanes, the first RAF fighter to exceed 300mph & the first eight gun monoplane to enter service.
Click to enlarge

In combat, British paratroops wore a special steel helmet.  

Usually, as shown here, it was covered with 3/8-inch netting onto which were tied bits of camouflage-coloured fabric in order to break up its silhouette and blend in with surrounding foliage. 

This captain's khaki webbing bandolier holds five spare 32-round 9-mm magazines for his MK III Sten submachine gun.

The heavy rope tied round his torso and shoulders is called a toggle rope. 

With a wooden handle at one end and a sturdy loop at the other, these 6- to 8-foot ropes were used by paratroops and commandoes to quickly construct ad-hoc bridges and other rigs, such as for climbing and descending steep terrain. His darkened face makes him harder to see in dim light.  The substance used may be a grease paint specifically designed for the purpose, or carbon soot from a charred cork, or even standard boot polish.

When his unit dropped into Normandy in 1944 to make Operation Overlord possible they were supported by glider borne troops who bought with them anti-tank guns and even light tanks called Tetrarch. These were landed by the huge wooden British General Aircraft Hamilcar Gliders.

Away from the battle lines, most British Paratroops favored the famous red beret instead of the heavy steel helmet.  Many even wore it into battle.

The camouflaged Denison smock is the distinctive garment of the British Airborne Forces. It was introduced in 1942 and replaced an earlier garment which was copied from the German parachutist's smocks. 

This captain wears the first-pattern Denison with knitted woolen cuffs.  Many parachute battalions used a system of identifying colored epaulet loops on both the smock and their Battle Dress Blouse. 

The maroon loops shown here identify a member of the 9th battalion of the 6th Airborne Division.

Click to enlarge

.Back Next


 Search   Help     Guestbook   Get Updates   Last Post    The Ode      FAQ     Digger Forum

Click for news

Sponsor: vacant              Statistics Over 35 million page visitors since  11 Nov 2002  More detail

Click for Internet Content Rating Association 

We use and recommend Riothost  for great web hosting deals. $10/year.

Start your website with Riothost - Great deals - 14 days trial FREE

to ensure that the site remains safe for  kids.

No chat room.

14 days   FREE  trial.  

Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces