Marching and Care of Feet
Home-Reading Course for Citizen Soldiers (Lesson No. 8, of 30)
Another sign of a green soldier is a carelessly adjusted pack or any other equipment not neatly and securely fastened.
Spokane Daily Chronicle, Spokane, Washington, 4 September 1917
The new soldier seldom understand how important it is for him to learn to march and to develop his muscles so that he can easily carry his arms and equipment. "marching constitutes the principal occupation of troops in campaign." (Infantry Drill Regulations, paragraph, 623.)
In order to march for long distances the soldier's feet must be in good condition. Marching shoes should be quite a little larger than shoes for ordinary wear. "Sores and blisters on the feet should be promptly dresses during halts. At the end of the march feet should be bathed and dressed; the socks, and if practicable, the shoes, should be changed. (Infantry Drill Regulations, paragraph, 627.)
Rules for Infantry
You will learn in time the practical rules for taking care of your feet that are followed by experienced soldiers. You will avoid considerable discomfort, however, if you learn some of these rules now and put them into practice from the beginning:
1. See that your shoes are large enough. They will at first look and feel unnecessarily loose. This is needed because if has been found that feet swell and lengthen on marches, especially when carrying packs. But shoes fitted this way will give you no corns, blisters, or other foot ills.
2. Take pains to keep your shoes in good condition. It is a good idea to apply a light coat of neat's foot oil, which will both soften the leather and tend to make them waterproof. Don't neglect to smooth out wrinkles in the lining of the shoe. "Break in" new shoes before wearing them on long marches.
3. Wear light woolen socks, such as will be issued to you. See that you have no holes or wrinkles in them.
4. Keep your feet, socks, and shoes clean. When on the march try to wash your socks at night and put on a clean pair every morning. Bathe the feet every evening, or at least wipe them off with a wet towel.
5. Keep your feet scrupulously clean. A foot bath can be taken, when other facilities are not at hand, by scraping a small depression in the ground, trowing a poncho over it and pouring water into this from your canteen. Even a pint of water will do for a foot bath.
6. Keep your toenails trimmed closely and cut them square across the ends. This will tend to prevent ingrowing nails. By all means avoid the common error of rounding the corners of the nail and cutting it to a point in the centre.
7. In case a blister is formed while on the march, open the edge of the blister with the point of a knife or a needle that has been heated in a match flame. Then put on an adhesive plaster, covering the skin well beyond the edges of the blister, putting it on as tightly as as possible without wrinkles. In the same way put an adhesive plaster over any red or tender spots.
8. In case any tendons become inflamed or swollen (usually due to lacing the leggings or show too tightly or to some other unnecessary pressure), soak the foot in cold water, massage the tendon, and protect it as much as possible by strips of adhesive plaster. You should report to a medical officer as your first opportunity, to make sure that the trouble does not grow worse.
Hints on Marching
After you have arrived in camp and have cooled off you can drink slowly as much as you desire. It is, of course, unwise to eat fruits, candy, soft drinks, ice cream and the like while on the march.
Another sign of a green soldier is a carelessly adjusted pack or any other equipment not neatly and securely fastened. Your comfort on the march depends very largely on the care and judgment used in getting ready. You will march most easily if you keep your body erect and do not permit yourself to slouch or sway from side to side.
When the command is given to halt and fall out for a few minutes, loosen your pack and rest back on it in a sitting position. If possible, lie with your feet higher than the head, so as to let blood flow out of your legs into the body and rest your heart.
A cheerful attitude is one of the best aids to a soldier on a trying march. Singing and whistling on the march is usually not only allowed, but encouraged. They help wonderfully to make the long road seem shorter.
These are all very simple rules, but none the less important. Keep them in mind. Some men never learn except from their own hard experience, but it is expected of the men in the national army that they will have the good sense to see the value of these suggestions and to apply them from the very beginning.