The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 2 - June 1968

The Red Coat of the British Army on Active Service


Statements have appeared recently in the South African Press to the effect that the red coat was last worn in action in 1881, in South Africa. The facts are as follows:

The whole of the Expeditionary Force sent to Egypt in 1882 from Great Britain wore serge jackets of red, blue or green according to units. A few units from India wore khaki. The storming of the Egyptian fortifications at Tel-el- Kebir was all carried out by troops in red.

The last time the red coat was worn on active service was in Zululand in 1888. This campaign counted as war service although no medal was issued. The 1st Royal Scots wore red serge doublets with trews. Their buff belts and white helmets were coloured with red clay. Their Mounted Infantry wore blue jerseys, as did the men of "C" Mountain Battery Royal Artillery. The 6th Inniskilling Dragoons wore blue serge jackets.

References are Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Volume XIV, page 62 and Volume XVII, page 13.

Details of the campaign are to be found in the Life of Lord Baden Powell who was on the Staff and in Holt "Mounted Police of Natal."

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