The trouble was that as the frost continued water became scarce—baths had stopped long ago—and it began to be a question of getting even a basinful to wash in. Face creams were extensively applied as the only means of saving what little complexions we had left! The streets of the town were in a terrible condition owing principally to the hygienic customs of the inhabitants who would throw everything out of their front doors or windows. The consequence was that, without exaggeration, the ice in some places was two feet thick, and every day fresh layers were formed as the French housewives threw out more water. No one remained standing in a perpendicular position for long, and the difficulty was, once down, how to get up again.
Finally water became so scarce we had to bring huge cans in a lorry from the M.T., one of the few places not frozen out, and there was usually ice on them when they arrived in camp. Then the water even began to freeze as we filled up our radiators; and, finally, we were reduced to chopping up the ice in our tank and melting it for breakfast! One morning, however, Bridget came to me in great distress. “What on earth shall I do,” said she, “I’ve finished all the ice, and there’s not a bit left to make the tea for breakfast? I know you’ll think of something,” she added hopefully.
I had been on night guard and the idea of no hot tea was a positive calamity.
I thought for some minutes. “Here, give me the jug,” I said, and out I went. After looking carefully round to see that I was not observed, I quietly tapped one of the radiators.
“I’ll tell you after breakfast where it came from,” I said, as I returned with the full jug. Bridget seized it joyfully and must have been a bit suspicious as it was still warm, but she was much too wise to ask any questions.
We had a cheery breakfast, and when it was over I called out, “I hope you all feel very much better and otherwise radiating? You ought to at all events!”
“Why?” they asked curiously. “Well, you’ve just drunk tea made out of ‘radium,’” I replied. “Absolutely priceless stuff, known to a few of the first families by its original name of ‘radiator water,’” and I escaped with speed to the fastnesses of my hut.
Room Ballads of the F.A.N.Y. Corps,”
By kind permission of Winifred Mordaunt, F.A.N.Y.)
We were smoking and
To anyone there who could play—
(We’d finished our tea in the Mess hut
Awaiting an ambulance train—)
Roasting chestnuts some were, while the rest,
Cut up toffee or sang a refrain.
Outside was a bitter wind shrieking—
(Thank God for a fug in the Mess!)
Never mind if the old stove is reeking
If only the cold’s a bit less—
But one of them starts