Health and hygiene on patrol - Hawea (Guv) Grey

Submitted by Editorial team on

Extract from an interview with Claire Hall, 14 December 2007

Reproduced with permission of Hawea (Guv) Grey

The saying is ‘the infantry marches on its feet', and that's something you look after religiously, you look after your feet. You know, if you're going to stop for any length of time, you take your boots off. By and large none of us wore socks because they didn't last, they'd rot. And if you did, you know, your feet would sweat and you'd end up with toe jam and all the other rubbish, you know. But you always made sure you cleaned your feet, dried your feet. The army gave you a towel about yea big. Well what we did was we cut it in half, because you didn't need all of it.

So that's about a metre?

Yeah. So you cut it in half, and you'd only carry, you know, half a metre of towel, and that was what you used, you used it as a scarf, you used it as a headband, you used it for drying your feet, you used it for wiping your body and all that type of thing. It's a wonder that, if you did have Tinea, you didn't spread it to every conceivable place in your body!

You were using the same towel for everything?

Yeah, the same towel, and the same towel for 10, 15 days, you know, and covered in sweat and rubbish, but you still used it and it was still good. Hygienically, I guess, we never had the best of hygiene; I mean we shaved in coffee. We shaved in coffee, you know, and we washed in something akin to a bottle top. Brush your teeth in a bottle top, if you brushed your teeth, you know with toothpaste, you just brushed your teeth, and had a gargle or something, because you didn't want to waste your water. Water was sort of at a premium in the dry areas. In the wet it was good. Of course we were lucky, we got both; we got the wet and the dry.


Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage

How to cite this page: ' Health and hygiene on patrol - Hawea (Guv) Grey ', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-Sep-2013