Everything Bar the Kitchen Sink…A soldiers equipment (Part 1)

Today I am starting a new incidental series of blogs exploring the contents of a British Soldier’s webbing in World War 2. I will confess now that this is my set up I have used for several years whilst re-enacting. I have slowly been replacing replica items with the real thing as I find them and it is now about 80% genuine, but I will highlight replica items as we go. I intend to look in some detail at this, so I will be spreading this out over a fair number of posts in the coming weeks.


Today we start with the most personal of all the kit, the washroll:imageThe washroll is a cloth holder that carried a soldiers personal washing kit and other useful ‘sundries’ he needed in the field. Made of white cotton it has a number of loops down the centre to hold items and a pocket at one end. Once full it is rolled up and secured by a cloth tape to hold everything secure:imageThis particular wash roll is an Air Ministry example for the RAF dated 1941:imageShaving Kit

All soldiers needed to shave, if possible daily, to do this they carried shaving brush, razor, spare blades:imageThe saving brush is stamped with the War Department arrow and dated 1945:image


Another essential item was cutlery. Often ony a spoon was carried, but here we see WD issue fork and spoon and a liberated NAAFI knife:imageFor some reason WD issued knives are virtually impossible to find, and can fetch up to £80 if you can track one down, therefore I am quite happy to use a NAAFI knife and it seems that at the time it was quite common for these items to be replaced with liberated ones if they went missing.

Spare Bootlaces

Boots were essential to soldiers in the war and consequently if a lace snapped it was vital to have a replacement. These are modern reproductions, but typical of the leather bootlaces used by the armed forces at the period:image


At a time when the fashion was for Brylcreamed hair with a side parting, many troops carried combs to keep their hair presentable. Again this a reproduction, but typical of the type issued to men, cheaply made of plastic:image

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Another vital item, the service issued toothbrush is another of those items of personal kit that is virtually impossible for the collector to find. This example is a period civilian issue brush made of a bone handle with natural badger bristles. The toothpaste box is a modern copy of a period American box:image

Button Stick

The brass button stick had been around in various forms since the Victorian era. Its purpose was to protect the uniform from polish when cleaning buttons. Whilst no longer having brass buttons, it seems that the sticks were still issued to troops to help with cleaning the brasses on webbing (hardly essential in the front lines though!)image

Foot Powder

This little tin contains a medicated talcum powder to be applied to feet after a hard days marching. the care of feet was seen as essential to the infantry. Footpowder allowed feet to be dried out and killed fungal infections before new socks were applied. The tin is oval in cross section with light green printing:imageNext Time we will look at the typical contents of the entrenching tool carrier.

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