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292   DAYS OF PREPARATION

yards, guards turned out, sentries and stragglers sprang to attention, and passing regiments sloped arms and gravely saluted their fallen comrade under the Union Jack on the gun carriage. It was more in heartfelt sympathy than in sorrow that after travelling so far and enduring so much he should be robbed by a loathsome disease of the privilege of fighting for his country.

The camps of hutments at Lark 1E11 and Sling Plantation instead of improving conditions made them worse, if such a thing were possible. It was an impossibility to move the camp site when the mud became too deep for comfort, as was the case in the tented camps. Conditions underfoot went from bad to worse. Improvised snow-plows, adapted by the ingenious pioneers to the local conditions, were started out gaily to make a path across a parade ground, only to be irretrievably lost midway on their journey.

The huts were intended to accommodate thirty men and were heated by one stove in the centre. They were invariably overcrowded, and it was a physical impossibility under the circumstances to keep the floors even passably clean. Long-handled brushes of intensely stiff bristles were used twice daily, and fatigue parties with pails and mops were continually on the defensive in an almost hopeless fight. On the boots and clothing of the men, through the doors and windows and through the cracks in the floors the mud intruded. Around the stove in the centre it dried into dust and climbing the walls filled every nook and cranny, and under the influence of the penetrating rain and rising steam formed mud on the walls. Each night the stoves were walled in with fifty or sixty pairs of army boots, piled up neatly, soles inward, drying out. In the morning each man would break off his own pair from the solid mass caked together with dried mud and put them on with sufficient care to preserve the inch-thick deposit without a crack, knowing it to form his best protection against any unnecessary amount of muddy water getting inside.


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