Page last updated 15th January 2015

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RAF Officer's Khaki Drill Uniform Buyer's Guide
 

Attending a 1940's event at the height of summer on a lovely warm day can be somewhat uncomfortable when wearing full RAF service dress uniform! It is therefore convenient to have an authentic casual uniform to wear as an alternative. RAF khaki drill (KD) uniform, as worn in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theatres fits the bill very nicely.

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Khaki Drill  





The KD uniform consisted of a long-sleeved KD bush jacket with matching battledress-style trousers. The jacket had four flapped and buttoned pockets, the lower pair being of the external bellows type, and a waist-belt fastened with either a double-pronged brass buckle or a plain brass slide. The jacket was designed to be worn either with or without a shirt underneath. When worn without a shirt, the jacket sleeves were usually rolled up to just above the elbows. The jacket was originally issued pre-war with semi-domed black buttons bearing the RAF crest but wartime-issued jackets more commonly had plain flat khaki-green buttons.

There are a couple of very good sources for authentic WW2-issue khaki drill uniforms. What Price Glory stock a suitable KD bush jacket at a very competitive price and made to a good standard. They also carry matching KD battledress trousers.

Alternatively, Soldier Of Fortune stock a KD bush jacket and KD battledress trousers which are also very authentic in colour and styling. The only problem encountered with the bush jacket was that its belt fastener was an ill-fitting slide made of a very inappropriate silver metal. I was easily able to obtain a brass replacement from ebay and, as the slide is only secured by a couple of buttons, it took just moments to change them over. Unlike the bush jacket which comes with plain khaki plastic buttons, the trousers had flat metal buttons (actually they were authentic WW2 economy type) which are difficult to fasten and very hard on the finger-tips! These were quickly replaced with khaki plastic buttons of a similar pattern to those on the bush jacket. Also the trousers lacked belt loops, relying on the wearing of braces. As the pair of trousers I obtained needed to be considerably shortened, my favourite tailoress easily fashioned belt loops from the surplus material. I don't see any problems of authenticity regarding these alterations as officers would have had considerable leeway with personalising their uniform, especially in an overseas location.

  
   

Headdress  


 



 


The headdress usually worn with KD by an RAF officer was the standard blue-grey service cap. The officer's SD cap of the WW2 era had a square peak shape, sometimes called a 'shovel-bill' or 'duck bill'. The caps of officers below the rank of Group Captain had cloth-covered peaks (see left), whereas Group Captains and above wore caps with patent leather peaks that were decorated with gold braid. The only supplier of which I am currently aware that stocks the 'shovel-bill'-style of SD cap is Soldier Of Fortune. It's a reasonably well-made item of the correct shade of blue-grey barathea and comes complete with a nice bullion King's Crown cap-badge.

The popular alternative to the SD cap was the side-cap. Soldier Of Fortune stock a well-made example in the correct shade of blue-grey barrathea nicely lined with velvet.

Footwear  



 


The correct footwear to go with KD are desert boots. These were the iconic suede ankle boots with the crepe rubber soles. They are obtainable from a number of different sources, but Soldier Of Fortune do stock them at a very competitive price

 

Insignia

 




 

 


RAF KD uniform requires minimal insignia. All that is needed are rank slides for the shoulder straps and, if required, the appropriate air crew brevet to go above the left chest pocket.

RAF officer rank slides are very easy to obtain via ebay. However, be aware that modern RAF rank braid differs markedly from that used in WW2. Modern braid is composite, different braids being used for every separate officer rank. During the WW2 period, ranks were indicated by combinations of just two ribbons, " wide and " wide. For instance, a Flight Lieutenant's rank was indicated by two " rings of braid, and that of a Squadron Leader by two " rings separated by a " ring. It's important to note that there was approximately a " gap of sleeve material visible between each ring of braid. There are a number of online sources for RAF rank slides, including ebay, but one excellent retailer is Monty's Locker which specialises in authentic reproduction British Forces badges and insignia of the WW2 period. They stock a range of authentic RAF officer's KD rank slides.

The most obvious choice of insignia for the would-be RAF re-enactor is pilot's wings. There are a couple of things to bear in mind with these. Availability of pilot's wings on ebay and other specialised military badge websites is generally very good. Be aware that original WW2-issue wings will command a very high price and, due to condition, may only be suitable for display purposes rather than being worn on a re-enactor's uniform. However, there are some excellent reproductions which are almost indistinguishable from the real thing and which are available at very reasonable prices. The reproductions generally come either padded or unpadded. The padded variety are best as they more accurately replicate the original wings. Also remember that the wings must have the King's Crown to be authentic. I only have personal experience of one particular dealer, Badge Collectors Corner, but their RAF pilot's wings are quite acceptable.