Are you looking to use your needle skills in a professional capacity?
As reported this weekend by The Times newspaper.
“It may not be the army’s most pressing issue, but the impending retirement of its most senior tailor training instructor has left a gap that today’s fighting men are proving reluctant to fill.
The departure of Ben Parry, a former Welsh Guards master tailor, from the army’s Defence College of Logistics, Policing and Administration in Surrey, threatens a long military mending tradition.
The army confirmed it has failed so far to find a replacement. Parry, from Caerphilly in south Wales, whose courses include lessons on Highland dress and kilts, hopes to be replaced by a member of the armed forces, but qualified civilians may also be considered”.
The role of Master Tailor (aka Master Stitch) has traditionally been a male one but now the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, based in Woolwich, England, has the Army’s first ever female Master Tailor, Sgt Emma Colton.
She’s in charge of a small team of tailors, who are responsible for making sure the unit’s daunting array of uniforms are in perfect order. Every soldier has six different sets of uniform, so that’s a lot of tailoring.
“Near enough every single item of uniform that’s worn on parade comes through here first,” says Sgt Colton. “It either needs to be let in, taken out, or trade badges sewn on, buttons put on, hooks put on, medals put on.
Copyright Imperial War Museum / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Evelyn Dunbar’s painting An Army Tailor and an ATS Tailoress 1943 – We are unable to see what the lady in the foreground is sewing but there is a box of red strips to her right. It is possible that she is sewing them onto the uniform. Beside the box are sewing tools: reels of white or khaki cotton, scissors, a steel sleeve slide, to prevent the sewing of both sides of a sleeve together.
The left-hand woman appears to be sewing an embroidered crown onto a uniform, indicating that it belongs to a major.
The second woman on the left is sitting on the table in the traditional cross-legged pose of tailors, or as cross-legged as skirt-worn modesty allows. At the far end of the table another ATS is operating a sewing machine. On the right is the tailor ironing and warming his flat-iron on a little trivet.
The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was founded immediately after the outbreak of war in September, 1939, and volunteers served as clerks, orderlies, telephonists and other such lowly occupations.
In December 1941 unmarried women between 20 and 30 were conscripted into the various women’s services. The ATS was the least popular of the women’s services.
Despite expanding its scope to include more prestigious activities like radar operation, deciphering and encrypting codes, gun laying and ammunition inspection, the ATS remained the Cinderella of the women’s services. However ATS members (known popularly as ‘Ats’, like ‘Wrens’ and ‘Waafs’) received a boost when in February 1945, the 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) volunteered to serve in its ranks as a driver.
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