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By Edward C. Woodfin (auth.)

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Additional info for Camp and Combat on the Sinai and Palestine Front: The Experience of the British Empire Soldier, 1916–18

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43 The mistrust and hatred between the British Empire soldiers and these desert people would only increase throughout the war. The lack of a local infrastructure, added to transport difficulties, translated into shortages of virtually everything. All that the soldiers needed, they had to carry into the desert themselves. The most persistent of the difficulties that came with the movement into the Sinai was scarcity of water. The army pushed quickly and far ahead of the comfortable structure of Egyptian water supplies, like the Sweet Water Canal that supplied the garrisons on the Suez.

69 Though the overall impact on the fighting strength of the army was negligible, the soldiers’ reactions to the incidence of cholera show their desperation for a drink. Their comments reveal that they were aware of the danger and disregarded it in the face of the tremendous power of thirst. The little water the soldiers carried often tasted horrible, especially that which came from desert wells. 70 Most soldiers tried to mask the taste of the water by boiling it into tea, which, as one medical officer noted, seemed to make it taste worse.

53 The old novelists’ cliché of men being driven mad from thirst crops up often in period letters and diaries, and not without reason. The need for water pushed many men to do things that were foreign to their natures and pressed some to commit illegal, dangerous, and foolish acts. ”55 Scottish NCO Alexander Burnett later remembered that at Romani, the men of his corps were so thirsty and hot that they, too, rushed the water reserves in defiance of orders. 56 Taunted by the water vat, Ion Idriess tried the direct approach.

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