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Thread: Traction for Shanks' Pony

  1. #1
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    Traction for Shanks' Pony




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    Later this year I'm doing a 500km/310mi unsupported walk using vintage and repro civilian and military equipment. The boots I have decided upon are a pair of Australian WWI pattern natural leather military boots from Sydney outfitter Lawrance Ordnance. See here - http://www.lawranceordnance.com/khak.../ww1_boots.php
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    As you can see, these are provided with a completely bare leather sole, which I do not think will be suitable for some of the terrain covered. The route of the walk will include old farm trails, wide dirt roads, railroad service trails, pasture, bush tracks and modern ashpalt and concrete. With this in mind, what does our esteemed membership suggest for traction? Brass nails? Hobs? Tricounis? What about heel plates? In short, what would you do to these boots to make them suitable for the dust, mud, gravel, dirt, tar and concrete of the route described?

  2. #2
    One Too Many Renault's Avatar
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    I'd take two pair. Both already broke in. And I'd avoid walking on concrete and asphalt as much as possible. But I think you could do it!
    "I have some friends, some honest friends, and honest friends are few; my pipe of briar, my open fire, a book that's not too new."

    Robert W. Service

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    There is a place in Queensland which is selling a reproduction of the same boot with a vaguely-plasticky-looking light tan finish, heel irons and a sole which, unlike the Lawrance Ordnance boot, is actually nailed around the perimeter. I may take your advice Renault and purchase and thoroughly break in the two pairs. The Lawrance Ordnance pair I may leave "slick" and have the other pair hobnailed.

    Here are some of the hobnail patterns I've found - my local cobbler says he is willing and able to nail soles and/or install hobs

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    A British War Department pattern dating from 1915. The design uses a series of triple hobs as used on modern ceremonial British ammo boots as well as what looks like Hungarian hobs and normal brass nails in high-wear areas. This pattern may be overkill for my purposes, but the triple and Hungarian hobs can be found rather cheaply as UK MOD surplus from Ammo boots, which used the triple hobs, and Guards' boots which used the WWII-style cone-shaped Hungarian-style hobs.

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    Australian 1918 pattern. Uses heel irons and 74 brass or steel nails on each boot - no hobs. This is the original/default pattern for the era. The early WWII version of the toe-capped Australian AB boot had an identical "tread pattern" except it also used toe irons. If I were to go this route I would probably go for heel irons and toe irons. Once again, UK military surplus toe and heel irons can be had at a reasonable cost. Since it was the default pattern, one would think it would be the most suitable for general purpose use over a wide variety of terrain. I hope so.

  4. #4
    One Too Many Renault's Avatar
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    Well it appears to me you have done your homework. In my meagre experience in these matters I have found that 90% of such projects is the "want" to do it! With about the same sucess rate! So with those odds I say you can and will be successful in this endeavor!

    I will admit until the late family circumstances occurred, youngest son and I were planning several short vintage era trips on the continental divide trail in the American Rockies. Currently it's on the back burner.

    Good luck!
    R
    "I have some friends, some honest friends, and honest friends are few; my pipe of briar, my open fire, a book that's not too new."

    Robert W. Service

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    Thanks Renault. During September and October I will update the 6 week journey at various places online - including here.

    Speaking of updates, I purchased my first pair of the specified boots this afternoon - online unfortunately since they are located in another state. The seller assures me that an exchange is always possible in the event they do not fit, which is reassuring. The boots have heel plates, and soles which are nailed-on as well as the Goodyear welt. Barring any issues with the foot/boot interface, these will be my primary boots for the duration. I hope they are up to the challenge. I will add Blakey's toe plates to these boots as well as have the prescribed 74 brass nails installed flush with the sole for some extra grip.

    The initial wear-in period will consist of the time-honoured "soak them and wear 'em til they're dry" method followed by a thorough dubbin' inside and out, then a series of 3 mile walks in them. Their first large scale test will be a 50km / 30mi hike during our Easter long weekend where they will see far rougher terrain than they are likely to encounter on the big walk in September. The boots will be worn with a variety of different sock types, from WPG's Northwest Frontier socks, to Australian army issue wool socks of the 80s and 90s era, to modern cushion sole wool blend Holeproof Explorer socks ("standard-issue" for the Australian hiker since the 1970s).

    I should receive the boots early next week.

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    In addition to the boots, I ordered a flannel "Greyback" shirt from the same seller which I believe came originally from Schipperfabrik


    To finish the month's shopping for this particular expedition, I also purchased the following items from WPG -

    Australian WWII Khaki shirt - this is a standard Australian bushman's pattern since the 1910s - I own the jungle green version from the same seller and it is a great shirt.
    3 x UK water bottle corks - one as a replacement for my WWI MKVI water bottle, another for my bushman's flax water bag, and another as a spare.
    A pair of Northwest Frontier socks
    A P14 haversack
    A British army issue towel

    With eight months to go until the event begins, I have 80% of the period or repro equipment and clothing I need, and already have all the "big" items.

  6. #6
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    I suppose I should explain the purpose of this long walk I am undertaking.

    In the aftermath of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, support for the war against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottomans was waning among the Australian public and recruitment numbers were falling. This was due on the most part to public awareness of tactics used in the campaign which were nothing less than wasteful of the lives of men, then word got out about the various strategic, intelligence and navigational blunders which saw the ANZAC amphibious assault forces land off-course and right under the Turkish guns.

    As casualty notices began appearing in greater numbers in the newspapers in the cities and small towns across Australia, various community groups and local committees began to organise recruiting drives for our forces deploying to France and Belgium on the Western Front. The most visible and successful of these was a series of "snowball" recruiting marches such as the famous "Coo-ee march" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_marches). The idea being to march through all towns and communities along a given path and recruit locals along the way - a snowball effect which would hopefully see a contingent hundreds or even thousands strong by the time they reached their destination.


    Recruits of the Coo-ee March at the start of their journey near Gilgandra in western New South Wales in 1915. A motley band to be sure.

    I will be participating in a re-enactment of one of these "snowball" marches, the Kangaroo March, which will travel from Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales to Campbelltown NSW, just south of the state's capital, Sydney - 520km total. Other reenactment recruiting marches are being conducted around the country this year, next year and in 2018.

    As a writer and historian, I am compelled to undertake the march under conditions as close as possible to those encountered by the original recruits in 1915. I am marching as a normal recruit and will be carrying my own personal shelter and all equipment for the duration of the six weeks. I have created a menu based on the 1914 Australian Imperial Force ration scale for recruits and will carry two-day's rations at a time, with resupply occurring at various villages and towns along the way. Apart from some camera and communications equipment, I will be "head to toe legit", reading at night by candle light, checking the time by my wristlet watch, boiling my quartpot and cooking my salt beef and bacon on an open fire. I think I will miss my sunglasses though...

  7. #7
    One Too Many Stanley Doble's Avatar
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    Rubber heels were available since the 1880s and men were resoling their boots with old car tire treads by WW1.

    Sunglasses or "blue goggles" date to the mid 1800s or earlier although I don't know if a WW1 recruit would have had them.

    You seem to be re enacting a march by recruits before they joined the military, but wearing the uniform they would have been issued after joining?

    I think I would be looking round for a 1914 bicycle or vintage train ticket ha ha.
    Last edited by Stanley Doble; Yesterday at 08:43 AM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stanley Doble View Post
    Rubber heels were available since the 1880s and men were resoling their boots with old car tire treads by WW1.
    In rural Australia in 1915 it was leather soles, with or without hobnails.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stanley Doble View Post
    Sunglasses or "blue goggles" date to the mid 1800s or earlier although I don't know if a WW1 recruit would have had them.
    Sadly, they probably wouldn't have.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stanley Doble View Post
    You seem to be re enacting a march by recruits before they joined the military, but wearing the uniform they would have been issued after joining?
    The recruits took the Oath and completed attestation/enlistment paperwork upon joining the march. They were issued an abbreviated kit consisting of whatever was left in their size on the supply wagons.

    According to the official publication "Hints for Soldiers of the AIF" (read online - http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/111716), the initial equipment issue for Australian Imperial Force recruits in 1915 was as follows:

    - Hat badge
    - Boots
    - Greatcoat
    - Slouch Hat
    - White hat (fatigue or "giggle" hat)
    - Dungaree jacket ("giggle" jacket)
    - Dungaree trousers ("giggle" pants)
    - Kit bag
    - Leather trousers belt
    - Braces
    - Hair brush
    - Shaving brush
    - Tooth brush
    - Comforter cap
    - Comb
    - Drawers
    - Holdall
    - Housewife
    - Cardigan
    - Dinner knife
    - Fork
    - Clasp knife
    - Razor in case
    - Flannel shirt
    - Singlet
    - Soap
    - Woollen socks
    - Spoon
    - Towel

    Wool service dress, puttees and the like were not issued until the recruit had completed their first month's training.

    However then, as now, the equipment would be inadequate for six weeks' march, so as per the original recruits, I will be carrying a range of civilian clothing and equipment. I have added two key military items not included in the intial issue of equipment - a water bottle (1915-vintage 2-pint MKVI enamel water bottle with cork and a wool cover in a Pattern 03 leather carrier with shoulder strap), and a haversack (British Pattern 14, since with its leather components it looks more "agricultural" than a standard military Pattern 08 haversack).

    Quote Originally Posted by Stanley Doble View Post
    I think I would be looking round for a 1914 bicycle or vintage train ticket ha ha.
    Indeed.

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