The British Army had introduced its revolutionary battledress uniform just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. This uniform was based on contemporary ski wear and was the most advanced military uniform in the world on its introduction. On the outbreak of war, the military looked at their uniforms and tried to come up with some small changes that would speed up production and reduce the amount of material needed in the uniform’s construction. Saving a few inches of cloth per uniform did not sound much, but multiplied over millions of garments could make a massive saving to a country at war. The new austerity pattern received the designation the 1940 Pattern and tonight we are looking at a battledress blouse in this design:Please ignore the insignia on this uniform, these are reproduction badges that I have added for use in Living history. One simple change made to the pattern was to delete the flies covering the buttons, so the buttons up the front of the blouse are now exposed, as are those on each breast pocket:These pockets are also un-pleated and the buttons themselves are now made of vegetable ivory (plastic) rather than brass which was a strategic resource better suited for making shell casings than buttons.
The earlier design of blouse had three button holes on the rear to attach it to the trousers, the 1940 pattern reduced this down to two:Other features remained pretty much unchanged, so the collar still has a pair of hook and eyes:These secure to fasten the blouse right up to the neck:A belt is fitted to the waist with a metal slide buckle to tighten the base of the blouse securely:As is usual with these blouses, a label is sewn in to the inside of the garment on the pocket bag, giving sizing details, date of manufacture and who made the item:In this case the item was made by Cohen and Co in 1945 and is a size 16. The sixe is also printed on the inside of the blouse, and a date code of ‘Z’ indicates it was produced in 1945:This pattern of blouse was seen throughout the second part of the war and remained in service until a new pattern was introduced in 1946 when it saw limited use until a whole new cut in 1949 saw it replaced completely. Throughout the war it was worn alongside the earlier pattern, but can be easily identified by the visible buttons. Here the soldier on the far left is clearly wearing the utility pattern, whilst the chap next to him has the earlier design, obvious from the concealed buttons and pleated breast pocket:The two patterns were also worn together, so it is not uncommon to see a 1940 pattern blouse worn with an earlier pattern pair of trousers and vice-versa.