[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]
Sir, The impediments to the advance of the British troops on the Danube, through a wasted country, from the imperfections of the commissariat and the want of means of transport, as mentioned in your correspondence of to-day, induce me to request a small space in your columns for a suggestion which, if acted on, would enable our army to march for many days with little other encumbrance than the artillery and ammunition. Knowing how the war departments are beset by projects of every kind, I consider it useless to address them, but if a proposal appears in The Times, after the rapid but keen glance of its editor, there is hope that it will be considered in the proper quarter.
The fibre of beef or mutton may be dried, when cut in thin slices, by exposure to a strong current of warm air, so as to lose four-fifths of its original weight, and yet retain all its nutritive qualities. In this state, if put up in waterproof bags, so as to exclude the damp air, from which it would attract moisture, it will keep sound, as long as it remains perfectly dry, in any climate. Meat thus dried is perfectly palatable and wholesome without further cooking, and a portion of it with a pint of tea with or without sugar, would furnish an excellent and substantial meal to the soldier. One pound of the thoroughly dried meat is equal to six of the fresh meat, including bone, and by all accounts bone is the preponderating component part of the beef issued to the troops in Bulgaria. Thirty pounds of the dried meat and 10 ounces of tea, which, if the pack be dispensed with, may be carried by the soldier, would render him independent of all other supplies of provision for 20 days; and if he had the fortune to obtain a few rations of biscuit, flour, or vegetables in that time, he might by stowing his meat, vary his meals and lengthen the period of its consumption.
On a forced march a good blanket is an excellent substitute for a greatcoat and the entire contents of a pack. In rainy weather it may be thrown over the shoulders and secured on the breast by a gun worm, acting as a brooch. It is less cumbersome and constraining than the military greatcoat, leaves the arms free for immediate action, and turns a great deal of wet. When not needed in that way it should be rolled up in a light waterproof sheet, which is itself an excellent thing to spread on the damp ground of a bivouac, whether grass be procurable or not. The deep, rectangular, almost square pack is a most fatiguing burden on a march and I have seen more than one poor fellow sink down by the wayside and expire under its load and that of the rest of his accoutrements. The higher the load is placed on the shoulders the easier is it to carry, and the easiest position of all for a burden on a long journey is on the back of the neck, supported on the swell of the shoulders, and secured in its place by a band crossing the forehead. So placed, it leaves freedom of action to the muscles chiefly concerned in locomotion.
The suggestions here thrown out are not theoretical, but the result of many years’ experience of one who has not only marched with troops in the field during the last war, but also made long pedestrian journeys through countries not less barren and inhospitable than the Dobrudscha.
I am, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,