First time I've heard that. AIUI the first armoured people to use berets were the Royal Tank Regiment, officially from 1924. That was sixteen years before British Commando and Airborne Forces adopted the beret as a badge of "elite" status, IIRC. I don't think elite had anything to do with the RTR adoption of the black beret either.
Why'd those Elite units pick berets?
I've seen that the folks in the RAC/RTR/Armoured forces were generally referred to as elite because they not only had to fight, but also navigate AND be capable with mechanical beasts and wireless sets. Basically, in a nation that was still moving a lot of things around with horses, anyone who knew one end of an internal combustion engine from another and could take it apart and fix it was considered a cut above. I don't know how much of that is the Armoured Forces folks tooting their own horns or not but it works in a manner of speaking.
Apparently Elles and Fuller were billeted near some French Chasseurs Alpines in 1918, who wore outsized berets and Elles decided it was a practical form of headgear for clambering around tanks; black was chosen because it didn't show oil stains. See here: http://www.1rtr.net/blackberet.html
Yep. And another practical consideration is that headsets work over a beret neatly whereas the peaked caps of the time didn't work at all. So you could have your head cover on while still doing wireless and intercom stuff. It also works well when you've got your forehead pressed up against an episcope or protected vision slit. Peaked caps, not so much.
Interestingly, we have a photo in one of our member's collection of books what shows an RSM from a recce unit who's wearing the BLACK coveralls in the '44 time period and a tan beret while everyone else in the unit is wearing Green denim summer tanker coveralls and black berets. The Black tanker coveralls being deemed to be TOO Germanish early in the war.
Edited by rmgill, 22 August 2008 - 1446 PM.