THE YPRES TIMES 19 him to his senses. Others of us have lively memories of flying visits in the night to a rendezvous alfresco with a snow blizzard sweeping the countryside. Oh! bitter Belgian nights It was a complaint of some of the troops that insufficient feeding was accountable for much of the illness. As one chap expressed it the blood was so poverised by the want of food that the men became easy victims to illness. Another man professed to have drawn from the doctor the admission that the fresh air was in itself an article of diet. This, firstly, was poor comfort to a hungry soldier and, secondly, the air at times, like some food, was anything but fresh. Some men were well known to the doctors as other men are well known to the police. They were as often on sick parade as any other parade (except pay parade) and why they were retained on active service was hard to understand. A notorious case was that of Private RThis man was a mixture of bad health, bad manners, bad morals and bad language. Add to that an aversion from soap and water and as it was his habit to present himself with two or three days' growth on his chin, it will readily be believed this degenerate got little sympathy in the tents of Esculapius. For, if obedience is the first law of the Army, cleanliness is its leading virtue. And between sickness and cleanliness there is a certain affinity. In the war area it was no easy matter to keep clean. Mark Tapley used to say there was no credit in being happy where your surroundings disposed you that way. Similarly, there is no credit in keeping clean where there is a bathroom to every bedroom. The credit is due where the facilities are meagre where soap is scarce and where water does not run from taps but lies in tainted pools. And where men sleep huddled together in verminous places the need for ablutionary chambers is all the more crying. In the horror of the war the actual fighting was only part of the tragedy, the other part was fighting the con ditions under which men lived and died. Still, an all-round measure of cleanliness was achieved that in the circumstances was marvellous. Of course, there were exceptions. It is to be feared there was no excuse for Private RHe was a dull, unimaginative fellow and, unlike some of the others, lacked the wit to turn his troubles to good account. In this connection the cleverness of Private McLis worth a short paragraph. During the period of hostilities he went sick and appears to have convinced the M.O. that he was unfit for the arduous and dangerous duties the battalion was engaged in on the roads behind the trenches. So he got a job in the cookhouse where the work was softer and safer although the hours were perhaps a little longer. And there he remained for the duration, as the saying was in those days. But with the coming of the Armistice the duties of the battalion became cushy," and Private McLwas again equal to the occasion. Evidently he had persuaded the Medicals that the cook house was injuring his health for he was returned to the battalion. Here, again, the gentle art was apparent. Doubtless a watchful eye was kept for malingerers and who would dare to say there were no malingerers in the Army of the Great War. But it fell all the harder on the genuine cases. And it is surely one of the ironies of the war that the doctor pushed you back to duty at the earliest possible moment, while given the same illness in peace time and the same doctor in attendance he would insist on your remaining indoors until he saw fit to let you out. But that, as the Medicals will agree, is quite another story. No doubt the gentlemen of that profession as they sit musing in their leisure moments (if they have any) will often recall with a smile those happy scenes when they listened to the short and simple annals of the sick." J. M.


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1930 | | pagina 21