POW Uniform?

POW Uniform?

Joined: February 28th, 2004, 3:00 pm

January 11th, 2007, 5:24 pm #1

I was looking through some of my uniforms yesterday and came across a BD I have dated 1944. Its war service dress, but has 'P W S' stamped inside which I had never really taken much notice of before.

I seem to recall recently that a black BD was sold (or for sale) on ebay with the PWS stampings inside and was referred to as 'Prisoner of war Service', I E, those given to the POWs as replacement uniform.

Is this correct, and with it being RAF blue instead of black, particularly unusual?
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

January 11th, 2007, 5:52 pm #2

Alex,
I'm not sure what PWS stands for but would be pretty comfortable stating that it's not PoW issue -- at least not wartime PoW. I do know that large numbers of RN BD were issued in the postwar years as prison attire for inmates within the British prison system.

In general terms, I'm not really sure what PoWs were issued for clothing -- i.e. did they retain their own uniforms, etc?

That being said, I do possess one known German PoW battledress blouse -- complete with Wehrmacht badging. I believe it's overdyed a dark, chocolate brown colour. When I first acquired it, I thought it might have been black but closer examination revealed that it was indeed dark brown.

Since the jacket was simply dunked in a vat of dye, the label is now illegible but still present. This particular jacket is an early khaki BD jacket, 1940 pattern.
Last edited by AOC553 on June 24th, 2014, 11:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: February 16th, 2005, 11:34 pm

January 11th, 2007, 6:35 pm #3

I always thought german POW's were issued battledress dyed black with large coloured squares/triangles stitched on the backs. Am I right?
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Joined: October 20th, 2004, 12:05 am

January 11th, 2007, 6:57 pm #4

Alex,
I'm not sure what PWS stands for but would be pretty comfortable stating that it's not PoW issue -- at least not wartime PoW. I do know that large numbers of RN BD were issued in the postwar years as prison attire for inmates within the British prison system.

In general terms, I'm not really sure what PoWs were issued for clothing -- i.e. did they retain their own uniforms, etc?

That being said, I do possess one known German PoW battledress blouse -- complete with Wehrmacht badging. I believe it's overdyed a dark, chocolate brown colour. When I first acquired it, I thought it might have been black but closer examination revealed that it was indeed dark brown.

Since the jacket was simply dunked in a vat of dye, the label is now illegible but still present. This particular jacket is an early khaki BD jacket, 1940 pattern.
A couple of months ago Mick Prodger ( of RAF vs. Lufwtwaffe fame) sold a RAF War service jacket on EBAY stamped PWS. His explanation is that this was clothing sent to RAF POW's in enemy hands. I.E., RAF prisoners in Germany would receive this as a replacement uniform.

--Scott
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Joined: February 28th, 2004, 3:00 pm

January 11th, 2007, 7:11 pm #5

No, I meant was it an issue made to allied POWs in German camps?

The mention of Mick Prodger selling one was probably the one I was thinking of. Not black (as was sold on ebay before) but blue. I'm sure he mentioned PWS as standing for Prisoner of War Service, uniforms issued by the PWS for allied troops in enemy camps if they had lost theirs, or theirs was in poor condition. Mine is a 1944 dated RAF War Service Dress marked PWS.

Does anyone have a contact address for Mick, as there was something else I wanted to ask him?
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Joined: August 5th, 2002, 2:06 am

January 12th, 2007, 12:03 am #6

I have seen a number of photos of German POWs in Canada. As they were transported they wore their German uniform. Once behind wire they wore a variety of Canadian clothing - BD, KD - all of which had a large red circle sewn/dyed on the back.
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Joined: August 5th, 2002, 2:06 am

January 12th, 2007, 2:48 am #7

These photos come from RCAF files at Library & Archives Canada. I don't think that these circles are red, however, no other symbol appeared to be used other than the circle (whatever the colour).

Last edited by AOC553 on January 12th, 2007, 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: December 9th, 2003, 10:45 pm

January 12th, 2007, 9:27 am #8

Alex,
I'm not sure what PWS stands for but would be pretty comfortable stating that it's not PoW issue -- at least not wartime PoW. I do know that large numbers of RN BD were issued in the postwar years as prison attire for inmates within the British prison system.

In general terms, I'm not really sure what PoWs were issued for clothing -- i.e. did they retain their own uniforms, etc?

That being said, I do possess one known German PoW battledress blouse -- complete with Wehrmacht badging. I believe it's overdyed a dark, chocolate brown colour. When I first acquired it, I thought it might have been black but closer examination revealed that it was indeed dark brown.

Since the jacket was simply dunked in a vat of dye, the label is now illegible but still present. This particular jacket is an early khaki BD jacket, 1940 pattern.
I'm with Chris on this one. I have 6 BD blouses at the moment - 3 of which are stamped PWS. I also sold 2 last year - both of which were again stamped PWS. Can anyone provide any evidence that this stamp is linked to PoWs - I've looked everywhere and drawn a complete blank.


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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

January 12th, 2007, 12:09 pm #9

These photos come from RCAF files at Library & Archives Canada. I don't think that these circles are red, however, no other symbol appeared to be used other than the circle (whatever the colour).

Here's a shot from the UK. Not very good but the PoW in the center is clearly wearing a battledress blouse.



There are quite a few online references to dark brown battledress being worn by PoWs -- at least those in the UK. The last sentence of the second paragraph of this article is one of several online recollections supporting this:
http://www.greensnortonvillage.co.uk/pa ... orypt6.htm

Same here but third paragraph up from the bottom:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stor ... 5254.shtml

It appears that the use of brightly coloured arm patches on PoW uniforms was slowly done away with as the war drew to a close. I suspect this was largely the result of a decrease in PoWs coming into the UK; a certainty of victory by the allies; a probably ongoing issue of replacement clothing to PoWs who were supplementing the local work force on farms, etc.

I'll post pics of my PoW jacket this weekend. It has traces of stitching on both arms but not a distinct pattern so no idea if there were irregular shaped patches on the sleeves or not. Pretty heavy fading to the upper back and arms, indicating is was used for a considerable period. I found it interesting that it has a German breast eagle and assault gun tabs on it.
Last edited by AOC553 on June 24th, 2014, 11:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: March 26th, 2006, 9:32 pm

January 12th, 2007, 5:16 pm #10

I'm with Chris on this one. I have 6 BD blouses at the moment - 3 of which are stamped PWS. I also sold 2 last year - both of which were again stamped PWS. Can anyone provide any evidence that this stamp is linked to PoWs - I've looked everywhere and drawn a complete blank.


Good Evening All,

Sorry to disappoint you all, but PWS means Part Worn, Serviceable. It is used on clothing that has been handed back into stores and is suitable for re-issue. It is still in use in the RAF today. Clothing marked as such is usually issued for "second line" use, such as in the cadet forces. During the war, any item deemed suitable for re issue would have been stamped, although it seems more common on War Service Dress, possibly because of the "workwear" nature of it.

A J Smith.
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