Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Flies of Mesopotamia

Poster for British Camps in Middle East

There are flies that bite like bulldogs everywhere. . . The flies are awful; one black web of them this morning; in one's hair and eyes and mouth, in one's bath and shaving-water, in one's tea and in one's towel. 

A wave of great heat has come and the air is black with flies. . . Nothing that I have ever seen or dreamed of came up to the flies. They hatched out until they were almost the air. They were in myriads. The horses were half mad. The flies were mostly tiny. They rolled up in little balls, when one passed one's hand across one's sweating face. They were on your eyelids and lashes and in your lips and nostrils. We could not speak for them, and could hardly see. 

We went into General Younghusband's tent. The flies, for some reason, stayed outside. He put a loose net across the door of the tent. They were like a visible fever, shimmering in the burning light all round. Inside his tent you did not breathe them; outside you could not help taking them in through the nose and the mouth. 

My eyes were bound, and I got on a horse that started bucking because of the torture of the flies. 

KUT, 1916
by Aubrey Herbert

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating piece -- thanks for posting. We sometimes forget about public health in the war