Today is day three looking at the kit and equipment of Tommy Atkins and we will now be looking at the civilian volunteers who signed up in the initial rush as war was declared in 1914, The New army , The Kitchener volunteers.
By mid 1916 most battalions of volunteers had already served 9-12 months on the Western Front.
Some had even fought in major battles like Loos, however most were going to cut their teeth in the big push.
The Somme offensive was about to start.
Here we see the typical uniform and equipment of a member of the 10th Battalion, The Essex Regiment.
The 10th Essex arrived in France in July 1915
and we’re soon in action in the Somme valley at places such as La Boiselle.
They were part of 53rd Brigade which in itself was part of 18th (Eastern) Division, one of the most successful divisions on the Western Front.
Here we see the kind of equipment issued to a soldier of the 10th Essex just prior to the start of the battle of the Somme.
The Kitchener volunteers started to look quite different to the soldiers of 1914 and 1915 with the introduction of the steel helmet and economy measures in place with uniforms and equipment.
Many Kitchener battalions wore the 1914 pattern emergency leather equipment rather than the 1908 pattern webbing equipment worn by pre war regulars and the Territorial Force.
Although initially designed for use only in training it was worn on the Western front by many battalions and was hated by the men who would often exchange it for the 1908 equipment as soon as they could.
Here we see the Economy pattern jacket correctly badged to a Colour Serjeant of the 10th Essex.
The economy pattern introduced in late 1914 dispensed with the rifle patches on the shoulders, the top pockets were larger with no pleat and the back was made from one piece of material rather than three pieces as seen on the standard 02 Service Dress.
The boots are the newer B5 pattern which started to replace the earlier B2’s from May 1915.
Here we can see the leather sling with a .303 round inserted to stop the leather slipping when wet.
It was introduced almost as soon as the war started and is sometimes incorrectly called the 14 pattern although it is not part of the 1914 pattern Emergency Leather equipment.
The steel helmet was introduced into service in late 1915 and was initially Trench stores, only being issued to soldiers who required extra protection such as sentry’s peering into No Mans land.
When first issued head injuries increased as soldiers believed they were bullet proof, however once educated head injuries decreased by 80%.
By the start of the battle of the Somme all soldiers were issued a steel helmet as standard.
Next to it is the soft cap issued at the same time to replace the 1905 SD cap and the Winter service dress cap. Rather than a stiff peak, the peak had rows of stitching to give strength but enable the cap to be folded and placed in a pack or pocket.
Also seen are various bottles of sauces and liquid coffee as could be bought from canteens such as the YMCA behind the lines.
The difference between the B5 and B2 boot can be clearly seen by the side profile and can be compared to the B2 in my 1914 tutorial.
Most soldiers who went over the top on the Somme were issued 220 rounds of ammunition, 120 rounds in their equipment and two bandoliers containing 50 rounds each, this was the same whether soldiers wore the 1908 or 1914 pattern equipmen.
Also seen beside the bayonet is a set of wire cutters attached to the leather equipment via its leather carrying pouch.
The Economy dismounted soldiers greatcoat was issued from December 1914 and omitted the rifle patches, the turn back cuffs and ticket pocket of the 1909 pattern greatcoat seen in my 1914 tutorial.
On top we can see the PH “Tube” gas helmet as issued from September 1915.
It gave greater protection from Phosgene gas than the earlier Hypo “Smoke” helmet and by July 1st 1916 every soldier carried two.
The PH hood had to be kept moist so was issued in a waterproof wallet with a satchel to carry it on the person.
Here we have two early rimless shrapnel helmets with on the left, Leopold Brodie’s patented helmet liner and two piece chinstrap, in this configuration it was to be known as the War Office Pattern and on the right the modified liner and one piece chinstrap introduced to replace Brodie’s original liner in 1916.
Although commonly nicknamed a Brodie helmet, it is only the liner that Brodie designed, not the helmet itself, so technically the helmet on the right is not a Brodie but a Mk 1 steel shrapnel helmet.
Many soldiers carried picks and shovels when they went over the top. One of the biggest problems with capturing an enemy trench is once you have control the enemy are behind you so the Parapet and Parados need reversing to give ample protection.
Lastly we have a First field dressing, originally introduced in 1911 it contained two gauze bandages and was intended to be used on the entry and exit wounds caused by gunshot.
It was forbidden to be used on anyone other than the person carrying it and was to be carried in it’s own pocket sewn into the skirt of the jacket.
In early 1916 an Iodene ampoule was also issued to be carried in the same pocket.
Showing how to carry the bandolier in the 14 pattern ammunition pouch.
Each pouch carried 60 rounds, 50 in the bandolier and 10 in the separate pocket at the rear.