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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Soldiers' needs during World War I

"Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug." - John Lithgow

***

delanceyplace.com 8/11/10 - war, loneliness, and sex

"Loneliness was constant. Men missed women...

Just behind the battle lines only a mile or two from the front, girls waited to 'comfort' men, irrespective of whether they were German, British or French... One innocent young officer, hearing his turn called, made his way to room number six where in the bitter-sweet, dirt-smelling near darkness he could see the outline of a female figure who, turning towards him, hiked up her black nightdress to her waist and fell backwards on the edge of the bed. He realised that the highly anticipated delights of seduction were already over. She was ready.

These women estimated that operating a strict schedule of ten minutes per man, they could service an entire battalion every seven days, a production rate that most were usually able to sustain for only three weeks before retiring exhausted, and invariably unwell, but proud of their staying power. This experience had been, for many of the prospectively syphilitic young men, their introduction to the 'joy' of physical love...

The threat of venereal disease sometimes led soldiers to seek sexual relief with each other. The Field Almanac issued to Lieutenant Skelton cautioned men not to 'ease themselves promiscuously', although the detailed instructions on the necessity for cleanliness of the body at all times were impossible to implement in the filthy conditions of the camps. George V, hearing of the extent of homosexual activity in the army some two decades after the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, had been heard to mutter: 'I thought men like that shot themselves.' There was also a belief that homosexuality might be infectious and Scotland Yard kept a register of known homosexuals. Recovery from prosecution was at best rare and in reality unknown. Two hundred and seventy soldiers and twenty officers were court-martialled for 'acts of gross indecency with another male person according to the Guidance notes in the Manual of Military Law'"

--- The Great Silence / Juliet Nicolson
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