As the sun sets on the Red Sea, the officers onboard HMCS Regina can be seen climbing the ladders to reach the bridge top. They are not wearing their naval combat dress and this is not to reach a better vantage point.
They are formally dressed to honour a naval tradition.
Upon reaching the top, the off-watch officers take a pause to soak in the sights, snap a photo and enjoy the setting sun. This does not seem normal for a group of tenacious and driven individuals deployed in a warship on operations in the midst of transitioning from one mission to another.
That is because this is not.
The officers of HMCS Regina are honouring the age old of a tradition of wearing Red Sea Rig while having the unique opportunity of sailing in the Red Sea.
This harkens back to the 1800s when the officers of the Royal Navy were expected to wear full appropriate uniforms (think mess kit) to all functions. When they reached the Red Sea, they soon discovered heat and humidity made this quite impractical. In an effort to avoid heatstroke, the officers were allowed to remove their jackets.
In the mid 1800s, when British Army personnel were stationed in India, cummerbunds were added, taking after the colourful East Indian kamarband, to enhance the informal look.
Over the years this formal dress was adopted by many navies and even some merchant mariners around the world for use in warmer climates at sea. Some navies even allow people to wear miniature medals, as with mess kit; not so much the case with the Royal Canadian Navy where the short sleeve shirt is kept void of any decoration but rank.
By 1920 the modern cummerbund was widely used with the pleats facing up to hold opera tickets for men whose tuxedos had no pockets. To add some colour to an otherwise predictable outfit, each branch in the CAF elected a different colour cummerbund.
“What makes the RCN and the CAF unique is the practice of traditions of our forefathers, taking those normal practices in the day of steam and sail and incorporating it into our present culture,” said Cdr Gordon Roy, ship’s Executive Officer and president of the Regina Wardroom. “These traditions add to our identity and are important to pass on to the next generation of sailors who will lead the Fleet in the next 10 to 20 years.”
Undoubtedly this will be a tradition that will be remembered, having actually been able to wear the traditional rig in the sea it was named after.
SLt Alex Duff, HMCS Regina
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