In honor of all our British blogging friends across the pond, my ABC Wednesday for the letter R is Redcoat!
The first use of the red coat as part of the regular army uniform of England came in 1645 as part of the New Model Army ordinance. One reason for the use of red was the relative cheapness of red dye at the time. There is no truth to the old wive's tale that red was chosen because it would not show blood (blood shows as a black stain on red cloth).
From an early stage the facings (lapels, cuffs and collars) of the red coat were varied, depending upon which regiment the uniform belonged to. Examples were scarlet for the 33rd Regiment of Foot, yellow for the 44th Regiment of Foot and buff for the 3rd Regiment of Foot. An attempt at standardisation was made following the Cardwell Reforms of 1881, with English and Welsh regiments having white, Scottish yellow, Irish green and Royal regiments dark blue.
Scarlet tunics ceased to be general issue upon British mobilisation in August 1914. The Brigade of Guards resumed wearing their scarlet full dress in 1920 but for the remainder of the Army red coats were only authorised for wear by regimental bands and officers in mess dress or on certain limited social or ceremonial occasions (notably attendance at Court functions or weddings). The reason for not generally reintroducing the distinctive full dress was primarily financial, as the scarlet cloth requires expensive cochineal dye.
As late as 1980, consideration was given to the reintroduction of scarlet as a replacement for the dark blue "No. 1 dress" and khaki "No. 2 dress" of the modern British Army, using cheaper and fadeless chemical dyes instead of cochineal. Surveys of serving soldiers' opinion showed little support for the idea and it was shelved.
Information mostly taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_coat_(British_army)
All photos taken in St. Augustine, FL during December 2007 at a living history event depicting the "British period" of the city from 1763-1784.Visit Mrs. Nesbitt's Place for all the ABC Wednesday fun.