They were so bad even the Egyptians hated to take them

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Dunlap’s American unit was stationed Egypt with the British Eighth Army:

And if we went out in the blue we wore British battle-dress and their helmet. The melting-pot troops and colored colonials used for guard duties were not yet educated to the American helmet. If it wasn’t British they shot and then investigated. Fatigues were out; our fatigue coverall and cap happened to be almost identical with the German service work clothing.


The British were issuing to all troops who put in for them 50 “Victory V” cigarettes per week. These were made in India and would burn the throat out of a 37mm gun. They were so bad even the Egyptians hated to take them.


The British would have issued us their shoes, but theirs are black, not brown, hence not allowed by our own command. For dress, that is, off-duty wear, we could get hand-made footwear of any kind at prices not too steep. From $10.00 to $20.00 would purchase anything you could think up from a native cobbler, of fair quality leather and good workmanship.


The only catch to this seemingly luxurious sleeping accommodation was that we and it were promptly covered with fleas and bedbugs which we never did defeat in even a skirmish.


The British had a good insect repellant powder, but we had nothing, and the commercial preparations we bought did not work. I was assured by the Tommies that after a year or so they would quit biting me; after a white man’s blood thinned out they didn’t like it.


Units were moving up and back, as the British system is to relieve and replace units rather than individuals. During this past war the American way was to keep any committed unit up in the line and maintain strength through the individual replacement system. Most of us who saw both systems from the bottom shelf think the British the best. Men stay healthier and stronger if a rest period can come up once in awhile.

According to a G.I. movie on trench foot, one American division in Italy had 4,000 cases; the British division alongside it, under identical conditions, had 300; (according to the movie it was because the British soldier did as he was told about taking care of himself, while the childish American did not). Me, I think it was because the whole English outfit pulled back of the lines for dry socks, hot food and sleep every week or two while a relief crew held the line for them.


  1. Ezra says:

    The Four-square regimental system [four battalions per regiment] for warfare. Keeps troops relatively fresh. No more than two days straight of combat, then to the rear and entire unit of battalion replaced by another battalion intact. Allow troops to sleep, eat hot food, use the toilet. Constant rotation of intact units in/out of the fighting.

  2. Bruce says:

    I’ve heard that ‘stop biting after your blood thins out’ before. I think it’s partly a sick joke, partly true.

  3. Neovictorian says:

    I’ll be reading this book. I remember Roy Dunlap’s articles in the gun magazines of my youth, along with Cooper, Keith, “Skeeter” and other great characters.

Leave a Reply