WW1 British Army Spurs

Although the British Army had begun to experiment with mechanised transport, at the start of the Great War the horse remained the most common form of transport (other than soldiers’ own feet!). Large parts of the army were supplied with horses and as well as the cavalry the Army Service Corps and Royal Artillery especially made great use of horses. As might be expected these units issued their men with specific equipment to help care for and ride these animals. Amongst the various items were of course spurs and tonight we are considering a pair of other ranks spurs:imageI will make it clear from the start that these spurs are not /|\ marked, nor dated so they might well be civilian; however the design is consistent with many period photographs and attributable examples so I am happy they are in fact military issue. As can be seen from the photograph above, these are not a matched pair. The distinctive feature of these military spurs are the large leather pads on the top of each:imageThese were worn to prevent the laces of a man’s boot being worn down by the rubbing of the leather strap. The strap itself secures with a small buckle:imageA second leather strap is provided that would pass under the instep of the boot:imageAt the rear of the spur there is a short stubby protrusion, with a small cog wheel, known as a rowel:imageAs can be seen, compared with some foreign designs of spurs, the teeth on the rowel are very small and quite blunt. This is due to the fact that many of those using these spurs were very inexperienced horsemen and so the lack of long sharp points stopped them accidently hurting the horse by pressing into its flanks too much. Indeed the purpose of spurs was to allow the horse to feel a subtle guiding pressure from the rider’s feet rather than to hurt or punish the horse.

The inside of the spurs is marked to indicate they were made of nickel:imageThese spurs were worn almost as a badge of honour by those issued with them and they can be seen in many period studio photographs:captureaIn close up it can clearly be seen how they were worn:capturea-copySadly the leather straps on this pair are not in great condition, so if I do need to wear them for any reason I think I will make some replacement straps and just move over the lace protectors- happily they easily slip on and off so the originals could be returned after use.


  1. I have acquired several pairs of WWI British Army spurs, finding them a very affordable tangible link with the soldiers and nature of the Army of those days. They complement my troopers’ swords. I recommend that you brush the leather straps with neats foot oil, available from farm and saddlery shops. Buy the best quality pure neats foot oil. Avoid any with vegetable or mineral additions. Whilst nothing will completely restore really old dry leather it improves with a lengthy soak, preferably months. Place the spurs in a poly bag to contain the oil, turning every few weeks. The warmth of a boiler cupboard helps penetration of the oil. For metal polish I prefer Autosol. All no doubt available on-line.

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