Preventable Casualties Rommel’s Flaw, Slim’s Edge

Preventable Casualties
Rommel’s Flaw, Slim’s Edge



The impact of virtually nonexistent field sanitation and associated preventable diseases on the Afrika Korps in 1942 demonstrates the likely outcome when a commander and his staff either ignore or are ignorant of the fundamentals of military medicine. Rommel’s inattention to the health of his command led to massive attrition of irreplaceable seasoned veteran troops and contributed significantly to his ultimate defeat.

Conversely, in Burma during 1943–44, an enlightened contemporary of Rommel, British Lt. Gen. Sir William J. Slim, successfully attacked the disease and sanitation problems that were destroying the British 14th Army. He ultimately succeeded in defeating the Japanese in Burma.







interesting read, And i knew about Slims efforts to combat the Malaria Epidemic in India/Burma
 
Very interesting. Also very surprising in that I would have expected the Germans to be more efficient.
 
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Who was it who said something like, "Among the very basic jobs for an officer is to get food into his soldiers and excrement out with as little mixing of the two as possible"?

One can perhaps see that the British might have a greater understanding of the importance of hygiene in warm climates but things like latrine trenches are hardly a new invention. There were British general orders for their location and size at least as far back as the Peninsular and I can't believe that the Prussians didn't have similar practices.

That said, one of the most illuminating things I read about the retaking of the Falklands was that in the two or three months that the Argentinians had been occupying the Stanley they hadn't bothered to dig any latrines, despite increasing the population by 10x. Consequently not only was everywhere covered in shite but dysentery was rife among the garrison.
 
One of the biggest misconceptions of all time. Extreme arrogance and a misplaced sense of superiority are not the same as efficiency.
You are right. Thinking on it, I did read a book written by a German doctor who had been to the outskirts of Moscow in 1941. Moscow tram stop I think it was called. Further reading led to finding out that medical service involved patch up operations on wounded soldiers with little follow up in many cases. Bit sloppy.
 
If I've read this correctly, Rommel lost N Africa because his troops crapped on the ground and then became sick while Slim noticed that his troops were contracting malaria so he told them to take the mepacrine that they'd been issued and went on to beat the Japs.

No mention of troops contracting VD and the Germans not having any effective antibiotics whereas (in later years) the Allies had penicillin. Sulfanilamide, apparently, ceased to be effective due to overuse leading to resistant microbes.

Also no mention of troops wilfully contracting diseases in order to secure a home posting. Slim remarked that his third problem, after supply and sickness, was morale. Easy enough to leave an arm hanging outside of a mosquito net to avoid going up the jungle.

Rommel remarked that sickness was down to bad food but the article doesn't consider this. Were the German rations less suited to the N African climate than the British rations? Or was the method of food preparation or storage a contributor to sickness?

To me, the article attempts, poorly, to compare chalk and cheese by lumping all forms of sickness together then isolating single unrelated actions to "prove" a point.
 
If I've read this correctly, Rommel lost N Africa because his troops crapped on the ground and then became sick while Slim noticed that his troops were contracting malaria so he told them to take the mepacrine that they'd been issued and went on to beat the Japs.

No mention of troops contracting VD and the Germans not having any effective antibiotics whereas (in later years) the Allies had penicillin. Sulfanilamide, apparently, ceased to be effective due to overuse leading to resistant microbes.

Also no mention of troops wilfully contracting diseases in order to secure a home posting. Slim remarked that his third problem, after supply and sickness, was morale. Easy enough to leave an arm hanging outside of a mosquito net to avoid going up the jungle.

Rommel remarked that sickness was down to bad food but the article doesn't consider this. Were the German rations less suited to the N African climate than the British rations? Or was the method of food preparation or storage a contributor to sickness?

To me, the article attempts, poorly, to compare chalk and cheese by lumping all forms of sickness together then isolating single unrelated actions to "prove" a point.
On a tangent, in Blitzed, the story of pervitin etc, it mentions one of the ill effects of long term usage was the immune system taking an absolute battering, which needed a long recovery period.
 
On a tangent, in Blitzed, the story of pervitin etc, it mentions one of the ill effects of long term usage was the immune system taking an absolute battering, which needed a long recovery period.
Great book :thumleft:
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
Very interesting. Also very surprising in that I would have expected the Germans to be more efficient.
I seem to recall that Rommel was permanently ill in the desert and regularly hors de combat.
 
Recall having to set up immediately adjacent to an Arab unit on a desert site. To say their location was in shit street is an understatement of the highest order (no latrines, animal carcass and left overs piled outside scoff house, clouds and I mean fcukin clouds, of fly's everywhere, you get the idea). Unfortunately for us, day 1, no issues, day 2 - D&V central :dead:x.x
 

BratMedic

LE
Book Reviewer
RAMC were well trained in sanitation and hygiene, have a read of this:
 
Stepping back over 200 years, I recently read a book (well, about 5 years ago) on Nelson's surgeon, and the back story of Naval medicine and nursing at that time. The Royal Navy went to enormous lengths to provide good food, sanitation and health care to her crews thus losses due to disease were very, very low. Similarly if you were injured in combat you would, more likely, survive. That was not the case amongst the Franso-Spanish fleet. No proper, organised victualling, no proper and organised medical care...which led to non-combat deaths weakening the fleet's combat effectiveness.

I think one of the most remarkable stories was 30 years earlier when Lt James Cook circumnavigated the globe in HM Bark Endeavour (which is tiny) and only lost one man to disease in a three year voyage.

It is all the more inexcusable that 50 years later the British Army headed off to the Black Sea with out any of these force protection pillars (as we would recognise them as today) in place.

But the British Army did learn this time and established the military hospital at Netley a d realised the importance of good health are and sanitation.
 
Recall having to set up immediately adjacent to an Arab unit on a desert site. To say their location was in shit street is an understatement of the highest order (no latrines, animal carcass and left overs piled outside scoff house, clouds and I mean fcukin clouds, of fly's everywhere, you get the idea). Unfortunately for us, day 1, no issues, day 2 - D&V central :dead:x.x
Grow up in shit street , and you get used to it.
Or just accept deaths by D & V are 'one of those things'.
As the man said "Different cultures, different customs'
 
Recall having to set up immediately adjacent to an Arab unit on a desert site. To say their location was in shit street is an understatement of the highest order (no latrines, animal carcass and left overs piled outside scoff house, clouds and I mean fcukin clouds, of fly's everywhere, you get the idea). Unfortunately for us, day 1, no issues, day 2 - D&V central :dead:x.x
I remember seeing the Russian paratrooper camp at Pristina. Animals being slaughtered behind the cook house, remains thrown into a pile, tents straight out of a 1950s scout camp. They did provide a brothel though.
 
I remember seeing the Russian paratrooper camp at Pristina. Animals being slaughtered behind the cook house, remains thrown into a pile, tents straight out of a 1950s scout camp. They did provide a brothel though.
Did the brothel have locally employed cnuts or imported either way did it improve morale?
 

offog

LE
If I've read this correctly, Rommel lost N Africa because his troops crapped on the ground and then became sick while Slim noticed that his troops were contracting malaria so he told them to take the mepacrine that they'd been issued and went on to beat the Japs.

No mention of troops contracting VD and the Germans not having any effective antibiotics whereas (in later years) the Allies had penicillin. Sulfanilamide, apparently, ceased to be effective due to overuse leading to resistant microbes.

Also no mention of troops wilfully contracting diseases in order to secure a home posting. Slim remarked that his third problem, after supply and sickness, was morale. Easy enough to leave an arm hanging outside of a mosquito net to avoid going up the jungle.

Rommel remarked that sickness was down to bad food but the article doesn't consider this. Were the German rations less suited to the N African climate than the British rations? Or was the method of food preparation or storage a contributor to sickness?

To me, the article attempts, poorly, to compare chalk and cheese by lumping all forms of sickness together then isolating single unrelated actions to "prove" a point.
Slim knowing that fit young men do what fit young men do he set up medical inspections of sites frequented by soldiers. Unfortunately this got back to the UK and questions were asked in the House by a lady upset by the armies lack of morals. Slim was told to stop making it easy for soldiers to take part in these activities.

I think the lady was also the same one who complained that the 8th army was sunning it in Italy when real soldiers were fighting on the beaches.

It was mentioned on my Hygiene course many years ago that 1945 the the first year in the war when more soldiers died from disease then enemy action.
 
That was interesting. But seriously there Germans were never attuned to tropical and Saharan service and with respect what chance would they have had bearing in mind they were only there to support and then direct Italian efforts. The Brits were entrenched there and had regular hospitals in Egypt, Alexandria, Cairo, Genifa (IRC) embedded in the civil structure. Soldiers did their stints in five/six year service times . Even in Libya the Italians had organised Hospitals- but they never remained in the same hands apart from local staff. German presence was what two years, always on the hoof. That said German medical staff were able to do some quite good work according to Pliever writing die Unsichtbare flagge about work in Russia. I'm just wondering what more Rommel could have done in terms of medical facilities.
 
I think the lady was also the same one who complained that the 8th army was sunning it in Italy when real soldiers were fighting on the beaches




Astor vs Nye Bevan..

"

Mr. Bevan
Parliament must have an explanation. I want the House to keep its mind on the dates, because they are extremely important. Why was it necessary after Mussolini had been driven from power by the revolt of the Italian people to bomb the centres of Italian revolution three weeks afterwards? [Interruption.] Hon. Members must not behave with such frivolity in this matter, because the country is watching this very carefully. Speakinr, very earnestly and very seriously, I say that it would be a very sad thing indeed if men recruited into the Fighting Services ever got it into their heads fiat they were being used for any other purpose than—
§Viscountess Astor
Who is putting it there?
§Mr. Bevan
You could find all over Great Britain at the time of the bombing of Milan, in every club, "pub" and household—
§Viscountess Astor
We do not go to "pubs."
§Mr. Bevan
No, that is why the Noble Lady is so ignorant.
"

Hansard Debate on the war situation 22/9/1943
 
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4(T)

LE
I think the difference between the British and the Germans was simply that the British had enormously more tropical hygiene (Empire) and expeditionary warfare experience, and that hygiene precautions were not just the preserve of field engineering manuals, but "common knowledge" distributed among much of the ordinary military and civil populations.

I suppose its more contentious to examine whether there was any different innate hygiene practices between Anglo-saxon cultures and those of continental Europe. It is striking just how many Commonwealth WW1/WW2 memoires remark how the enemy has crapped all over their former positions, or befouled civil properties used as billets.
 

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