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rneil

British WW2 Disinfection equipment

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This picture is a British  Truck, 3-ton, 4x2, Morris-Commercial CVS 11/40 fitted with Disinfestor equipment. This equipment was part of the equipment of Mobile Bath units and was used to disinfect soldiers clothing by the application of steam. The concept was that the Mobile Bath unit would set up next to a unit in the field,. When operating soldiers would strip down placing their underwear in one pile, and thor outer clothing into another.   The underwear would be sent to a field laundry unit for laundering with soldiers receiving a clean pair in exchange from stocks held by the Mobile Bath unit. While the soldiers were enjoying a nice hot shower, their outer clothing would be processed by this machinery while they were having a shower.

The disinfestor’s purpose is to kill lice. In the austere base and field conditions field that soldiers had to live in the risk of infestation by lice was a constant problem. Bathing and the laundering of underwear was not sufficient to handle infestations and disinfecting of outer garments with steam was necessary to kill the lice and their eggs. The disinfector equipment consisted of two disinfecting cylinders with an oil fired heater and a water supply mounted between the cylinders. The disinfecting cylinders were hinged at the middle, allowing them to be rotated 90 degrees allowing them to be loaded and unloaded while horizontal and then rotated until they were vertical for the disinfecting process. Clothing would not be wetted but placed into the cylinders dry, and when the process was completed was ready to wear almost immediately.

Despite this equipment being in service throughout the Second World War. this is the only picture I have ever seen of this equipment and would love to find some more photos, drawings, user manuals or any other information on this equipment.

disinfector.jpg

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The sanitation engineer must have had a great time deal of fun pulling together all of those various parts and then being told that the design had to go onto the rear of a lorry. This is a much overlooked element of a division's support services. Many personal war diaries tell of visiting the mobile bath and laundry units when rotating through in reserve and the delight of getting thoroughly cleaned. That and local cafes, ENSA shows and getting fed a proper meal.

Does anyone know what water supply was used to keep the steam flowing? I suspect that somewhere on the rear of the lorry is a pump and filter to use natural water sources or Royal Engineer constructed water tanks but could a water bowser be connected?

The Imperial War Museum(IWM), in London, have a model of a 'Mobile Disinfector Truck' with a description "Scratch-built model of a Second World War period British/Indian Army disinfector truck, having a wooden chassis and wheels, metal superstructure (bodywork), and glass plate windscreen. The open flat-backed rear of the truck carries a cylindrical metal boiler and stands for two disinfector drums. The drums themselves are not present. The model (based on a standard 3-ton truck) is finished in a black and brown paint camouflage scheme and is marked with the following painted (in what was originally white paint) distinguishing numbers: '25TH / F.H.S. / 602' (on left front mudguard); 'L 14794' (on left and right side of bonnet); 'W / broad arrow / D' (at rear end of flat back)."Height 126mm, Length 270 m, Width 120mm", Catalogue Number: MOD 2494: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30115600 (sorry - no picture). No other information jumps out of the IWM collection. Maybe more research will reveal something.

I was hoping to identify the 3 ton lorry manufacturer but can't make sense of the WD Number 'L14794' from the official lists.

Perhaps '25th FHS' is 25th Field Hygiene Section? The FHSs were part of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). The National Archives in Kew has War Diaries for the British and Indian 25th FHSs:  http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=25+field+hygiene+section

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6 hours ago, TankNutUK said:

Does anyone know what water supply was used to keep the steam flowing? I suspect that somewhere on the rear of the lorry is a pump and filter to use natural water sources or Royal Engineer constructed water tanks but could a water bowser be connected?

 

I have checked the War Establishment for the New Zealand Laundry and Bath Units for WW2, which were closely based on the British establishments. A  15 c.w.t water truck (200 gal) was part of the Laundry establishment, but not the part of the Bath unit which this disinfector was part of.  This indicates to me that this equipment must have been self-contained with an independent, but limited water supply, I, assuming something around 20 gallons.  Given the thought put into designing this type of equipment I would also assume that it would have had the ability to be hooked up to an external source such as tanks, bowsers and natural supplies so I also believe that Pump and filter would have been part of its CES. Would be nice to know for certain.

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There is in the Australian War Archives, though I've lost track of it, a training  film, possibly made at Lullingstone Castle Kent, showing a Bedford MW and trailer water purifing kit in action.

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