Unending Seige

The Canadian Combatant

The Infantryman’s Uniform, Equipment and Weapon

Infantryman, Canadian Expeditionary Force, France 1915-1916

Caption: Infantryman, Canadian Expeditionary Force, France 1915-1916

The volunteer wore a peaked cap decorated with a bronze maple leaf; a tight jacket of khaki serge with a rigid high collar fastened by seven bronze buttons; trousers also made of khaki serge; brown boots with woollen puttees from the ankle to the knee - troopers wrapped their puttees from the top; a collarless grey shirt; thick woollen socks; woollen undergarments; a sleeved vest; a long, heavy coat for protection from the cold and rain; and two coarse grey blankets.

The army supplied the volunteer with a razor and shaving brush; a brush each for his teeth, hair and boots; a mess tin with utensils; two towels; a pair of woollen gloves; and a balaclava. Added to this was his Oliver equipment, a complicated set of leather belts with various pockets that could hold ammunition, food, a water bottle and certain articles of clothing. Around 1890 a British army doctor in the Halifax garrison had persuaded the government to provide militiamen with Olivers. As the pocket for ammunition was next to the stomach, this equipment was impractical for crawling. This was not its only failing: The shoulder straps irritated the armpits; the water bottle and several of the pockets were tiny; and the tapes for bullets lost their shape, resulting in loss of ammunition. When it had been soaked, the whole mishmash would crack while drying out.

For attack or defence, the infantryman received a Ross rifle with bayonet, a bottle of oil and a kit for cleaning the bore of his weapon. 66 The Ross rifle was not without its flaws: Its magazine held only five bullets; the rod that the soldier had to pull to get the cartridge out soon grew red-hot; and the bayonet fixed to the barrel would sometimes fall off during firing. The Ross was also very long (50 1/2 inches), but it weighed 450 grams less than the shorter and safer British Lee-Enfield that would replace it.