2nd Bn Hampshire Regiment, France 1918 (©Paul Reed)


By 1916 the Great War had become a total war. The British Army had expanded from a handful of regular and territorial divisions to more than 74 infantry divisions by 1918.

The Battle of the Somme 1916, in which nearly 450,000 British soldiers became casualties, marked the start of some of the momentous battles of the war, and changes in technology and the introduction of new weapons created a new era of warfare and an ever changing life for the infantryman.


The basic uniform and equipment worn by the British soldier during the 1916-18 period differed little from the Infantryman of 1914-15.

Service Dress and 1908 webbing equipment were commonplace, although the large pack was normally only worn on the march, and rarely in the trenches themselves. It was never worn in battle, or carried into an attack.

The Service Dress peaked cap was still worn, and as since the Winter of 1914/15 the internal stiffener had been taken out and it was usually worn ‘floppy’ (much to the chagrin of RSMs!)


While the basic uniform and equipment had not changed, many new pieces of equipment had been introduced and were commonplace by 1916.

In the early period of the war, it proved impossible to keep up the production of the 1908 webbing equipment, and so the War Office produced a set of leather equipment, known as the 1914 Pattern. This differed substantially in design to the webbing, and had two cartridge pouches, instead of smaller web ones.

It had a narrow leather belt with a brass, ‘snake’ buckle, left and right braces, a water bottle carrier, bayonet frog with entrenching tool handle attachment, and entrenching tool blade in a leather cover.

The haversack and large pack were in khaki material, but with leather fittings. It was issued to most Kitchener’s Army units from early 1915, and remained in use in the field right up until the end of the war. Unpopular with soldiers, as it did not distribute the weight correctly and pulled on the base of the spine, veteran campaigners normally exchanged theirs for webbing as soon as was possible.
The 1902 Service Dress tunic and trousers remained in widespread use, but from 1914 a ‘Utility Tunic’ was produced, which was a simplified version of the original; both cheaper and easier to produce in large numbers. It differed in that the breast pockets were much larger and had no pleats.
The arrival of gas on the battlefield, following the Second Battle of Ypres (April-May 1915), saw the introduction of Gas Masks. The first ones were very primitive designs, often a face mask with goggles.

By the time of the Battle of Loos (September-October 1915) the PH Helmet was in widespread use, which was a large cloth hood with two eye pieces and a filter through which the soldier breathed. It was uncomfortable and difficult to use, the eye pieces normally misted up, but it stayed in use well into 1917. At the close of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 the Box Respirator, the first proper gas mask issued to British troops, appeared and all soldiers had one by the Spring of 1917. However, many continued to carry the older PH Helmet as a back-up.
While it was first introduced in late 1915, the Steel Helmet, or Shrapnel Helmet, was only in widespread use from the Spring of 1916. Indeed, the Battle of St Eloi (April 1916) was the first time that it had been worn in battle. The ‘soup-bowl’ design had a leather liner, with a leather chin-strap.

More than 7.5 million were made by 1918, and as it was constructed of tough steel, it offered greater protection that other designs. Some soldiers welded their regimental badges to the front of the helmet, but this was found to weaken the steel and German snipers often used them as an aiming point! More common was to find a regimental design painted on, as well as a battalion, brigade or divisional battle flash. Some soldiers wore khaki covers on the helmets, to stop them reflecting the light, and sometimes these were improvised from sandbag material.
A whole host of new weapons appeared in this period, and they will be dealt with in detail elsewhere on this part of the Old Front Line. However, they included hand grenades, light machine guns, flare pistols, trench weapons, and trench mortars.


A Lance Corporal of the Essex Regiment in April 1915. It clearly shows the 1914 Pattern Leather equipment which remained in use throughout the 1916-18 period. (©Paul Reed)


Corporal W.G.Clive of the 1/15th Londons (Civil Service Rifles) in France 1916. Clive wears the 1914 Utility Tunic, with simplified design: including larger and pleat-less breast pockets. Clive was killed at High Wood in September 1916. (©Paul Reed)


Private soldier of the Rifle Brigade in 1916 showing the 1914 Pattern Leather equipment. This soldier also had two gas masks in the small canvas bags, and a SMLE rifle with webbing action cover. He is clearly dressed for the trenches. (©Paul Reed)


A Private of the Royal Fusiliers 1916, showing a typical soldier of the period with steel Shrapnel Helmet, SMLE and 1908 Pattern webbing. (©Paul Reed)


British Sergeant in a front line trench at Boesinghe (Ypres) mid-1917. He wears the Shrapnel Helmet, and the small bag on his chest contains the Box Respirator. He also wears trousers cut down to shorts, which were often worn during the summer, although not by every unit. (©Paul Reed)
©Paul Reed 2002-2007

Link to page

This WW1 British Infantryman soldier from 1914 is issued with the 1908 webbing which is set up in the “Marching Order”. The 1908 Marching Order webbing set consisted of the following:
1908 Belt
1908 Ammunition pouches
1908 Shoulder straps
1908 Cross straps
1908 Water bottle carrier
1908 Water bottle
1908 Bayonet frog
1907 Enfield bayonet
1908 Helve carrier
1908 Helve (wooden handle for E tool- shovel)
1908 Entrenching tool (shovel head) carrier
1908 Entrenching tool head
1908 1908 Small pack
1908 Large pack


The British WW1 1908 webbing equipment carried all the soldiers kit that he would need in the field or trenches. The 1908 webbing system carried his 303 rifle ammunition, Enfield 303 bayonet, entrenching tool, food rations, mess tins, knife fork and spoon, water bottle, drinking cup, spare clothing, wash kit, housewife sewing kit etc.



The British Small Box Respirator (SBR) was designed in 1916 and began service by the end of the year.

A canvas covered rubber hose attached the mask to the canister. The mask was made of thinly rubberised canvas. The whole lot was contained in the canvas bag. The bag is hung from an adjustable strap.australian_infantry_small_box_respirators_ypres_1917

Here are two informative videos to watch.

Next week personal weapons of the British army Infantry of WW1.

PB Military Advisor


This Blog will be dedicated to all things World War One.

later In the year I will be highlighting  Weapons, Equipment and Tactics used during the great war.

Supporting Artists who wish to attend the boot camp for this production will find this blog handy when preparing for the boot camp assessment prior to the training.

Stay tuned and if you have not enlisted already, hit the link the below.

We are looking for men aged 16-35 for filming next year near Salisbury.
All roles are paid. Food and costumes will be provided.

We are looking for a ‘core’ group of young male supporting artists with great availability in Spring and Summer 2019.
Filming hours are often long so whilst experience is not essential, a positive ‘can do’ attitude is a must.

Apply here

Roman Basic Training v Modern British Army Basic training

A common phrase used during my days as a crow at Depot Para in Aldershot was “Train Hard, Fight easy” and from research, the Romans were no different.

It is evident to see where the British Army adopted its training doctrine from, which is still used today.

The first thing the soldiers were taught was to march. The historian Vegetius tells us that it was seen as of greatest importance to the Roman army that its soldiers could march at speed.

Any army which would be split up by stragglers at the back or soldiers trundling along at differing speeds would be vulnerable to attack.
Hence right from the beginning the Roman soldier was trained to march in line at the same pace and to keep the army a compact fighting unit on the move.

One of the Romans most famous formations was the Tortoise (testudo). Testudo is the Latin word for “tortoise”.

The soldiers in front and sides interlocked their shields. The soldiers in the back lines placed their shields over their heads to form a protective “shell” over top of the men.

For this, we are told by Vegetius, during the summer months the soldiers were to be marched twenty Roman miles (18.4 miles/29.6 km), which had to be completed in five hours.

In the British Army we call this a TAB Tactical Advance to Battle.

Vegetius mentions running, long and high jump and carrying heavy packs.

During the summer swimming was also a part of training. If their camp was near the sea, a lake or river, every recruit was made to swim.

Next in line, after the training for marching and fitness, came the training of handling weapons. The correc use of the gladius and scutum.

For this they primarily used wickerwork shields and wooden swords. Both the shields and the swords were made to standards which made them twice as heavy as the original weapons. Evidently it was thought, that if a soldier could fight with these heavy dummy weapons, he would be twice as effective with the proper ones.

The dummy weapons were at first employed against heavy wooden stakes, about six foot high, rather than against fellow soldiers. Against these wooden stakes the soldier trained the various moves, strikes and counter-strikes with the sword.

Only once the recruits was deemed able enough in fighting against the stakes, were they assigned in pairs to train in individual combat.

This more advanced stage of combat training was called armatura, an expression which first was used in the gladiatorial schools, which proves that some of the methods used in training soldiers was indeed borrowed from the training techniques of gladiators.

The weapons used in the armatura were, though still of wood, of the same, or similar weight as the original service weapons.

Weapons training was deemed of such importance that weapons instructors generally received double rations, whereas soldiers who didn’t achieve adequate standards received inferior rations until they had proven in the presence of a high-ranking officer that they had attained the demanded standard. (inferior rations: Vegetius states that their wheat rations were substituted with barley)

After completing the initial training with the sword, the recruit was to master the use of the spear, the pilum. For this the wooden stakes were put to use again as targets. The pilum used for practice was, once again, twice the weight of the regular weapon.

The Modern day army being live firing tests.

Vegetius notes that weapons training was given such importance that in some places roofed riding schools and drill halls were built to allow for training to continue throughout the winter.
Like my time at Depot Para, Physical conditioning and skill at arms was the bread and butter of soldiering. Without them you would not last long or be able to progress.

The Roman Army recruits were progressively trained to a high standard as you can see from the following. The British Army are no different.

Roman army training objectives.



Cutting down trees

Carrying heavy packs

Vaulting onto horses–mounting and dismounting from both the right and the left with their weapons drawn or holding their pila. Wooden horses were used until the recruits became proficient. Then real horses were used

Running in full armor

Digging defensive ditches

Erecting ramparts and palisades

Other camp construction activities

Taking care of equipment

Erecting tents

Giving first aid
British Army training objectives

Attestation (a formal ceremony to join the British Army), kit issue, administration, weapons training and Exercise Icebreaker (teaching Exercise) – your first night in the field.

Weapons training, introduction to foot drill and Military Swim Test.

Weapon training, physical development and potted sports.

Weapon Handling Test, introduction to Live Firing and Platoon Commanders Activity Day.

Exercise First Night (Teaching Exercise) 2 nights in the field, followed by Exercise Valliant Spirit – a trip to Ypres (Realities of War).

Live firing, Chemical/Biological/Nuclear/Radiation training.

Phase 2 Visits (a chance to see where you are going next and meet others like you who have already passed out), foot drill test, families’ day (a chance for your family to come and visit you) and a long weekend.

The Author during Basic training in Aldershot.

                       Who was the Military Adviser on that?

In this most recent blog I have decided to touch on the tricky subject of all things regarding military authenticity in the movie and TV industry. Surprisingly, despite the production team having a military technical advisor on board, “things will not be 100% authentically correct every time. “Penny wise and pound foolish” Bear this phrase in mind when reading the rest of my blog.

“Filmmakers are under more pressure than ever to make sure military tactics and equipment are depicted realistically on-screen, and experienced advisers can make the difference” wrote Nick Goundry for last year

What we do

Production will often hire a technical advisor to ensure that a complicated area is portrayed as accurately as possible in the production. Similarly, a period movie may include one or more historians of the period, or eyewitnesses if possible, for the same purpose.

Technical advisors typically answer to the director and Line Producers. Their expertise adds realism both to the acting and to the setting of a movie. Some advisors for military movies have been known to run miniature boot camps to give actors a first-hand experience of a military setting. Boot camps additionally help provide the basics so when the camera rolls only a quick remind and revise is required. So less takes, less time and as we all know. Time is money!

To be a technical adviser you do not have to know every aspect of warfare, military history or have taken out several enemy bunkers armed with just a wooden spoon. What you do need is the ability to research your subject thoroughly, honestly and have that all important art of diplomacy. There is more to it than that, but I will reserve that explanation for another time.

I have made no secret during media interviews that advising in any capacity is 60% research and 40% your experience articulated to the Director, actor, stunt coordinator and supporting actors.

You can only offer advice; you cannot demand it’s taken. The Director will have the last call and he may have a set look he wants to portray and its known as ‘artistic licence

The Seven Ps during the early stages.

Movie or TV production preparations can take anything from six months to a year before the camera starts rolling. In most cases costume, art and prop departments are approached long before a technical advisor and although other departments are very experienced in their field, not all are subject matter experts (SME’S) on military jargon and Google image takes a pounding in the search for the right look, but without really knowing what they are looking for.

In an ideal world a Military Adviser (MA) should be brought in as early into pre-production as possible. An MA’s knowledge (tactfully delivered so not to offend) can save departments a lot of time and money from the offset, bringing the desired look as close to reality as possible from the very start, with communication at the very beginning and at all levels to avoid embarrassing mistakes that film critics and tabloids crave to exploit for headlines.

The wrong flags or medal, a beret worn like a helicopter landing pad on an actor’s head or even a WW2 fighter aircraft painted in the wrong markings for the year might seem trivial, but can make all the difference with the end product and can avoid fuelling critics looking for page space.

Don’t Shoot the MA.

”Who was the Military Adviser on that?” is one line commonly trotted out on social media and blogs when mistakes are highlighted but don’t be so quick to shoot the adviser.

Contrary to popular belief, and from my experience so far, Military Technical Advisers are not always approached by production during the early preparation stage of a film or TV program as much as you would think. Unfortunately it’s an all too common mistake and only identified once it’s too late and the budget on props and costumes have already been spent.

Most people with a service background or those who regularly attend historical re-enactment events are quick to critique any production with Military content and no Film or TV program are exempt and unfortunately it’s the MA who gets it in the neck most the time from those less experienced in the industry.

Before I started in the film industry I was the very same, pointing out inaccuracies until I had my first real taste as a full time Military Adviser on War and Peace for the BBC.

I was brought in with only a few days to learn Napoleonic warfare and put together a structured safe training program fit for purpose, before jetting off to Lithuania.

Once I landed in Lithuania I had a day for my own prep then straight into a seven day intensive Boot camp for 200 extras for the winter scenes. When time permitted I attempted to liaise with all the various departments, but it was obvious all the preparation work and fittings had already been done months in advance with very little I could do or add to change things.

Thankfully the team on War and Peace were mostly on their game and they had consulted a Historical adviser for all the costumes and medals, but that’s not always been the case. Once I was brought in the day before a scene was due to be filmed and it was the first time I had met the director or been able to train the actors with the supporting cast on set, just minutes before the cameras rolled!

These are not the droids you are looking for.
Set etiquette, diplomacy, and respect for the work and effort of each department is a skill in itself which must be mastered if you are to survive as a Military Technical Adviser. The ability to muster the force with the director comes in handy too!

Stepping on other department’s toes, strutting on set with a big ego, a reenactment head or a Regimental Sergeant Majors approach to every situation, while shouting and screaming from the roof tops will not get you far and you will have a short lived career.

You have to remember most people within the relevant departments have no service history and will not respond or tolerate it.

A few Classic Examples.

On one production scene I spent most of the 12 hour shoot correcting berets which had obviously been taken straight out of the hire company laundry bag and just pulled over the heads of cast in the changing room, with no attempt at shaping them a few days before. When I asked why this had happened I was simply told the hire company wanted them returned in the same state.

All I could do was to keep re-dressing the actor’s berets whilst teaching them what actions were required only to have to repeat the process minutes after. It was a very frustrating and repetitive day.

It’s not the costume departments fault of course as most of them would not know how or why there is a need to shape military headdress. However, on rare occasions I have had time with the costume department in advance and managed to convince them to allow me to take the berets out for a few days before a shoot and shape them to the respective heads during a boot camp.

This allowed the costume department to concentrate on other matters and I could correct how the actors would react to a given situation as well as answer all the other departments’ questions being fired at me during the day.

Some battles I have won and just this one example of adopting a diplomatic approach during prep, saved time, energy and the ever embarrassing berets saga. Other such battles I have lost and could only suck it up and grit my teeth. A very thick skin helps as it can be like banging your head against a brick wall at times.

Other examples, such as the configuration of soldier’s equipment, can also be an issue overlooked by departments not fully in the know.

On one production I had been required to step in at the last minute and change all the 58 pattern webbing belts to depict the units realistically for how they would wear them. For example the difference in equipment from an SAS soldier to a line infantry unit where an SAS soldier’s equipment and weapons would be more personalised and not standardised as a line unit.

The Props department were being led by a Google image they had been sent by a ‘Historian’ thinking the men in the picture were SAS troopers. Until I pointed out the unit was a light infantry regiment. Turned out the Historian had never served in the military so had no idea on how servicemen adapt issued equipment.

Current in-service unit insignia, badges, medals and flags are another gray area and sometime due to copy write laws productions are not always permitted to use these in films due to restrictions imposed by the MOD or DOD, so close alternatives have to be designed and made from scratch. I expect that more than half of you reading this never knew that!

There are also situations when heads of departments looking at savings feel they only need a technical adviser to train actors for a few hours then are no longer required during filming so to save money. This has proved to be counter productive as there is no one to correct obvious mistakes on set.

The actors and background are just that, actors. They are not soldiers and would not remember a few days training. So an experienced adviser should always be on set to remind, revise and be on hand for any questions.

From experience most Directors and Assistant Directors (AD) will not know the rank order of saluting or the difference from a Major to a corporal or unit trades when placing supporting actors in the background to act their respective roles.

I have been on set during filming with up to 500 supporting cast and I can find myself running from one group to the other correcting the obvious mistakes AD’s have made which would never have be noticed had I not been on set.

Again it’s not an AD’s fault, they are not to know and I only have two pair of eyes so something’s will be missed. It’s inevitable. However, Here are just a few howlers I have managed to correct on time.

1. A Russian private soldier shouting orders at a KGB Officer and giving the Private a British Army Salute.

2. A US Airforce Major General on guard and saluting an Airman First class as the Major General raises the barrier for him. .

3. A French prisoner of war given a sword and musket to walk past the camera with his captors when he’s supposed to be a prisoner.

4. A Royal Marine SGT who’s supposed to be part of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) walking about with just a fire extinguisher and no weapon or webbing during an incident in a hostile situation.

5. Fingers on triggers and missing magazines ( that old chest nut)

6. A US soldier from the 80’s sporting a UK issued diamond Jubilee medal.

7. Soldiers about to run in front of a firing friendly heavy machine gun during a big firefight scene. (Not only dangerous but would have been a very costly re-set)

8. Everyone trying to hold their issued weapon like they have been on lone Survivor ( but it’s a musket you plonker)

The edit stage in post production is one great example where an adviser is not consulted. Taken from Rambo 2 where the hero fires a 66 LAW from inside a helicopter. The first we see a 66 as he arms it to fire.

The close up shot its changed to the hand and triggergrip of an RPG

In the final shot after firing its back to a 66

Had an adviser been consulted he could have pointed it out, plus the fact the poor guys in the back are going to get a face full of backblast.

These are just the belt and braces mistakes and I could expand further, but by now I’m sure you get the picture. An adviser on set is a one man ‘Billy No Mates’ department who supports all departments and cannot be everywhere all of the time, but when they are there they will do their best to get as much right as possible within the constraints mentioned above.

Military Technical Advisers brought in early are a good spend and pay dividend when the cameras roll and on the cutting room floor. There is work still to be done to ensure that military advisers are brought onto productions from the beginning as a standard procedure and to do away with the penny wise and pound foolish attitude towards MA’s.

If you do see me on set don’t forget to give me a hug. Unless your from 3 Para Morters!

Feel free to share this blog and add your howlers on the comments box.


Jason Bourne riot scenes From the LA Times

Jason Bourne riot scenes From the LA Times

 Hell-bent and mercurial as ever, the latest “Jason Bourne” film is a news clip on amphetamines. Fictional intrigue is woven into real-world drama so that riots in Athens pulse with both Hollywood escapism and the kind of gritty, detailed images that flash on CNN in the hours before a government collapses or a dictator scurries away on a helicopter.

The cleverness and conceit of “Jason Bourne” is how in one scene it uses the Greek financial crisis to suit its visceral whims. In a sustained panorama of nearly seamless editing, Bourne (Matt Damon) appears like a mythological shape-shifter as the stirrings of revolt rattle the ancient capital. The momentum spirals from whisper to roar: placards, pumped fists, Molotov cocktails, police, tear gas, wounded protesters, water cannons, sirens, helicopter spotlights and pitched battles spreading through a city on the brink.


In a case of art imitating life, the scene took me back to 2011, when I covered the Egyptian revolution that erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and engulfed the country. The sky popped with gunfire, songs and fireworks. Riot police moved in. Snipers perched on rooftops. The celebratory turned ominous as a crowd of tens of thousands — a fascinating and oddly seductive organism — bristled and swirled with the disparate agendas of revolutionaries, Islamists, soldiers, parents, students and government-hired thugs.

A protest is an arcing narrative broken into subplots. It can surge into stunning moments of violence and then go hushed. It is scented with sweat, blood, burning tires and vinegar-soaked rags to cut the sting of tear gas. Images and scenes are swift and fierce: bandaged men carried into mosques, boys cursing and hurling stones, barbed wire, barrels, tanks, palm trees aflame, bullet wisps, chanted slogans, the dead dragged to sidewalks and countless footsteps echoing down boulevards and alleys.

Recent documentaries, including Evgeny Afineevsky’s “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” and Jehane Noujaim’s “The Square,” about the Egyptian uprising, swept audiences into the smoke, fear, rage and danger of street protests. The movies resonated with the drama of a feature but rang with the air of authenticity; there were no actors, and real lives were at stake.

By infusing documentary-style realism, “Jason Bourne” captured with multiple vantage points a crowd’s fury unleashed beneath the lights of the Acropolis. One senses the gods looking down with amused alarm. Director Paul Greengrass, centered by Damon’s train-like doggedness, summoned chaos with balletic restraint. (Unfortunately, the Las Vegas car chase toward the end is the overdone opposite, an endless screeching scourge.)


But the revolt in Athens — one can recall the not-too-distant past when Greeks protested for months as their prospects tumbled and their debt widened — was closer to the genuine thing than Hollywood often gets. Studios increasingly prefer the comic book to the complicated, careening light years from reality into parallel fantasy worlds and characters sheathed in titanium, Spandex and urethane. But “Jason Bourne,” which was No. 1 at the box office over the weekend, suggests that an unadorned man battling earthly forces can still be riveting.


It is hard for a feature film to sketch true the intricacies of wars, rebellions and other nation-altering moments. Something happens when the real is transposed through the dramatic. A bit of the soul and intimacy get lost. The lens can only distill so much; something needed lingers beyond the frame. The world’s traumas and conflicts are stubborn to the designs of art and are more powerful than a director’s vision or special effects gimmickry.


“Jason Bourne” reminds us, however, that it is possible for a few minutes in a long movie to get close to the authentic, whether it’s the Arab Spring, the anguish in Greece, the failed coup in Turkey, terrorism in North Africa or the withering war in Syria.

Job Done!