Personal Hygiene – Water
Keeping oneself clean was difficult. Water was as described, in very short supply. One had to often wash and shave in no more than a mess tin of cold water and when none was ‘on’ in the ablutions we often washed in water in a concrete channel that ran down from the hills above. It was rare for the showers in camp to have water and even then it was erratic. Whether the water there was hot or not I cannot recall but I doubt it. From time to time we were trucked to Fanling to have showers in a camp there or occasionally a mobile shower unit would visit.
When too we could go swimming it was an opportunity to get wet all over. And when we could get into Victoria, again if the water was on, the China Fleet Club offered hot baths. Even in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island there was a chronic shortage of water that persisted through my entire service, and in fact the bulk of the supply came from mainland China.
Monsoon rains provided another opportunity for a shower. When it did rain one could strip off and attempt to wash and shower but it proved surprising how hard that was to achieve even in what seems to be torrential rain.
We, of course, wore very little when working during the day. Boots, shorts or denims and a hat were the customary attire. So we all acquired very deep tans. Here we were issued with our jungle hats and very comfortable they were too. It was possible in wearing them to adopt your own style, which given the army need for conformity was a welcome chance for individuality to show itself. We were issued too with monsoon capes which hung from the shoulders to ankle, like a poncho, and were a lot easier to wear and work in when it rained They also kept you reasonably dry, except you never stopped sweating profusely.
The period of the annual monsoon rains occurred not long after we had arrived. In anticipation of these rains, we had dug the monsoon trenches and drains. But having had no experience of monsoons, and given the concrete like nature of the soil we had not been overly enthusiastic in our digging and they were not very deep. Those great open gullies I had seen in Singapore and noted along the roads in Hong Kong were, of course, I later realized storm drains for the monsoon rains.