Uniforms

How the uniform changed: puttees

During the First World War, soldiers of the Regiment wore puttees as part of their uniform. Puttees were narrow strips of khaki-colour fabric wrapped in an over-lapping spiral pattern around the lower leg, above the ankle boots up to below the knee. 

“The puttee was almost like a bandage made of [knitted] wool, and it was wrapped around the leg,” explained Douglas Cordeaux, from Fox Brothers & Co Ltd, from Wellington, in Somerset.

”The beauty of it was that it didn’t need sizes - it would also stop your boot being sucked off in mud,” Mr Cordeaux added.

The firm made an estimated 12m pairs of putties, which unwrapped would have stretched for 41,000 miles (66,000 km) - enough to go around the coastline of the UK twice.
— Excerpt from the BBC (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-25879184)

They were good in some ways

Puttees provided the soldier’s leg support, prevented dirt and insects entering both boots and trousers and provided a measure of protection against the weather and abrasions. When wrapped properly, puttees helped to insulate the leg from cold weather and to reduce injury without restricting movement. In hot weather, the material breathed and could be removed and washed. Importantly, puttees could be used as a dressing or splint, or to provide support to a part of the body.

… and not so good in others

While puttees helped to prevent or at least reduce damage to soldiers’ legs, they could also cause harm. Once they became wet and if worn in cold weather, the puttees could cause frostbite and extreme pain. Also, “tightly wrapped puttees might have encouraged or aggravated trench foot by restricting blood flow to the feet. Trench foot was prevented by keeping boots well-oiled and generously sized, loosening the puttees, rubbing oil into feet and lower legs and wearing clean, dry socks”. (Canadian War Museum Artifact Backgrounder on Puttees)

but they’re Still relevant today

In the Second World War the Regiment’s puttees were replaced largely with canvas web anklets. Puttees are, however, still used today in sport such as hiking, climbing, cross-country skiing and backpacking. Their lightweight, breathable and multi-purpose nature make them practical gear to have to get by with less but still stay safe, healthy and comfortable on the trail.