Witley, March 30, 1917

Friday   I must miss these days as I’ve no record of them with the exception of the weather which has been cold & raw all we seem to do now is just while away the time we have had no mounted parades for some considerable time I’ve not much to complain about as regards health I have had one of [sic] two headaches but otherwise pretty good

1917 03 25-27.jpeg

1917 03 29-30

You will recall that sick headaches or migraines had plagued Percy since he was a child.

According to the War Diary, test parades of the 13th and 14th Brigades are taking place today, in “F.S [Field Service] Marching Order”. (1)

Trying to define “Field Service Marching Order”(FSMO) exactly takes me back to my brief career as a teacher of technical writing, when I first encountered the extremely useful acronym COIK , or “Clear Only If Known.” Take, for example, the definition in the Royal Artillery Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations (2016): “Fighting order and large pack.” (2)  This explanation might be useful if definitions of those two terms were cross-referenced. They are not. Thank goodness for forums of enthusiasts, amateurs, and experts on the world wide web, where we can find things like this list of a British infantryman’s Field Service Marching Order.(3)

field service marching order.JPG

Now it is clear that the term means all the kit that a soldier would carry as he marched in the field — not everything he would need, as there would also be transport wagons — but enough to provide a significant burden. The instruction we saw a couple of days ago in the mobilization document now takes on added meaning: “(27) Allot to every man his place and duty and to every article of stores and equipment its place on man, horse, or vehicle.”

The artilleryman’s FSMO would be different from the infantryman’s, but the Field Service Pocket Book provides lists for mounted and dismounted officers and men. FSMO for FSMO Witley Wills crop.jpgmounted men (cavalry), for instance, includes 26 pounds (11.8 kg) of “clothing, necessaries, etc;” dismounted men have slightly less — they don’t wear 13 ounces (.4 kg) of jack spurs, and their service dress trousers weigh 12 ounces less than the mounted man’s pantaloons. Curiously, though, dismounted men apparently wear woollen drawers whereas mounted men wear cotton, which are 1 1/2 ounces lighter. (4) Clothing is only part of it, of course — there are rations and water, weapons and ammunition, and such useful things as field dressings and paybooks for every kind of soldier. No wonder there was room for only the tiniest of diaries, and we know there were supposed to be no cameras. Cavalry horses also carried, in addition to their saddlery, ropes and pegs for picketing, spare horseshoes, nosebags and grain. (4)

In other words, FSMO parades meant every man, every horse, every wagon and every limber was loaded with all its proper kit and equipment — or as Archie Wills put it, “we sure had some load…. I had two haversacks, bandoliers, water bottle and a dozen and one things around my neck and on my saddle.” (5) The photograph (6) is reportedly of an artillery unit at Witley on parade in FSMO: note the haynets for the horses, and the blankets and groundsheets.

(1) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 2 (March 1917):5 . March 30, 1917. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) Jobson, Philip. Royal Artillery Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations: Historical and Modern. 2016. You can locate this definition using Googlebooks.
(3)  Wilson, Philip.”Field Service Marching Order for Cavalry 1914-1918.” Great War Forum. September 10, 2009.
(4) Field Service Pocket Book. 1914. 188-193.
(5) Wills, Archie. Diary. 4: 25. March 27, 1917. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(6) Wills, Archie. All in a Lifetime [photograph album]. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

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