Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Helping the Troops to Keep Clean

Wednesday 24th March 1915:  We have already heard of the arrangements made for providing troops here at home with baths and showers. Now a soldier from Leighton Buzzard serving with the Sanitary Corps has given an interesting description of the way baths are being provided the Front. In a letter to his parents he says:
Among the many provisions for the comfort and health of our troops in the present war, one that must be almost unique in the history of warfare is the institution of bathing stations to which the men can be sent to obtain a hot bath and clean clothing. A number have now been established in France and Belgium, and it is at one of the most successful of these stations that we are now working. It was started by part of our section in the schools of a little village. … We have three large rooms in use. In the first of these the men take off and leave their uniforms. The next is fitted up for use as a bathroom with twenty-seven tubs (wine casks sawn in halves), wooden grids for standing on, tables for serving out clean clothing, etc. Here the men get a hot bath with carbolic soap, and a complete change of clean underclothing; their uniforms are meanwhile brushed, or if in a very bad condition exchanged for new. 
The third room we use as our billet. We are quite comfortable there, only rather ramped as our stores of clean clothing take up so much space. At first we worked under great difficulties. All the water had to be hand-lined up from a well, the only suitable source near us, and heated in any kind of pot we could lay hands on (even ‘dixies’, camp kettles holding only two or three gallons) over a trench fire in the open, but we have now commandeered a couple of good 80 gallon boilers and made arrangements for a water-cart to supply us. 
With these improvements we are able to put over 800 men through in a day, and satisfy them very well. In the earlier days Tommy was fond of telling us with unnecessary emphasis that the quantity of water he was provided with was more suitable for internal use as a draught than for external application. ‘Bath in that!’ one of the Yorkshire men told us, ‘Why ah cud soop that lot!’  
The work is not exactly what we expected when we set out; it is rather monotonous and not particularly pleasant, but it is certainly very necessary work out here and is greatly appreciated by the men. One man on leaving told us that he felt equal to 40 Germans.”
 Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette 23rd March 1915

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