There seem to be at least four or five different types of Second World War tins for foot powder, and we have covered some examples in the past as part of larger kit layouts. Another variant I have recently acquired though is this example, a small drab cylindrical tin:It is rather worn, but the lettering ‘Foot powder 1 ¾ oz LB & Co Ltd’ can be made out printed in a paler shade of green around the body:A screw cap is fitted to the top that can be removed revealing a hole through which the foot powder is dispensed:To better stack these cans before issue, a depression is moulded into the base that allows the cap of one can to fit into the bottom of the next when they are stacked in a box:Although I have not tried removing it, I suspect that this is also a cap that allows the can to be refilled for reuse.
Foot powder was used to help dry feet and prevent men from getting trench foot. Trench foot first became widely recognised in the Great War and occurred when men wore wet boots and socks for prolonged periods of time. Men started by complaining of having cold feet, and these eventually became numb. After this the feet began to swell at the ankles and in some cases up the calves and if boots were removed it was impossible to replace them. If left long enough the tissue in the feet began to die and other symptoms could include blisters, sores and fungal infections. It could take anywhere from two weeks to six months for a patient to recover and in the worst cases feet had to be amputated.
Obviously with this being such as serious threat the military took the problem very seriously and as men could not often be removed from the cold wet conditions foot care became very important. Self-treatment for the signs of trench foot became an important tool in the battle against this ailment and men were recommended to change their socks two or three times a day. Ideally they were to remove their shoes and socks and bathe the feet for around five minutes. The feet were then patted dry, foot powder applied and then elevated to let them air off before clean dry socks were put on. The threat of trench foot was to remain a focus of British military thinking for decades after the great war, this example of a tin of foot powder dating form the Second World War. We will look at the modern equivalent to this tin on Friday.