Perhaps it’s best in his own words:
During the hot summer weather the barest minimum of clothes was worn. My mother and father had given me a hall marked silver cigarette case, with my initials engraved inside. I was wearing a pair of shorts and the case was in the back pocket when I was taken with an urgent need to ‘go’. My shorts were hurriedly dropped and the case fell through the hole into a pit beneath. Oh calamity!
Perhaps a little description would not be amiss here. There were three ablution blocks in the compound, all similar. They were huts divided into three sections; at either end was a row of taps mounted above a trough, which was for washing etc always with cold water unless one took his own jug of hot water. The central section was the lavatory, if one can call it that. There were no individual cubicles, just four long form-like seats with a number of holes, so one could sit having a chat with the lads next, or opposite you. There was some sort of drainage from the washing sections, but the lavatory section was built over a big, deep pit (a good breeding ground for the flies in hot weather). At intervals a little farm labourer type would come into camp together with a guard, and driving a horse and four-wheeled cart, on which was a long cylinder. To us it was the ‘shiesen wagon’. And you can guess its function. It would be driven round the back of the lavatory section and the little man would drop a length of hose-pipe with a large section. If necessary he would rake the contents towards the hose. We would hear a bang as though a charge had been let off, and the muck would be sucked up into the tank. It would leave the camp with some liquid ‘manure’ dripping from it. It was taken to nearby, but unseen, fields where it was spread and we all prayed that the wind was in such a quarter as would take the odious scent in the other direction.
This time I waited for the arrival of the wagon and the guard who let me have the little man recover the case. To do that he pulled on a pair of rubber waders such as fishermen wear, got me to go back to the hole I had been using, and started to use his rake. Soon he reached down and held up my case, which he took out to the back. He washed his arm and the case, which he then handed to me before continuing to empty the pit. He was mightily pleased to receive my gift of 200 English cigarettes. The cigarettes in the case were a nasty mess and were thrown away; the band which held them in place was also well rotted and was cut out and thrown away. I still have that case, still without a band in it, as a memento of those days and with indentations from the tines of the rake the little man used to find it. As they were leaving I felt rather sorry for him, and had I known I might have given him more cigarettes. There were two trails of drippings; one from the wagon, the other from his boots. They must have been almost full to take so long for ‘it’ to drain out!”
With luck getting our own drains sorted out won’t entail such a smelly, mucky experience!