Kit lists, what's essential, desirable, optional
Most people find that re-enacting soon fills all the available free space in your home! It's quite easy to buy everything you see at a good price, not because you need it, but because it looks good or is a great price!
However, this list below will give you list of everything you'll need. This is all based upon a 101st Enlisted Trooper, fresh into the field. If your planning on doing a more specialist role, then obviously your kit will be slightly different.
Combat Uniform - your first biggest purchase!
The M42 Paratroopers Jump Jacket and Trousers can be purchased from a variety of places, At The Front (ATF) and What Price Glory (WPG) are two great company that make some great reproduction kit, main problem being postage and import taxes. Soldier of Fortune can supply one, takes a few days for delivery, or for the really budget version, with a long wait, these can be got from China, I have no idea on the quality of these, I have never purchased one. It maybe OK, it may fall apart rather quickly though! So be wary of that fact.
M42 Jump Jacket (Reinforced)
M42 Jump Trousers (Reinforced)
Once you have your M42, you should really get a 101st patch for the arm. Some Jackets come with one already on it. If you find one at a good price, then great. Sometimes its cheaper to buy it with the flag and then removed it. .
As we portray a Pathfinders unit, almost all members spray a camo pattern on the uniform. Sounds rather daunting I know! We can help with this, so please don't go crazy and risk messing up your new jumpsuit if your unsure of what to do.
Some troopers had their surnames were on white cloth tapes, these could be hand written in marker, painted on by hand or even with stencils. Also, some officers had a stamped leather name plate on the jacket, completely optional. If you find a piece of leather, we can stamp it for you. We have an original WW2 leather stamping kit to stamp your surname on. Officers also had a the white name tape style identical to the enlisted man's style. Both of these are totally optional.
Almost uniforms should be marked with the first letter of your surname and the last four digits of you Army Serial Number (ASN), these were usually stamped into clothing, but were also hand written in pen and marker. For example M9865, is what is marked on my jacket and trousers. Totally optional, but gives a nice unique touch, although rarely seen by anyone! If you need to be 'issued' a ww2 era ASN, we can give you all the details to match a soldier coming from any location in the USA. If you ever get paperwork like ID cards, pay-books, you'll want it all to make sense and match up.
Uniforms didn't stay clean for long! Grim and oil from weapons, mess from food, mud, soil sand and anything else that was on the ground would be ground into the jump suit. All this can be simulated, the video below gives you some idea on how to do this should you want to.
Almost all the clothing worn for the invasion of Normandy was treated with a gas resistant chemical called CC-2. It changed the colour of clothes giving them an darker oily look, with white powdery residue left in places, particularly in the seems. This really is a step above and beyond for accuracy and is a really nice look to the M42. The link here will take you to a page full of information on this CC-2 Chemical.
Over the years, Jump Boots have gone up in price, even the cheaper reproductions are racing up in price. The best boots you can buy are Corcorans, one of the wartime manufacturers. They are solid, look great and will last for ever. My pair, although very worn in are about 15 years old and still going strong. However, you will pay extra for a pair of Corcorans. The easiest cheaper option is a pair of Soldier of Fortune boots. These are not as comfy and will not hold up to even a 1/4 of what a pair of Corcorans would do. The only other options are bringing them in from the US, again WPG (although these seem never to be in stock). ATF only sells the Corcorans at around the same price as you'd get them in the UK, add on shipping and import tax and its far more. Which pair you go for is completely up to you, your budget, just remember your going to be wearing these for about 14 hours each day. You run in them, march in them and who knows what else!
Insoles - Even if you buy Corcorans, your feet will not be used to wearing stomping great boots! You don't need to buy extra insole, although you can from a variety of places. I pulled out the insoles from and old pair of trainers that were going in the bin, trimmed a little of one of each of the sides and now they fit great.
(also, refer to First aid pouch/tin)
Laces - of course over time they will wear thing and break. However, you don't need to go cashing out for expensive laces just because the dealer puts paratrooper or Corcoran in his sales title. Just buy a good thick LONG lace that looks the part. I got two pairs of great laces for less than a tenner!!!
Combat Uniform - your first biggest purchase!
Just like the Paratrooper above, this is your first building block. However there is no suit for the glider troops. These guys wore the standard infantrymans uniform of the Wool Trousers and the M41 jacket. Lets be fair, the trousers are awful, but who doesn't love the M41 jacket.
The M41 jacket - These are really comfortable to wear, fairly warm when you button down the hatches and strap everything tight. However these are not waterproof in the slightest! The pockets are pretty much useless when you have webbing on as you just cant really get to them. However these always have a warm place in my heart. Easily available on EBay and through almost any re-enacting company.
Wool trousers - an item that was still in service from WW1 with very few changes. These keep you hot when its warm, cold when its chilly and like to soak up the rain like a dry sponge and not only that but you'll need to wear the dreaded M1938 Gaiters with them! More on those in a second. For some reason these wool trousers always fetch more than expected for something so awful. Dealers always seem to charge a premium for these, I don't know why they are never cheap. Lots of companies stock reproductions and if your small enough (30" waist or smaller) then originals cam actually be much much cheaper!
M1938 Gaiters - for anyone who has ever worn these will know the frustrations of trying to put these on. Even more so early morning at an event with dew on the ground, cold wet fingers is a bonus to the level of frustration. However, once these are on they do really complete the look, as long as you've done them up properly enough to last the day! For gaiters that start to fall down, look..... well, shit! Copies of these are easy to obtain, however there are lots of really crap copies out there. most of which come from China and a wafer thin and you can just ignore the sizes stamped inside them, they are meaningless. Originals in a size 3 (the average size of a GI) are available, look on EBay.COM, just try and get a deal on the shipping/import tax.
Roughout Boots - As well as the gaiters, you'll need boots, of course the regular GI didn't get anything so nice as a pair of Corcorans. They were still being issued a pair of boots, like the trousers had barely changed from the days of service in WW1. These boots known as Roughouts, due to the leather being shiny side in and rough leather on the outside. These need to have a heavy coating of waterproofing dubbing. Don't be daunted by this, dubbing is available easily and you literally rub it in until it goes really dark. Easy! The boots are fairly easy to purchase, SOF seem to sell two types, one being slightly better in construction over the other.
The items that applied to both Paratroopers and Glider-troops
Headgear - although both is desirable, you must have one of either!
M1, M1C or M2 Helmet
Now if you're not familiar with US World War two helmets that line may already sound complicated! Don't worry, its all straight forward. The M1 helmet is the basic American helmet you will have seen in a 1001 photographs. The M1C is then adopted for wear with the Paratroopers chin cup. Other than the liner the actual steel pot is almost identical, it was the final version that the Paratroopers were issued, these came in for the Rhine Operations in 1945.
The M2 is the best overall style that would suit all operations better, those have 'D' shaped loops, know as bales on either side of the helmet, that would hold the chin strap (don't be confused with the chin cup) that strap is usually folded over the back of the helmet. The A frame which holds the chin cup is attached to the liner. These can be put in yourself; or we can help if you have the parts.
If your technically minded any helmet can be adopted to have a D bale, you just need to be able to weld the small D on to the shell... however if you can do this, expected to be asked to do it lots! Everyone will want this done.
M1 helmets (all helmets are always referred to as an M1, so I will call them this from now on) were made in vast numbers, so there are plenty to buy. However, they are very collectable, so the price is increasing. However, you can get an original helmet from time to time for a bargain. There are also lots of post war shells that are identical (no D bales of course) but with a good liner inserted you can get a cheap and workable helmet. There are reproductions and refurbished helmets. ATF refurbish helmets into both M1 and M2 styles, these are not cheap, but if budge is no problem, then feel free to treat yourself. Soldier of Fortune will usually have a supply of parts, A Frames, chin cups and also helmets too.
This all may sound daunting, don't worry, we can help you if you need advice, depending on your first show, there may even be one for sale at the event. Someone will always be at hand to advise if its suitable and a good price!
Never be afraid to ask us questions, nothing is ever too small or unimportant.
A great way to save some money on buying your initial kit is to get a garrison cap first and the helmet later. These can be purchased really easily, both in original and reproduction. The patches will all be covered in a separate section, so ignoring the patch for now, it'll need to be the dark colour shown in the photograph to the right. Not the light tan colour! The piping has to be light blue, this signifies the infantry, you can get original un-piped examples, or even purchase an original that has alternative piping on it and removed it. I recently took the piping from an old moth eaten cap and put it on an lovely condition original engineers piped cap that was really cheap was nobody really needs engineers piping, so it kept the price down! Simply adjustments like these can save a lot of money
and give you some stunning kit. The piping can also be purchased on its own for a few pounds and sewing really isn't that hard! After all every Trooper would have had to sew their own unit patches on, cap patches on, rank insignia on... so its good practice... also a fairly handy life skill to have.
everything else uniform related that you'll need
That covers the minimum uniform that you can get away with, everything below is desirable and will give you a better appearance and also a better feel for what a Trooper would have worn. Somethings are really simply to obtain, others you'll probably already have.
Of course we all wear socks! The best looking socks for re-enacting are either thin cotton, what I call 'old man socks' or thick green woollen socks. The later are fairly padded to help with the wear and tear on your feet from the boots. It's not often the public will see you take your boots off, but its always better to know if you have to that you won't be showing the world your modern and very out of character pink flamingo socks! These can be obtain from so many places, just google "woollen green socks", the choice really is yours, there is no right or wrong, as long as they are plain and a military colour green, not lime or luminous greens!
T-Shirt - nope...
T-Shirts .... don't do it... I know the urge is there to buy the Camp Toccoa T-Shirts because you saw them being worn at the start of Bandwagon of Brothels. They were not worn in combat!
Just bare in mind that anything worn under the M42 jacket and the wool shirt, will not be visible. No it still doesn't mean wear the wrong T-Shirt! Wearing the M42 with the T-Shirt directly underneath is consider uber-farby and will class you in a category of re-enactors to not be taken too seriously. Unless you want to wear the Toccoa T-Shirt with the tiny blue PT shorts these should never really be seen. It is best to get a singlet vest, all modern T-Shirts have a very modern shape to them and just look wrong.
Of course, not everyone will take their impression to this sort of depth... mainly as most people are not going to see you in your skivvies! However, if you do want to go the whole hog and kit out with correct underwear then the best place to see them and acquire them would be at WWii Impressions. They make a good assortment of vests, socks, boxer shorts and long-johns.
Shirt, enlistedmens or officers
As well as the T-Shirt issue, after going through hundreds of original wartime photographs it became very apparent that most Paratroopers wore either the enlistemens shirt or the officers shirt, depending on rank. Which makes sense as just wearing the T-Shirt and Jacket wouldn't be very warm at all. When surviving outside all day and night, the more layers you'd be wearing the better.
Shown clearly in this photo of Tommy Lonergan and his buddy Johnny "Peenuts" Hale, both wear the enlistedmans shirt. Tommy Lonergan has closed the gas flap. You can just make out a tiny piece of the white under Johnny's Hales shirt, this could be a T-Shirt, but is most likely a vest.
Lonergan would grieve the rest of his life over Hale's death, both were members of the small group known as the 'Filthy 13' in the 506th PIR
You can just make out the white of the T-shirt under the shirt of Johnny Hale.
Trousers suspenders or enlistedmans belt
Only one of the two should be worn, this is even stated in the kit list for soldiers jumping into Normandy. The trousers belt isn't seen that often by Paratroopers, but it was still worn by a few. If this is your preferred option then just make sure to get the enlistedmans belt as show right, not the officers belt which is vastly different and to be honest isn't as impressive looking or as difficult to use...
The other option and far more commonly worn by Paratroopers are the M42 trousers suspenders (not to be confused with the M1936 webbing suspenders... or ladies hosiery, and if you don't know what that is, don't Google it, you'll only go blind!)
Shown right are four original pairs of suspenders, top is the early style pair that was issued with the M42. I don't think I know of a company that makes these. The second from top is by far the easiest style to find for sale, Soldier of Fortune sells these or they can be gotten from EBay from a number of sellers. The other two are rather ugly, but both original, if you want something different in your appearance, then this could be a simply option... provided you can find them of course!
other uniform items that are useful to own
Gloves - tan leather
All Troopers were issued with horsehide tan leather gloves, as the Paratroopers were expected to be dealing with possibilities of extracting them selves from tangle parachute cords or even having to simply hold them in windy conditions these sturdy gloves were essential and became part of their unique appearance. If a soldier can't use his hands, he is pretty ineffective. For us the threat of getting your hands shredded by cords while trying to take of a parachute is fairly minimal, these gloves not only keep your hands warm, but are useful when putting up and taking down the tents.
Just make sure the gloves you buy are tan and not an awful bright yellow colour, there are some terrible copies out there!
Greatcoat or Mackinaw
Either of these you'll find really handy when the weather drops or the rain starts, after all, remember which country we live in! As long as the greatcoat is that dark browny-green colour its good to go. All the buttons can be changed over to US greatcoat buttons. Not many companies do greatcoats ready to be worn for some reason and shipping these from abroad is not going to be an option as they are both bulky and heavy!
Mackinaws can be purchased fairly easily from companies like Soldier of Fortune, either of the patterns are fine to wear, that choice is yours. As long as its a WW2 types and not something from the Vietnam war! Although really should only be worn by officers, and greatcoats for the enlisted-men but this not a fixed rule, just advised.
Sweater, Wool 5 button or Vest type
Another way of fighting the cold yet still wearing only your M42 as an outer layer is to get hold of a woollen sweater, the high necked 5 button ones are really good at keeping the heat in. There are also vest styles ones.
Although these do keep you warm and are a period item, these are to be worn as an under layer only. As frankly they look pretty ridiculous when worn on the outside! So if you get warm, strip of your M42 jacket, discard the sweater and put the jacket back on.
Although the buttons on the one shown right are incorrect as the one shown is probably a 1950s example.
If you want to have a vest type, I have these hand knitted (not machine knitted) in all sizes to an original wartime pattern. Some of the guys in out unit has them and they love them!
Raincoat, Synthetic Resin Coated, O.D.
Not many enlisted soldiers got such luxery as a Mackinaw, the rain coat was far more widely issued and far more widely carried since it was a handier item and much more compact.
There are not too many of these being reproduced, the very best of which is made by QMI and will set you back 110 Euros. It comes in a wide selection of sizes up to 3XL. Consider buying a size or two larger than you need as it can go over all those extra layers of clothes you may have on. I was at one event and the heavens opened up in the way that England is renowned for, the guy next to me pulls out a raincoat and puts it on over his webbing! he purchased the biggest they sold at the time and wore it like a tent!
Of course there are much cheaper examples on the market... but don't expert them to either keep you dry, or look anything near as good