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War through the Eyes of the Soldiers

War through the Eyes of the Soldiers

The basic matter for the army – whether at the barracks or at the front – is food supply. The Poznań Daily of March 27, 1915 reported on the provisions of the units fighting in the Carpathians at the time:
“A soldier receives daily the following provisions: 400 gram of meat, 700 gram of bread or biscuits, 30 gram of salt, 0.5 gram of pepper, 0.2 litre of alcohol, i.e. light Hungarian or Tyrolean wines … . Then 0.2 litre of vinegar, 5 gram of soup seasoning, 140 gram of vegetables, i.e. rice, peas or mamalige (corn porridge), 92 gram of coffee preserve, and by no means the least desired: 36 gram of pipe tobacco or 10 cigarettes instead”.

However, it often happened that the soldiers lacked basic items. So they had to apply various – often strange in the eyes of their contemporaries – methods to cope.  The Poznań Daily of September 24, 1914 offered the following advice to the families wishing to send a parcel to the front:
“I would like to remind all of you whose loved ones are at the battlefield and to whom you cannot send warm socks that socks can be substituted with paper. You simply wrap the foot clad in a regular sock with a piece of paper (newspapers are best) and you put the shoe on. This method was used by soldiers fighting in the French war of 1870/1871.”
Another piece of advice on the remedy against lice pestering the soldiers suggested… ants. The Poznań Daily of June 3, 1917 reported:
“The fastest and cheapest way of cleansing the soldier uniforms and underwear of lice is to put them on an anthill. … The industrious ants will exterminate the lice much faster and more efficiently than other toxic agents. The lice-free underwear can be washed with soap in cold water.”

Death is an inseparable part of war. During the bloody battles fought at the Eastern Front people died en masse.… The Red Cross Doctor Stefan Bogusławski, wrote:
“Moans, screams, curses, broken words… Bullet, bayonet – the death is near – the strain of the power of self-preservation instinct bursts like a bubble, while the hitherto paralyzed memory cinematographically moves before the mind’s and soul’s eyes the images of memories dating from the earliest moments of childhood… And the last image of the memory before the last breath is drawn and the cold death comes, twists the face with astonishment, serene, nostalgic smile, anger, sorrow, despair, and the lips are quietly put together to utter the names of the dear loved and loving ones”.

The front hospitals were bursting at the seams. Doctor Bogusławski described the hospital-war reality as follows:
“They bring another batch of the wounded — two hundred people. … All these soldiers – dirty, covered with lice, hungry, extremely exhausted, covered with muddy greatcoats, with severe head injuries, frostbitten legs, crashed bones of arms and legs in plaster casts, resembling more shadows than people, fainting of exhaustion and pain – desire above all rest in a warm, clean bed and a warm meal”.

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