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Old 24 Sep 17, 20:06
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Quote:
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.
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