1970’s Royal Navy ‘Steaming Bats’

Work boots in the Royal Navy have long been called ‘steaming bats’ or just ‘bats’. I have struggled to find the exact origin of this name, but like much Jackspeak it has been passed down through generations and although the patterns of the boots themselves might change, the name does not. Steaming Bats are a very particular type of footwear, regardless of exact pattern, and all share a steel toecap for safety and good grips for use on wet decks. Modern designs are fairly utilitarian work boots, but the earlier models from the 1970s could be polished up to make a passable set of parade boots as well and it is a pair of these steaming bats we are looking at tonight:imageThe boots are a well-made, ankle high design with a chunky rubber sole:imageA /|\ ownership mark is stamped into the leather on each side of the boot:imageThere are no toe caps on these boots, but there is steel under the leather to prevent crushing injuries, as can be seen the leather is nice and smooth so holds polish well:imageOften though these boots were unpolished and quickly bleached from sun and the salt in seawater. It was also common to write one’s name across the back in Tippex. The most distinctive feature of these boots is the intricate sole, made up of a ring pattern for grip:imageNote also the red warning label printed on the base saying ‘Electrically Conductive’:imageThe size is moulded into the sole and is also stamped on the inside of the boot, along with the date which is here a size 7 from 1977:imageSteaming bats were a popular choice for many sailors who spent most of their working lives wearing them, one slightly disturbing use for them is recounted by an old salt:

I knew a submariner who used to get seasick on them (I believe it was while it was on the surface) and whilst he was in his cot, if he was sick, used to throw up in his steaming bats. He said that it was a lot quicker and easier to clean his bats than the floor.


  1. I was once told that it was just a corruption of “boots”. But perhaps that’s too simple to be accurate.

  2. As an ex-stoker of the ’70’s These look nothing like the steamies I wore – far too clean! Quite often people would cut slits into the top edges as they could chafe when wet or in a hot engine room. three badge stokers often wore bats with only one lace fastened or no laces – they reckoned it was easier to kick off the boots if you went overboard. Two of my messmates were ex-WW2 ratings three badges and a row of medals…one did not contradict!

  3. Hi , the boots I had in late 70s, on HMS Bulwark, HMS Nubian were in looks like these, made by Bata.

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