The Minute Book
Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Burden the Soldier Boy Carries (1918)
Topic: Soldiers' Load

The Burden the Soldier Boy Carries

What the 70-Pound Load Means in Comfort, Security and Living

The Sunday Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 13 January 1918
By Clive Marshall

According to a statement issued by the War Department, it costs Uncle Sam $156.71 to equip an infantryman for service in France. Clothing costs $101.62; eating utensils, etc., $7.73, and fighting equipment, $47.86.

War is a burden, all the way around, any way you take it, up, down and around, over and over and all together, war is a burden—and the burden begins with the individual man.

The man who stays at borne burdened with war taxes, and the man who goes to the front is burdened with a soldier's field kit. which, while it is probably heavier than the kit carried by the soldier in any other war in modern history, is, nevertheless, the most complete, serviceable, compactly built and carefully figured out kit in point of greatest serviceability with least weight that has ever been designed for a nation's fighter.

The American soldier, today, in active service is expected to carry as much as possible, but he must carry nothing that is not absolutely necessary to the best service in the ordinary, to-be-expected experiences of war, and necessary, too, in emergencies. That "much as possible" must be figured with a careful regard to weight and an ever clear, designing eye to compactness of parts and precision of distribution so that the kit will work a minimum of hindrance to the movements of the fighting man carrying it. Therefore the field kit of the soldier must have all that it should have, even to the call of emergency, weighing the least that all can weigh, assembled as compactly as possible and put upon the body of the fighter in a way designed to render it the least likely to impede his action on the march or in battle.

Load of 70 Pounds Carried

The total load earned by the American soldier in the present war, counting in the weight of the clothes which he wears, approximates 70 pounds. The field kit, which includes the rifle and other fighting equipment, together with eating utensils, weighs 54 pounds, and Army officials have figured it down to ounces in metal, cotton, wool, leather and wood, and have said thus far and no farther; it can weigh no less and be serviceable; it is serviceable and must weigh no more.

The chief fighting tool of course, is the rifle. The official title, of the American Army rifle today is "303 pattern '17." It is a mixture of Springfield and Enfield rifles, but because the name Enfield has been popularly attached to the rifle and because Enfield seems to belong with Lee as naturally as Krag with Jorgenson, the man on the street has decided forthwith that the rifle is the old Lee-Enfield. In fact, however, the British-designed rifle being manufactured here for our Army is of a pattern of 1914 and has little in common with the old British Lee-Enfield. This rifle complete with bayonet weighs 11 pounds, and on this point the arm has met with some criticism. It takes a pretty husky man to handle the present Army rifle dexterously in the bayonet fighting now in style on the European battlefields, and the critics contend that rifle weighing nine or nine and one-half pounds with bayonet fixed would give a great advantage.

Modem warfare also compels the soldier to carry a shovel for trench digging. This shovel is a short-handled, round-pointed spade, somewhat of the "common garden variety," and has been made to weigh 25 ounces in iron and steel and four ounces in wood. The equipment of every American soldier contains this small shovel, but on the European battle field the trench tools of tho soldiers are divided among the members of a squad—eight men—as follows: four shovels, two pick mattocks, one polo or hand ax and one wire cutter. So it seems that in what ever re-equipping of the fighters on arrival on the firing line, four out of every eight soldiers are given either pick mattocks, hand axes or wire cutters in place of their shovels. Every American fighter, however, is sent away with a shovel which is reduced to the minimum of weight and strapped snugly to his back in such a way that he may march, run at double-quick, engage in hand-to-hand combat, or drop on his stomach in position of firing without feeling inconvenienced or hindered by the presence of the trench tool.

The rifle, bayonet, trench tool and cartridges complete the soldier's fighting equipment. Every soldier carries 100 cartridges, distributed in pockets attached to a belt, five cartridges to a clip. These 100 cartridges have, a combined weight of 47.4 ounces in brass, 36.4 ounces in metal in bullets and 12 ounces in explosives. The cartridge belt itself weighs ten ounces in brass and 14.1 ounces in cotton.

The actual fighting equipment of the up-to-date soldier makes up less than half of the total load he carries; the remainder is made up of what he carries for his own bodily needs, protection and comfort.

Contents of the "Kit"

Every soldier in the American Army today carries with him sufficient food, water, clothing and means of protection and shelter to take care of himself for a short period in case he should become separated from his company. The number of articles making up this part of the kit is surprisingly large. Each kit carried contains, besides extra clothing, a blanket, rubber pouches, a canteen, a mess kit, including meat can, knife, fork, spoon and cup, toilet articles, a first aid package, gas mask, steel helmet and shelter tent.

One of the most useful things a soldier carries is this shelter tent, commonly called a "dog-tent." Each man carries one tent cover, one tent pole and five tent pins, which make one-half of a shelter tent, and two men can combine their halves and set up a "dog" in a few minutes. This tent, of course, is used only in temporary camps on forced marches.

According to a statement issued by the War Department, it costs Uncle Sam $156.71 to equip an infantryman for service in France. Clothing costs $101.62; eating utensils, etc., $7.73, and fighting equipment, $47.86.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

View Latest Entries

The Regimental Rogue.

Follow The Regimental Rogue on facebook.

« June 2016 »
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Army Rations
Battle Honours
British Army
Canadian Armed Forces
Canadian Army
Canadian Militia
Cold Steel
Cold War
Drill and Training
European Armies
Forays in Fiction
Martial Music
Military Medical
Military Theory
Pay; the Queen's shilling
Sam Hughes
Soldier Slang
Soldiers' Load
Staff Duties
Stolen Valour
Taking Advantage
The Field of Battle
The RCR Museum
US Armed Forces
Vimy Pilgrimage
Wolseley Barracks

You are not logged in. Log in
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile