A military parade is an organised formation of soldiers who restricted by close-order manoeuvring marching or ‘drilling’. Up until the late 19th century soldiers fought in formation, but in modern times the military parade is now entirely ceremonial. Sometimes a parade is performed to exhibit the military strength of a nation. The oldest and largest military parade in Europe is the Bastille Day Military Parade on the 14th of July in Paris during France’s national day celebrations. The terminology comes from close order formation combat where soldiers were held in strict formations to maximise their combat effectiveness. Military drills are performed to memorise certain actions, formations and movements. Recruits in modern armies are taught drills to show them how to work as a team while formations are also still used in riot control. There are four directions used in a parade: the Advance, the Retire, the Left and the Right. The Advance is the primary direction of movement and on a parade square is determined by the position of the flags. The Retire is the opposite of the Advance. As the names would suggest, The Left is to the left of the advance and the Right is to the right of the advance. Only one person is in charge of the parade at a time. Soldiers have restricted movement during parades and in most stances any movement at all is disallowed. It has been known for soldiers to faint while on parade. In British Armies there is a specific order of precedence. • Royal Horse Artillery • Royal Armoured Corps • Royal Regiment of Artillery • Corps of Royal Engineers • Royal Corps of Signals • Infantry • Foot Guards • Line Infantry • Rifles • Special Air Service • Army Air Corps • Special Reconnaissance Regiment • Royal Army Chaplains Department • Royal Logistic Corps • Royal Army Medical Corps • Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers • Adjutant General's Corps • Royal Army Veterinary Corps • Small Arms School Corps • Royal Army Dental Corps • Intelligence Corps • Royal Army Physical Training Corps • General Service Corps • Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps • Corps of Army Music • Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) (Army Reserve) • Honourable Artillery Company (Although Army Reserve Regiments, they are included in the order of arms Regular Army) • Remainder of the Army Reserve • Royal Gibraltar Regiment • The Royal Bermuda Regiment Some of the military parades or ceremonial events in the British Military Forces are: Trooping the Colour, Changing of the Guard, Remembrance Sunday, Beating Retreat, State Visits and the Opening of Parliament. Ceremonial duties and parades are an important part of Army history and tradition. All soldiers who undertake such roles are highly trained and play an important part in military operations worldwide. Ceremonial events take place all over the world but few are as high profile as those that draw tourists to London. Wyedean stock a variety of Ceremonial items on the website and many of our [...]
The Special Air Service (SAS) is the British Army’s most renowned United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) unit. Its motto is ‘Who Dares Wins’ and has become well known all over the world. The SAS was created by David Stirling in 1941 as a desert raiding regiment mainly for carrying out sabotage missions. During 1950 the unit was changed from a regiment to a corps. The SAS’ roles include counter terrorism, hostage rescue and covert reconnaissance. Currently the corps is made up of the 22 Special Air Service Regiment, the 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve) and the 23 Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve). In order to become part of the Regiment, soldiers have to pass a number of exercises and tests during a five-week-long selection process. Although there are around 200 applicants each time, only 30 usually make it through. The first SAS mission was in 1941 and involved a parachute drop in support of the Operation Crusader offensive. This mission, due to German resistance and the weather conditions, made the mission a disaster. 22 men were killed or captured. Their most well-known operation, however, was Operation Nimrod which was carried out during the Iranian Embassy Siege in London in 1980. In 17 minutes the soldiers of the SAS Regiments rescued 24 out of 25 hostages and killed 5 out of 6 terrorists. Currently the SAS has around 400 to 600 members and each regiment consists of four operation squadrons with approximately 65 men in each.
Salutes are primarily used in the Armed Forces to show respect. There are numerous methods for performing the salute including: hand gestures, rifle shots, hoisting flags and the removal of headgear. The salute is to acknowledge the Queen’s commission. The subordinate salutes first and holds it until their superior has responded. It is thought that the salute originated when knights greeted each other to show friendly intention by lifting their visor to show their faces. Medieval visors were equipped with a spike which allowed the visor to be lifted in a saluting motion. A British order book in 1745 stated that ‘The men are ordered not to pull off their hats when they pass an officer, or to speak to them, but only to clap up their hands to their hats and bow as they pass.’ This, overtime, evolved into a modern salute. The naval salute is a different gesture, again, as sailors salute with their palm downwards. This is said to be because naval ratings usually had dirty hands. The British Army and Royal Air Force salute has been given with the right-hand palm facing forwards since 1917 and was given with the hand furthest from the person being saluted. View the videos below to see how a salute is done in the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and British Army.
You can see a strong military influence throughout the whole of the fashion industry. This season’s jackets have a strong 18th century British and French theme – a strong shoulder decorated with epaulettes, brass buttons and rope trims. To bring the jackets into the modern era there are usually a few add-ons such as bows or crystals. Many military uniform staples have become cornerstones of modern-day fashion but were actually borne out of more practical requirements. The trendy trench coat, for instance, dates back to 1853 when it was thought that officers fighting in the Crimean War needed long practical jackets to protect them from the elements. In fact Burberry submitted a design to the War Office in 1901 for an officer’s raincoat. They made it using their own patented cotton fabric featuring large lapels and epaulettes. Khakis were introduced in the 1840s by Harry Lumsden. Until then the British Military wore bright outfits. Lumsden was the commanding officer of the Bengal Irregular Cavalry. He stated that “a tight scarlet tunic with a high stock was not the most suitable garment in which to wage war in the plains of the Punjab in the hot weather.” He decided to give all his men coarse cotton smocks dyed with mazari which was a local dull brown plant. The leather items were dyed with mulberry juice and the two colours together became known as khaki, from the Persian word ‘khak’ which means earth or dust. Bomber Jackets were introduced during the First World War when most airplanes had open cockpits. The US Army established the Aviation Clothing Board in September 1917 and developed a heavy duty leather flight jacket which had high collars with snug cuffs. In 1931 standard issue A2 Bomber Jackets made from seal skin leather and a cotton lining were issued. It soon became impractical to supply seal skin so the jackets were instead made from horsehide. These days bomber jackets are further embellished with add-ons such as military badges and patches. View our range of military badges here. Military tunics are a huge staple this season and can be purchased from a variety of high street stores such as Zara, TopShop, ASOS, Mango and many more. Most of these jackets feature brass buttons and a structured collar. Many are often decorated with epaulettes or gold braid to create intricate detailing. The Drummer’s tunic, worn in the Bands of the Infantry Regiment is an iconic item famously decorated with Fleur De Lis lace which can be purchased here. Military trends are becoming an increasing part of everyday fashion, and are even combined with basics such as jeans and t-shirts. Many would argue that the flamboyant design aesthetic of Napoleon Bonaparte in the 19th century is widely regarded as a cultural turning point.
WRNS Checking Cockpit Equipment During the First World War, members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) worked on air stations. The decision was then taken to merge the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) to form the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was thought that a separate women’s air service was needed which led to the formation of the WRAF in 1918. Civilian enrolment into the WRAF was huge in 1918 and personnel who were already in the WRNS and the WAAC were given the choice of changing roles to the WRAF. This meant that the number of members soared to 32,000 people. The minimum age for joining was 18 and there were a number of health checks which meant that candidates from polluted cities were excluded. Those that enrolled from upper class families were made officers. The original idea was for the female mechanics to free up men for service in the First World War. The women in the WRAF had many roles including clerks, household and welders. By 1920 there were over 50 trades open to women including, tailoring, photography and catering. This meant that the men were free to enter into combat. There were very strict rules in the WRAF and they were listed in the published Standing Orders booklet. Uniform requirements were listed and bans on actions such as smoking while on duty were listed. They became known as the most professional and disciplined of all the women’s services. The WRAF’s were split into two groups. The first was the Immobiles who lived at home and worked at their local station. The second group was the Mobiles who lived on, or near to their workplace and were open to transfer. On the 24th of March 1919 the first group from the WRAF arrived to serve in France. A year later the second group was sent to Cologne in Germany. They were employed as clerks, nurses and drivers which meant men were free for the forces. The WRAF was disbanded in 1920 after the First World War. In 1948 the Army and Air Force (Women’s Service) Act was passed which created opportunities for women in the Armed forces. All new members were enlisted into the Royal Air Force and took the same oath as men and endured the same conditions. Women were still unable to undertake combat duties. Despite their non-combat status the WRAF were posted in post-war-conflict places such as Kenya and Cyprus where they helped with vital support. In 1970 the first females were admitted into the RAF College Cranwell. The WRAF merged with the RAF during 1994 and the number of trades open to women grew rapidly. In 1989 women became eligible to pilot Royal Air Force combat aircrafts. The last surviving war veteran from the WRAF, Florence Green, died in February 2012.
Enlisting Poster WRENSThe Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was the first branch in the Armed Forces and Royal Navy made up solely of women and is officially known as the Wrens. The Wrens was first formed during the First World War in 1917 and standard jobs included cook, clerk, weapons analyst and range assessor. By the end of the First World War the Wrens had 5,500 members, of which 500 were officers. 2,000 of its members were transferred to the Royal Air Force (RAF). The Wrens were disbanded in 1919 after the end of the First World War. Director Dame Katharine Furse joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in 1909. During the First World War she was chosen to be the head of the first VAD to be sent to France. In 1917 Katharine became the Director of the then, newly formed, Women’s Royal Naval Service. Katharine was awarded three service medals and became a Dame. The Wrens were then revived during the Second World War in 1939 and their list of allowable activities included flying transport planes. Their recruiting slogans was ‘Join the Wrens – free a man for the fleet.’ At its peak the Women’s Royal Naval Services had 75,000 members, unfortunately 100 of those died during the First World War. By 1993 the Wrens had been integrated into the Royal Navy and were allowed to serve on board a navy vessel as a full member of the crew. In October 1990, HMS Brilliant was the first shop to allow a woman to officially serve on an operational warship. Those that were nurses joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS). Many of their jobs were dangerous and included the loading of torpedoes onto submarines and helping to plot the battle progress in operation rooms. They were also drafted into Bletchley Park where they were employed in supporting roles helping the Enigma code breakers. During the Second World War 303 WRENS were killed. The Wrens uniform consisted of a double-breasted jacket and skirt, with a shirt and tie. The Wrens wore the same rank insignia as their male equivalents, but their lettering was blue instead of gold. Their sleeve curls were also a diamond shape instead of the usual circle. Today, women in the Royal Navy serve in many roles. Some as pilots, air crew personnel and commanding officers of ships. Commander Sue Moore was the first woman to command a squadron of minor war vessels. Women are allowed to serve in the Royal Marines but not as RM Commandos.
Ideas about whether facial hair is allowed in the military have differed throughout the years. In the mid-19th Century, facial hair was an unusual sight in the British Army, except for the Infantry Pioneers who were the only ones for whom it was tradition to have a beard. Later facial hair, moustaches and beards became more common in the military and it was even encouraged during the Crimean War, especially during winter months when the soldiers were encouraged to grow full beards. Regulations were later introduced which actually prevented soldiers from shaving above their top lip, ensuring that, those who could grow a moustache, had to have one. It wasn’t until 1916 when the rule was abolished by Lieutenant General Sir Nevil Macready who disliked his own moustache. Since 1916 the British Army, Royal Air Force and the Royal Marines have allowed moustaches and connected side whiskers, and only allowed full beards if they were grown for medical reasons or religious reasons. Facial Hair in the British Army When on parade, the only Army rank allowed to wear a beard is that of Pioneer Sergeant, who also carries a battle axe instead of a bayonet. The tradition was for one Pioneer to march in front of the regiment clearing the path for the soldiers behind. They can also be seen wearing an apron, which, in years gone by, would protect his uniform whilst he was performing his duties. The Pioneer Sergeant also acted as a blacksmith for the unit so was therefore allowed a beard to protect his face from the heat. Even though they are not compulsory for Infantry Pioneers, most do choose to grow a beard. It is also permitted in the Scottish Infantry regiments and sometimes expected, especially by the Drum Major, Pipe Major and Commanding Officer’s piper. In more recent years, the British Army has seen a full range of facial hair. This is often in an effort to blend in, especially when in Afghanistan where facial hair is seen as a sign of authority. When the soldiers are on tour water is harder to come by so often they understandably prioritise the water for drinking, rather than for shaving. There is also a more practical reason for facial hair being banned, if the soldiers ever need to use gas masks facial hair breaks the seal around the mouth meaning the masks do not work properly. Facial Hair in the Royal Navy The Royal Navy has always allowed full beards but never a moustache alone. If after a period without shaving, it becomes clear that the soldier cannot grow both a moustache and beard then his commanding officer may order him to shave it off. Facial Hair in the Royal Air Force The RAF are not allowed to wear beards at all unless for religious reasons and are only allowed moustaches if they are not grown longer than the edge of the mouth. A Royal Navy serviceman, once approved, should keep his beard for six months. [...]
Women serving in the military has always been a controversial topic. As increasing numbers of countries begin to expand the role of women in their militaries, the debate continues. In order to be on the front line, women have been known to cross dress. The Royal Navy were the first to employ women in 1969 allowing a few to be nurses and laundresses on hospital ships. This was a controversial move and by the 19th century both roles had been eliminated. The Queen Alexandra’s Royal Nursing Service began in 1902 and is still in operation today. During World War II Britain established a uniformed service for women. This combined with the small units of nurses which had been in operation for a while meant that about 600,000 women served in the military. Most were working in units close to London where there was no risk of being captured by the enemy. The first woman was killed in the military in April 1942. It wasn’t until 1949 that women were officially recognised as a permanent part of the British armed forces. During that year the Women’s Royal Army Corps was created and the ranks were normalised in line with the ranks of men serving in the British Army. In 1989 women became eligible to pilot Royal Air Force combat aircrafts and the following year were allowed to serve on Royal Navy warships. It is only in recent years that women have been given a more prominent role in the armed forces. Female personnel currently make up 9% of the British armed forces. A ban on women serving in close combat units in the British military has been lifted by Prime Minister David Cameron, allowing them to enter the cavalry, infantry and armoured corps. In order for them to enter into the infantry they would still need to pass the fitness test, as do all males. The Army’s research shows that less than 5% of the 7,000 women serving in the British Army would pass the current tests to join the infantry. The lift of this ban, puts the UK in line with many of its allies, including the US. Are you a woman who has served in the British Military? What do you think about the ban being lifted?
The Hussars The uniform of the Napoleonic Hussars included the pelisse: a short fur-edged jacket which was often worn slung over one shoulder in the style of a cape, and was fastened with a cord. This garment was extensively adorned with braiding (often gold or silver for officers) and rows of multiple buttons. The tunic was worn underneath, which was also decorated in braid. The Hussar's accoutrements included a Hungarian-style saddle, covered by a decorated saddlecloth, with long pointed corners surmounted by a sheepskin. On active service the Hussar normally wore reinforced breeches which had leather on the inside of the leg to prevent them from wearing. On the outside of their breeches was a row of buttons, and sometimes a stripe in a different colour. A busby was worn as headwear. The colours of the dolman, pelisse and breeches varied greatly by regiment, even within the same army. Hussars were the only corps in the British Army allowed to wear moustaches. The Hussar's look has mostly become legendary because of what the hussars did while wearing it. They had made it a point in their honour code to be the most scandalous, daredevils of all military corps. They wore ponytails and moustaches. They looted and pillaged. You may have seen many of these uniforms in the recent television production of War and Peace. Many braids and laces used on this uniform can be seen on our website here. The United States Marine Corps Dress Blues The Marine Corps have a dress blue uniform, in addition to their green service uniform which is part of a long line of historical Marine Corps uniforms - dating back to the American Revolution. The most formal of a Marine's uniforms outside of the elaborate evening dress uniforms of officers and senior enlisted, it is often referred to as "Dress Blues" and can be worn in many forms. It is the only uniform of the United States military to use all of the colours of the nation's flag and incorporates button designs which are the oldest military insignia still in use in the United States Armed Forces. A sword may be worn when the individual is in command of troops in formation. When wearing the sword and Dress Blue coat, officers wear the Sam Browne belt. For enlisted, the sword is worn with a white waist belt and brass buckle when wearing the Dress Blue coat. It is the single most imitated uniform by other militaries and has remained unchanged for decades. Royal Air Force The RAF's service dress is worn on formal and ceremonial occasions. It remains essentially unchanged from the service dress uniform adopted in the early 1920s. It consists of a blue-grey jacket and trousers (or skirt for a female). In 1947, the temperate officers' service 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 [...]
Prince Louis Wearing Waist Shoulder Sash A sash is usually a large and colourful ribbon or band of material that is worn around the body. Sashes either drape from one shoulder to the opposing hip, or run around the waist. The shoulder sash is worn in daily attire by the Duty Sergeant while the Waist Sash is worn on ceremonial occasions. Historically, a waist sash was made using a technique called spranging. The process of spragning produces a wide fabric, that like a netting, can widen and contract. Many metres of woollen cord are placed on a special spranging machine and often these machines were two storeys high running through a hole in the floor to the lower level. The machines are worked by hand to create the sprung fabric. It is believed that only two machines are left in the UK, one of which is in a museum in London and the second here at Wyedean. The idea behind using this type of net construction was that if an officer was wounded on the battlefield, his sash could be used as a stretcher. This dual-purpose benefit became less relevant, however, when the sash was modified from being a shoulder sash to one worn around the waist in 1768. The length was gradually reduced for more convenient wearing. Prince Will Wearing Waist Sash Since a sergeant’s sash was to be worn around the waist, its length was greatly reduced from the outset. It is obvious from the various lengths of surviving sashes that they were intended to go around the waist once. However, they were also spranged like the officer’s sashes. There were a number of variations: some had fixed knots while others were finished with fringes, frayed or knotted off. The modern British Army retains a scarlet sash for wear in certain orders of dress by those of sergeant rank and above serving in infantry regiments, over the right shoulder to the left hip. A similar crimson silk net sash is worn around the waist by officers of the Foot Guards in scarlet full dress and officers of line infantry in dark blue "Number 1" dress. The sash is also worn by Regiments and Corps performing ceremonial duties.