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"the point of puttees" Topic

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954 hits since 13 Mar 2017
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Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 12:46 p.m. PST

They seem an odd bit of kit.

Fairly ubiquitous in the Sudan (& later), I guess they were cheaper than the leather gaiters that proceeded & replaced them? A fashion statement, as military costume often is?

I can't imagine them being particularly effective for troops on camel or horse back. And putting them on must have been time costly.

So what was the point of puttees in general?

Vigilant13 Mar 2017 12:53 p.m. PST

A question I asked my self every time I put the things on during my training in the 70s. I suppose they stop creepy crawlies climbing up your leg and helped protect the lower leg from vicious foliage in the absence of high boots.

Personal logo Don Perrin Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member13 Mar 2017 1:03 p.m. PST

I too wore them for a time. I thought they were very comfortable and as Vigilant said, keeps the sand/dirt/creepies out of your boots. After a short period trying to figure them out, I could get mine on in less than a minute for both of them. Good kit.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member13 Mar 2017 1:08 p.m. PST

They were found to be more effective than spats/gaiters to keep dirt and gravel out of boots and provide ankle support. So they found their niche, until tall, lace-up boots pushed puttees aside in turn.

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 1:21 p.m. PST

Do not underestimate the power of thorny/sharp vegetation to shred your trousers. In some places it grows high enough to shred the lower leg of a mounted man. Why do you think cowboys wore chaps?

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 1:22 p.m. PST

Low boots with puttees were very cheap to make and use in the field, they didn't chafe or cause discomfort like leather gaiters. They helped to protect the trousers from wear and tear and reduce the amount of leather used for boots.

They were found to be less than useful in the trenches when they soaked up water and took a while to put on.

Most armies ended up resorting to higher boots, which achieved the best overall results.

Nick Bowler13 Mar 2017 1:47 p.m. PST

In the Burma theater in WWII, for every soldier in hospital with a bullet, there were 100 in hospital with infected leech bites.

Keeping creepy crawlies out is not to be underestimated.

Dennis Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 2:12 p.m. PST

Just finished rereading "Quartered Safe Out Here." George McDonald Fraser agrees with Nick Bowler.

Zargon Inactive Member13 Mar 2017 2:39 p.m. PST

They accentuated the shape and calf of the leg and thus made the gallant solder boy an admired and envied fellow similar to the medieval hose which ennobled all but the most ragged peasant and the them red shanked savages up north.

Personal logo Cheriton Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 4:31 p.m. PST


Just finished rereading "Quartered Safe Out Here."

A fine, informative book on the WWII Malaysia-Burma theater. Got me interested in gaming those campaigns last year for the first time after many years in the hobby. Same author as the immortal Flashman novels?

Found myself wrapping them several times in a grammar school musical while singing "Smile the while you kiss me sad adieu, when the clouds roll by I'll come to you…" Had the loan of a doughboy uniform from a classmate's grandfather. Tin hat and all.


Dennis Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 6:53 p.m. PST


"Same author as the immortal Flashman novels?"

Yes, he's the same guy who also wrote the first Flashman series (someone else is now writing a series about "Thomas Flashman"-I haven't read any of them so don't know if they are any good). Also the screenwriter for Dick Lester's Three and Four Musketeers, Octopussy, Force Ten From Navarone, Royal Flash, Red Sonja and some others. He also wrote some unproduced screenplays, including Quentin Durward-I'd liked to have seen that.

And, if you are a film fan, his book "Hollywood History of the World" is well worth your time.


Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member13 Mar 2017 9:01 p.m. PST

George Macdonald Fraser's memoir "The Light's On at Signpost" isn't a bad trek through his screenwriting experiences and brushes with Hollywood legends, interspersed with Cranky Old Man editorializing about his pet peeves, prejudices, and personal causes. Worth a read, too.

KTravlos Inactive Member14 Mar 2017 2:08 a.m. PST

I did read through that one of their issues was restricting blood circulation.That said, nothing says 1900-1940 like puttees!

Chokidar Inactive Member14 Mar 2017 3:11 a.m. PST

..and on the subject of the inimitable GMF, his Pyrates is wonderful (the Glodden van Titty) especially with the current vogue for things piratical.. Mr American a little known but very good book, Steel Bonnets a wonderful cross between atmosphere and seminal work and the MacAuslan books in a class of their own.
RIP Dand… you are missed

Martin Rapier14 Mar 2017 4:15 a.m. PST

Short puttees (like the WW2 Britihs desert and 1960s/70s/80s ones) are basically just cloth anklets. Very quick to put on, provide decent ankle support and look very smart when put on properly.

The full length ones are a pita, the biggest pita are he cotton ones favoured by the Russians as these tend to fall down unless you do them up really tight and/or use a hidden safety pin or two. Woolen ones stay up much better and don't have to be done up so tight.

In all cases, high lace up boots or high marching boots are a preferable solution (but more costly to produce).

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 5:28 a.m. PST

Evidently, in the Sudan & India, they used string to hold them up.

I was interested to hear from people who've worn them. Still, on cavalrymen seems a bit daft.

Larry R Inactive Member14 Mar 2017 8:11 a.m. PST

to Jeff's point, my Grandfather told me he wore them in WW I because of the wire. He also talked about the drawbacks of when they got wet etc…

dwight shrute14 Mar 2017 8:53 a.m. PST

we had to wear them in army cadets in 1980 , never could get them on properly :-(

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member14 Mar 2017 12:16 p.m. PST

I wouldn't have a clue how to correctly put on puttees! I'd have to go to YouTube and look for a demo.

NickNorthStar Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 1:32 p.m. PST

I've never served in the Military, but I've always done outdoor pursuits. The advantages of gaiters/ puttees in keeping trousers clean and dry, minimising water/ insects/ vegetation getting into your boots are impossible to over play. When you've got 15 miles to go till nightfall, and the puttees are taking the brunt of the water/ mud/ thorny vegetation, you can't praise them high enough. IMHO

Plus don't forget, our Dark Age ancestors found them to be advantageous for hundreds of years.

Sobieski14 Mar 2017 6:13 p.m. PST

A bit of a flashback on the subject of leg protection: Frederick sent a memo to unit commanders advising them not to make a fetish of smart gaiters, and to remember that the things were for the protection and comfort of the soldiers. Though (I'm speaking as an African who lives in Asia), what creepy crawlies could trouble one in Silesia or the Czech and Saxon lands puzzles me a bit.

Nick Bowler15 Mar 2017 3:59 a.m. PST

Sobieski -- Leeches and ticks come to mind.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 8:05 a.m. PST

Didn't the WWI German Stormtroopers use them, switching from boots?

bruntonboy15 Mar 2017 9:11 a.m. PST

Germany was running out of everything by 1918, probably accounts for that.

Ceterman Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 6:43 p.m. PST

All I know is that in the only reenacting I still do occasionally, is WW1 German up in Newville, PA. I can say, I learned the puttee thing rather well. Only doing it twice a year, I can put mine on in about 2 minutes & they stay put until I take em off. Granted that's only 3 days, but still, they work better than I ever thought they would!

cplcampisi15 Mar 2017 7:30 p.m. PST

I also wear full puttees for WW1 and WW2 reenacting (Italian), and I find they work pretty well. In addition to ankle support, I think they help prevent shin splints.

AICUSV22 Mar 2017 7:14 a.m. PST

"Didn't the WWI German Stormtroopers use them, switching from boots?"
They also wore wooden shoes.

Early morning writer22 Mar 2017 9:57 p.m. PST

I backpack and do cross country without trails. Gaiters are, as Nick says above, worth their weight -- and any backpacker knows that is a high compliment for any piece of equipment.

laretenue23 Mar 2017 1:35 a.m. PST

Like others here, I wore the short British puttees in the 1980s. I couldn't see the point of them at the time, but I did get the hang of doing them up so that they stayed on. Having moved on later to high lace-up boots, I consider that puttees actually did a much better job at supporting and cushioning the ankle. Not much of an issue when I was in a vehicle, but very valuable when running and fully laden or jumping from high obstacles.

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