3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Sunday 4 March 1917 – Moascar Camp, shooting practice, Ismailia

Marched to Moascar Camp ~ football match ~ practice shooting on the ranges ~ office work & guard duty ~ walked to Ismailia

Details Camp
1st LH Training Regiment
Sunday 4 March 1917

Dear Father

We are due in a few minutes for church parade so I’ll just make a start with this now & continue later. A crowd of us were told off for Guard this morning – to be ready at 3.45pm. They change the guards here at 5 o’clock in the afternoon & keep on the same way, 2 hours on & 4 hours off – for 24 hours.

We have been here only 2 days, so have not lost much time in getting guard, but that is reckoned a regular peculiarity of this camp. It’s my first turn in Egypt anyhow – in over two weeks.

On Friday morning up at Isolation Camp we were about early and before brek had packed out kits & rolled our blankets which were loaded on wagons – one for each unit. After breakfast we marched over to Moascar camp headquarters & there parted. Mr Throssell & the WA chaps went to their quarters, the 9th to theirs close to the 10th, but we had to go back a fair distance to our part of the camp & we are now ‘at home’ in what is known as 1st LH Training Regiment – comprised I think of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Regiment’s details.

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After an inspection by a major we had to get to work & put up tents for ourselves & then we we were left alone for the rest of the day. We had to split up to 5 & 6 in each tent (5 tents for the 33) so our old clan held a meeting & decided to draw lots for the 2 who should go out – these fell on Lance Neville & Archie Blue & they are now camped with Camp, Dunk & Murray – 3 NCOs who have lost their stripes as is usually the case when they arrive here. We were sorry to have to cut up our company & especially as Arch has been tent commander right through, but it had to be.

We had several chaps looking round our lines on Friday night for any friends of theirs newly arrived: one who came in was Corporal Billy Gill – an old Kyrian & a friend of Les Williams and Jack Hardwicke. I never have met him before but I’ve heard Mrs Hoolie talk of him – ‘Bullocky’ Gill they called him. His brother left Mitcham in artillery just a bit before we came away & his sister is Hilda Gill whom Dorry knows. Billy is in the 11th Regiment – a Queensland lot & told us a lot of interesting news about this country & the Turks & the fighting & showed us snap shots he had taken of lots of places.

On Saturday morning we had tent shifting job which kept us going till nearly dinner time. A football match was on against the 9th in the afternoon & as the 3rd team was a bit short some of us – new arrivals – were picked. We lost by about 4 goals – though we had a good game of it: the scores were about 4:8 to 8:7, not sure exactly. I played back 3 quarters & I the ruck in the other & kicked one goal. Seemed like old times having a footie match for Saturday afternoon.

Tea afterwards – bread & jam & cheese. We got stew for midday meal here & cold meat for breakfast. Had porridge too this morning (Monday) & yesterday: hope that will happen often.

Yesterday instead of church parade at 9am we guard-men were fallen in for a bit of unnecessary drill – cos we know the work – & I didn’t get any further with my writing. After dinner we had to clear up our stuff & get dressed up like prize monkeys for guard. At each of two inspections we were complimented by the officer concerned on the fine looking turn out – for my part tho I’d sooner have a spell on Sunday. That is not to say we are worked hard tho on other days. We have had very easy time here so far.

Starting last Monday we did a bit of practice shooting on the ranges starting at 100 yards & working back to the 400 mark. It was interesting work of course & some did pretty well. My scores passed me alright tho the average wobbled a bit low at times. At 100 yards – ‘grouping’ – I scored 4 bulls in 5 shots but scored only 15/25 – a scattered group. At 200 yards ‘application’ ie taking your own time & having your hits signalled each time I scored 19/20 & sane range ‘rapid’ – at which we are given ½ minute to send 5 shots – I sent only 4 & scored 4 hits: not bad.

Next day at 300 yards – application I scored only 12/20 & in the rapid 7 hits out of 10 in a minute. It blew up dusty in the afternoon so we did not go shooting. On Wednesday we fired at same sized targets and bulls at 400 yards. At application I got 13/20 & at rapid I scored 3 hits out of 4 sent going in ½ minute. You have to start to open up your rifle & load etc when the targets appear & it doesn’t take long for them to go again. I was a bit slow too – didn’t have any practice at ‘dummy’ loading & unloading on account of my office job the week previous.

On Wednesday afternoon I was kept in again doing a bit more office work while the rest went shooting. However we had the same practice over again the next morning – so I didn’t miss it altogether. We were each given 10 rounds of ammunition & told off in sections of 12 (one man for each target) & starting at 400 yards & working by signals & orders passed along by a fire-commander in the middle of the line – we ran forwards on the appearance of targets & by order from the leader we had to flop down & bang at the figure ahead of us. They didn’t leave the targets up long & when they dropped we hopped up and ran in closed till at the last we had advanced to about 200 yards from them, sending charges as we went. It was good practice at quick shooting. I got off 9 shots and scored 4 bulls besides other hits on the target which didn’t count.

Herb Groves scored 9 bulls – the record – and one or two others got 6 & away down. That afternoon (Thursday) we had a scratch game of footie – teams picked from the 3 units: I happened to be on the winning side that time. It was a decent finish up to our stay in Isolation Camp which – on the whole- was a holiday: perhaps we will soon need to be soldiers now! It’s about time we started,

Here today – on the main Guard with me are Jack, Herb, Arch & Frank & others while Les, Lance & Phil are on a supply ie forage & stores guard elsewhere. It has not been to bad here: have to salute a fair number of officers in a day & keep moving of course when on our beat. Herb, Arch & I struck 3rd relief which means 9 to 11 & 3 to 5 both day & night. Our 3 to 5pm is the only one left now for us. We slept a bit early last evening & had a good sleep from 11 to 3 am. After 5 this morning we tumbled in but had only been in 1o minutes when all the Guard was turned out for the visiting official round. Then Reveille went at 5.45 so we did not catch up much this morning.

Herb & I were comparing our present states with home & wondering what was doing at various hours: we can guess pretty well what you are doing – I think the time difference is about 6 hours or 8 I’m not sure which – we are later of course: but it would be interesting now & again to let you see what we are doing. You can’t know exactly by just reading a few letters – it’s often pretty good fun, though ll sorts of things are not to your liking & time passes quickly enough without worry. An occasional bit of growling is neither here nor there.

We had a short church parade last Sunday (yesterday week) by Capt Heath at 7am up in Isolation Camp: that’s the only service in 3 Sundays here – but I think probably in this camp there service every Sunday so when we re not on guard we may be able to go. Mr Heath has gone on now for England & may get over to France later on: he hopes to.

After dinner last Sunday Frank, Phil, Lance & I strolled out of camp & walked into Ismailia – only 2 miles or so & much less from here – & spent a very interesting afternoon looking round streets, shops, parks & what not. We walked till we were tired – all shops & things were open same as any other day & it’s funny enough to see how the natives keep their places. I’ll write more of them later. We went toa clean looking place, kept by Italians & had a good tea of fried fish & eggs etc & after a bit more wandering & a short look round a YMCA room which we found near the station, we caught the train & went home to our sandy beds in the tent.

My word – I’ve heard a song about the time ‘when the sands of the desert grow cold’ – speaking as if it’s an unheard of thing! That poet should have gone to the desert before writing the song, because if ever ground get cold at night the sand here does & you don’t forget it if by any chance your clothes tumble off – we are cosy enough as a rule with our waterproof sheet & a blanket underneath & two more blankets on top; & if anything more is needed we have our own big overcoats & plenty of clothes. I’ve not needed yet to wear mittens or waistcoat or head muffler tho I guess the vest will be very handy when my issue cardigan jacket wears out.

The socks I have will last me a long time if I can get at them, but we will not be able to take much stuff out to the Regiment with us when we go. We hear that it may not be long. The 3’s are guarding a pipeline (water) at present; don’t know whether they’ll be in the next ‘scrap’ or not. At present we are fixed up A1 & nearly all our chaps are quite well. I’m feeling fine & have done all along – no heart-strain here.

Tell Mrs Tommy & Benny & Alex & all the rest I’m going to write to them some day. I often think of them when I squint at my watch; it has kept good time so far & had met with no more accidents since I had the face cover: it is very bright & plain to read at night – the darker the better.

Mother’s letter sent for me C/- Mrs Gilmour came along on Friday – the day we came over here & I was glad to have it. Must have gone out to the Regt & back – some others did the same trick. There is another mail about due I think – we hear there is a boat in.

Well it’s time I cleaned my rifle so I’ll get at it. We have our own rifles now & can look after them.

Love to you all.

Goodbye.

Spence

Ismailia – post card from Spencer’s WW1 album
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Street scene, Ismailia, c 1915
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