31 October 2002

Cyprus #2. The Latrines

OldEric says :-) H'mm, now there's a subject, but the background first. When we first arrived at Ayios Nikolaos camp our permanent accommodation was still in the process of being built so we were housed in tents, you know the type, heavy canvas, centre pole and square. Four to a tent with a wire-wove bed frame and a 5ft cupboard each.
Now that didn't bother us too much, we were in our early twenties and life was still an adventure, we were supplied with a paraffin heater for the cold nights which was open at the top and with a tin plate we could cook up a tin of baked beans, fry bacon or cook an egg if we got hungry and we did get hungry.
Now what bothered us each morning and night was the toilet block. This was a large wooden building 40 feet by 20 feet. Down each long side of the building were basins for washing with showers placed each end of the building. In the centre of the building were the toilets, these were two long rows of back to back cubicles just like public toilet cubicles down the centre of the building.
Now the problem, the toilets emptied a long drop, into a huge trench almost the 40 foot length of the building and the trench was about 6 feet wide and estimated at least 10-12 feet deep. Like most of Cyprus the ground was almost solid rock and the trench had to have been blasted out of the rock. Everything went into the trench including wash basin and shower water. To maintain hygiene a two inch film of oil based disinfectant floated on the top of the trench contents and everything passed through this layer of disinfectant barrier.
Even so the powerful smell of the disinfectant and stench of the trench contents leaking through and mixing together was overpowering to say the least. No one wasted time in the toilet block.
After we moved into our permanent accommodation some way off the toilet block, trench was getting full and had to be pumped out into huge tankers to be disposed of. The whole camp stunk for days. Many years later talking to an ex RAF man whom I happened to meet and had been stationed in Ayios Nikolaos, he told me the trench had been filled in a year or two after I left. Over time the toilet trench storey was often told over a beer and the trench became infamous.

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