A constant pressure to push with nothing left to expunge has haunted me for three days.
So little energy left, so little fluids left, so much hunger.
I’m not alone with dysentery; half the chaps have it. How can we not with open latrines, vast swarms of flies getting into everything, dead or dying lying about in the wisp of open land between our trench and the Turks.
Counting them would pass the time at least. Millions of little slate colored bodies with wings zipping about from dead man to latrine to mouth within minutes.
How can I contemplate yet another meal?
How can I deprive my belly of something to push out?
I stare at the tin of Jam and my dark green ration bag, both under a blanket of flies so think that only knowing they are there allows me to see them at all.
The last time I tried to have dinner I couldn’t do it. I tried to eat, but could not bring myself to do it for the flies. When I opened the tin a swarm immediately covered the jam. I could not see it through their undulating bodies. Putting my overcoat over myself, I tried to pick out the flies. I could not keep them all out, but some stayed outside of the coat. Spreading the jam on the biscuit with my left hand, I held my right over it, hoping to keep a few off of the surface. Upon opening my mouth in the hope of putting the jammed concrete macroon inside, my throat was swarming with flies pushing against my palate, gums and cheeks from within. I just couldn’t bear it, and threw the tin with the biscuit over the parapet while spitting out violently what liquids I still had within me.
I can not do that again!
“Pass me the net” I call out to Ackman, figuring that if I set the kit up right, I can jam the hardtack from within the fly net, keeping most of the damned buggers at bay.
Placing the fly net over my head, I pull the netting down so that it’s resting upon my chest, shoulders and back.
My hands grasp the tin and ration bag.
Which should I open first?
I set the tin down within the swarm again as I focus on the ration bag.
If I can get out a biscuit, put it on my shoulder, and then work on the Jam, I may be able to do this all inside the net.
Lifting one biscuit out of the bag with my left hand, I bring it up to my right shoulder. I slip the biscuit under the net, brushing off the flies as it enters my little sanctum.
It worked, I have the teeth breaking dry biscuit on my shoulder!
Within a mass of frenzied flies lays the rest of my dinner. Searching for the jam, my hand brushes across countless aerial and grounded beings before touching the tin.
How about if I open the tin under the net? Then the flies can’t swarm in.
I lift the tin so that it’s flush with my sternum, slipping it’s metallic form under the net while I’m careful not to let in too many flies.
Damn, there are some in here now!
I could try to get them out. Or, I could eat.
I don’t have the energy to get them out.
Placing the tin under my chin with my left hand, my right pulls on the tab from outside the net. As the metal lid peals away the couple of flies within the net dart for the jam.
At least there are only a few in the jam now.
I hold the tin with my right hand from outside the net, slipping my left to pick up the biscuit before dipping it in the jam.
My hand comes up toward my mouth. Instead of opening fully, I keep it closed, letting the jam and fly spotted biscuit pry its way in. Two flies push against my lips, hoping to follow the jam they love into my mouth.
No, you can’t come in!
I bite down on the biscuit, hearing a crack I hope was the hardened bread rather than my decaying teeth.
It worked! No flies for dinner!
Shutting my eyes for one moment I simply listen to the buzzing, knowing full well none of it is coming from within my own head.
I open my eyes to stare out of the net toward the fly covered wall of my bivvy.
You’re free to be where I cannot see. Flying about from Turkish Trench to where the maggots eat of putrid stench. You touch every last drop of waste, and then sit upon my biscuit for taste. I dare not think of where you’ve been, for I’m about to empty my Jam tin. Please make me sick so I can leave this place. Otherwise, I feel I may not see the end of this race.
Soldiers from Australia and New Zealand (The Anzacs) were among the least provisioned in the 8 months of the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. Provided with hard tack biscuits, canned bully beef, and watery jam, many came down with dysentery and typhoid. Vast swarms of flies fed off of rotting bloated corpses lying between the trenches, the hastily dug and often overflowing latrines, and the lice who were the permanent occupants of all of the clothes worn by the fighting men on both sides. Over 25,000 men lived within a less than six square kilometer area hugging the sea with no fresh water or places to properly bath. Oh, and the Turkish snipers would shoot you if you came out into the open, or the random shot from enemy artillery could hit you. Not to mention the risk of patrols or actual battle. One soldier, Ion L. Idriess, is quoted as saying “Of all the bastards of places this is the greatest bastard in the world.”