The grit and crime of war is not just evident on the bodies that lay sprawled out in the open, but in the dirt and mess that was also left on the minds and hands of soldiers. Shower time during World War II was not just about getting the days dirt off one’s hands but it was also to get the soldiers to wash away the grime left from the war.
Soldiers would utilize shower time to joke around and engage in horseplay, which brought about a sense of camaraderie within the troops. Many different means of showers and baths were utilized by the soldiers. In war, there is no set time or place for cleanliness and one had to get creative and use their surroundings in order to get clean.
Soldiers would sometimes use buckets filled with water as their means to shower. Each soldier had a bar of his own soap and tooth brush which were the tools necessary to keep a clean body back in the day. Most often, the shower areas were outdoors and sometimes soldiers had to share one bucket of water. The soldiers would use shower time to shave if necessary.
Most opted to keep their under garments on while showering together and the brave few went full commando. If stationed close to a waterway or river, the soldiers used the natural source of water to get clean, and sometimes using it to wash their dirty uniforms and other clothing as well.
Water was treated like gold during the war and was used with much care when taking showers. The soldiers washed what was necessary and what was not, went unwashed. In the few instances where water was in abundance the soldiers would lounge, have a good soak, and just enjoy the coolness that the water provided.
There were usually long lines of men waiting to use the shower as well, so time was of the essence when having a bath. In those cases when water was at its most scarce, the soldiers of World War II would have to take “bird baths”. The soldier would use his helmet as a vessel to carry just enough water to wash his body as best he could.
Having to burrow through trenches of mud, having gunpowder flying about and the blood of your enemies literally on your hands meant that soldiers were constantly grimy and needed to be washed regularly to avoid infections and disease. All soldiers were equipped with a wash kit that included a bar of soap, razor and towel. All of the rest facilities were equipped with shower facilities that the soldiers could use. When in the field and too far from the rest facilities soldiers would have to make do. As traveling soldiers, these men were trained to traverse harsh conditions and made rivers, streams, rain water and various other waterways their showers and bath tubs.
War tends to strip individuals of their basic needs but soldiers were well trained in keeping clean. Shower time was an essential part of a soldiers regime to ensure not only a clean body but a sound mind