The British soldier went into the First World War wearing an updated version of the 1902 Pattern Service Dress (SD) uniform. Manufactured from thick khaki-dyed wool serge, the uniform was developed following the success of an earlier khaki pattern worn in South Africa during the Boer War and, with a number of modifications, remained in service with the British Army for the next four decades.
Designed to be practical and hard-wearing, the SD tunic featured a stand-and-fall closed collar and two pleated breast pockets on either side of the upper chest area that were secured with button-down flaps. The skirt of the tunic, which was cut-away at the front of the Highland variant to enable the wearing of a kilt and sporran, had two further pockets that were secured by flaps and another sewn inside the right side that was used to store a soldier’s first field dressing when on active service.
Fastened with five brass buttons down its centre, the tunic had shoulder straps with space for regimental titles and large reinforced patches over each shoulder to prevent wear from equipment and rifle use. There were also two brass support hooks at the rear of the tunic that positioned the webbing belt in place between the fourth and fifth button.
In November 1914, the War Office introduced a simplified version of the SD tunic in an effort to reduce manufacturing costs and speed up production. The simplified SD tunic (often referred to as the Utility SD tunic or jacket) retained much of the previous design, however, the top pocket pleats and reinforced patches were dispensed with, as were both belt support hooks at the rear. Both tunics were designed to be loose-fitting and could be worn over a number of under garments in adverse conditions. The simplified SD tunic proved largely unpopular with troops and was eventually declared obsolete following the reintroduction of the standard 1902 pattern SD tunic.
The 1902 Pattern SD trousers were close-fitting and worn with puttees wrapped around the lower leg. They were high-waisted and intended to be worn with braces attached by buttons on the waistband. Made from the same thick wool serge material as the SD jacket, the unlined trousers were closed at the front by grey metal buttons and featured two vertical pockets on each side seam. Men in mounted units were issued with serge breeches instead of trousers, which were lined on the inside leg and tightly-laced below the knee.
Soldiers were also issued with the 1905 Pattern Service Dress cap, however, this was replaced with more practical variants as the war progressed. Carrying the regimental badge on its front, the 1905 cap had a stiff peak and wired brim and crown, which was often removed by soldiers to aid comfort. A softer, winter service cap was introduced in November 1914 which had ear and neck flaps that could be pulled down over the ears in cold weather. Held in place by a leather chinstrap, the flaps were folded over the top of the cap when they were not in use. The final variant of the SD cap came in 1916 when the soft cap was issued following the introduction of the steel helmet.