Last week the Royal Navy revealed its first new uniform since the Second World War, with the crew of HMS Lancaster being the first to don the new togs as they set sail for a 9 month deployment patrolling the Atlantic on Saturday.
The former Action Working Dress or “No.4s” – the light blue shirt and blue trousers worn for the last at 70 years – was certainly the most formal of all current military working dress and was sympathetically described by Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, who led the recent changes while in his previous post of Second Sea Lord, as being “a bit out of date”.
The new uniform, officially known as the Royal Navy Personal Clothing System or “RNPCS” has been specifically designed to be more modern in order to reflect the demands of a modern Navy. The new, all navy blue uniform is hailed by the MOD as being more comfortable, lightweight and fire-retardant than its septuagenarian predecessor and, thanks to its layering system, can be adapted for use in all of the often extreme climates in which the Royal Navy operates. It will also address the Navy’s corporate image, with rank now being displayed on the front and a large White Ensign on the left shoulder, which will according to the Commander of the ship, allow personnel aboard HMS Lancaster to better represent their service as they visit up to 18 countries over the coming months.
According to the Royal Navy, the new RNPCS was tested on several ships and submarines before being formally unveiled Last week, and the feedback has reportedly been mostly positive. Not everyone found the new clothing system to be shipshape though, with critics likening the newly clad British Sailors to garage mechanics.
Whatever your opinion, 22,000 of the new RNPCS will be issued to operation and sea-going ships as part of the initial roll out, with the rest of the Senior Service and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary receiving the new kit throughout 2015. And if you do think the new threads are more Kwik-fit kit than Gucci-kit, then fear not. It will only be worn during operational duties and will not replace the more formal uniforms or berets and old caps worn when sailors return home from deployment. Although after 9 months at sea, no doubt the families of those serving on HMS Lancaster will be only too happy to welcome their loved ones home, even if they are wearing fire retardant bin liners.