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Remembered Today:

Use of 'drab' kilts


rgalley
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A recent posting of mine (http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=86282) prompted some discussion on the subject of "drab" kilts.

In addition to the interesting and useful info already provided by Joe Sweeney and Tocemma, I thought it might be interesting to reopen the subject in this area of the Forum to see if anyone else out there could shed further light on the issue and wearing of the "drab kilt". Which units ended up wearing these? How long were they in circulation etc.? From what's already been said these were unpopular items of uniform.

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The link does not open up anything, could you please try again.

Hope this works!

Drab Kilts

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I've seen a reference to the wearing of all kilts in the trenches being ordered to be discontinued when the Germans started using mustard gas as the amount of skin that might be exposed to the vapour could both increase the extent of injury and give problems for treatment.

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The so-called "drab kilt" was in fact a kilt apron, worn on top of the normal tartan kilt. It was standard issue from the introduction of service dress before 1914.

As centurion says, kilts became less popular for everyday wear in the trenches following the introduction of mustard gas.

Ron

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Thats what I thought as well, but surely the question meant a kilt made from khaki serge material ? (which I have never seen or heard of :lol: )"MO"

post-13272-1195579926.jpg

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Hi All,

There were plans to replace all the Regimental tartans with a Khaki kilt (not the kilt apron that is mentioned), however, like service caps they proved extremely unpopular with Highland regiments and were discontinued.

Kilts were worn throughout the war. As opposed to mustard gas, the most common occasions that service dress trousers were worn in their stead was during extremely cold weather, raids, and when ordered to for security (so that it would be more difficult for the Germans to identify the formation opposite) i.e. the lead up to the battle of Cambrai.

Hope this is of use

Aye

Tom McC

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All of this is interesting:

Perhaps some clarification (I am really thinking out loud here :rolleyes: )

First Question:

Kilt Aprons - at least 2 forms

1) an "apron" which covered the front half (lots of my pics of TF troops early appear to have these)

2) a full wrap around which covered front and back. (common in pictures of troops in service - see picture above)

Light tan/ Khaki in colour and made of heavy cotton material. Instituted during or as a result of the Boer War? very common - almost universal in Frnace?

Drab Kilt

A woollen kilt in Khaki - short lived / planned not introduced in widespread. Piper's pic was the first I had seen a photo of... if that is what it is!

(not to be confused with Hodden Grey kilts of London Scottish(?) - perhaps we could gather together a pic or two of each for comparison?

Second question:

When/Why were kilts not worn by kilted regiments (I too had heard the mustard/blister agent idea but in reference to WWII and why highland regiments did not wear kilts then) also relevant to a few other pics currently on the forum

1) Weather - Bn diary mentions an order that trousers be worn (unpopular) it is not clear if it was because of very cold weather or because of security (kilts identifying regiment) - troops changed back into kilts before returning to rear area! I believe Carolyn M mentioned something similar for the 5th Bn too

2) Jobs - Transport where horse riding was involved - kilts replaced with trousers.

Chris

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Despite the wintry conditions on Salisbury Plain in 1914-15, the Canadian Scottish were anxious to retain their kilts, and some even appealed to the Black Watch in Scotland for the correct tartan. (As it happened the Scottish regiments themselves were short of tartan material, a matter that was raised in the House of Commons in early January.) After much debate, known as the "Battle of the Kilts", officers voted on December 21 by twenty-one votes to seven for the unit to adopt a plain khaki kilt, though one swore he had lived in a Gordon kilt and he would die in one. When reinforcements, not of Scottish lineage, arrived from Tidworth they refused to wear kilts of any pattern.

Moonraker

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The so-called "drab kilt" was in fact a kilt apron, worn on top of the normal tartan kilt. It was standard issue from the introduction of service dress before 1914.

Hello all,

There seems to be an element of confusion developing here. The kilt apron is most definitely not a drab kilt. They are entirely separate items. As per my previous post, the drab or khaki kilt was introduced in 1914 as a cost and time saving measure.

The standard kilts in regimental tartans were both time consuming and expensive to produce. The issue of drab kilts was intended to replace the heavier coloured cloth used. I had such a drab kilt until late last year. In most respects it was similar to a standard kilt but as an economy measure was simplified and the number of pleats to the reverse was greatly reduced. The fabric was also slightly lighter than standard kilt tartan. Please note that 'tartan' refers to the type of heavy weave wool used and NOT the pattern itself. The two are now inextricably linked however.

I have a quote somewhere from a Scottish Battalion CO something along the lines of 'like a lot of bloody schoolgirls skirts' or words to that effect. As can be expected any attempt by the War Office to sweep away Regimental distinctions went down like a lead balloon (or a led zeppelin to be topical!) and attempts to completely replace the Regimental kilts were eventually abandoned. As has been pointed out by Joe Sweeney, an attempt had been made pre-war to do away with the coloured kilts but this had likewise foundered.

The kilt APRON is a lightweight cotton item issued as a protective cover for the kilt. It was first used during the South African War. When the drab kilts were issued the khaki apron was not required and was not issued. Drab or khaki kilts remained on the books until post WW1. I believe Joe Sweeney has said 1921 or 22. They were not issued for very long during the war however, but did see use on all fronts.

Remaining examples are exceptionally scarce today. As there was no purpose for them after the war most were probably recycled or used as cleaning rags. They are sometimes seen in studio portraits from the New Army formation period and I have several of these that I will post in the next few days. Some patterns had a pocket on the front. I presume this was added because the kilt apron had a similar pocket (see photo below of a standard apron in my collection)

The thought of going to the Western Front clad in a kilt apron....the wind would really be whistling through the Trossochs!

Regards

Tocemma

Kilt APRON

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Hello again,

I've just remembered another quote re usage of kilts in answer to 4th Gordons. I have a postcard of Black Watch recruits in training on the reverse is written 'You ask about the kilt.. We only wear them on Sundays' Presumably for Church Parade?

Tocemma

Below is a 'half apron' not an official issue as you can see by comparing it to my previous photo, this one has been cut down from a full sized apron. These were popular for walking out. Those I have seen have either been cut down like this one, or purpose made from khaki cotton.

Below 'half' apron

post-7141-1195583850.jpg

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Tocemma - thanks I think you confirmed what I wrote.

OK so here is my attempt to bring together a range of photos for comparison based on what has been presented so far.

PIPERS ORIGINAL - currently ID'D as a drab kilt

A FULL APRON

A HALF APRON

A HODDEN GREY KILT

ONE I AM UNSURE OF.....

thoughts on this last one?

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Despite the wintry conditions on Salisbury Plain in 1914-15, the Canadian Scottish were anxious to retain their kilts,

This may not have lasted

NM Christie, author of Slaughter in the Mud: "The Canadians at Passchendaele, 1917, six battalions of Canadian soldiers wore kilts into combat. Kilts! How uncomfortable! Since the whole area was flooded with rain water that could not drain and in mud three feet deep, their kilts became like tartan-wool sponges. The hems dragged through the muck, making the clothing heavy and cumbersome. Then when the mud dried, the fabric became sharp and rough, scraping and gouging at the men’s legs. The kilt hems “swayed back and forth causing wounds that often festered.” The despair must have been palpable."

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Am I right in thinking that although the kilt was worn up until early second world war it was then discontinued . 1, because of the cost in making them and 2, the amount of material that was used in the their construction ? (did practicality have anything to do with it ? ) "MO"

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Here is some documentary evidence from primary sources to back-up what Tocemma has posted above on drab Kilts.

Here is a page out of the Priced Vocabulary of Clothing and Necessary, 1915 (published in July 1915). All items on this page wewre introduced after war began. Note the drab Kilt and the price associated with it.

scan0008oa5.jpg

This is GRO 2621 which was to take affect on 15 Oct 1917. This is the winter scale of clothing for the BEF. I have all the clothing scales for the BEF and the drab kilt is mentioned in most particularly after 1916. I also have most for the Army in Salonika and it too mentions the Drab Kilt in the same type language.

scan0007vs7.jpg

"Kilt Serge Drab Mixture", was introduced in 1914 with pattern number 8159/1914. The pattern sealing date is unrecorded, however it would be mid December 1914. The first contract (C/1481) was issued on 21 January 1915. An improved pattern 8391/1914 was introduced on 28 May 1915 and the existing contract modified---Drab Kilts were declared obsolete in 1921.

The kilt apron (full wrap style) was introduced in 1903 and the current pattern in service in 1914 was pattern 5847a/1904.

Half aprons were common but not a WO issue item. They are most commonly seen in wear by the TF and supplied by the TFAs--probably as a cost measure.

Kilts were worn through-out the war but what is generally not known is that kilts were sometimes withdrawn in the Fall and reissued in Spring with SD trousers issued in its place. This was most commonly done in the Canadian Corps where every kilted Battalion had the kilts withdrawn in the fall of 1917 and reissued in the spring.

Oddly, mention of this practice is not usually found in Battalion War diaries--but heavily mentioned in the Ordnance Diaries.

I wish I knew every battalion that got these--I would asy that chances are most did get a few.

I know the 10th BW, 12th A&SH , 16 BN CEF and 42bn CEF got issued these in some numbers at least to leave a photographic record.

Joe Sweeney

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Chris,

Nicely done, thanks.

The one you're unsure of is another variant of a wool, drab kilt (not an apron).

Richard

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Available on the Archives page of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website there is a snippet from a 1964 broadcast of reminiscences of veterans of the Passcendaele operation in October/November, 1917. Included is a description of soldiers wearing long underwear under their kilts. Sometimes one wonders about the real reason why personal cameras were strictly forbidden !

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Chris,

FYI, since you brought up Hodden Grey Kilts. Here is a 1918 dated Hodden Grey Kilt.

Not to be confused with the drab Kilts.

Tocemma--Drab Hose tops WWI real nice.

Joe Sweeney

post-57-1195605768.jpg

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post-13272-1195622432.jpg
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Didn't the one of the English TF 'Highland' units (Liverpool Scottish?) wear a drab kilt (or at least a drab coloured kilt*)?

I seem to recall seeing a modern illustation in which the colour was portreyed as being somewhat closer to khaki than to, say, Hodden.

Tom t W

* Distinction made, as the 'Drab Kilt' appears to be a different item.

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Tom,

The Liverpool Scottish, I'm sure, wore kilts of Forbes tartan. The Elcho Grey/Hodden was worn by the London Scots don't know about Canadian Regiments.

Aye

Tom McC

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Here is a section of a print entitled "Over the Veldt - Drums and Pipes of the 91st (Argyllshire) Highlanders" by W. Skeoch Cumming. Although this painting is dated 1913, I believe it is intended to portray the 91st either during the Zulu Wars, or during the Boer War (by which time I believe the 91st had become 1st Battalion A&SH?). Anyway ... note the kilt aprons and slouch hats (now, there's another topic of conversation!).

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