Group photographs of soldiers at camp were a perennial favourite amongst those who gave up two weeks a year to attend them in the years running up to the Great War. The camps offered pay, friendship and the closest to a holiday many working men would ever get and so it was no wonder that souvenir postcards of the men with their friends were popular choices. Normally the units depicted are infantry regiments, but the Territorial Army also included part time elements of the Royal Field Artillery, Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery, and it is soldiers from one of these territorial units we have this week:
Identifying them as artillerymen is easy as they wear the distinctive cannon cap badge and those in service dress have a white lanyard around their left shoulders:
Whilst I cannot be certain, I am pretty sure these are Territorial Force members rather than regulars as there is a wide range of non regulation clothing being worn, including a selection of different waistcoats, all more indicative of the Territorials who had access to civilian clothing in a way that regulars did not:
They certainly seem to be enjoying themselves in the snippet above! The men would be housed in bell tents for the two weeks of their annual camp and these can be seen arrayed in the background:
The design of the bell tent can be traced back at least as far as 600AD and by the First World War the British Army one was standardised into a number of designs between ten and thirteen feet across and made of one or two layers of canvas, depending on the temperature they were expected to be used in. The tent was supported by a single central pole and wooden flooring could be added to reduce the problems of mud inside the tent. The tents were around ten feet high at the apex, where there was a series of vents to allow the flow of air into the tent to help maintain hygiene. The 1914 Field Service Pocket Book offers this information:
One Tent Circular is used to accommodate the following –
1 x General, Colonel or Commanding Officer.
3 x other officers
5 x Warrant Officers
7 x Serjeants
15 x Men
Directions for Pitching Tents Circular:
- Mark centre with peg. Describe a circle, with a radius of 4 paces, on which the pegs will be. In this circle, drive in the two pegs opposite the door of the tent, one pace apart. At 3 paces from these pegs, on either side of them, drive in pegs for guy ropes. The other guy rope pegs will be 5 paces from these and 5 paces from each other.
- Put up tent. Pole to be set and kept perfectly upright.
- Drive in the other pegs, which should be one pace apart and in line with the seams of the tent.
- Doors, if possible, point to leeward.
- 7 1/2 yards from centre to centre of tents.
- Cut drains round bottom of tent walls and heap earth inside flap.
- Dig a hole 6 inches deep close to tent pole, then if heavy rain comes on suddenly, the tent pole can be pushed into the hole and much strain is taken off the canvas, ropes and pegs.
Waistcoats (“Waistcoat, cardigan”) were on issue in 1914, although I have the impression they had sleeves. In contrast, the Clothing Regulations of 1881 only listed waistcoats for prisoners (waistcoat, grey serge) and hospitals. I don’t know when the button-up cardigan was replaced by the pullover jersey, which lasted (I think) until battledress was phased out.