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War Surgery and Medicine

Refuse Disposal

Refuse Disposal

The burial of refuse from unit lines was sometimes inefficiently done, and this contributed to the breeding of flies, which became troublesome in the static phases as in the Alamein Line. Eventually incineration was accepted as the simplest and most practical method of rendering refuse innocuous. The simple oil-drum incinerator, easily improvised in the field, was used, or pits were filled with refuse and burnt out with petrol. The food tin—the dominant feature of desert rations—became a menace as it was rarely emptied completely and became an annoying and difficult refuse problem. Emphatic instructions were issued and persistent education to improve unit methods was carried out, and units gradually became more careful in emptying tins completely, burning them out, and disposing of them systematically.

The enforced dispersal of men and vehicles at first led to so-called vehicle cooking, each group of men in a vehicle fending for its own food. Apart from its evils of improperly prepared meals, dispersed vehicle camping also scattered refuse and waste products page 721 in an uncontrolled fashion over camping areas in the desert. It was therefore decided in 1942 to return to company cooking, and this eased the problem of refuse disposal in forward areas considerably and contributed much to lessening the fly menace.

At times the refuse was buried and in Italy controlled tips on the Bradford tip system were instituted not only for the troops but for the disposal of household and animal refuse from towns occupied by the troops. In such a tip the daily refuse was dumped to a depth of about five feet and then covered with a foot of clean soil. Italian local labour was used, and help in the construction of the tips was often provided by the engineers with bulldozers.