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Posted by: Black_Powder_Rob British Army Uniforms
Posted on: 07/07/2017 21:46:09

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Posted by: Black_Powder_Rob
Total Posts: 1
Joined Date: Friday, 7 July 2017
I would like to discuss the changes to the British Army uniforms through the latter half of the 19th Century. Primarily the period where the British colonial troops replaced the red tunic for kharki. Can anyone shed any light on when this change happened?

My main interest is the following Colonial wars
Second Anglo-Afghan War
Anglo-Zulu War
Mahdist War

If anyone could suggest any good books that give detailed information on uniforms for this people then that would be good too.
Posted on: 07/07/2017 21:46:10
Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 276
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013

Well this is a very large subject, and close to my heart!

As with so much of the history of the British Army, the addoption of khaki uniform to replace scarlet was done in a gradual, piecemeal fashion after much debate and contoversy. It was done over a considerable period and you really have to research the history of individual units to be sure of when any particular regiment adopted the new dress. Of course this is not helped by the fact that most units would retain scarlet frocks as parade dress while khaki would have been worn in the field.

  What can be said with (I hope) some certainty is that the Anglo-Zulu War (and First Boer War) were the last wars in which all the regular British Infantry regiments campaigned in red jackets (except the 60th. Rifles of course...) In the 2nd. Afghan War most (but not all) of the British units were wearing khaki, mainly because they had been stationed in India for some time and various units had been experimenting with a variety of types of khaki uniform ever since the Indian Mutiny. A few units that were recent arrivals were still in red.

 The Alexandria expedition of 1882 stilll sees most of the troops in red jackets as most of the troops are drawn from G.B. and mediterranean garrisons, but as time passes British garrisons in Egypt gradually change over to khaki and by the time of the Second Sudan War everybody is in khaki.

 As I say, this is a big subject for button-counters like myself. If you are interested Ospreys own 2 books on the period are: "The British Army on Campaign" MAA Nos.198 and 201. I'm not sure if they are currently in print and, very regretably, thay have never been transfered to electronic format. (Heavy hint!) I'm at sea at present, so I cannot check my library, but Ian Knights "Go to your God Like a Soldier" and Mr Haythornethwaites "Colonial Wars Sourcebook" are also invaluable resources.

Posted on: 07/07/2017 22:38:11
Posted by: AdamC
Total Posts: 239
Joined Date: Thursday, 22 January 2009

Hi Black_Power_Rob,


Well Painty has beat me to a pretty comprehensive answer there. I'd certainly recommend you dig out the two MAA titles that he recommended as both cover the subject of the switch from red to kharki.


The only thing I'd add is that the last time British troops officially wore red uniforms in action was at the Battle of Ginnis on 30th December 1885 in the Sudan. British troops engaged in the action wore a mixture of red and kharki (the 2/DLI were in kharki having left their red frocks in Cairo).


Unofficialy there is some suggestion that a Maxim battery from The Connaught Rangers may have still been wearing red at the Battle of Ferkeh in 1896 (also in the Sudan) but this remains unconfirmed.

Posted on: 10/07/2017 13:38:16

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