By 1960, three types of uniforms were worn by Canadian soldiers in the field. Bush Dress was worn during the summer, Battledress was worn in the winter, and black coveralls were worn by many units on exercises as a substitute for Bush or to save Battledress from undue wear. Both Bush and Battledress were also worn as a garrison or everyday uniform. What the Canadian military needed was an all seasonal uniform specifically intended for field wear.
This new pattern of field uniform was trialed in the early 1960s and was adopted for service in 1963. The "Uniform, Combat General Service" (known to soldiers as "Combat" or "Combats") consisted of a Cap, Coat, Shirt-Coat, V Neck Sweater, two patterns of Trousers, and Boots. Developed in conjuction with the 1964 Pattern web equipment, Combat was very successful and by the late 1960s had replaced most Regular Army operational uniforms. It was also worn by the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy in very limited numbers before Unification. Post Unification it was standard for all three services, but remained primarily an Army uniform.
The new combat uniform was intended to be combined with both existing and new patterns of extreme cold weather clothing to provide Canada's first completely universal all weather field uniform.
|Sweater, V Neck||-||X||X|
|Parka and Trousers, Camouflage, White||-||-||X|
|Jacket and Trousers, Field Rainwear||X||X||-|
|Undershirt and Undershorts, cotton||X||X||-|
|Undershirt and Drawers, Extreme Cold||-||-||X|
Developed in conjuction with the 1964 Pattern web equipment, the concept and design of the Combat uniform was based on the (flawed) premise that the infantry soldier would ride into battle in an Armoured Personel Carrier and dismount to engage the enemy. Combat would require only weapons, ammunition, water and light rations. Additional clothing and personal gear required for living in the field would be carried in the APC. This concept also assumed that the soldier would not be required to march long distances on foot or carry heavy loads.
Instead of issuing magazine pouches with the 1964 Pattern web, the breast and waist pockets of the Combat Coat and Shirt-Coat were designed to carry the 20 round magazines for the FN C1 rifle. The breast pockets were slanted and heavily reinforced with nylon liners in order to bear the weight of loaded rifle magazines. The waist cargo pockets were provided with nylon loops for two magazines. The first pattern Combat Coats and Shirt-Coats were designed to carry only four 20 round magazines for a total of 80 rounds of ammunition. Two additional magazine loops were added to the left waist pocket in subsequent versions. Additional ammunition was carried in 60 round plastic (later cloth) bandoliers.
It was soon discovered by troops that a king size pack of cigarettes or a 10 ounce can of beverage fit the breast pocket very well.
Following the introduction of the 1982 Pattern web equipment with it's magazine pouches, the magazine carrying features of the Combat uniform were no longer required and the Shirt-Coat was modified accordingly.
When brand new, Combat ranged in colour from O.G. 107 (Olive green #107) which was a grayish green shade, to O.D. 7 (Olive Drab #7) a brownish khaki green colour. Combat was designed to be a low maintenance wash and wear uniform and after a number of washings, uniforms faded to a greenish grey. It was specifically forbidden to dry clean or iron Combat due to it being 50% nylon and having nylon reinforcements. Dry cleaning or the use of bleach when washing Combat resulted in uniforms of startling shades of pink.
Three patterns of black hightop Combat Boots were issued during the service life of Combat. Designated Marks I, II and III, they were similar in general pattern but differed in details. American pattern Jungle Boots and tan Desert Boots were also worn on some operational deployments. Dress instructions forbade the use of polish on combat boots, instead a special pattern of black dyed waterproofing compound was issued.
When it was introduced, Combat was a radical innovation for the Canadian military. No starched collars, ironed creases or spit shined boots, these were forbidden by Dress Regulations. Also gone was the coloured and highly visible rank and unit insignia as worn on Battledress. Authorised insignia was limited to rank, name tape, national and unit shoulder titles. Rank and unit insignia were reduced in size and were embroidered in a subdued dull green colour. Over Combat's service life there were variations in location and patterns of these insignia but the general concept of minimal insignia remained. A miniature red and white Canadian flag was worn on the left shoulder or sometime both shoulders on operations or postings outside Canada.
The issue of Combat began in 1964 beginning with the combat arms of the Regular Army and was in widespread use by 1966. Bush continued in use as a garrison uniform during this period and was still in wear by Regulars in 1970. For years it was forbidden to wear Combat in public transportation or in public places such as restaurants or pubs.
Although Combat was not initially issued to the Reserves, they were allowed to wear it subject to local or Regimental Dress Instructions. Army surplus stores did a thriving business selling used Combat and 1964 Pattern Web Equipment to Reserve soldiers. It was not until early 1972 that Combat was issued to the Reserves. Combat was never an authorised issue for Army Cadets, but as with Reserves, a number of Cadets privately purchased their own Combat from surplus stores. As the O.G. 107 Combat Uniform is no longer an authorised order of dress for the Canadian Forces, it is now supplied to Cadets on a limited basis. For political reasons, CADPAT is not permitted to be worn by Cadets, and the Combat uniform and special modified versions are referred to as a "Field Training" Uniform.
A Combat Cap was issued, and that, a knitted toque in green or white, or the steel helmet was worn, according to the season. It didn't take long for berets or regimental headwear such as the khaki balmoral bonnet to be worn in garrison or in the field.
Unfortunately Combat did have one drawback. Being made of 50% cotton and 50% nylon it was not flame resistant. When exposed to direct flame, the cotton burned and the nylon melted, burned and shrank. It was also easily stained by oil or lubricants as well as some types of insect repellants.
In garrison during the summer season, Combat was normally worn with the sleeves rolled up and the top button undone, exposing an olive drab or regimental t-shirt. During the winter months, area or regimental dress instructions usually ordered sleeves to be buttoned at the cuff and the collar buttoned. In a last vestige of class distinction, some regiments amended the order to allow officers and warrant officers to be more comfortable and wear the sleeves rolled up and have open collars.
In it's original configuration, Combat was produced in OG 107, Olive Drab and various shades of Tan and Medium Green. Limited quantities were produced in several DPM type camouflage patterns. Beginning in 1999, the OG Combat was replaced by the CADPAT Combat uniform, which itself is currently (2011) being replaced by the Improved Combat Uniform (ICU).
The designations "Shirt-Coat" and "Coat" appear on clothing labels (tags) and in official documentation and were used interchangably. Soldiers simply knew them as the Combat Shirt. Although not an official designation marked on clothing labels, the description "Mark I" is commonly used by collectors to describe Combat clothing of any pattern prior to the officially designated Mark II.
In production, 1963. Two slanted exterior breast pockets, two inside breast pockets and two cargo pockets at the waist. There is a loop on the side of the left breast pocket intended for an IM Series Radiation Dosemeter. It was commonly used to carry a pen or pencil. There are two nylon loops in the left waist pocket intended to carry two rifle magazines. Pocket buttons are slotted and attached by tabs, the remaining buttons are sewn directly onto the shirt.
Two side pockets secured by buttoned flaps, one or two hip pockets, and a cargo pocket on the side of each thigh. The seats and knees are reinforced and waterproofed and there are ties at the cuffs. Two weights of 50/50 nylon/cotton (NyCo) twist fabric were used: 8.3 oz/square yard for heavyweight trousers and 5 oz/square yard for lightweight trousers.
Made of 8.3 oz nyco, Combat Coats to follow the shirt patterns, ie: Slanted breast pockets, with a fabric loop on the left pocket for the dosemeter; cargo pockets at the waist with loops for magazines, Button front concealing a slide fastener. Removable liner secured by buttons. Reinforced elbows and rubber waterproofing on the shoulders. A distinctive feature is the corduroy lined collar which could be buttoned up around the neck.
As issued, the Combat Cap was rather shapeless and soldiers quickly discovered ways of making it look more presentable. The most common method of wear was the "Robin Hood" style where the cap was dampened, shaped to personal taste and worn until
dry. The brim was folded up and creased and the top was flattened out.
The Combat Cap was superior to the beret in terms of protection from the elements.
Subdued cloth cap badges were authorised for all Corps, Branches and Regiments. Initially, Reserve units wishing to provide their soldiers with combat cap badges or shoulder insignia had to use Regimental non - public funds, but they eventually became an issue item paid for by DND.
The Combat Cap was withdrawn in the late 1970s only to be reissued less than 10 years later.