If you haven’t already done so, we recommend you read the page on Uniform before going further. Then you will understand why we ask you first to obtain the uniform and kit for the period 1916-1918. You may then supplement this by obtaining the earlier kit. In addition we suggest you concentrate first on the basic essentials and supplement these later with extras which help to create atmosphere and with which you can entertain the public.
You will find that we have divided the Kit-list into three as follows:
- Basic essentials (uniform and equipment 1916-18)
- Early uniform (1914)
- Supplementary items
At the end, we consider Suppliers.
Like all areas of living history, there is an inevitable initial lay-out on kit, but do not despair if you find your budget stretched or you find it difficult to get hold of some items quickly. We have a limited amount of spare kit which we can lend to you at events to help get you going. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think you need help.
Also don’t hesitate to get in touch for advice at any stage while buying your kit and we will do the best we can to assist.
Boots: Black, without toe-caps, but with metal heel and toe and studded. Studs are initially not essential. More important is that the boots should look right and not have toe-caps. You really need to try boots on, so try any local Militaria Fair or supplier
Puttees: Unlike the rest of the British infantry, these were short for Highland troops, so modern issue (as used until 1980’s) will do. These are easy to obtain from Militaria suppliers.
Hose: Go for hose tops not full length socks, and wear whatever socks are comfortable underneath. Your socks will be hidden by the boots, puttees and hose-tops. For the latter part of the war the hose tops were simply khaki, and again should be available from a Militaria supplier.
Flashes: Kilt flashes or tabs are red. On each leg are two adjacent parallel pairs of tabs, with the outer tab of each pair looped, revealing the end of the inner tab underneath. These are made up by a group member and are available at a small charge through Tom. However tempting, don’t order the tabs offered by the Gordon Highlanders Association, as these are clearly the wrong material.
Kilt: Gordon Highlanders’ kilts are frequently advertised on e-bay, generally on auction. You should be able to pick one up for anything from £75 to £150, although to get one your size quickly, you may wish to pay a bit more to avoid waiting for a bargain. It should not be necessary to pay the £300 for the kilts advertised by some suppliers. This may be the normal price for a new heavyweight kilt, but you can get second-hand ones much cheaper. Tom has about 10 spare Gordons kilts of various sizes for potential recruits, to be passed on for no profit, so please contact him first to see if he has one your size. With regard to size, there are normally 3 measurements on army kilts to look out for. These are now in centimetres and normally appear in the form 188/92/108, for example. The measurements refer to the height of the soldier the kilt is suitable for, the waist measurement and the breach measurement (i.e. round the backside), in the case of this example 6' 2" tall/36" waist/42.5" breach. If the height (e.g. 188) is too great or too small for you, then the drop of the kilt (i.e. the measurement from top to bottom of kilt) is likely to be too great or too little.
Kilt cover: The full wrap-around cover is required, not just the front cover as used in the Boer War
Jacket: Although the normal straight-cut service dress jacket was sometimes worn by Highland soldiers, you should for uniformity obtain the cut-away version, designed to be worn with the kilt. There are actually two versions of this; the standard version and the utility version introduced later in the war. You should obtain the standard version as this will be appropriate for the whole war.
Buttons. The jacket buttons were not regimental, but of the general service type. They will normally be supplied with the jacket.
Shoulder titles. These are brass, and the titles we need are those which state “GORDON” in the singular in large letters, not those which state “GORDONS” in the plural in smaller letters. For your basic uniform, you should avoid Territorial shoulder titles, which contained in addition the letter “T” and the number of the battalion.
Shirt: You should obtain at least two, to see you through a weekend, unless you want to be authentically smelly.
Tam o’ Shanter (TOS): The standard headwear out of combat in the later stages of the war was the TOS, having effectively replaced the Glengarry, worn in 1914-15, and the smaller blue or khaki balmoral bonnet, worn in 1915. You will probably have to obtain the tartan patch and badge separately. Tom has a small supply of tartan patches, which he can supply. The badge was large and of white metal (gunmetal) not brass. Gordon Highlanders badges are fairly easily obtainable on ebay. You should not have to pay more than about £8 for one.
Helmet. The helmet was similar, but not identical to the WW2 pattern helmet, so care is needed here to get the right one. Original WW1 pattern helmets are hard to come by, but certain WW2 helmets, easier to obtain, will do if fitted with a Hessian cover. Sabre Sales in Southsea can supply the basic helmet, if you tell them exactly what you are looking for. It’s best to try to get a helmet locally, however, because it’s important that the inner, if still attached, fits, for which you will need to try it on. Once you have got the helmet, you should remove the worst of the rust, apply some rust preventive primer, and paint with Humbrol 155, which you can obtain from any decent model shop. You will also need to obtain a Hessian cover for the helmet.
Rifle: SMLE with appropriate sling. This is a major acquisition which will probably set you back about £250. The standard pattern issued during the Great War was the Mark III, and you will find weapons available at militaria fairs. Note that the sling is indispensable, not only for uniformity, but also for carrying the rifle on the march. Your main choice is between a firing or de-activated rifle (de-ac). If possible, you are urged to go from the start for a firing rifle, to enable you to fire in demonstrations and battle re-enactments. You will need to obtain a proper firearms licence to hold a firing weapon, and you will need to consult the Firearms Officer of your local Police force about this prior to purchase. Equally importantly, you will need a de-activation certificate for a de-ac, although you do not need to register this with the Police.
Important note: Full compliance with Firearms Law is essential for the future of our unit and our hobby, as well as for the public good. To be a member of the Gordons, you must hold the required certificates and licences for your weapons.
1908 Pattern Webbing complete: You can gradually assemble this through purchases at militaria fairs, but it is easier to order from reputable dealers. Waist belt
Helve head cover
Water bottle carrier
Large pack with straps
Blue enamel water bottle, felt covered (make sure this is useable and hygienic)
Entrenching tool head and helve 07 pattern bayonet and scabbard
Mess tin and cover
Small Box Respirator (SBR) with haversack: Universally worn from late 1916, usually slung round the neck.
PH gas hood and bag: Issued early 1916, and carried at the Somme, the PH hood was still generally carried even after the introduction of the SBR, and was not officially withdrawn until early 1918.
Knife, fork and spoon: Although these are not necessary for parade of arena displays, you will need them when eating authentically in camp. Try e-bay, militaria fairs or junk shops for period items. Obviously avoid modern stainless steel and alloys.
Tin or enamel mug: As for KFS, you will need this for drinking authentically in camp. Easily available at militaria fairs or junk shops.
Groundsheet: You will need this for protection from the rain when on the march. It is also highly useful used as a groundsheet or cover for unauthentic kit when camping.
Kit bag: Essential for lugging kit about authentically in front of the public, when a sports bag simply won’t do. Also useful for hiding unauthentic kit in the tent.
Bedding: It’s important to be comfortable in camp. Camp-beds (authentic-looking) are a little luxurious for private soldiers, but then, any fool can be uncomfortable, so by all means get one if you can. A good substitute is a palliasse, which can be stuffed with a modern inflatable air-bed, which doesn’t show. You can then lay the palliasse on your groundsheet and use a couple of blankets as bedclothes. You will need two blankets to keep at all warm and probably three on chilly nights, even in summer. Blankets are also useful for covering unauthentic kit during the day-time. Although the kilt is woollen and warm, unlike the old large plaid, it’s not comfortable to sleep in because of the sewn-in pleats. Also it will get in a dreadful state overnight if you sleep in it. Not recommended unless required by campaign conditions!.
Spare waist belt and frog: Not exactly a “spare”, as you will need a waist belt for walking out dress – which you will use quite a lot - with the frog available for parading in reduced order, when it is also necessary to carry a weapon and bayonet. Once you have your main waist belt attached to your webbing, you will not wish to remove it each time you need to go into walking out dress, so one cannot emphasise too much that the second waist belt is really an essential from the start.
Contents of pack: Although it is not necessary to have all the authentic contents of the pack listed below from the start, you should remember that you will need modern equivalents of virtually all when going away for the weekend. This particularly applies to shaving kit, boot blacking and brushes, brass polish and sewing kit, all of which will be essential to be presentable on parade. The advantage of having authentic kit is that you can perform these operations outside in the public eye, in glorious sunshine, rather than cooped up inside the tent using modern stuff.
As stated above, you should concentrate first on obtaining the kit for 1916-18, before obtaining the earlier kit. It will nevertheless be extremely useful to obtain this, as we are likely to be involved in some events which specifically relate to 1914-15 or in recreations of camp life immediately before the war, and you could find yourself unable to take part for lack of the correct kit.
Shoes. You require plain black (not ornate) brogues which ideally should have metal heel and toe and be studded.
Spats. Please seek further advice before attempting to equip yourself with spats. We are investigating the best way to produce these.
Hose-tops. For 1914 you will need red and black diced hose-tops as per Black Watch, although these were already being replaced by khaki hose-tops from 1915. Keep an eye out for these on e-bay, but bide your time and do not be tempted to buy the full-length BW hose which are extortionately expensive. Don’t go for red and white dicing; that applied earlier and later, but not during the Great War.
Glengarry. This was worn in 1914 and into 1915. You should find one easily on E-bay. But you should be aware that the pattern of dicing on the Glengarry varied between regiments. You need to ensure that you get a Glengarry with the appropriate regimental dicing, to which you should attach an appropriate period Gordons badge (as for the TOS) over a black cockade.
Balmoral bonnet. This smaller precursor of the TOS was in use from 1915. In particular, it would have been the normal headgear amongst the Highlanders at the time of the Battle of Loos, which began in September, 1915. This was an extremely important battle for the Scottish regiments, which were disproportionately represented and took heavy casualties. Consequently, we may well become involved in commemorations which require us to obtain this particular kit.
These are items which you will in due course need or wish to acquire, but which are not essential initially for going on display in front of the public.
Swagger stick. For walking out, with silver-plated tip with regimental badge
Identity disc: Doesn’t show as worn under the jacket.
Greatcoat: Useful in the winter, and for bedding, but you should have your groundsheet to keep you dry if it rains
Contents of packs: Useful for demonstrations to public, but if you don’t actually have to show the stuff, there is time to build this up gradually, and let the more experienced soldiers show their own kit off. “Tommy’s Pack Fillers” is a great source. Items include:
Shaving brush (plain wooden)
Flannel & soap
Brass oil bottle and pull through
Field dressing and iodine ampoule
There are several suppliers of reproduction Great War uniforms and equipment, but none offer a complete Gordons outfit, so it is necessary to shop around. Prices vary considerably, but generally what you pay is what you get. Resist the temptation to buy cheapest and get something decent. We are aiming for high standards in the Gordons, and we cannot accept folk turning up in inferior kit which will damage the reputation we are seeking to build both with event organisers and fellow-re-enactors. You will be asked and expected to replace kit which is just not up to scratch. If in doubt about a supplier please ask – I will not risk being sued by being too explicit on the web! The suppliers listed below are generally reliable although this is not an exclusive list. You can of course modify items of kit (e.g. an SD jacket), but you really need to be an expert to do a decent job. Or you can try to find items, reproduction or original, at Militaria Fairs, but this takes time and expertise – much easier for those who have been in the hobby for several years and already have the stuff! It is generally easier to go straight to a supplier.
Mobile: 07910 858767
Tommy’s Pack Fillers (Geoff Carefoot)