Austro-Hungarian K.u.K. Infantry, circa 1914
A front-line Infantry Soldier of the K.u.K. as they appeared on the Serbian Frontier in late July of 1914. The “pike-gray” 1908 field jacket varied in color between a flat, stone gray to the bluish gray color more frequently referred to as French Horizon Blue. With a broad cross section of manufacturers and different grades of wool, the soldiers wore whatever they were issued.
The Austro-Hungarian fatigue caps appeared both with and without leather or cloth bills. This particular fatigue cap has no bill at all. The wartime gray “subdued” insignia, featuring the “FJI” of the Emperor, Franz Josef. The M1908 equipment belt is at the foundation of the set with strap extensions featured on the pack straps of the hair covered M1906 “tornister” that clipped to the back of the M1908 leather cartridge pouches.
The M1910 Linnemann pattern e-tool with the pointed blade is suspended from the belt by one of the many different pattern leather carriers that were in use in August of 1914. The M1888 bread-bag features both a shoulder strap as well as belt straps to secure it to the soldier’s side.
If combat was imminent, an additional 40 rounds of ammunition in the form of four boxes, each of which contained two 5-round Mannlicher en-bloc clips, were carried in the bread-bag along with three days rations.
The water bottle, in this case featuring a form-fitting cup that straps to the bottom half of the bottle, was generally stored in an internal pocket of the bread-bag. When a M1907 bottle is carried externally, as is the case here, it is more than likely a second and/or third water bottle carried in addition to an example in the bread-bag. Most combat veterans learned early on that thirst accompanied the surge of adrenaline that was a constant companion while under fire. The Austro-Hungarian water bottles were of minimal size to begin with.
British Expeditionary Force
Members of the British Expeditionary Force, who landed on French soil in support of their treaty obligation to help protect Belgian neutrality, were uniformed and equipped as well or better than any of the other armies that answered to call to mobilize in the summer of 1914. The M1902 service uniform accompanied by the M1905 peaked cap were of khaki colored wool, including the spiral wrapped M1902 puttees that would eventually replace canvas and leather leggings in most armies during the course of the war.
The M1908 kit constructed of khaki Mill’s webbing was well designed and superior to the leather accouterments still in use by all of the other European armies of the day. The No. 1 Mk III Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) is considered by many to be the finest bolt-action battle rifle of the war. The M1907 bayonet mounted on the SMLE in the display is a rare surviving example that has retained the original curved quillion that was later eliminated to simplify manufacturing.
French 18th Regiment, Metropolitan
Infantry circa 1914
French tradition was the reason why the color “garance” was still present in the lexicon of colors present in the French military uniform of the day, despite having made the decision to cloth the African regiments in khaki years before. The bright red “garance” colored M1897 trousers and M1884 kepi, combined with the brightly polished M1852 mess tin strapped per regulations to the highest point of the fully loaded M1893 pack, made the individual French soldier highly visible in the age of the modern bolt-action high-velocity infantry rifle.
The dark blue M1877 “capote” or greatcoat with the long skirt buttoned back on either side of the hips, was the foundation of the traditional French uniform. The blackened leather equipment composed of the M1888 belt and three individual M1888 ammunition pouches, supported by the M1892 Y-strap equipment straps also carries the M1888 frog for the M1886 Lebel bayonet. The M1892 bread-bag is worn opposite the M1877 one-liter water bottle and drinking cup.
In addition to his own equipment, our NCO has also been elected to carry his section’s “boiler” which can be seen strapped to the back of the pack. One soldier out of eight was detailed to carry an extra item for the squad.
French 1st Zouave Regiment circa 1914
The rarest and perhaps the most garish, the four Regiments of Zouaves went to a modern war dressed in this 19th Century uniform, and managed to stand out as an army full of targets! The four regiments of Zouaves in the French Army in 1914, while dressed in traditional North African style uniforms, were composed entirely of native Frenchmen rather than Colonials. The uniform was composed of a vest (sedria), which was worn underneath the short waste jacket (tombo), atop a pair of triple width baggy trousers (saroul).
A 13-foot-long sash was wrapped around the waste over the vest and trousers and was intended to provide additional lower back support while on the march. The entire affair was topped off with a soft red cap with blue tassel (chechia). The gaudy uniform was completely abandoned before the end of 1914 for obvious reasons!
The uniform in this display is perhaps the rarest example in the John’s entire collection. Like the line regiments of the Metropolitan Infantry, in August of 1914 the four regiments of Zouaves were armed with the Mle 1886-93 Lebel Infantry Rifle and the Mle 1886 bayonet.
Imperial German Soldier, Saxon 178th Infantry circa 1914
While there were still some minor variations in the uniforms worn by each individual German State, in this particular example an NCO from the 178th Infantry Regiment of the Saxon Army, the Imperial German Army was battle-ready in “Feldgrau.” This beautiful private purchase M1908 greatcoat is the basis of this German display circa 1914.
A cloth cover is worn over the M1895 Pickelhaube, which in the case of Saxony featured a sunburst behind the Saxon coat-of-arms on the polished brass front-plate of the leather helmet. The M1895 equipment belt is worn with a State coat-of-arms and motto embossed in the brass belt buckle. The cartridge boxes are the M1888 pattern for Pioneers and have the typical metal clips mounted on the backs of the cartridge boxes. To help distribute the weight of fully loaded cartridge pouches, extension straps were mounted on the straps of the M1895 “tornister” clipped to the back of the cartridge boxes. The “tornister” or pack as we would call it, was finished with the hair side of the cowhide on the exterior surfaces of the pack. The M1910 mess kit is strapped to the outer flap of the pack with two equipment straps.
The M1912 Pioneer’s “Beilpicke” or axe is issued here with a tandem frog for the S1898-05 bayonet “mit sage.” The M1887 bread-bag supports the M1893 water bottle and drinking cup. The pant legs of the trousers are worn tucked into the tops of the M1866 marching boots.
Russia’s Preobrazhensky Guard circa 1914
The Preobrazhensky Guard Regiment was one of the oldest of the elite Guard Regiments that formed the core of the Imperial Russian Army. As a guard regiment they received the most modern equipment of the day.
The M1912 “gymnastiorka” as worn by Guard Regiments featured red piped pockets as well as the placate closure of the pull-over tunic. The black M1907 semi breeches with red piping gather at the knee and fit tight to the calf where they are tucked into the tops of the boots. The M1910 “ferashka” bears a cockade painted with the black and orange colors of the ruling Romanov Family. The brass buckled M1904 leather equipment belt typically carried two M1893 cartridge boxes along with an entrenching spade slung from the belt in a leather or canvas carrier.
A rare surviving example of the M1910 pack has a shelter half strapped to the side with the M1909 mess kit suspended from one of the straps on the bottom of the pack. The M1909 water bottle, with a form-fitting drinking cup strapped to it, is slung over the right shoulder and worn on the left hip along with the M1910 haversack. Rations and spare ammunition was carried in the haversack, a common practice in armies of the period when action was expected.
As an Imperial Russian Guardsman serving in one of the premier regiments in the Army, this soldier is better equipped than the average Russian soldier who frequently appears in period photos of the day with half or less of the equipment present in this display. The M1891 Three-Line Rifle was issued with the M1891 socket bayonet issued without a scabbard as the bayonet was intended to always remain on the rifle. The M1891 rifle was sighted in with the bayonet mounted.
Serbian 1st Ban Infantry Regiment circa 1914
The tough, veteran soldiers of the Serbian 1st Ban Infantry had recently overthrown the Ottoman Turkish yoke and this time it was to be the Hapsburg’s who sought to impose their will on the Serbs. The “Šubara,” the traditional Serbian cap was adopted in its present form along with the introduction of the M1908 uniform. The gray M1908 tunic features the distinct Austrian style pointed pocket flaps in vogue militarily at the turn of the century. Boots and puttees were issued when available as is the case here.
Personal effects and issue items are carried in a blanket roll including a shelter-half and woolen blanket, while rations and extra ammunition was carried in the bread-bag. A private purchase water bottle could carry water, wine or spirits, or a combination thereof.
A Linnemann pattern entrenching spade is strapped to the back of the blanket roll and the bread-bag and water bottle hide all by the lower tip of the bayonet scabbard. Cartridge boxes and a dagger are worn on the leather equipment belt.
The Imperial German Army columns of the Schlieffen Plan’s “right hook” choke
the roads across all of Belgium on the route to envelope the French Army from the north.
The bayonet charge was the staple tactic of the all out offensive launched by the French Army at
the outbreak of war in August of 1914. Every army that took the field in the opening month of the
war suffered severely for the outdated tactics they initially employed in the face of modern weaponry.
Bayonet charges and advances in column gave way to firing lines and utilizing existing cover.
Within months the stalemate in the trenches will have settled in all along the Western Front.
Eventually the Serbian Army was severely outnumbered and outclassed by the combined efforts of
Austria-Hungary, Germany and Bulgaria, however in the early weeks of the war, the tough
Serbs fought the Austro-Hungarian K.u.K. to a standstill.
Well-equipped Imperial Russian Infantry present arms during regimental inspection. Despite the general
impression presented to western governments by their intelligence agencies regarding the general condition
of the Imperial Russian Army leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914, the Russian uniforms were surprisingly
modern and the individual soldier well equipped. The problem lie in the inability of the Russian State to support
multiple armies in the field in a modern protracted war of material.
The tough, stalwart Russian soldier endured the hardships of his lowly status in both peace and war.
Perseverance was one of the hallmarks of Russia’s peasant soldiers, a characteristic that was to
see the Russian Bear through this world war and the next.
An Austro-Hungarian Infantry unit poses for a photo in August 1914 with their issue M1895
Mannlicher Infantry Rifles. Based on the variation in greatcoat colors this is most likely a
unit of the K.u.K. Landwehr, the first line reserves, upon mobilization to face the Russian
advance on Galicia.
French Infantry return German fire from behind an embankment. Before the Battle of the Frontier’s
had been fought to a conclusion, the troops were already going to ground, resorting to the spade
for defense against the deadly effects of small arms and field artillery fire as is evidenced in
this photo where the French Infantry entrenching tools are within easy reach of the firing line.