While training was going on, soldiers were also assigned various “fatigues,” what the Oxford English Dictionary politely calls “the extra-professional duties of a soldier.” The trench definition was more pointed: “various kinds of work done by Tommy while he is ‘resting.'” (1)

Such duties included housekeeping, as undertaken by the room or hut orderly, whose job was to ensure that quarters were clean and tidy. It included scrubbing floors – a frequent requirement in muddy November. “By the way that is one accomplishment, scrubbing, that may come useful someday,” wrote John Alexander McArthur to his sweetheart, anticipating a future together. “I am sure that you are glad that I know how to do it.”(2)

Cookhouse fatigue demanded unskilled labour such as peeling potatoes and washing dishes, and stable fatigue required all the care of those essential animals: feeding, watering, mucking out, grooming, and harness cleaning.(3)

40 Water troughs Witley crop.jpg

“Watering Troughs at Witley” from Percy’s Small Album

(1) Empey, Arthur Guy. Over the Top by an American Soldier who Went. 1918. 290
(2) McArthur, John Alexander. Letter to Hazel Challoner. November 2, 1916. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.
(3) Grout, Derek. Thunder in the Skies. A Canadian Gunner in the Great War. Toronto: Dundurn, 2015. 82



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