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Puttees, one of the best inventions ever

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  • #16
    Originally posted by jf42 View Post
    Well, actually, yes. The key word there was 'adopted', as in first adopted in a military context by British troops in India, some time around 1870 (evidence is sketchy) but first seen being used in any quantity around the time of the Afghan War of 1878-80.

    Puttees would seem to have been first used by officers hunting in the hills as seen in the accompanying photo of a Gordons officer returned from local leave circa 1870. The entry in 'Hobson Jobson' is illuminating.

    "PUTTEE, PUTTY, s. Hind. paṭṭī.

    a. A piece or strip of cloth, bandage; especially used in the sense of a ligature round the lower part of the leg used in lieu of a gaiter, originally introduced from the Himālaya, and now commonly used by sportsmen and soldiers. A special kind of cloth appears in the old trade-lists under the name of puteahs (see PIECE GOODS)....

    1875. -- "Any one who may be bound for a long march will put on leggings of a peculiar sort, a bandage about 6 inches wide and four yards long, wound round from the ankle up to just below the knee, and then fastened by an equally long string, attached to the upper end, which is lightly wound many times round the calf of the leg. This, which is called patawa, is a much cherished piece of dress." -- Drew, Jummoo, 175."

    Whether there is a link with pattu or 'puttoo' the homespun woollen cloth woven from goat or camel wool in the mountain districts is not clear.





    The reference was to the short puttee which, worn with hosetops, had been introduced for Highlanders to replace the pre-1914 spats worn with Service Dress. These proved useful for either kilted men, or men wearing shorts, during fighting in the Western Desert in WW2, as it helped keep dust and stones from the boots. It found more widespread use in the post-war period before the introduction of high-lacing 'combat boots.' It was worn by paratroopers, supposedly to support the ankles on landing, but the problems with water absorbency remained, and it was obviously an antiquated measure compared to providing soldiers with effective modern footwear. Short puttees had advantages in barracks because they did not need to be blancoed or boot-polished like the short, anklet gaiter.
    Puttee comes from an East Indian Hindi word pitee or legging. They were a standard piece of dress for Indian upper middle class when walking. Many Indian army officers adopted Indian clothes when appropriate when off duty and after 1859 when on campaign when dress regulations were less strictly applied. This was especially so in irregular units such as the Guides who appear to have been one of the the first to adopt them for all ranks. They did not become official for all the Indian and British Army until 1902.
    From 1902 puttee strips were cut on the bias to aid wrapping. As infantry puttees were wound ankle up and cavalry calf down this meant that there were two types of puttee and heaven help the PBI who was trying to put on a cavalry puttee. Tradition has it that they were first adopted in Bengal by Indian troops before the mutiny as the undergrowth was cutting their bare legs and their officers adopted the style as a matter of solidarity. However I can find no evidence to support this other than that the official uniform of the Bengali units was highly unsuitable for the terrain.

    Puttee were adopted bu the German Army in 1916 when a shortage of leather meant that jack boots could not be issued. They were not liked.
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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    • #17
      Originally posted by MarkV View Post
      Puttee comes from an East Indian Hindi word pitee or legging. They were a standard piece of dress for Indian upper middle class when walking. Many Indian army officers adopted Indian clothes when appropriate when off duty and after 1859 when on campaign when dress regulations were less strictly applied. This was especially so in irregular units such as the Guides who appear to have been one of the the first to adopt them for all ranks. They did not become official for all the Indian and British Army until 1902.

      .....Tradition has it that they were first adopted in Bengal by Indian troops before the mutiny as the undergrowth was cutting their bare legs and their officers adopted the style as a matter of solidarity. However I can find no evidence to support this other than that the official uniform of the Bengali units was highly unsuitable for the terrain.
      It depends on who you read, evidently. Some might be guided by the Encyclopedia Brittanica opinion that 'puttee' comes from the Hindī pattī, 'bandage' (Skr. patta, strip of cloth), which has certainly been my understanding. The predilection of upper-class Indians for walking is not a subject I have studied.

      I should be very interested to see evidence of puttees being worn before the 1870s. Certainly, the evidence from the Ambala campaign of 1864 and Napier's Abyssinia expedition of 1868 shows HM troops on campaign either with trousers loose or with the leather gaiter introduced in 1859. Officers seemed to favour either to favour gaiters ( both issue leather and canvas) or high boots of soft leather. The same goes for the China expedition of 1860, although the terrain hardly favoured the wearing of puttees.

      Even in the Afghan campaign of 1878-80, not all units are to be found wearing puttees. Some continued to wear trousers loose or tucked into gaiters. It seems to have only been in the 1880s that puttees became universal in India, at least for footsoldiers, extending to Home-based troops when khaki became the universal Foreign Service dress in the 1890s.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Salinator View Post
        My favorite puttees:

        Those are gaiters.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by jf42 View Post
          It depends on who you read, evidently.
          Indeed - I prefer specialists rather than general encyclopedias. According to my copy of Carman's Uniforms of the British Indian Army the 1865 Army list shows the Bengal Sappers and Miners to be wearing blue puttees. These were replaced for NCOs by leather leggings in 1875. The earliest date for Puttees in the Indian Army still appears to have been the Corps of Guides with their 1848 Khaki uniform but I need to do a little more checking
          Last edited by MarkV; 25 Sep 17, 10:55.
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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          • #20
            "One of the best inventions ever"???
            Sheer hyperbole. it was too apt to become entangled and come adrift unless it was meticulously and tightly bound around the lower leg.
            Its replacement, the stiff canvas gaiter, was a far better solution and remained in Australian service, at least, until the adoption of the high "Boot G.P",in the 1960s.
            "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
            Samuel Johnson.

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            • #21
              If I had the choice of puttees or any other footwear I think I'd plump for simple jackboots like these for maximum protection of the feet and lower leg against all kinds of weather -

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Salinator View Post
                My favorite puttees:

                Agreed.

                And Johns......I think they're more Earmuffs than Gaiters
                Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                • #23
                  The muff is north of there...

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Poor Old Spike View Post
                    If I had the choice of puttees or any other footwear I think I'd plump for simple jackboots like these for maximum protection of the feet and lower leg against all kinds of weather -

                    see post 16.

                    However in 1914/15 German soldiers claimed the British army boot was superior to the Jackboot whilst the British claimed that the Jack boot was better. They stole them off each other (or at least off corpses and POWs). They were both right. The British Army Boot was superior for marching in dry weather whilst the Jack Boot was better for standing guard in a wet trench. Both were lethal on wet Flanders piave cobble stones.
                    Last edited by MarkV; 29 Sep 17, 09:52.
                    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                      Indeed - I prefer specialists rather than general encyclopedias. According to my copy of Carman's Uniforms of the British Indian Army the 1865 Army list shows the Bengal Sappers and Miners to be wearing blue puttees. These were replaced for NCOs by leather leggings in 1875. The earliest date for Puttees in the Indian Army still appears to have been the Corps of Guides with their 1848 Khaki uniform but I need to do a little more checking
                      Carman can at times be annoyingly imprecise in his use of dates (Much of his detailed information here seems to date from the 1885 Dress Regulations or after). In his entry re. the Bengal Sappers, it is not clear to what point after the unit's formation in 1847 (and before the adopting of gaiters) his statement "pyjamas and blue puttees were worn" is meant to refer. His intervening comments citing the Mutiny and the 1864 Army List appear to refer only to changes to the turban. He is almost as imprecise in his statement later on in the book that "Soon after [1862]" the 4th Sikhs could be found wearing "native shoes of the ordinary Hindustani pattern with puttees of Kashmiri cloth." (p.223)

                      But no matter. Carman is more definite in his statement that the 23rd Punjab Pioneers were shown in an engraving of 1879 wearing loose trousers and puttees (p.68) while in a Simkin watercolour of 1877 sepoys of the Q.O.Guides are shown wearing puttees with native shoes (p.213).

                      It is difficult to find any paintings or photographs showing Punjab Frontier Force troops wearing puttees before the Afghan war ( I have yet to see any), but we should not be surprised that they did so at an earlier date- as the above reference to the 4th Sikhs shows- since the puttee as we know it had its origin in the hills of the sub-continent. It seems there was some considerable time before the perceived merits of puttees led to their gradual adoption by British troops. I should be interested to see evidence of British use of puttees with military uniform before the 1870s.

                      Incidentally, the Bengal Army Dress Regulations of 1885, in prescribing the clothing of the Royal Artillery Mountain Battery confirm the correlation of
                      "Putties:-" with " Khakee [I]puttoo[/I]"

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by jf42 View Post
                        Carman can at times be annoyingly imprecise in his use of dates (Much of his detailed information here seems to date from the 1885 Dress Regulations or after). In his entry re. the Bengal Sappers, it is not clear to what point after the unit's formation in 1847 (and before the adopting of gaiters) his statement "pyjamas and blue puttees were worn" is meant to refer. His intervening comments citing the Mutiny and the 1864 Army List appear to refer only to changes to the turban. He is almost as imprecise in his statement later on in the book that "Soon after [1862]" the 4th Sikhs could be found wearing "native shoes of the ordinary Hindustani pattern with puttees of Kashmiri cloth." (p.223)

                        puttoo[/[/COLOR]I]"


                        Sorry but it is crystal clear given that he is quoting the 1865 Army List that it must have been 1865 or earlier. Given your statement that
                        " I should be very interested to see evidence of puttees being worn before the 1870s
                        ." This is evidnce trhat they predate the 1870s
                        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                          Sorry but it is crystal clear given that he is quoting the 1865 Army List that it must have been 1865 or earlier.
                          Well, no. It is neither clear nor crystal, except that the reference to the Army List of 1865 is clearly in relation to the "soft wound turban" that replaced the "stiff headress" sometime "after the Mutiny" (again, hardly precise) and was cited in order to point out an apparent change in the colour scheme of the pagri, sometime after the turban was adopted.

                          Carman then starts a new paragraph. He has moved on from the discussion of turbans. There is nothing to suggest that opening statement "pyjamas and dark blue puttees were worn" also derives from the Army List. I submit that your assumption otherwise is a misreading.

                          Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                          Given your statement that
                          " I should be very interested to see evidence of puttees being worn before the 1870s[/I]." This is evidnce trhat they predate the 1870s
                          That the puttee was being worn by Indians earlier than the 1870s, whether in or out of uniform, is not in question, as my previous post makes clear.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            I meant to add, that I should be interested to hear more about the walking habits of upper-middle class Indians in and around Haryana. Are these well recorded?

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