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Soldier On : The Future of War

March 19, 2015 17 Minutes

The Soldier's Kit through the Ages

Warfare is constantly changing, but with the exponential advancements in modern technology, it's changing at a staggering rate. One wonders how on Earth the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan had as many causalities as they did, fighting such a pre historic enemy when compared to the technology they had at their disposal (but of course, there are endless factors that none of us would be aware of, however the disparity of weaponry and tech at hand is hard to dispute). 

Now Revision, based in Vermont, have been developing innovative capabilities for integrated, performance enhancing soldier systems. Check out their video below.

So in that light, let's take a look at the military kits through the ages, courtesy of the Telegraph UK.

Military kit through the ages: from the Battle of Hastings to Helmand

From the crude weaponry and armour of the Battle of Hastings, to the high-tech kit of modern conflict, a new photographic survey explores the personal equipment carried by the common British soldier through the past 1,000 years

1916 private soldier, Battle of the Somme (above)

1 Hob nail boots

2 Puttees (for binding trousers around lower legs)

3 Socks

4 Shirt and vest

5 Gas mask container

6 Gas mask

7 Non Commissioned ranks hat

8 Notebook and service warrant card

9 Battledress tunic – note stripes on sleeve denote rank

10 Mess tins

11 Tin opener and can of food, appears to be tinned stewed apple

12 Oxo cubes

13 Bar of chocolate

14 Bar of soap

15 Water flask

16 Belt

17 Leather belt with leather pouches for kit

18 Haversack

19 Longjohn under garments, battledress trousers and braces

20 Boot polish and two brushes

21 Blankets

22 Dog tags – imprinted with name, rank and service number

23 Trench club – for breaking heavy ground for trenching into and for fighting the enemy at close quarters

24 Entrenching tool handle; often the handle was customised with lumps of metal and made into a trench club

25 Leather pouch for entrenching tool

26 Field dressing

27 Cigarettes and matches

28 Mess kit containing knife, fork spoon, shaving brush, soap and brass button polisher (slid underneath battledress button to protect BD from polish)

29 Polish

30 Razor

31 Gun oil

32 Cloth for pull-through for cleaning barrels internally

33 Bullet

34 Ammunition belt, containing clips of bullets

35 Penknife and pull through cord

36 Entrenching tool spade; sometimes soldiers sharpened the edges of the spade and used these to fight

37 Lee Enfield 303 bolt action rifle. It was developed at the beginning of the twentieth century as an attempt to create a standard rifle for both the infantry and soldiers on horseback. As it turned out it was ideally suited to conditions in the trenches – it wasn’t good at firing over long distances, but was really robust and could stand up to the mud. It was still used right up into the 1950s.

38 Bayonet – to be attached to fore end of rifle

39 Helmet – with cover

40 Fob watch, personal effects. Officers tended to have pocket watches more so than infantry soldiers

41 Coins – possibly local francs or similar, personal effects

42 Scabbard for bayonet, worn on leather belt around waist over hip

43 5 round ammunition clips – ready to load magazine of 303 rifle 1944 lance corporal, Parachute Brigade, Battle of Arnhem


1244 mounted knight, Siege of Jerusalem

1 Gonfanon – a banner that was used after the Norman conquest and displayed on the end of a spear or flag pole

2 Kettle helmet - broad brimmed with lots of ventilation and good visibility

3 Helmet with a curved face plate, which came into use after the Siege of Antioch, which took place during the First Crusade in 1097 and 1098

4 Sword belt

5 Shield with a flat top

6 Necklace

7 White cloth with a snip for cutting small items, a leather box of needles and a roll of thread fire steel a flint and tinder for starting a fire

8 Wooden bowl and cup, ceramic cup and a wooden spoon

9 Knife and sheaf for cutting food. There were no forks in this time period – people used spoons to eat soup or porridge, and a knife to eat meat

10 Water bottle made of leather and soaked in pitch

11 Script bag

12 Leather boots– finished just below the calf with the laces wrapped around boots

13 Gauntlet – leather gloves

14 Linen Shirt

15 Socks – made using the technique nålebinding, where long lengths of wool are woven into long thin braids, starting at toe

16 Battle dress – red tunic worn next to the body; linen canvus padded jacket, chaine maille and blue and yellow surcoat

17 Belt – made using the technique of tablet weaving, a very archaic form of weaving

18 Rosary beads

19 Belt

20 Woollen cloak shaped like semi circle - waterproof and wind proof and used for travelling

21 Glaive - a new invention for the time, the weapon was originally made from a broken sword with a new piece of wood welded on

22 Sword

23 Dagger

24 Crescent-shaped axe

25 Flanged mace

26 Thigh-length, sleeveless leather vest, which buckled down back and had metal plates inside. This was top of the range body armour for the period

28 Maille to cover the legs and linen covering that went to the mid thigh - in this time period trousers don’t yet exist so the pieces of material covering the leg and groin are two different pieces

27 Straps to attach maille legs


1485 Yorkist man-at-arms, Battle of Bosworth

1 Long boots

2 Hat with a pewter badge for civilian wear

3 Sallet helmet that protected the face

4 Gorget

5 & 6 Paldrons – to protect the shoulder; the left one is bigger because the left side was the defensive side

7 Bevor

8 Pouch

9 Belt

10 Coist – worn underneath the hat to absorb sweat and keep hair back

11 Left arm armour – this was heavier as it was the defensive side.

12 Black cloak – worn over civilian clothing

13 Hourglass gauntlet to protect the hand

14 Ring

15 Rosary beads

16 Money pouch

17 Sabatons – to go over long boots and protect the foot; first piece of armour to go on

18 Tassets – hang from the breast plate to protect upper part of leg

19 Back plate, covered in Duke of Norfolk’s colours

20 Breast plate

21 Cuisse covers the upper part of the leg and greave on the lower. Big wing shaped section covered the back of the joint to stop soldiers being cut behind the knees

22 Right arm made of three pieces - the upper cannon, lower cannon and coulter for the elbow; right hourglass gauntlet

23 Belt for sword scabbard

24 Hand and heart sword with a fishtail pummel – can use it with one or two hands; the sword would have a maker’s mark on the blade

25 Dagger

26 Scabbard for dagger

27 Arming jack with maille sleeves

28 Belt

29 Wooden comb

30 White linen shirt

31 Doublet with folds, indicated a high status; civilian wear. The black garment is hose with a codpiece

32 Pewter spoon, silver handled knife, pewter goblet, wooden bowl and plate

33 Case for knife

34 Scabbard for sword

35 Poleax – someone on foot would use that – smash people’s heads, bend arm so they can’t fight back. Big point at front – hammer part for banging heads


1588 trainband caliverman, Tilbury

1 Black woollen doublet with a leather jerkin over the top; the black cloth indicated relative wealth of the soldier

2 Venetian hose

3 Petticoat – holds the trousers up (comes from the word little coat)

4 Ruff

5 White braes – underpants- and white linen shift

6 Cabaset (helmet) with a broad rim which provided good cover to face and back of neck. The helmet has cheek pieces that fold down.

7 Copintank felt hat with African imported ostrich feathers

8 Shoes

9 Gloves

10 Piece of horn

11 Costrel – water bottle

12 Scabbards

13 Drinking tankard and earthenware pot; the stated rations for army facing Armada was two pounds of beef, two pounds of bread, a pound cheese and eight pints of beer

14 Knife and pricker – forks weren’t in wide use, although Elizabeth I was using one

15 Bowl and spoon

16 Grey woollen bag with playing cards, dice and pouch

17 Rapier

18 Side sword

19 Sword belt and pouch; hanging below is a chain with a pricker and brush for cleaning the gun

20 Powder flask for priming powder – to set the gun off with

21 Powder flask for coarser powder that would go down the barrel of the gun

22 Brown pouch with a pocket gold sundial; the mirror was attached to a cord and encased in a walnut-wood ball, stuffed with sweet-smelling herbs. Usually worn around the neck

23 Fire lighting kit including flint and striker and tinder

24 Yard of match – the cord that burns to give fire to the gun

26 Worm – for clearing blockages

27 Ramrod

28 Bag of 20 caliver lead balls

29 Caliver - before Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1559 gunsmiths around the country would make the muskets used in battle to their own specifications. The new queen insisted on standardisation, and so the 20-bore caliver was introduced

30 Money bag with gold coins


1645 New Model Army musketeer, Battle of Naseby

1 Latchet shoes - straight lasted shoes, i.e. no left or right foot

2 Stockings

3 Linen shirt and a pair of breeches

4 brown doublet; these would be the soldiers own clothes

5 Red coat issued by the New Model Army (NMA). The NMA was the first to try and standardise equipment and equip its soldiers with a standard coat. Red was the cheapest dye you could get, apart from natural grey which the Scots army had already adopted

6 Powder flask with spare gunpowder

7 Belt with bandoliers – each have a measured amount of gunpowder in

8 Satchel

9 & 10 Dagger with its sheath

11 Whetstone and to it’s left, a picker, which clears the touchhole in the musket in case of blockages

12 Matchlock Musket, which used a slow match to fire the main charge. The barrel was four feet long and fired a lead ball weighing 1/12th of a pound

13 & 14 Cards and some dice - although this was a religious army, the men still liked to play games and gamble

15 Very fine comb used for removing nits from hair

16 Lump of animal fat soap

17 Belt

18 Woollen leg ties to hold stockings up

19 Smoking pipes made from clay; tobacco was expensive, so the bowls of the pipes are very small

20 Letter from home - the army operated a fairly regular postal service to the major towns – and news-sheet (early newspaper)

21 bag for tobacco

22 metal striker and flint

23 Knife and fork - forks were a reasonably new invention and were just starting to work their way down the social scale. At the time they only had two prongs

24 Spoon

25 Drinking vessel made from horn

26 Wooden bowl

27 Leather flask lined with pitch

28 Felted woollen hat, the paper in the hat band is a religious tract. A lot of the soldiers of the New model Army were from the "low church" tradition, where sermons are the central feature of the service. Levels of literacy were quite high from soldiers recruited from London and the major towns and they would buy published sermons to read, as well as other works explaining the passages from the bible and news-sheets which were printed weekly and gave news of the war

29 Tuck – soldier’s sword


1815 private soldier, Battle of Waterloo

1 1812 pattern Belgic Shako as worn by a centre company soldier of the Coldstream Guards during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It has white worsted woollen cap cords and tassels, a brass cap plate bearing a Coldstream star in the centre, a black leather cockade worn on the left hand side red and white feathered plume to indicate that the wearer is from a centre company. If the soldier was from the Grenadier Company he would wear a white plume and from the Light Company a Green plume

2 Fingerless woollen gloves

3 Soldiers red short coat bearing the rank of Corporal, it was lined with course linen and had Royal Blue facings, white worsted lace pewter buttons in two's as is the custom for the Coldstream Guards.

4 Black linen stock and leather stock worn around the neck

5 White waistcoat jacket, which had thinner sleeves than the body and would be worn under the red short coat or on its own for fatigue or off duty wear around the camp.

6 Linen shirts and under garments

7 Black painted canvas knapsack which contained all the soldiers personal equipment and possessions when on campaign, it bears the Star of the Garter with the words Coldstream Guards in the centre scroll. On the top is a rolled Greatcoat and mess tins held in place by pipeclayed buff leather straps

8 Leather cartridge box which contained 60 rounds of pre-packed ball cartridge ammunition, it has a Coldstream Guards star fitted to it and was carried on the right hip by a pipeclayed buff leather shoulder belt. Also visible is the bayonet scabbard and crossbelt worn on the left side

9 Wooden bowl containing a day’s ration of salted beef, rations would be carried in the linen haversack

10 Pewter mug

11 Hard tack biscuits and cheese, carried in the linen haversack

12 Knife, fork and spoon kept in a linen bag and a day’s ration of bread

13 Linen haversack worn on the left hip

14 Soldier's games, draughts and a board made from a piece of tent canvas, a pack of cards and a wooden yo-yo

15 Grey woollen gaiters, with leather foot straps and pewter buttons

16 Woollen socks

17 Brass sundial compass

18 Straight lasted shoes. The leather was rough side out and as they were straight lasted there was no right or left shoe; soldiers were expected to swop them around to prevent excessive wear on one side

19 Leather pouch, containing coins, dice made from flattened musket balls

20 Pocket watch on a length of woven binding

21 Wooden water canteen on a leather strap worn on the left hip

22 Washing and shaving kit

23 Small mirror in a stout wooden frame

24 Bone hair comb and bone handled toothbrush with horsehair bristles

25 Clothes pegs

26 & 27 Greased paper containing ‘black ball’, a mixture of tallow, beeswax and soot, used to polish and help waterproof shoes and cartridge box.

28 Horse hair boot brushes and bristle cloths brush

29 Wooden button stick, used to polish buttons and prevent clothing being stained in the process

30 Tin containing finely ground brick dust, which was mixed with olive oil and used as a metal polish

31 Small bristle scrubbing brush

32 Sewing kit, containing linen and sinew thread, spare buttons, wooden thimble, wooden needle case and scissors

33 Fife, a small, high-pitched instrument, similar to the piccolo

34 Wooden cartridge block used to store ammunition

35 Tin container stored below the wooden block, used to store additional packs of ammunition and spare musket flints

36, 37 & 38. Flint, steel and tinder contained in a brass case and used to light fires

39 Tin container for gun oil

40 Gun tool and worm used to strip and reassemble the Brown Bess musket for cleaning and repair, it was a simple device made up of two screwdriver heads and pointed needle used to push out the metal pins holding the barrel to the stock, screwed onto the pin is a worm which could be screwed on to the ramrod and was used to help remove cleaning cloth or unfired charges from the barrel

41 Feather spring clamp, used to remove the frizzen from the lock

42 Ramrod puller, used to remove a ramrod stuck in the barrel or stock

43 Musket flint with a scrap of notched leather and a piece of notched lead either of which would be placed around the flint and then helped secure the flint in the hammer

44 Canvas case containing spare flints, stored in the cartridge box tin

45 Leather lock stall, used to place over the frizzen to protect it and prevent accidental sparking that could fire the weapon

46 17" triangular socket bayonet which fitted onto the musket, the same fitting method was subsequently used for the modern electric light

47 Soldiers pen knife

48 Reading glasses

49 1807 British Army drill regulations and leather covered notebook

50 Brown Bess musket was in service from 1722 to 1838 - some were even shipped to the Crimea in 1854. It weighed 4.8kg and was made up of three component parts the lock, stock and barrel. It had an effective range of 100 meters but was capable of firing to 250 meters. It fired a .75 musket ball made of lead, which was contained as part of a paper tube made from Cartridge Grade paper which contained gunpowder. The soldier would remove the cartridge from the cartridge box, bite off the end to release the powder, pour a small amount into the pan and the rest down the barrel. The now empty cartridge still attached to the musket ball would then be placed into the barrel as wadding and the ramrod used to ram it down. The musket would be cocked and was then ready to fire. When the trigger was pulled the hammer containing the flint would strike the frizzen, causing sparks to ignite the gunpowder in the pan and pass through the touch hole to ignite the main charge and fire the musket ball. A well drilled soldier was capable of firing 4 shots a minute


1944 lance corporal, Parachute Brigade, Battle of Arnhem

1 Parachute harness with parachute

2 Jump smock camouflage first issued in 1942 (the pattern was only replaced in 1980) and over smock worn when jumping

3 Toggle rope – general purpose rope

4 37 pattern battledress jacket; the patches on sleeve are for the 1st and 6th airborne division; wrist watch on the right sleeve; dog tags on the left sleeve

6 Braces

7 Gators

8 Socks

9 Standard British army issued boots

10 Gloves

11 Leather wallet

12 Camouflage scarf

13 Battledress trousers, colourless shirt, undervest and underpants

14 Aluminium mess tin, mug, water bottle and ration kit including tin of corn beef, boiled sweets and a large block of chocolate

15 Drop bag with rope attached

16 Shovel – kept in the drop bag

17 Cutlery, basic washing and shaving kit, and spare boot laces on a wash towel

18 Entrenching tool – for digging shell scrapings

19 Handle for the entrenching tool

20 Ammunition pouches

21 Belt and cross straps

22 Rifle – the Sten Mark V submachine gun was first issued in 1944 and given first to airborne troops. It was first used for D-Day, and then again for Arnhem. Underneath is the cleaning kit

23 Bayonet

24 pocket loading tool for magazine

25 Magazine

26 Bandolier with seven magazines

27 Cigarettes, matches and playing cards

28 Gas mask bag

29 Two grenades – the no 36 Mills grenade was used in the First World War and the No 69 Bakelite, which was in service from 1942 and caused less collateral damage

30 Fairbairn and Sykes fighting knife – used as a general tool – and it’s sheaf

31 Large roll gas cape

32 Gas mask – the light pack gas mask was issued from 1943-1960

33 Anti gas ointment

34 Anti gas hood

35 Eye shield for gas attack

36 Groundsheet (underneath) with a sewing kit and thimble on top

37 Maroon airborne forces beret with a parachute regiment cap badge

38 Torch

39 First aid dressing

40 Helmet – Mark II parachuting helmet issued in 1942 with a leather chin strap


1982 Royal Marine Commando, Falklands conflict

1 High leg boots; the marines were the only service personnel to have high leg boots, the army had ankle-high boots

2 Black nuclear biological chemical (NBC) protective over boots

3 Putty– a long strip fabric wrapped around trouser leg and three pairs of socks

4 Arctic pattern mittens with waterproof outers

5 Two pairs of gloves – Northern Ireland standard issue black leather gloves and white cotton contact gloves for handling weapons in arctic conditions

6 Vests, underpants and standard issue G10 wristwatch

7 Personal items including money, cigarettes and lighter

8 Arctic parka with hood

9 Thermal lining jacket

10 Camouflage windproof trousers, green thermal trousers and ‘housewife’, a canvas pouch with spare buttons and needle and thread to repair clothes in the field

11 White lightweight nylon over suit to wear when the weather is snowing

12 Camouflage windproof jacket, green woollen jumper and shirt

13 Royal Marines beret

14 Royal Marine steel helmet with camouflage net

15 British army cold weather cap

16 Water bottle

17 Scarf

18 British army notebook and pens, compass and protractor, which were used for marking maps, for example plotting minefields. Below a clasp knife, can opener and blade

19 35m film camera, personal effects

20 Torch

21 Wash kit, including soap, razor, comb and toothbrush

22 Jacket and trousers for NBC suit

23 F6 respirator and spare filter

24 Field dressing

25 Decontamination kit

26 Fuller’s earth, similar talcum powder, preserves gas mask rubber

27 Detector paper – Nuclear biological detector kit used to detect poisonous chemicals

28 Knife, fork, spoon and can opener

29 Aluminium mess tins

30 Hexamine cooker

31 Arctic 24 hour ration pack, including tin of bacon roll, spam, tinned beans, chicken curry, suet pudding, boiled sweets, tea bags and toilet paper. Mars bars were available to buy on the ship on the way over and were prized possessions

32 Plastic mug

33 Pair of waterproof gators

34 Sandbag – every soldier carried at least one; used to fortify positions by digging dirt to fill the hessian bag

35 Marine issued Bergen rucksack, with a carry mat. Below it an arctic sleeping bag in waterproof case

36 Shovel

37 66m anti tank weapon – disposable one shot rocket launcher

38 Suit sight with 4x magnifaction, which goes on rifle; during the Falklands conflict the night vision scope was widely issued of the first time

39 Individual weapon sight

40 Rifle cleaning kit

41 Long green ammunition band – 762 linked ammunition for the squad general purpose machine guns

42 Six spare magazines

43 Black insulation tape and No 83 smoke grenade

44 2 x L2A2 fragmentation grenades

45 Clansman 349 radio with an earpiece and throat microphone that picks up on the vibration of the voice

46 Bayonet

47 Cotton bandolier containing 50 rounds

48 (left) loading tool for magazines (r) protector for the foresight

49 L1a1 rifle self loading rifle; a very light, accurate and powerful rifle that fired 7.62mm rounds

50 Dog tags


2014 close-support sapper, Royal Engineers, Helmland Province

1 Silva compass - used for basic navigation and fire control orders

2 Karabiner - used for securing kit and equipment to the vehicles

3 Osprey body armour shoulder and neck attachments - the armour increases protection but can be very restrictive so these parts are detachable depending on the threat assessment

4 Osprey body armour; can be fitted with pouches to carry everything from ammunition, water, first aid kits and grenade or with plates and protective attachments (as shown)

5 Notebook

6 Warm weather hat

7 Spare clothing including underwear trousers, UBAS (Under body Armour Shirt) and normal shirt

8 Dog tags

9 A desert issued belt

10 Beret - used for repatriation ceremonies, vigils and large parades

11 Shemagh - to soak up sweat and also a dust guard

12 Gloves

13 Sandals – issued kit, as soldiers may need to run for cover even while showering

14 Boots

15 Multi tool

16 Washkit

17 GSR - general service respirator

18 A housewife – a basic sewing kit; a soldier has to repair his own rips and tears on the ground

19 Socks, scarf, wristwatch

20 Camel pack - drinking water pack

21 Cooker and mug and tea making kit

22 Rations - quantity will depend on the task but soldiers normally carry about 24 hours worth

23 First aid kit including the (black) tourniquet and (grey) first field dressing

24 Ballistic protection - used to protect the groin from IED blast

25 Knee pads - offer protection to a soldier whilst "taking a knee" from the heat of the ground or rocky areas

26 Sleeping bag with an inflatable roll mat

27 Camera, cigarettes

28 Radio - BOWMAN Radio system (HF, VHF or even SAT Comms), daysack could also be fitted with ECM (Electronic counter measures)

29 Personal role radio - used for line of sight communications within a small patrol

30 Magazine

31 Envelopes

32 Mine extraction kit fitted with a mine prodder, instruction and mine marking kit

33 Weapon cleaning kit

34 Holster

35 Pistol - used as a second weapon system and in confined spaces or where a "long" weapon is unsuitable. Sig and Glock have mostly replaced the Browning 9mm calibre

36 Bar mine - anti-tank landmine

37 Head torch - can be fitted with coloured lenses for more tactical situations

38 Bayonet and bayonet scabbard

39 SA80 A2 fitted with a desert hand guard, upgraded flash eliminator and bipod, all issued for Afghanistan and a SUSAT sight system. It is 5.56 calibre and is here issued with 6 magazines which can hold 30 rounds each

40 Ballistic eye protection - normally goggles or sunglasses

41 Mk 6 Helmet fitted with Helmet mounted night vision systems

42 iPad - personal effect for down time

43 Poncho


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