Who’d have thought a beard or your little lip sweater could make so much difference?
Well it turns out there’s only one position within the British army allowed to have one on show while on parade.
The Pioneer Sergeant has existed since the 1700s and the tradition began when every British infantry company had one ‘pioneer’ who would march in front of the regiment.
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According to Forces Network, the Pioneer Sergeant would wear a ‘stout’ apron, which protected his uniform whilst he was performing his duties, and carry an axe to clear the path for anyone following behind.
It was also the Pioneer Sergeant’s duty to kill horses that had been wounded in battle – often having to cut off one of the stricken horse’s legs so its rider could receive a new animal – each horse had a number branded on its hoof to prevent false claims, in case anyone sold their animal.
Pioneers were traditionally the largest, strongest and most imposing members of the company and used to carry tools such as swords, pickaxes, billhooks and shovels.
However, beacause the pioneer sergeant also acted as the blacksmith for the unit, as a result, he was allowed a beard to protect his face from the heat of the forge.
Nowadays the Pioneer Sergeant is usually responsible for carpentry, joinery and similar types of work and in modern parades, will still wear the traditional aprons and axes, in place of their bayonet.
As always, there are exceptions to the rule – other Army members can sport a beard in certain circumstances.
Soldiers can grow a beard for medical reasons, for example in the case of a temporary skin irritation, or for religious reasons – in the Sikh religion it is prohibited to cut your hair.
Members of the Special Forces may also wear beards when behind enemy lines or on covert intelligence operations.
Yet other branches of the Armed Forces have different attitudes towards facial hair – in the Royal Navy, full beards have always been allowed as long as permission is sought and granted, whereas moustaches are forbidden, despite them being allowed in the RAF, Army and Royal Marines.
Navy members should then keep their beard, once approved, for at least six months.
Members of the RAF, on the other hand, may not have beards in any circumstances – unless they are Sikh.
Moustaches may be worn, but only on the condition it doesn’t extend below the edge of the mouth – so no handlebars if you were wondering.
Anyway, I’m running late,…moustache! *Hangs head in shame*