The Royal Navy’s action working dress served them well for over seventy years. Although it was modified continuously, the basic concept of a mid-blue shirt and dark blue trousers remained until the early 2010s when it was decided a more modern working dress was needed and trials began on a new uniform based on the MTP PCS uniform which had by that point been in service for a number of years. The initial batches of trial and indeed pre-production uniforms were based off this design, the final standard issue uniforms differed slightly in detail. The most striking feature of this uniform is that it is made in an overall shade of dark blue and the colour contrast that was so distinctive about the earlier design was dispensed with. Tonight we are looking at a very early example of the shirt from this uniform that matches the trials garments rather than the main production run clothing:This clothing was first trialled on the Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring in 2012 as seen in this photograph:One of the most distinctive features of these early pattern shirts is the large pocket with a Velcro panel on each sleeve:This feature was deleted on the production uniforms:It was intended that each ship would have a large embroidered panel attached here with the ship’s badge and name on it:This feature was quickly deleted in favour of just an ensign and qualification badge sewn directly to the sleeves. Other features of this uniform to note are the central rank slide and Velcro chest pockets, again taken from the MTP combat shirt:The final production uniforms had the words ‘Royal Navy’ and the sailor’s name embroidered in tape and sewn to the chest on either side of the central fastening. This early production garment does not, having a single piece of Velcro over the left breast to attach a name tape to which is removable rather than permanently attached:The sleeves are also different to later patterns as they have pockets for foam padding, again taken directly from the MTP garments. This feature was deleted on later patterns:Despite all this, the label inside is a standard design and has a standard NSN number indicating it is not a trials garment:My best guess is that it is very early production, before all the final design changes had been finalised and so is a very early example of this new uniform.
The new working uniform has met mixed responses from those issued with it- some find it comfortable and practical, others bemoan how badly it washes, with criticisms of it rapidly fading to grey with laundering. The BBC reported the first issue uniforms being distributed on HMS Lancaster back in 2015:
The Royal Navy’s first new uniform in 70 years has been unveiled.
The previous light blue shirt and trousers, known as Action Working Dress, or No 4s, have been worn at sea ever since World War Two.
The navy describes the new darker blue version as “more modern, comfortable and fire retardant”.
The crew of the Portsmouth-based HMS Lancaster are the first to wear it. They head out to the South Atlantic on Saturday on a nine-month deployment.
‘Bit out of date’
The new design, officially called the Royal Navy Personal Clothing System (RNPCS), has been tested on several ships and submarines, and according to the navy the feedback has been “mostly positive”.
It is notable for its several layers, with interchangeable T-shirt, top and thermals, which can be worn depending on the climate.
It will offer more protection from flash fires, and badges denoting rank will now be worn at the front rather than on the shoulders. There is also a large White Ensign on the left shoulder.
Meanwhile, the trousers are lighter weight, have slanted pockets for ease of access, and smaller belt loops.
Cdr Peter Laughton, commanding officer of HMS Lancaster, said: “We are extremely proud and genuinely delighted to be the first ship to wear the Royal Navy’s new uniform.
“It is a really practical, smart and modern uniform, and the extra branding allows us to much better represent our service.
“This will most certainly be the case during our current deployment where we are due to transit in excess of 30,000 nautical miles and visit up to 18 different countries.”
Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, who oversaw the changes while in his previous post of Second Sea Lord, said the old look was “a bit out of date”.
He added: “This is a modern uniform which suits a modern Navy.
“But the most important thing is that it is comfortable to wear in the extremes of climate in which the Royal Navy operates – from the Antarctic to the Gulf.”
In the initial rollout about 22,000 sets of the uniform are being issued to operational and sea-going ships.