A century may now have passed since the Great War, but the stories of everyday soldiers serving in miserable and life-threatening conditions still have a sobering sense of immediacy. Personal records, photographs and sentimental possessions that bring us even closer to the soldier as a person have often become valuable heirlooms, passed down through the generations. Nothing better depicts an individual soldier than these items, which were kept about his person and in his kitbag, and which constituted all his worldly possessions while on service in the trenches. This book looks at fifty objects with which every Tommy would have been familiar, from official uniform and equipment to good-luck charms and letters from sweethearts. With each artifact – be it an identity disc, training manual, packet of cigarettes, postcard or foreign phrasebook – the accompanying text explains the significance of all the things that, together, help to define him both as a man and as a soldier.
"'Tommy Atkins,' as the British public nicknamed the men who went to war, was burdened with around 60 pounds of extra clothing, weapons, ammunition, and cleaning supplies. After a pithy introduction that describes the British World War I uniform over time and in various climates, a spread per item (one full-page photo opposite descriptive text) in this small book catalogs Tommy’s belongings. They range from military supply such as paybooks and medals to keepsakes that comforted the inexperienced combatants—only around 400,000 of the four million were peacetime soldiers—so far from home. Well researched, absorbing, and affecting." —Henrietta Verma, Library Journal