Moustaches were popular amongst RAF pilots in World War II - and still remain popular today.
However, moustaches are forbidden within the USAF.
RAF Flight Lieutenant Chris Ball was ordered by an American general to trim his trademark 'tache during an exchange posting with the USAF.
However, Mr Ball referred to the Queen's Regulations and discovered that he had not breached RAF rules After an exchange of rules with the general, he was allowed to keep his moustache....
RAF fighter pilot in Afghanistan ordered to trim his handlebar moustache - because Americans say it's too long
By Andrew Levy
12th June 2008
RAF Flight Lieutenant Chris Ball shows off his handlebar moustache
More than 60 years after their Second World War heyday, moustaches remain popular among RAF fighter pilots.
And among the finest examples is the handlebar sported by Flight Lieutenant Chris Ball.
Measuring six inches from tip to tip, it is a source of pride that guarantees he is recognised wherever he goes.
But the facial hair hit some cultural turbulence during an exchange posting with the United States Air Force.
An American general told him it did not fit in with USAF regulations and ordered him to reduce it to a more manageable size.
Faced with having to trim his trademark, Flt Lt Ball referred to the Queen's Regulations and discovered he had not breached rules on the permitted size of an RAF moustache.
An 'exchange of views' with the general followed, after which he was allowed to keep his pride and joy.
"The yanks are not allowed to grow a full-length tash," he said yesterday.
"After I was told to trim mine down I had to dig out the Queen's Regulations to prove I was not breaching our own code."
The face-off took place after Flt Lt Ball, who normally flies Tornado GR4s from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, joined the USAF's 336 Fighter Squadron in February.
Although such exchanges are common, he was given the rare accolade of being invited to join live operations.
He is currently based in Bagram, 20 miles north of Kabul in Afghanistan, where he is flying an F-15 fighter targeting Taliban strongholds in the mountainous region bordering Pakistan.
Flight Lieutenant Chris Ball (left), seen here pre-moustache, with Mark Crawford
He and his U.S. navigator, Mark Crawford, also provide air support to troops on forward operating bases in the Hindu Kush.
Describing the missions, he said: "The rugged terrain is difficult with mountain peaks reaching 22,500ft above sea level.
"It's tough for the guys on the ground - during the day the temperatures can reach the high 40s, but at night they plummet to minus 20.
"The USAF has two planes in the air over the region 24/7. If anything happens on the ground, we are there fast.
"The F15 is awesome. I love the GR4 but this beast is about 50 per cent bigger and armed to the teeth. It is a truly phenomenal plane."
The Ministry of Defence yesterday said juggling the UK military regulations with those of foreign forces while on exchange postings could be 'tricky'.
A spokesman said: "In this case, simple things like the time to turn up to work and go home would come under the USAF.
"But attire, facial hair and discipline would follow RAF rules."
The Handlebar Club, based in London, said there had been similar cases including one involving a Californian policeman who was told his remove his handlebar moustache.
It led to a campaign with slogans such as "Don't Slash the Tash" before he won his case in court.
Vice President Rod Littlewood said: "It's absolutely wonderful to hear about someone getting one over on the jobsworths."
He added: "Moustaches are not very popular in the West today and only a very small percentage of people with them have handlebars.
"But round the world it is completely different. Indian police get paid more if they have one because they look more manly and in places like the Middle East it is a sign of masculinity.'
HISTORY OF MOUSTACHES
Famous moustache: King George V
- Shaving with stone razors was possible from neolithic times. The oldest portrait of a shaved man with moustache dates from 300 BC and shows a Scythian horseman.
- Moustaches eventually became popular in the military around the world. Lower ranks typically sported small, simple examples which would become more elaborate as they advanced through the ranks.
- One of the theories about how they became popular among RAF pilots is that many were so young, particularly during the heavy losses of the Second World War, that they grew them to make them look older.
- Handlebar moustaches, which are named after the handlebars of bicycles and motorbikes, take years to grow. The effect is usually achieved with moustache wax, although the shape can be a hereditary trait as well.
- Famous handlebar moustaches include those of Lord Kitchener, King George V and Joseph Stalin.
- The longest recorded moustache belongs to Bajansinh Juwansinh Gurjar of Ahmedabad, India. In 2004, after 22 years without a trim, it was measured at 12ft 6ins.
- Nicknames for moustaches include nose neighbour, trash stash, nose bug and mobile tea strainer.
- Abbreviations include stache, tache, tash and mo.