Some of ‘em are as big as kittens

Other forms of life that we have here has to be said, not only us. They have rats in here, dear oh dear. I tell you we hate the rats. Horrible things they are. Some of them are as big as kittens. Nasty, nasty beasts and they’re very good at surviving. They’ll survive anything rats I’ll tell you. You know in the middle of an attack you’ll still see one sort of scurrying across the parapet. You know if you want to have a bit of fun, when you’re chewing on a biscuit, bite a bit off, chuck it on trench floor and then watch about 7 or 8 rats fight over it.

The reason we hate them though so much, you see, and the reason they become so big and so fat, is because they feed off the dead bodies that are here and there are lots of dead bodies. You don’t have enough time to bury them you know, they’re all stuck here in mud and that. You know sometimes you can even find someone’s hand or foot sticking out of the trench wall here. In fact if it’s a hand, some fellas think it’s good luck to er, to shake a dead fellas hand and er, maybe that luck will preserve you. So aye there’s all sorts of things about er superstitions here about doing this and doing that to be able to survive, because to be honest with you, it is a bit of a matter of luck whether you do, or you don’t. So we’ve got the rats here and we got, er, in summertime you get lots of flies as well buzzing round. You know you open a tin of bully beef, you put some on your fork and within er, within seconds that fork is covered with hundreds of flies.

And also, we have lice here too and er, I knew that, I knew as soon as I started mentioning them I’d have to scratch. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to erm, when I’m sitting here talking to you, but do you mind if I just take my tunic off for a moment? Will that be alright? Good, cos these beggars is absolutely giving me, arrgh, they’re driving me mad! Problem is you get here in the trenches is that you get covered in lice. Cos what happens is they er, lay their eggs in the seams of your tunic and your breeches and then when they hatch, they latch onto you and they drink your blood, up to about 12 times a day. You can never really get rid of them either, you know and when they’ve bitten you, you want to scratch the bites and so you end up having big scabs and boils on your skin as well as having, having the trouble with the lice. When you go out of the line, you get what’s called deloused and er, they sort of fumigate your uniform while they stick you in this big barrel full of water and then disinfectant which turns the water white and er, burns you quite a bit. But er, it’s there to get rid of the lice. But to be honest with you, a bit like the rats they’re hardy beggars. You can never really get rid of them.