Post War Jungle ‘Bata’ Boots

Footwear in the jungle is always problematic, boots need to be tough to stand up to the rugged terrain, light for comfort, rot proof to prevent them falling apart too quickly and both waterproof for walking in rain showers and quick to dry when they do get soaked wading through swamps. Combining all these requirements in one design was clearly a tall order, however by the middle of World War Two it was clear that the standard British Army hobnailed boot was hopelessly unsuited for jungle wear. An official army training pamphlet advised canvas and rubber soled hockey boots (procurable in most tropical towns) are an efficient form of footwear. Whilst locally bought hockey boots were fine as a short term measure, what was clearly needed was a purpose designed boot and by the time of the Malayan Emergency the British Army had introduced a canvas and rubber jungle boot:imageThese boots were frequently called ‘Bata’ boots by soldiers after the Bata Shoe Company who made many of them, examples were also made locally in theatre in Malaya. The design is closely copied from US Marine Corps boots and pre-war hockey boots. The main body of the boot is made of green canvas, with black rubber soles:imageBlack rubber toecaps:imageAnd black rubber reinforcement on the ankles:imageThe boots are fastened with green laces running through six pairs of riveted eyelets and six lace hooks up the front of the boot:imageThese boots are a common sight being worn by many soldiers during the Malayan Emergency, such as these soldiers photographed in December 1957:largeSadly they were viewed as being virtually disposable- two weeks in the jungle normally resulted in them falling apart. As such examples in good sizes, like these (9s) and in good condition like this pair are rare and demand a premium, smaller and more battered boots being more commonplace. I believe that reproductions have been made of these boots, but how easily available they are I couldn’t say.

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