Saturday, May 27, 2006

North African fun

When we were in North Africa , and particularly around the Bone ( Annaba) area we noticed one or two mosquitoes which were annoying – to say the least – and to prevent the onset of malaria decimating our ranks, we had already lost a driver Albert Fairclough who had to be sent home as he was a constant victim and little could be done for him.

A scheme was devised by the medics and those charged with our good health, to minimise this situation by treating the open expanses of water with a mixture of what we called “Paris green” ( Arsenic) and sand – which was in fair supply. The mixture was set out at one shovel paris green – 99 shovels of sand – mixed well and spread over the water. This seemed to contain the insects as whenever the larvae of the Annepholes mosquito came up for air in its twin tubes – the mixture was also sucked in with the air and it was good bye charlotte.

This treatment was the source of much discussion - there was really little to talk about anyway, and it was mentioned in a few letters back to the U.K. The regulars in a local pub somewhere in Leeds I believe it was, and so they decided to help us out with our problem. This had to be an idea hatched late on a Saturday evening just before closing time when the regulars were feeling no pain.

In due course this idea found it’s way to our encampment at Bone and was in the form of a large box obviously made at the shipping department of a local Leeds firm, and was the source of much comment by all ranks, with a myriad offers of advice in opening this box. Eventually this box was opened to reveal a series of smaller boxes until the idea was found at the bottom of this pile of boxes, it was a block of wood some 1” wide x 3” long x ½” deep, and a very small mallet approx 2” long.

The instruction leaflet was beautifully typed and suggested that the owner of this idea was 1) – catch the mosquito – 2) - lay him/her on the block – 3) - beat his brains in with the mallet.

Did anyone else get a really useful gift whilest overseas ?

6 Comments:

Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Tom

You know you musn't start me off !

I don't remember ever getting a really 'useful' gift but I can tell you about the most 'un-useful' parcel I ever received from home.

Picture the scene, somewhere in the line in Italy and someone calls out "MAILCALL!"

Out we all scurried from our rain filled dugouts and, yes, there was a small parcel for Gunner Goldstein.

As I carried my spoils away to the dugout it ominously tinkled (there was no other word for it)and I couldn't wait to open the package.

As I remember it still today it contained:
1. One bottle of ink, broken and the contents lavishly distributed over the rest of the parcel
2. One book of postage stamps (don't ask me why !) completely stuck together
3. Several packs of cigarettes now all coloured with blue from the afore-said Stephen's ink
4. A letter from my father that was to require much skill in drying out and eventually de-ciphering.

The only item in the parcel that had travelled safely was a small medicine bottle. It was wittily labelled "Dr.Goldstein's Medicine" and was still full of Kummel, my dad's favourite tipple.

Needless to say within days I had written home to thank everyone for a most welcome and useful parcel that had arrived in perfect condition !

Saturday, 27 May, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Tom,
Sounds about right for a Saturday night brainstorming session at closing time, "They forgot to put the mallet in the box"?
My memory tells me "mallets knocking in of tent pegs for the use off" were always in short supply and we would end up using ditching shovels.
A ditching shovel with its slightly curved blade would require 1) the mosquito to lay perfectly still and 2) a perfect aim by the wielder of the shovel to hit said mosquito with the centre line of said shovel.
A few years later we had Mosquito nets, Mepacrin and had to wear long trousers and long sleeves after six at night until six in the morning. We assumed the mosquito's worked strict shifts.

Saturday, 27 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron -
I would have thought that the Kummel would have taken the edge off your disappointment with the parcel - I had a beautifully packed birthday cake once in Italy - by the time it got there it was a load of crumbs.
On the train journey for LIAP from Austria -Padua- Milan - Geneva - Dijon - Paris and finally Dover - we had used up our supplies before paris but someone then found a bottle of Kummel - which had frozen - by the time it was thawed out we were approaching Dover and we landed very merrily - and were being yelled at by some18 year old
who was told to get lost or someother phrase - turnd out he was an RSM who handed out charges all around !

Saturday, 27 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
as I recall - if a case of malaria was contracted - the victim was presented with a 252 inviting him to appear before the C.O.
On my way down to Bari from Ancona - on a well lit Hospital Ship - I landed with a case of malaria, this was duly noted and treatment of the most repulsive type was administered - unforgettably this was four days Mepacrin - four of Atabrine - four of Pamaquin all helped down by a boiled sweet, with a final shot of Pure Quinine, which I can still taste ! During this treatment I was visited by an RSM yielding a bunch of 252's - which I refused as I had been in hospital some two weeks which was over the 10 day gestation period of the Malaria bug, consqently I was not guilty as it was obviously the Hospitals fault for allowing a mosquito near enough to stick me. So he retreated for advice - never saw him again.

Saturday, 27 May, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Tom,
Nothing changed, 252's were handed out if you got Malaria, Sunburn or your feet stung by Scorpions.
Shandur our base was an old RAF drome with hutted accomodation and scorpions who had lived there all the war years by the size of them, they must have eaten plenty of those soft RAF lads to get so big.
Four 7lb jam tins with a drop of diesel in them for the bed legs and a jolly good shake of the boots before putting them on was the way to go.
We also had pet Chamaeleon's in each hut or tent depending on where we were to keep the flies down. They were ugly brutes but they did the job, I loved watching them in the midday siesta after Tiffin, when we managed to get it that is, we would be more likely to be hauling a tank out of a wadi, useless drivers.
Happy days Tom.

Sunday, 28 May, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Hello fellows,

My Uncle Ronald was in the RAMC and his Section dealt with Field Hygiene, including how to deal with eliminating the dreaded mosquito and other insects. I went through a lot of this aspect of his time in the Army with him when he was alive, but I don't remember using a mallet being one of the recommended methods!

He had kept a text book, which I did read through some years ago. The book is now with one of my cousins, otherwise if I had it I would have looked back though it. One thing that was suggested I seem to remember was to spray the area with 'Sump oil'.

Actually, I think Gunner Goldstein could have made use of the waste ink in place of the 'Sump oil'! So, perhaps Daddy Goldstein had sent a really useful gift after all.

To finish, I must say that all of you who were "People's War" Site Helpers have given so many 'younger' people the gift of sharing your knowledge, experience and wisdom. Very generous of you, and long may it continue!

Wednesday, 31 May, 2006  

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