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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

In Praise of The Primus

In Praise of The Primus.

The Primus is the hardest grafter in the Army. A bold assertion, but I'm prepared to prove it. A little brass affair, standing on three legs, it is alternately coaxed and cursed, but rarely blessed though lacking its services, life in hospital would be miserable indeed.

I call the Primus she, for it is contrary by nature, but, as long experience has taught me, can be easily managed by tact and patience. Well fed with kerosene, clean, the washer O.K., and air inlet in good working order, the Primus should purr like a contented cat on a hearth rug. But you pump furiously, and nothing happens. Well, you pause for breath, use more methylated spirit, strike another match, and wait You then turn off the air inlet, as you have done previously, and pump some more. This time, off she goes. So much for the feminine nature of the Primus. Now I'll show you, by describing her day's work in a hospital, what a grafter she is, when she doesn't elect to go "crook".

The day orderly starts work at 7 a.m. by lighting his Primus. This is sometimes his hardest task of the day, that is, if the night orderly or—let me breathe it—the night sister, has not exercised the necessary amount of fact and patience. Let us assume that the Primus is going nicely at two minutes past seven She's a wonderful little worker, when she starts; and it's not long before the kettle boils. Some night orderlies have the kettle boiling for their day relief, who has his morning drink of tea. Then he sweeps like mad till breakfast time, while the pantry man keeps the Primus amused and humming nicely for the day sisters, who arrive half-an hour later. With their advent, the little spit-fire gets real busy. One sister prepares special diets for the very sick cases in her ward, and is kept going until after 8 o'clock, when the Primus gets its first rest, and a good clean up. Almost at once, the Primus is busy again, boiling water for foments, dressings and sterilizer. Then, there may be hot water bags to be filled; and so the time jogs along until about 10 30 a.m., when special drinks are prepared. These having been taken round to our sick pals, the sisters put on the kettle for their morning tea.

All this time the Primus has been hard at it; and as soon as the last sister's heels are clear of the pantry, the kettle is filled up again, and by and bye the orderlies have their second drink of tea. Is the Primus allowed a spell now? Certainly not; the sterilizer is put on again. and instruments and bowls are sterlized and put away for future reference; while up till dinner time there are foments, hot water bags, more drinks and the like. to be handed round, given to, or popped on patients. From dinner until well after tea time our little toiler has not had a dull moment, but has probably had a couple of heated arguments.

About 6 45 p.m. the night orderly steps in to relieve the day orderlies. Hot cocoa is at once taken round by him to all except special cases. The Primus, after special cases have been attended to, has a chance for a decent spell. But, in any event, she is off again at about 8.30 p.m., as, at that time, the night sister gets busy with her round of foments and dressings, and 1ater on with special "night-caps"; these finished, on goes the sterilizer again. From 10 p.m. till about 11 p.m. is generally a quiet time, about the quietest, even for the Primus, of the whole 24 hours. Then the Primus wakes up again, and with its aid first the night sister and then the orderly, prepare their midnight dinners. Somewhere in the region of 3 a.m., the Primus is refilled, cleaned up, and started off again on her early morning round of toil, which finishes at 7 a.m., when the night orderly goes off to bed; and a little later the night sister disappears.