The Soldiers Small Book was an essential part of a soldier’s kit. The purpose of the book was to provide the soldier with a record of his service and included personnel information such as when he enlisted, his age and other particulars of his service, next of kin, height and weight and so on.
It also acted as a handbook providing the soldier with a certain amount of information which would be useful during his service such as how to identify officers badges, instructions for cleaning and looking after a rifle, how to prevent sort feet, how to clean their uniform and notes on field cooking! The book also explained the rules with regards to marriage and finding civilian work after leaving the army. At the end of the book, a pre-printed section also offered the soldier an opportunity to write out his Will.
Although this was an important book for the soldier to maintain there is evidence to suggest it disappeared from use during the War, although it was still being issued at the start. Many examples still do exist but they date from before the War and the early years of the conflict, getting much rarer as the war progressed. For those that survive, they can offer valuable detailed information about the individual soldier and offer a fascinating insight via the handbook into the life of a soldier at the start of the war.
Below is an example of a Soldiers Small Book from the Museum’s collection. It belonged to Bombardier Clement William Whyborn and dates from 1911 when he enlisted. Sadly, Clement became the first Bexhill casualty of the First World War when he was killed by an exploding enemy shell which ricocheted off a nearby wall on 15th September 1914. He was 22 years old.
More information on Bombardier Clement William Whyborn.