Red was the uniform colour adopted by the first permanent regiment of
the British Army, the Yeoman of the Guard, (the Beefeaters), during
the reign of Henry VIII. In 1645, this colour was adopted when
the first permanent army was raised. Red was not used in order
to hide blood stains. Rather, every army adopted certain colours
as their national colours. French soldiers tended to wear blue;
Russians wore green; British wore red.
With the infantry wearing a bright red colour, with white crossbelts
and shiny brass, weren't they easier targets? However, in the
1860s battle tactics were much different from those applied today.
Before 1866, British longarms were muzzle-loading weapons. To
load these weapons required a soldier to:
1) stand upright
to load a gunpowder charge and bullet down into the muzzle.
2) get very close
to the enemy in order to hit them, due to the inaccuracy of the
3) stand close
together for volley firing.
It was the quantity of projectiles that mattered, not camouflage.
By 1867, however, warfare and the times were changing. With the
advent of breech-loading rifles to the British Army in 1866, the
quality of small arms changed considerably. Faster rates of
from a much more accurate weapon, which could be loaded in the prone
position, slowly began to change the tactical doctrine of the Army.
The change in tactics was not as swift as it might have been because
during the last half of the 1800s, the British Army did not fight a
modern, similarly equipped army. In essence, the tactics used
were ones that made sense with the older style of firearms; the
tactics still had to evolve to take advantage of the newer weapons.
It was surprising that the lessons of the new weapons recently
demonstrated in the American Civil War (1861– 1865) were not
absorbed by the British. Although most European nations had
observers on both sides, lessons that should have been learned were
dismissed, as it was felt that this war was an isolated case
determined by a geography unlike any in Europe. Further, it was
deemed an `unseemly brawl between undisciplined armies.'
It was not until the late 1800s that a Khaki uniform was issued, the
British Army finally realizing that drab coloured uniforms provided
better camouflage in response to more accurate, faster firing weapons
using smokeless gunpowder. Once again, tactics continued to lag
behind and it took the carnage of the First World War to convince
authorities that there was a requirement to seek cover and remain
hidden as opposed to standing up in battle formations.
Women of the garrison had a less authorized uniform but one that
fitted the class structure and social order of the time. The
wives of the men in the ranks wore a plain cotton dress with apron and
a hairpiece called a `snood.' Their shoes were made of plain
leather common to the period. It was in distinct contrast to the
more ornate dress worn by an officer's wife, in keeping with her
position as an upper-class citizen.
Similarly, the civilians employed by the Army of 1867 had their own
type of clothing to wear which designated their role within the Army.
The schoolmaster wore a black, knee-length frock coat, while the
schoolmistress wore a skirt, blouse and jacket cut in a style known as
a `zouave' jacket, similar to the uniforms worn by the `zouave' units
who served in the American Civil War.