We have a lot for which to thank the British Eighth Army. Formed from the Western Desert Force in September, 1941 under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Alan Cunningham, by the time the Army was fighting the Second Battle of El Alamein its size had reached over 220,00 fighting men in ten divisions. At the start of November, 1942 the Eighth defeated Rommel in the decisive Second Battle of El Alamein, chasing the Germans across Libya and accepting the Axis surrender in Tunisia in May, 1943. So, we can thank the Eighth Army for that.
The hot, unforgiving climate in which the troops lived and fought was almost as troublesome as the enemy. During its two-year period of service in North Africa, 8th Army underwent major changes in organization, equipment and training to accustom it to desert warfare. Part of this kit was a soft, lightweight ‘desert boot’ – a rough suede job with crepe soles commissioned in the Old Bazaar in Cairo. The boots were flexible, light and also had great grip. In 1949, the legend goes, Nathan Clark admired the cut and style of the boots he saw on de-mobbed Desert Rats, and he created the Clarks Original version with pattern cutter Bill Tuxhill. The two-hole laced up design was showcased at the Chicago Show Fair in 1950, and has been a hardy favourite ever since. The boots first had success in France and Italy, but were soon being sported by young British chaps.
There are, of course, many brands of desert boot, but none have the simple style and elegance of the Clarks. I’d go with the classic Sandy, but the Wolf is nice, as is the Brown Waxy. Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green do a nice Pea Green version. We’re probably far enough out of winter to slip into something suede. Give them a whirl. Every wardrobe should have a pair, really.
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