…and that’s just what they did. And more… In 1965 my late father-in-law made a very wise investment. Enjoying tramping the Downs, as the hills around this part of Southern England are called, he decided to buy some appropriate footwear. The boots needed to be rugged, waterproof, long-lasting and comfortable – a combination not cheap. Whilst he was about it, and thinking of the future, he also bought a pair for his son.
What he purchased were two pairs of Veldtschoen boots by the Northamptonshire maker, Lotus. The name Veldtschoen refers to its construction and although the term is thought to have come back from the Boer war as an Afrikaans name, it may have been an older Dutch description; the method of construction can be traced back to the 15th century. Lotus, once a proud British shoemaker, were a common brand on the high street of the 50’s and 60’s. These boots are I believe still being made in smaller numbers as the Lotus lasts are now in the possession of another quality bootmaker. Often called ‘Officers Boots’, Veldtschoens were bought for young men in the trenches of world War one in an attempt to keep their feet dry.
The boots in question did sterling service for nearly fifty years under my father-in-law’s ownership. They’ve covered literally thousands of miles throughout Sussex and were the spur to his writing one of his books, ‘Across Sussex with Belloc’ in appreciation of that great walker, poet, author and historian, Hilaire Belloc. When my brother-in-law moved house I found his ‘twin’ pair of contemporary and very worn Veldtschoens put out for the refuse. Snatching them from the jaws of death I had them totally rebuilt by a rural cobbler in the French village in which my sister lives. What a fabulous job he made of them too! So good that when I inherited the other pair he did those as well. I re-presented my bro-in-law with his old boots and he became quite moisty-eyed with the thought that he had so nearly and needlessly cast them aside.
Since then we both use them for their original purpose. They are supremely supple, comfortable and waterproof. Doubtless, generations of applying dubbin helps. In addition I always wear them when riding my motorcycle, for which, with ample ankle protection, they are admirably suited. These are surely ‘Oily Rag’ boots sans pareil. I will treasure them always and my youngest son is already eyeing them enviously – but I’m not ready to give them up yet. In my search for Veldtschoen information I was inspired hugely by Paul Trynka’s blog http://loomstate.blogspot.co.uk which is worth a look.
- Jon Dudley