Khaki drill

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, GOC of Malaya at the time of the Japanese invasion, wearing the officer's KD bush jacket
The Black Watch in the Battle of Magersfontein, 1899, showing an early version of the khaki drill jacket, combined with kilts
Soldiers in khaki drill receive a briefing at Eighth Army Headquarters in Italy, September 1943

Khaki drill (KD) was the British military term for a type of fabric and the military uniforms made from them.[1]


Khaki colour uniforms were first introduced in 1848 in the British Indian Army Corps of Guides.[1] As well as the Corps of Guides, other regiments in India soon adopted the uniform and eventually it was used throughout the British military.

Khaki Drill was worn as a combat uniform from 1900 to 1949 and was most often used in desert and tropical service. A variant, still referred to a Khaki Drill or KDs, is worn by the British Armed Forces in non-combatant warm weather countries where the British are actively serving (e.g. personnel stationed at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus will wear any of four working variants of this uniform). Generally KD was a series of different uniform patterns of light khaki cloth, generally cotton, first worn by British and British Empire soldiers in the Boer War. Canada developed its own pattern after the First World War, and the uniform was commonly worn in Canada, with officers again having the option of finer garments privately purchased. In the Second World War, Canadians serving in Jamaica and Hong Kong wore Canadian- pattern KD; the I Canadian Corps troops in Italy wore KD supplied in theatre by the British, generally of British, Indian, or US (War Aid) manufacture.

North Africa and the Mediterranean

British Commonwealth infantry manning a sandbagged defensive position near El Alamein, 17 July 1942
Caribbean Regiment soldiers in Egypt

In the early part of the North African Campaign and the Mediterranean theatre, British troops wore KD shorts or slacks with long-sleeved Aertex-fabric shirts. The paler tan shade of KD was more suited to desert or semi-desert regions than the "dark khaki" or brown serge used in British Battledress. When the Allies moved up through Italy, however, two-piece khaki denim battledress overalls were increasingly preferred. By 1943, the KD shirt began to be replaced by a more durable cotton KD bush jacket.

Far East

Lt Gen. Arthur Percival, led by a Japanese officer, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Allied forces in Singapore, on 15 February 1942. All wear standard KD with shorts.

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.[2]

Post Second World War

The 2/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles in JG marching through Kure soon after their arrival in Japan in May 1946 as part of the Allied forces of occupation

The khaki battledress was used until the late 1960s, and various uniform items in KD, JG and olive green (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 into 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.


  1. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Khaki" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 770.
  2. ^ Burns, Michael G. (1992). British Combat Dress Since 1945. Arms & Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-984-9.


  • "Twelve Years of a Soldier's Life in India, from the letters of Major WSR Hodson" by G. Hodson (London) 1859.
  • DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material by Hardy Blechman and Alex Newman, DPM Ltd. (2004)ISBN 0-9543404-0-X
  • Behrens, Roy R. (2002). False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage. Bobolink Books. ISBN 0-9713244-0-9.
  • Khaki: Uniforms of the CEF by Clive M. Law (Service Publications, 1998).
  • Michael Dorosh, Clive M. Law Dressed to Kill: Canadian Army Uniforms in World War Two (Service Publications, Ottawa 2001).ISBN 1-894581-07-5
  • Hodson-Pressinger, Selwyn "Khaki Uniform 1848-49: First Introduction by Lumsden and Hodson" Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research 82, no. 332 (2004): 341-47.
  • Richard Ingrams, Martin Brayley (2000) Khaki Drill and Jungle Green: British Army Uniforms in the Mediterranean & Asia 1939-1945 Crowood Press (UK)ISBN 978-1-86126-360-5

External links

Media files used on this page

5th Gurkha Rifles, Japan 1946.jpg

THE ALLIED OCCUPATION OF JAPAN. The 2/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure soon after their arrival in Japan as part of the Allied forces of occupation. FURTHER INFORMATION: In May 1946 the troopship ORDUNA brought 1700 men of the Mahratta Light Infantry and 2/5th Royal Gukkjjk

kkkkkknnnnnxtfdzgfrkha Rifles to Kure in Japan.
Jute nahtlos.png
Author/Creator: SoylentGreen, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Hessian Fabric made seamless. It will serve to create a normal map in Blender.
Batik Indonesia.jpg
Author/Creator: MartijnL, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0 nl
Batik cloth purchased in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
MacLachlan hunting tartan (D. W. Stewart).svg
Author/Creator: , Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
A representation of the Maclachlan hunting tartan. This tartan is the oldest tartan to bear the name MacLachlan. This tartan is referred to as the Old MacLachlan, MacLachlan, and Hunting MacLachlan. This sett was first published in Old & Rare Scottish Tartans by D. W. Stewart in 1893.
Thread count: Y6, W4, Bk32, G32, Y6, W4, R48.
Sources: MacLachlan Clan Tartan WR1710 MacLachlan Hunting Tartan
Black Watch at Magersfontein.jpg
"All that was left of them" The Black Watch after the Battle of Magersfontein
IWM caption : THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORTH AFRICA 1942. Infantry manning a sandbagged defensive position near El Alamein.
Arthur Percival.jpg
Lieutenant-General A E Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya at the time of the Japanese attack.
The Army Film and Photographic Unit at Eighth Army Headquarters in Italy, September 1943 TR1397.jpg
The Army Film and Photographic Unit at Eighth Army Headquarters in Italy, September 1943
Men of the AFPU in the field receiving last minute instructions from the Unit Adjutant. A De Vry camera is on the knee of a cameraman in the centre.
Peacock Flounder Bothus mancus in Kona (vertical).jpg
Author/Creator: Brocken Inaglory, Licence: CC BY 2.5
Peacock Flounder, Bothus mancus displaying its active camouflage abilities, changing colors depending on the colors of its surroundings. All frames are of the same fish taken few minutes apart. He changed colors to match his surroundings as I watched. In the last frame he buried himself in the sand. Almost nothing but the eyes are seen.
Arthur Percival marches under a flag of truce in order to sue for surrender of the British forces to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.