3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Sunday 29 April 1917 – near the front, Turks flying over

Now out near the front ~ Turks flying over ~ overnight train out of Egypt ~ no tents, camped in the bush, lots of flies ~ has a little black horse ~ swimming in the Mediterranean

Camp [Palestine]
Sunday 29 April 1917

Dear Mother

Don’t know how long it is since I wrote to you. Here goes for a little bit before dark which won’t be long now.

We had some turkey [Turks] for tea tonight. That’s pretty high fare isn’t it but he was too high to digest – flew away overhead and called forth a merry welcome from our anti-aircraft guns and was given so much ‘hurry up’ that he couldn’t do any damage. He comes over frequently, morning and evening, and lays his hard boiled eggs broadcast – none have come near our little nest so far. We are not right up to date even yet as we expected the other day but are camped some miles behind the actual front, near enough to hear the big guns talking. A little visit like tonight’s from Jacko is more interesting that anything else and watching our shots banging after him or all round him sometimes. I’d like to see one hit him though.

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I handed Dorc’s letter to a Tommy to post for me just before leaving Cantara [Al Qantara] where we were waiting on Tuesday for our train. We bought some fruit and cake at a canteen there and so made our bread and bully last out and go down comfortably well. The train left at about 6pm with us poor noodle packed 25 in a truck and so we travelled all night until 9am on Wednesday – could not rest or sleep cos of lack of room – and plentiful bumps – but a couple of times we stretched our legs by standing up to have a look at the places we passed through – Romani, Ben El Ald [Bir El Abd] (where we got biscuits and cocoa at a nearby canteen at about 10.30pm), El Arish, Raffah [Rafah] – all old battlefields which our boys have won – until we left Egypt and ‘the desert’ behind. That’s good too now that the warm weather is coming on down there: it’s cooler up here generally.

I think though the day we lobbed was very hot. Also the day after but on Thursday night it rained! – get that – so you can see that we are in better country: tell Father that Mr Bratchell’s guess is quite right re our whereabouts but it’s hard work getting in as far as we want to be.

After we left the train on Wednesday morning we walked about a mile to our present dump and set about making ourselves comfy under some bushes and trees, just like a picnic, no tents but during the day we fix up a blanket or two for extra shade and at night it’s nice and fresh sleeping out. Joe Bilton, Frank Newman, Charlie Hiern and I, all 23/3 are camping, eating and whacking in together while we are here: we’re having meals cooked now for all the crowd but now and again we get fruit etc from the YM to have a bit extra at our feast in our little bivvie. Wish we could have left the flies behind. There are more here than ever. But thanks to our fly nets, skeeter netting etc we can live and sleep in some comfort. It’s worst at meal times but by much shooing and waving and wriggling we manage to get a bite now and again. Food is pretty good still. We are hot soldiers though! Every morning first thing we light up a little fire of our own and boil 2 quart pots of water and make cocoa for ourselves: get cocoa at YM canteen here.

Just a hurried finish – it’s Tuesday today and we are just off I think square the dink this time. 1st of May the date. I have a bonny little black horse – spot on his forehead and one or 2 white feet, not sure which. I’ll tell you his name later on. We were too busy all day yesterday to write – up at 3am and had to go up to head of line and bring back a lot of horses. Had two bonz swims since I’ve been here in the sea mentioned along top of first sheet, how’s that. Must saddle up time to go.

Good Day and Good Luck to you all.

Spence

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Map showing route taken from Ismailia to El Arish, Rafah & Gaza
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Railway station, Rafah, Sinai c 1917
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Envelope from missing letter to Dorothy, postmarked 27 April 1917, and marked On Active Service – DINKUM! as Spencer has now left for the front
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