Category Archives: Footwear

Short Puttees

The DMS boots worn with short puttees were the ubiquitous choice of footwear throughout the 1960s and 1970s and it was only when the shortcomings of this system were highlighted in the Falklands War that it was finally superseded by one piece high leg type boots. The short puttees were less than half the length of their World War One counterparts but were made in the same style of khaki brown wool, with woven cotton tapes:imageThe material of the puttee was folded to a point and the woven tape sewn on:imageThe opposite end was merely doubled back on itself and sewn together to prevent the fabric from fraying and coming undone:imageWhen not being worn, it was typical for the puttees to be rolled up, with the tape wrapped around:imageShort puttees had been reintroduced in 1950 and the official list of changes recorded:

Clothing and Necessaries.- Puttees, short, re-introduction

  1. Approval has been given for the issue of one pair of puttees, short, to each British other rank serving in overseas commands and garrisons where tropical clothing is worn. Puttees, short, jungle will be issued in areas where green tropical clothing is worn and puttees, short in other areas. The scale of anklets web to be reduced from 2 pairs to 1 pair. On issue of puttees, short, one pair of anklets, web will be withdrawn and placed in normal maintenance stocks under local arrangements.
  2. Where no stocks of puttees, short, exist, demands for initial issue, plus normal maintenance stocks, will be submitted through normal channels. Issue will be made when supplies become available.
  3. When stocks of puttees, short, jungle become exhausted puttees, short will become the standard pattern for wear in all areas.

One old soldier recalls:

I wore “short puttees” in the TA in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and quite liked them, though I did hear stories of broken ankles being caused by them. imagePuttees seem to have been phased out in the mid-1980s, not always to the pleasure of troops some of whom were very fond of the short puttee:

In about 1985 I was still wearing DMS & Puttees, because of an earlier injury the medics had supplied them with extra padding and support. When on what the Royal Signals called their annual sqn. battle camp I was ordered, despite my protest and med chit to wear my brand new unbroken Combat High Boots for a CFT.

Result, I just managed to complete the CFT ,reported to medics to treat blisters, when I took my boots off so much blood ran out that I was immediately put on a saline drip.

I did not complain but medics where appalled and reported the matter to their boss the Senior MO of the Garrison.

I don’t know if it was related but within 3 months both the OC and me were posted and, ironically, both promoted.

I must say that once broken in and laced correctly I found the high boot gave good support and was especially waterproof compared to old DMS boot. I still have my last issue of boot which 20 odd years after discharge I still use in the worst winter weather.image

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.

Parade Boots

Ammunition boots were removed from service in the late 1950s as being unsuitable for modern warfare. Despite this their legacy lives on to the present day with hobnailed boots being used for parades and ceremonial occasions. These boots give a satisfyingly military ‘crump’ on the parade square and can be bulled up to unheard of levels of shininess. These boots are very similar to the wartime ammunition boot and are frequently used by re-enactors in place of hard to find (and valuable) period boots and poorly made reproductions:imageThis pair of boots has metal toe and heel plates and small metal studs in the sole:image

There should be thirteen studs per boot in the pattern 4-4-3-2 and one Coldstream Guardsman recalls:

One of the great memories in regard to studs in boots was in Caterham in the early 80’s. Sgt Boris Beard (Black Boris) was Sgt I/W for No1 Company. There was a blood donation drive that the Battalion was taking part in. Boris gave blood and felt very faint after the procedure. he was placed on a stretcher to recover and was approached by the Badge man the Great Perry Mason. Perry was genuinely concerned about Sgt Beard and asked if he was ok. Boris said yes he was feeling a lot better. Perry replied good.. Now place yourself in the report for not having the correct amount of studs in yer boots!!

These boots have a separate toe cap that provides a clear demarcation line for bulling, on this example the polish that has been applied has chipped and at some point I need to strip off all the polish and redo the boots to make them look correct:imageThe toe cap at the back of the boot is also bulled, and as is often the case these boots were originally bulled all over apart from the top which would be hidden beneath the trouser leg, where the original pebbled leather can be seen:imageThere are many different ways of bulling boots, with some advocating melting the polish, others using yellow duster or cotton wool balls and others using water and spit or a combination thereof. The boots are dated 1988 inside and have a manufacturer’s initials of ‘J & R Bros’:imageThe size ‘9L’ is stamped both inside the boot and on the instep underneath:imageThese boots can be seen on many formal parades, worn by all three services.British_Army_GS_boot_jpeg

DMS Boots

In 1958 a brand new set of uniform and equipment was introduced to update what a soldier used in battle, replacing much of that used in the Second World War. Amongst the many updates was a set of boots, to become infamous to squaddies as ‘DMS; boots. Soldier Magazine, December 1957, explained:

The infantryman (and soldiers in most other Arms as well) will also wear moulded rubber soled boots fitted with washable plastic insoles and tied with nylon laces. These boots will never be repaired; the uppers will have worn out by the time the soles have worn thin and the boots will be sent for salvage. imageThe boots are made of pebbled leather, with smooth toecaps:imageAnd heels:imageThe boots are ankle high, and lace up the front with six rows of metal reinforced laceholes:imageThe distinctive feature of the boots is of course the sole, which is made of black rubber moulded directly to the upper part of the boot. It has a deep tread for better grip:imageThe DMS boots remained the standard item of footwear in the British Army until the Falklands when it became clear they were totally unsuited to modern warfare. The short boot was insufficiently waterproof and soldiers suffered from trench-foot, or as ARRSEpedia puts it ‘DMS boots were as waterproof as a pair of sandals.’ There are even stories of soldiers stealing high leg boots off dead Argentinians as they were better than the DMS boot. Unless worn with the issued nylon inner soles, the rubber soles would ‘draw’ the feet, making them sweat badly. In cold wet weather the boot was proved far from practical; it became easily saturated and caused the wearer’s feet to suffer accordingly The ‘Boot, Combat, High’ was quickly brought into service to replace the DMS boot in the aftermath of the Falklands War, but the DMS boot was to soldier on for a number of years whilst the new boots were rolled out.

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.