In the early 1970s the RAF reviewed its uniforms and started updating what were essentially the same designs they had been using since the Second World War. Modern fibres were brought in for the No2 dress uniform and brass buttons were replaced with staybrite examples to reduce the amount of maintenance an airman needed to do to keep it looking smart. Whilst this was fine for the dress uniform, the woollen RAF battledress used as an everyday work uniform also needed replacing and In 1974 a new uniform cut along much more modern lines was introduced:Developed a couple of years earlier, this is officially the 72 pattern jacket. This uniform, more than perhaps any other, reflects the period it was designed and is very much a 1970s design. It acquired a number of nicknames, the Thunderbird jacket being perhaps the politest! One user describes it as ‘awful and shapeless’. The jacket has a central zip up the front to secure it:And two angled pockets, also with metal zips:The waist is drawn in and adjusted by two buckles and sliders:The sizing of this jacket is the old pre-metric type so this example dates from the mid-1970s:The jacket did see something of a surge of popularity in the 1980s:
It was about this time that the V neck wooly started to appear, which again I didn’t think much of, and this may have tempted me to start wearing the Thunderbird jacket, if I had stayed in any longer. The Thunderbird jacket was a horrible looking thing and I avoided wearing it unless ordered to. Later on as a Cpl, I would sometimes wear it if I was on some duty or other outside of my normal work area. I think there were a lot of people who didn’t like the Thunderbird jacket, but strangely after the Falklands war it started to become popular with a certain faction who had never worn it before. Of course it couldn’t possibly be anything to do with the fact that you had medal ribbons on your No2 jacket!
Another airman recalls one still in use in the 1990s:
The Thunderbird jacket, now that was a great thing. The first time I saw one was in the 90s, an ancient MACR came into our (Army) hangar wearing his. We all disappeared behind our Rovers killing ourselves laughing. He looked utterly ridiculous. He had MASSIVE badges of rank on it, on both arms. He’d also been in since Trenchard, and had a double row of medal ribbons up. It looked like he’d just rolled out of the 1960s. His jacket probably had. Nice old bloke, but it was definitely time for him to hang his jacket up and retire.