3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Monday 26 February 1917 – musketry training, sand bath, footy match

Musketry training ~ railway station ~ Egyptian dress & appearance ~ sand bath ~ scratch footy match

Isolation No 2
Moascar (censored with blue pencil)
Monday 26 February 1917

Dear Mack

Here’s to you again. Believe I have to write up from about last Wednesday so I’ll refer occasionally to my diary which, thanks to Jeff Hartley, I’m keeping after a fashion. I’m on the floor of our tent so it’s pretty awkward with nothing to write on. My fountain pen is going alright and I use it as a rule but feel lazy tonight so please do your best and excuse this ‘leadie’ scrawl. Our old kero hurricane lantern does not show a very splendid light either so I may get off the track a bit.

We are doing musketry now but I’ll tell of that later. Our ‘noc’ of last Tuesday was nothing very desperate and on Saturday 2pm we had another which was the cause of a sore arm or two but we are all OK now. Last Wednesday night Lance and …

letter19170226

Tuesday … and that’s as far as I got last night. Fellows come in yarning – we soon got sleepy and all went early to bed. It’s necessary too these nights cos we have to be up by 5.20am and out at ranges at 6. But as I was going to say – Last Wednesday night Lance, Phil, Herb and I took a walk over to the big camp for another look around and for something to do. The sentries here are pretty harmless. I heard one protest the other day when a bunch of chaps crossed the boundary line and his beat  – a bit close to the guard tent, ‘Eh cut it out there, walk round a bit!’ indicating the part to which his back was turned – of course we have not been officially told that we must stop in here – if it were so we might perhaps act differently: all we know is that this place is named Isolation Camp. But for what reason – well I dunno.

We saw plenty of Tommies again and others of our own chaps. We bought up a few table necessaries at the canteen store and had a look at the station at which we de-trained the other night. There was a long train in full up of chaps leaving for a cooler climate and more fight. The carriages here are fairly decent, just second and third class, and some corridor carriages on all the trains for travelling a long distance I think, and decently padded. The 3rd class – which is supposed to be good enough for common soldiers is fairly roomy and clean if no Gyppos are in with you though the seats are hard wood – long style of compartments with short seats divided like our new sort with a passage down the middle. The officials are Egyptian – all I have seen – stationmasters, porters, navvies or engine drivers, some of course look a bit cleaner and more intelligent than the ‘scum’ which kicks round generally. Their engines too are A1, fine big strong ones, British built mostly and with the numbers on in both letterings ie 377, [arabic numbers] not those signs but something just as readable to me.

We travelled 3rd class coming up from Port Tewfik and had a comfie enough journey, were not too crowded and we had brought some stuff to eat and water in our bottles. It was only a little over 3 hours anyway. We had a walk along that night to another carriage which was filled with natives. They don’t look bad at a distance but when you get close to a crowd of them the air seems to sort of change colour – or some sich. Some of the men wear English dress, some robes and some rags and many a glorious disarrangement of all combined. The women wear robes, all Eastern style and nearly cover their faces.

[written at side of page: I’ve been told since that we must not put the name Moascar at the top of our letters – but may embody it like this is done]

You can see their 2 dark eyes looking out at you – one on either side of some short bamboo arrangement which they nearly all wear straight up and down their noses: don’t know whether it’s pinched on or wired there [see example https://goo.gl/SP6DQV  and in Arthur Streeton portrait Fatma Habiba]- just part of their weird make up: also they mostly wear plenty of tawdry jewellery – earrings, bracelets – brassy and beady – necklaces of beads etc & anklets of brass or iron.I have seen one at least – & I guess it’s not uncommon – with a ring in her nose! How’d you like that? And these people were here and civilised before the poor British race was thought of! I may not be much of a judge – but I reckon our civilization is an improvement in some ways at least on the old. The kids here are dressed in much the same fashion as their elders. I’m glad it wasn’t my fortune to be born an Egyptian of the class round here – Ismailia – at any rate.

I think I told you of the YM hall over yonder: well there was a song service & address by a Mr Bradley there on Wed night. He was a good speaker – apparently an English minister – we arrived there and heard 10 minutes of his speech & 2 hymns which were well sing by the soldiers who pretty nearly crowded out the building.

On Thursday I was still in the office here – but saw Sgt Campbell re getting out & he promised to put someone else in which happened the next morning – & I’m right clear now I guess.

I had a good bath on Thursday – out on the sand near the water tap: got a tin (basin!) of water & with the aid of my face washer had a tip top wash and rub up afterwards: it’s too cold & we scarcely have time anyway these mornings – before the ‘fall-in’.

On Friday I was out for musketry instruction. Great excitement at night when the first batch of letters arrived: & then one or two more small lots came over before bedtime – but although most chaps scored one or more my luck was out and not a solitary one did I get: thought you must have forgotten me even so soon! On Saturday after brek we were on fatigue work about the lines: pulled down our tents and spread them out for 2 hours away from their places & let the sun in on the floors.

We were off duty after the 2 o’clock inoculation so picked up sides & played a scratch footie match with a round ball which Mr Heath brought for us. It was an interesting game and good fun. All 3 units were mixed up in it: I was playing back near our opponents goals most of the day & was kept fairly busy by their forwards. In the end they beat us by a goal odd – about 3-6 to 2-5 I think. That might have accounted for part of the stiffness felt next morning by lots of us in the legs & arms – but nobody’s dead yet. None of 23/3 have left us yet for sickness or any other reason.

As usual we went pretty early to bed after the excitement of a footer match – & I was just on asleep when I became conscious of someone striking a match & a voice asking if ‘Kentish is here?’ I woke up properly when I found that it was a chap from the 3rd details camp over here – with 4 letters for me – & incidentally a few letters and papers for some others of our fellows. These – instead of being sent to us here – were for some reason or no reason sent to t’other camp – anyhow that didn’t matter much & we thanked our unknown mail friend. I got the bottle & candle over by my bunk & proceeded leisurely to see what was doing! (Course I wasn’t pleased with myself – ‘dick’!). I could see one was from Dorc – one I didn’t know – from Adelaide – which proved to be from Elf & enclosed was a fly net – I have 2 already. The flies are at present most conspicuous by their absence, but later on we are told to expect a visit from them.

My 2 other letters were from Fremantle – & as I guessed – from Jean Gilmore & Miss Ashton. Miss A said she wrote for me to get the letter soon after arrival & just to let me know she was wondering how I was spending my time on that particular Sunday – at sea. She hopes I’ll write a card to her now & again: I may.

Jean G wrote an accompaniment to a letter which they had received from me from Mother – & which was to be posted on at the same time – but it has not arrived so I guess it is somewhere on or off the track. They had had a letter from Mother – & had sent my wire – tho by Dorc’s letter I reckon Mr Gilmour must have sent a bit on his own – I mean added to what I gave him – I don’t remember giving any particulars as to time off – tho I said I’d seen the Gilmours. Good on his pluck anyhow. And Jean has commissioned me to give Ken her love the minute I see him – cos she loves him best of anyone in the world!!

I was surprised to hear of Wit’s expected early departure – by Dorc’s letter – this news. It’s a jolly good job she did write that afternoon from the Uni or I’d have had nix at all from home. Guess though that I’ll get the missing one next trip.

Guess your Largs ‘party’ enjoyed the 19/27 concert all right – that khaki item was probably very realistic and true to fact – perhaps not quite crude enough, because done up for a concert. I’ve already seen it out here a time or two – square dinkum. Bad luck if those chaps had to leave as 24/10 after all their ‘kidding’ as 19/27 – poor old Wit! Hope he will get on all right. I wonder if Fred Hollis has left yet – we are expecting the 2 up’s anytime now – young Laffer and Wagner are due to arrive with them.

Good luck for Lic & WH [West Hindmarsh] School! & Ruth & her kindergarten – & I spose you are still at Woodville as nothing was said to the contrary.

Sorry to hear of Reg Addison – Jack Taylor’s brother who was here in the 9th died the day we landed of pneumonia: Jack hadn’t seen him for 8 years & of course didn’t see him here. That was pretty stiff luck.

Well I’ll cut this out & post again soon to Father. Think it’s about his turn now. Good day.

Spence

ismailia_train_station2c_egypt_1915-_indian_troops_are_lined_up_in_front_of_it
Ismailia Train Station, Egypt 1915. Ismailia was the nearest town to the camp at Moascar. Photo courtesy William David McWilliams (http://nam.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/5865) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Advertisements