A Love Story, Puttees, and Me
Today I thought I would share with you a short blog about, a now defunct piece of Army uniform, puttees, and a love story.
Ralph and Mary met at the Department Store ‘Binns’ in Newcastle. She worked in ladies wear and he was working in the basement setting up televisions and radios, and repairing them.
‘He was taciturn and watchful, and she was a flighty, bubbly blonde.’
Those are Mary’s words not mine! You could compare it to the iconic British Sitcom ‘Are you being served?’ In which case, Mary was ‘Miss Brahms’ and Ralph ‘Mr Harman’ (although the antithesis of Arthur English in character).
They met at a Christmas party where Ralph impressed her with his dancing. One of Mary’s friends said ‘You’re going to marry him’ and sure enough she did!
By now you are probably thinking to yourself, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ Well, there was another side to Ralph, which you may have guessed from the Blog featured image. He was a veteran British WWII Commando and Radio Operator, and eventually stationed at RAF Changi, Seletar, Singapore.
It was there where he became interested in Radio, Astronomy, playing the harmonica, and ghosts…
Ralph and Mary were married for over sixty years but he sadly passed away in 2015. On clearing out Ralph’s effects, Mary found his Army day mementoes. Most she has kept, but she did pass on his unused forage caps and British Army puttees: Ralph didn’t need them in the Far East!
It was Ralph and Mary’s story that inspired me to look a bit further into history to discover why a uniform included puttees.
A puttee, or puttie, adapted from the Hindi paṭṭī, bandage, for a covering for the lower part of the leg from the ankle to the knee. The long and narrow ‘bandage’ provided both support and protection. They were phased out during WWII due to the fact:
- they took quite a long time to put on,
- they could increase the risk of varicose veins,
- and were also considered unhygienic!
They were first used in the service uniform of foot and mounted soldiers serving in British India during the second half of the nineteenth century. According to military historians, Infantry putties were wound ankle to knee and Cavalry from knee to ankle: I don’t know why!
So there you have it. You now know what puttees are and how they link to a 60 year love story.
For The Romantic Amongst You:
the verse in Ralph’s 1950’s Valentine card to Mary
A Valentine “Whodunit” for my Sweetheart:
Who broke into my private dreams
And Robbed me of my wits?
Who set a fire inside of me
And shot my plans to bits?
Who stole away my loving heart
Before I ever knew?
Who kidnapped me and all my love?
You know darn well
Ralph then signed the card ‘Nuff said’. I couldn’t agree more…