CANADIAN INFANTRY SOLDIER’S LOAD IN BATTLE

Wednesday, June 23, 1915

Trenches – Givenchy

The Battalion War Diarist wrote nothing for this day:  [1]


THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: During the First World War, “The Canadian infantry soldier carried about 75 pounds, or 35 kilograms, of equipment into battle. This included the following:-

RMR history muddy soldierBasic Equipment: Heavy woolen uniform, tin hat, woolen great coat(in winter), gas mask, water bottle and first aid dressing (bandages to dress a wound).

Rations: Tins of ‘bully beef’, a type of canned corn beef which had been boiled. Bully beef could be eaten cold and troops in battle often survived on it for days.

Weapons:  Lee-Enfield rifle along with several rounds of ammunition and a bayonet that could be fitted on the barrel of the rifle. The infantry soldier carried bombs and grenades of various sorts. A special grenade-launching device, capable of throwing a bomb about 200 feet, could be fitted onto the muzzle of a rifle. (Revolvers were only carried by officers.)” [3]

Equipment of the British Infantry Soldier: “The equipment list for each soldier [of a British regiment, the 9th York and Lancasters] set out in the orders for the battalion, brings home the challenge that faced these men as the whistles sounded, even before they came under enemy fire:

‘All Officers will be dressed and equipped the same as the men; sticks are not to be carried [this was to prevent the enemy identifying officers and directing snipers to fire on them].

Fighting order for all ranks:

(a) Clothing, Arms and Entrenching Tool, as issued.
(b) Equipment as issued with the exception of the pack. Haversacks are to be worn on the back, except for Lewis Gunners, Rifle Bombers and carrying parties, who will wear it at the side.
(c) Box Respirators and P.H. Helmets [‘small box respirator’ or ‘SBR’ and ‘phenate hexamine helmet’, type of gas mask].
(d) Iron Rations, unexpended portion of the day’s rations, Mess tin and cover.
(e) 120 rounds S.A.A. [small-arms ammunition] except Bombers, Signallers, Runners, Lewis Gunners and Rifle Bombers who carry 50 rounds. Carrying Parties, 50 rounds S.A.A.
(f) Every man (except bombing sections) two Mills Bombs [hand grenades] one in each top pocket. These bombs will be collected into dumps as soon as the Objective has been gained.
(g) Moppers Up and Carrying Parties will not carry flares, nor will carrying parties carry (f).
(h) Three sandbags per man for Moppers Up only.
(i) Water Bottle, full.
(j) Mopping Up parties will carry one ‘P’ Bomb [phosphorus grenade; i.e. a smoke bomb] in addition to two Mills Bombs.
(k) Bombing Sections will carry:-
(1) Bayonet Men 6 Mills Bombs.
(2) Remainder of Section, 12 Mills Bombs per man.
(l) Bombing Sections of Mopping Up Parties will carry 10 Mills Bombs and 1 ‘P’ Bomb per man.’

The concession in (b) for Lewis gunners… was to enable them to carry an extra eight magazines. Since the equipment they would have to take into action would weigh more than 65 pounds (30kg), the extra magazines meant that a gunner’s load would be in excess of 100 pounds (45kg).
Any personal ‘extras’ would also need to be carried.” [4]

[1]  War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, June 23, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089753.jpg
[2]  Library and Archives Canada, PA 867
[3]  Bill Freeman, Richard Nielsen, “Far From Home – Canadians In The First World War,” Toronto, Ontario, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1999,pg. 101.
[4]  Bill Lamin, “Letters From The Trenches: A Soldier of the Great War,” Michael O'Mara Books, London, 2009,  Feb 28, 2012 –  (Google eBook),   https://books.google.ca/books?id=xy3dAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

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