British Soldiers’ Inventories 1066 – 2014

Soldier inventorySoldiers have always carried a lot of equipment and gear into battle, to help them deal damage, survive damage, and generally survive whilst out in the field.

Thom Atkinson has a collection of excellent photos of what British soldiers carried into battle in different eras, from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 all the way to modern warfare in 2014. It’s daunting seeing everything they had to carry. I like how each picture gives an indication of what that period was like. In 1066, soldiers wore heavy armour and cloth to protect themselves, and carried a shield and various close combat weapons. The only luxuries seem to be some dice and a spoon. 200 years later, the setup is much the same. 150 years after that, in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt, you can see the typical gear setup of a British archer (still with dice and spoon).

Heavy foot infantry gear can be seen in the next photo, of a man-at-arms in 1485. That armour looks heavy, and the lack of vision is crazy. I guess it was pretty good at protecting you from blows though. Moving on 1588, and we can see the introduction of rifles and gunpowder. Dice and spoon are still present. In 1645, a full musketeer setup can be seen (including spoon and dice). 65 years beyond that, and the gear carried is much the same (although this particular outfit is a lot brighter).

Moving on 100 years to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and we start to see a lot more diversity in what soldiers carried. Each soldier became a lot more self-sufficient, carrying everything they needed to survive by themselves during war. 40 years after that, we see more camouflaged gear appearing, with the bright gaudy colours now a thing of the past.

World War One required soldiers to be equipped with a greater variety of tools, so we see the introduction of new things like the gas mask and spade. The Second World War brought with it the need for greater camouflage and better equipment, as shown in the image of the inventory of a lance corporal from a parachute brigade.

The penultimate image is of the gear of a Royal Marine Commando during the Falklands War in 1982. The amount of gear carried here is incredible, allowing the commando to survive for a long time. Standout extra items for me include the notepad, pens, camera, and maths gear, the extra ammo, and the walkie-talkie.

The final image shows what a modern day close support sapper of the Royal Engineers would be carrying. It’s a bewildering display of items, all camouflaged, and allowing the sapper to deal with all sorts of situations. They even have an iPad and spoon. No dice though (which last appeared in 1709 in these images).

Overall, it’s a fantastic display of items, ranging across a period of almost 1000 years. Warfare has changed so much in that time, but throughout the ages, every soldier has always carried a spoon. Onwards!

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