Monday, May 10, 2021

New to our collection: First World War bandolier

We are always looking for objects with a strong local story to add to our collection. Although our museums have been sadly closed for most of the last year, behind the scenes we have still been busy acquiring exciting items. One recent addition is this top notch example of Horbury leatherwork from the First World War (1914 – 1918). It shows another way that the town contributed to the war effort.

Bandolier, 1916, made by William Sykes Ltd. in Horbury

A bandolier is an ammunition belt, worn by soldiers over the shoulder and across the chest to carry extra bullets. This example is composed of a leather strap with a buckle and has five rifle bullet pouches sewn into it. 

It is a 1903 pattern used by British soldiers during the First World War.

Soldiers wearing bandoliers in the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons. They are P.H. Charlesworth, A. Beilby and Mr Cooper, 1914 - 1918

Soldier in the Royal Artillery with a bandolier, 1914 - 1918

The bandolier is stamped with the name Sykes and the year 1916. Sykes refers to the local company, William Sykes Ltd. At the time, the company was on its way to becoming one of the largest sports manufacturers in the world. Skilled leather and wood workers made all manner of bats, balls, rackets, pads and gloves for every kind of player, amateur and professional, all from Sykes’ Yorkshire Athletic Manufactory in Horbury.

They also adapted their skills to make equipment for the military. As early as the Boer War (1899 – 1902), Sykes fulfilled orders for the War Office. As well as sports equipment for basic training, they made kit such as this bandolier and other leather strapping worn by soldiers.

By the Second World War (1939 - 1945), the Sykes workforce of a thousand local people produced an array of equipment, from bayonets and ammunition boxes to sand goggles and skis. The factory made over a million sets of wooden rifle furniture at a peak rate of 11,000 sets a week.

Workers making rifle furniture at Sykes' Albion Mill in the Second World War

The bandolier is the first example of William Sykes Ltd First World War work that we’ve ever seen and acquired. It will become part of our Playmakers collection, which represents and celebrates the incredible contribution to international sport made by skilled workers in Horbury from the late 1800s to late 1900s.  

Sykes produced a vast range of goods for a huge variety of different sports. When the company later became part of the Dunlop Slazenger group, Horbury remained the centre of production and innovation. Thousands of people enjoyed playing sports using Horbury-made goods. Equipment developed locally starred on the world stage at major sporting events. Many elite sports people chose pioneering Horbury products to help propel them to the top of their game.

Why not head over to our Twitter page to see more recent additions to our collection and plenty of old favourites. 

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