Historic Loadouts & Soldier’s Kit from 1066 to 2014

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The Telegraph (a UK Paper) has published a fascinating picture look into the historic loadouts carried into combat from 1066 to now. Photographer Thom Atkinson embarked on a nine-month journey into “Britain’s mythological relationship with war:”

1485 Yorkist man-at-arms, Battle of Bosworth ‘There’s a spoon in every picture,’ Atkinson says. ‘I think that’s wonderful. The requirement of food, and the experience of eating, hasn’t changed in 1,000 years. It’s the same with warmth, water, protection, entertainment.’ Picture: THOM ATKINSON

1485 Yorkist man-at-arms, Battle of Bosworth
‘There’s a spoon in every picture,’ Atkinson says. ‘I think that’s wonderful. The requirement of food, and the experience of eating, hasn’t changed in 1,000 years. It’s the same with warmth, water, protection, entertainment.’
Picture: THOM ATKINSON

Atkinson says the project, which took him nine months, was an education. ‘I’ve never been a soldier. It’s difficult to look in on a subject like this and completely understand it. I wanted it to be about people. Watching everything unfold, I begin to feel that we really are the same creatures with the same fundamental needs.’

2014 close-support sapper, Royal Engineers, Helmland Province The evolution of technology that emerges from the series is a process that has accelerated over the past century. The pocket watch of 1916 is today a waterproof digital wristwatch; the bolt-action Lee-Enfield rifle has been replaced by laser-sighted light assault carbines; and lightweight camouflage Kevlar vests take the place of khaki woollen Pattern service tunics. Picture: THOM ATKINSON

2014 close-support sapper, Royal Engineers, Helmland Province
The evolution of technology that emerges from the series is a process that has accelerated over the past century. The pocket watch of 1916 is today a waterproof digital wristwatch; the bolt-action Lee-Enfield rifle has been replaced by laser-sighted light assault carbines; and lightweight camouflage Kevlar vests take the place of khaki woollen Pattern service tunics.
Picture: THOM ATKINSON

Click on any one of the pictures to be taken to the Telegraph’s website and the article. As the article muses, there are many parallels between gear from year’s past to today. Notebooks become iBooks and manually winded timepieces have morphed into solar digital watches.

Just plain cool. 



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • dan citizen

    Crap, there goes an hour or two…. looking at neat pictures, googling various implements, finding and following collector’s blogs on items I didn’t eve know existed….

    Is that a mace or stick grenade middle left of the first picture?

    Thank you.

  • Fruitbat44

    Interesting article. Seems as time goes on there is more, and more to carry.

    • Tom – UK

      The average weight carried in proportion to the soldiers weight has remained similar, bear in mind the weight differences between the objects.

      • USMC03Vet

        roflmao

        Bullshit.

        • Nicks87

          Great comment. Thanks for perpetuating the “dumb marine” stereotype.

          • USMC03Vet

            Whatever helps you sleep at night, loser.

    • n0truscotsman

      If you source Homes’ “Acts of War”, you will notice a soldiers’ fighting load has only increased since the Roman legion.

      It has increased substantially over the past decade too.

    • USMC03Vet

      It has and it results in increased medical issues and lower maneuverability. Just wait until females become the norm in infantry units and the military has to respond to the disasterious injury rate from simply walking around.

      • Georgiaboy61

        Your comment on females in the ranks is well-taken. I have always been convinced that one of the reasons many western armies have remained with the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge as the choice for std. issue long arms is that female personnel can handle a weapon chambered in 5.56 – whereas very few can handle a FAL or similar in .308/7.62x51mm NATO – which is a much more effective weapon in many circumstances. A rifle chambered in .308/7.62 NATO is not only heavier; a std. issue of ammo is also. Strength matters in warfare – labor-and weight-saving technology can only account for so much.

        • One reason for the 5.56mm round is the propensity for soldiers to miss when they shoot. The 5.56 permits the soldier to shoot at known targets like he would with a larger round, but also to shoot at ‘suspected’ targets. That way he isn’t waiting for the enemy to shoot first. Knowing that the enemy is shooting gives one an incentive to put your head down, or to shoot around cover, limiting fields of fire.

          • USMC03Vet

            Yes, fire suppression requires ammunition and being able to carry double the amount of rounds than if you were to take a larger caliber certainly puts the odds in your favor.

          • Georgiaboy61

            I know more than a few old WWII-Korean War era guys who would dispute the basic premise that a smaller round carried in greater numbers would be the way to go – but there’s certainly no denying the need for fire suppression and recon-by-fire.

            A relative of mine was an army grunt during the Korean War, and saw action against the Chinese north of Seoul. Human wave attacks, the whole nine yards. He speaks fondly of his Garand, and that rifle certainly didn’t fire any varmint round… but on the other hand, the historical accounts from that war speak of the need for greater firepower at the squad level when facing a massed attack. That argues for a system using a smaller, lighter cartridge and a larger basic load in terms of ammo.

            I wasn’t there, so I am certainly not qualified to settle that dispute…

      • Man pippy

        There should really be a military law that states you can’t have more weight than a certain percentage of your bodyweight. Otherwise you get people carrying different weight, with different movement speeds and fatigue levels. The whole point of training as a group is to make combat performance somewhat predictable.

  • Phil Hsueh

    Pretty cool stuff although I have to question the usage of plate armor as part of the standard kit for a man at arms in the 11th century. I highly doubt that a man at arms would be able to afford something as nice as plate armor, the average man at arms would be wearing a mail shirt or hauberk while one with a bit more money might wear brigandine or coat of plates at best.

    • Julio

      The term “man-at-arms” has come down in the world a bit since the middle ages, much as “secretary” has since the Renaissance, but a quick check of Wikipedia puts much right here: “Man-at-arms (also called armsman or coistrel) was a term used from the High Medieval to Renaissance periods to describe a soldier, almost always a professional warrior in the sense of being well-trained in the use of arms, who served as a fully armoured heavy cavalryman. […] The terms knight and man-at-arms are often used interchangeably, but while all knights equipped for war certainly were men-at-arms, not all men-at-arms were knights.” So, I’d say Atkinson’s depiction was pretty accurate.

      • Right. Think more in terms of professional, non-noble fighting man in the employ of someone who pays well for their service. At this point in history, you’re seeing more and more very well-equipped and well-trained mercenaries and/or non-noblemen.

  • valorius

    Who else remembers cleaning everything for TA-50 turn in?

    Ah, the memories.

    • All those who only have one glove, report to supply and draw one. All those who have two gloves, report to supply and turn in one.

      Makes for a busy afternoon.

  • NormB

    Has every iteration of this “kit” always weighed in at about half the mass of the average grunt?

  • Phil Blank

    Don’t know about now, but an old WW2 Vet told me that when the got off the ship in Europe, they dumped all that sxxt.