Excerpt Translated by Jan Krancher, California, USA

After WWII, in an effort to re-establish control of its colony from 1947-1949 the Dutch instigated a “Politionele Acties” (police action) by sending  troops back to Indonesia.  To ease the transition for the troops and prepare them, a guidebook was published titled “Scheepspraet”. It is interesting to note the actual meaning of the word “scheepspraet” as several Dutch speakers were queried on this word.  Apparently, it is not used today and is thought to derive from the era of the V.O.C. (Dutch East India Company) of the 1600’s – literally translated it is loosely “ship talk”.   The guidebook was created for the troop ships heading for Indonesia instructing them on how to cope with life on ship as well as on ground once they landed in the tropics.

An estimated 30,000 copies, comprising of 17 chapters, were distributed amongst personnel.  In January, 2009 it was reissued replicating the original book from 1947.  Offered only out of the Netherlands, it makes for a very interesting read for grandchildren to see what it was like for a soldier sixty years ago being sent to the tropics by ship.

“Scheepspraet” describes living conditions on troop transport ships and itemizes hygienic practices on the ground.   Dutch military servicemen were advised of the following as presented under the heading “Hygiene in the Tropics”:

  1. Discard your toilet paper upon arrival.  Replace with “botol tjebok,” a bottle or small canister with water.  This practice will prevent you from getting small wounds or anal fissures and is therefore more sanitary.
  2. Wash your hands frequently, especially after each meal.
  3. Never leave your mess kit, cup, fork, spoon or knife uncovered.  Secure them in such a manner so that flies and mosquitoes cannot have access to them.  These lovely small insects are a menace and cause contamination.
  4. Never leave spices or food residue uncovered.
  5. Never eat in your living space!  You invariably will spill some even without being aware it.  Ants will detect these morsels. It won’t be long before you will be overrun by these unpleasant domestic critters.
  6. If you want to preserve your food, place your mess kit inside a barrel of water.  Ants are poor navigators.
  7. You can guard your fruit against ant attacks by suspending them up high by a thread. Bananas are a good candidate for this precaution.
  8. If you have neglected to adhere to these instructions and your food is crawling with ants, toss it out; otherwise you are inviting “infection” which is not good for your constitution and may even cause death.
  9. Regarding fruit, if still unpeeled, expose it to full sunlight. Ants thoroughly despise the sun.
  10. You should not store cigars or cigarettes exposed, not even in a carton.  A sealable canister or Mason jar with a pinch of tea, salt, magnesium or pure lime is the treatment of choice. They won’t become flaccid and unusable.
  11. If you don’t want your clothing or outfit to deteriorate for good, take special precautions during the rainy season. A) Bedding, including klamboe (mosquito netting) should be sundried daily, if at all possible. B) Clothing, equipment, books, etc. should also be subjected to the same treatment at least twice a week.  During the dry monsoon, for bedding as well as other items, drying once a week will be sufficient.
  12. Never place your shoes in the sunlight but  air  dry instead.
  13. Always hang your clothes inside out or they will discolor.
  14. Water from a suspect source can only be consumed after boiling for ten minutes.  This is critical advice and needs to be heeded.  If not, the tropics are known to be indiscriminate in the spreading of typhus and dysentery. This also holds true for water used for brushing teeth and water for washing utensils.  Brush teeth with tea water instead.  Cooks should not neglect to make boiling water available in which utensils can be immersed.
  15. If you leave the garbage bin open, within a short time you will have a fly infestation on your hands.
  16. It is also essential to bury food scraps in the ground and covered with at least 20cm of soil.
  17. Wash your dirty clothes daily.  If not, the odor of sweat in the room will become unbearable.
  18. To prevent spots from forming on your binocular lens, camera or movie unit, follow the same instruction as for tobacco (item 10.)

“As a general rule, don’t try to act macho and think you know better than seasoned inhabitants of the tropics”.

Scheepspraet was published  in 1947 by the Leger Voorlichtings Dienst in the Hague, the Netherlands.   Re-issued in 2009 by Elsevier available only in the Netherlands.

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