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Scumbag scammers are nothing new

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  • Scumbag scammers are nothing new

    One of the oft repeated stories of WW1 is that the India Corps on the Western Front in 1914 were not issued with warm clothing until late December and had to endure the rigours of a European winter wearing tropical kit. Having now read some of the war diaries stored in the Old India Office Library (now in the British Library) I can report that this is yet another WW1 myth. With the exception of a few units that arrived in France very early all units were issued with warm clothing before they went into line in October and this included Greatcoats. However the weather was very wet (although relatively mild) and the trenches subject to flooding. The British Greatcoat acted like a wick and soaked up water and so whilst the sepoys were wearing woollen underwear, flannel shirts and woollen pullovers the greatcoats were left with regimental baggage and the men were issued with a waterproof sheet that could be used as a cape. When the weather became frosty and drier in December the greatcoats were worn. Of such are myths born but in this case the story was 'improved' by the action of con artists.
    In the archives there is a bulky (and very badly organised) file on "comforts for the Indian troops". In this I have found a number of letters from Sikh organisations in India complaining of a scam. The story was being put round that the Indians in France were fighting in their cotton drill uniforms and cash donations were being solicited to buy them warm clothing. Needless to say the money collected was going nowhere near the troops in France. The Sikh elders were somewhat incensed. At the same time numerous somewhat motley parcels of warm clothing were being posted to France by Indian soldiers' families, an expense they could do without.
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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