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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Sgt. Thomas William Chisholm

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14th August 1918 Lamsdorf POW, fumigation and lost hair.

Sgt Thomas William Chisholm


Wednesday 14th August 1918      


Today at 2pm we were roused from our after dinner siesta by our guards, absolutely chased out on parade, and ordered to take with us all blankets and clothing in our possession and were marched across to Lager 1 for a bath, and very happy we were at the thought of a good old splash to relieve us of some of the dirt and lice.


First we entered what appeared to be a boiler house but proved to contain large fumigating appliances. We were made to strip naked, and put every article into our blankets with a tally, on which was written regiment, rank, and number, and went in a dozen at a time.


From there we went along a corridor into a large room containing six chairs, which turned out to be used as barber chairs. While six of the first twelve were seated, the others were handed a pair of hair cutting shears and were made, under supervision, to literally shave off all the hair of the others. We did look like real prisoners after this operation, and of course when the first six had been done the squads changed over.


With the first twelve were finished, we were called to the corner of the room, where one of the Germans also had a chair and a small table, on which was an enamel bowl containing a quantity of what appeared to be clay of a light bluish colour. Motioning me to mount the chair and stand with my feet apart, my attendant mixed up the mixture with a thin flat piece of wood, then using the piece of wood he plastered the mixture on all parts of the body where a growth of hair appeared. That done, and with a mumbled request to “Rouse” I was sent out into the corridor in the direction of the shower bath to await my turn to enter.


The conversations centred on the subject as to what it was that had been applied to our nether organs. Some said soap, other suggested a special kind of ointment used in special cases, but eventually we were all wrong.


It had the most vile smell, but during the talking and waiting, one man in particular had spread the stuff as far over his body as it would go, in the expectation of a nice lather when it came to his time to get under the shower. In doing so he had unthinkingly scratched his eye owing to some irritation. He happened to be just in front of me when it came to his time to enter the shower/bath and the water had been turned on.


Try to picture our faces when we observed his eyebrows slowly beginning to move down his face. The more water applied, the more the hair came away, until at last the toilet had been finished, and there was not a vistage of hair left on our bodies. We were as bare as the day we were born.


Then of course it was time to hear some real soldiers language, and we did hear it, between fits of laughter from those who seemed to see the funny side of it, but it was unanimously decided that this was the first and last occasion on which our caretakers would entice us out for a bath.


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