Category Archives: ATS

ATS Anti-Mosquito Spats

Whilst the design of British and Empire uniforms and equipment has always been unique, these designs have not existed in isolation and especially during periods of War, foreign ideas and influences have crept into the choice of uniform as personnel have borrowed or been issued foreign garments and liked what they used. Tonight’s objects reflect a distinctly American influence, looking very similar to US Army web leggings, ironically the British examples were being introduced just as the US Army was moving away from them as being impracticable! British women in the armed forces during WW2 often relied upon issues of men’s clothing to make up for gaps in garments specifically designed for them. No where was this more obvious than in the uniforms worn in the tropics where women’s tropical kit only started being issued in the final years of the war. One item of uniform specifically issued for women were the anti mosquito spats:imageThese were designed to be worn over the boots and trousers to prevent mosquitoes entering the trouser leg; in theory they were impervious to the insects’ bite and would prevent the spread of malaria. The spat itself is made of a cotton fabric, with a row of four buttons and eyelets up the side to secure it:imageA leather strap is sewn to the centre of the bottom edge:imageWith a corresponding metal buckle:imageThe strap would be passed under the instep of the boot helping to secure the spats firmly in position. The spats have a printed label indicating they were made by John Wear & Co in 1945:imageApparently other labels exist that positively identify the spats as being issued for ATS or Nursing staff. Interestingly this pair of spats is not actually a pair, the buttons used to secure them are slightly different:imageI assume that these must have got muddled up in stores at some point in their history, but they do illustrate some of the minor differences that can be found on seemingly identical items. I have really struggled to find any photographs of the spats in use, I don’t appear to be alone in this, so I can’t say how common their actual use was. A female member of one re-enactment group has commented that they are a pain to put on and take off (the main reason the US Army dropped their leggings) so I can easily see women in the tropics preferring to use webbing anklets in the field rather than these spats! These spats are very common and come up on eBay for a few pounds.