Friday, June 26, 2015

Humor in Uniform - PEACOCKS IN UNIFORM


A Spoof


Around 6 months ago  in end January 2015  I was invited to deliver a guest lecture” at IAT Pune (now renamed MILIT) – a prestigious inter-service training institution.

I was delighted to meet a Commodore  with whom I had served earlier  and who was once a student of mine at this very same institution 30 years ago in the mid 1980s.

He was wearing blue combat uniform (Dress No. 10)  instead of the customary Navy Whites (Uniform No. 8/8A)  which we normally wore at IAT during our time.

This wearing of combat dress was quite strange  since IAT was an academic training institution far removed from combat.

Probably  the only combat that we had seen in IAT were the “ego battles” between defence officers and civilian scientists and the internecine turf wars between the 3 wings of the services.

I looked at the Commodore in blue combat uniform – something seemed odd.

I was startled to see jarring golden stars on his collars.

I had never seen commissioned Naval Officers wear collar tabs.

(Earlier  till the late 1970 Master Chief Petty Officers wore collar insignia which were subsequently changed to shoulder tabs).

I was  therefore  quite surprised to see the flashy oversized golden collar tabs  which looked garish and totally incongruous on naval uniform.

In fact  these ostentatious golden collar stars looked most ridiculous and gaudy on blue combat uniform.

When I asked the Commodore about this new piece of jazzy collar accoutrement  he said that golden collar stars for Commodores and Admirals had been recently introduced on the First of January 2015 (01 Jan 2015).

I was happy to note that the LAW OF TRIVIALITY was still very much in action in the Defence Services.

Instead of tackling urgent complex operational and human resource problems faced by the Defence Services – or resolving issues pertaining to military veterans like OROP (One Rank One Pension) and ECHS Healthcare etc  the “top brass” were devoting their energies to trivial issues like embellishing uniforms with “stars” to show off their ranks.

(If you have been following the news  you will know that there is a great obsession with “stars” in the Army  with Generals displaying their “stars” at the most imaginative places – and it looks like this “star virus” has affected the Navy too).

Since independence – if anything has changed the most in the defence services – it is military uniforms.

Yes – the “ornamental” and showy uniforms the defence services wear today bear little resemblance to the simple military-like uniforms of the 1950s.

This increasing penchant for frequently changing uniforms and enhancing ornamentation of military regalia (by introducing new badges/accoutrements/adornments etc) bears testimony to the fact that “The Law of Triviality” is proliferating in the Armed Forces.

I have discussed The Law of Triviality earlier in my blog and have given the link to the post at the end of this article.

Now – let us talk a bit about “Peacocks in Uniform.

A few days ago – a veteran army officer remarked that today’s uniforms look most peacockish

This prompted me to delve into my Humor in Uniform archives and pull out this article on FRIDAY DRESSING which I had written more than one year ago – on 13 June 2014.


When I saw Colonel “X” all decked up in his “combat uniform” I remembered a story from CATCH 22 – the all time classic satirical war novel by Joseph Heller.

A memorandum on “appropriate military attire in combat areas” is issued by General Peckem (who is in charge of “Special Services” which includes everything except combat).

General Peckem recommends that all aircrew be sent into combat in full-dress ceremonial uniform so that they will make a good impression on the enemy when they are shot down.

Seeing Colonel “X” who looked like a riot of colour in his dazzling “combat uniform” – with his red and gold collar tabs  rows of colourful medal ribbons – numerous gaudy badges and emblems of all sizes and shapes adorning both sides of his chest and arms  accoutrements and ornamental regalia embellishing the impressive fabric imprinted with attractive camouflage design – it seemed more of a fashionable ceremonial uniform than a simple combat uniform.

All “decked up in his “combat uniform” – Colonel “X” looked like a Peacock.

“Why are you wearing such a flashy uniform?” I asked Colonel “X”.

“This is our “combat uniform”, Colonel “X” said.

“I know that camouflage dress your combat uniform – but why you wearing this uniform in IAT – there is no combat going on here – except the perpetual “combat” between Uniformed Service Officers and Civilian Scientists,” I quipped.

“We have to wear combat dress on Fridays,” Colonel “X” said.

“Oh – so it is like the “Friday Dressing” they have in the corporate sector,” I said.

Earlier  in some offices like Naval Headquarters (NHQ) and inter-service establishments  we had a “Mufti Day” on Fridays where you could wear civvies (civilian clothes) to office.

We used to dress casually  and wear open collar tucked-in shirts  or tucked-out bush shirts or safari suits and feel relaxed.

I believe that later some “killjoy” Admiral (like General Peckem of Catch-22) made wearing of neckties compulsory and destroyed the “casual” joy of Friday dressing.

To get back to the subject of combat uniform  I remember that in the navy we had a simple combat uniform called Dress No. 10 comprising sober looking greyish-khaki coloured shirt and trousers made of cotton.

In order to ensure that the uniform was fire-resistant and non-inflammable  there were no synthetic or metallic accoutrements – no ribbons, no badges, no belt, even no name tallies (the names and action stations were written by black marking ink on the cotton fabric).

Sometime in the 1980’s this simple and most apt khaki coloured pure cotton uniform  suitable for the tropics  was changed to blue colour – light blue shirt and navy blue trouser (maybe to imitate the Royal Navy).

I remember a hilarious episode when our ship returned from a long operational deployment  and everyone on our ship was dressed in Khaki No. 10’s.

Sailors on most alongside ships and shore establishments were dressed in the new Blue No. 10’s about which we did not have a clue.

We were rudely told that we were “out of rig” – and we were asked to get the new pattern Blue No. 10 uniforms stitched fast.

Soon  everyone started using terry-cot fabric instead of pure cotton  and then  accouterments like name tallies, medal ribbons, badges and emblems, blue belts made of synthetic material and metallic crested buckles were added – now the uniform was no longer fire resistant and neither was it non-inflammable.

Soon everyone started wearing this blue uniform everywhere instead of white No. 8/8A, probably because blue was easy to maintain than white which had to be washed daily.

The earlier Khaki Cotton No. 10 Uniform was worn only while working on ships – but now  the new blue terry-cot/polyester uniform is worn ashore – even in comfortable offices ashore.

Someone told me  that like they do in the Army  you now have “Friday Dressing” in the NHQ too with sailors trying to match the pongos in wearing “ceremonial combat uniform”.

It won’t be long before the Air Force joins the bandwagon of “Friday Dressing” too (unless they already have)

By the way  the Indian Air Force too used to wear Khaki uniform till the 1980’s  and then they changed over to Blue  maybe to imitate the RAF.

Can some veteran please enlighten us:

What is the need for “ceremonial combat uniform”?

Shouldn’t combat uniforms be combat-worthy?

Why is there an increasing tendency to “show off” with so much regalia on daily wear working uniform?

Why not keep uniforms simple like the Navy Dress No. 8 (white half-sleeved shirt and shorts without any medal ribbons, badges, emblems and paraphernalia)?

Shouldn’t military uniforms have “utility value” rather than “ornamental value”?

Instead of looking soldierly  why do “Faujis” want to strut around like “Peacocks”?

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1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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This blog post is an combined abridged extract of my following blog posts posted online by me in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog:

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