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Remembered Today:

Beards in WW1.


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Hello folks,

A question has been nagging at me for a few months as to whether the wearing of beards was completely taboo during the Great War.

Well until 1916 it was acceptable but very frowned upon. So my suspicion was correct or does anyone have any evidence otherwise?

TTFN.

Nick.

WW1 beard 2.jpg

WW1 beard.jpg

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear Nick,

The Indian Army Lt-Col with the DSO (A. L. Barrett), had suffered a bad and disfiguring wound to his jaw - therefore he grew the beard (after obtaining permission)...

Kindest regards,

Kim.

Edited by Kimberley John Lindsay
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Gareth Davies

There is a thread here which may help.  

 

Are you confusing moustaches and beards with your 1916 comment? I'm pretty sure that beards were never 'acceptable'.

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In the British Army, beards were forbidden unless you were a pioneer-sergeant or King George V. Apparently, exceptions could be allowed for medical reasons, and the regulation did not apply to chaplains - Rev J M Simms, the Principal Chaplain in France, who appeared in the "Who is this?" thread not long ago.

 

Ron

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Hi Nick

And not forgetting Brigadier-General Sir W. C. Ross, who wore a beard due to being disfigured after being shot in the lower jaw during the Boer War, another taken from the “Who is this” thread.

Edited by Knotty
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The Royal Navy also took part in the Great War (!) and my understanding is, that for those having them, only full beards were acceptable for members of that service. Concerning moustaches: these were supposed to be compulsory - or at least that upper lip wasn't shaved -  for the Army until 1916 when the relevant regulation was amended. From The Times of October 7th, 1916 under THE ARMY MOUSTACHE - OPTIONAL UNDER A NEW ORDER.:-

An Army Order issued last night directs that in paragraph 1,606 of the King's Regulations the words 'but not the upper lip' shall be deleted. The paragraph originally read:- 'The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and lower lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip. Whiskers if worn will be of moderate length.'

 

My reading of the regulation both before and after revision would be that side burns, 'mutton chops' etc. (termed generally, although also including a moustache, as the  'whiskers' of the regulation in those days), being neither of the chin, upper or lower lips would have been permitted. 'Mutton chops' had probably already fallen out of fashion by then, but it seems likely that less elaborate side burns hadn't.

 

NigelS

 

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From a 1914 Black Watch Corporal, talking of the situation in 1914:

"I don't think I shaved for nearly a month, there was a lot of beards going; if at all possible I got a shave, but shaving in cold water was not up to much. Later, in early 1915, beards and moustaches were ordered off with hair cut to the bone for medical reasons – we laughed at the Germans but they were right."

Cheers,
Derek.

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WhiteStarLine

Hi Nick - which country and which branch of the service?  Did you mean any country and any nation's army, navy or air force?  I suspect this is a British Army question.

 

If there is any confusion on this in the British Army, it might be because a prominent number of individuals had exemptions, the well known pioneer sergeant example and the sight of unshaven soldiers emerging from the front line, as cited by Derek. 

 

Navy personnel always had the right to beards, as did combatants from many countries, so the thread title probably should have been a little more precise to the service branch and country of interest.

 

My great uncle emerged from First Ypres in 1914 after a 20 day rotation, where his battalion was commanded by a lieutenant as all other officers were casualties:  "You should have seen us when we came out of the trenches, ragged, unshaven, strained looking, half starved appearance ..."

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The Germans initially allowed beards in the ranks, especially in reserve and second/third line formations, but later banned them when gas became an issue.  Reports on gas casualties and reasons for apparent failures of gas masks highlighted a problem for men who quickly produced a thick growth of stubble, which prevented their mask from sealing properly.  Orders were therefore given for men to shave before going into the line, and, where possible, for time, opportunity and facilities to be made available so that men who needed to could shave while in the front-line positions. 

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On 16/06/2018 at 15:14, nikp said:

whether the wearing of beards was completely taboo during the Great War.

Allowed in the Sikh regiments for religious reasons.

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The issue of beards in the RND led to the events described by A P Herbert in his poem 'The Battle of Codner's Beard'.  

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Just using my own experience as a sapper in the '70's . Every year we went into the 'gas chamber' to be whacked with CS gas, which is diabolical stuff. But not life threatening.

 

The sporting of beards would make gas mask usage useless. I would have thought that that would be vital, knowing the use of various deadly gas attacks in the trenches was quite wide spread.

Edited by tom bowler
puctuation
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Thanks all for the info. Food for thought. I suspected that beards were probably grown as a result of lack of time, facilities etc but we're soon removed as and when possible.

Cheers.

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