While the Highland Light Infantry was campaigning in 1900 to become a kilted regiment, serious questions were being asked as the suitability of the kilt for campaigning. Looking back, it is perhaps surprising that so many soldiers served on the Western Front during the First World War in kilts. The British Government had been ambivalent about kilts almost from the day the Black Watch paraded in them as the first Highland unit in the British Army in 1740. The early Highland regiments frequently found themselves in trousers when they served outside of Europe. During the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal in the early 1800s worn-out kilts were not replaced but made up into trews and when they wore out the Highland regiments were issued with standard grey trousers. The Black Watch went to Africa in 1873 in grey tweed jackets and trousers. Kilts were expensive items of uniform. But Whitehall was also aware that Victoria's kilted warriors had a certain mystique. It was decided the abolition of kilts for combat was a matter for the Scots, and the London Anglo-Scots, to sort out amongst themselves. Highland soldiers certainly showed they were willing to put up with a little discomfort if it meant retaining their kilts. But protracted frontline service during the Boer War of 1899-1902 brought the kilt question to the fore again. Soldiers from the Highland regiments had their legs torn to ribbons by thorns as they struggled through the South African bush chasing the Boers. Even worse, the backs of their legs were burned to a painful crisp if they had to lie out in the sun under fire for any length of time. Khaki aprons issued to hide their dark tartans, literary a dead giveaway for Boer marksmen, often ended up half way up a Highlander's back when he threw himself to the ground during a battle. One solution, suggested by one of the Times's correspondents, was for khaki kilts work over khaki stockings which could be pulled up to the thigh when required for protection from sun and/or thorns. Lieutenant Bertrand Lang of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders wore black women's stockings when he went into action in 1899, long before the Times's man contributed his tuppence ha'penny to the debate. The pleats on the kilts were traps for lice and when sodden wet the hems could cut deep into flesh if worn for prolonged periods. An attempt to introduce a standard khaki kilt in the early days of the First World War foundered on bitter opposition from the Highland regiments and at the start of the Second World War the War Office spent £150,000 on 40,000 new kilts. The 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were issued with pink bloomers to wear under their kilts as protection against mustard gas in 1939. But a civil servant, as far as I know never named, with a stroke of the pen cut through the Gordian knot that was a Kilt Question. When the British Expeditionary Force returned from France in 1940 trousers became the order of day for the Highland regiments and kilts were reserved for very special occasions. A few die-hard officers and some pipers became the only men on the battlefield in kilts.