In the 13th century, if you wanted to kill a man your best best was using a battle axe. By the 16th century, swords and daggers had given way to muskets. During World War I, hand grenades were a standard part of every British soldier’s inventory. And today? Soldiers carry iPads alongside their rifles.
Photographer Thom Atkinson documents the battle kits of British soldiers over the course of 1,000 years. The series, appropriately titled Soldiers’ Inventories, starts with the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and chronicles the gear soldiers carried into 12 other battles, from the battle of Waterloo to the war in Afghanistan. “Britain spends a lot of its time fighting people,” says Atkinson.
Each photograph is like a wartime version of Things Organized Neatly. Of course, the kits include things designed to kill people in ever more efficient ways. But they provide a glimpse into what the boredom and monotony of war, with things like playing cards, checkerboards, and iPads. To gather the objects, Atkinson visited living history communities, whose members collect such things for for reenactments. He would spend hours organizing the gear just so, beginning with bigger pieces like a musket or a jacket and filling in the holes with smaller objects. “It’s a lot like Tetris,” he says.