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British Denison smocks

Article about: Hi, Recon 3690 has this totally wrong and will confuse members. The Denisons issued were, as I classify them: A. 1st Pattern, one piece front and back, knitted wool cuffs, 2 varients with th

  1. #1

    Default British Denison smocks

    The pictures below are of my three British Denison smocks, one is WWII but the other two are post war and I was hoping that someone on here could roughly date them. The mostly green and sand one came from my local tip, it was being thrown away by an ex para padre, there are a load of poppers inside so he must have had some sort of a liner made up for it. John.

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  2. #2

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    the first one looks like a 1946 pattern just post war
    the 2nd and 3rd are from the 50' and 60's if i remember

  3. #3

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    Hi John the first one is post war i think note the half zip, and the other two are 59 patt

  4. #4

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    the first pic is a 1944 version or pattern 2
    the second is a 1959 pattern or pattern 3
    the third is a modified 1942 version Mk II

    Smock, Denison, Airborne Troops
    By Cal Fischer


    In 1940 the British produced an expedient grey-green paratroop jump-jacket for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) copied directly from the German parachutist’s Knochensack, This first "smock" had leg holes that were designed to be stepped into and the jacket pulled up over the body like a set of overalls. With the creation of Airborne Infantry units in 1942 there was a much greater need for this type of garment; this British Knochensack was redesigned to simplify production. The new jacket had a half zippered opening from collar to chest which required it to donned or doffed by pulling it over the head in the fashion of a smock. The camouflage for this jacket was designed by Major Denison, a member of a camouflage unit under the command of stage designer Oliver Messel. Thus was born the “Airborne Smock Denison Camouflage” or “Smock, Denison, Airborne Troops” known today simply as a Para Smock or Denison Smock.

    1st Pattern (Mark 1)

    The first pattern smock (or as I refer to it 1st pattern Mk I) was made from heavyweight twill material in a yellowish-sand colour with the pea green and dark brown non-colourfast water soluble dyes being hand applied in broad stripes with mop like brushes. These colours were thought to be the best for use in the North African and Italian theatres. In theory these dyes could be washed out, and was probably a SOE specification as the smocks without camouflage resembled a typical French artisan or labourer’s chemise, thus aiding in escape and evasion of their agents. Over time and with use the fabric and dyes faded producing a more blended appearance. Surviving examples today would contain only the sandy base colour or the water soluble dyes becoming colour fast and very faded making them virtually indistinguishable from the 1st pattern Mk IIs. This is a very loose fitting windproof garment meant to be worn over Battle Dress it has a half length steel zipper with a non fastening storm flap covering it, a square cut collar lined with brown flannel (khaki Angora wool on Officers model), and two epaulettes fastened with plastic battle dress buttons. The smock has two internal and four external pockets (two on the chest and two lower that closed with brass snaps), woolen knit cuffs, and adjustment tabs on either side at the bottom of the smock. This Jackets most distinguishing feature is the “beaver tail” with 2 Newey studs, which runs beneath the crotch from the back to the front fastening to two of six matching snaps. This tail was to keep the smock from billowing during parachute descents, when not in use it was tucked up under the web belt or hung loose to the back of the wearer’s knees.

    1st Pattern (Mark 2)

    In late 1942, early 1943 as the new Airborne Forces expanded, the need for smocks grew, in order to speed production the Denison pattern was screen printed on the fabric with colourfast dyes. All other features remained unchanged, this is why I refer to this as 1st pattern Mk II


    The most common mod was to have a full length zipper installed, by the unit tailor for Enlisted Men and private tailors for Officers. Two other mods encountered are the removal elasticized pockets from the “Oversmock, Parachutist, 1942 Pattern” which were then sewn to the lower sides of the smock, addition of snaps at the small of the back to secure the “beaver tail” when not in use, or just cutting the tail from the smock once on the ground (this was probably the preferred method of the SOE agents).

    2nd Pattern (Mark 3)

    A 2nd pattern smock was produced starting in 1944, the base colour was changed to a medium olive green with the overlying colours now a reddish brown and deep olive green. It was decided that these colours were better for the North Western European theatre. Other changes include shortening the sleeves and making them more tube shaped with the removal of the knit cuffs and the addition buttoning tabs. The zipper was changed from steel to brass and brass snaps on the back to store the tail when not in use became standard.


    As stated above the knit cuffs were removed from the 2nd pattern which the troops promptly replaced using the tops of wool socks. The replacement of the zippers with full length versions continued as did the addition of pockets from the over smocks. Some smocks, rather than being sewn, had a removable tail attached with 2 press studs at bottom rear. Both patterns issued to Officers had wool collar linings. Those issued to high ranking Officers came with a full length zipper, a heavy wool lined collar, flap covered slanted internal pockets, and woolen cuffs. Yet another mod to Officers smocks were a full lining.


    There is known to be a sniper’s variant, these were issue smocks modified at the unit level, with a small (approximately 10" x 10") pocket added to the left rear to carry ammunition, and other small equipment that was needed within easy reach. All known examples vary from one sample to the next.
    The Royal Marines version had buttons and loops for fastening the opening instead of the half zipper.
    “The Denison was a popular garment among officers who could acquire them—Company Sergeant Major CC Martin, DCM, MM of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada mentioned in his memoir Battle Diary that senior officers and sergeants major of his battalion wore the Denison universally.” - Wikipedia

    3rd Pattern (Mark 4) 1959

    Once again the colours were altered creating a greater contrast between the base light khaki and the overlaying colours. The green was now much darker with the brown a chocolate colour where these colours overlapped, they formed a fourth, darker, olive brown colour. The camouflage pattern also became more defined with broad vertical stokes. The flannel lining of the collar was changed to light green. The smock was also less baggy with a full length brass zipper and no storm flap being standard and the return of the loved knit cuffs. The Newey press studs were changed from brass to nickle plated. This version was now specified as “Smock, camouflage”and served with the Royal Marines and Paras until the late 1970s when the camouflage pattern was changed to DPM.

    The Canadian Airborne Regiment replaced the Denison Smock in 1951 with a “Jacket, Airborne, Nylon” very similar in design to 1959 3rd pattern but made of an very windproof olive green nylon. In 1975 it was changed to “Jacket, Airborne, DPM”, a reverse DPM pattern made of a cotton-nylon blend fabric with the chest pockets changed to same style as the 1960 pattern combat jacket, this remained in the use until the regiment disbanded in 1995.

    3rd Pattern (Mark 5) 1977 DPM

    Aside from the change to DPM this pattern is still in use to this day with only minor changes. The material was the same cotton material as the ’68-Pattern combat jacket and the pockets are bellowed. The most recent issue has the addition of a FFD dressing pocket on the right sleeve and pen pocket on left sleeve

  5. #5

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    Can't say I've heard of the book ..

    Have you any further details about it (ISBN .. cover picture etc) ?


    Gary J.

  6. #6

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    I provided the article for info purpose it is not a book and is not published

  7. #7

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    Quote by Recon 3690 View Post
    I provided the article for info purpose it is not a book and is not published
    Thank you for your precice and very informative article above on my Dennison smocks, yours, John.

  8. #8

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    The Royal Marines version had buttons and loops for fastening the opening instead of the half zipper.

    I would like to hear more about the documentary evidence for this?

    The pattern designations are, of course, collectors terms and not official.

    Cheers, Ade.

  9. #9

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    Yes the pattern numbers are collector terms the Mark numbers are terms I use

  10. #10

    Default Re: British Denison smocks

    Quote by Adrian Stevenson View Post
    I would like to hear more about the documentary evidence for this?
    Me too, as far as I'm aware it is a post-war modification of smocks used by the Belgium paras.

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