Becoming a Soldier

A denim fatigue uniform was worn for the first 2 weeks of training at Trentham and Featherston Camps.

Courtesy of Barry O’Sullivan

A web equipment belt was worn around the waist that was made especially for the requirements of New Zealand and is one of two unique New Zealand designs.

Each pouch carries 15 rounds of .303 calibre ammunition and hanging from the left hip is an 1888 pattern bayonet with a 16 inch steel blade. Over the shoulder is a ground sheet rolled ‘bandolier’ style.

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Courtesy of Barry O'Sullivan

Courtesy of Barry O'Sullivan

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Dressed to Command

Officers carried a variety of equipment that hung around and from a Sam Browne leather belt. This could include binoculars, map case, haversack, torch, water bottle, revolver holster and an anti-gas respirator in canvas haversack.

Above the rank on the right cuff are the service chevrons which were first issued in January 1918. Each chevron indicated one years’ service with the red chevron indicating departure from New Zealand before 31 December 1914.

The owner of this service dress jacket, Lieutenant Harold Edwin Wright from Timaru, was wounded at Gallipoli in August 1915. This is indicated by the brass wound stripe above his left cuff.

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Desert Troopers

Troopers stationed in the Middle East wore pantaloons and putties on their legs and just a wool shirt during the hottest part of the day.

Over the shoulder is a nine pouch bandolier (shoulder belt), a web haversack and a water bottle. The leather belt has more ammunition pouches and a bayonet.

The felt hat has a Canterbury Mounted Rifles badge on the front and New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron patches on each side of the Mounted Rifles puggaree (hat band). The trooper carried all the other equipment for himself and his horse on his saddle, including a greatcoat and jacket to protect against the extreme cold of the desert night.

Courtesy of Barry O'Sullivan

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On the Western Front

The uniform of a lance corporal from the 2nd Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade fully kitted up for another stint on the front line. Around the torso is a 1908 Pattern Web Equipment, a harness system for carrying equipment, in marching order.

The other rank’s service dress jacket is English-made and on the left cuff is a strip of Russian braid indicating that the wearer has been previously wounded. Over the shoulders is an extra cloth bandolier with 50 rounds of .303 calibre ammunition and a haversack for a gas hood. Hanging from the belt is a bayonet with a 17 inch steel blade.

Courtesy of Barry O'Sullivan

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(Left to right) Identity tags for  Lancelot Richard Austin, bank teller of Christchurch,  Arthur Elderton, who died in France on 10 July 1916, Henry Nicholas who was killed in action in France on 23 October 1918 and, at rear, William Bryce McMillan, farmer of Cashmere. Austin and McMillian both returned from the War.

Canterbury Museum  1991.328.32, 1997.189.17, 1999.128.17, 2002.106.12

The Importance of Identity

Recruits were given identity tags recording their name, service number and their religion. The first tags were made of tin and later versions of compressed fibre.

Two tags were issued and worn on a cord or fine leather lace. If the wearer died one tag was removed and sent to the Army Records Department. Often, as happened with Privates Elderton and Nicholas, the tag was later returned to the family with the soldier’s belongings.


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Rifle ammunition pouch designed for the pre-war Territorial Force and used in New Zealand from 1911 at training camps and by the first three drafts to land at Gallipoli in 1915

Courtesy of Barry O’Sullivan

The Weight of War

Every member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force needed to be adequately equipped.

Along with the standard outfit, equipment worn into combat by the infantry, known as Battle Order, included 250 rounds of ammunition, grenades, gas mask, metal helmet, wire cutters, greatcoat, entrenching tool, field dressing, rolled groundsheet, water bottle, rations, mess kit, personal items (such as a diary and pay book) and weapons for hand to hand combat.

It is estimated that men could carry as much as 50 kg into battle.