Entertainment – Cards
Squaddies were always playing cards, with a school in progress on somebody’s bed and with others watching the play. Cribbage was a favorite, chase the firkin – I can remember the name but not how it was played, whist solo, and for some, bridge. If money crossed our beds in play, it was usually for small stakes but more often than not only points made were recorded. I played more cards in the Army than either before or since. It was a pleasant pursuit and when properly played, intellectually taxing enough.
Stanley – Not a Healthy Station
Stanley caused many a health problem for us squaddies. We all suffered greatly from prickly heat 1 that nothing would alleviate. We all slowly went rotten with ringworm 2 on our bodies and sores around our private parts. The treatment for this was Gentian Violet 3 which discolored the skin. If our infections became severe, as they often did become, and in and around the groin, the MO treated us with a greasy strong burning ointment called Whitfields 4. A standing joke was that instead of “seven days CB” (confined to barracks) it was “7 days Whitfields”. After morning parade we were regularly marched down to the MI Room where, outside in the roadway, we were told to drop our trousers and remove our shirts so that the MO could inspect our bodies and our private parts for these and sexual diseases.
Down with Dengue
Here I went down with Dengue Fever 5 and spent a week in the main military hospital in Victoria. Once I was over the worst of the fever I looked around the ward. Next to me I had a tough Glaswegian from some Scottish infantry regiment, whom I found was a military prisoner, his whole body was a mass of self inflicted sores – presumably to give him a spell out of the jail. I recall giving him the Guinness I was supposed to take to recuperate from the Dengue. I’m not sure if my gift was entirely voluntary or if there was some intimidation, but he was a really tough character. More pleasantly, as I got better I was allowed to sit out on the veranda, with its view overlooking the whole of the Harbor and the naval dockyard below. I spent many a happy hour out there, away from my Scottish companion. ( I should also record that Tim-Tate Smith in particular made an effort to visit me and brought with him from Stanley my mail. It was most welcome.)
Convalesence & Light Duties
Unfortunately, I was discharged too soon, and on my return spent time in the camp medical quarters convalescing from the Dengue .As I was the solitary occupant, and because the orderly never said a word – he was a peculiar chap, I really had a quiet time, caught up on my sleep and letter writing. Of an evening my squaddy comrades would visit and we played many games of cards.
Later I succumbed to more medical problems, developing a rash on my face that when treated with a cream turned it blue, probably more Crystal Violet. To this was added foot problems, my feet went moldy.
So excused shaving and excused boots, I was put on light duties and made the Troop Clerk. In this role I picked up as much gossip as possible about our future activities, did some filing, attempted to prepare equitable rosters for guards and fatigues, sorted out the accounts, and balanced the books of the Sergeants Mess.
I never enjoyed clerking and was happy when I was passed as fit and could return to duty-notwithstanding much of that was now our lot.
- Miliaria is common in hot or humid conditions ↩
- Ringworm is the common name for Dermatophytosis, and is a misnomer as the infection is caused by a fungi, not a worm, but it does look like a ring ↩
- Crystal Violet is a dye used in staining procedures that has antibacterial and antifungal properties ↩
- A cheap, effective treatment for fungal infections ↩
- a virus carried by mosquitoes that causes fever, headaches and muscle pain along with a skin rash that looks like measles ↩