And yet that is what Julia’s grandfather’s job was. Cyril Joseph Moroney was barely 18 years of age when he enlisted in the AIF, service number 5734, on 14 January 1916 at Liverpool NSW. A former clerk by occupation, young Cyril had spent five years in the naval reserve, although I’m not sure that would have qualified him in any way to deal with the awful reality of the muddy bloody battlefields of The Somme!
Cyril left Sydney on SS Kyara on 3 June 1916 and was suffering from trench feet and rheumatism by November the same year. He was admitted to the 1st Australian General Hospital in Rouen after serving in Belgium, and was then shipped to England on HS Asturias to recover. My grandfather Harold also received medical attention in a Rouen hospital two years later.
According to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_foot
“Trench foot is a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions….the use of the word trench in the name of this condition is a reference to trench warfare, mainly associated with World War I.
Affected feet may become numb, affected by erythema (turning red) or cyanosis (turning blue) as a result of poor blood supply, and may begin emanating a decaying odour if the early stages of necrosis (tissue death) set in. As the condition worsens, feet may also begin to swell. Advanced trench foot often involves blisters and open sores, which lead to fungal infections; this is sometimes called tropical ulcer (jungle rot). If left untreated, trench foot usually results in gangrene, which may require amputation. If trench foot is treated properly, complete recovery is normal, though it is marked by severe short-term pain when feeling returns.
Unlike frostbite, trench foot does not require freezing temperatures; it can occur in temperatures up to 16° Celsius (about 60° Fahrenheit) and within as little as 13 hours. Exposure to these environmental conditions causes deterioration and destruction of the capillaries and leads to morbidity of the surrounding flesh. Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) has long been regarded as a contributory cause; unsanitary, cold, and wet conditions can also cause trench foot.
Trench foot can be prevented by keeping the feet clean, warm, and dry. It was also discovered in World War I that a key preventive measure was regular foot inspections; soldiers would be paired and each made responsible for the feet of the other, and they would generally apply whale oil to prevent trench foot. If left to their own devices, soldiers might neglect to take off their own boots and socks to dry their feet each day, but if it were the responsibility of another, this became less likely. Later on in the war, instances of trench foot began to decrease, probably as a result of the introduction of the aforementioned measures; of wooden duckboards to cover the muddy, wet, cold ground of the trenches; and of the increased practice of troop rotation, which kept soldiers from prolonged time at the front.”
Trench foot was first documented by Napoleon’s army in 1812 and was prevalent in the retreat from Russia. It made a reappearance in the British Army during the Falklands War. There are even some people reported to have trench feet from attending music festivals in Glastonbury and Leeds due to prolonged exposure to wet, cold and muddy conditions at those events."
Having served with the 2nd Battalion as a driver, Private Moroney was later assigned to the Australian Army Medical Corps. He served in France and Taranto Italy with the 9th Australian Field Ambulance. Cyril returned to Australia on 10 August and was discharged from AIF on 25 September 1919.
Just prior to Anzac Day 1933 Cyril wrote to Victoria Barracks in Melbourne from his home in Croydon Park seeking a copy of his discharge papers, the originals having been burnt several years before, to enable him to apply for a position on the census staff in Canberra. He also asked if his medals were available as he had never received them.
He mustn’t have received his discharge papers because he wrote again in June 1935 requesting a copy in order to apply for relief work with Canterbury Council. The reason given on a statutory declaration dated 2 September 1935 was that his discharge papers were “lost through fire when (his) camp was burnt out some years ago”. Remember that the Great Depression of the 1930s made finding work very difficult for so many.
Julia’s mother Margaret told me that her father enlisted again in WWII despite his opposition to war after witnessing how those in control of the forces used the soldiers in the battlefields. This had made him very bitter towards the establishment. He served on home soil and died far too young just before his 43rd birthday on 13 November 1942. In 1949 Julia’s grandmother applied for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. Lest we forget!