In the early-to-mid 1930s, the British Army recognised the need to update it's standard service uniform which hadn't evolved much since the introduction of the 1902 pattern service dress three decades previously. A new mechanised style of warfare required a new type of soldier, with greater freedom of movement and the ability to carry new equipment. By 1937 the army was experimenting with what became known as Battledress, a two piece overall suit composed of a blouse and trousers. This would start to be widely issued from 1939 onwards in both a serge wool, and in a denim fabric as a working fatigue dress. Brian Jewell, the authoritative author on Battledress describes the denims in his 1981 book as 'an abomination, but surprisingly many soldiers were reluctant to give them up; they were often worn in battle, being much lighter than [serge] battledress for summer use'.
The initial denim variant was produced in a forest green, and in a much harder to find brown khaki, this is possibly the finest example of the latter that you will ever find. Only produced for 2 short years with many of them lost and abandoned during the retreat from Dunkirk (where they would actually go on to have a second life with the U-Boat crews of the Kreigsmarine), these are incredibly hard to find. One or two may pop up for sale per year, always well used & faded to an almost pinky-tan colour.
Alongside the brown denim, there are a couple of distinguishing features of the early 1937 pattern battledress blouses that would disappear in 1942 with the 'austerity pattern'. The large chest pockets are both pleated (a featured removed later to save on material), and the inside waist features three button holes to attach to the matching trousers (later versions would feature two). Beyond this, the denims always feature removable shank backed buttons to allow for easy cleaning, a feature missing on their serge cousins.
This is completely deadstock and unused, so much so that there are still chalk tailors marks on the inside of the denim! The previous owner seems to have very diligently removed the paper label, and saved it in the brown manilla envelope tucked in the pocket. There are a couple of small blemishes on one sleeve as pictured.
- Tagged a size 5
- Fits a perfect modern medium
- Pit to pit 21.5"
- Shoulder to shoulder 18"
- Shoulder to cuff 25"
- Collar to hem 22.5"