Indian Army Mess Dress Jacket

British Officers serving in the Indian army had their own mess dress, just like their counterparts serving in the regular British Army. Previously we have looked at an example of mess dress issued to an officer of the 16th Punjabis here. Recently I have acquired another example, complete with trousers (which will be the subject of another post in a few weeks’ time). This example is in plain scarlet, with dark blue facings:imageThere are no buttons up the front of the mess jacket, but each shoulder strap does have a single brass button:imageThis design is a standard design for the Indian Army, comprising of the royal cypher, surmounted by a Tudor crown and with a laurel leaf beneath:imageThe cuffs of this mess jacket are pointed and faced in a dark blue:imageThis blue is repeated on the collar. The inside of this jacket is entirely plain, being finished in a high quality silky fabric of the same shade as the main jacket body:imageI have looked extensively through the 1931 dress regulations for India and I believe I have narrowed the mess dress down to that for the engineers. The regulations indicate that for Military Engineer Services, including “Barrack, Public Works and Sappers and Miners”, the mess dress should be scarlet, with dark blue collar and cuffs and scarlet shoulder straps. I cannot say for certain that this is the correct identification of my mess dress, but it certainly seems plausible.

Sadly there are no labels inside the jacket whatsoever so we know neither who made it, nor for which officer it was produced.

Alan Shaw was a British Army Royal Engineer, but during World War Two spent a lot of time with his Indian Army counterparts and recalls:

We had our meals in the grand old Officers Mess of the QVO Madras S & M. Behind each officer’s chair stood his bearer wearing a white cotton uniform and puggarree or turban with a waistbelt in the red white and blue stripes of the Corps of Indian Engineers.

At breakfast in front of each place setting was a fine newspaper stand of polished wood and brass. It was normal to read the Hindustan Times or other Indian newspaper while eating breakfast. If you had a hangover from the previous evening you didn’t have to speak to anyone else if you didn’t feel like it! At luncheon and dinner everyone was as sociable as normal.

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