A pox on both your houses

Australian troops overseas in WWI achieved what may be the unique distinction of having the same number of troops succumb to venereal diseases as were killed.


Complicated somewhat by the official award of the Volunteer’s Decoration as an honourable medal, which was abbreviated to VD and, not surprisingly, abandoned after a while.

Shocking, sad but … unsurprising. But why be surprised ? This has long been one of the less-discussed horrors of war. “There’s something about a soldier …” and that does not change much. Any more than has human nature in recorded history. Best regards, JR.

Not a horror of war. Just the consequence of dipping one’s wick carelessly, military or civilian.

VD was, in the pre-penicillin era, fairly common in the careless and or promiscuous elements of the civilian population in Australia and other reasonably developed nations, never mind the poorer ones.

In Egypt, where the AIF trained initially in WWI, VD was rife among prostitutes and in brothels.

With the characteristic charity and pacific sentiment for which Australian troops were noted in WWI ;), they destroyed the brothel district in Cairo as a reprisal for being infected with VD and for being overcharged for the services which caused the infection, which tends to demonstrate a certain lack of acceptance of personal responsibility for careless dipping of wicks.

Search “Battle of Wazir” for various accounts and even a long poem by Australia’s most popular poet of the time, being a time when it was possible for a poet, albeit not one of great literary depth, to be popular.

It wasn’t just the rabble in the AIF who destroyed the Wazir as those involved included men such as Joe Maxwell, VC, MC and Bar, and DCM http://www.maxwellsociety.com/Biography/Heros.htm

VD rates weren’t much better when the AIF was in France, which suggests that French prostitutes weren’t much healthier than their Egyptian sisters. Or maybe the AIF infected all the French prostitutes with Egyptian VD.

Don’t know, RS*. It a sort of horror of war, if only because wars, sieges, rapine etc. tend to result in an exponential expansion in the quantity of wick dipping (consensual and otherwise), much appreciated by VD bugs and viruses. Regarding poetry … I recall a very enjoyable self-mocking Aussie comedy tv show from Many Years Ago. One sketch it aired featured representatives of about six nations, declaiming trite little verses praising their own countries. The last proved to be an Aussie (what is the term ?) ocker-type, complete with string vest, slouch hat dangling corks, and sweat. His contribution ? “Only poofs write poetry !”. Not sure you would get away with that, even in Oz … Very best regards, JR.

Nowadays we can’t get away with anything before the fun police pounce.

Back in the old days, only a few decades ago, Australia’s rich intellectual history of the type to which you refer was encapsulated in this vignette.