From puttees to gaiters, brass buttons to waterproof socks, find out how the uniform, equipment and weaponry of soldiers in 1914 compares to that of today.
As we continue to explore the Outbreak period of the First World War, we’ve employed the help of Drummer Thompson, a serving soldier in the British Army, to highlight key differences between the soldiers who fought in 1914, and those on the front lines today.
These three short films compare today’s Army uniform, equipment and weaponry to those of 100 years ago.
Standing side by side, our First World War soldier and Drummer Thompson bring to life the vast kit developments seen since 1914. However, among the stark differences you might expect, some unexpected similarities shine through.
Our uniform video compares the clothes, boots and headwear of 1914 and modern-day soldiers.
Soldiers during the First World War wore a woollen, khaki green tunic, trousers and stiff cap. Today, the uniform is designed to be more comfortable, with a camouflage pattern to blend into the environment. And the headwear actually protects against bullets!
Did you know? The modern-day camouflage pattern undergoes in-depth analysis, using the latest gadgetry such as scientific photography, to maintain the most efficient camouflage.
So what about their equipment?
The videos show us how in 1914 soldiers carried a water bottle, a ‘greatcoat’ for warmth and an entrenching tool. Today’s soldier is kitted out with PLCE (Personal Load Carrying Equipment), which contains 48 hours worth of supplies, spare socks and waterproof clothing.
However, there is one key similarity between the two soldiers’ equipment: both use a system known as ‘webbing’ to carry their kit. This is fabric woven in an interlaced pattern and used for its light weight, stability and strength.
And finally, how does their weaponry compare?
The main weapon used by soldiers in 1914 was the Lee Enfield (SMLE Mk 3) bolt-action rifle. Drummer Thompson demonstrates today’s standard issue: the SA80 rifle. Although, the SA80 shoots more rounds more quickly, the effective range of the two weapons is fairly similar, and they both weigh about the same.
Another similarity is the use of the bayonet – although today’s is a few inches shorter.