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In the trench warfare of the First World War, the mud was often knee deep, although it sometimes reached well above the soldiers' chests. These conditions were obviously horrendous, and made it almost impossible to fight effectively. I know that several combatant nations issued jackboots (i.e., boots that slip on, and don't have laces) to their infantry, most notably the Germans.

Although it would have been difficult for anyone to keep their boots on in the thick, deep, sucking mud, I imagine that it would be even worse for troops wearing jackboots, which aren't quite as snug as laced boots.

How did soldiers who wore jackboots avoid losing their foot gear in the mud?

  • Boots without laces are supposed to fit tightly around the footrootbone / anklebone region if they are chosen the right size. – jjack Sep 4 '15 at 19:37
  • @jjack - I assumed that this was the case, but in my experience, boots with laces are still considerably more tight fitting than boots which can be slipped on and off without laces. In particular, my Doc Martens with 10 pairs of eyelets are so tight that trying to pull them off while the laces are tied would be more likely to result in ripping my foot off at the ankle than removing the boots themselves. – Wad Cheber Sep 6 '15 at 3:14
  • The longer the shaft, the less likely the boot gets pulled off. The boot worn by the Wehrmacht in World War 2 had wide shaft diameter, "so the water would run in from the top when in the mud of the Soviet roads", this German newsmagazine article from 1972 claims: spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-42928449.html – jjack Sep 8 '15 at 18:27
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My father fought on the German side on the Western Front in the First World War, as a very young man. I remember him telling me that the great advantage of high boots without laces was exactly that they could easily be taken off and put on quickly, unlike the low laced boots and puttees worn by British soldiers. He said as a result that "trench foot" was common among British soldiers, whose feet were never able to dry out in wet conditions, but unknown in the German army.

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    It probably also helped that the German trenches were mostly on relatively high ground, so in the first part of the war, they didn't have to deal with as much mud as the Brits and French, who were on the low ground. – Wad Cheber Sep 7 '15 at 19:43
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I have worn Jack boots in thick deep mud and they actually stayed on my foot well enough that my hip/leg joint popped but they wouldn't slip off as long as I kept my foot at around a 90 deg angle.

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The usual means was to put something over the mud, such as wooden planks, as is visible in pretty much every scene of a trench in use.

  • But it didn't really work. The duckboards (that's what they called them) in the trenches were typically under at least a foot of mud, and frequently the mud was much higher - up to knees, waists, and occasionally even chests and necks. Duckboards leading to the rear lines were usually above the surface of the muck. – Wad Cheber Sep 4 '15 at 23:33
  • You get the idea, but I have probably read 30 books about the First World War, and the majority of the photos I've seen show various levels of mud in the trenches, but almost always at least several inches of it, usually quite a bit more than that. – Wad Cheber Sep 4 '15 at 23:40

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