There are certain books that sit on your shelf and you go back to time and time again. Today we are looking at one of my favourite volumes and one that has been well thumbed many times over the last fifteen years! When Martin Brayley and Richard Ingram published their seminal work on the uniforms of the British Tommy, they recognised that the subject was too large to cover in a single book and so sensibly split the set, the first book covering the uniforms used in Europe and the second looking at the warm weather clothing used in warmer climes. This second volume, appropriately called ‘Khaki Drill and Jungle Green’ was published in hardback back in 2000, and then reissued in paperback in 2009 and has not been out of print since.
The book takes the form of a set of reconstructed photographs of men wearing original uniform in appropriate settings. The quality of the imagery is superb, with realistic back drops, clear well present images and all the details available to see, with smaller detail images interspersed if required. The authors have taken the images in the UK, but used backgrounds to suggest more exotic climes, the domes of Brighton Pavilion standing in for South East Asia and botanic gardens for the jungles of Burma. The book covers not just the tan coloured cotton uniforms used at the start of the war, but also traces the development of the specialised green jungle uniform that was developed throughout the war from an ad-hoc dyeing of existing clothing to a sophisticated system of uniform, equipment and kit based on scientific principles. One particular highlight is the layout of all the 1944 Pattern jungle equipment which shows all the components in great detail and I know it is a page myself and many others refer back to regularly.
The images on their own would be of limited use without detailed captions and happily the book has captions for all images with the level of detail that a collector or re-enactor loves and they make tracing the development and use of the uniform and equipment easy to follow. There is also a nice balance between official pattern uniforms and the more free-for-all world of privately purchased bazaar made examples, both are covered and there is a nice mixture of the common and the obscure to whet the appetite. The writing is fluent and balances the level of knowledge well so as to be of use to both the novice and the more experienced collector.
Happily, as it has been reprinted several times the book does not command the silly prices these volumes can reach when out of print and Amazon offer the paperback version for under £15. This is an essential volume for anyone interested in World War Two British uniforms and equipment and should be on your bookshelf.