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Recycling at the front.


museumtom
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I came across this in an old obsolete newspaper, enjoy.

Making Use of Wars Waste.

If one could see the amount of waste which results each day that the war is being fought he would throw up his hands in helpless amazement. But each material has to be pretty well used up before it is permitted to be cast aside as absolutely waste, totally unfit for any other purpose. At the rear of the lines in France, for instance, gangs of Chinese, Egyptians, Kaffirs, and Kurds are kept busy sorting out the constant streams of battlefield waste and loading it on appropriate cars to be hauled away for making over. Dressing stations, hospital camps, reserve depots and training grounds are also combed for waste material. A newspaper correspondent investigating the matter had his attention called by his guide to a yard full of the food cans, oil cans, metal ammunition kegs, shell splinters, empty cartridges and crushed steel helmets, all of which goes to the smelter. Alongside the pile a steam roller was puffing back and forth while it flattened out the bulky material. A gang of German prisoners was at work shovelling the flattened cans into freight car on a siding. Before they were thrown into the smelter, the lead, the block tin, and other products are melted off and carefully used. The rags were the flotsam and jetsam of the battlefield-caps, coats, stockings, underwear, knapsacks, straps, buckles, etc, such things as men leave behind them when they go over the top. Equipment doesnt then matter. But later on khaki rags bring real money and are made into new uniforms. It is a rotation of raw material. From the ragpickers place we stumbles into the carpenters shop where packing cases are made into portable barracks, tent floors, slats for trench floor, smaller packing cases, and at last the smallest strips are sawed into tent pegs. The waste is then shovelled into the boiler pit, mixed with the shoe bottoms, and fed into the furnaces. The bicycle shot overhauls and repairs an average of 500 machines a month, and the salvage does not end there. In another shop I saw the mess tins picked up on the battlefield, cleaned with potash, handles re-soldered, and the cup recoated with block tin. A whole building was used to repair saddles and harness. Here new pack saddles were made out of old riding saddled. It has been found that to transport ammunition, water, and food to the men that are fighting on newly gained territory, pack saddled are the best. The ground is too rough, too full of shell holes for any other vehicles. There is where the motor transport fails and the method used 5,000 years ago is resorted to. Another building is required to repair the shoes. French women are employed to wash them, whereupon a jury of expert workmen decide whether they are worth repairing. If not, the tops are cut off and made into laces, while the bottoms are carted into the furnace under the boiler. Both men and women work on the repairing, and some of the soles are nailed on automatically. After that hobnails are driven in and the shoes soaked in whale liver oil, which makes them water-proof. On average 30,000 pairs of shoes are received each week, of which about 25,000 are sent back repaired.

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Fascinating article, thanks very much for posting.

David

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The Germans had an even bigger challenge given the difficulty of importing materials and soldiers were offered cash bounty for recovering some materials for example tin, copper and brass. This misfired to some extent, some soldiers tended to recover material before it had been used. The Germans were unable to restore otherwise quite repairable captured British tanks because vital and irreplaceable electrical componens were smashed to recover the small amount of copper or brass they contained.

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In the story of the Volunteer American Ambulance Drivers one man recounts that he one day painted his ambulance for some reason, and at the end realised that the brush was unusable again. He threw it away.

Then the next day he went to get a new brush. "Where is the handle of the old brush?" "I threw it away". "no handle, no brush".

He had to go back to where he had been, to look for the handle. There he found a poilu laughing, who told him that he had seen the handle being thrown away and had picked it up and kept it, knowing that the man would be back. He took the handle to the store and was given a new brush.

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...Another building is required to repair the shoes. French women are employed to wash them, whereupon a jury of expert workmen decide whether they are worth repairing. If not, the tops are cut off and made into lases, while the bottoms are carted into the furnace under the boiler...

Lases? :huh: I'm thinking a typo, but cannot work out what for...

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Go on you two, getting it up for me. It is in fact laces. I went back an corrected it in my on notes also.

Thanks lads.

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It is in fact laces. I went back an corrected it in my on notes also.

Thanks - strange to think you might have ended up with a pair of boots held on by what started out life as another pair of boots...

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It's not a new phenomena - Wellington had parties scouring the battlefields in the Peninsular collecting used cannon shot for reuse. Because of slight differences in calibre a French cannon ball could be reused in a British gun (with a slight increase in windage) but not vice versa

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There was a British General who organised dumps for brass, damaged rifles and all sorts of kit that could be refurbished. They have some of the signs he set up in the 'Old' In Fanders Fields museum. Can't remember the name, but Maxwell rings a bell.

John

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  • 3 weeks later...

I came across an amusing anecdote recently. A gun battery commander was worried about his men not having time to salve the huge amount of 18pdr cases that had been carelessly thrown in a shell hole. An inspection was due and the O/C was particularly keen on salvage and dealt out extra fatigues to those not salvaging cases. After much worrying about how they would get the tons of cases to the rear the problem was solved by a bright spark painting a sign and sticking it next to the huge pile. It read 'Empty case salvage dump' and the general was mighty pleased.

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