Uniforms
Service Dress 1903-Unification
Khaki Drill

1899-1963

Battle Dress

1939-Unification

Combat Uniform

1963-2000+

►CF Uniform Unification-1986
DEU

1986-2000+

Headdress

Berets

Glengarries

Other

Unit Shirts

Boots

 

Uniforms

The following is a very general guide to uniforms worn for various purposes by the Canadian Militia/Canadian Army/Canadian Armed Forces from 1900 to 1999.  Various garments were worn for various purposes with differing descriptions - i.e. the Service Dress Jacket, the Battle Dress Blouse, the Combat Shirt.  Some definitions are in order.

Parade and Walking Out - this refers to the uniform generally worn for parades or walking out dress (i.e. leave or "going out on the town.")  Not included in the discussion here are Ceremonial Dress,  Patrol Dress, or Mess Dress.  These were never issued to a majority of Canadian soldiers, be it peacetime or war, and in fact the latter two categories were private purchase only.

Field - the uniform intended to be worn for field employment

Work - the uniform intended to be worn while in garrison and engaged in office work, classes, maintenance duties, etc.

Summer - special purpose summer uniforms intended for general purpose wear, including any of the above three categories

Bear in mind that there were also many patterns of overalls, coveralls, AFV suits, and tailor-purpose garments for tradesmen and specialists like tank crews, snipers, motorcyclists, etc.  This gear properly falls under a different category and will be discussed elsewhere.  The following garments were general issue.

Period Parade &
Walking Out
Field Work Summer
1903 Service Dress Service Dress Service Dress Khaki Drill
1914-1918 Service Dress Service Dress Service Dress Khaki Drill
1918-1939 Service Dress Service Dress Service Dress Khaki Drill
1939-1945 Service Dress
or Battle Dress

(winter)
Battle Dress or Khaki Drill (summer)
Battle Dress Battle Dress Khaki Drill
1946-1967 Battle Dress (winter)
Tropical Worsted (summer)
Black Coveralls Black Coveralls Bush Dress
1967-1985 CF Green Combat shirt Work Dress Canadian Forces Tropical Uniform began to be issued in the 1970s.
1985-1999 DEU Combat shirt Garrison Dress Canadian Forces Tropical Uniform

First World War

Service Dress (Canadian Pattern)

Adopted in 1903, the Canadian patterned Service Dress Jacket was intended as both a dress and field jacket, replacing the brightly coloured full dress uniforms previously worn (such as the scarlet tunics worn by infantry, rifle green worn by Rifle regiments, and dark blue worn by the Artillery).

 

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Canadian Militiamen tended to severely tailor these jackets, despite orders not to.  As an item of field dress, they were supposed to be cut loose so as to accommodate the wearing of a sweater underneath; many commanders and men preferred to tailor the tunic to look sharper on parade.

It was this jacket in which Canadian soldiers were dressed when they went to war in 1914.  According to Khaki by Clive Law, a variant on this jacket also featured "rifle patches" as found on the standard British Service Dress.

Collar:  Stand up collar secured by hooks and eyes

Shoulder straps: some jackets had coloured shoulder straps, either detachable or sewn-in (these will be dealt with on a separate page), most had sewn in straps.

Front Closure:  7 button front

Pockets:  Two breast pockets, box pleated, with scalloped flaps secured by buttons.  Two hip pockets with flaps.

Cuffs:  Gauntlet style cuffs

Scottish/Highland Pattern:  Officially, these jackets were not supposed to be cutaway to accommodate the sporran, yet throughout the way they were continually altered in this manner.

 

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Service Dress - First Contingent 1914

Other Ranks of the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to Europe in 1914 wore the Canadian Service Dress uniform designed and issued in 1903.  It consisted of a close fitting jacket, trousers, puttees, and ankle boots. The jacket had a stand up collar, and was fitted with coloured shoulder straps attached, designating the branch of service of the wearer.  Detachable coloured shoulder straps had been in use before the war, although the colour scheme of straps worn by the First Contingent men was different than the prewar scheme.  The coloured straps were phased out over the first year of the war, being replaced with plain straps. For those that retained them, the coloured straps remained a prized sign that the wearer had belonged to the First Contingent.

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Blue Infantry
Green Rifle Regiment
Red Artillery
Signals French Grey
Cavalry
Canadian Army Veterinary Corps
Yellow
Canadian Army Medical Corps Maroon
Canadian Army Service Corps White with blue pipings
Engineers Blue with yellow pipings, also red oval tab below shoulder with "CE" in blue
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Jacket and photo from the collection of Ed Storey

Canadian First World War shirt courtesy Gary Crocker.

British Pattern Uniforms

The inadequacies of Canadian uniforms, equipment and weapons made themselves felt not long after arrival in England in late 1914.   Everything from wagons to rifles to boots to entrenching tools were inferior to British made items and were eventually replaced.  Many Canadians tailored their British jackets so that the collar closed in the front, emulating the standup style of collar of the Canadian jacket.  The Canadian made boots were also replaced very soon after arrival in England with black ankle-high "Ammunition" boots.

Service Dress
(British Pattern)

In the field in France, the CEF found that Canadian pattern jackets (especially those heavily tailored as mentioned above) were too tightly fitting to be as useful for field service as the Canadian jacket.  Eventually, the CEF began to issue jacket of British pattern.   In addition to the differing features outlined below, the British jacket had "rifle patches" on the shoulders (an extra layer of wool which resisted the wearing out of the shoulders due to field chafing from the field equipment).

 

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Collar:  Stand and fall collar.  This was often tailored by Canadians, however, by the addition of hooks and eyes that closed the front of the collar, giving the appearance of a Canadian stand up collar.

Front Closure:  5 button front

Pockets:  Two breast pockets, box pleated, with straight cut flaps secured by buttons.  Two hip pockets with flaps and buttons.

Cuffs:  Plain cuffs.

Scottish/Highland Pattern:  These jackets were also often seen cut away to accommodate a sporran.

 

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Above, examples of the British pattern Service Dress Jacket worn "cut away."  At left a soldier of the 92nd Battalion.  The collar of this tunic has been left in British configuration.  At right, a tunic with blue shoulder straps added.  Note how the front skirts are rounded off to accommodate the sporran.

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Jacket and photo from the collection of Ed Storey

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The Canadian Militia began the war wearing the Service Dress cap, which was characterized by a stiff crown and peak, with a leather chinstrap retained by metal buttons. 

The steel trench helmet was not adopted until 1916.  At first, they were considered trench stores, but eventually every soldier got his own.  Later in the war, brightly coloured designs, such as divisional patches or cap badges done in the colours of the divisional patch, were painted on the helmets.

Service Dress (Kitchener Pattern)

During the war, an economy pattern of the Service Dress Jacket was introduced by the British, which was also issued to Canadians.   (Today referred to as "Kitchener Pattern" after the British General who raised what was then called "Kitchener's Army." This version differed from the norm by the deletion of box pleats from the breast pockets, as well as the rifle pads, in a move to conserve uniform cloth.

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Sergeant, at right, decorated with the Military Medal, wears a "Kitchener pattern" Service Dress Jacket. 
Note also the whistle lanyard and other uniform details

Second World War

Service Dress

At the start of the Second World War, many different styles of Service Dress were being worn, and though Battle Dress was officially intended to replace SD, it was worn until sufficient stocks of Battle Dress could be procured.   By 1941, Service Dress was only issued to small numbers of men, mostly musicians.   Some units may have kept small stocks on hand for special parades or to issue as a walking out uniform.   Overseas troops issued with Service Dress seem to have worn the British pattern (with rifle pads as shown above) while in Canada, troops began to be issued a special Canadian pattern "Walking Out Uniform) as shown below.

Summer Dress

The pattern of Khaki Drill Jacket worn by Canadians between the wars, and in the beginning years of the Second World War, was very basic in design.

Collar:  Stand and fall collar. 

Front Closure:  5 button front

Pockets:  Two breast pockets, box pleated, with straight cut flaps secured by buttons. 

Cuffs:  Plain cuffs.

Scottish/Highland Pattern:  These jackets were intended to be worn with either khaki drill trousers, or shorts, and were probably not often cutaway to accommodate the kilt.

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Khaki Drill Jacket (Canadian Pattern)

A Canadian pattern of Khaki Drill Jacket was introduced during the war; it was a departure from earlier uniforms in that it had an open collar design, allowing the wear of a shirt and tie underneath - a distinction previously not permitted for Other Ranks.  This Canadian Pattern KD was not worn in Europe; Canadian troops serving in the Mediterranean wore British pattern KD clothing, and those in Britain and the Continent did not wear Khaki Drill at all.

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Collar:  Open collar

Front Closure:  4 button front.  A cloth waist belt was also worn with this uniform in the absence of other types of belts (i.e. if for a parade 1937 pattern web belts with bayonets and frogs were worn, the cloth belt would not be worn.) Some of these jackets had cloth belts permanently attached.  There are also variations such as cloth belt loops, or eyelets to allow the wearing of belt hooks.

Shoulder straps:  Some variants seem to have been made with shoulder straps, some without.

Pockets:  Two breast pockets, box pleated, with scalloped flaps secured by buttons, two flapped hip pockets.

Cuffs:  Plain cuffs.

Scottish/Highland Pattern:  These jackets were intended to be worn with either khaki drill trousers, or shorts, and were probably not often cutaway to accommodate the kilt.

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Jackets and photos from the collection of Ed Storey

Walking Out Uniform

A Canadian pattern of Service Dress Jacket, often referred to in regulations as a "Walking Out" uniform, was introduced during the war also.  Its style matched that of the Canadian Pattern Khaki Drill uniform that was introduced at about the same time.  Again, troops in Europe were not issued with this uniform though there is much evidence of it being used in Canada.

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Walking Out uniform.  At left: A jacket cut to accommodate the sporran.  At right: With the buttons and insignia of the Regina Rifle Regiment, this jacket looks very much like a US Marine Corps uniform.  Note the matching cloth belt, service chevrons, and GS badge.   This jacket has patch pockets on the skirt. Artifact at right courtesy of Victor Taboika.

 

Battle Dress Blouse

By September 1939, Canada had been in the process of approving the new British Battle Dress uniform for wear by Canadians.  The blouse was a departure from the uniforms worn by most of the world's armies; cut short at the waist, the garment was designed with practicality in mind.  By 1941, Battle Dress had been issued to the entire overseas army, and it was to be the uniform of the army in Canada as well, except when replaced by summer summer dress.  Battle Dress, in its final (1949) form, would be a standard garment of issue until the 1970s.

The Battle Dress Blouse as worn in 1939.

Battle Dress worn early in the war showing the characteristics of the early pattern; khaki slip-on shoulder titles, pleated pockets, and the Field Service Cap. Drab coloured gloves were worn, usually wool knit but leather gloves could also be encountered. (Ontario Archives Photo)

Collar:  Closed fall collar

Front Closure:  4 or 5 button fly front.  A cloth waist belt was also sewn in at the waist, and secured closed by a buckle sewn to the lower right waistband.

Pockets:  Two breast pockets, box pleated, with scalloped flaps secured by buttons.

Cuffs:  Vented cuffs, secured by hidden buttons.

The wear of Battle Dress was highly modified during the war; a detailed listing of Battle Dress variants and regulations regarding the wear of Battle Dress will be found in the webmaster's upcoming book Dressed to Kill, to be released by Service Publications.

 

1945 to Unification

1949 Pattern Battle Dress

After the Second World War, several variations to the Battle Dress blouse were made, and by the Korean War the 1949 Pattern became the standard.   This pattern remained on inventory, unchanged, until replaced for field dress with the Combat Uniform.  It was retained as a dress uniform, especially in Reserve units, until replaced by the Canadian Forces uniform (CF Green) during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The most visible change to the 1949 Pattern blouse was the addition of an open collar. Rank insignia for Other Ranks was reduced in size on the postwar BD, and the coat of arms for Warrant Officer Class I was changed from the British Royal Arms to the coat of arms of Canada.

Tropical Worsted

For dress wear, in place of the Service Dress Jacket, a new Tropical Worsted jacket (also called a T-dub) was introduced, using lightweight material that during WW II had been used only in private purchase officers' SD Jackets.   The styling was very close to the Khaki Drill jacket.

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Collar:  Open collar
Front Closure:  4 button front.  A cloth waist belt was also worn with this uniform in the absence of other types of belts (ie if for a parade belt with bayonet and frog was worn, the cloth belt would not be worn).  
Pockets:  Two breast pockets, box pleated, with scalloped flaps secured by buttons, two flapped hip pockets.
Cuffs:  Plain cuffs.
Scottish/Highland Pattern:  These jackets were intended to be worn with the kilt as well, and were cut away to accommodate the sporran.

Bush Dress

For summer dress, the Khaki Drill uniform was replaced by a green denim uniform called Bush Dress.   Similar to the Khaki Drill jacket, Bush Dress had several significant differences.

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Collar:  Closed collar - almost always worn open; indeed, intended to be worn with a shirt and tie when used as a parade uniform.

Front Closure:  5 button front.  A cloth waist belt was also worn with this uniform in the absence of other types of belts (i.e. if for a parade belt with bayonet and frog was worn, the cloth belt would not be worn).

Pockets:  Two breast pockets, box pleated, with scalloped flaps secured by buttons, two flapped bellows-type hip pockets.

Cuffs:  Vented cuffs secured by a visible button

Scottish/Highland Pattern:  These jackets were intended to be worn with denim bush trousers and not with the kilt.

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Coveralls

During the Second World War, khaki overalls had been used by soldiers in training, both in garrison and in the field, both overtop of wool or denim battledress, or in lieu of BD.

After the Second World War coveralls came to be issued in black and were used extensively for field training in lieu of bush or battle dress.

After unification, they were continued to be issued in rifle green cloth matching that of the CF work dress, as well as in a neutral grey coloured cloth.

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Sapper Storey, Royal Canadian Engineers, in Germany in 1957 wearing the issue coveralls.  Sapper Storey later retired as the Chief Warrant Officer of the Canadian Military Engineering Branch in 1982.  In the background are Universal Carriers, Centurions with Monotrailers and Jeeps.
Photo courtesy of his son, Warrant Officer Ed Storey, Canadian Military Engineers

Combat Dress

During the 1960s, lightweight nylon-based Combat Dress began to replace the denim Bush Dress; it remained on inventory into the 21st Century. It was a monochrome olive coloured combat uniform. A tan variant was created for desert use, and worn on operations in Somalia in the 1990s by the Airborne Regiment battle group deployed there. The shirt had angled pockets to accommodate the magazine of the FN C1 assault rifle; cargo pockets were attached to the outer leg of the trousers. A field jacket similar in design to the combat shirt was produced in heavy denim, with a detachable quilted liner.

Work Dress

After Unification of the three services in 1968, a single uniform for working was created. Work Dress actually had a variety of components; the standard rifle green trousers remained common to all uniforms, worn either with parade boots or combat boots. A linden (light) green shirt or lagoon (sea) green shirt could be worn with either a rifle green sweater or two-pocket, waist-length "Ike" style blouse, usually derided as a "bus-driver's jacket."

Canadian Forces Uniform

The "CF Green" was worn for ceremonial parades, office duties, and walking out. Similar to the older "T-Dub", it consisted of a rifle green jacket and trousers, with skirts also made for female personnel.

De-Unification

The Conservative government under Brian Mulroney instituted a segregation of the three services with respect to uniforms in the late 1980s, and a return to distinctive uniforms. Garrison Dress replaced Work Dress, with a tan shirt and camouflage jacket becoming the standard, with high-topped smooth leather boots worn and expected to be highly polished. The CF Greens were replaced by two uniforms, a Distinctive Environment Uniform (DEU), in dark green for winter, and tan for summer. Outwardly, the uniforms were similar to the CF Green, though they were cut differently, lacked shoulder padding, and had epaulettes added, which brought back the traditional metal shoulder titles into wear throughout the land forces.


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