HL Deb 09 December 1952 vol 179 cc816-7

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state the reason why, when arranging for the new No. 1 dress for the Army, a blue tunic was selected for regiments whose historic colour is red; and what is the difference in cost between the same quality of cloth dyed red or blue.]


My Lords, the main reason was the higher cost of red cloth. The material used for No. 1 dress is unsuitable for red dye, which requires a cloth which costs nearly three times as much. The cost of maintaining red uniforms would also be much greater.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for the information given, would it not be possible to devise a material which could be dyed red without a great difference in the cost? It cannot be a difference in the cost of the red dye alone. I would ask further: Do Her Majesty's Government realise the value of tradition; and if that value is realised, why is it desired to deprive the greater part of the British Army of their traditional colour of dress? Will not Her Majesty's Government restore to that part of the Army—the "thin red line"—their traditional colour, at least for ceremonial purposes?


My Lords, may I ask this further question: whether the historical element has been fully considered? Under the Plantagenets, when we were the "big noise" in Europe and always winning battles, red was our national colour. The flags of both England and Scotland have red as their principal colour, and the Royal Arms also have red as the principal colour. Although noble Lords on the Opposition Benches may be inclined to adopt red as their colour, it seems rather odd that noble Lords on the other side of the House want blue. I do not know very much about the matter from a scientific point of view, but I have always been given to understand that red is not an easily discernible colour from a distance, and that fact is also in its favour. Red is a colour with a very ancient history. I believe that Julius Cæsar was wearing a red jacket when he landed on our Southern coast. Noble Lords may remember that in the Alexandrine war, Cæsar was entering Alexandria harbour in a small boat when it was overturned, and he swam to save his life, carrying his red general's jacket in his teeth. I hope that the historic value of red, which is of much influence on recruiting, will not be forgotten when this matter is considered.


My Lords, I will certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, in his supplementary question, and to the interesting account of the historical side of the colour red which has been given by the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey.