British Soldiers in World War I
The British soldier went to war in August 1914 wearing the 1902 Pattern Service Dress tunic and trousers. This was a thick woollen tunic, dyed khaki. There were two breast pockets for personal items and the soldier’s AB64 Pay Book, two smaller pockets for other items, and an internal pocket sewn under the right flap of the lower tunic where the First Field Dressing was kept.
Rifle patches were sewn above the breast pockets. Shoulder straps were sewn on and fastened with brass buttons, with enough space for a brass regimental shoulder title. Rank was sewn onto the upper tunic sleeves, while trade badges and Long Service and Good Conduct stripes were placed on the lower sleeves.
A stiffened peak cap, with a leather strap, brass fitting and secured with two small brass buttons. Puttees were worn round the ankles, and B5 ammunition boots with hobnail soles. In the summer of 1916, the mark 1 Brodie helmet became standard issue for British troops.
The main rifle carried by British soldiers in World War I was the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE). The .303 inch calibre weapon had a magazine of ten rounds. While it packed a heavy recoil when fired, regular soldiers before the war were trained to fire a minimum of fifteen rounds per minute, and be able to hit a target every time. This rate of fire was well above any other army in the world, and most soldiers were also trained to engage targets at distances up to 1000 yards.
For close quarter fighting, a seventeen inch 1907 Pattern Wilkinson Sword bayonet was attached to the end of the rifle, and soldiers were trained in bayonet fighting. While the rifle could be fired with the bayonet attached, it reduced the accuracy.
French Soldiers in World War I
The French infantry went to war in 1914 with red peaked pill box hats, blue frock-coats and bright red pantaloons. However, in the late autumn of 1914, a new uniform designed for the modern battle-field was supplied to all new recruits. It was made from a wool monochrome fabric which the French called horizon blue. By the late spring of 1915, all of the French front line units on the Western Front were equipped with this new light blue uniform.
During World War I the Lebel rifle was the standard rifle of the French infantry. It was a bolt action rifle with a 10-round capacity. The Lebel rifle was a hard-hitting and solidly built weapon with a reputation for reliability in adverse environments including those of trench warfare. The Lebel rifle was quite accurate up to 300 yards and still deadly at three times that distance.
Russian Soldiers in World War I
The Imperial Russian basic army uniform consisted of a visor cap, tunic or shirt, trousers, and sapogi (knee-length boots). It was a khaki/olive green shade in colour, this colour was chosen in 1907. Although other countries introduced helmets later on in the war, the Russian army never supplied its soldiers with helmets.
The standard issue rifle of a Russian Soldier was the Mosin-Nagant. The Mosin–Nagant is a bolt-action, internal magazine-fed, military rifle, developed by the Imperial Russian Army in 1882–1891. It has a 5 round magazine. It was an effective rifle, on par with other rifles of the time.
Australian Soldiers in World War I
The slouch hat was the standard head wear of the Australian troops of WW1. Australian soldiers of the World War I wore a very practical and comfortable uniform. A tight fitting jacket, breeches and long puttees were the accepted fashion for most armies at the time, but Australia adopted a loose fitting working jacket. The Australian tunic, or service dress, was more practical. The tunic’s colour has been described as a “pea soup” green. It was made of pure Australian wool, woven to have a very strong nature. It was made with four large external pockets, two on the upper chest and two below the belt. There was a fifth pocket on the inside front skirt to hold a field dressing. The coat was designed to have plenty of ventilation for comfort and hygiene, and the collar could be left open or buttoned up. Across the shoulders is an extra piece of material, and down the spine there is a large solid pleat, these were to protect the wearer from heat stress from the sun.
The main rifle carried by Australian soldiers in World War I was the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE), exactly the same as the British Army.
Canadian Soldiers in World War I
Adopted in 1903, the Canadian Service Dress Jacket was intended as both a dress and field jacket, it was khaki, replacing the brightly coloured full dress uniforms previously worn (such as the scarlet tunics worn by infantry). As an item of field dress, they were supposed to be loose for a sweater underneath; but many men preferred to tailor their tunic for parade. This was the jacket Canadian soldiers wore when they went to war in 1914.
The main weapon in use at this time was the Canadian Ross Rifle. It was accurate on the ranges, but proved problematic in war as it did not like mud, and regularly jammed. Many Canadian soldiers were accidentally killed while trying to kick open the bolt, in an attempt to extract a round only causing it to be fired. Some snipers kept the Ross, but following Second Ypres soldiers of 1st (Canadian) Division began to acquire the Short Magazine Lee Enfield, and by the time of the Battle of the St Eloi craters in the spring of 1916, most had the Enfield.