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[b]Compulsory moustaches[/b]
Ed Coan

Joined: 26 Sep 2005
Posts: 18
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Strangely enough I'm just on page 38 of Mike Snook's 'How Can Man Die Better' - see Julian Whybra topic, and was also intrigued by Hamilton-Browne name revelation, but a couple of pages before Mike mentions that it was compulsory for those on active service to grow/wear moustaches, unless excused by the inability to grow one.

My question is simply why was it compulsory? Some Victorian Health and Safety reason? Be interested to know.

Realise I'm only a little way in, but hugely enjoyable read thus far, partly due to the engaging style in which Mike writes.

Can't wait until the bit about where the Zulu army were encamped pre-Isandlwana - to juxtapose with the theory put forward in Ron Lock/Peter Quantrill's 'Zulu Victory'.

Ed Coan
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Mike McCabe

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I have heard a number of arguments and theories advanced on this point of detail, including in books referring to the Regular component of the BEF in August 1914.
I think we would all welcome any post that might demonstrate that it was indeed a specified requirement in The Queen's Regulations - with 'chapter and verse' at any time in the 19th or 20thC.

Within recent decades QRs have specified that if a moustache was to be grown no portion of the upper lip was to be shaved.

The popular views seem to orbit two theories:

- That it was designed to make the soldier look more manly and fierce in close quarter fighting with the bayonet, and:

- Practically, that it contributed to shading the upper and lower lip, and reducing the likelihood of a split lip in extremes of sunshine and cold.

Both are, up to a point, reasonable theories but it would be interesting to hear what outdoor moustache wearers thought of the latter one.

But, let's first see if anybody can prove that it was a regulated requirement, from when till when, and whether all arms of the service were required to comply by QRs, or rather just regimental custom.
Adrian Whiting

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 76
Location: Dorset, England
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Ed, Mike,

Moustaches were required by Queen's Regs. As an example I can quote QRs 1881, section 7, para 20 -

"The following directions in regard to the growth of hair are to be strictly observed by all ranks. The hair of the head is to be neatly cut and kept short. Moustaches are to be worn and the chin and under-lip are to be shaved (except by Pioneers who will wear beards also). Whiskers, when worn, are to be of moderate length. On active service in the field, however, beards may be worn at the discreetion of the General officer commanding."

As a 'tache-sporter myself, i guess it has some utility to fend off the sun's rays, but really I think it was required of the Victorian soldier for appearances sake. Many such things were driven by a sense of military fashion. Indeed Frederick the Great directed that in the Prussian army, those men unable to grow moustaches had to paint them on for uniformity, or so I am told !

Hope this assists,
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Paul Bryant-Quinn

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Lewis Valentine (1893 - 1986) remarks on this subject in a diary he kept in Welsh during the First World War, selections from which were published in the journal *Seren Gomer* between 1969 - 72 under the title 'Dyddiadur Milwr' (A Soldier's Diary):

'... [every soldier] was ordered to grow a moustache. It seemed that our soldiers in France looked boyish by comparison with the Germans, and especially the Bavarians, and it was thought that this might be a boost to the enemy's morale. The idea was that growing a moustache would make our lads look rougher and more manly, and so an order to this effect was published and pinned to the notice boards which every soldier in the barracks [= Hillsborough, Sheffield] had to read on a daily basis. After about a fortnight, having given the moustaches a chance to thicken up, a general parade was called to see if the men had all obeyed the order.' [my translation]

Valentine goes on to comment on those who had declined to grow the requisite moustache (one man apparently refused the order on the grounds that he considered a 'tache to be an unhygienic breeding-ground of germs), and on the punishments meted out to them.
Peter Ewart

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Flogged within a "whisker" of their lives, no doubt, by NCOs "bristling" with indignation ...?

(I'll apologise in advance & crawl away!)

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[b]Compulsory moustaches[/b]
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