David Gordon's "Tommy" Books

Texas native and Second World War British Airborne re-enactor David Gordon wrote several excellent books on British Army uniforms, weapons, and equipment.

The latter three books comprise a nice series, and though the volumes are compact in the manner of a primer, the contents are extensive, covering a wide array of kit from the common to the obscure, often with all national Commonwealth variants (including Canadian) illustrated.

Tommy is one of the companion series to the SOLDAT series by Cyrus Lee. This volume was written by David Gordon and published by Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc., Missoula, Montana. Canuck is also one a companion series; the aim of the three sets of books is to provide re-enactors, historians, modellers, and anyone interested in Second World War uniforms with an affordable and well-illustrated guide to the various uniforms and equipment of the major combatants.

Physical Description

ISBN 1-57510-042-8.


Military Modelling magazine described TOMMY as such in Volume 29, Issue 15:

Volume 1 (of) Tommy is described as, "The Collector's Historical Perspective to the British Soldier of the Second World War". Profusely illustrated with black and white and colour photographs, the book covers everything 'British WWII Airborne' from a shoulder patch to a Jeep, from a glider to a folding bicycle, it's all here. I didn't know about the camouflaged tank suit issued to Airborne AFV crews - but it's in here. Some of the colour photos of uniform insignia are quite colourful and varied, excellent for anyone contemplating a model figure. Most of the pictures were taken specially for the book, although wartime photos are included and together they present a well-balanced mix.

Additional comments by author

The following notes were posted to the CANUCK message board by David Gordon who has given the webmaster permission to reproduce them here:

I have received over 75 actual hand-written letters from people that took the time to write for whatever reason. In addition to this, there have probably been over 100 people that reenact or have established a link to me through eBay or other on-line activities and made the connection that I wrote “Tommy”. Of these, there have been a handful with comments that either raised questions or were pointing out what they felt was an error of some kind. I was very surprised and pleased by the overwhelming number of nice complimentary letters that I received from people. I’ve never taken the time to write to an author, good or bad, so the flow of mail was a shock to say the least.

Some of the negative / error / bad things include:

I misspelled the word “throne” in the front section. I spelled it “thrown” and this aggravated a few people. Sorry, been a while since the USA had a king

I’m told the stackable utensils in one of the kit layout shots are associated with pattern ’44 gear. They are dated 1944 as a set but possibly were never issued during the war. I don’t know for sure but have often seen them in other publications detailing WWII items.

Photo of the people using the pioneer tools, something to the effect that “nobody” in the British army was overweight…..no comment as I have seen period photos that are very similar. (thankfully though its not a photo of me…)

Told by a guy in the UK that the Airborne absolutely never, ever had a single person place a field or shell dressing in their helmet net. They did state that the infantry did this quite often though. So the question is…are Glider-borne troops actually leg infantry or airborne in this sense once the fighting starts?

Another UK guy, String vest (winter wear) was never, ever worn over any other clothing like a collarless shirt or other undershirt. My text here was based on speaking with several veterans that indicate that they often wore them in this fashion. The thing I guess I didn’t elaborate on is that they normally were not issued in warm climates to be used in this manner for “cooling” as I describe in the book. These troops did time in North Africa and that was the difference. Gets very cold at night so they had them as issue to stay warm. During the day, it was determined that the opposite effect was achieved and they wicked perspiration away from the body and the baffles cooled you the way a radiator works. It’s not by the manual and regulations by I would stand by their testimony of how things were really done. Also have tried it in the field here in Texas and it works quite well. We wear our string vests, under our D-Smock while reenacting.

Along the same lines…was told that my described method of placing the cleaning tools for an Enfield into the butt stock is not by the book. I have the book and know what it says. I also live fire and have had veterans explain the way “they” did it and this is what I documented. It still all fits but one way works better and faster, especially once your pull through starts getting worn. One nice benefit of living history….

Someone on this list that also publishes books mentioned some things that I had never even though about might happen when I wrote Tommy. The insignia section as well as parts of the uniform section are showing and explaining some very basic concepts in placement and particulars of things like trade badges, rank, etc. This was my intent so a novice would learn more of the basics if he didn’t have a bunch of books on the subject. I did not intend to imply that the things there were strictly airborne. A good example is the photo showing three shooting badges. Different patterns, makers and colors of the same design. Obviously not all airborne, particularly since one is a Canadian Cadet patch. Merely showing that variation of a basic item can and do exist. My fault for not expanding on my intentions.

Someone in Holland didn’t like the markings on my Airborne jeep. It has a 75mm pack howitzer on it in one shot. His gripe was my marking did not indicate Royal Artillery. This meant my jeep could never have had a field piece connected to it. I guess that’s part of why the troops at Arnhem had problems, right? The reconnaissance jeeps that worked must have been denied access to pulling anti-tank guns that they saw laying on the glider landing zones….

I didn’t cover the training helmets, parachutes or harness arrangements due to space and time constraints. My fault for not following through….

Last big one that I can remember off the top of my head is the backgrounds of a few shots. Not all trees pictured are found in Europe. Sorry, cheaper to shoot photos of people in my country than to fly them to France.

David Gordon

Uniforms of the World War Two Tommy

Uniforms of the WWII Tommy was written by David Gordon and published in 2005 by Pictorial Histories Publishing Company (Missoula, MT).

Physical Description

  • Softcover, 426pp.

  • Over 1200 photos, with more than 100 of these in a 16 page colour section.

  • ISBN 157510122X


The book is very well written and features information in the following categories:

  • Service Dress

  • Battle Dress

  • Khaki Drill and Aertex

  • Utility Uniforms

  • Coats and Waterproof Clothing

  • Personal Clothing

  • Head Gear

  • Colour Photos

  • Cap and Collar Badges

  • Tropical Clothing and Equipment

  • Pattern 1944 Web Equipment

  • Footwear

  • Formation and Regimental Badges

  • Rank Insignia

  • Badges of Distinction

Many of the hundreds of photos are wartime photos, many previously unpublished, all of high quality, along with contemporary studio shots showing detail of surviving examples. National variants are described also, highlighting the differences between manufactured items of the different Commonwealth/Empire countries.

Weapons of the World War Two Tommy

was written by David Gordon and published in 2004 by Pictorial Histories Publishing Company (Missoula, MT).

Physical Description

  • Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Missoula, MT, Sep 2004.

  • Softcover, 466pp.

  • ISBN 1575101084


As with the other books in this trilogy by David Gordon, Uniforms of the WWII Tommy and Equipment of the WWII Tommy, this is a comprehensive handbook supported by both period photos as well as clear museum quality photos of surviving artifacts. Additionally, there are both reprints of wartime diagrams as well as modern reconstructions of same, showing details of ammunition and weapons. The book is logically laid out into several chapters, including a colour photo section:

  • Personal side arms

  • Service rifles

  • Boys Anti-Tank Rifle

  • Sten Submachine Guns

  • Other Submachine Guns

  • Lewis Light Machine Gun

  • Bren Light Machine Gun

  • Vickers Medium Machine Gun

  • Small Arms Ammunition

  • Shaped Charges and Explosives

  • Projectors

  • Booby Traps and Switches

  • Hand and Rifle Grenades

  • Mines and mine clearance

  • Mortars

  • Flame Weapons

The book also includes a bibilography.

Commonwealth subjects are given good representation, and most of the information in the book is directly related to the Canadian Army as the majority of weapons and equipment in the book were also issued to Canadian soldiers in the Second World War.

Equipment of the World War Two Tommy

Equipment of the WWII Tommy was written by David Gordon and published in 2004 by Pictorial Histories Publishing Company (Missoula, MT).

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