Sweeping fatigue, a task I recalled each time after I left the army and saw a street sweeper at work, meant a day doing nothing but sweeping the miles of roads in the camp. You started in the gutter at one end and worked to the other end, around, and back on the other side. I spend countless hours on this mind numbing and tedious task.
Ration fatigue was better in that one at least got out of camp, and had a ride into town and back in the rear of a 3 ton truck, along with sundry boxes, packages and leaking drums of oil and petrol. Of course, all this needed loading and unloading. One journey, I can still recall vividly today sixty years later. In the back of a particularly overladen truck slowly tackling the steep hills on the way back to camp, more petrol than usual sloshed out of the drums and over the floor. I had visions of it spilling down on the very hot exhaust below and ending my National Service as a charred crisp in a fiery inferno. Thankfully, I made it to back to Stanley and safety.
Not all my time was devoted to mindless fatigues, Ian Styles and I became the Battery signwriters. It always seemed some new sign was required, and these we turned out in full regimental fashion. We also painted numbers, divisional, and unit insignia on the vehicles, which, were at least smartly turned out and kept even if they didn’t always run very well.
Fatigues – A Question
My main thought about these fatigues was why weren’t Chinese coolies used for the menial work in the cookhouse, to carry coal or sweep roads? If we squaddies could employ ‘boys’ for a few HK dollars to clean and bull our kit and make our beds, and an amah 1 who turned up each week, squatted on the veranda and quietly worked away to darn our socks and mend clothes. Why then equally could not coolies be used to perform the work. It would have cost very little but I suppose it did assist in keeping us physically fit. Of course, I recognize the question as rhetorical, for if the coolies were cheap labor, we squaddies were even cheaper.
Stanley Barracks – Food Hygiene
Stanley always had a few Chinese around that were not working for us. Found all over the camp, but never in the barrack rooms, one or two always hung around the cookhouse. Using their hands they would scavenge the waste from our plates out of the drums of greasy water in which we ‘washed’ our eating irons, mugs and plates 2. They carried this waste away in smaller drums slung from a yoke over their shoulders. How the waste was put to use, we never knew, but we suspected that it was eaten by them or their families. A horrible thought, and a disgusting sight to watch, but a rational response to extreme hunger and poverty of refugees where every aspect of their life was inevitably strained. Thinking again about these crude washing facilities, it’s surprising we did not all go down with food poisoning, but diarrhea was a constant companion.