Saturday, 22 November 2014

Washing at the Front

Sunday 22nd November 1914: The adjutant of the 1st Bedfords tells us: “The battalion is in billets at Loker, south-west of Ypres. We have endeavoured to reorganize as far as possible and to get all ranks washed. This has caused considerable difficulties as it is freezing hard and accommodation very limited”.

It is difficult for us at home, perhaps, to know just how dirty the men get in the front line. They have to wear the same clothing for days on end and, at this time of year, are spending much of the time in mud, sometimes up to their thighs. Imagine living in a ditch for a week with little or no spare clothing and you begin to approach the conditions in which they are placed. It must be admitted that the men will spend most of the time with lice crawling over their bodies and dirt deeply ingrained in their skin. No wonder that, when they get behind the lines, they want a bath and clean clothing to put on! Baths will usually be streams or ponds, or large barrels vats, such as wine vats or receptacles for industrial use filled with water in which they all crowd. In freezing weather, however, this, as can be imagined, is much more difficult.

It is salutary to remember that, in addition to the constant hazards from the enemy, our boys are fighting nature too. They go about their dangerous business constantly itching and trying to ignore the smell of unwashed flesh and cloth. Their achievements, therefore, seem all the more remarkable.

Source: X550/2/5

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