Battledress Denims

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Battledress Denims

Chris K
Chris K

June 27th, 2009, 2:15 am #1

Does anyone know when the color of the denims changed from brown to green? I have several green examples with pleated pockets but only one with the date legible -- Feb 1941.

I have a brown example in storage but the label is completely illegible.

Clearly both colors exist in the early pattern with pleated pockets. I've only seen the final, economy pattern in green.

Also curious as to how many folks might have examples of the brown denims?
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Chris K
Chris K

June 27th, 2009, 2:30 am #2

Sorry. I posted before I was done typing.

I'm researching several aspects of the early denims. Firstly, looking to see if the 1939/40 productions were all brown? If so, then presumably the BEF in France would likely have been kitted out with the early production batches and therefore predominantly brown would have been available?

Secondly, looking for the 'smoking gun' document specifically changing the colr to green. I've looked for years and haven't found any reference to color of fabric for the denims. It just strikes me as unlikely that a change from brown to green just happened.
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Ed Storey
Ed Storey

June 27th, 2009, 3:42 am #3

Does anyone know when the color of the denims changed from brown to green? I have several green examples with pleated pockets but only one with the date legible -- Feb 1941.

I have a brown example in storage but the label is completely illegible.

Clearly both colors exist in the early pattern with pleated pockets. I've only seen the final, economy pattern in green.

Also curious as to how many folks might have examples of the brown denims?
Chris, I own both brown and green British Denim BD and my belief is that the brown came first, followed by the green; although at some point during manufacture you get both being produced side by side. Brown denims were issued in the UK in the 1930s for work wear and I suspect that this lead to the brown demin BDs. Some of the brown denims were almost pink, although I do not own any in this shade.

I have no idea what would have caused the change from brown to green and I have no idea if the change was even reported through the usual ordnance channels.

It is too bad the potential sources of all of these British uniform details are possibly sitting in as of yet untapped archives in the UK. It would be very nice to find out who all of the manufactures were as well as the suppliers of the cotton and who wove the material. Also, someone had to supply the buttons and the metal fitting, who had those contracts? I would not be surprised to learn that some of the materials that went into these uniforms were coming from North America.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 27th, 2009, 12:55 pm #4

It may be significant to note that camouflage paint colours changed from brown and earth shades to green in the midwar period as well. A longshot WAG is that it may have had to do with the availability of pigments of some type.

Remember the phrase "Lucky Strike Green has gone to war"?
Michael Dorosh
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canadiansoldiers.com
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Chris K
Chris K

June 27th, 2009, 4:22 pm #5

As near as I can tell, denims didn't arrive until a year or so after the woolen BD was introduced. So I would presume that their use as a work coverall would likely be sometime after 1939. They didn't exist prior to woolen BD insofar as I know as they would have been ridiculous if worn over the old 4-pocket battledress uniform.

I have several examples of the green denims made in the original pattern with pocket pleats and the earliest example I've personally handled was 1941. The final pattern was a year later obviously following the economy measures of the woolen blouse.

The color change continues to baffle me. As noted, at some late point the brown and green were around at the same time and sharing the same early pattern. One can only surmise that the change occurred in some official capacity. From the RAF side of things, aircraft schemes changed from green and brown camo to green and grey camo around the same time (1941) but I wouldn't put much faith in the two having any relation to each other.

These were never intended as combat garments so their color would have little relationship to concealment in the field and brown would seem a more logical choice to hiding dirt/stains than the green versions.

If anyone could post images of their brown denim blouses, I'd like to see them. Particularly if their labels are intact. I have one example in storage and I've not gone digging for it as I know the label is completely illegible.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 27th, 2009, 6:19 pm #6

Whatever they were intended for, the Denims were worn in the field as combat wear in hot weather or to augment the wool BD in cold weather.

I thought the Milifax webpage on Canadian military vehicles mentioned the reason for the camouflage paint switch; it seems to me that it had something to do with pigments, as I posted above. It would seem a likely reason for the colour change in clothing as well, whether or not those pigments used for dying clothing were the same as those used in paints.

Incidentally, Khaki Drill, which was intended for use as combat dress, was a somewhat bright golden yellow shade (certainly in relation to British items I've seen - Ed can provide clarification I'm sure) when produced in Canada. I'm not sure the camouflage properties weren't at some level secondary considerations.
Michael Dorosh
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canadiansoldiers.com
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Joined: February 8th, 2002, 3:21 am

June 27th, 2009, 7:16 pm #7

Michael,
I agree with you. Denims were certainly seen in wear on frontline service. My comment was based on the original intent that the denims were intended as a protective overlayer to the then-new battledress uniform.

I hope we'll see some images from those who possess examples in brown. I've seen a few very worn example that I believe to be green but with owners proclaiming them to be brown ones that faded to a strange olive-brown tone. Entirely possible as the green ones seem to fade to a muted greenish-grey.
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JOrdan Baker
JOrdan Baker

June 28th, 2009, 3:31 am #8

Whatever they were intended for, the Denims were worn in the field as combat wear in hot weather or to augment the wool BD in cold weather.

I thought the Milifax webpage on Canadian military vehicles mentioned the reason for the camouflage paint switch; it seems to me that it had something to do with pigments, as I posted above. It would seem a likely reason for the colour change in clothing as well, whether or not those pigments used for dying clothing were the same as those used in paints.

Incidentally, Khaki Drill, which was intended for use as combat dress, was a somewhat bright golden yellow shade (certainly in relation to British items I've seen - Ed can provide clarification I'm sure) when produced in Canada. I'm not sure the camouflage properties weren't at some level secondary considerations.
The change over from green to brown paint was due partly to the availability of whatever chemical was used to make green paint "green". The worlds main supply came from the Pacific region of the world. When the Japanese overran the Pacific the supply was suddenly cut off or drasticaly reduced. Hence when you see the change over of Green vehicles to Brown in 1942/43, it was mainly due to this. An interesting side bar is that the green and brown shades on their own are near impossible to differentiate on black and white photos.

I have no idea if this plays into the change with the denims or not but it does help to answer you question Michael about the vehicle paints.
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Ed Storey
Ed Storey

June 30th, 2009, 3:04 am #9

Chris, I own both brown and green British Denim BD and my belief is that the brown came first, followed by the green; although at some point during manufacture you get both being produced side by side. Brown denims were issued in the UK in the 1930s for work wear and I suspect that this lead to the brown demin BDs. Some of the brown denims were almost pink, although I do not own any in this shade.

I have no idea what would have caused the change from brown to green and I have no idea if the change was even reported through the usual ordnance channels.

It is too bad the potential sources of all of these British uniform details are possibly sitting in as of yet untapped archives in the UK. It would be very nice to find out who all of the manufactures were as well as the suppliers of the cotton and who wove the material. Also, someone had to supply the buttons and the metal fitting, who had those contracts? I would not be surprised to learn that some of the materials that went into these uniforms were coming from North America.
Here are some images of my brown Denim BD Tunic.









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Joined: February 8th, 2002, 3:21 am

July 1st, 2009, 9:52 am #10

Ed,
Thanks for posting the photos of your jacket. Superb example!

Compared to my green example (with pleated pockets), the only difference I can see (beyond th ecolor, of course) is the reference on the label to Denim No. 2. Wondering if this is the official reference to the green color or simply one of several potential fabric weights?





photos via WD Militaria
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