Following the Korean War the British Army modernised much of their uniform provision, especially its cold weather equipment. Korea had proved that the greatcoat was hopelessly antiquated and a new garment was needed for extreme cold weather and for those who had to stand still for lengthy periods of time in the cold. The British looked to its allies and those pieces of clothing that had proved popular during the Korean War for inspiration. The US Army had introduced a ‘fish tail’ parka in 1950 and these had proved popular with any Commonwealth troops who could acquire them so the decision was taken to produce a garment based largely upon this design. The new ‘middle parka’ was introduced in 1953 and was to see service throughout the 1960s and 1970s before finally being phased out from the 1980s.
These parkas were often modified in service and today we are looking at one such example:
This parka has had the ‘fish tail’ cut off the rear and added to the neck as a collar:
One soldier explains:
Removal of the “tail” was in my case an authorised mod carried out by the Unit Tailor for those of us who drove vehicles a lot.
The parker has a deep fleece lining to it to make it nice and warm, and buckles at the cuffs to help draw them in to prevent draughts up the sleeves:
The parka has a pair of voluminous pockets on the skirt, with each pocket being secured by a large green button:
A further pair of angled patch pockets are fitted to the breast, with a small pen pocket attached to the left hand pocket:
The parka has a waist cord inside, again to help draw it in and keep air trapped inside which can heat up and keep the wearer warmer:
The tail, removed from this example, could be secured inside the parka if required and there is a pair of buttons inside for this purpose:
The parka fastens up the front, with a heavy duty zip and a buttoned fly:
A pair of epaulettes are fitted to the shoulders, again using the large green plastic buttons seen elsewhere on the garment:
The parka has a pair of labels inside it, firstly one with instructions on the correct way to wear it:
And the second with stores details:
The middle parka was not without its faults- in many ways it was too good and for any sort of activity caused the wearer to overheat and sweat too much. It tended to be issued to those who were not involved in too much activity such as drivers or sentries:
Worn when on stag, too heavy for patrolling in unless it was the depths of winter. Worn over the top of the combat jacket, we wore jacket, wooly pully (optional) shirt KF or in my case, US Army cotton shirt, Lightweights and patrol boots. No webbing but if on the gate put the 9 mil in a pocket.
I was cavalry kept mine on the battery box behind me wore it over combats or coveralls it was lovely and warm especially if a bloke had the liner for it. I think only vehicle borne squaddies would use it due to the weight of it