Symbols & Gear...




During the Great War all armies were equipped with uniforms and specialized items. Below is an overview of the basic uniform and protective equipment used.




Initially they wore Service Dress cap with a stiff peak and wired top. It could not be folded up and placed into a pocket. From 1915 onward a trench cap was issued to soldiers serving in the trenches. This version was not stiff and could be balled up and put away so the Brodie helmet (magnesium steel) could be worn by soldiers under combat conditions.


The uniform was khaki coloured thick woolen tunic and trousers held up by a set of braces (suspenders). The base layer (i.e. underwear) beneath consisted of woolen long johns, a grey flannel collarless shirt (collars were reserved for officers) and wool socks.


The lower legs were wrapped in putties that were generally khaki in colour. When the first 500 set out in 1914 dark blue putties were substituted for khaki. This is where the nickname “Blue Putties” originated. The putties extended right down to the boots providing both leg and ankle support. The ankle boots were brown leather with leather sole which was studded with metal studs.


Webbing & Misc.:


The P-08 Pattern Webbing equipment comprised a wide belt, left and right ammunition pouches which held a total of 150 rounds, left and right braces, a bayonet frog and attachment for the entrenching tool handle, an entrenching tool head in web cover, water bottle carrier, small haversack and large pack. A mess tin was worn attached to one of the packs, and was contained inside a cloth buff-colored khaki cover. Inside the haversack were personal items, knife and when on Active Service, unused portions of the daily ration. The large pack could sometimes be used to house some of these items, but was normally kept for carrying the soldier's Greatcoat and or a blanket. Fully loaded it exceeded 70 pounds.


Gas Mask:


The gas mask quickly evolved during the Great War. Upon first contact with gas British troops urinated on rags and wrapped it around their face to act as a primitive filter. Soon after respirators comprising cotton wool or lint pads wrapped in muslin or flannelette were issued. Unfortunately, these 'pad' masks were almost completely useless, as they provided no protection when dry, and formed a completely airtight mass over the wearer's nose and mouth if soaked in an absorbent solution as recommended. Research showed that a loosely woven material would provide better absorption, while still enabling the wearer to breathe, so a mask of cotton waste was selected. A long piece of black cotton veiling was folded upon itself to form a pocket holding the waste in place, and the ends were simply tied around the wearer's head. The 'Black Veil' mask, which was soaked in a solution of sodium hyposulphate, sodium carbonate, glycerine and water. This solution retained sufficient moisture so that it did not require any further dipping before use, provided that it was stored in its purpose-built waterproof satchel. An advantage of the mask was that a fold of veiling could be drawn up to cover the eyes, providing some protection against lachrymatory (tear) gas. The Black Veil would provide about five minutes of protection against a normal concentration of chlorine, and was suitable as a stopgap defense, but the need for a more reliable respirator was clear.


The next evolution was the Smoke hood or Hypo Helmet. It was made of grey flannel fabric with mica one-piece window. The grey flannel helmet was dipped in sodium hyposulphite (which is where it gets it Hypo helmet name from) which would prevent certain gases getting through the hood. It covered the entire head and was tucked into a uniform to act as a seal.


Next was the P Hood, PH Hood also known as the P Helmet and PH Helmet. The P Hood and the PH Hood are the same gas helmets which look the same the only difference is that the later pattern was dipped in an extra chemical for extra protection. The P (Phenate) replaced the Hypo Helmet. It was an improvement and had two glass eyepieces instead of the single one piece visor and an exhaust valve fed from a metal tube which the soldier held in his mouth on the inside. It was also made from a double layer Greyback wool fabric one layer was impregnated with chemicals the other layer was not.


A major step forward was designed in 1916 becoming known as the Small Box Respirator (SBR) that was issued to the Newfoundland Regiment in September 1916. A canvas covered rubber hose attached the mask to the box filter that contained granules of chemicals that neutralized the gas, delivering clean air to the wearer. Separating the filter from the mask enabled a bulky but efficient filter to be supplied. The mask was made of thinly rubberized canvas. The whole lot was contained in the canvas bag. The bag is hung from an adjustable strap.





Flare Pistol:


Although not a weapon the flare pistol was used for various purposes. It was a one-shot brass gun that fired a coloured light — usually white at night — high in the air, illuminating the landscape and enabling snipers to pinpoint anything moving in no-man’s-land. Such pistols were also used by day for signaling with coloured flares. For example, a red flare to signal the artillery they are firing short and to adjust their aim. Colours would be arranged prior to action.





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