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#1 Melvin Hurst

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 06:50 AM

It is my understanding that the BEF were equipped with greatcoats on mobilisation in August 1914, but in early photographs, taken before they went into action for the first time, the troops don't appear to have them. I have read personal accounts of the time which state that many men discarded their greatcoats during the retreat from Mons, which would have been understandable given the very warm weather at the time, and the weight of the kit that they were expected to carry. Can anyone shed any light on what happened to the greatcoats when the men went into action?

#2 GRANVILLE

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 08:57 AM

They certainly were not required in Aug 1914, but may well have been shoe-horned into the Pack as part of the mobilization order - someone more knowledgeable might be able to verify. I believe Full Marching Order would have required it and whilst ever the full kit was expected to be carried, then they may well have had them on their back? At other times, when FMO was not actually required, then the Packs & contents would be moved about by Divisional Transports (GS Wagon etc).
The Greatcoat is a subject very much on my mind at the moment, as since my kit collection has gone into the hands of a local museum, they have had to conclude they can't find an appropriate way of displaying these weighty beasts (I have two) and I'm trying to decide what to do with them. It would be interesting to read of actual experiences of wearing the Greatcoat (re enactors) because unless someone has, itís impossible to image how they must have impacted on the wearer. With the collar up on a winters' night with snow swirling about, itís all too easy to get a false impression of a man snug and warm on the inside. Better than nothing I'm sure they were, but when sodden with wet and mud they must have been a complete nightmare.


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#3 truthergw

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 09:50 AM

It is my understanding that the BEF were equipped with greatcoats on mobilisation in August 1914, but in early photographs, taken before they went into action for the first time, the troops don't appear to have them. I have read personal accounts of the time which state that many men discarded their greatcoats during the retreat from Mons, which would have been understandable given the very warm weather at the time, and the weight of the kit that they were expected to carry. Can anyone shed any light on what happened to the greatcoats when the men went into action?


men going into action were instructed what to do with kit. They would be told exactly what was to be carried into action. Kit left behind would be left under some sort of guard and reclaimed on return. It was NCOs task after an action to sort through and process the dumped kit of men who had not returned. Of course, in the retreat, the usual arrangements would not obtain so it would be a question of priority, keep the most important stuff and dump the rest. I have no doubt that as the BEF settled into the trenches, the great war of requisition forms would break out in earnest as QM stores at every level strove to account for all the kit and defend their shelves against the hordes who thought stores were for using. :whistle:

#4 RobL

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 11:31 AM

As for what they're like to wear, very comfy and warm and make a great blanket too

#5 GRANVILLE

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 01:12 PM

As for what they're like to wear, very comfy and warm and make a great blanket too



You disappoint me Rob! I thought you would be able to tell of a week in a water filled trench, slaumed in mud and wet to the skin! :blush:

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#6 Ron Clifton

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:51 AM

Hello all

Officially the correct place for the greatcoat was in the pack. Packs would often be left behind with the battalion transport, in which case the greatcoat either stayed in it, or could be carried on the man's back, along with his haversack and mess-tin (moved from his hip).

Many could well have been abandoned during the retreat from Mons, when orders were given to jettison virtually anything which wasn't essential, but if the packs were still with battalion transport most of the greatcoats were probably with them, given the weather in Aug/early Sept 1914.

Ron

#7 GRANVILLE

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 06:23 PM

Very hard to imagine what it must have been like day after day, week after week etc etc. I appreciate this is an officer in the photo.

Dave Upton

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#8 truthergw

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 06:34 PM

He is likely to be wearing a trench coat. Lighter and more waterproof and some patterns had fasteners which allowed the skirts to be ' kilted up' somewhat after the fashion of the French uniform coat.

#9 Liz in Eastbourne

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:32 PM

Were all greatcoats called 'British warms' or was that a particular kind of greatcoat?

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#10 Ron Clifton

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:45 PM

Hello Liz

I think a British Warm was a different kind of coat - normally double-breasted, and only coming down to the knees. Other ranks' greatcoats were single-breasted and mid-calf length. Of course, the definitions may have changed over time, and the name might have been used informally for more than one type of coat.

Tom - am I right in thinking that the trench coat was more like the modern Burberry raincoat?

Ron

#11 Scalyback

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:55 PM

Hello Liz

I think a British Warm was a different kind of coat - normally double-breasted, and only coming down to the knees. Other ranks' greatcoats were single-breasted and mid-calf length. Of course, the definitions may have changed over time, and the name might have been used informally for more than one type of coat.

Tom - am I right in thinking that the trench coat was more like the modern Burberry raincoat?

Ron


Burberry and Aquascutum both done "Trench coats" for the officers. Todays ones are decendents of them.

#12 Liz in Eastbourne

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 08:08 PM

Hello Liz

I think a British Warm was a different kind of coat - normally double-breasted, and only coming down to the knees. Other ranks' greatcoats were single-breasted and mid-calf length. Of course, the definitions may have changed over time, and the name might have been used informally for more than one type of coat.

Tom - am I right in thinking that the trench coat was more like the modern Burberry raincoat?

Ron


Thanks, Ron. I was very struck ages ago by a description in Eden's book Another World of how he covered a wounded officer with his British warm, but had no precise picture of it. It was of course an officer's coat.
Liz

#13 truthergw

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 08:20 PM

As Scalyback says, Like a burberry or mackintosh. In the troubles in Ireland, post war, a trench coat became a sort of uniform for the IRA. See Sean O'Casey.

Liz if you think of the camel coat worn by City gents in winter or ex-officers on the Remembrance Day Parade when in mufti. That is more or less a British warm.

#14 squirrel

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 08:26 PM

Not unknown for Sergeants and above on mounted duties to wear an Officer's pattern British Warm either.

#15 truthergw

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 09:09 PM

Not unknown for Sergeants and above on mounted duties to wear a British Warm either.



Would that be issue?

#16 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 02:41 AM

Greatcoat - Dismounted Services ( DS )
The original pattern, issued in 1902, was a long, single breasted garment, with a large collar and plain cuffs.
The front fastening was with 5 brass General Service ( GS ) buttons, and hook and eye at the neck.
As with the Service Dress jacket, it was also fitted with rifle patches. there were large inset side pockets, with angled rectangular pocket flaps. The back of the coat was fitted with a 2 inch wide fabric half-belt fitted to the side seams, and adjusted with 3 buttons. The rear skirt was divided, and fastened with 2 buttons.
In 1904, shoulder straps were added to the Greatcoat.
In 1909, there were further modifications, with a small ticket pocket with a flap being added, forward of the right hand side pocket, and turn back cuffs.

The coat on the left is a Coat, Great, Drab Mixture, Dismounted, 1904.
The coat on the right is a Coat, Great, Drab Mixture, Dismounted, 1909. ( with ticket pocket )

Also pictured, are the sealed pattern labels for the 1904 and 1909 Greatcoats.

During the war a simplified pattern of the Dismounted Greatcoat was made, with no rifle patches, and no ticket pocket. Later the turn back cuffs were also eliminated.

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#17 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 02:54 AM

Greatcoat - Dismounted ( DS ) 1915.
In 1915, a Barathea Greatcoat was sealed. It was similar in appearance to the earlier simplified pattern but was made of Barathea cloth, and to provide extra warmth, it was lined with a blanket material.
It had no rifle patches, no ticket pocket, and plain cuffs.

The photograph shows the Coat, Great, Barathea, Dismounted,1915, and details of the new blanket material lining.
Also pictured is the 1915 sealed pattern label for this Greatcoat.

LF

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#18 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 03:04 AM

Greatcoat - Mounted Services ( MS ).
These Greatcoats were similar to the Dismounted pattern, except that there was an extra panel of material stitched inside the coat, near the top of the rear opening. The soldier could use this extra material to sit on should his saddle be wet.

The photograph on the left shows the Coat, Great, Drab Mixture, Service Dress, Mounted Services, 1904.
The photograph on the right shows the Coat, Great, Drab Mixture, Service Dress, Mounted Services, 1917.

Also pictured are the sealed pattern labels for both coats, and the extra panel of material sewn inside the coat.

LF

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#19 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 03:29 AM

Coat, Warm, Mounted Services.
This coat seems to have been introduced in late 1914. These coats were not only much shorter in length, but were also double-breasted, and fitted with 8 front buttons in two vertical rows, the buttons on the example shown are leather buttons embossed with the Royal Coat of Arms.

LF

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#20 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 03:43 AM

Coat, Warm, British.
This short coat was issued prior to the start of the war, with its issue being extended to Army Cyclist Troops in 1915.
" It has been decided to substitute ' Coats, warm, British ' for ' Coats, great, drab, dismounted ' in the scale of clothing for men of the Army Cyclist Corps, and indents may be put forward accordingly. The Coat, warm, British ' will be taken when proceeding on active service."
( War Office letter ACD/Cyclists/70 ( RACD ) 13th February, 1915 )

The photograph shows the Coat, Warm, British, 1915 with details of its blanket material lining. Also shown is the coat's 1915 sealed pattern label.

LF

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#21 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 03:55 AM

The return of Greatcoats.
During demobilization, uniforms and other equipment was withdrawn from the soldier. Should the weather, at the time of demob, been particularly bad, the soldier was allowed to retain his Greatcoat for the journey home. He could then deposit the Greatcoat at the nearest railway station for return back to the Army. Providing the Greatcoat was returned within 28 days of the soldier's demobilization furlough, he would be paid one pound, which was part of his post war gratuity.
When returning the Greatcoat, Army form Z50 was used ( copy attached ).

LF

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#22 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 04:20 AM

Yeomanry Trooper wearing a Coat, Warm, Mounted Services.

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#23 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 04:28 AM

Sergeant on the left of the photograph is wearing the Coat, Great, Drab Mixture, Dismounted, 1909 ( with the ticket pocket ).

LF

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#24 Lancashire Fusilier

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 04:31 AM

Photographs and information borrowed from J. Bodsworth's excellent book on British Uniforms and Equipment 1914-18, which I highly recommend.
LF

#25 GRANVILLE

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 05:13 AM

LF,

Excellent string of posts, thanks.

DU