Uniforms and Miscellaneous

A visual encyclopedia of uniforms, military equipage, and other miscellaneous kit.

British Uniforms

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The British uniform is truly that: uniform. It is worn by all branches of the Army and at all ranks—officers are only distinguished by their caps and rank insignia. Fabric is the classic khaki brown, relatively colourfast.

The British battledress uniform was officially introduced in 1937. It had taken the British Army from 1932 till then to design, test and approve the new uniform. The helmet, officially called the Mk.II but colloquially known as a “Battle Bowler,” was an improved variation on the famous British Tommy’s steel helmet of WWI.

Officers are generally required to pay for their own uniforms, and are expected to have a full-dress version as well as battledress. Only Germany and the United States have a full-dress or “walking out” version of their uniforms for the other ranks. (Consequently the well turned-out Americans often fare better with the local female population than British troops, who only have their battledress to wear.)

One of the most iconic pieces of military clothing, the greatcoat, is issued when operating in climates that require it. A tropical or summer variant of the uniform is issued to troops serving on tropical or desert campaigns, and is a sandier shade of khaki with knee-shorts and high socks and a short-sleeved shirt.

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Colonial African Uniforms

British “colonial” forces, like other European armies, feature white officers commanding native troops. Officers’ dress is generally consistent with that of the regular army, but the troops often sport distinctive touches. All ranks are issued tropical uniforms as a general rule.

The various regiments of the Royal West African Frontier Force are amongst the most distinctive of the British colonial African troops in their drill uniforms. The uniform comprises khaki drill shorts, red fezes, scarlet zouave style jackets edged in yellow, and red cummerbunds.

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In the field, uniforms are typically tropical in cut, but head cover is often a “bush hat” for both enlisted men and officers, with the occasional fez making an appearance as well.

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German Uniforms

The German uniform of 1939 is the classic image of the Nazi stormtrooper: “coal scuttle” Stahlhelm helmet and jackboots with a crisp “Feldgrau” tunic and dark trousers. Greatcoats may be worn in colder weather, or by officers at any time. Hats are generally side-caps or brimmed “field caps” for enlisted men and peaked caps (with or without an interior wire stiffener) for officers.

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The forces of the Waffen-SS (Hitler’s personal army) wear uniforms similar to their Army counterparts. However, SS officers may be distinguished by their black uniforms and “Totenkopf” skull insignia (a heraldic device dating back to the Prussian army of the 18th century). Also of note: SS troopers are among the first in the world to be issued with camouflage smocks to cover their helmets and uniforms.

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Italian Uniforms

Italy boasts a variety of military and paramilitary units, each with a distinctive uniform.

The carabinieri, originally founded as the police force of the Kingdom of Sardinia, are a corps of military police with jurisdiction in both the civilian and military spheres. They are distinguished by their bicorne hats, which are often worn with a protective cover while on the job. They have been instrumental in the suppression of Fascist-opposition forces in Italy.

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The Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (MVSN, “Voluntary Militia for National Security”), commonly called the Blackshirts, are Mussolini’s private paramilitary force. They are technically an all-volunteer militia in the service of the Kingdom of Italy, but each member also swears a personal oath to Il Duce himself.

Their uniforms, as one might expect, begin with a black shirt to which is added a pair of gray jodhpurs with a black stripe down the side, black leather riding boots, a gray jacket, and a black cap with a tassel. Pictured here is an officer of the MVSN, distinguished by his red sash.

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Uniforms and Miscellaneous

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