"...when I had to visit the rooms
in the morning as Duty Officer, the atmosphere was so nauseating that
I felt disinclined to touch my breakfast afterwards."
Five guineas in pocket, brimming with newfound patriotism
(not to mention the aftereffects of last night's spirituous carousing),
you enter a dark, brick barrack-room--home sweet home. Well, sweet might
be a bit of an overstatement. Although the walls appear sturdy and fairly
weatherproof, quarters are cramped--barely 450 cubic feet per-soldier!
(Prisoners are normally allotted at least 1,000.) You also notice a
conspicuous dearth of basic amenities, such as a running tap, a separate
urinal ("most of the boys just use the washtub,") and beds.
Soldiers appear to sleep on thin straw mats, most often two men per-mat,
which are only refilled every two months.
And then there's the smell.
Since soldiers must go outside to wash in freezing well water, bathing
is rare, and body-odor is overwhelming. "You can smell some soldiers'
feet before you enter their rooms," a passing officer jibes. (Brereton,
35) Compounded with the stench from the multi-functional "washtub,"
and the fact that the soldiers have blocked up all the ventilation with
sacks to keep out the cold, you realize it is the putrid smell that will
take the most getting used to.
Still, the veterans seem remarkably friendly. Moments after you step inside,
a grizzled highlander asks, "Ha' ye got yer boonty yet, laddie?"
Taking your brand new guineas out of your pocket, you give an honest nod.
Flashing a broad, toothless grin, he puts a heavy arm around you, and
shouts, "Then ye'll no want for frien's as lang as it lasts!"
Suddenly, a man asks to clean your shoes and another offers to brush your
coat. Maybe the army won't be so unpleasant after all!
"Surely you'll be wantin' to celebrate, eh laddie?" says the
veteran with a wink.
Not wanting to let your new squadron down, you accompany them on a night
of drunken merriment, all rounds on you. Over the course of the evening
several soldiers ask to borrow a few shillings--which seems reasonable
enough--and the drill-sergeant tells you he's looking forward to the dinner
you'll be buying him tomorrow night. And then, of course, there's the
traditional five-shilling present for the conducting sergeant.
In less than a week, the bounty is gone, the soldiers are less gregarious,
and your shoes are left dirty. No one even seems to regard you at all
anymore! And when you ask the men who borrowed shillings for repayment,
they flatly disavowed any memory of the loan!
As you wonder what would make your squadron-mates turn against you so
suddenly, there is some hubbub by the door. The soldiers are smiling and
laughing, their voices polite and friendly. The crowd parts to reveal
a fresh young recruit--his eyes wide open, and his guineas shining brightly.
Your mind races--looks like a few free drinks are in order.... (DeWatteville,
Next: Traning Day!