Fed Up in Mespot 1916
This image comes from an album owned by an officer of the Army Service Corps who was attached to one of the Indian Divisions in France 1914/15 and then in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) for the remainder of the war. Although private cameras were prohibited by the British Army this was a generation for which personal photography was in its infancy and the number of private albums I have come across indicates that many flouted the ruling. This particular officer took about 150 images while on active service showing some unique insights into service in two theatres of war and had them printed onto high quality paper and placed in an album. Sadly he forgot to caption them, but over the years I have been able to identify many of the locations; and images from the album will feature in future posts.
This particular image shows an Indian soldier fatigued by active service sat catching a short sleep near his charges, two mules who are pulling a British water cart. Water was a vital commodity in Mesopotamia – ‘Mespot’ to the troops – where the heat and lack of safe water supply meant that any clean water was in some respects as valuable as the munitions needed to feed the guns. Temperatures could rise above 120 degrees in the desert and to give an indication of the problem of sickness caused by issues like bad water more than 12,000 died of disease in Mespot during the war. The water cart in the picture could hold 120 gallons of water, which although sounds like a lot, the two mules would need 6-8 gallons each per day. It had its own filtration system and in terms of the technology of the day was quite an advanced piece of kit.
Like the best of images it is an informal shot and captures a moment in time giving us an insight into life in a sometimes forgotten Theatre of War