Scarlet Secrets

The long scarlet coat is an icon of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and is worn with pride by the Chelsea Pensioners. However, many people do not realise that Pensioners wear two types of uniform, known fondly as ‘scarlets’ and ‘blues’.

In the second of this two part series (see first part), we look at the uniform the Chelsea Pensioner are less known for - the blues. The blues and shako uniform is worn on a daily basis by most Che sea Pensioners. It can only be worn within a two mile radius of the Royal Hospital and is often worn in the Chelsea Pensioners’ Club for social events, as well as at meal times.

1. SHAKO:

In 1843 shako caps were introduced that were of a similar design to the army uniform of the day. The shako caps are embroidered with the letters RH, the initials of the Royal Hospital and are very popular with the Chelsea Pensioners as most find them more comfortable to wear than the tricornes.

2. BLUES JACKET:

Each Pensioner was supplied with a ‘greatcoat’ of dark blue in 1707 as before this time, many of the Chelsea Pensioners would only have owned one set of clothes. This additional garment helped keep the Pensioners warm during winter. It was eventually amended to the double breasted blue jacket, which is now worn all year round.

3. MEDAL BAR:

Chelsea Pensioners do not wear their medals on their blues uniform as it is worn for casual occasions; instead their medal bar indicates their awards.

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