Battledress, in the general sense, is the type of uniform used as Combat uniforms, as opposed to 'display' dress or formal uniform worn at parades and functions. It may be either monochrome (often a shade of green or brown) or in camouflage colours. The first purpose-made and widely issued camouflage garments were used by the Italian Army after the First World War; most nations developed camouflage uniforms during the Second World War, though in many cases they were issued widely only among "elite" units.
There are three variations, the original design which is most commonly used, another for use in desert environments and a third for use by OPFOR units in training exercises.
Canadian pattern Service Dress worn by Other Ranks did not stand up to the rigours of campaigning, however, and was widely replaced by British uniforms in France; some samples of Canadian pattern SD were retained in Canada, and after the war, surviving to be issued briefly in 1939.
Officers wore a distinctive pattern of Service Dress (as did Warrant Officers I Class), which was identical to that worn by British officers; they were privately purchased, and of better quality than Other Ranks uniform. In combat in France and Flanders, they were often replaced on an individual basis by Other Ranks' Service Dress, to make them less visible to enemy snipers and soldiers.
In 1939, the Battle Dress uniform was adopted as a field uniform; made of wool and patterned after British BD, Canadian uniforms were darker in colour with a distinctive green tinge to the dark khaki colour. Officers had the option of having BD tailored from better material, but in the field most wore "off the rack" BD, perhaps with a modified open collar.
Service Dress was worn in 1939 and into 1940 by soldiers in Canada as field dress, and afterwards was no longer issued except to a select few. While a new pattern of Service Dress was introduced for Other Ranks in this period, it was reserved for dress wear only. Battle Dress completely replaced SD as a field uniform beginning in 1940 as enough of the new uniforms became available.
A new pattern of BD was introduced in 1949, with an open collar matching that of British Pattern 1949 BD. The garment was worn as a field dress throughout the Korean War, and into the 1960s until replaced by the Combat uniform. Some Militia units used BD as a dress uniform until the early 1970s, but field use had probably been phased out by then.
The US Army produced its own version of the BD blouse for issue to soldiers in Europe. Although most of these were produced in England, they were of a dark green colour, rather than khaki. Called the ETO (European Theatre of Operations) jacket, American soldiers dubbed it the Ike Jacket, after General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Canadian pattern combat uniform had angled pockets, designed to take magazines from the FN C1A1 assault rifle; a truly poor design of infantry load bearing equipment inspired this design - the 1964 Pattern Web Equipment had no ammunition pouches. The angled pockets are repeated on the new CADPAT uniform, though they are enlarged and not intended for ammunition carriage.
The Canadian combat uniform had a high nylon content, which had the potential for producing significant burns.
In Canada, battledress is referred to officially as "No. 5 Operational Dress", and in general parlance as "combat uniform" or "combats". The new Canadian Disruptive Pattern uniform is commonly called "CADPAT" to diffentiate it from the previous uniform called "combat" The term combat now refers to the old monochrome (single color) combat uniform.
Currently, the Canadian Forces use the four-colour CADPAT design, a computer-generated pixelated pattern issued in TW (temperate woodland) and AR (arid region) colours. Camouflage cloth of CADPAT pattern was created and adopted in 1995, used for issue helmet covers in 1997 and trousers and blouses in CADPAT began to replace the olive green combat uniform from 2001 when Canadian forces joined the UN peacekeepers in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The AR version was introduced when Canadian troops were deployed to Afghanistan. Previously, a tan version of the olive combats had been used for tropical wear by soldiers deployed to the Middle East, particularly during Operation Desert Storm and were to be worn by the Canadian Airborne Regiment (Cdn Ab Regt) for the (subsequently canceled) deployment the Western Sahara in 1991. They were later worn by the Cdn Ab Regt during their deployment to Somalia. The TAN colored combat uniform was also issued to Canadian troops serving in the Western Sahara with the UN Mission (MINURSO) during 1992-1993.
Until well into the post-World War II era, the Canadian Army had worn battle dress uniforms similar to their British and Commonwealth counterparts, though with different national identifiers and regimental accoutrements (with Khaki Drill uniforms being worn in the summer or in tropical regions). In the early 1950s, battle dress began to be replaced with lightweight uniforms, at first Bush Dress for summer wear, and in the 1960s with Combat Dress, a set of olive drab garments more similar to the American style of combat wear (ie made up of layers and solely for wear in the field as opposed to all-purpose wool Battle Dress).
Special patterns of AFV uniform were also worn beginning in the Second World War, initially black coveralls, later khaki coveralls as well as the padded "Pixie suit". Olive drab tanker's uniforms were adopted with the Combat uniform in the 1960s, including a distinctive padded jacket with angled front zip.
The first widely used camouflage pattern was the 1951 three-colour over-printed tenue de léopard, usually called "lizard" it was issued in many colour variants (colourways) and saw war service in Africa and Indochina. The last official issue was in 1958, but use continued for some years. The "lizard" was a symbol of elitism and was issued only to French Foreign Legion and French airborne units (the conscript army, on the other hand, wore plain olive green). This elitism went very far with the Foreign Legion, who would regularly have its members march in this uniform with medals, green beret, the blue sash, and rarely, the green and red epaulettes.
The colonial associations of camouflage kept the French in monochrome olive green until 1990, although a number of African and Asian nations used variants on the "lizard."
Research results in the 1980s were rejected, one because of the similarity to German flecktarn. With the Gulf War, a hurried effort produced the 1990 three-colour "Daguet" desert pattern. A four-colour Euro pattern was issued from 1991.
In 1941, during the winter on the Eastern Front, German troops were at a considerable disadvantage because they were lacking winter camouflage, expecting a quick summer victory.
In 1945, a five-colour Leibermuster design was introduced. Intended to be used by all the armed forces, it was layered to improve effectiveness at distance, used a new print method to reduce obvious repetition, and included NIR protection. Due to the distribution situation, it was issued to eastern units only.
In the 1950s, West Germany used two versions of the wartime "splinter", a four-colour pattern called BV-Splittermuster. Thereaft, from 1961 until 1990 they used the so called olive-green battle dress. Following various trials the dots-and-blotches five-colour Flecktarn pattern was chosen in 1976 and issued from the 1980s.
East Germany's first pattern was the 1956 Russisches Tarnmuster based, as the name suggests, on the Soviet "amoeba" designs. It was soon replaced by the four-colour Flächentarnmuster pattern (sometimes called "potato" or "splotch"). In 1965, the dense straight-line two-colour Strichmuster pattern was introduced, sometimes called "ein Strich - kein Strich", it remained in use until reunification.
Flecktarn was made the pattern for the unified country.
The pattern remained in use after the war, moving through several colour variations. The marines adopted a complex five-colour "Mediterranean spray" pattern in the 1980s. In 1990, a new army pattern was introduced, a four-colour design inspired by the popular U.S. "woodland" pattern; a desert version was also issued from 1992.
The Japan Self-Defense Forces did not issue a pattern until the 1980s, choosing a four-colour green-and-brown design, sometimes called "fang". It was succeeded in 1991 by a dot pattern close to flecktarn, while during the Gulf War a six-colour pattern similar to the U.S. choc-chip was used.
The Soviet Union issued all-white winter camouflage in 1938. During World War II, other designs were tried, including "leaf" (1940) and the jagged three-colour "TTsMKK" (1944). Most troops remained in a monochrome brown.
Post-war Soviet camouflage remained a sign of elite units. A two-colour "sun-ray" pattern was used by paratroopers from 1969 and two- or three-colour versions were issued to Spetsnaz, KGB and MVD troops into the 1980s. The KLMK pattern was the first "digital" camouflage and it was issued to Spetsnaz troops and some Border guards units.
The move towards camouflage began in India, and khaki was used during the Indian Mutiny (or First War of Independence). It became standard in India in 1885, for all foreign postings in 1896, and was adopted throughout the army in 1902 during the Second Boer War.
The Battle Dress design at the start of the war was the (19)37 Pattern. In 1940 it was replaced with the simpler made (19)40 Utility Pattern. This omitted finer details such as pleating on pockets. In both cases the blouse came in two forms, the ordinary ranks with closed neck and the officers open neck which exposed their shirt and tie. From 1942, the camouflaged Denison smock, originally issued to the Airborne forces to be worn over the BD, was issued more widely.
In the Far East, the British found themselves at war with the Japanese while equipped with the impractical KD uniform. Shirts and trousers had to be dyed green as a temporary expedient until more suitable jungle clothing became available. A new tropical uniform in Jungle Green (JG) was quickly developed – a JG Aertex battledress blouse, a JG Aertex bush jacket (as an alternative to the blouse) and battledress trousers in JG cotton drill. In the hot and humid conditions of Southeast Asia, JG darkened with sweat almost immediately.
The khaki Battledress was used until the late 1960s, and various uniform items in KD, JG and OG remained on issue to soldiers serving in the Mediterranean, Middle East or tropics after the war. By the end of the 1940s, however, stocks were becoming depleted, and a new 1950-pattern tropical uniform was made available in both KD and JG. It was poorly designed, with an ill fitting bush jacket in the much-maligned Aertex, and suspender buckles that dug in to the hips when marching in full kit. Eventually the much more practical Gurkha regiments’ JG shirt was copied, replacing the 1950-pattern bush jacket. All the same, troops still sought out the older, wartime, issues of the better KD, JG and OG kit.
While serving during the Korean War (1950-53), troops had found the existing combat uniform inadequate: It was too hot in the summertime, and not warm enough during the harsh Korean winters. Soldiers were at first issued JG for hot weather, and battledress in the wintertime, but this had to be augmented with additional warm clothing (often from the U.S. Army) as well as caps with ear flaps and fur linings. A solution was rapidly pursued, and towards the end of the Korean War a windproof and water-repellent gabardine combat uniform was issued. The trousers followed the tried and tested battledress design, while the bush jacket had several pockets inside and out, closing with zips and buttons, a hip length skirt with draw-strings to keep out the wind, and a similar arrangement at the waist. The uniform was produced in a greyish green colour (OG), similar to the U.S. Army OD.
With the end of National Service conscription in 1961, the Army looked for a new uniform: Something that was smarter than battledress, but also more comfortable, while still having a military air about it. Using the Korean War combat clothing as a basis, various new items of field wear were developed for the 1960-pattern Combat Dress, including the so-called Canadian pattern combat jacket, which was well made, with a lining above the waist and reinforced elbows. The 1960s was a period of transition for the Army, and this was reflected in the changes that were taking place in soldier’s uniform.
The temperate clothing was followed by a DPM jungle combat uniform which, due to the use of different (i.e. polycotton), material had a slightly different colourway.
The underlying pattern has remained through various different patterns of clothing but has differed in detail of the pattern and the coulourway depending on the material and manufacturer. The most recent major overhall of the combat uniform was the introduction of the Combat Soldier 95 system in the mid 90s this system is still in use (with changes to some items) for Nos 8 and 9 Dress, in 2007 .