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The Romance of Khaki

One of the distinctive features of La Martiniere College, Lucknow is the College uniform, worn by its pupils in summer. Khaki is ubiquitous and associated exclusively with the boys of this College. Khaki uniform was introduced at La Martiniere College following the events of 1857. Its use is attributed to the pivotal, though controversial character, in the events of the sacking of Lucknow in 1857- Brevet Major W. S. R. Hodson who lies buried on La Martiniere estate.
Khaki, as a colour and material for uniform was first worn by the Corps of Guides that was raised in December 1846 as the brain-child of Sir Henry Lawrence, who later served as the British Resident at Lucknow during the events of 1857. Lawrence chose Sir Harry Lumsden as the Commandant of the Corps and William Stephen Raikes Hodson as its adjutant and second-in-command to begin the process of raising the Corps of Guides.
Significantly, Hodson was given the task of designing the uniform and clothing the men. This was years before it became the uniform of the British Army. In May 1848 he liaised with his brother Rev. George Hodson, in England, to send the cloth, rifles and Prussian-style helmets required for his men. With Lumsden’s approval, Hodson decided upon a lightweight uniform of Khaki colour – or ‘drab’ as it was then referred to. This would be comfortable to wear and ‘make them invisible in a land of dust’. As a result Hodson and Lumsden have the joint distinction of being the first officers to equip a regiment dressed in Khaki, which many view as the precursor of modern camouflage uniform.
For years, the tailoring of khaki uniform for the pupils of the College followed the pattern of the uniform used by Hodson’s troops. This included the Prussian-style helmets which were gradually replaced by cane helmets and solar-topis. Changes in style were introduced closer to the Second World War. The military character of the College was gradually being replaced as a College for gentlemen. Neckties were introduced and the cumbersome solar-topis were abandoned.
The colour of the uniform remains unchanged. There are changes in design to accommodate modern tailoring patterns. Absorbent, cellular cotton cloth has now been replaced by the easier to maintain terrycot. Khaki uniform continues proudly worn by all boys.
A recent tradition is for the school leaving class to autograph the uniform of batch-mates and to include personalised messages in nostalgic memory.