Deep Bore Hole Latrine

May 30, 2009

Originally uploaded by Brian Spittle

In his note ‘Sanitation And All That’ written towards the end of his captivity, my father summed up the early camp arrangements — or lack of them — for personal hygiene. It was a critical concern, especially during the first weeks and months at Changi, and one that he would return to again and again in his notes from that period.

“Defecation veered from a stark, natural & individual affair to crude open communal pits, both with & without a horizontal bar support & in which the feces were all too infrequently covered over. It was only when things became more organized when labour, tools & materials were available, that the deep trench & bore-hole came into their own. These latter were fitted with either an European type or an Asiatic squatter superstructure, and the whole protected as far as possible from flies and screened from the sun, the rain & the public gaze. Urination, too, was promiscuously practised in those early days but later was regulated by the erection of proper troughs discharged into soakaways.”

Sanitation And All That, 1945

The deep bore-hole latrine became ubiquitous at Changi.  According to my father’s notes from around March or April of 1942, it was constructed as follows.(His use of the word “admirable” in the segment below would seem to indicate that his standards were already undergoing some reassessment.)

“These latrines are constructed by boring a vertical hole into the ground 18″ in diameter and about 20 ft. deep.  A special borer is used for this purpose.  A metal cylinder, such as a cut-down oil drum, is then placed over the top of the hole & dug into the ground so as to make it secure.  Certain framed wicker chair seats with the wicker work cut away make admirable seats.  A fly-proof lid, preferably of metal, must also be provided.”

Book C, 87.

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