When I published an earlier blog post on Military Moustaches, one friend commented that it seemed incomplete. Perhaps Major Edwards felt the same way, for he revisited the topic in his 1954 volume "Military Customs" and expanded on it.
By Major T.J. Edward, M.B.E., F.R.Hist.S.
Fourth Edition, 1954, Gale & Polden, Ltd., Aldershot
On the catalogue of facial ornaments the "military moustache" has a definite place. Unlike the "Charlie Chaplin," however, it did not suddenly spring into existence, but has come down to us through a hundred and fifty years of change. The original purpose of the moustache was to give the warrior a ferocious appearance and with this intention they were first worn by Hungarian Hussars of the eighteenth century. These moustaches appear to have been of the ragged, bristling, "walrus" type, and in their native, unkempt state needed little encouragement to add an element of frightfulness to an already fierce expression. So effective were these moustaches in daunting the foe that when hussars were introduced into the French Army, every hussar had to cultivate one. If an unfortunate hussar could not raise any hair at all, or could only manage something below the recognized "oﬀensive" standard, he had to paint one on his face, usually with blacking. Apropos this, Baron de Marbot, the well-known French military writer of the last century, tells us in his memoirs that this practice proved very unpleasant in hot weather, because the sun would dry up the moisture in the blacking and this drew up the skin in a painful manner. Marbot also records that the French General Macard used to say, "Look here!, I'm going to dress like a beast," and forthwith stripped oﬀ as much clothing as possible and went into battle showing a shaggy head, face and body.
This facial ornament has a real significance in the French Army; in fact the nickname for a French soldier is "Poilu," which means a so1dier who has let his beard, and presumably his moustache, grow. As French soldiers did not shave on campaigns, a "beaver" plus "walrus" was an obvious indication that the wearer had just "returned from the wars." The British soldier of Peninsular and Waterloo days scraped his upper lip, but immediately after that campaign, moustaches began to appear in the British ranks, no doubt due to contact with continental troops in Paris during the occupation. In the early part of the last century there seems to have been some uncertainty about the orders governing the wearing of moustaches, as shown by the following Memorandum of 11th February, 1828, from the Adjutant-General (Sir Henry Torrens), reproduced in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. XXII, p. 305:–
"The practice of wearing moustachios is now growing into very genera1 extent throughout the Service. There never was any precise Order or Regulation under which this habit was permitted, even in the Hussars. But a kind of understanding has existed, that it was tolerated by the permission of authority, in that description of Force. Mustachios have been adopted in the Lancer Corps and gradually throughout all the Regiments of Dragoons. I do not believe that any Regiment of Cavalry is now without them. This practice is extending to the Infantry. When I was in Dublin four years ago, it was attempted by the 23rd Fusiliers, and by my interference was put down. But that corps shortly afterwards embarked for Gibraltar, and it immediately adopted mustachios, from having found some Corps in that Garrison wearing it. Since then I have understood that the practice is general in that Garrison. The 7th Fusiliers wear the mustachios. It was adopted in the Rifle Brigade, and I believe in a great many other Corps in the Mediterranean without orders or authority. It is un-English and a hindrance to recruiting."
In 1830, however, an order was issued forbidding the growing of moustachios except by Household Cavalry and Hussars. This order was published on 2nd August, 1830, and on the 29th of the same month the Officer commanding the 2nd or Royal North British Dragoons (now The Royal Scots Greys) submitted a request to Lord Hill, the Commander-in-Chief, for permission for his regiment to continue the wearing of moustaches. There is quiet humour in the Adjutant-General's reply, dated Horse Guards, 27th August, 1830, for one paragraph reads:–
"Lord Hill is persuaded that the distinguished character of the Royal North British Dragoons can derive no additional weight from the wearing of moustachios."
From a postscript to the letter of the Adjutant-General it Iooks as though Lord Hill had been turning the matter over in his mind, for we find:–
"P.S.-Could the moustachio have been considered in any way a National Distinction, Lord Hill might have been induced to recommend the continuance of it by the Royal North British Dragoons, hut as the case is quite the contrary, his Lordship sees no ground on which he could approach His Majesty on the subject."
After that The Greys had to scrape their upper lips. In 1839, however, they renewed their request, but Lord Hill was still Commander-in-Chief and John MacDonald was still Adjutant-General, and the answer was the same as nine years previously.
With the coming of the Crimean War in 1854, the wearing of moustaches became optional. The Horse Guards Circular Memorandum dated 21st July, 1854, on this point reads:–
"A large part of the Army being employed in Turkey, where it has been found beneficial to keep the upper lip unshaven and allow the moustache to grow, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief is pleased to authorize the practice in the army generally The wearing of the moustache is to be optional with all ranks."
During the Great War of 1914-1918 the wearing of the moustache was also made optional, as it is at present 
1695. The forage cap will not be worn with service dress, unless specifically ordered as a distinguishing mark between opposing forces. Forage and service dress caps will be placed evenly on the head. The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and under-lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip. Whiskers, if worn, will be of moderate length.