6GR soldiers parade wearing Kilmarnock's with red touri in Hong Kong, 1986.

Gurkhas – Kilmarnock Hat Leave a comment

The Kilmarnock Hat was in widespread use by the British Army since 1811 in lieu of the cumbersome Shako. It was probably introduced for Gurkhas in the Honourable East India Company’s service in 1844 or 1845.

The Kilmarnock had quite a high (and floppy) top. Its direct descendent the Scottish Bonnet, Lowland, still has its floppy top which can be worn pulled down to one side like a beret. In Gurkha regiments it was worn more or less level, with the soft top upright above the stiff hat band and a touri (pom pom) on the top.

The Kilmarnock had very little to commend it when worn in the field. It neither gave protection from the burning sun nor the heavy monsoon rain.

Over the years, a number of modifications had been made to it both by the authorities and individual battalions. In 1864, the Adjutant-Generals’ Department in India had sanctioned khaki covers for wear on field service. Later a flap was hooked on to the cover at the back of the Kilmarnock to protect the neck from the sun.

When 4th Gurkhas went to China in 1900 following the Boxer Rebellion, a wired brim, narrow in front and wide at the back, was fitted over the Kilmarnock as protection from the sun.
The Kilmarnock cap appears to have fallen into abeyance after the First World War, but in 2nd Goorkhas it was reintroduced for Drill Order in 1927 and the soft type continued in use as parade wear until 1947.

Other Gurkha Regiments subsequently adopted a style similar to the pillbox cap for drill and ceremonial duties. In 1948, in Malaya, all Gurkha regiments were obliged to conform to the lower-sided hard pill-box cap with chinstrap which has been worn by the Brigade of Gurkhas since then.

The red touri worn by the RGR today was brought forward from 6GR.

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