Preventable Casualties Rommel’s Flaw, Slim’s Edge

ericferret

War Hero
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.
Not just the enemy, moving into an ex French trench system was apparently not a lot of fun either..
 

Zhopa

War Hero
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.
Apparently the Royal Naval division in WW1 squatted anywhere

 

Poppycock

Old-Salt
Maybe the 2nd Anglo Boer prompted the British command to get its shit together (pun intended):

Forces War Records said:
British military service records show high losses, with more than half caused by illness, especially typhoid fever, rather than enemy action. 22000 British soldiers were killed, of which only 35% died in battle, and the remaining 65% from disease.
 

diverman

LE
Book Reviewer
The Soviets suffered huge non-battle casualty rates in Afghanistan in the 80's due to poor field hygiene and training. There is documentation about this on the web if you look.

Typical examples:

Poor hygiene facilities at camps and in the field.
Poor traiing of troops to keep themselves clean.
Troops urinating and defecating anywhere around the camps rather than building or using latrines.
Bread rations being dumped on the ground for collection by troops.
Poor hygiene conditions in cookhouses (failing to keep utensils clean, dumping of refuse in open pits etc)
Failure to protect troops against insect borne disease.

As to the Falklands...

I arrived at Darwin settlement on 3rd June. When I needed to answer a call of nature I went on a shovel recce to find somewhere out of the way. The gorse bushes between the houses and the nearby beach had been used as an open air latrine by the Argentines and the area was covered in plies of loose shit - it looked like lots of them had dystentry. Fortunately the cold kept the smell down and I don't remember seeing any flies. BTW, I had my dump in a hole on the beach and filled it in when I'd finished. We all kept clear of the area after that.
Reading of the exploits of BRIXMIS in East Germany, The same could be said there of Soviet hygiene and safe disposal of bodily waste and detritus. BRIXMIS members retrieving bodily waste for analysis by scientists looking for CW contaminants from those reportedly treated from Afghanistan before returning them home.
 
Far be it for me, but my recent researches have led me to the fact that there was in fact a sanitation Royal Commission that sat from 1857-1862 as a result of the same thing post the Crimean War. One of my relatives serving with 2LG died from Scarlet fever in 1862.
Army sanitary administration and its reform under the late Lord Herbert, so perhaps the Herbert in question was a relative which would have been a tad ironic.
 

Zhopa

War Hero
Reading of the exploits of BRIXMIS in East Germany, The same could be said there of Soviet hygiene and safe disposal of bodily waste and detritus. BRIXMIS members retrieving bodily waste for analysis by scientists looking for CW contaminants from those reportedly treated from Afghanistan before returning them home.
I'm sure I've read that somewhere too....

 
Reading of the exploits of BRIXMIS in East Germany, The same could be said there of Soviet hygiene and safe disposal of bodily waste and detritus. BRIXMIS members retrieving bodily waste for analysis by scientists looking for CW contaminants from those reportedly treated from Afghanistan before returning them home.
I’ve worked in a few of the ‘Stans and other former Soviet states. You don’t have to get far out of the big towns to find appalling levels of sanitation.

I remember visiting one town hall (!) in Tajikistan and, on asking to use the toilet I was shown to a wooden shack overhanging the river that marks the border with Afghanistan.

Inside was a double long-drop shitter. To make matters worse several previous users had failed to find the hole whilst squatting. Mind you, the state of those boards I wouldn’t have wanted to sit down either.

Luckily I only needed to piss...
 

Zhopa

War Hero

4(T)

LE
Maybe the 2nd Anglo Boer prompted the British command to get its shit together (pun intended):



To be fair, the difference between the RN and the Army was that the Army was often exposed to far more land-based insect/ parasite borne disease, and had little chance to escape it (i.e. by putting to sea, as with the RN).

Many of the big killer diseases aren't facilitated by lack of cleanliness, and remain a lethal threat even with modern prophylactics and medicines; e.g. even excellent sanitation makes little difference if there is mosquito-borne malaria around.
 
To be fair, the difference between the RN and the Army was that the Army was often exposed to far more land-based insect/ parasite borne disease, and had little chance to escape it (i.e. by putting to sea, as with the RN).

Many of the big killer diseases aren't facilitated by lack of cleanliness, and remain a lethal threat even with modern prophylactics and medicines; e.g. even excellent sanitation makes little difference if there is mosquito-borne malaria around.
The Boer war did highlight that an army on campaign needed good field discipline to prevent non combat fatalities. Under Lord Roberts the army had to recover for upto six weeks at one point before capturing Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
 
Basic hygiene is still taught in most armies to recruits, because,even in the era of fashion-conscious millenials, it has been found by recruit depots that people are joining who either don't know or deliberately skip parts of basic hygiene. This wasnt just dhobi in the field, it was basic personal washing/shaving/cleaning after shitting/washing hands and so on, as well as hygiene around food handling. In their defence, a lot of recruits these days have done home economics classes in school so are better informed about food handling, cleanliness with utensils and so on. Quite a few have also got experience at adventure sports so have a good grasp of outdoor living and the need for discipline around food/washing/toilet.
Apart from that, what is it about Arab towns? I was in Syria for a month,once and anywhere we went, the urban areas were usually strewn with rubbish and all local waterways were filthy.
 

philc

LE
I brought a car off an Italian gent who was in the Italian campaign in North Africa, loved the Brit’s and was well treated when captured. He said the Italian officers were more concerned about their wine and brothel than the men. He said they the soldiers were woefully equipped for the conditions, cold etc.

Another nugget, during Waterloo 65% survived amputation of lower leg, it got a bit more dicy above the knee though.
 
Returning to the specific case of Rommel, two other factors.

1) Yes, the DAK was on Italian rations. But olive oil, pasta and tomatoes were pretty rare. Most of the time they were on tinned stuff, and let us just say that, as with much of Mussolini's war effort, these were shite even by tinned rations standards. Germans called it something like "muckefucke" (I may have the spelling wrong, cannot now find the precise reference).

2) Rommel was a logistics buffoon. Supplies were always someone else's problem. That was why the rest of the German seniors regarded him with such horror - to the Brits he was "The Desert Fox", to the Germans he was the publicity whoring, Swabian ******** who was about the only German general never to have gone to staff college, and had only risen to high rank by sucking up to Hitler and commanding his bodyguard. This was not even compensated by much regard for his soldiers - he famously bawled out Maj Gen Streich for being a useless divisional commander because he cared too much for his soldiers' lives. Streich replied coldly that he thought that was the No 1 competency for a divisional commander.
 
I brought a car off an Italian gent who was in the Italian campaign in North Africa, loved the Brit’s and was well treated when captured. He said the Italian officers were more concerned about their wine and brothel than the men. He said they the soldiers were woefully equipped for the conditions, cold etc.

Another nugget, during Waterloo 65% survived amputation of lower leg, it got a bit more dicy above the knee though.
The Italien General officers could never understand why Rommel and his officers ate the same rations as his men.
 
Returning to the specific case of Rommel, two other factors.

1) Yes, the DAK was on Italian rations. But olive oil, pasta and tomatoes were pretty rare. Most of the time they were on tinned stuff, and let us just say that, as with much of Mussolini's war effort, these were shite even by tinned rations standards. Germans called it something like "muckefucke" (I may have the spelling wrong, cannot now find the precise reference).

2) Rommel was a logistics buffoon. Supplies were always someone else's problem. That was why the rest of the German seniors regarded him with such horror - to the Brits he was "The Desert Fox", to the Germans he was the publicity whoring, Swabian ******** who was about the only German general never to have gone to staff college, and had only risen to high rank by sucking up to Hitler and commanding his bodyguard. This was not even compensated by much regard for his soldiers - he famously bawled out Maj Gen Streich for being a useless divisional commander because he cared too much for his soldiers' lives. Streich replied coldly that he thought that was the No 1 competency for a divisional commander.
With most of the German General Staff being Prussian, I think there was a lot of snobbery and jealousy involved with Rommel being looked down on as a 'Swabian peasant' by the aristocratic Vons.
 
The Germans allegedly called Italian tinned meat "Alte Mann" (old man) after the Armata Mussolini stamp on the can, saying it was made from the remains of old boys from the doss houses. Still,they ate it.
 
Apart from that, what is it about Arab towns? I was in Syria for a month,once and anywhere we went, the urban areas were usually strewn with rubbish and all local waterways were filthy.
That's baffled me too, I mean as a boy I saw them squatting down to do their business. But what gets me is that the region was one of the leaders in the ancient world with respect to sanitation. I remember visiting Cyrene and there were underwater cisterns and drains there before the Romans even got there. I suppose it has more to do with tribal practices of some aspects of Bedouin Life.
 
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