Features – Grey Douglas Tartan

In the early 1930s, the only Auxiliary Air Force Units in Scotland were 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron and 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron. In common with other Scottish military units, these 2 Squadrons established their own Pipe Bands. Because of the close family links which each Squadron had with the family of the Duke of Hamilton, the bands wore the family Tartan, the Grey Douglas, when performing.


Above: Angus, Duke of Hamilton and The Grey Douglas Tartan

In March 1935, 602 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader The Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale, AFC, MP, wrote to his superior, the Air Officer Commanding No 2 Bomber Group at Andover, requesting that formal approval be given for “the wearing of grey Douglas tartan mess kit by Auxiliary Officers of Scottish Auxiliary Squadrons”. His request went upline to the Air Member for Personnel in London who gave the non-commital response that “this matter should be put on one side for a little time”. The issue was raised again in February 1936 and, despite high level opposition, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Edward Ellington, supported the initiative and a request for royal approval was submitted in July 1936 to Buckingham Palace by Viscount Swinton. In his letter, Viscount Swinton stated “to wear the kilt would be very popular with the officers of these Squadrons [602 and 603], and, if His Majesty approves, would be used with mess dress. It would be worn by officers of the Auxiliary Air force only, and it would be optional”.

Later that month, His Majesty King Edward 8th gave the requested approval following which the Air Council wrote to the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Bomber Command on 31 July advising him of the decision with the caveat that the approval “applied to Auxiliary Air Force officers only and not to Royal Air Force officers on the permanent staff” The letter also stated that “the kilt was to be the grey Douglas tartan as already worn by the Pipe Bands of these two Squadrons”.

Approval having now been granted, a kilt design was commissioned. This included not only the tartan but also the detail of the sporran, the centre of which was that of the Edinburgh Castle Crest while the five tassels were surmounted with the Glasgow coat of arms. The length of the gold flashes and design of the blue and white diced hose were very accurately specified. The full specifications can be seen below.

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force Kilt Dress Uniform
The late Fg Off Neil Pearson (603 Sqn), the late Lord Monro ( former HAC 2622 Sqn andHIG), the late
Lord Selkirk (former HAC 2 MHU / 603Sqn – and whose family Tartan is the Grey Douglas),
Gp Capt Bob Kemp (former OC 2 MHU / 603 Sqn, former Inspector RAuxAF and Foundation Trustee).


(Copied from 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron letter dated 28 June 1937

RGK & RTWM – Jan 20