RAF New Pattern Great Coat

Tonight we are looking at an RAF greatcoat dating from the early 1950s. Although at first glance this greatcoat is very similar to the wartime Other Airman’s coat, it is actually subtly different. Greatcoats traditionally were the overcoat of soldiers, sailors and airmen for wear in conditions where their uniforms did not provide enough warmth. In the days before synthetic fibres heavy wool was the most common material to make coats out of. Greatcoats are heavy, restrictive and not particularly wind proof, so they were more suited for men on static duties like parades and sentry duty rather than those on the frontline. Greatcoats were shower proof, with the wool naturally having a degree of water repellence, however when saturated they soaked up water like a sponge which increased their weight even further and then required long periods of time to dry back out again. For all these reasons, greatcoats were relegated to ceremonial wear from the 1960s as water and windproof coats offered a more practical alternative.

This RAF greatcoat is made of wool in the standard blue-grey colour of the service:

21DACD7F-A827-45ED-9858-482AA24357F9It is secured by ten brass buttons, this being the first distinguishing mark of a post war greatcoat- wartime ones had eight. The change in pattern came in 1951, the same time the army updated their greatcoats. The buttons have the RAF eagle and a King’s crown on them:

2AA1345A-CD02-4D69-8834-88E390295A94Inside is a label giving details of the manufacturer and sizing, and stating ‘New Pattern’ referring to the 1951 update:

700C990E-50E6-4BEA-9AC9-48F1A7215EAFAt the rear is a half belt which was not included on wartime coats:

E1786AF7-B7C8-447A-A40C-B73B4348CCF1The interior lining is in blue fabric, wartime coats had white:

E170F091-D4AB-4EF5-BA1C-0D1935C032BDOn the shoulders are blue grey bird badges for other airmen:

7CB88B36-6B50-4AF2-8095-314667D4BF85The airman’s rank is shown on the sleeve, in this case for Senior Aircraftman. This rank was only introduced post-war, on 1st January 1951, again distinguishing this coat from a wartime example:


Interestingly, this example had a letter in the pocket allowing us to identify the last user of the coat:


The letter is addressed to SAC Fielden, the letter is from his mother:


These coats are much more common than their wartime equivalent, however they seem to be popular items for converting to wartime pattern by removing the belt and modifying the buttons. I have no intention of altering this coat as it is an interesting item in its own right and will go with the rest of the National Service era RAF kit I am slowly pulling together.

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