- Royal Air Force uniform
The Royal Air Force uniform is the standardized military dress worn by members of the
Royal Air Force. The predominant colours of Royal Air Force uniforms are grey blue and sky blue.
Many Commonwealth air forces' uniforms are also of the RAF pattern, but with nationality shoulder flashes. The
Royal Australian Air Forceuniform is in midnight blue, instead of grey-blue. Prior to the 1968 unification of the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Air Forceservice dress was nearly identical to that of the RAF. Cadets of the ATC and CCF (RAF) Sections wear similar uniforms.
The RAF currently numbers the various uniforms which may be worn. The following table summarizes the numbering:
service dressis worn on formal and ceremonial occasions. In temperate regions, it is the most formal uniform in use at present. It remains essentially unchanged from the service dress uniform adopted in the early 1920s. It consists of a blue-gray jacket and trousers (or skirt for female personnel).
In 1947, the temperate officers' services dress jacket was altered. The lower side pockets were removed and the single slit was replaced by two hacking jacket style slits. The lower button was moved up to a position behind the belt and silk embroidery flying badges were replaced with ones in bullion embroidery. These changes were unpopular and in 1951, with the exception of the lower button move, the former uniform style was re-adopted. [ [http://www.britairforce.com/imagepages/raf_uniform_1947.htm Royal Air Force 1947 Uniform ] ]
Service dress takes the following forms:
*No. 1 Service Dress, for temperate regions. Blue-grey colour.
*No. 1A Service Dress (Ceremonial Day Dress), for temperate regions and for
air officers only. As per No. 1 Service Dress. Air vice-marshals and above wear a ceremonial sash and shoulder boards. Entitled air commodores only add the ceremonial sash.
*No. 6 Service Dress, for tropical regions. Stone colour.
ervice working dress
Service working dress, officially designated Number 2 Dress, is the routine uniform worn by most RAF personnel not on operations. It is analogous to the Army's barrack dress. RAF service working dress comes in a number of variations:
* No 2: Long sleeve shirt with jumper, tie optional
* No 2a: Long sleeve shirt with tie, jumper not worn
* No 2b: Short sleeve shirt without tie, jumper optional
* No 2c: Long sleeve dark blue shirt without tie, jumper optional (certain trades only)
stable beltmay be worn with all forms of service working dress, except for No 2c.
Aircrew-specific uniforms are officially designated as Number 14 Dress by the RAF. Aircrew on flying duties wear an olive drab flying suit in temperate regions or a khaki flying suit in desert regions. A leather flying jacket, purchased at individual expense, may be worn with the flying suit but only while the wearer is on the ground.
RAF personnel either on operations, on exercise or in certain formed units wear a
disruptive pattern materialuniform which is essentially the same as the British Army's operational uniform. In temperate regions Combat Soldier 95 uniform is worn and in desert regions, Desert Combat Clothing is worn.
In order to distinguish RAF personnel from Army personnel, in 2006 an operational clothing identity patch was introduced with the text "ROYAL AIR FORCE" in black capitals on a green background. The patch is worn over the right chest pocket and as of 2007 there is no desert pattern available.
Also in 2006 a 45mm squared tactical recognition flash was introduced for all personnel to wear on their operation clothing.
In the RAF
mess dress, officially designated Number 5 dress, is worn at formal evening functions. All officers possess mess dress whereas warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers wear mess dress if they choose to purchase it. It consists of a high waisted blue-grey single-breasted jacket, waistcoat or cummerbund and blue-gray trousers. Rank, for officers, is indicated in gold braid on the lower sleeve.
Officers serving at Scottish stations may wear the RAF
tartanwith their mess dress. The tartan was designed in 1988 and it was officially recognised by the Ministry of Defence in 2001. The tartan is also worn by the RAF's voluntary pipes bands, although not as part of an official RAF uniform.
RAF personnel without No 5 dress, such as airmen, junior officer cadets and some non-regular officers, wear No 1 dress with the blue shirt and tie replaced with a white marcella shirt and black bow tie should the need to wear mess dress arise. This dress pattern is officially designated Number 4 Dress.
With the establishment of the Royal Air Force as an independent service on
1 April 1918, orders were issued detailing new uniform patterns. Major General Mark Kerr designed the first officer uniform which was largely pale blue with gold braid trimmings [http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Kerr.htm M E F Kerr_P ] ] [ [http://www.britairforce.com/imagepages/raf_uniform_1918_a.htm Royal Air Force 1918 Light Blue Uniform ] ] . Additionally, the Royal Flying Corps' use of khakiwas continued. It has been suggested that the pale blue colour was adopted as the cloth had been intended for use by the Imperial Russian Cavalryand, following their disbandment after the Bolshevik Revolution it became available at low cost. As it was the responsibility of officers to buy their own uniforms, a wearing-out period for old uniforms was allowed and the change-over to the air force uniform was slow.
The 'wearing out' period also applied to
other ranks. Former members of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service continued to wear their old uniforms. New recruits into the newly formed Royal Air Force were often issued with the khaki Army Pattern General Service Tunic.Later in 1918 a belted khaki uniform was adopted for other ranks, and it was these tunics that first carried the RAF eagle badges on each shoulder.
The pale blue colour for officers' uniforms was unpopular and impractical and
John Slessorwho was later promoted to Marshal of the RAFdescribed it as "a nasty pale blue with a lot of gold over it, which brought irresistibly to mind a vision of the gentlemen who stands outside the cinema" [http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/F21C6257_ABD1_7132_E8716B8C2DA98948.pdf] . A little over a year after its introduction, the pale blue colour was discontinued. On the 15 September 1919, Air MinistryOrder 1049 replaced it with the blue-grey colour which has remained in use to this day. The khaki uniform continued to be worn until 1924 when it too was replaced by a blue-grey colour.
In April 1920 Air Ministry Weekly Order 332 detailed a
full dressuniform. It consisted of a single-breasted jacket in blue-grey with a stand-up collar. Rank was indicated in gold braid on the lower sleeve and white gloves were worn.
Initially the full dress uniform was worn with the service dress cap. However, in 1921 a new form of head-dress was introduced. It was designed to resemble the original flying helmet and it consisted of a leather skull cap trimmed with black rabbit fur. The helmet also featured an ostrich feather plume which was connected at an RAF badge. This helmet was never popular and junior officers were eventually permitted to wear the service dress hat on full dress occasions.
Group CaptainHRH the Duke of York (later King George VI) wore RAF full dress at his wedding to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyonin 1923. The Duke wore or carried the full dress headgear rather than the service dress cap.
Today the blue-grey full dress uniform is no longer worn, except in a modified form by RAF bandsmen [http://www.britairforce.com/imagepages/raf_uniform_music.htm] .
There is also a full dress uniform for use by officers in the tropics, officially designated as No.6A Full Ceremonial Dress (Warm Weather Areas). It consists of a white tunic with stand collar, matching trousers, blue-grey peaked cap and black leather shoes. It is only issued to specific appointment holders (e.g.
aide-de-campand air attaché), and even then these are hardly ever worn. Other officers may purchase the uniform at their own expense but few choose to do so.
War service dress
War service dress, also known as battle dress, was introduced in 1940 as a blue/grey version of the British Army's battle dress. Initially, war service dress was only worn by air crew. However, in 1943, its use was authorised for all ranks. War service dress continued to be worn after the end of
World War II. It was significantly altered in 1948 and not phased out until 1973.
1972 pattern service working dress
During 1973 the wartime "Hairy Mary" working dress uniforms were replaced for all ranks with the 1972 pattern No 2 uniforms. Made of a smooth woollen and man-made fibre mix material the jacket was a loose blouson design with a front zip fastener and epaulettes. Earlier RAF blue crew-necked woollen pullovers were replaced with a new V-neck design featuring blue-grey cloth elbow and shoulder patches plus a pen holder patch on the left sleeve.
Introduced at the same time was an RAF blue nylon foul weather jacket and overtrousers. Although not initially intended it quickly became standard practice for officers and other ranks to attach rank badges to the lapels and wear the nylon jacket in place of the uniform raincoat, as a more practical modern wear.
*Hobart, Malcolm "Badges and Uniforms of the Royal Air Force", ISBN 0-85052-739-2
* [http://www.raf.mod.uk/structure/uniforms.cfm Royal Air Force - uniforms]
* [http://www.raf.mod.uk/organisation/uniforms.cfm Royal Air Force - uniforms]
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