August 23rd 1916

Rats are constant and entirely unwelcome guests everywhere where there is human flesh on which to feast. British soldiers fight as continuous a battle with them as they do with the Germans, and it is splendid that there should now be an Officer Commanding Rats!

Capt. Douglas Rose (Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry) writes of attempts at a scientific approach to their extermination:

DM Rose“It was at the Field Ambulance that I met O.C. Rats. I had come in that afternoon, not wounded this time but with a silly leg and foot which I hardly possessed it seemed, a result of sciatica. The medical officer for the day was looking round for the night and brought a companion with him whom he introduced at O.C. Rats.

I had been keenly interested in this appointment ever since we received the order in the front Line to look out for any Rats that appeared to have died from natural causes and to send any such, duly labelled, to Brigade Headquarters for examination by a Bacteriologist.

“Well,” I said, “how’s business?”

“Nothing doing,” he replied. “I have only had two carcasses to examine, one of these had most of its ribs broken and the other appeared to have died of senile decay.”

‘B,’ in the next bed, said he had fired 72 rounds with his revolver at the beasts, and generally had a shoot at night, but had never seen a naturally deceased rat. I related my experiences with a cane and how I had once made the mistake of moving my foot too soon when I trod on one in mistake on the duckboards.

O.C. Rats said we must let some of them die naturally, otherwise how could he judge the effect of the serum which had been given to the rats by a thoughtful Government with views to exterminating them entirely.

I explained to him that when a Platoon Sergeant lost his upper denture completely, rats having taken it off from the shelf in his dug-out whilst he slept, and the Company Sergeant-Major had all the vulcanite bitten off his lower denture when having a siesta, one could hardly expect a truce between the men and the rats, so that the serum could work out to a scientific conclusion.

We all promised to secure some remarkably fine specimens for the Rat Commander and I fancy he will find some lively corpses when he opens the bag I intend to send him. Curiously enough, I have just heard from the Quarter-Master Sergeant that the dirge which the infants sing about fifteen times day in the schools adjoining is Fontaine’s Fable “The Lion and the Rat.”

Ragging the OC Rats is entirely in character with a young Douglas in his schooldays!

 

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