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Hi Guys,

Can anyone tell me whether there are any trades/appointments in the current British Army, that require the soldier in that position to wear a beard?

Also am I right in thinking that the current war in Afghanistan is the first time since the Crimean war that British soldiers have been actively encouraged wear a beard?

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That's interesting about Afganistan, I've never heard that.

As a side note however,I do remember reading that at one time the Guards were required to grow walrus moustaches and because some were too young to grow a proper moustache they glued hose hair under the nose. If this is true I would guess this was only when on specal guard duty at the palace. I don't know if this is true but that's what I have read. As to your question I can't help there, so I've probably only managed to get the post off topic, sorry.

Regards

Brian

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Colour Sergeant in the Scots Guards has always had a beard.

Pioneer Sgts are generaly allowed to grow a full beard, some units actively encourage it. This is a traditional thing, but I'm not sure of its origins.

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Theres certainly no lack of beards within the senior service. One can only assume that the regulations are some what different. I believe that the whole no beards in the army thing has something to do with what happens if you need to put your gas mask on during NBC, if you`ve got a full beard there wouldn`t be a full seal and you`d become gassed as it where, but I maybe wrong after all the navy uses them as well.

Not sure about whether the Crimea was the last time that everyone had a beard (well those that could grow one anyway), but there is a rather famous picture of a SAS patrol alongside David Sitrling all sporting beards, in North Africa & Chindit column mule/ pack handler with beard. Again one can only assume that this had something to do with the circumstances of the camapaign they were found themselves fighting in, but having said that this would almost certainly have been the case in the Crimea was well.

What famous beards in the British Army have we got, Orde Wingate & Monty spring to mind straight away, but I`m sure there must be others!

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Apart from Pioneers in the British Army, the beards which are encouraged in Afghanistan are done so purely as part of a 'warrior cult' that exists within the country. Bearded western males apparently receive greater recognition from their male Afghan counterparts than do those who are clean shaven.

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Sure the Goat Major of the RWF has a beard. Also Pioneer/Farrier Sergeants in many/most regiments have a beard by tradition. Not sure what the origin is, but I think it was a Sudan-war era (British Army seems to have become beard-less in the 1870s) thing to do with battlefield identification - these guys were the ones carrying the axe with which to despatch injured horses and to cut off their right fore hoof (which was numbered) for accounting purposes.

Since WW1 until recently beards have been banned because of the - apparently - need to have a clean seal with a respirator.

I think the tradition of pioneers wearing beards dates back to when they had no time to shave in the morning as they had to leave camp before the rest of the battalion to clear the way for the day's march.

Not sure that this would apply to farriers who were essentially the head blacksmiths for cavalry: the axes carried are different, with pioneers carrying felling axes to clear trees and undergrowth and farriers' axes having a nasty point to kill injured horses and the blade being used, to remove a hoof to prove that the horse was dead.

Beards seem to have survived beyond the Crimea and a fair number were worn during the Zulu war, despite what you saw in the film.

Edited by The Monkey God

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Theres certainly no lack of beards within the senior service. One can only assume that the regulations are some what different. I believe that the whole no beards in the army thing has something to do with what happens if you need to put your gas mask on during NBC, if you`ve got a full beard there wouldn`t be a full seal and you`d become gassed as it where, but I maybe wrong after all the navy uses them as well.

I was once told by a senior RN officer that no one was ever given permission to grow a beard; they were given permission to "stop shaving". Any comments?

Hugh

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I was once told by a senior RN officer that no one was ever given permission to grow a beard; they were given permission to "stop shaving". Any comments?

Hugh

Now you mention it that rings a bell.

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According to British and Commonwealth military traditions, the Pioneer Sergeant is the only soldier in the army who is allowed to wear a full beard. A Pioneer Sergeant can be identified by an embroidered badge of two crossed axes sewn above the Sergeant's rank chevrons on his sleeve.

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Found this which might be of interest....................

The Decline of Beards in Warfare. Increasingly banned in modern combat a rebirth is underway.

The Beard went from being the nearly only universal item in every army to being prohibited nearly everywhere and is now making a resurgence. rounded_corners_5_fff.pngrounded_corners_5_fff.pngrounded_corners_5_fff.pngrounded_corners_5_fff.png

The beard was, from the time of the caveman until recent memory, considered standard issue among soldiers throughout history. In modern combat the act of shaving was set aside mainly for gentleman officers and who more often than not shaved even their heads and eyebrows. One artillery unit of the 18th Century Austrian Army that was ordered not to grow facial hair was referred to by their emperor as "My Little Shavers" whenever they were mentioned. It is harder to find a picture of an American Civil War general without a beard than with one.

By the time of World War two military forces had mandated the prohibition of beards for reasons of uniformity, hygiene, discipline, or tactical demands (such as the proper fitting and seal of a gas mask)

Before 1939, British army troops were allowed, with permission from their commander, to grow a beard. Since then, the only soldier in the battalion allowed a beard was the combat engineer sergeant and colour sergeants who was allowed to keep a beard by tradition. In many British Commonwealth armies it is traditional that the Pioneer Sergeants attached to the infantry has a beard. This goes back to the days when they used to stick the slow burning fuze into their beards for safekeeping when assembling explosive charges. Today these men are responsible more for carpentry and military engineering than lighting fuses but the beards remain as a remnant of that past. Oddly enough these men also are usually issued chromed pioneer tools (axes, shovels, etc) and a work apron that they carry with them on parades. The navies of these countries also allow full sets of beards although currently this is under review.

The Israeli Defense Forces prohibit both beards and moustaches unless the member is an Orthodox Jew and is required by religious purposes to be unshaven. Having "unshorn" hair i.e. beard & mustache is an integral part of the Sikh religion. In the Sikh regiment & the Sikh light cavalry of the Indian army, as you might expect, soldiers are actually required to have beards & mustaches. Sikh servicemen in most western militaries are permitted to retain their beards while in military service.

The Spanish Legion (known until 1987 the Spanish Foreign Legion) allows beards to be grown and most of the men in that 10,000 man elite unit have them as a matter of honor. These men are known the world over for their easter march in Malaga Spain, called the Cofradía del Cristo de la Buena Muerte (Brotherhood of the Christ of the Good Death). These men carry a heavy crucifix in one hand while marching through town singing their hymnal Soy el Novio de la Muerte (I am the Groom of Death's)

Edited by The Monkey God

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1 RRF Assault Pioneer Segeant, 11th September 1974, at the scene of a pipe bomb explosion, Gransha Hospital, Clooney Rd, Campsie, Londonderry.

Note crossed axes worn over chevrons on a brassard, rather than sewn directly to his DPM smock.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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Cheers Leigh, those photos are cracking!!!!! & thanks also to everyone else who has posted replies on this thread.

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"Before 1939, British army troops were allowed, with permission from their commander, to grow a beard. ... In many British Commonwealth armies it is traditional that the Pioneer Sergeants attached to the infantry has a beard. This goes back to the days when they used to stick the slow burning fuze into their beards for safekeeping when assembling explosive charges. ... "

Generally spot on, but the 'reason' for the beards on pioneers is a romantic embellisment. Think about it! Why would you carry a lit fuse in a mass of (flammable) hair, where burning bits could fall into the powder charge you were assembling? Grenadiers in the 17th century British Army carried their slow match in a perforated brass case attached to their cross belts and so would have pioneers if they needed slow match. Blackbeard the pirate, on the other hand, allegedly stuffed his beard with slow match to terrify his victims. The real reason for bearded pioneers has already been given: they left camp well ahead of the body of the battalion, to clear the roads, and so didn't take time to shave. BTW, in Napoleonic times, both soldiers and sailors shaved only twice a week anyway - Wednesdays and Saturdays - so our 'clean shaven' and theirs looked a little different.

Canada amalgamated its army navy and air force into the Canadian Armed Forces back in the '70s and one result was that sailors and soldiers and airmen were all permitted to cultivate face hair. Not sure what the current regsulations are. I also recall reading that during the nineteenth century WWI, when the British Army encouraged the growing of moustaches, one had to obtain permission to stop shaving the upper lip but also to start again. It may have been the same for naval beards and was meant, I assume, to prevent lazy sorts from shaving only irregularly and escaping the wrath of sergeants and bosuns by claiming to be growing beards and simply "staring over" every few days!

Edited by peter monahan

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Hi Guys,

Don`t know if anyone has been watching `Combat School` on Sky. Basically its about a Canadian Regiment, and its pre-deployment training for Afghanistan. Its well worth watching, but the reason why I`ve brought it up is that there appears to be at least two guys within the Regiment that have full beards, which I found very interesting, does anyone know what the story is there......?

Gordon.

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Hi Guys,

Don`t know if anyone has been watching `Combat School` on Sky. Basically its about a Canadian Regiment, and its pre-deployment training for Afghanistan. Its well worth watching, but the reason why I`ve brought it up is that there appears to be at least two guys within the Regiment that have full beards, which I found very interesting, does anyone know what the story is there......?

Gordon.

I know the Canadian Pioneers are REALLY keen on beards and in some cases, the whole Pioneer Platoon would be sporting them (often with shaved heads, like ZZ Top). In Cyprus you would see the canuck pioneers looking like Castro in their old OG uniforms before Cadpat. Growing one wasnt mandatory but you had to get permission to shave it off!

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The United States the Army and Marine Corps banned beards on grounds of personal hygiene just before world war one but they are permitted for medical reasons, such as temporary skin irritations if needed. The US Navy allowed beards for centuries especially for submariners but consigned the practice to Davy Jones's locker in the 1970's. The US Coast Guard banned beards in 1986 however The Coast Guard Pipe Band allows retired and reserve members to have beards and appear in uniform (which includes a Kilt) while on service with that unit.

History, due to tactical reasons, is repeating itself in Afghanistan where the militaries of many of the world's armed forces hung up their razors again. Selected American and British ground units were permitted to grow full beards and have worn them off and on since 2002. Afghans equate beards with being a man and it was found that the local population took the soldiers more serious once they had grown them. This also permitted small units such as Special Forces recon teams and air control parties to blend in better among the local population. This is to remain the same as the armies of many moslem countries still maintain beards. When NATO reformed the Afghan National Army after 2002, the only two things that remained the same were the AK47s and, of course, the beards.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Not up on my CanFor regulations any more, but I do know we have a number of bearded lads in Afghanistan right now. It may be a dispensation for those over there but I think more likely is either the Pioneer theory - we do have them and some are bearded - or it mat be a hioldover from the mercifully brief (only 3 decades) flirtation with a "Canadian Armed Forces" rather than an army, navy and airforce.

The Forces were amalgamated in the '70s - one colour uniform, one rank structure, the possibility of serving in all three 'elements' during one's career and some other oddities too painful to recollect. Several of the unanticipated outcomes were the problem with having a number of "Captains" on one ship - we used the Land element [Army] ranks at first and the contention - upheld on appeal - that if a Sea Element ranker ['sailor' in quaint terms] could grow a beard, so could an Air element or Land element ranker!

I shall endeavour to get a better answer on this!

Peter

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