This is a standard War Department issue water canteen used by any rank, but usually by non-commissioned officers and private soldiers. This type of water canteen was used around the first half of the 19th century and at Waterloo.
Constructed by coopers, the container was edged with hardwood strips arranged at right angles to two rimmed wooden discs. These were all held together with iron straps, which passed around the front and back disc and held the coopered strips in place. The canteen was usually painted light blue or green.
Usually, the soldier’s battalion or unit, company and individual number, along with an ordnance arrow, was painted on it in white. A string stopped the wooden bung from being lost. The canteen was carried on a brown leather strap, usually over the right shoulder.
The capacity of the canteen was around 1.4 litres, this would have to last the man for a day, unless he could refill on the march. On the march, most units only had five to ten minutes of rest for each hour. This allowed the men to smoke, adjust their equipment, relieve themselves and fill up their canteens.
It was important to keep the container wet by always having some liquid inside. Otherwise the wood would shrink and the canteen would then leak.
However, canteens were often filled with alcohol rather than water. This did not quench thirst and was a particular problem in hot climates, during illness or after injury.
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This object is in the collection of Royal Green Jackets – Rifles Museum