Late War British Winter Uniforms

Nineteen Kilo

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Question: Were the Brits still wearing Great Coats in the field in the winter of 1944/1945 or did they have a field jacket by then?

It seems to me I've only seen pictures of them wearing the wool battle dress uniform with maybe a Denison smock or Windproof over it. Surely they had something more substantial to stand up against the cold...
 

Nineteen Kilo

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Somewhat answering my own question:

This video (reportedly the winter of 1945) shows some windproofs, and even some white snow smocks, but what I'm seeing a great deal of is shearling leather vests. There are two guys who may be truck drivers wearing the old greatcoats ( 3:34 mark) but other than that I'm not seeing any (except on the Germans).

Winter 45
 
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My suggestion would be to get in touch with a re-enacting group. Those guys live for this kind of stuff. A quick web search turned up:

http://www.1stairborne.com/

(One's based in Arizona and the other in California, so cold weather gear might not be their strongest area of expertise, but I'd guess they still know more than posters in this forum are likely to.)
 

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I think they're still trying to get 'Q' Branch to approve the requisition forms!
 

Michael Dorosh

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Leather jerkins (in effect, sleeveless, collarless, pocketless jackets) were more popular, especially among frontline infantry, but yes, a double breasted greatcoat was worn. The jerkin dates back to antiquity but made a resurgence in the First World War. It came back for the Second. British jerkins were a medium brown with khaki backings - the Canadians also wore them, and theirs were a darker brown with black wool lining. If you watch the movie A Bridge Too Far, General Horrocks wears a jerkin when he arrives to give his famous briefing ("and mightily bored they'll be").

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Mix of American and British troops attending a course on hygiene. Both armies issued wool greatcoats throughout the war.

Officers bought their uniforms, and while some purchased greatcoats, the British Warm was also popular. It was a shorter coat, usually lighter in colour, of better materials than the issue coats.


Officers also wore trenchcoats (guess where the name came from). Usually in rainy weather but could occasionally be seen in the cold. They too were private purchase. Patterned after the Warm or the full length greatcoat, they were made of lightweight material like gabardine and usually lined for water resistance. Photo below is from the First World War. Officer on right is Captain B.L. Montgomery, later Field-Marshal.

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Michael Dorosh

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but I'd guess they still know more than posters in this forum are likely to.)
I'm guessing you will not be tempted to buy the books I've published on Canadian Army uniforms in the Second World War. :)
 

Michael Dorosh

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I can recommend a very good book on British uniforms though. Very comprehensive in its coverage, and a fair amount of detail in each garment. The author is active on Facebook if you want to contact him.

 

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....
View attachment 16574
Mix of American and British troops attending a course on hygiene. Both armies issued wool greatcoats throughout the war.

Officers bought their uniforms, and while some purchased greatcoats, the British Warm was also popular. It was a shorter coat, usually lighter in colour, of better materials than the issue coats.

...
And it seems the British (Canadians?) wear their garrison caps a bit more jauntilly than the U.S. troops do.;)🤠

ps. Still have my dad's in the closet. He was in the Pacific so it's almost like new.
 

Nineteen Kilo

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Leather jerkins (in effect, sleeveless, collarless, pocketless jackets) were more popular, especially among frontline infantry, but yes, a double breasted greatcoat was worn. The jerkin dates back to antiquity but made a resurgence in the First World War. It came back for the Second. British jerkins were a medium brown with khaki backings - the Canadians also wore them, and theirs were a darker brown with black wool lining. If you watch the movie A Bridge Too Far, General Horrocks wears a jerkin when he arrives to give his famous briefing ("and mightily bored they'll be").

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View attachment 16573View attachment 16576
Thanks Michael. It's so odd that all the German and Yank winter jackets are burned into my memory from so many images of the Battle of the Bulge, but I just couldn't remember ever seeing an image of British Combat troops in that Dec 44/Jan 45 time frame.

As an aside when you see pictures of US infantry in the Battle of the Bulge, and they're wearing greatcoats you instantly know they are either in a late arriving unit (read green) or are a replacement sent to a veteran unit.

Amazingly the US had a shortage of winter field jackets going into that winter, due to the hang ups of producing the Model 43 Field Jacket. As a result you will see guys wearing the Arctic Model 1941 (basically a longer Model 1941 Field Jacket which covered the hips), tanker jackets, Mackinaw ("jeep") jackets, Model 43's, and lastly the wool Great Coat that was for the dress uniform but due to the emergency was authorized for field wear due to the shortage of field jackets.
 

Michael Dorosh

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Jeffery Williams, an officer in the Canadian Army, wrote a history of the Northwest European campaign from the end of Normandy to VE-Day ("The Long Left Flank"). He mentioned that everybody was cold in the winter of 1944-45, but it seemed to him that the Americans "looked colder" than everyone else.

By the same token, Frank Holm, who was a signaller in Williams' regiment, wrote that he was never cold in the winter of 1944-45. He spent the winter in the Nijmegen salient (NOT the Ardennes), and said his Canadian unit had it pretty comfortable - slit trenches filled with straw, two blankets, and the wool battledress with thermal underwear, a sweater and jerkin was all he really needed.

I wonder how he would have fared with just an M43 combat suit and a rain jacket....
 

Nineteen Kilo

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Jeffery Williams, an officer in the Canadian Army, wrote a history of the Northwest European campaign from the end of Normandy to VE-Day ("The Long Left Flank"). He mentioned that everybody was cold in the winter of 1944-45, but it seemed to him that the Americans "looked colder" than everyone else.....
I believe that they were indeed colder than everyone else. As part of no particular coordinated effort, through the years I have purchased and wear several items of WWII US Army winter gear, which I mix in with my wardrobe, to include: Model 1941 Field Jacket, Tanker Jacket, wool 6 button pull over sweater, and even a B-10 Flight jacket.

The M41 field jacket is little better than a windbreaker, and I cannot imagine going anyplace below zero in it. It simply is not winter wear, suitable only for fall and spring.
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The Tanker Jacket is better, with a thicker wool lining, knit cuffs & collar, and a banded bottom. However it is short and pales next to an actual parka.
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The B-10 flight jacket is probably the warmest of the three with the nice shearling collar, but again it is short (purposely so, to provide freedom of movement in a cockpit).

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And then there's the GI sweater (which in my experience is a make or break item in true cold). It is of a fairly loose weave and short - and consequently feels a bit "insubstantial" for a wool sweater.

I'm sure if I tried to survive a winter in Belgium (or up in your Calgary area) with this gear I would be truly miserable.

My guess is the Mackinaw would be the winner in a Warmth Popularity Contest.
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Edit: I apologize for the size of the images, they are not nearly that big on my computer, I don't know why they seem to fill the screen in this post.
 
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Yeah, I have the wool sweater & "helmet cap" (if that's what it was), absolutely love 'em. Both good winter wear. IIRC our tanker jackets in the 60's were about the same as WW-II/Korea and we used to take a GI blanket and have it cut up & sown inside as a liner for the Hartz Mountain winters in Germany.
 

Nineteen Kilo

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Yeah, I have the wool sweater & "helmet cap" (if that's what it was), absolutely love 'em. Both good winter wear. IIRC our tanker jackets in the 60's were about the same as WW-II/Korea and we used to take a GI blanket and have it cut up & sown inside as a liner for the Hartz Mountain winters in Germany.
I've maligned the tanker jacket a bit in my post above, and I should amend to say it is great for civilian winter use (going from the car to the whatever building you're headed to), I just wouldn't want to sit in a foxhole in 10 degree (F) weather all night in one.

And in it's defense, it was designed to be worn with the wool overalls which come up to mid-chest. And therefore in tandem the shortness of the jacket would have had no adverse affect on retaining heat, because there is plenty of overlap between the two.

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Michael Dorosh

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I've maligned the tanker jacket a bit in my post above, and I should amend to say it is great for civilian winter use (going from the car to the whatever building you're headed to), I just wouldn't want to sit in a foxhole in 10 degree (F) weather all night in one.

And in it's defense, it was designed to be worn with the wool overalls which come up to mid-chest. And therefore in tandem the shortness of the jacket would have had no adverse affect on retaining heat, because there is plenty of overlap between the two.

View attachment 16622
The Canadian Army currently issues overalls like this, with fleece instead of wool lining and a big pocket on the front. They look ridiculous but for utility you can't beat 'em.
 

Nineteen Kilo

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The Canadian Army currently issues overalls like this, with fleece instead of wool lining and a big pocket on the front. They look ridiculous but for utility you can't beat 'em.
Yeah, everything seems to be fleece and Gore-Tex nowadays.
 
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Bill Mauldin cartoon: "Get his pistol, Joe. I know where we kin swap it for some boots and combat jacket."
 

Nineteen Kilo

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BTW Why am I talking about a Flight Jacket? It is my understanding the Airborne officers were authorized to wear the B-10. Here's a couple images of General McAuliffe wearing one at Bastogne. You can see how short the jacket is in the second image.

Of Course Patton is wearing the Shearling B-3 but I don't think any ground pounders were actually authorized to wear one (but who was going to tell George he couldn't wear one?).

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