A fine study of 3 privates of No 4 Provost Company, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Northwest Europe 1945.
The standard uniform for all ranks of the Canadian Army during the Second World War was Serge Battledress. Adopted by the British in 1937 and by Canada in 1939, it was worn on parades, in the field as combat dress and worn off duty as a walking out dress. Canadian and British made battledresses were generally similar in design however there were major differences in materials and construction. British battledress was made of a brownish wool serge and was closely cut in order to save on material. Canadian battledress was greener than the British and was cut fuller in the waist and shoulders. The blouse had two breast pockets and 5 concealed buttons down the front. Initially, the collar was closed with two small hooks and eyes, but in a version adopted in 1942, the collar is closed with a tab and button. All buttons were pressed steel, except for plastic (rubber) epaulette buttons on early blouses.
The main features of the trousers were a large map pocket on the left leg and a small pocket for the field dressing on the front right hip. Three buttons on the outside of the trouser waist were used to fasten the trousers to the blouse in order to prevent the blouse riding up in the back. Six buttons for the attachment of braces were sewn on the inside of the waist.
Initially, all ranks were to wear the collar of the blouse closed, however it was not long before officers were permitted to wear the blouse collar open, showing a shirt collar and necktie. Blouse collars were often lined with battldress material or khaki cotton. Until late 1944, Other Ranks were not permitted to wear the collar open, even off duty.
Although increasingly replaced by open lapel postwar patterns, wartime pattern battledress was still issued until the early 1950s. It was declared obsolete in 1956.
Front and back views of a typical Canadian battledress blouse. Prominent features are the concealed front buttons, pleated breast pockets and the seam down the center of the back.
Shoulder detail of a No. 1 Provost Company (RCMP) blouse, illustrating the insignia placement and the plastic epaulette button. Jacket is dated 1940.
Shoulder detail of a 1943 dated blouse. Note the canvas insignia and metal epaulette button.
Closeup view of the double hook collar.
Closeup view of the tab fastening on the collar introduced in 1942.
Closeup view of a lined collar, shirt and tie.
Typical sewn on and ink stamped Canadian blouse labels.
Early version blouse dated 1941 with double hook closure on collar. Sergeant, No 5 Provost Company, 5th Canadian Armoured Division, 1945. Canvas titles and distinguishing patches, late pattern rank chevrons. Ribbon for the Canada Volunteer Service Medal with overseas clasp on the left breast.
Later version blouse dated 1944 with tab closure on collar. Private, 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, Italy, 1944. Canvas Provost Corps titles and distinguishing patches are worn, a single good conduct stripe is worn on the left sleeve.
Staff Sergeant's "Walking Out" Blouse, Canada, circa 1945. This is an example of a heavily tailored blouse. The lapels have been modified and lined with a fine serge material. The blouse has been taken in at the waist and is worn with a KD shirt and black tie. Ribbons for First World War service and Second War service in Canada are worn on the left breast.
Back view of the above blouse. Pleats have been ironed and sewn into place. Modified blouses such as this would not be worn on duty.
An example of British made battledress blouse, in this case, 1940 Pattern. A relatively small number of suits of British battledress were issued to Canadian troops early in the Italian campaign. The material is coarser and a more brown colour than Canadian battledress. The colour, exposed buttons and lack of pleats on the pockets are the major distinguishing factors.
Rear view of the British blouse showing the center seam.
Closeup of the British battledress collar.
Typical British battledress blouse label.
For more detailed information on Canadian Second World War uniforms, Michael Dorosh's book Dressed To Kill is highly recommended. Availible from Service Publications (see the link page).
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