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War Surgery and Medicine



Again, the nature of the ground precluded the use of trench latrines, and a bucket system had to be used for urine and faeces, the buckets being emptied and then oiled twice a day by a native contractor. The solid matter was burnt in incinerators a mile and a half from the camp and the liquid was dumped some two miles farther away. Any solid matter not burnt was buried in conservancy pits approximately six feet square and eight or nine feet deep. The method of sealing the pits was to make a mortar of sand and used sump oil, and after covering the rubbish with at least three feet of soil, spreading the mortar over the surface to a depth of at least three inches, then heaping a mound of sand on top. This treatment was necessary to prevent fly breeding.

Incidentally, it was fortunate that the construction and settling-in at Maadi Camp took place during the winter months, as about two thousand natives were employed in the area, and prior to the arrival of the First Echelon had been defaecating indiscriminately, with the page 713 result that the whole camp area was fouled. Four hygiene men were employed for two months in directing a gang of about a hundred natives to clear away the excreta, as well as cleaning rubbish out of extensive quarries in or near the camp. In summer, when flies were more prolific, this would have been a health menace of the first magnitude. As it was, the First Echelon was able to get acclimatised at the most favourable season, and by the time of the arrival in Egypt of Second and Third Echelon troops, camp amenities had been improved and conditions controlled.

The ADH BTE visited Maadi Camp in April 1940 at the time of an outbreak of diarrhoea and dysentery among the New Zealand troops. He reported that the condition of the latrines, and the disposal of rubbish and the contents of the latrine buckets was satisfactory, but pointed out that the preparation rooms, stores, and dining rooms were not flyproof, admitting at the same time that it was difficult to make them so owing to the poor construction of the huts. The protection of food from flies, especially at meal times, was never entirely satisfactory at Maadi Camp owing to the type of huts constructed, and the fact that most messrooms were located some yards across the desert from the cookhouses, where the food was served out to long queues of men. In this respect the design of buildings and the system of serving food in the main camps in New Zealand were much superior. In Maadi Camp the best safeguard of health was achieved by keeping down the fly population.