The Haversack and its Contents

The Haversack is an important and often overlooked part of the soldiers gear.  In the British Army, it is also known as a bread bag and was used to carry the soldiers food rations.

Haversacks have been used for a long time, but by the 1700's the British Army started to standardize the sizes so that each soldier could carry the prescribed amount of food that was issued, and no less.


Full of rations...


Originally, they were all hand sewn, but soon after the Crimean War they started to be machine sewn.

This particular haversack was made using the Pattern 1880 model from the book, "Soldiers' Accoutrements of the British Army 1750-1900", by Pierre Turner. 

Overwhelmingly, the most common item carried in the haversack was army bread, otherwise known as hardtack.  If the soldier was to be away from the field kitchen, he was issued a standardized ration amount that was designed to last for several days. 


By the time of the Boer War, this would include not only the hardtack, but canned food, as well as powdered beef stock, and powdered cocoa.

The hardtack in the picture below, is packed in a WW1 style packaging of brown and white paper in 3 ounce bundles.  More research is needed to find out if Boer War packaging differed.

An example of some Boer War rations...

All non-commissioned soldiers in the Boer War were given a tin of chocolate as a gift from Queen Victoria.  This was a highly prized item that many soldiers kept as souvenirs, some even sending them to their families back home unopened.

The chocolate tin is an original from the Boer War, the other tins are modern with reproduction labels.  The pull tabs are not period correct.

Soldiers often supplemented their, at times, meager rations by purchasing or stealing extra food from the locals.  Below is an image of Biltong sausage, a common South African preserved meat that soldiers on both sides of the Boer War carried.

This particular example of Biltong was created locally by the Galloping Goose Sausage Company using beef and a secret South African recipe.  During the time of the Boer War, Biltong was usually made from whatever game meat was available, this included Kudu, Springbok, Cape Buffalo and Wildebeest.

The pictured Hardtack reproduces original examples from the Boer War that had exactly 49 holes (count them...).  Also pictured is an example of Biltong sausage which tastes way better than it looks...

View of a full haversack as carried in the field by a trooper of the mounted infantry in the Boer War.