I’ve just come across an interesting comment about greatcoats being used by Russian soldiers in the 19th Century. The author notes that the coats were long enough to fall somewhere between the knee and the ankle in length and that the bottoms would often become heavy from getting caked with mud. He observes that many soldiers solved this by adding hooks and eyes to the coat so the skirts could be hitched up to make a shorter coat. Regular blog readers will recall that most WW2 Russian greatcoats used hooks and eyes instead of buttons, which were probably easier to use when wearing thick gloves or mittens. The idea of shortening the greatcoat, in turn, reminded me of this interesting passage in Viktor Suvorov’s book “Aquarium”.
“The saboteur also wears an outer garment like an anorak. It is thick, warm, light and waterproof. In it you can lie in a marsh without getting wet or sleep in the snow without freezing. It comes down to the middle of the thighs so as not to interfere with walking, and if need be you could sit for days on a patch of ice, as it provides something to sit on. It is very full at the bottom, which is important when running or walking fast. But if necessary the lower part can be pulled in tightly round the legs and so keep the warmth in. The Spetsnaz used to have similar trousers, padded and warm. But that was a mistake. When you have to walk for days on end without stopping such trousers are a nuisance. They upset the ventilation. Our wise ancestors never wore fur-lined trousers. Instead they had fur coats reaching down to their heels. And they were right, because fur trousers make you sweat but a long coat doesn't. We have now learnt this lesson, and a Spetsnaz soldier has not only a top coat, but a long skirt covering his body almost down to the heels which he can attach to it. In this way he can keep warm, but is never too hot. The skirt is easily unbuttoned and rolled up so that it does not take up much space in the man's kit. In the old days the top coat was reversible. One side was white and the other grey and green in patches. But that was also a mistake. The coat had to be soft inside, like a woman's skin, but on the outside it had to be as rough as rhinoceros hide. That is why the top coats are no longer reversible. They are soft inside and rough on the outside. And they are light grey in colour, like last year's grass or dirty snow. It's a very well-chosen colour. But in case of great need a white camouflage smock can be worn over the coat.”