Royal Engineers Home Service Dress Tunic

It is an odd fact of collecting that the pre-World War One Home Service dress uniforms are far more common and far cheaper than wartime service dress, despite millions more of this uniform being produced than the old brightly coloured uniform. Partly the coloured home service uniforms have survived as they were not issued in World War One and were then used for band uniforms for many decades afterwards, partly there is just not the interest in them from collectors as they are not combat uniforms so there is not the mad scrabble to pick up examples. This seems a shame to me, as they are always beautifully made uniforms and well over a century old now. I have a few of these now, each one with its own unique regimental distinctions and previously I have covered examples from infantry and the Army Service Corps. Today though we are looking at the home service dress of the Royal Engineers:

This uniform was picked up last year for £20, however it had been stripped of all its buttons and as these are King George V Royal Engineers buttons rather than the more usual General Service pattern I did have to spend out as much money again to track down enough of the correct pattern to complete the uniform:

Even so this seems like a very small price to pay for an iconic and beautifully made uniform! The uniform in use appeared in a splendid postcard we looked at here. The tunic itself is made from finely woven scarlet wool and has a dark blue collar and cuffs, each cuff having yellow piping in an Austrian knot:

The same yellow cord is used to make the shoulder straps, which are secured with a small button:

The rear of the tunic has a pair of slits in the skirt, piped in blue and another pair of regimental buttons:

The interior is lined with a rough white wool half-length lining:

A paper label is pasted into the jacket and although badly worn (as they usually are) dates the tunic to 1913:

Many of the surviving Home Service dress uniforms are dated 1913 and my suspicion is that the army ordered a couple of years stock in advance. At the outbreak of war these tunics were still in store, unissued and were destined to stay there unneeded until peacetime. Once peace came the army decided to use up the last remaining tunics for bandsmen and kept pulling these late pre-war tunics out of stores until they were used up. As bandsmen tunics they did not see the wear that they would normally have received and so lasted a long time before being surplused out onto the collectors market, thus the majority of examples to be found now are dated 1913. I would love to see these home service dress tunics receive a little more love, however I cannot complain when I can pick up a 108 year old uniform for so little money!

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