Originally Posted by JDCMasters
The fields were muddy or dusty; oil, grease, exhaust, ammo flash; dirty hands; and not a lot of fresh soapy water to really get down and use those elbows all add up to a thin film of grime over most things, IMHO. Just my 2 stotinki...
And those same fields contained nice seargants with ideas that 'men' left unworked inclined to evil and therefore cleaning (amongst other menial tasks) was gainful employment. They also contained many officers representing (at least for the British and probably the German) a social class used to servants whose place was naturally to keep things clean for them - anything less was an affront. They were also part of an army with traditions of routine around presentation of equipment and sanctions if standards dropped below certain levels.
About the only time you hear of these standards being dropped for the British is during the German offensives of 1918.
Also for a lot of the war, airfields were static fixtures and facillities were not that primitive as a result.
I agree with Peter, keeping aircraft clean was a means of maintaining performance in these aircraft as well as a standard maintainance task - cleaning is a damm fine way of checking for developing flaws in an aircraft - and it was done after every flight - circumstances permitting.
This doesn't mean of course there weren't dirty old aircraft out there at all. But whether they were the norm? I'm not so sure they were......