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Remembered Today:

Cost of Officers' Equipment


mhurst

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I have read many accounts of pre-war officers having to buy their own uniforms and equipment.

Can anyone tell me roughly how much the following items would have cost a subaltern in 1914:

1. Uniform, including belt

2. Boots

3. Revolver

4. Sword

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Melvin

Each newly commissioned officer was given a uniform grant of £50, which covered all his requirments, including sword. Arthur Behrend, who was commissioned into the 4th East Lancashires in Augus 1914 spent £14/7/6 on service dress jacket, with breeches and slacks, two ties, Sam Browne and holster, puttees, water bottle, whistle & Lanyewartd, and greatcoat. I believe revolvers were issued.

Charles M

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Charles Carrington, a subaltern with a Temporary commission in a New Army battalion, in "Soldier from the Wars Returning" Hutchinson 1965, now available as a Pen and Sword paperback [and highly recommended] (page 75) wrote:

"In my first year as a subaltern [1915-16] my total income from pay and allowances was just over £200, on which I paid six pounds income tax. I had also received an outfit allowance of fifty pounds which provided easily for sword and revolver as well as for two service-dress uniforms, a greatcoat and all the accessories. At the end of my first year I had a few pounds in hand."

William

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Depending on the unit and the requirement for additional extras and of course whether you were serving at the front or in the rear or at home you might have a deal more to spend than just a couple of service dress jackets!

A red tab captain posted to a HQ with a titled Mess President might require proper mess dress, there might be undress uniform extras, or No1 Dress plus a whole host of litte extra comfort items. Its interesting to read about those who managed to have money left from their £50 allowance. They probably didn't go far down Saville Row?

Officers were certainly issued side arms but I'm sure some probably had their own. I have a friend with a private purchase Webley automatic. Apparently these were favoured by RFC officers but I don't know how true that is.

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Officers were certainly issued side arms but I'm sure some probably had their own. I have a friend with a private purchase Webley automatic. Apparently these were favoured by RFC officers but I don't know how true that is.

For Officers, issued is the wrong word. They were expected to purchase a weapon, which was capable of firing standard issue (ie .455) ammunition, but the necessary manufacture and supply of large quantities of suitable revolvers remained extremely problematic throughout the war, so what happened in the vast majority of cases was the Officer purchased them in essence from Army stores (necessitating them being stamped with the back-to-back broad arrow, showing they had been legally sold on, and were now the Officers personal property). After the war the Government was still short on supply, and made some effort to repurchase weapons sold on like this from discharged Officers.

Of course what many Officers choose to carry in the front line was much more a matter of personal preference - Sassoons weapon of choice was a .32 automatic from memory...

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I have been looking at a collection from the magazine 'Punch' from the WW2 period. I note that in 1941 they included an anouncment in Parliament was to the effect that officer's uniform allowance was to be increased from £ 35 to £ 50.

Old Tom

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"A red tab captain posted to a HQ with a titled Mess President might require proper mess dress"

Hi Matt,

My understanding is that, even at GHQ, such peacetime pleasantries as Mess Dress was dispensed with in wartime and meals were taken in Service Dress. Certainly the bits I have picked up suggests that this was also the case at the Suffolk Regiment Depot at Bury St Edmunds. It would be interesting to know if some units did wear Mess Dress.

However, the War Office instructions make it clear that pre-war standards, whereby officers had to use specific Regimental Tailors, could not be enforced by regiments in wartime and officers kit could be purchased from any approved military tailor.

Taff

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Taff is quite right. The wearing of Mess Kit during WW1 is a figment of the imagination of film and TV directors, notably in Downton Abbey. Blues were worn in a few messes in UK early in the war, but only by officers who already possessed them. No officer commissioned during the war was expected to purchase Mess Kit or Blues, although some, in the Guards or other 'smart' reigments, might have bought Blues of their own volition. Some of these did wear Blues at the famous Victory Ball held in the Albert Hall on 27 November 1918.

Charles M

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Thanks Taff. I'm probably getting confused with things I have read about uniform in 1939/40 ;) I'll have to have a bit more of a read around the WW1 issues. I know that in WW2 they also said that due to the war economy they would dispense with such things, but I've certainly read about it being ignored then, and I've even owned uniform that was made not to the requisite war economy pattern. It looks like it was more strictly enforced in WW1!

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Incidentally have you ever seen an officers tunic in serge?

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Incidentally have you ever seen an officers tunic in serge?

Yes, I actually own what started out life as a cuff-rank jacket that's made in serge, albeit of a finer quality than oridinary SD serge (sadly it has been converted to shoulder rank at some point in it's life). I have also seen a similar WW1 advert to those above which listed one tailor who offered SD jackets in serge, whip-cord and barathea at 50something, 60something and 70something shillings each respectively.

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My thanks to all, especially for the fascinating adverts.

Were newly commissioned officers also given a 50 pound grant prior to 1914??

Melvin

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If an Officer was KIA what happened to his kit ? I understand that personal effects if possible would be sent home to his NOK but what about leather gear, side arm etc that actually belonged to him. Would these be distributed to fellow officers etc ?

Tony

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If an Officer was KIA what happened to his kit ? I understand that personal effects if possible would be sent home to his NOK but what about leather gear, side arm etc that actually belonged to him. Would these be distributed to fellow officers etc ?

No - they were his kit, and would be returned to the appropriate NOK. This could be particularly distressing as it could include kit an Officer was wearing when he was killed or wounded. Vera Brittain recounted the moment when Roland Leightons kit was returned in the link below:

http://www.aftermathww1.com/roland.asp

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Andrew

Thank you. A rather sobering account.

I will have to contact relations in the UK concerning what happened to my Great Uncles Kit after he was killed in France. He married a lass when he was over there on his OE so she would have received anything they sent back.

Tony

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No - they were his kit, and would be returned to the appropriate NOK. This could be particularly distressing as it could include kit an Officer was wearing when he was killed or wounded. Vera Brittain recounted the moment when Roland Leightons kit was returned in the link below:

http://www.aftermathww1.com/roland.asp

Very odd account. They shipped back to Britain essentially all Leighton's clothes - the uniform he was shot in, plus a spare set. So, what was be buried in? I would have thought they would redress the body in uniform, but seemingly not?

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Very odd account. They shipped back to Britain essentially all Leighton's clothes - the uniform he was shot in, plus a spare set. So, what was be buried in? I would have thought they would redress the body in uniform, but seemingly not?

The link states he died "of wounds received during a night-time wire inspection a day earlier ", so had presumably reached some form of hospital who would have likely been the ones who stripped off the remainder of his soft kit before attempting to clean/dress his wounds. There is a well used piece of period film showing bodies being laid out for burial that have been wrapped in blankets/sheets (or similar), and I would imagine something like this would have been the case.

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I have heard that prior to burial in the front line areas the body is stripped of any useful gear and wrapped in a blanket or ground sheet.

Tony

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a quotation from my "Duty Done"

Lieutenant Robert Mason Jackson French. He was born the elder son of a solicitor on 17th January 1893 in Boscombe, Christchurch, Hampshire. Robert was educated at Oxford Preparatory School (Lynam’s) and was awarded a scholarship to Blundell’s School, Tiverton where he was at North Close from 1907 to 1911. Robert was a Monitor, became head of the school company of the OTC, took Certificate A, and matriculated at London University. He was one of the contingent selected to be present for the Coronation of King George V (at right). French was articled to his father in 1911 and also became a Special Reserve officer 3rd RWF, commissioned 25th November 1911. He joined the expanded 2nd RWF as war was declared. His early and substantial responsibility was to bring forward, as required, the official First Reinforcement of soldiers, totalling almost 100 men. They arrived at Villeneuve St Denis 6th September 1914. His Lieutenancy dated from 2nd June 1913 and he became a captain 1st February 1915. Initially allocated to B Company as a spare, he succeeded Second Lieutenant Thompson of B VI on 10th September when the latter succumbed to his wounds. French fought through the autumn and into the winter, went sick 19th November 1914 and rejoined on 25th January 1915. Again hospitalised (date unknown) he rejoined once again on 6th August 1915. On 1st September 1915 he was transferred to 1st RWF and received his fatal bullet wound to the spine and neck from a range of 200 yards between 25 and 27th September at Hulloch. He was transferred to the Boulogne hospital 1st October, conscious but with no movement of arms or legs. His father was notified by telegram and given permission to visit without need of a passport. French was nursed over the winter, but died of his wounds in the Empire Hospital, Westminster on 19th February 1916. His father’s correspondence with the authorities tells us that Robert used a legacy, practically all the money he had, on training and outfitting. He left a will. His funeral was at St Clement’s Church, Bournemouth 23rd February 1916 and his body was borne to the grave in Bournemouth East Cemetery by soldiers of the Somerset Light Infantry. Captain AK Richardson (page 91) represented the regiment. His father was particularly upset at the loss of his son’s kit and made strenuous attempts to trace the sword. (Note that another Lieutenant French is mentioned in The War the Infantry Knew, St David’s Day 1918). Robert French has an accessible National Archive file WO 339 8614.

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