Uniforms 1 93745

The uniform of the Chinese Army in 1937 was practical, reflecting the down-to-earth nature of the ordinary fighting man. Parade-ground smartness was rarely insisted upon outside the occasional elite or bodyguard units. Six years of experience in small scale campaigns against the Japanese on the Manchurian borders had taught the Chinese how to kit out their troops from the limited resources of a poor nation, in utility uniforms for both summer and winter conditions. The high turnover of manpower meant that many millions of Chinese soldiers had to be dressed and equipped during the course of the war. These huge demands are exemplified by production figures from 1945. During that year Chinese government factories supplied 5 million suits of summer clothing and up to 4 million winter uniforms, plus 10 million sets of underwear. In addition. 1 million military blankets were p ro due e d (which gives pause for thought -was only 1 soldier in 4 issued with a new blanket?), Much of the cotton and other material needed for the uniforms had to be imported from India.

Summer uniforms

At the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War the Chinese Army wore both a lightweight summer and a heavier winter uniform. Generallv speaking, the summer uniform was made up of a light cotton jacket and trousers worn with puttees, and either a peaked (visored) seivice cap. a peaked 'ski-type' field cap, or various models of helmet.

The standard summer tunic during the Sino-Japanese War was a light khaki cotton jacket with a stand-and-fall collar, four pockets and five front buttons: both the breast and waist pockets had buttoned flaps. The buttons were made of anything from wood to plastic and every other material in between. Although usually described as light khaki, the tunic varied widely in both colour and quality, with many shades of khaki, brown and areen seen in use. Because the Chinese Army relied far more than most armies upon dispersed local manufacture, the type and quality of cloth used were as varied as the colour. However, the basic design of the jacket does seem to have been adhered to in most cases. Rank patches were displayed on the collar, and the soldier's identification patch above the left breast pocket (see 'Insignia', below).

Most soldiers wore cotton trousers, cut baggier in the thigh than the calf, which were confined by puttees of woollen or other cloth tied with tapes at the top. Generally the trousers would be issued in the same cloth as the jacket, and seem to have faded uniformly. Long, baggy shorts were also worn: these came to just above the knee, and were also usually worn with puttees, leaving the knees exposed.

Boots were not usually worn by Chinese soldiers during the 1937-45 period, the most common form of footwear being brown or black leather shoes. Other than for parade and guard units these were usually left unpolished. The traditional Chinese black canvas plimsoll-type shoes were also very widely worn, as they had been by soldiers for many generations: these were worn in summer without socks and in winter with white stockings. Soldiers are often seen with a spare pair of canvas shoes strapped to their packs, so they must have been cheap and easily obtainable. In summertime homemade straw sandals were also worn by very many soldiers, either for comfort, to save wear and tear on shoes, or because nothing else was available.

The X- and Y-Force units which were trained in India and Western China by the Allies received a mixture of British and US uniform clothing. British khaki drill (KD) was the most common, and could be made up of a KD shirt with either long trousers or shorts. More often than not the soldiers continued the practice of wearing puttees with both trousers and shorts. Many types of Indian-made uniform items worn by the British in Asia found their way into use by the Chinese, including woollen pullovers. The Chinese were at the back of the queue for the new British purpose-made jungle green (JG) uniforms, but may have received the green-dyed KD clothing which preceded these as a stop-gap.

Uniform headgear

The Chinese Army of the early to mid 1930s wore two types of cap, a peaked seivice cap being most popular in the north and a ski-type field cap being worn in the south. However, in the Chinese context there are 110 hard and fast rules; one unit was photographed near the Burmese border in the far south of China wearing the service cap in July 1937.

Chinese Nationalist Soldier

Steel helmets

The history of steel helmets worn by the Chinese Army in the 1930s-40s is

1938: Nationalist soldiers armed with the famous Mauser 'broomhandle' pistol - in this case, to judge from the numerous ammunition pouches, the Spanish Astra or German R713 Schnellfeuer model capable of fully automatic fire, of which tens of thousands were imported before 1937. The clip-on holster/stock makes the Mauser a comfortable weapon, without noticeable recoil. However, fully automatic fire at 15 rounds per second is absurdly inaccurate - it is almost impossible to maintain the aim on a man-sized target at even 25 yards' range. These soldiers take aim on parade, without magazines fitted. They are more smartly turned out and better equipped than the average Nationalist soldier, and are almost certainly a bodyguard unit. Their 'polo'-type pith helmets would presumably have been replaced by steel helmets for combat, if available. Such non-regulation items as these headgear were purchased by local commanders to improve the appearance of their elite units. See Plate B1. (Robert Hunt Library)

At the outbreak of the fighting in the north that month, many of the troops facing the Japanese still wore the sendee cap. This came in summer cotton and winter wool versions, and had a black or brown leather peak and chin strap, with an enamelled KMT sunburst badge on the front. After the virtual destruction of the northern Chinese armies in 1937 the service cap went out of common use.

By far the most common type of headgear worn by the Chinese Aimy throughout the period covered by this book was the ski-type field cap. based on caps worn by alpine troops of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies. The cap had a cloth peak and a fold-down side curtain, which was usually worn fastened up and held in place at the front by one or two buttons. A one-button version was more common in the early 1930s, and the two-button variety was seen most commonly from the late 1930s onwards. Field caps were made from a variety of materials, but normally from light cotton for summer wear and heavier cotton or wool for winter. The standard KMT enamelled badge of a white sunburst on a circular blue background was worn at the front of the crown above the buttons. This cap was in continuous service from 1930 until the final defeat of the Nationalists in 1949, but became less common after 1942.

Another type of stiff field cap, based on the German Nazi SAkepi, was used by some Nationalist troops in the early 1930s. This had a leather peak and a single small metal button at the front, again with the KMT sun badge. This type of cap was mainly seen worn by soldiers during the 1933 Jehol campaign, and seems to have been more or less phased out by the mid 1930s. A softer cloth-peaked version of this cap was worn during the 1940s, but not widely.

Heavier duty versions of the ski-type field cap were worn with die winter uniform, and were made of quilted or wadded cotton. This was basically a bulkier version of the summer cap but with a substantial fold-down side curtain to protect the ears, cheeks and neck. The side-pieces were normally worn fastened on top of the crown with a button or tapes. The standard winter version of the cap, in woollen cloth, had the same two buttons at the front as the summer model. Various versions were in seivice with different units; one pattern with a quilted lining and no front buttons was worn by troops of the 29th Army.

Steel helmets

The history of steel helmets worn by the Chinese Army in the 1930s-40s is complicated by the wide range of types in service, especially before 1937. The main types used before 1937 were the British Mk I or its American M1917A1 counterpart. Although other models are seen, these two almost identical types were by far the most commonly worn during the fighting of 1931-37.

Three other types were worn by Nationalist troops. The first was the 'plum blossom' model, which was based on the Japanese helmet of very similar design (see Plate B2)2. A second model had a pot-shaped skull with a brim that was slightly wider at the front, giving it the appearance of having a peak: this type seems largely to have gone out of use by 1937, but probably survived in some units. Finally, a third model of distinctive Chinese design (see Plate A3), similar in shape to a flattened German 'coalscuttle' helmet, was seen in use from 1932 until 1937. This model was unique in shape, but may have been based on the US experimental Model 2A design which was later developed into the Ml of World War II fame.

Chinese Bolo Mauser

Although in the field, this major is immaculately turned out in the smartest service dress uniform with breeches and riding boots, and white parade gloves - out of place, even if this is a peacetime exercise. Hanging from his Sam Browne belt on his left hip is the officers' dress dagger.

The steel helmet that was really representative of the Chinese Army of 1937-45 was the German M35. This model was introduced after the arrival in China in 1933 of the German training c mission under Colonel-General Hans von Seeckt. German advisers were quick to recommend their own country's armament industries to supply much of the modern weaponry and equipment bought by the Chinese during the 1930s. These included approximately 250.000 M35 helmets imported before 1936, when all exports of the helmet ceased. They were used to equip the ten German-trained divisions which formed the backbone of the Nationalist Army. Although the vast majority of Chinese soldiers did not receive steel helmets, those that did during the period 1937-45 were normally issued the M35. The M35 in Chinese use retained its field-grey factory paint finish, with a white-sun-on-blue-sky KMT decal on the left hand side: it was identical to the German model apart from having a different liner.

Another model in fairly widespread use by Nationalist troops was the French Adrian, which was seen on a few fronts in 1937. After the initial fighting, however, most Adrian helmets were worn by troops in the south-west of the country, away from the main war fronts. In Yunnan province in the far south-west, adjacent to the border with French Indochina, the local warlord Yung Lun imported large numbers of them. Nationalist insignia on the Adrians varied from a standard KMT enamel badge to a white stencilled sun surrounded by a rice-plant wreath.

The Allied-supplied soldiers of X- and Y-Forces wore a mixture of British Mk II and US Ml helmets. The former was usually worn with Indian-made camouflage netting, while the latter bore a KMT decal on the left side.

Although in the field, this major is immaculately turned out in the smartest service dress uniform with breeches and riding boots, and white parade gloves - out of place, even if this is a peacetime exercise. Hanging from his Sam Browne belt on his left hip is the officers' dress dagger.

2 See also MM 362. The Japanese Army 1931-45 (1)

Irish Republic Uniform Helmet

Other headgear

Some Nationalist soldiers wore a distinctive cork pith helmet of polo style, which appears to have been varnished. The polo helmet was smaller than the standard pith helmets in use with European colonial armies, and its brim was the same width all around instead of being drawn out at the back to protect the neck. An enamel Nationalist sun badge was attached to the front. A pith helmet of more conventional shape is seen in newsreels of the time, and this was sometimes painted for camouflage and covered with netting. The British supplied their 'India pattern' pith helmet to X-Force during its training at Ramgarh; it bore the usual KMT badse 011 the front and had a brown leather chin strap. Reportedly. US pith helmets were also issued to X-Force officers after beina declared to be 'limited standard' or obsolete by the US Army in 1941. Broad straw sun or 'coolie' hats were widely worn, usually carried in addition to the steel helmet or cap and slung on the soldier's back when not in use. The exact design of the straw hat depended 011 the region of China that the soldier (or the hat) came from. Sometimes these were painted in camouflage patterns or festooned with foliage; conversely, other troops decorated them with patriotic slogans in Chinese script, or had the KMT sun badge stencilled 011 them. Some helmet-shaped headgear made of basketwork were also used (see photo graphs 011 pases 33 and 45).

A cadet at a Central Military Academy is pictured on parade with a Czech ZB26 on his shoulder. His uniform is made from heavy woollen cloth, and has the academy's disc insignia on the collar instead of rank patches. Above his left breast pocket is the identity patch displaying service and unit information; the left panel appears to display the single triangle of either a corporal or a second lieutenant. This cadet presumably comes from a reasonably affluent family -note the Parker fountain pen protruding from his pocket. (IWM, CHN 418)

Officers' uniforms 1937-45

The materials and tailoring of Chinese officers' uniforms were of a much higher standard than those of the lower ranks. Officers were normally responsible for providing their own uniforms, and since most came from wealthier families this was reflected in the quality of their dress. Officers wore a service dress of khaki wool comprising a ski-type cap. a tunic, and either riding breeches with topboots or leggings, or straight slacks worn with brown leather shoes. Their brown leather belts were of 'Sam Browne' style, and supported a pistol holster and an officer's dress dagger.

Caps were of the same basic pattern as those worn by enlisted men but of better qualities, depending 011 the rank of the individual. During the war a few higher ranking Army officers were seen wearing the US officer's peaked service cap. but these were normally worn only by Air Force personnel.

The tunic had a stand-and-fall collar, four pockets, and five brass front buttons. Although there were variations of colour, the normal shade was, in British terms, a brownish khaki, or in American usage a brownish olive drab. Rank insignia were displayed on plastic or metal

(continued on page 33)

Parade Dress Collar Insignia

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  • Agamennone
    Did the condor legion use m35 helmets?
    8 years ago
  • may
    What are the triangles on the Chinese uniform?
    6 years ago

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