3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Wednesday 8 July 1917 – big bombardment, 48 hours without sleep

Moved camp a few miles ~ rode out last Saturday night, back by Sunday midday ~ nearly 48 hours out without sleep ~ pretty big bombardment going on ~ hard to stay awake on the horse

Wednesday 8 July 1917

Dear Father

It’s about a month since I last wrote to you but I have kept the news going to one or another so it’s all the same I guess. A letter from Alex Aird came last night for me all alone. It must have been wandering about for a week or so because there are no mails about just now. I was glad to hear from Alex needless to say. I will try to write to him before very long. We ought to have another mail at the end of this week.

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Since writing to Mother last week we have moved camp a few miles and also had a bit of a ride out last Saturday night, came back by Sunday midday without catching our bird though he was pecking at our bait at one time. He just found out before the door was shut on him and ‘skithered’ out at the ‘hickory’. The rest of the time we have just been going on as usual, pretty quietly, still graze the horses a bit on the dry crops and grass in places. A good deal of the couch grass is still green and I think will keep on on account of the heavy dews at night.

Apart from the grazing the horses don’t get too much though their tucker is pretty good in quality and most of them seem to do alright on it: they have to go 3 miles to water twice a day. You said in your last letter the little paddock is up and green again. That will soon mean a bit of green stuff for the horses I suppose and change from the lucerne for the cow. How is she doing in condition and milk? Your work seems to keep up pretty fairly – though a bit in and out as usual. Just as well some of those wet stormy days if you had nothing to do and could stay at home.

Halfway down page 3 I stopped writing to go to water and now it’s Saturday afternoon! We got back from water on Wednesday, fed up the horses and had tea and were then warned to be ready at 9 o’clock [pm] to move out. That meant several jobs to do – get some tucker ready and in our wallets and also get our extra horse feed etc. By 8 o’clock I was all Kirect [correct] and considered for a minute whether to stay up and finish the letter or to go to sleep for an hour – decided in favour of the latter and just as well cos we rode till nearly dawn – then after 2 or 3 hours spell going again till after noon. There was a bit of lead kicking about at times and it kept on all day but we were out of the way in the afternoon – in reverse: rode for home at dark arriving at about 2am Friday: had just about finished some tea and stew left ready by the cooks when we were informed that we had to ‘saddle up’ again at 3 – ½ hour to rest – very nice after 30 hours going!

However we carried on as ordered and eventually arrived home here again and we are still here! Good. That’s my longest stunt up to date – nearly 48 hours and going too – without sleep – didn’t feel too bad at all on it. But you bet I got into my blankets pretty quickly after 8 o’clock last night and slept soundly until this morning. They tell me there was a pretty big bombardment going on too, part of the evening but I was not in a fit state to hear or judge of it. Things seem a bit mixed here at present. I don’t know how long it will last and I wish if it has to be that they would get properly to business so perhaps do something that would count towards a finish. But I s’pose the ‘edds know what’s what so all we need to do is just what we are told. I’ve been out all this morning with the horses but feel A1 after last night’s sleep.

We used to think at Mitcham [training camp] that we were hardly treated if on guard. They made us wear belts and bandoliers. There they weigh scarcely anything but here there is some weight in ’em with ammunition and now we can ride all day with our load up – rifle and all – and think nothing of it and if we do think of it that’s all. But there is a lot in getting used to it no doubt. The hardest job is when coming back – nothing to look out for – no screens or flank guards except for a few – to keep awake. You find yourself bobbing forward or backward or sideways on your horse and now and again some chap or other tumbles off. Now and again someone starts up singing and it may take on and continue for quite awhile and there are all sorts of incidents to attract notice or amuse perhaps: last Sunday when we were coming in – in daylight this time – some chap’s horse got away while we were stopping for 10 minutes and when we moved on it bolted and galloped ahead. Colonel Bell who was at the front set his horse at it and amid cheers of ‘Go it George’ or ‘good boy George’ from all though the regiment, he rode a mile or more and caught the runaway horse so that was not bad for our 3LH Colonel GJ Bell DSO.

The major in charge of B Squadron is also a DSO – Major Brooks – who I think I mentioned once before. He is from Jamestown and told me when I first lobbed out that he knew Uncle Ern. Did I tell you of my meeting with some cousins of Aunt Edie’s – Jack and Nevill Bell – brothers both in this troop and nice chaps. Also another chap name of Malcolm from Wallaroo who knows Maud and Alex quite well. Our Corporal is named Johnson, called Johnnie, and used to live up near Mallala, has played footy for them a good many times and know lots of people I do there. And another chap named Forbes [Forby?] has relatives at Mallala whom I know. Other 2 Wells chaps I know are Foster and Brooks, both in B Squadron: I’ve had a yarn or two with them. Herb Brooks is a part owner of Buckland Park near the Horseshoe Farm and he is a Private in Sgt Foster’s troop – the latter in pre-war days being a stockman on the other fellow’s station. I believe Sgt Foster has just now been promoted to Sgt Major. He’s a very decent chap. That’s just one instance of the topsy turvydom of war.

I found another old Laura boy here the other day – or rather he found me – Percy Mitchell of the Mitchells who lived on Tom Cat Hill next to Burgesses. He came up and spoke asking me if I were not Kentish, once of Laura. I said ‘yep’ – but I didn’t remember him until he told me his name. I remember Ross his younger brother better. He says that Ross is in France and going A1 up to date. I don’t know of any others just at present. I’m always striking someone. I heard from both Jack H and Wilf Rowe. ‘Jaick’ was at Mantazah Convalescent Hospital near Alexandria – pretty well right I think and having a good time evidently. He reckons he will be back now at any time. Wilf has been away for a week or 2 with bad eyes but is alright now.

I think I’m about out of news and it’s nearly dark anyway. We haven’t heard yet that we have to go out tonight so I’m hoping that we will get another good sleep. Fancy it’s a year since that cold wet day when I lobbed home from the west. At least it had been wet. I don’t remember feeling at all cold. Do you remember Lic coming to meet me at Outer Harbour? And when we got in the train you gave me a piece of cake and an apple to eat – good! Wish I had that same chance again now – but no doubt it will come again one of these days and it will be better than ever. It’s a year ago today by the date 21 July since I ‘passed the Doc’.

I’m putting in 2 or 3 little paper cuttings which may be interesting – Joyce will enjoy the picture of the chap warming up the water for the bath. By the way I had a bath last week in my quart pot or rather out of my quart pot and with the aid of an extra bottle or so of water. It’s not the only way we have –  in fact we can have a good bath at the waddy [wadi]: the thing is to find the opportunity so I ‘hopped in’ that day.

The paper enclosed re ‘Scatter’ happened here and I’ve heard about the incident from chaps who were present. We still have the same style of visits with more or less similar results.

Sunday morning – good news – mail came in about 8.30 last night and I scored a dozen, lighted a candle and it was about 11 o’clock by the end when I went to sleep. But that was nothing. I had to be up again 4 hours later. Had a letter and a lot of very interesting snapshots from Teddy Black – also heard from Dot McL that old Roy Dyer is at last in camp – in 10th LH. He is a sticker all right – guess I’ll see him soon. Funny old dream Lic about my nose and skin and legs. Made me roar inside myself. Hope your dream doesn’t come true here tho. I’d like fine to be able to show you round etc for a week. That would be fine. Hope Ruth won’t lose herself out back! Must cut and post this – we have to shift again tomorrow.

Good bye love to all from Spence

I will write again in a day or so – straight away if possible

 

 

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Officer: (affably) Hullo, making a cup of tea?   Billjim: No, sir; the doctor ordered me ter take a ‘ot bath every mornin’, and I’m just warming it up
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The paper enclosed re “Scatter” happened here and I’ve heard about the incident from chaps who were present. We still have the same style of visits with more or less similar results.
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