14 MARCH 1958, Page 6

I SEE THAT THE Secretary of State for War feels

that battle dress, though it has served its pur- pose in time of war, is not enough; it is time the soldier had something more elegant to wear. Mr. Soames thinks that a smart khaki walking- out dress is the best solution—better, he feels, than the blue patrol dress; and during the next few months trials of different types of uniform will be made. But is a walking-out uniform really necessary? I should have thought the sensible thing today was to give all soldiers—not just the chair-bound Whitehall warriors—the opportunity to wear what clothes they ,like when they are off duty. There are two opposed schools of thought on the subject of how to attract and keep recruits : one arguing that you must make the Forces' life distinctive and vocational; the other, that it should be as far as possible civilianised, so that soldiers feel they are doing a job of work like the next man—and are as free (within common-sense limits) as the next man to spend their off-duty time as they wish. Naturally, there are considerable limits to the degree of civilianisation (if the term may be forgiven) possible; but my own belief is that it is the better, as well as being much the cheaper, Way; and I am surprised that the army authorities should be encouraged to spend what will have to be large sums of money on developing a new uniform at this stage.