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Bedford Highlanders

The Uniform

Places > Bedford > First World War > Regiments | Bedford Highlanders Home


In this photograph taken in Bedford in February 1915, Private Neil Caldwell, 6th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders presents the typical image of a Highland Division soldier of the period.
He wears the traditional Scottish side hat, called a Glengarry, which is adorned with a red and white checked band (dicing) in a pattern particular to his regiment. Each regiment sported its own variation of dicing and these differences occasionally even filtered down to battalion level, most notably the 5th Seaforth Highlanders whose uniform differed markedly from the other Seaforth battalions.
Caldwell wears his regimental sporran, but in Bedford these were usually only worn on certain occasions, such as Church Parade, inspections or when having ones photo taken. For everyday wear, the kilt would usually be worn without the sporran and would very often be covered with either a canvas kilt cover, or apron.
Tartan trews (trousers) may sometimes have been worn instead of the kilt and when off-duty, in billets, the men would generally wear standard army issue khaki service dress trousers.
Hose tops were a half-sock worn from just below the knee to mid-shin. These were diced in two colours particular to the regiment. The Argylls wore red and white, as did the Seaforth Highlanders with the exception of the 5th Seaforth who wore red and bottle green. The Gordon Highlanders and Black Watch wore red and black, the Cameron Highlanders red and bottle green.
An ordinary woollen sock would be worn on the foot and the join between this and the hose top would be covered by the canvas spat. The spat also covered the join between the shoe and the foot, thus helping to prevent stones and debris from getting inside the shoe.
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)


This studio portrait of an unnamed corporal in the Royal Highlanders ('Black Watch') was taken in April 1915 by C. A. Solomons, Bedford. The man belongs to one of the two Territorial battalions of the Black Watch which had been sent to Bedford to reinforce the Highland Division shortly before it left for France in early May 1915.
Like Private Caldwell, the corporal is wearing the Scottish pattern service dress tunic which has its front skirts cut away to prevent them being fouled by the sporran when it’s worn. This man is wearing a full wrap around kilt cover which was made of khaki-dyed canvas. The kilt cover provided a modicum of camouflage and also helped to protect the heavy woollen regimental kilt, which was worn underneath, from everyday wear and tear.
Spats and shoes have been replaced by ankle boots and woollen puttees worn over full length woollen khaki socks. By this stage of the war lessons learned in the harsh conditions of the front line had started to filter through to units waiting their turn to join the fighting. In the first winter of the war, kilted units living in the thick, cloying mud of the front line were quick to realise the woeful inadequacy of shoes and spats which were all too prone to being pulled off the foot. Ankle boots were far more secure and the puttees wound from boot-top to upper shin helped to seal the join between the boot and the leg, whilst providing an additional layer of insulation. The full length khaki wool sock was more practical in the field than the previous two-piece arrangement of ankle sock and brightly coloured hose top. It was also more economical and easier to produce.
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Page last updated: 30th May 2014