On Latrines & Flame Throwers
by Stanley Scislowski
Perth Regt, 5th CDN ARMD DIV, 1943-1945

Editor's Note -- A version of the following story appeared in Stan's original book, entitled NOT ALL OF US WERE BRAVE, published in 1997 by Dundurn Press, Toronto, ISBN 1550022989. The book is still available through Chapters.ca - please click HERE for purchase information! (a new window will open).

The Po Valley, Italy -- It was just inside the Po Plains where the incident happened, at the crossroads hamlet of San Giustina a few miles inland from Rimini. We’d been pulled back from the front for a three-day rest, not out of range of Jerry artillery, but safely out of range of mortars and small-arms fire. The usual first thing we had to take care of was to dig a latrine close by our quarters, but not too close. As those who know, latrines are for the use of personal hygiene in the field. They are never much different in the way of design or construction, being usually an 8-foot long trench about 18 inches wide and anywhere from a foot to five feet in depth depending on the length of the unit’s stay in the area. The officers’ latrines were different only in that theirs almost always had burlap screening to shield their precious bums from public and army gaze. On the other hand, the lower ranks, officially known as ‘other ranks’ deserved no such protection of their modesty. 
Comes a Moment of Truth:  three Privates are hunkered over their latrine, and not ten feet away, three officers are crouched over theirs. This time there’s no screen to hide the officers’ shame. Our shame is their shame. I take a discreet sideways glance and notice without surprise that their bums are not much different than ours. A little bulkier, perhaps, and certainly not any prettier. And so, there sit the six of us, officers and privates - brothers-in-arms, crouching in the humbling bliss common to such situations.
And now comes the hilarious part. Far across the stubble-covered farm-land, a good hundred yards or more off to our right front, I notice a former platoon commander of mine instructing a crowd of newly-arrived reinforcements on the workings and capabilities of a flame-thrower. Nothing amiss yet, and so we continued in our immodest, but oh so necessary function. However, just as I am about to lose myself in deep literary thought, I see that officer far across the field is pointing the nozzle of the flame-thrower in our direction. Then, all of a frightening sudden, a long looping arc of smoky flame is coming straight at us. Momentary panic. Instinct has us gripping our trousers to make a quick exit, but then the three of us Privates realize that the flame would fall far short of us, and we relax and stay put.
Not so the officers! In trying to jerk their trousers up for a fast getaway, they can’t get them past their knees, and instead of running, they take off like three scared little bunny-rabbits, hippity-hopping across the stubble, their trousers bunched up around their shins. Their once ruddy-complexioned faces are as white as the white of their bare behinds. Laugh? I don’t think any of us three Privates had ever laughed so hard as we do now,  watching the officers’ hasty and restricted departure. I hadn’t laughed with such vigour since the ‘blown-up’ condom incident in the Bari Opera House. In fact, in laughing so hard I damn near come to falling over backward into the mess behind me. Meanwhile, across the field, the crowd of reinforcements is literally rolling on the ground in their glee. When the officers recover their composure, cleanse themselves and adjust their trousers, the pain of their sorry performance is written in ugly scowls on their faces.Should they report to the C.O. the foul deed perpetrated upon them by a fellow officer, it’s likely the C.O. will split a gut laughing himself.
And so it goes.

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