The British Army had introduced a new uniform for its troops on the eve of the Second World War that was the most modern fighting uniform of any nation in the world in 1939. It was made of khaki wool and was based on contemporary ski wear. The trousers of this new battledress were loose fitting and designed with combat rather than the parade ground in mind. Today we are looking at a pair of these first pattern trousers, colloquially known as 37 pattern to collectors:
The battledress is fitted with a large map pocket on the upper left thigh, this early pattern has a concealed brass button to secure it:
On the opposite leg, a small pleated pocket was provided to hold a first field dressing:
The trousers were designed to be worn with webbing anklets, and to draw the bottom of the trouser legs in a set of three brass buttons and a corresponding tab are sewn to the bottom of each leg:
As well as the pockets on the thighs, the battledress trousers also featured a pair of slash pockets on each hip:
And a single pocket over the right buttock:
Note also the belt loops, each secured with a brass button at the top. The single brass button on the left is one of what were originally three buttons that worked with corresponding button holes on the waist band of the blouse to keep the two garments together. Having worn battledress for many years as part of living history, my own feeling is that connecting the two garments together is more trouble than its worth as they are awkward to get undone and fastened back together again if you need to respond to a call of nature- I suspect most troops in the Second World War would have felt the same and left them undone as well.
In addition to the belt loops, three pairs of buttons are sewn to the inside of the waist band to attach a pair of braces to in order to keep the trousers up:
These would have orignally been brass, however brass buttons have a habit of cutting through thread and coming off at the most inoportune moment, so it is common to see them replaced with plastic examples. The fly buttons on these trousers are a case in point as all but one button has been replaced:
The basic design of these trousers was modified to speed up production in 1940 and then adapted again in 1946 and 1949, however the uniform remained in service until the late 1960s and although decidedly obsolete by that point, it had been truly revolutionary in its day.