The Knapsack - Hypotheticals, Experiments & Facts

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The Knapsack - Hypotheticals, Experiments & Facts

Obadiah
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Obadiah
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Joined: August 1st, 2006, 8:22 pm

September 22nd, 2010, 5:19 pm #1

If you've ever woundered what we carry around in our knapsacks {the black square looking thing strapped to our backs}, well wounder no more. For the first time ever on a 95th forum I shall reveal all.

This is my second knapsack, the first is what I made some ten years ago based on the much later wooden framed knapsack. This was modifed over the years with the frame removed and straps added or removed etc. When Paul D took on the roll of making knapsacks {sucker} he researched the knapsack to death, and after nearly two years he has has finally come up with a knapsack that conforms to what we think is the so called 1812 pattern. I don't for one minute state that this knapsack is 100% perfect or that it is what they had. It is however our best guess, by going through all original documents and looking at period images, making up different packs to see how they would work out in the field etc. And this is what we ended up with. I don't doub't that there are those out there who may have different ideas about the knapsack, we would love to hear them. We have found that there are different variations of the knapsack probably done at regimental level to suit the needs of that regiment etc. Some seamed to have extra straps, some pockets on the sides, even some mention having slats in the sides. Until a original ones turns up, this is our best guess.

The first couple of images show my knapsack as it would be ready for use.
Showing front and back. My knapsack in this state weighs 26 lbs {12kg}. Which is a bit funny as it feels a lot heavier to me. As you can see it is very packed, so what else they could carry in their to make it upto the 40-50 lbs that some state. On the other hand this does give gredence if they either carried a great coat or a blanket. But what else whould the soldier carry? I've not put in a second pair of shoes in but have heal and sole plates to be able to repair my existing ones.

knap_1.jpg knap_2.jpg

The next couple of images show the knapsack opened. The contents of my knapsack are as follows {starting from left to right and working down}: Undress Jacket, Button Stick, Button Brush, Button Buff, Polish {Brick Dust}, Candle, Spare Shirt, Blanket, Undress Trousers, Stockings, Cloths Brush, Flannel Towel, Spare Sole, Heals, Shods, Hobs, Nails. Pack of Ball Cartridges, Playing Cards, Needle Case, Thimble, Needle, Pins, Thread, Snips, Soap, Looking Glass, Toothbrish, Shaving Soap Holder, Razor, Sponge, Shaving Brush, Strop, Bandages, Shoe Brushes, Black Ball, Tinder Box and Steel. All the little items are bagged up and I would probably be carrying additional cartridges in several packs (of 10 per pack) as well.

knap_3.jpg
knap_4.jpg

The last image shows whats on top of the knapsack, the mess tin and greatcoat. The greatcoat also shows the strap that enables the coat to be carried separatley.

                             knap_5.jpg

Serjt Dave
Last edited by Obadiah on October 1st, 2010, 7:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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havercakelad
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havercakelad
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Joined: April 20th, 2008, 10:59 pm

September 22nd, 2010, 11:42 pm #2

The pattern you have meets the actual kit carried test !
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Eddie
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Eddie
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Joined: September 4th, 2010, 11:49 am

October 1st, 2010, 6:08 am #3

Very impressive -it looks a bit like my last car boot sale table.
It must have been quite something to see a whole battalion of blokes trying to squeeze all this kit into knapsacks each morning - cursing and grumbling - "Where's this?   where's that ? and who's nicked my...?
But are we sure the blanket went inside ? Takes up a hell of a lot of room and I haven't seen it listed in knapsack contents on other threads. It makes sense to be inside - keeps it dry - and the rolled item on top the knapsack would therefore normally be the Greatcoat.
My first post on this vaunted forum of "green " intellectuals - so be kind !!

Paul
"Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming Fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise"
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Ben Townsend
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Ben Townsend
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Joined: November 19th, 2007, 9:35 pm

October 1st, 2010, 8:53 am #4

Hi Eddie,
Welcome to the forum. Don't worry about finding intellectuals in the 2/95th, we had a putsch in '87 and put em all up against the wall. (Although frankly, I've got my doubts about Mr Packer- he keeps Nietzsche in his haversack, and can actually read and everything).

I think you have a point regarding the blanket/greatcoat combo. I believe we have Harris bemoaning the carrying of both in 1808 and being advised to ditch one or t'other on the Corunna retreat 1809, and in General Orders of 1810 regiments are advised to put one of these two items into stores. There is a Board of General Officers, clothing report, June 1811, agreeing with this recommendation,
"The soldiers are on no account to be required, as permitted, to carry their blankets, when that article shall be issued to the troops, nor is the weight of their equipment ever to exceed the proportion already specified (ie 12.5 lbs); unless it should be deemed expedient, on particular occasions, to order the soldiers to carry a greater than ordinary proportion of provisions.  The blankets, as well as any other extra articles which it my be found necessary to carry with the troops, are to be conveyed by the Commissariat."

From that point on, I think you are talking about either/or in the Peninsula, and since the knapsack shown is a 'hypothetical 1811 variant', I suppose it should be loaded in an 1811+ manner. I wonder what to fill the space with? Another pair of trousers?
Last edited by Ben Townsend on October 1st, 2010, 9:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
Colonel Lejeune
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Ben Townsend
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Ben Townsend
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October 1st, 2010, 8:58 am #5

Eddie wrote: It must have been quite something to see a whole battalion of blokes trying to squeeze all this kit into knapsacks each morning - cursing and grumbling - "Where's this? where's that ? and who's nicked my...?
Sounds like the sunday morning at La Boissiere Ecole. Amazing how you can lose stuff in such a small pack. I mislaid two packs of cartridges (10) that didn't turn up til the next day.
Colonel Lejeune
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Eddie
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Eddie
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Joined: September 4th, 2010, 11:49 am

October 1st, 2010, 1:55 pm #6

You claim to have rid the 95th of intellectuals and yet you lot consistently come up with referenced quotes from regulations or contemporary accounts -
some of you Riflemen at least are not as  dumb as you look !!
Very interesting to read that General orders  mentioned concerns about the weight being carried and the stowing of blankets in the commissariat carts.
So perhaps they didn't normally carry both Greatcoat and blanket except in the severest of weather?
"Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming Fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise"
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Paul Durrant
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Joined: June 4th, 2007, 8:42 pm

October 1st, 2010, 5:59 pm #7

Eddie wrote:You claim to have rid the 95th of intellectuals and yet you lot consistently come up with referenced quotes from regulations or contemporary accounts -
some of you Riflemen at least are not as dumb as you look !!
Very interesting to read that General orders mentioned concerns about the weight being carried and the stowing of blankets in the commissariat carts.
So perhaps they didn't normally carry both Greatcoat and blanket except in the severest of weather?
Hi Eddie,
Good to see you on the forum - we all started at 'Posts: 1' :D

here's more on Ben's statement about weight;

WO7/56 p97-99

Report of the Board established "for the Purpose of Reporting Upon the Equipment of the Infantry" 29th June, 1811

"The board have inspected the pattern Knapsack submitted to them by the Adjutant General, and, having caused some improvements to be made therein, they recommend that one Uniform Knapsack, of the same dimensions and colour, should be established for the whole Army; it being calculated to contain every thing a Soldier ought to carry, and being a convenient, well looking pack, either with, or without the Great Coat. The number of the Regiment to be marked on the back, without any ornament. -- The weight of the Pack, when fitted with the Articles hereinafter specified, will be Twelve pounds seven ounces.

Clothing:

One Cap \
One Coat - To be found by the Colonel.
One Waistcoat /
Two pairs of Grey Trousers - one pair to be found by the Colonel.
One Great Coat

Necessaries;

Two pairs of shoes - one to be found by the Colonel
Two pairs of half Gaiters
Two shirts
Three pairs of ancle socks
One black Stock
One Knapsack
One Foraging cap
Two Brushes
Blacking Ball
Sponge
Comb, with small teeth on one side
Razor
Soap and Brush, without a box
Straps for carrying Great Coat
Turnscrew, Brush and Worm
Haversack, with painted cover, -- to be found by the public"


(NB:- no mention of Blanket. A clerical error p'haps?)

(Does it suggest that ALL the kit (regimentals included) should come to that weight. But surely you're wearing your cap, regimentals, 1 pair shoes...?)
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Paul Durrant
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October 1st, 2010, 6:09 pm #8

Eddie wrote: "...But are we sure the blanket went inside ? Takes up a hell of a lot of room and I haven't seen it listed in knapsack contents on other threads. It makes sense to be inside - keeps it dry - and the rolled item on top the knapsack would therefore normally be the Greatcoat.
My first post on this vaunted forum of "green " intellectuals - so be kind !!
Good observation there Eddie. See above for an example of no blanket being mentioned. But here's a bunch of quotes from contemporary accounts from our archives;

Dec 1811, Pvt Wheeler of the 51st.
"In Carapina camp, when we were alomost starved for want of provisions, some of our men sold their blankets, to purchase some biscuits. The Colonel soon discovered by the size of the knapsack what had taken place, and several men were punished. My comrade had sold his for a dollar, which he paid away for one biscuit about 3/4 pound weight, but we managed to cheat the old boy. My blanket was made into two, and to make it appear a proper size we had folded up some fern in it; this answered our purpose until the attle of Fuentes d' Onor when of course we supplied ourselves with good ones."

p.70 The letters of Private Wheeler,ed BH Liddell Hart, Windrush 1993
_________________

Private Wheeler of the 51st Dec 1812

"Our blankets were so wet that each morning before we could put them into our knapsacks they were obliged to be wrung."

p.102 The letters of Private Wheeler,ed BH Liddell Hart, Windrush 1993
_________________

Pvt Wheeler, 51st, Nov 1813

"I forgot to mention that in this evening I found two musket balls in my knapsack, one was lodged in the blanket".

p.139 The letters of Private Wheeler,ed BH Liddell Hart, Windrush 1993
_________________

Corunna retreat.

"Our colonel had orders for us to throw away our knapsacks, but keep either the greatcoat, or blanket, which we chose. We did not mind parting with our kits, our orders must be obeyed, so we left them at the roadside".

p.13 Where Duty calls me, The experiences of William Green in the Napoleonic Wars, ed J and D Teague, Synjon 1975
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Eddie
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Eddie
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October 3rd, 2010, 5:36 am #9

Some good contemporary quotes from Paul suggesting a regular practice of carrying the blanket inside the knapsack to the extent that inspecting officers would be looking for a uniformity of shape in the packed article.
I am surprised that there was space to do it - I made a pack 17" wide by 13" high and 4" deep and a single wool blanket takes up about half the usable space let alone all the stuff that is listed to go in as well - most of which I don't have . Dave has tried it but it must be hell of a squeeze and the pack noticeably gapes at the rear. Is this conjectural kanapsack big enough??
The earlier folding pack looks bigger and had two internal gussetted pockets not one and other than lacking side flaps it seems a practical and expandable bit of kit. Why the change?
How were blankets and greatcoats stowed in later early Victorian variants?
Does all this matter? Well yes I think it does - I am a new boy in a newish unit and I am looking to you veterans for some guidance here. Some long established and justly respected units carry a rolled blanket on top of the pack - usually grey  as in contemporary paintings but some appear to carry beige? Do these units also carry a Greatcoat? I would suggest both were needed in severe weather. How did the recent veterens of La Boissiere-Ecole get on?
" La Boissiere- Ecole?" Sounds like a Battle honour to me and I bet you lot already "stand a tip toe when this day is named" .......actually I'm really jealous ....(sniff).........wish I had been there......
"Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming Fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise"
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Ben Townsend
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Ben Townsend
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Joined: November 19th, 2007, 9:35 pm

October 3rd, 2010, 7:46 am #10

Eddie wrote:Some good contemporary quotes from Paul suggesting a regular practice of carrying the blanket inside the knapsack to the extent that inspecting officers would be looking for a uniformity of shape in the packed article.
Indeed they were, but there were ways around it- Dec 1811, Pvt Wheeler of the 51st.
"In Carapina camp, when we were alomost starved for want of provisions, some of our men sold their blankets, to purchase some biscuits. The Colonel soon discovered by the size of the knapsack what had taken place, and several men were punished. My comrade had sold his for a dollar, which he paid away for one biscuit about 3/4 pound weight, but we managed to cheat the old boy. My blanket was made into two, and to make it appear a proper size we had folded up some fern in it; this answered our purpose until the battle of Fuentes d' Onor when of course we supplied ourselves with good ones."

p.70 The letters of Private Wheeler,ed BH Liddell Hart, Windrush 1993
Eddie wrote:I am surprised that there was space to do it - I made a pack 17" wide by 13" high and 4" deep and a single wool blanket takes up about half the usable space let alone all the stuff that is listed to go in as well - most of which I don't have . Dave has tried it but it must be hell of a squeeze and the pack noticeably gapes at the rear. Is this conjectural knapsack big enough??
I believe the quantity of material used in the conjectural 'sack is known, so the reconstructions conform to this- although usuing it in different ways. Paul please correct me if I'm wrong?
I think the men considered them overloaded, both Costello and Harris describe men dying of heat exhaustion under the load.
"On this prolonged march, our knapsacks were also our enemy. I am convinced that many a man..dies because of the infernal load he carried on his back. My own knapsack was my bitterest enemy, and I felt I would die in its deadly embrace. The knapsacks should have been abandoned at the very commencement of the retrograde movement for it would have been better to lose them instead of the poor fellows who died on the road strapped to them".
The Corunna retreat..
p.108, A Dorset Rifleman, Benjamin Harris, Shinglepicker, 1995
Eddie wrote:The earlier folding pack looks bigger and had two internal gussetted pockets not one and other than lacking side flaps it seems a practical and expandable bit of kit. Why the change?
I speculate that, if the early pack was capable of carrying more kit, the COs would have the men pack it in, until breaking point. Perhaps by limiting the carrying capacity (and incidentally protecting the contents better) the BGO hoped to remedy this evil. There does appear to be an element of this in the BGO recommendations quoted above.
Eddie wrote:Does all this matter? Well yes I think it does - I am a new boy in a newish unit and I am looking to you veterans for some guidance here. Some long established and justly respected units carry a rolled blanket on top of the pack - usually grey as in contemporary paintings but some appear to carry beige?
We carry whitish blankets, because there are several reports of the Rifles doing so, for instance,
"The Regiment having moved off about three o' clock, ascended the sides of the mountain, halting within a short distance of la Petit Rhune, and close to our left we saw and passed the Rifles, lying down in close order of column covered by their white blankets, in the first light resembling a flock of sheep much more than the grim warriors prepared for the strife".
Lt MacClean of the 43rd, quoted in, "The Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry,Philip Booth, Leo Cooper 1971, p.41
1813
Eddie wrote:Do these units also carry a Greatcoat?
I don't know I'm afraid.I know some recreated regiments carry straw inside their knapsacks.. (hello Will ;))
Eddie wrote:I would suggest both were needed in severe weather. How did the recent veterens of La Boissiere-Ecole get on?
" La Boissiere- Ecole?" Sounds like a Battle honour to me and I bet you lot already "stand a tip toe when this day is named" .......actually I'm really jealous ....(sniff).........wish I had been there......
We did find both necessary for comfort, which perhaps illustrates what a soft bunch of jessies we are to a greater extent than it casts light on period practice. Next year I'm hoping to use Flannel underwear to supply the deficiency in protection from only carrying one blanket.
Colonel Lejeune
On the Imperial service
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