In an earlier chapter we quoted from Marryat a passage which showed that the mariners of a Revenue cutter were dressed in red flannel shirts and blue trousers, and also wore canvas or tarpaulin petticoats. The reason for the last-mentioned was appreciated by smuggler and Preventive men alike, and if you have ever noticed the Thames River Police dodging about in their small craft you will have noticed that at any rate the steersman has in cold weather some sort of apron wrapped round his legs. But in the period of which we are now speaking the attached apron or petticoat was very useful for keeping the body warm in all weather, especially when the sitter of the Preventive boat had to be rowed out perhaps in the teeth of a biting wind, for several miles at night. And the smugglers found their task of landing tubs through the surf a wet job, so they were equally glad of this additional protection.
The period to which Marryat referred was the end of the eighteenth century. As to the uniform of the Revenue officers we have the following evidence. Among the General Letters of the Customs Board was one dated June 26, 1804, from which it is seen that the commanders of the cruisers petitioned the Board for an alteration in their uniform and that also of the mates, this alteration to be made at the expense of the officers. The commanders suggested for their own dress:—
“A silver epaulette, the button-holes worked or bound with silver twist or lace, side-arms, and cocked hats with cockades, and the buttons set on the coat three and three, the breeches and waistcoats as usual:
“For the undress, the same as at present.
“For the mates, the addition of lappels, the buttons set on two and two, and cocked hats with cockades.”