On the march in the English Civil War: what would a soldier’s kit look like in 1645?

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Marching into battle at Naseby in the Northamptonshire countryside in 1645, a musketeer in the New Model Army of Parliament would have carried everything he needed with him, from his musket to eating implements – something a photographic survey of military kits by photographer Thom Atkinson has brought to life.

Re-enactment groups, collectors, historians and serving soldiers helped Atkinson assemble the components for each shot, which cover soldiers from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 to the campaigns in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2014.

The items in the Battle of Naseby image are very familiar to our musketeers and demonstrate both the simplicity of being a soldier in the mid 17th Century, but also the dangers – while they can defend themselves, there are few lasting provisions or the means to provide shelter, and soldiers would often be hungry and cold when on the march.

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The items displayed include:
1 Latchet shoes – straight lasted shoes, i.e. no left or right foot
2 Stockings
3 Linen shirt and a pair of breeches
4 brown doublet; these would be the soldiers own clothes
5 Red coat issued by the New Model Army (NMA). The NMA was the first to try and standardise equipment and equip its soldiers with a standard coat. Red was the cheapest dye you could get, apart from natural grey which the Scots army had already adopted
6 Powder flask with spare gunpowder
7 Belt with bandoliers – each have a measured amount of gunpowder in
8 Satchel
9 & 10 Dagger with its sheath
11 Whetstone and to it’s left, a picker, which clears the touchhole in the musket in case of blockages
12 Matchlock Musket, which used a slow match to fire the main charge. The barrel was four feet long and fired a lead ball weighing 1/12th of a pound
13 & 14 Cards and some dice – although this was a religious army, the men still liked to play games and gamble
15 Very fine comb used for removing nits from hair
16 Lump of animal fat soap
17 Belt
18 Woollen leg ties to hold stockings up
19 Smoking pipes made from clay; tobacco was expensive, so the bowls of the pipes are very small
20 Letter from home – the army operated a fairly regular postal service to the major towns – and news-sheet (early newspaper)
21 bag for tobacco
22 metal striker and flint
23 Knife and fork – forks were a reasonably new invention and were just starting to work their way down the social scale. At the time they only had two prongs
24 Spoon
25 Drinking vessel made from horn
26 Wooden bowl
27 Leather flask lined with pitch
28 Felted woollen hat, the paper in the hat band is a religious tract. A lot of the soldiers of the New model Army were from the “low church” tradition, where sermons are the central feature of the service. Levels of literacy were quite high from soldiers recruited from London and the major towns and they would buy published sermons to read, as well as other works explaining the passages from the bible and news-sheets which were printed weekly and gave news of the war
29 Tuck – soldier’s sword

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