Postcard ‘Fighting Fleas (?) in Flanders’



What was personal hygiene like in the trenches?

Both officers and soldiers suffered greatly from the pests of fleas and lice while serving in the trenches. To try and get rid of these pests they went to delousing stations. One such station is depicted in this postcard. Here the soldiers are shown bathing in large tubs while their clothes were being disinfected. This helped to kill off the fleas and lice. Unfortunately the lice eggs remained hidden in the folds of their uniforms and so the lice soon reappeared. 

This postcard was designed for the officers and soldiers of the 4th Division to send home to their family and friends at Christmas 1914. The 4th Division consisted of the 10th, 11th and 12th Brigades and was sent to France on 22 August 1914. The division later went on to fight at the Somme Offensive and at Passchendaele.




December Bombardment of German position continued but no Infantry attack. After
20th seeing Divisional Commander, I moved the men back into their old
positions. I returned to 11th Bgd H.Q. level 20. General Pulteney &
[Johnny Du Cane] & his two A.D.C.s. came to see me & congratulated the
11th Bgd on their gallantry & perseverance. Congratulations also from
Divisional Commander.

21st C.O.s. Conference 9.30 am, till 1. Discussed Line of Defence to be taken
up & [points whosoever observed] in the attack. Major Compton 2nd in
Command of Somersets arrived from England cured of his wounds. [Auley]
came to lunch to discuss the attack. We walked together to LEBIGET. I
came back in car to see lst. Rif. Bgd billets S. of PLOEGSTEET. Wrote
after tea.

22nd C.Os conference at 9.30 am. as to strengthening own line. I then [move
Euroflake] to 10th Bdg H.Q. to talk to Hull about the unfair [illegible] of
the Defence of our line where it [illegible]. [illegible] & lunch. Rode back
by ROMARIN & along the WARNAVE [rivulet.]





Extract from This card refers to our washing arrangements for the men in the
letter dates Flax washing Vats at PONT DE NIEPPE. On coming out of the
trenches the companies go there in turns to have a hot bath
to get clean underclothes & to get the lice out of their [ ] cloth
clothes as far as hot ironing will kill these pests. 22.12.14.
7.30 p.m.

Full title
Postcard 'Fighting Fleas (?) in Flanders' from HUNTER-WESTON PAPERS. Private War Diary. 11th Infantry Brigade of ‘The Old Contemptibles’. Vol. IX. France and Flanders. Aug.1914-15 Feb. 1915.
Postcard / Drawing / Manuscript
Held by
British Library
© The copyright status of HUNTER-WESTON PAPERS. Private War Diary. 11th Infantry Brigade of ‘The Old Contemptibles’. Vol. IX. France and Flanders. Aug.1914 -15 Feb. 1915 is unknown. Please contact if you have any information about this item.
Add MS 48363

Related articles

The daily life of soldiers

Article by
Paul Cornish
Life as a soldier, The war machine, Race, empire and colonial troops

With focus on the routines of work, rest and recreation, Senior Curator Paul Cornish describes the typical daily life experienced by soldiers in World War One.


Article by
Julian Walker
Life as a soldier

Julian Walker considers the presence and variety of swearing within World War One ranks and how its use bonded or divided soldiers.

Haig and British generalship during the war

Article by
Laura Walker
Historical debates

Archivist and Curator Laura Walker compares and contrasts the historical responses to Sir Douglas Haig, a controversial figure who led the Somme and Passchendaele offensives and under whose leadership the war was won.

Related collection items