Published 1917 Issue RFC Flying Undercoat with Provenance
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About this item
A rare 1917 Issue Sheepskin Undercoat for wear under the long tan leather RFC Flying Coat on operations, this example e once being in my own collection.
Described officially in the 1917 RFC Equipment List as “Coats, fur lining” these RFC Flying Undercoats appear to have been manufactured at Squadron level in France from recycled damaged RFC Fug Boots. This economic re-use of the special sheepskin making perfect sense given that by 1917 many of the oversized issue Fug Boots had been cut down to a more practical knee level for operations in any event.
In WW2 the RAF would do a similar thing when it recycled defunct Irvin Flying Trousers to turn them into Jackets.
As one would expect the Flying Undercoat is constructed from various sized patches of the Fug Boot sheepskin. At the neck there are two cloth loops made from recycled RFC issue puttee tape, these to secure the undercoat to buttons sewn to order in that position in the Flying Coat’s lining.
Further down the body at various positions are small brass hooks sewn in to secure it to the Flying Coat lining. These small hooks are this time recycled from those used on issue RFC side-caps.
This particular Flying Undercoat was issued to 2nd Lieutenant Frederick William Chester who joined the RFC in 1917. He flew with 206 and 27 Squadrons on the Western Front until he was wounded in 1918. During his service 2nd Lt.Chester ostensibly shot down three enemy aircraft and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
In November 1980 Chester took part in a school project during which some of his reminiscences were recorded. Included in this sale is a photo of the transcript of that 1980 recording. Most importantly, one can see Chester mentions his Squadron wearing such Sheepskin Undercoats beneath their Leather Coats when flying.
Also included in the sale will be copies of Chester’s service record. His Cuff Rank Tunic is being sold in a separate listing.
This actual Undercoat is published in Mark Hillier’s excellent Royal Flying Corps Kitbag book at page 82.
A rare but important piece of RFC operational flying kit, perhaps a unique survivor.