Images of war
A sergeant from the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade fires rifle grenades from a trench. The work is repetitious and dangerous, as rifle grenades were temperamental – sometimes landing in the trench or exploding in the barrel.
The destructive power of heavy artillery fire is seen in a pan across the pulverised remains of a village – the scene is one of complete desolation. The pan ends on a trench scene, sandbags are piled high and soldiers with their gas mask satchels on their chest descend into a dugout.
A line of soldiers stumbles through a large shell hole, knee-deep in water – it is some 20 meters in diameter and 4 to 5 metres deep. The soldiers are conscious of the camera, however the conditions are not staged – they are typical of those endured by the New Zealand Division in the low-lying trenches of Northern France during the winters of 1916 and 1917. It was not uncommon for men to spend up to eight days at a stretch in these tough conditions.
Although unconfirmed until after the war, one of the biggest enemies that soldiers faced was lice! They thrived in squalid, unhygienic trench conditions and were carriers of bacteria – causing the mysterious disease known as trench fever, along with typhus and scabies. And they made men – already suffering under appalling conditions – unbearably itchy, irritable and depressed!
To try and combat this, the work of the Medical Corps included sanitation “cleansing stations” where men were able to bathe and their uniforms and blankets were steam-cleaned. Watch as freshly bathed soldiers, wrapped in blankets, hand in their uniforms for cleansing in the Fodden Lorry Disinfector.