3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Saturday 31 March 1917 – Lewis gun exam, swimming, boxing

Lewis gun instruction ~ had a swim ~ Cook Islanders jolly fit & intelligent ~ boxing competition ~ played piano at C of E ~ 25th birthday ~ tea at Victory Tea Rooms

Saturday 31 March 1917

Dear Ruth

I haven’t my little letter diary with me but think it must be about your turn. It was about Monday or Tuesday night when I posted my last to father. This is number 3. I’m not putting numbers on the outside of envelope flap cos of course I don’t seal my letters and you’ll come across them all right this way. I don’t think I’ve transgressed much in putting in forbidden things, have I? How do the letters arrive? Are they legible and untouched by blue pencil or are they scored out left and right. We never hear that we have committed any sins in this respect. If we do it would be good to tell us so as we could avoid it another time. Do you know where we are anyway? If so just mention the place in your next letter if you haven’t already done so and I’ll tell you whether you are right or not. You certainly ought to know before this.

I’ve been sending away a few p cards to let a few people know I’ve not forgotten them and I intend to write sometime. We’ve had our second exam in connection with our Lewis gun class this morning Saturday. I scored 98% on ‘mechanism’ and the other day I got 90% on description of the parts. The thing is easy enough as you may judge by the above results – I dare say before we are through it may be harder to score so well especially in the practical demonstration of our knowledge – the shooting. On Thursday morning I was through my examination early as was Frank Jones in his bunch so we went down and had a good swim and back before dinner. Best swim I’ve had since one of those last days at Glenelg.

You should see how the Cook Islanders kick around in the water. They seem to be marched down there quite frequently and they do enjoy it. Some of them speak English well: they have attended English schools in their own island or maybe some of them have been to the larger schools in New Zealand. They seem jolly fit and intelligent lot of soldiers. One of them a Sgt put up a very good show at the boxing and was beaten only in the semi-finals by an SA man (Gardner) and 3rd Light Horse on Thursday Night. Fred Hollis is another of our chaps so of course we are proud of being well represented tonight in the finals: these two, Hollis and Gardner, will not meet as they are in different weights. I hope Fred will win but reckon it will be a tough go.

Nothing startling has happened this week because we have been constantly employed with our schools: very much because – as I’ll tell you directly but one noteworthy event happened on Thursday – 3 days after a cable was sent from GPO Adelaide – it arrived here! A wee bit early because there are still 2 days to go – but that’s no matter – it was fine to have the ‘wishes’ and such ‘right off the ice’ news viz that you were all well and had received our letters from here – or at least those written and posted as soon as we left the boat – understood! That sentence may be rather complicated but the sense is there – I hope you can find it! I was thinking myself of sending a cable along – and probably will do so before long so you can have some recent news too.

We heard on Friday that we were to see Jack, Arch, Herb and Phil today or tomorrow –  you know where they are and we were not half pleased – it’s only a tale! So all the morning was spent in preparation – cleaning, packing etc when just before dinner word came around that ‘because’ aforementioned and we dropped down flop! Men could not be permitted to leave the school during the course – so it seems – and so others were out in our places and they went this morning in same way as Jack H did last Saturday. Has Mrs H heard of it? I wonder. Jack sent a card to tell her and was going to write further from out there.

Monday evening 2 April 1917 [Spencer’s 25th birthday]

Good day to you all and sweet be your snoring – at about 3 o’clock tomorrow morning! Thought I’d finish this off and post tonight in case there are any mails closing and tell you I’ve arrived safely at No 25 as you are aware. The chaps in the tent wished for me that I might spend the next in Australia which I guess is quite possible and likely – all accidents and bad weather excepted. I remember the last – a Sunday just after I was sent to Perth. I went over to the Wellies at South Perth for part of the day – and I took part of my cake from my room in the lodging house of my dear Miss Jones. I wonder if Miss Jones has a lodger yet – a young man, a student – or any sich in the little nest she wanted me to occupy. She was a break up.

I’ve had nothing special doing today: going on with our M Gun studies – what’s that? Studies? We’ll let it go at that if you like but it’s scarcely study – we know more about working them though than when we started. I believe some of the chaps are to go into a similar school near the big city – tomorrow or very soon. Fred Hollis is amongst them he told me tonight. Fred won his match on Saturday night to the great joy of his friends: he had a pretty good go but I think he knew too much for the other man. Our other 3 LH man Gardiner also won in his class. After the boxing was finished a few pictures were shown: they were pretty fair. I may go sometimes – I think they are to be on about every night.

Yesterday I did what I said I would  – someday when we were all gathered here for church service. The chaplain said he was without a player – and called for a volunteer to bang the goanna [piano]. So after a hurried consultation with myself I hopped up. He chose fairly well known hymns so of course I didn’t break down: and I didn’t drag it out as if we were at a funeral. Stayed afterwards to the communion service. It’s CE and rather longer than we are accustomed to – but I like to stay sometimes: Captain O’Halloran is a fine genuine man for men I reckon.

After dinner some of us went over to see some stones, picked up in different parts of Egypt by the man who showed them to us. They were marked in the grain in all shapes and fashions – animals, birds, people – it’s wonderful how they are marked, just picked up more or less haphazard by this man who had been here about two years. Later on our ‘tent’ and Fred H went into the town. We had a drive out a bit – saw the dinkum canal and some other interesting things and arrived back at the usual ‘Victory Tea Rooms’ for a good meal of eggs, ham or vegetable etc and coffee and cocoa. It’s a welcome change now and again from our good regular tucker and tea here. Some of the chaps stayed on town till pretty late but Fred and I came home soon after tea: bought some nice oranges and dinky biscuits at the NZ soldiers club on the way home. We were both pretty tired and ready for our cots when we got back.

I’m finishing this in the tent – had to clear out from the YM on account of lights out at 9 o’clock. Our lights have to be out at 10 o’clock sharp. Just now our house contains 2 sleepers – one reading in bed (Les) and one stewing gun tricks (Frank). We have 5 in here now – a chap lately from hospital named Clutterham is the fifth. I think I must be about out of news or else I’m getting sleepy. Seems it’s getting late for a little sojer [soldier] to be out of bed.

Hope the kinder is going alright! Strikes me you and father between you must have supplied most of the furniture for your school: if it does go bung at any time you had better have a clearing sale of the stuff and take out your screw! How does that work out this year? Any more than last? And do you get what’s due to you without much begging? When are you going swimming next – no I mean rower cos I’ll fly over and have tea with you if you like. How about next week? It’ll be about full moon then! Bring some of mother’s scones and don’t forget the butter. We can buy potted butter here but we don’t as a rule: the local stuff is goat’s or buffaloes or something – I dunno. It’s very pale looking stuff and doesn’t taste much.

Well there goes ‘last post’ so I have 15 minutes to make my bed and get into it and put out the candle which stands near me on a treacle tin so good night with love to you all

from Spence

If my next is too late many happy returns for Father’s and Mother’s birthdays.