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War Surgery and Medicine

Cleansing of Mess Utensils

Cleansing of Mess Utensils

Facilities for the heating of water for the adequate cleansing of plates and cutlery were never really adequate at Maadi Camp. It was decided at a conference of officers in Wellington in December 1939 that these mess utensils would be kept in messrooms and sterilised. The DMS 2 NZEF found upon his arrival in Egypt that two divisions in the Cairo area (Indian and Cavalry) had found it essential to boil such utensils, and similar arrangements were made accordingly for the First Echelon troops. This procedure fell into disuse later, possibly because of the labour involved and possibly because, from the point of view of quartermasters, messing gear was more easily accounted for when it was an individual issue. Plates and cutlery were taken to and fro across the desert from messroom to hut, where the utensils were usually exposed to dust; they were not sterilised before each meal, and for washing-up after meals there was never sufficient hot water or a sufficient number of tubs, so that the more hygiene-minded men hurried through their meals so as to be able to clean their plates and cutlery while page 714 the water was reasonably hot and clear. Probably no one really approved of the system, but there seems to have been little that could be done to improve it. In the officers' and NCOs' messes conditions were much better, in that all plates and cutlery were kept in the mess and were washed by mess orderlies. The lesson, of course, is that in the planning of messrooms and feeding arrangements the question of hygiene must always be the primary consideration, and that adequate liaison must be established with engineers and others at the planning stage before camp constructions were actually commenced. This was a question upon which the medical services had, for one reason and another, to make special representations in New Zealand in regard to camp construction in New Zealand. There was also a need for a hygiene officer to accompany any advance party of a force.