Mess Kit


I’ve heard about the food that was served in the army from my father. One dish that would make an occasional appearance on the family table while I was growing up was chipped beef on toast, lovingly referred to as SOS-and not the cleaned up version. I did not particularly enjoy this dish but I don’t like cream based sauces in the first place.



My Grandfather and Great Uncles John and Nicholas all served during World War I. They were all sent over to France. The hat above is part of the uniform that they would have worn.

There were gaitors that went around the calf to protect against thorns SCAN0135while walking in dense brush. They also serve to protect against snow and mud from entering the boot.


Below is part of a mess kit. He has the meat can in which the rations would be deposited in his right hand and the cup in his left. The canteen would fit inside the cup for more efficient packing. It appears from the line of men in the background that the mess hall is in the building behind him. I don’t know enough about vehicles to identify the one in the photo.

SCAN0135Pictured below is my Great Uncle John Jagdfeld in his uniform holding his mess kit. He was part of the 6th Division in the 54th Infantry. They are known as the Red Stars and went overseas in July 1918. They saw 43 days of combat and one of the battles they were in was the Meusse-Argonne which was at the end of World War I. They then stayed until May 1919 with the Army of Occupation. He was 22 years old and married before he entered the service. He worked as a bookkeeper at the Fond du Lac National Bank in Wisconsin. He came home to Fond du Lac on June 23, 1919 after serving 10 months in France.



10 thoughts on “Mess Kit

  1. We are quite accustomed to remembering battles and issues of war itself; it’s quite interesting to look at the everyday life of the soldier — his uniform, his mess kit, etc. I like how you highlighted the details of the photo with cropped closeups.


  2. I remember eating chipped beef on toast when I was growing up. After a while it got doctored up & spooned over biscuits which wasn’t bad at all. 🙂


  3. I have my dad’s mess kit and canteen from his Korean War service. My grandfathers kit knife from his time in the Marines during the 1927 Nicaraguan occupation still gets used everyday on a can of dogfood.


  4. Oh yes, good ol’ SOS. I grew up hearing about that all the time. And recently my dad and I were discussing the generic food that used to be sold at the commissary. Usually they just said in black letters what was inside. So it might be stamped with corn or beans, etc. But dad said the real surprise were the cans that weren’t marked. You bought them not knowing what was inside. Sometimes it was ham and he said that was a great surprise. I imagine they even put SOS in a can in the military.


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