The history of the T.O.S

To celebrate #NationalHatDay our archivist, Richard McKenzie talks to us shares with us the story of the T.O.S…….

In military terms, the ToS (not to be confused with the TOS-1 which is a Russian rocket launcher) or Tam o’ Shanter, which replaced the Glengarry Cap in 1915 has a long, and noble history. Starting with the Blue Bonnet, made famous by Covenanter soldiers fighting for Parliament during the British Wars of Religion, formerly, and better known, as the English Civil War, this type of pattern evolved into the Kilmarnock Bonnet, and then finally the Balmorral Bonnet.

The Khaki version of this headgear, issued to soldiers as a more practical piece of headgear in 1915, and renamed the ToS, survived the issue of steel helmets in 1916 and is still in use today. Comfortable, functional, and worn in a variety of ways the ToS was initially knitted, but soon came to be made from stitched offcuts of khaki serge cloth.

As shrapnel became a greater danger in the trenches of the First World War, the ToS was superseded by the British steel helmet, or tin hat, in the front lines. Useful under a barrage, but cold and uncomfortable even at the best of times, it is no surprise that soldiers removed them as quickly as possible and got their ToS’ back on. As time progressed the ToS began to be worn at an increased angle which prompted a Second World War sergeants famous explosion “In the Black Watch we march under our hats, not beside them!”

The ToS is retained by the Royal Regiment of Scotland as an undress, or working hat, with a different coloured hackle to denote the various battalions.


About blackwatchmuseum

The Museum of The Black Watch offers an insight into one of the British Army's if not the world's most famous fighting units. Scotland's Black Watch is an elite military regiment whose history stretches back almost three centuries.
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One Response to The history of the T.O.S

  1. ROGER GLEN says:

    Interesting piece of Regimental history – thanks.Do you now if it was referred to in the ranks during The Great War as a ‘toss’ or ‘tam’?Roger (USA)

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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