17 January 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

[Near Poperinghe, Belgium]

After a big fall of snow the weather became intensely cold. The pond from which we dipped our water for washing became a safe short cut to the incinerator where a few moments warmth outbalanced the outrage on one’s olfactory nerves, and the only happy men in camp were the lucky mortals who were detailed for Sanitory Fatigue, whose duties (onerous but not odourless) permitted them access to the one warm spot in the camp.

The man who was seen one morning chopping a fine washbowl out of the ice on the washing benches, with a hatchet borrowed from the pioneers, and later found attacking the ice on the pond with the same bloodthirsty looking weapon was strongly advised to “go sick” and be examined by a mental expert.

Breakfast took less time nowadays, just long enough to get back to the hut with half your tea ration still hot for shaving, and a wipe over visible skin with a warm shaving brush, completed the morning toilet.

At night before returning to rest, it was wise to remove the icicles from the inside of the corrugated roof that hung anywhere above your downy couch to avoid accidents should a sudden thaw turn up during the night.

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