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15 October 2014
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Soldiers' Bath Dayicon for Recommended story

by ambervalley

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Eric Annable
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09 June 2004

It was January 1945 and we were in Belgium. We hadn't had a bath or shower for a few weeks, so it was arranged that we would all have a bath.

There was about two feet of snow everywhere and we had difficulty in moving the tanks anywhere, so we went into a farmer's field with tanks around the perimeter. As we went into this field, there was a very big horse trough, about twice the size of a normal one, and it was towed behind one of the tanks to the middle of the field.

There, we rigged up some corrugated iron sheets with some supports at one end and the other end resting over the trough. Then we brought the water-wagon (like a small petrol tanker full of water), to the corrugated iron.

We had plenty of flame-throwing fuel, which we put in a large container underneath the sheets, set on fire and got the sheets red-hot. We then turned the water on, letting it run into the trough across the hot sheets.

It took a while to warm the trough but after that, we all had a bath in hot water. You can imagine the scum on the water after a few had been in it, six men at a time. I think that about 100 soldiers had a bath in the trough that day. The tanker was re-filled about three times, and the scum overflowed onto the ground, and soon froze.

Everyone enjoyed the experience and I don't think anyone complained because we were all ready for the bath. The sergeants helped to wash our backs, and after that we had a run around the field in the snow, and after we had put our clothes on again (they had been on a big tarpaulin in a tent so they were dry), we all felt better than we had for a long time. The best part about it was, no one ever caught a cold.

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