Human beings can only survive a few days without water, and dehydration rapidly saps the physical and mental strength of an individual. Thereforeit is essential that troops in the field are adequately hydrated. Whilst use is made of any sources of clean water that can be found, often these are unavailable and more questionable sources such as ponds or streams need to be used. Obviously this water cannot be drunk just as it is, first it needs to be filtered to remove larger particulates, a millbank bag was often used for this purpose, and then it needs to be sterilised to remove microscopic parasites and bacteria. To do this soldiers in the second world war and after were issued sterilising kits. These consisted of a small olive drab tin with green lettering:Opening the tin up we can see folded cardboard to protect the contents:Under the cardboard is a pair of glass jars with screw lids:These contain two chemicals, one to kill any bacteria and a second to remove the unpleasant chlorine taste left by the first. These examples have screw lids:This indicates that the set is a later example; earlier ones used corks for sealing the jars. The inside of the lid gives instructions for the use of the outfit:Despite the chemical to remove the taste, the water still had a distinctly chlorinated flaour. If possible soldiers brewed it into tea to help hide the taste, as Ken Tout recalled
To drink we add boiling water, stinking with chlorination, to a few teaspoons of Compo tea, a mixture of tea leaves, powdered milk and grey sugar.
One can’t imagine this tasted brilliant, but it was probably more palatable than the plain water.