Daily Life of Soldiers and Officers


Daily Routine

Contents of a soldier's knapsack, 1861

Caption: Contents of a soldier's knapsack, 1861

The soldier's daily timetable is difficult to reconstruct, since information kept on the subject is fragmentary. As a general rule, reveille was sounded at approximately 5 a.m., followed by roll-call some 15 minutes later; then came the men's washing up and the cleaning of the barracks for inspection, held one hour after roll-call. There were then drills, which lasted until the breakfast call was heard at 7:30 a.m. After the first meal, everything was put away for another barracks inspection.

Each soldier then went to work on his assignments for the day; some relieved sentries; others did maintenance duties; a few groups acted as military police, patrolling areas where soldiers gathered, especially taverns; and others still spent these hours at drill. Towards 12:30 p.m., the dinner call was sounded; after dinner there was another barracks inspection towards 2 p.m., after which, unless they were on duty, the soldiers appear to have been free until the "Tattoo," which sounded at 8 p.m. in winter and 8:30 in summer. The details of the service may have varied considerably, depending on the location and the era, but the British soldier was always watched closely and subjected to iron discipline, possibly more rigorously than his counterpart in any other Western European army.

Additional Images

Kit inspection, April 1861