The Army is now reverting to the practice that was followed almost 40 years ago, when the changes towards wearing regimental affiliations took hold in the service. Here is why
A decision has been taken at the recent Army Commanders Conference that from August 1, all officers of the rank of Brigadier and above — Major Generals, Lieutenant Generals, and General — will wear common uniform items irrespective of their regimental or corps affiliation.
How will the uniforms worn by these senior Army officers change?
All officers of the rank of Brigadier, Maj General, Lt General, and General will now wear berets (caps) of the same colour, common badges of rank, a common belt buckle, and a common pattern of shoes.
They will no longer wear regimental lanyards (cords) on their shoulders. They will also not wear any shoulder flashes like ‘Special Forces’, ‘Arunachal Scouts’, ‘Dogra Scouts’, etc.
Thus, there will be no item of uniform that will identify them as belonging to a particular Regiment or Corps. All officers of these higher ranks will dress alike in the same pattern of uniform. The new uniform, combat.
What is the present position on wearing such items in the Army?
As of now, all officers from the rank of Lieutenant to General wear uniform accoutrements (additional items of dress or equipment) as per their regimental or corps affiliation.
Therefore, Infantry officers and Military Intelligence officers wear dark green berets; armoured corps officers wear black berets; Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Air Defence, EME, ASC, AOC, AMC, and some minor corps officers wear dark blue berets; Parachute Regiment officers wear maroon berets; and Army Aviation Corps officers wear grey berets.
The ceremonial headgear also varies — while most Infantry regiments, Armoured Corps regiments, and other arms and services have a peak cap with the regimental badge, the Gorkha Rifles regiments, Kumaon Regiment, Garhwal Regiment, and Naga Regiment officers wear a kind of slouch hat which is called Terai Hat or Gorkha Hat colloquially.
Each Infantry Regiment and Corps has its own pattern of lanyard which they wear around the shoulder and which tucks into the right or left shirt pocket as the tradition may be. The badges of rank also differ — the rifle regiments wear black coloured badges of rank, while some regiments wear gilt and silver coloured badges. There are different coloured backings, which are worn with these badges of rank as per individual traditions and customs of the Regiment or Corps.
The buttons on the uniform also vary in accordance with the regimental tradition. The rifle regiments wear black buttons while officers of the Brigade of The Guards wear golden buttons.
The belt has varied buckles as per regimental traditions, and each carries its own crest.
So what is the reason for making the change?
Regimental service in the Army ends at the rank of Colonel for most officers who rise further. Thus, all uniform affiliations with that particular Regiment or Corps must also end at that rank, so that any regimental parochialism that may exist is not promoted to the higher ranks.
Since appointments at higher ranks can often mean commanding troops of mixed regimental lineage, it is only appropriate that the senior officers commanding these troops should present themselves in a neutral uniform rather than a regimental one.
Is this the first time that this is being done?
In fact, the Army is now reverting to the practice that was followed almost 40 years ago, when the changes towards wearing regimental affiliations took hold in the service.
Until about the mid-1980s, the regimental service was till the rank of Lt Colonel. Officers of the rank of Colonel and above had common uniform patterns and insignia. Colonels and Brigadiers shed their regimental insignia and wore the Ashoka emblem on their cap badges. The colour of beret was khaki.
However, a decision was taken in the mid-1980s to upgrade the command of a Battalion or Regiment to the rank of Colonel. Thus, Colonels again started wearing the regimental insignia. In addition, Brigadiers were allowed to wear the cap badge of General officers which comprises crossed sword and baton with a wreath of oak leaves.
What is the tradition in other armies?
In the British army, from where the Indian Army derives its uniform pattern and associated heraldry, the uniform worn by officers of the rank of Colonel and above is referred to as the Staff uniform, to distinguish it from the Regimental uniform. The wearing of any item of Regimental uniform, particularly headdress, with the Staff uniform is not authorised.
Among neighbouring countries, the Pakistan and Bangladesh armies follow the same pattern as the British army. All regimental uniform items are discarded beyond the rank of Lt Colonel. All officers of the rank of Brigadier and above wear similar pattern uniforms.
-This story earlier appeared on www.indianexpress.com