weight of marching and fighting order for a WW2 Tommy

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by oldcolt, Jul 23, 2009.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Ive tried a search for this on tinternet but with little success/ millions of hits that lead nowehere. I'm having a debate with my Uncle who was an officer in the RWF and Sikh Regiment in WW2, who thinks the bergan and webbing we wear now is much heavier than he or his men ever wore/ were expeted to carry. His memory is a little shaky nowadays and he can't remember how much the offical pack weights were fighting/ marching order etc. I would love to be able to settle this and he has a curiosity about it as well, which is great for me because he doesn't talk about his experiences very much (understandably given what he went through). Your help would be appreciated please gentlemen (and ladies) :D
  2. I'm not sure about weights or distances however I believe that all marching and fighting back then was done in black and white. It was only after Korea that the British Army trained in glorious technicolour.

    I hope I have been of some help.
  3. I don't know about World War 2, but it has been calculated that a World War 1 Tommy carried more weight into battle than a medieval knight in armour.
  4. Got me googling and first result was this:


    Worth reading the whole thing, not too long and compares to falklands studies

    If really keen for a proper answer I suspect a letter to then imperial war musuem would work. But its all pretty subjective obviously depending on extra equipment and ammo like radios and mortar bombs etc...
    If you were looking for a general answer as to whether a modern infantryman carries more then I suspect the answer is yes if he is operating in a light infantry role with bergan and support weapons
  5. Firstly I'll say that I am a civilian and therefore probably have no idea what I'm talking about. I'll then qualify that by saying that I do have a keen interest in world war 2.

    In short I think that your uncle is probably right. Most pictures of soldiers in actual combat in world war 2 show most of them carrying their weapons, webbing and that little square pack on their back. I would therefore assume that they has left the big packs back at HQ.

    This is probably because the lines were much more fixed and you could clearly say that the enemy where over there, so my pack will be safe here for the actual fighting, and I can get it when I go back for my weeks rest.

    I await the replies of poeple that have been there and done it with interest, as I have always wondered why you lot carry so much when you're going on a patrol away from the FOBS. Surely you could leave most of it there?
  6. WW2 combat load ("fighting order") was about 25lbs with marching order expected to be no more than 45lbs., considerably less than today's combat load of 75lbs

    They carried less ammunition, protection, clothing, and comms equipment. - No CBA, IPE, radio, batteries, waterproofs, sleeping system.....

    Ammo - each man armed with the rifle carried fifty rounds of ammunition in ten chargers of five rounds each. By 1944 the load had doubled to one hundred rounds, but the additional 50 rounds of ammunition was earmarked for the Section Bren Gun. He also carried two hand grenades.
  7. Having read "Castle Commando" a few months ago, this thread has jogged a memory of the book and about the recruits first hour into training to be Commando's:

    During the Second World War, Achnacarry House and grounds were used as Britain's principal Commando training establishment. The Clan Cameron Museum, within the grounds of Achnacarry, has pictures of the recruits abseiling down the walls as well as various items of memorabilia. The Commando Memorial, situated just over a mile from Spean Bridge, is passed on the route of the march.

    The initial march took place when the volunteers arrived at Spean Bridge Station. It was not unusual for them to be ordered to leave the train on the opposite side to the platform and any man injured jumping down on the track would be RTU'd. Heavy kit would be placed upon the waiting transport and the troops were then force marched to the gates of Achnacarry House carrying their fighting order weighing 36 pounds. The time allowed, to cover the 7 mile route, was 1 hour. Any recruits who failed to achieve this time were about turned and RTU'd on the next train. Prior to arriving at Spean Bridge, the recruits had undergone basic fitness training at Wrexham to ensure that they stood a good chance of completing the march.
  8. 1908 pattern webbing was designed to carry about 60lbs when large pack was used in combat this was left behind at QMs and only fighting order carried, but when other equipment was needed this would add more weight. 1937 webbing was pretty much the same. 40/60 lbs has been about the average weight carried since Roman times when marching, but seldom in combat
  9. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    I am more than ready to be corrected, but I venture that during 60's and 70s we probably carried as much, if not more weight than nowadays. If we take away CBA, but substitue the really heavy plain coloured combat kit, wet 58 pattern kit, an SLr, mags and ammo, and throw in for good measure an A41 radio, plus spare battery, it does add up. Then there were the guys who carrioed GPMG, Carl Gustav, 2 inch mortar and all the spare ammo fore these things. Remember, these were all issued at platoon and section level. Then there was the c13 manpack radio. That was not a lightweight either.
  10. And not forgetting the Cold War BAOR standard Yellow Handbag 8)
  11. Here we go, a full set of weight tables for 1937 pattern webbing.


    Weights for 58 pattern CEFO & CEMO 15 kg and 28 Kg respectively without personal kit which could add another 10-15 kilos in a temperate environment.
  12. When you read actual personal accounts of WW1 and WW2 (or even the Napoleonic wars, etc) its quite clear that - whatever the kit list published in regulations - their real world loads were pretty well identical to today: i.e. "maximum sustainable weight" when marching, and any weight in combat from "near marching order" right down to "rifle, bayonet, ammo & water".

    I think that all that has changed is merely the kit and various quantities of things.
  13. My late father was insistent on the weight being 25lbs and the speed was 6mph in Irish Guards, this was during workup for France. A lot of the time spent training was on Wrotham escarpment, (Trosley?) He could recite those figures automatically when asked.

    Summer and Winter marching order varied the weight of course, but without seeing a Guards manual for fighting order, I can't tell you what the weight difference would be.
  14. My grandfather remembers "additional" kit to be carried putting the weight up to about 60lbs. If unit transport was available most of the heavy kit went on that, although in his experience in the early days of the war unit transport was the first to get lost due to the Luftwaffe! kit was considerably lighter in the Far East but still heavy and you sweated like a right C**T! The old radios and batteries were very heavy and bulky he described that it was like carrying a radiogram on your back ( a big old piece of furniture with a radio and record player, very heavy)! Webbing eqmt was'nt geared up to the additional kit and it was very uncomfortable. He was issued 44 pattern just as Japan surrendered and then had to hand it back in as he was going to escort some VOR Shermans to a base repair depot in India.
  15. Thanks for all the replies so far folks. this one seems to have spearked some real interest! :D