Thursday 28th January 1915: We are glad to report that no attack was made by the Germans yesterday, despite it being their Kaiser’s birthday. The 2nd
A battalion at full strength should muster just over one thousand men so it will be seen that the 2nd Battalion is some way under strength. There are a number of reasons for this. Some of the losses in the severe fighting of last October have still to be made good. Some men will have been detached to assist in other activities such as guarding stores, bridges and the like. In addition, we are in the depths of winter and, moreover, a winter which has been very cold and wet so a good number of men will be incapacitated by severe colds and chills, rheumatism and a condition known as trench foot.
This latter complaint comes from standing around in trenches which are full of water. The feet never get dry and the soldier loses feeling in them. They can become red or blue due to insufficient blood supply reaching them and they can begin to swell. In the worst cases the foot actually starts to rot as tissue dies because not enough blood has reached it. It may swell up and gangrene may set in, resulting in amputation.
How and why the condition develops is not fully known and so preventing it is something of a lottery. Ideally the feet would be kept dry and warm but in the trenches this is not possible. However, regular inspections can catch the problem in its early stages and remedial action can be taken, such as ensuring the man is kept out of the worst sections of the trenches until the condition clears up. The men are encouraged to remove boots and socks whenever they can, drying their feet and replacing drenched socks with dry ones. Keeping stints in the wettest trenches to a bare minimum, one or two days, also helps to keep the problem within manageable bounds.