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How to distinguish between British & US uniforms in photographs ?


RodB

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Can anybody give me pointers on how to distinguish between US and British army troops in photographs of the war ? Most photographs I find don't have enough detail to read badges, so perhaps cut of uniform etc ?

thanks

Rod

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Can anybody give me pointers on how to distinguish between US and British army troops in photographs of the war ? Most photographs I find don't have enough detail to read badges, so perhaps cut of uniform etc ?

thanks

Rod

The US uniform had a standing collar and no pleats on either the upper or lower patch pockets. They also wore a Mills Equipment Company cartridge belt very different in appearance from the British pattern 08 equipment, and finally, their water bottle was of a distinct shape that did not change until recently. Their jackets were also more form fitting whereas the British 1902 pattern service dress was designed to be relatively loose around the shoulders and body and both upper and lower pockets were inset.

The Canadian uniform had a standing collar too, but had more buttons (7) than its British equivalent and they generally wore the pattern 08 equipment of the British and had pleated upper pockets too.

The Australian jacket was more like a British officers in appearance in that it had a full skirt with bellowed lower pockets and it was fitted with a cloth belt, although this was often discarded. The upper pockets also had pleats.

All wore the same Brodie helmet, but had distinct silhouettes when wearing head dress out of the line. British and Canadian troops had a peaked forage cap and the Australians their distinctive slouch hat, with one side generally pinned up. US troops had a lemon squeezer type of 'campaign' hat and a similar type was worn by New Zealanders too.

N.B. There was a short-lived British variant of the SD jacket that was simplified for ease of manufacture without pleats on the upper pockets, or reinforcing shoulder patches. This is usually seen only in the first 2 years of the war and should not be confused with an American jacket.

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The US uniform had a standing collar and no pleats on the upper pockets. They also wore a Mills Equipment Company cartridge belt very different in appearance from the British pattern 08 equipment, and finally, their water bottle was of a distinct shape that did not change until recently. Their jackets were also more form fitting whereas the British 1902 pattern service dress was designed to be relatively loose around the shoulders and body.

The Canadian uniform had a standing collar too, but had more buttons (7) than its British equivalent and they generally wore the pattern 08 equipment of the British and had pleated upper pockets too.

The Australian jacket was more like a British officers in appearance in that it had a full skirt with bellowed lower pockets and it was fitted with a cloth belt, although this was often discarded. The upper pockets also had pleats.

All wore the same Brodie helmet, but had distinct silhouettes when wearing head dress out of the line. British and Canadian troops had a peaked forage cap and the Australians their distinctive slouch hat, with one side generally pinned up. US troops had a lemon squeezer type of 'campaign' hat and a similar type was worn by New Zealanders too.

Thanks for the detailed response. Can you elaborate on "standing collar" ? Does that mean stiff business-shirt type collar, as comapared to the soft rounded collar of British uniform ?

Rod

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Thanks for the detailed response. Can you elaborate on "standing collar" ? Does that mean stiff business-shirt type collar, as comapared to the soft rounded collar of British uniform ?

Standing collar:

WWI A.E.F. Medical Department

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Thanks for the detailed response. Can you elaborate on "standing collar" ? Does that mean stiff business-shirt type collar, as comapared to the soft rounded collar of British uniform ?

Rod

It's an upright collar with no fold over part, sometimes referred to as a Mandarin collar, as per Tom's link. It was very popular in Imperial Europe and the British Empire throughout the 19th C and requires no collar and tie as the tunic is fastened to the throat and then the collar usually secured by 2 hooks and eyes 'comforted' by a cloth flap.

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It's an upright collar with no fold over part, sometimes referred to as a Mandarin collar, as per Tom's link. It was very popular in Imperial Europe and the British Empire throughout the 19th C and requires no collar and tie as the tunic is fastened to the throat and then the collar usually secured by 2 hooks and eyes 'comforted' by a cloth flap.

Is prominent-military-identity-on-a-tea-tin wearing one below ?

LordHKitchener.jpg

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Is prominent-military-identity-on-a-tea-tin wearing one below ?

Yes, that is a good example on a full dress tunic at the turn of the Century.

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with one side generally pinned up. US troops had a lemon squeezer type of 'campaign' hat and a similar type was worn by New Zealanders too.

What a delightful description of an American hat, Frogsmile. You lived up to your name :thumbsup: . I take it that would be the same as the old Boy Scout or Mounties' hat? Antony

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What a delightful description of an American hat, Frogsmile. You lived up to your name :thumbsup: . I take it that would be the same as the old Boy Scout or Mounties' hat? Antony

Yes, they are like the the old scout hats (still worn by scouts in the US). However, the use of the campaign hats in Europe was very limited becaause they were impractical (far better suited for the campaigns they were designed for within the US or on the Mexican border) and difficult to transport. As a result almost all theatre pictures of US troops (except some arrival/disembarkation pictures) will have them wearing "Overseas caps" These are similar to the forage caps/ sidecaps of British WWII vintage although are shaped slightly differently.

Pre war pictures of US Regulars may also show them in peaked caps.

P29 of this booklet has a quick comparative viewalthough it is an element I should do more with I think

Photos of the campaign hat and overseas cap to follow.

Chris

EDIT

post-14525-0-87800700-1306851128.jpg

Taken in training in the US, the crown on this chap's hat is less pointed than usual looks like he has punched it out! although the dimples around the crown are still visible.

post-14525-0-84741800-1306851134.jpg

Taken in theatre - you can also see that in addition to the headgear change, frequently the gaiters were replaced with puttees.

Edited by 4thGordons
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What a delightful description of an American hat, Frogsmile. You lived up to your name :thumbsup: . I take it that would be the same as the old Boy Scout or Mounties' hat? Antony

Yes it was just like the old Scout Hat last worn in the late 50s early 60s. The lemon squeezer sobriquet is common so I'm not sure what you meant about me living up to my name. The official US name is Campaign Hat and it is still worn by US 'Drill Instructors' in military academies and correctional facilities. The NZ Army also still wear it as their full dress hat (with a red pagri), in the same way as Australians wear the now iconic slouch hat.

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Yes, they are like the the old scout hats (still worn by scouts in the US). However, the use of the campaign hats in Europe was very limited becaause they were impractical (far better suited for the campaigns they were designed for within the US or on the Mexican border) and difficult to transport. As a result almost all theatre pictures of US troops (except some arrival/disembarkation pictures) will have them wearing "Overseas caps" These are similar to the forage caps/ sidecaps of British WWII vintage although are shaped slightly differently.

Pre war pictures of US Regulars may also show them in peaked caps.

P29 of this booklet has a quick comparative viewalthough it is an element I should do more with I think

Photos of the campaign hat and overseas cap to follow.

Chris

EDIT

post-14525-0-87800700-1306851128.jpg

Taken in training in the US, the crown on this chap's hat is less pointed than usual looks like he has punched it out! although the dimples around the crown are still visible.

post-14525-0-84741800-1306851134.jpg

Taken in theatre - you can also see that in addition to the headgear change, frequently the gaiters were replaced with puttees.

There is a good explanation of these caps in Wikipedia. They have for many years now been known as 'Garrison Caps', but were as you say originally titled Overseas Caps.

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There is a good explanation of these caps in Wikipedia. They have for many years now been known as 'Garrison Caps', but were as you say originally titled Overseas Caps.

A good description of the uniforms worn by the 27th U.S. Division: http://www.oryansroughnecks.org/uniforms.html

The 27th was one of two divisions attached to the British Fourth Army and they often wore British uniforms--but their out-of-the-line headgear remained the ugly French overseas cap...post-4592-0-72554600-1307223482.jpg

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The US 165th Infantry Regiment was also issued with British 5 button jackets which they refused to wear as many of the Regiment's soldiers had immigrated to the US from Ireland to avoid service in the British Army. So great was their hatred of anything British that it wasn't until they were allowed to cut off the British buttons and replace them with the US buttons from their own worn out uniforms that they were willing to give up their lice infested coats and wear the ones given to them by His Majesty. Cheers, Bill

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The US 165th Infantry Regiment was also issued with British 5 button jackets which they refused to wear as many of the Regiment's soldiers had immigrated to the US from Ireland to avoid service in the British Army. So great was their hatred of anything British that it wasn't until they were allowed to cut off the British buttons and replace them with the US buttons from their own worn out uniforms that they were willing to give up their lice infested coats and wear the ones given to them by His Majesty. Cheers, Bill

American Engineer wearing a (too-small) British tunic and British side cap.

post-7020-0-92939300-1307418093.jpg

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American Engineer wearing a (too-small) British tunic and British side cap.

Are you sure the side cap is British Tom? Only the RFC used such at side cap at that time, so they were quite a finite item.

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The US 165th Infantry Regiment was also issued with British 5 button jackets which they refused to wear as many of the Regiment's soldiers had immigrated to the US from Ireland to avoid service in the British Army. So great was their hatred of anything British that it wasn't until they were allowed to cut off the British buttons and replace them with the US buttons from their own worn out uniforms that they were willing to give up their lice infested coats and wear the ones given to them by His Majesty. Cheers, Bill

There was no conscription in Ireland, nor were there Territorial Units, all of the 200,000 men who fought in the British Army from 1914-18 were volunteers, so they did not need to go to America to escape service. You imply that all Irish hated the British at that time and that is simply not true, the situation was much more complex than that.

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Are you sure the side cap is British Tom? Only the RFC used such at side cap at that time, so they were quite a finite item.

The U.S. Army Air Service had several engineer units, such as the Signal Corps. This sergeant could have been issued RFC or RAF stocks.

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The U.S. Army Air Service had several engineer units, such as the Signal Corps. This sergeant could have been issued RFC or RAF stocks.

Yes that seems possible if the RFC/RAF had enough spare caps to issue in large numbers. The RFC/RAF had a different jacket as you might know so that would mean your man got his jacket from one source and head dress from another. Not impossible, but a very involved process in the midst of the trials and tribulations of 1918.

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There was no conscription in Ireland, nor were there Territorial Units, all of the 200,000 men who fought in the British Army from 1914-18 were volunteers, so they did not need to go to America to escape service. You imply that all Irish hated the British at that time and that is simply not true, the situation was much more complex than that.

" Enough uniforms to clothe most of the regiment (165th) had been shipped in from the British zone. When the crates were opened, the Irish Americans examined the new uniforms, muttered oaths, and threw them on the ground. They were British. Their glistening, brass buttons had the crown (crest actually, not crown)of England imprinted on them, and every time the men buttoned up their uniforms their fingers would touch those buttons. "Now the men born in Ireland were really steamed" recalled Pvt. Al Ettinger. "They didn't like the idea of wearing anything made in England, and they refused to wear the new uniforms. For them, those buttons were the hated symbol of their former oppressors". From, Duffy's War, Stephen L. Harris

Many, if not the majority, of Irish-Americans hated the English. Irish-American sentiments (and their voting power) were a major sticking point on US entry into the war. While there was no conscription in Ireland those who left Ireland 1914-18 for the US feared it would eventually be imposed, thus adding another reason to immigrate to the US.

Cheers, Bill

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" Enough uniforms to clothe most of the regiment (165th) had been shipped in from the British zone. When the crates were opened, the Irish Americans examined the new uniforms, muttered oaths, and threw them on the ground. They were British. Their glistening, brass buttons had the crown (crest actually, not crown)of England imprinted on them, and every time the men buttoned up their uniforms their fingers would touch those buttons. "Now the men born in Ireland were really steamed" recalled Pvt. Al Ettinger. "They didn't like the idea of wearing anything made in England, and they refused to wear the new uniforms. For them, those buttons were the hated symbol of their former oppressors". From, Duffy's War, Stephen L. Harris

Many, if not the majority, of Irish American hated the English. Irish American sentiments (and their voting power) were a major sticking point on US entry into the war. While there was no conscription in Ireland those who left Ireland 1914-18 for the US feared it would eventually be imposed, thus adding another reason to immigrate to the US.

Cheers, Bill

Bill, I didn't dispute the information that you conveyed, just that it implied that all the Irish at that time hated the English/British, which is simply not true. That Irish Americans disliked the British is not at all surprising for it is entirely natural that those who emigrated are likely to be those who felt most strongly about the matter and who in many cases had good reason to flee. Nevertheless, that does not mean that all the Irish in Ireland hated the British, which is what your piece seemed to suggest.

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Bill, I didn't dispute the information that you conveyed, just that it implied that all the Irish at that time hated the English/British, which is simply not true. That Irish Americans disliked the British is not at all surprising for it is entirely natural that those who emigrated are likely to be those who felt most strongly about the matter and who in many cases had good reason to flee. Nevertheless, that does not mean that all the Irish in Ireland hated the British, which is what your piece seemed to suggest.

Sorry, Frogsmile. I didn't mean to suggest that ALL the Irish in Ireland hated the English. Certainly the Anglo-Irish landonwers were very keen on the Monarchy as were, no doubt, many members of the commercial class (and their workers) as well as many of the heirarchy of the Catholic Church. It is only human to know which side your bread is buttered on. However, those who immigrated to the USA quite naturally blamed the English for the privations which drove them to leave their country and could hardly be blamed for not wanting to support the English, either through their new country's entrance into the Great War on the side of the English, nor individually as soldiers of the USA fighting for same. Even 1st and 2nd generation Irish-Americans had nothing much good to say about the English, having heard the horror stories of how their ancestors had been starved and then forced off their holdings by Anglo-Irish landlords, backed up by English magistrates and troops. Ironically, the circumstances which greeted many Irish immigrants in the USA were not much different from those they had left in Ireland (poverty, discrimination, etc.) and soldiering was one of the few occupations available to them. Talk about out of the fire and into the frying pan! The US 165th Infantry Regiment was the old 69th New York Regiment, the 'Fighting Irish' Regiment. Their ranks had been filled by Irish-Americans going back generations. During the Great War, NYC politicians were only too happy to stir up anti-Wilson feelings by branding him as a closet Anglophile (which of course he was), and reminding Irish-Americans, who constituted a huge block of votes, that it was the English who had oppressed them for centuries. So it is pretty easy to see why the 165th balked at wearing British uniforms. Cheers, Bill

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There was no conscription in Ireland, nor were there Territorial Units, all of the 200,000 men who fought in the British Army from 1914-18 were volunteers, so they did not need to go to America to escape service.

There was, however, following Britian's terrible manpower losses following the spring offensive of 1918, a serious attempt to conscript the Irish into British service. Many Irish mounted strikes and protests against this planned conscription. It was, many feel, principally due to the belated, but by spring of 1918 impressive and growing, build-up of US troops in France and Belgium, that plans for conscription in Ireland were dropped. Obviously, many of the immigrants from Ireland were aware of British conscription plans and went to the USA to avoid British conscription. Ironically, having volunteered for service in the US Army, they ended up fighting for British interests anyway; if they had stayed home they could have sat out the war. Cheers, Bill

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Sorry, Frogsmile. I didn't mean to suggest that ALL the Irish in Ireland hated the English. Certainly the Anglo-Irish landonwers were very keen on the Monarchy as were, no doubt, many members of the commercial class (and their workers) as well as many of the heirarchy of the Catholic Church. It is only human to know which side your bread is buttered on. However, those who immigrated to the USA quite naturally blamed the English for the privations which drove them to leave their country and could hardly be blamed for not wanting to support the English, either through their new country's entrance into the Great War on the side of the English, nor individually as soldiers of the USA fighting for same. Even 1st and 2nd generation Irish-Americans had nothing much good to say about the English, having heard the horror stories of how their ancestors had been starved and then forced off their holdings by Anglo-Irish landlords, backed up by English magistrates and troops. Ironically, the circumstances which greeted many Irish immigrants in the USA were not much different from those they had left in Ireland (poverty, discrimination, etc.) and soldiering was one of the few occupations available to them. Talk about out of the fire and into the frying pan! The US 165th Infantry Regiment was the old 69th New York Regiment, the 'Fighting Irish' Regiment. Their ranks had been filled by Irish-Americans going back generations. During the Great War, NYC politicians were only too happy to stir up anti-Wilson feelings by branding him as a closet Anglophile (which of course he was), and reminding Irish-Americans, who constituted a huge block of votes, that it was the English who had oppressed them for centuries. So it is pretty easy to see why the 165th balked at wearing British uniforms. Cheers, Bill

Thanks Bill, that was very interesting with some new US Army specific information that I was not aware of, although much of the general situation you have described is familiar to me. Your assessment of the social groups that supported the status quo in Ireland is also very accurate.

There was, however, following Britian's terrible manpower losses following the spring offensive of 1918, a serious attempt to conscript the Irish into British service. Many Irish mounted strikes and protests against this planned conscription. It was, many feel, principally due to the belated, but by spring of 1918 impressive and growing, build-up of US troops in France and Belgium, that plans for conscription in Ireland were dropped. Obviously, many of the immigrants from Ireland were aware of British conscription plans and went to the USA to avoid British conscription. Ironically, having volunteered for service in the US Army, they ended up fighting for British interests anyway; if they had stayed home they could have sat out the war. Cheers, Bill

Yes I agree with all that you have said here. A very balanced piece.

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Thanks Bill, that was very interesting with some new US Army specific information that I was not aware of, although much of the general situation you have described is familiar to me. Your assessment of the groups that supported the status quo in Ireland is also very accurate.

Yes I agree with all that you have said here. A very balanced piece.

Hello Frogsmile, As someone whose own country has a long history of sending its military around the globe to protect and expand the interests of its own moneyed and politically connected class I am not so jaded or hypocritical as to point a finger of blame at the British for trying to do likewise in Ireland, much less to criticize the British Army for doing its job, especially its later role of an impartial (if there is such a thing in a civil war) peacekeeper. My intent was to show that during the Great War Irish-Americans initially took harsh issue with joining a cause which they believed was a British cause. The example I cited of the 165th refusing to wear British uniforms took place soon after their arrival in France. A quiet, relatively untouched area of France and well before their blooding at Rouge Bouquet, St. Mihiel and the Argonne. Once having come face to face with the hardship which German militarism had wreaked upon the populations of France and Belgium even the most radical Irish-American soldiers came to realize that they, and their British Allies, were fighting the good fight. They also realized that the PBI they were fighting alongside of weren't much different from themselves. Cheers, Bill

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Hello Frogsmile, As someone whose own country has a long history of sending its military around the globe to protect and expand the interests of its own moneyed and politically connected class I am not so jaded or hypocritical as to point a finger of blame at the British for trying to do likewise in Ireland, much less to criticize the British Army for doing its job, especially its later role of an impartial (if there is such a thing in a civil war) peacekeeper. My intent was to show that during the Great War Irish-Americans initially took harsh issue with joining a cause which they believed was a British cause. The example I cited of the 165th refusing to wear British uniforms took place soon after their arrival in France. A quiet, relatively untouched area of France and well before their blooding at Rouge Bouquet, St. Mihiel and the Argonne. Once having come face to face with the hardship which German militarism had wreaked upon the populations of France and Belgium even the most radical Irish-American soldiers came to realize that they, and their British Allies, were fighting the good fight. They also realized that the PBI they were fighting alongside of weren't much different from themselves. Cheers, Bill

Yes, I can see now where you were coming from and feel that you have expressed it here very well - "Ours not to reason why, ours but to DO and die".

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