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Khaki Drill - when issued, and why not earlier?


RobL
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From what I can gather, men were first issued with the more lightweight, and cotton instead of wool, Khaki Drill uniforms in August 1915 - Lt Col Bashi Wright of 11th Manchesters mentions "We were in thin khaki drill and soaked to the skin" during the Suvla Bay landings in August 1915. Does anyone have a definite idea of when they were first introduced to troops at Gallipoli? And secondly, why weren't they issued with them beforehand at the start of campaign in April, when they went ashore wearing the same as the men on the Western Front were wearing? Since Khaki Drill had been used since the 1890's, it wasn't a new development, and presumably the troops in India and also Africa and Mesopotamia were wearing it since the outbreak of the war?

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Possibly for the same reason that some men arriving on the Western Front in 1914 from India were still wearing khaki drill uniforms, which weren't suited to the conditions found in northern Europe at the time - it was all they had.

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There was a great evolution with British Army uniforms and kit, and it makes a study in its own right. As to why they were not in KD in April, well, its not that warm and the nights are particulary cold during April and May. The 29th Division, which were destined for the Western Front in early 1915, came from the UK and were still in their serge uniforms, which despite being woollen, were not necesarily overly warm, and were designed to be worn with appropriate underclothing depending on the weather, e.g. cotton shirt, cardigan etc. Gallipoli summer heats up from June, and by August it can become unbearable. The New Army battalions landed at Suvla in KD from 6 August 1915 and wore it continusly until late October and November when the winter 'caught' the army by surprise, and Gallipoli became a repeat of the Crimean winter and appalling mismanagement, echoes of the 1850's. Interestingly the Wolseley sun-helmet was issued for the 25 April landings, but substitued for the field service cap at the last moment.

I cannot recall any other references pre-August 1915 of KD being issued, but will have a look.

regards, Krithia

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Thanks Krithia - i'm well acquainted with the merits of the wool clothing, being a living historian, and am more than prepared to defend it against nay-sayers, but did wonder why they'd have wool on if KD was available at the time - thanks for the explanation, a trip to the peninsula in April would be beneficial I think. Do you know when the Wolseley was issued? I'd thought they were brought ashore shortly after and, from what I can gather, worn when not in action, with the change to the SD cap/'Gorblimey' when going into battle

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RobL/Krithia,

FYI--I've been slowly amassing all Theatre GRO's from the NA. I don't have those that pertain directly to Galipolli (yet). But I do have 100% of Salonika, A good portion of MEF Egypt and a good portion of Italy.

All these theatres instituted a uniform rotation between SD and KD. Galipolli may have been the inspiration.

Attached is MEF Egypt for Jan 1916 and you can see SD/KD change-over occured April to NOV. By 1917 the dates were tweaked abit to go from 15 March to 15 October.

scan0002ya.jpg

I have not made digital images of Salonika yet, but I believe us of SD was continud a little longer vice Egypt Palestine--My paper copies are buried at the moment.

I suspect Gal. was nowhere near this codified, a bit of a muddle planning wise initially, and the inspiration for this concept.

Hope this is of interest.

Joe Sweeney

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Joe, very interesting thanks - any reason why mounted men received cotton drawers and others had wool? Chafing, perhaps?

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Joe, very interesting thanks - any reason why mounted men received cotton drawers and others had wool? Chafing, perhaps?

i have read an autobiography o fa writer , I cant remember who, who was advised to join the RFA because he would, even as a subaltern, get a horse and issued with cotton drawers.

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All these theatres instituted a uniform rotation between SD and KD. Galipolli may have been the inspiration.

Hi Joe,

You are probably correct here, and an example of lessons learnt. It would be interesting to understand what the GRO states in Egypt if the 1915 information survives.

thanks,

Krithia

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  • 6 years later...

I know it's a long while since anyone posted but here's some evidence of earlier issue of KD rather gory 

 

Saw it in the Museum in Krithia.  Found in area where they got smashed up in June 1915 , with remnants of Khaki drill attached 

20190514_173808.jpg

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Mate,

 

Of cause we came from a hot climate still wearing our wool tunics, and landed with them.

 

But soon became so hot we either cut down our uniforms or took them off.

 

This all changed by Nov Dec when the winter arrived and many were sent to the hosp with such illness?

 

No uniforms were reissued as they had been cut up during the summer and men froze.

 

S.B

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