Uncle Walter enlisted on the 20th of October 1916, he was twenty one years old. He was originally in the 50th battalion but soon after was transferred to the 43rd battalion. Traveling in the “Seang Bee” ship, he briefly landed in Egypt but then went on to Britain for further training. While on the ship and trying to do training Uncle Walter suffered a number of illnesses, e.g. Dobey Itch (fungal infection), and the Mumps. He also got tonsillitis and Influenza later on in his time at war. All of his illnesses may have been caused by the horrific and contaminated conditions in the trenches.
The 43rd battalion arrived on the Western Front in late December and spent 1917 in horrendous trench warfare in Flanders. The trenches were one of the worst things when fighting in France. Being so wet and muddy the soldiers had to put wooden slats on the sides of the trenches so the walls didn’t fall in. If you got stuck in the deep mud on the ground then you weren’t going to get out of them by yourself. They developed “duckboards”, the duckboards were placed on the ground so that you had somewhere stable to walk and wouldn’t sink in the mud. At times there would have been rats, food and faeces everywhere along with the decomposing bodies lying every which way.
The trenches were the living and fighting quarters for the men. The conditions in the trenches also caused a disease called trench foot. Trench foot is a disease that rots the flesh of the foot away caused by the foot always being wet, cold and constrained in boots for days on end. Uncle Walter was in hospital for several of the first battles. Although Uncle Walter did not get trench foot he did have illnesses that were caused from the lack of nutritious food and sanitary options in the trenches. This made his immune system extremely weak and caused him to get sick easily. As soon as he was fit and fairly strong again he was sent back to training or to fight in battles with his battalion.
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