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"Boots " Topic

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941 hits since 18 Mar 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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GreenLeader18 Mar 2017 4:40 a.m. PST

I was on a battlefield tour of Spion Kop some years hence, and the tour guide (who was an utter Bleeped text) made a big point out of the 'fact' that the boots worn by the British infantry didn't have a 'left' and a 'right': ie. both boots were identical and thus were massively uncomfortable etc.

So two points:

Firstly: is this true? I have never been able to confirm it.

Secondly: was this remarkable at the time? Surely, if all foot wear was like that at the time, it is not something to mock the 'stupid British army' over?

Atomic Floozy18 Mar 2017 5:53 a.m. PST

Yes, shoes from the 16th century until the mid-19th century were made identical with no left or right shoe. Just google "when did left & right shoes begin" & you will find multiple sites.

It was not remarkable at the time to have shoes or boots that did not have a left or right shoe. Outside of the military, you do not find as many accounts about the shoes of the time being uncomfortable. Armies, however, bought in bulk & tended to have a "one size fits all" mentality.

By the early 20th century practically all shoes are made with a left & right shoe.

GreenLeader18 Mar 2017 8:46 a.m. PST

Google / wiki tells me that the standard British Army boot was the 'ammo boot' which remained in service from the 1880s to the 1950s… I do not remember ammo boots not having a left / right, so one would assume that even the earlier marques were left / right?

Artilleryman18 Mar 2017 9:42 a.m. PST

As I understand it, left and right boots were being issued by 1870 so the guide had a right fact for the wrong period. If you look at photos of the aftermath of Spion Kop you can see left and right boots on the dead. (Just 'Google Image' it.)

Zargon Inactive Member18 Mar 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

And you weren't pick-pocketed? and yes left and right boots which the Boer (who had homemade shoes called veldskoen which were definitely cut to the foot shape left or right) were more than happy to liberate from the British dead so couldn't have been that uncomfortable. Agree sounds like your tour guide was a right ****, the only time most boots are uncomfortable are when they are new I believe a bit of breaking in makes them fairly wearable.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP18 Mar 2017 1:56 p.m. PST

Before the mid-19th Century, there were right and left shoes and boots… if you had the money. Shoes were often made to fit a particular pair of feet. So, British officers, having to supply their own uniform until well into the 1850s would usually have right and left boots or shoes.

From the picture here of Churchill as a prisoner, it is obvious that the shoes were created right and left.


Martin Rapier19 Mar 2017 2:31 a.m. PST

The ammunition boot was just a description of an issue clothing item, the design changed a fair bit between 1850 and 1950!

As the owner of various types of military boot, even the most uncomfortable and misshapen item can be made to fit by slathering it in multiple coats of neatsfoot oil and dubbin, and then wearing it for protracted periods of time.

I presume neatsfoot oil was called that for a reason.

GreenLeader19 Mar 2017 4:07 a.m. PST

Martin Rapier

Wiki would have me believe that it 'evolved' through various patterns, but that would suggest it was still essentially the same boot? Wiki talks about different manufacturing techniques (one of which was to save leather) and the like, but no mention of something as monumental as going from a 'generic' boot to a 'left / right' design. I was thinking in the same way of the Lee Enfield going through various Mk's… but still being recognisably the same rifle?
Or was the earliest (which wiki assures me was the Pattern 1037 and which was made from 1887 to 1907, not the 1850s?) not specific left / right?

Artillery Man

Do you have any link / source about the left / right boots being issued from the 1870s? My Googliness has deserted me rather of late.

Artilleryman19 Mar 2017 10:33 a.m. PST

I am trying to find the source but I have it from somewhere that boots were changed as part of the general reformation of uniforms in the 50s and 60s. Whereas the soldier of the Crimean War had same feet boots, it seems that his successor in the Zulu War had right and left boots. It seems that the change started in the early 1800s with 'bespoke' footwear and was universal by 1900. Naturally, mass-produced footwear was the last to change hence the British Army's predilection. The main problem was the production of lasts which was made easier with industrialisation. The original 'Ammunition Boot', the Pattern 1037 was made from 1887 to 1907 and this was the type seen at Spion Kop. The earlier boot is more obscure as to issue date, but the US Army apparently went to different feet in 1858. Logic suggests that the British Army were not far behind simply making the same boot but on differing lasts. However, I can not as yet pin it down though photos from the Zulu War do seem to show the product of left and right lasts. I hope to visit the National Army Museum soon which might hold the answer.

GreenLeader19 Mar 2017 7:53 p.m. PST


Thanks very much for the information, and do please keep me posted if you find anything from the National Army Museum. I have sent them an enquiry via their website.

I imagine that, to many, this might sound like a very silly thing to be interested in, but I am keen to find the answer!

Artilleryman20 Mar 2017 5:37 a.m. PST

On the other hand, that's why the hobby is fascinating.

Old Wolfman20 Mar 2017 7:37 a.m. PST

"…movin' up an' down again,an' there's no discharge in the war."-Rudyard Kipling.

GreenLeader02 May 2017 2:09 a.m. PST

Artilleryman (if you are reading this…)

Did you ever make it to the National Army Museum? I did not hear back on my enquiry – but seems they are renovating or something, so I guess they have bigger fish to fry.

spontoon14 May 2017 10:16 a.m. PST

@ Martin Rapier;

Does the neatsfoot oil and dubbin make boots fit the feet , or the feet fit the boots?

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