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Working in partnership with the Museum of Military Medicine, historians at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln have engaged volunteers in the process of historical research, exploring the unpublished diary of Alfred Cockburn which offers a rare insight into a neglected area of First World War military history: the role of hygiene and sanitation within the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The diarist Alfred Cockburn served with the 2nd London Sanitary Company (Royal Army Medical Corps) in Egypt and France throughout the war. His personal experience of war was captured in the diaries he kept at the time, which took the form of small field notebooks. Alongside numerous sketches, he also collected an assortment of war-related ephemera and trench art (c.200) which can all be found within the pages of the diary. Nearly twenty years later, looking back on his wartime experience, he rewrote his diaries (also incorporating wartime letters sent to his wife) which, once completed, extended to four volumes (1,200 pages). Contained within these pages, are fascinating details about various hygiene and sanitation practices and technological devices relating to personal hygiene, disease control and prevention, protection of water supply and its purification and distribution, latrines and urinals, burial of the dead, and disposal of refuse.
The project and accompanying exhibition encourages a better understanding of the importance attached to military hygiene and sanitation practices during the First World War, alongside its relevancy to armed forces’ practices in the 21st century.
Museum of Military Medicine