3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Monday 20 August 1917 – some long trips out, now camped at the beach

1 year ago at Exhibition Camp ~ now camped at the beach, lots of swimming ~ digging for water – plenty back from the sea ~ horses have had long treks lately ~ hope to get leave in a month or 2 ~ death of Tom Mann, friend from Exhibition Camp

Monday 20 August 1917

Dear Mack

A year ago at this moment (by the day) I was about wending my uncertain way into Exhibition Camp – to stay! I couldn’t have guessed then that at this minute I’d be sitting here under our bivvie – on the sand – in the breeze – looking down towards the beach & out over the bonnie blue sea beyond (where I’ll be swimming directly) – writing to you. But here we are – so that’s the end of that argument.

After posting Ruth’s letter – addressed to Mother – yesterday week, we went ‘out’ – stayed till Monday night: out again a short distance on Tuesday – dinkum long trip again Wednesday & Thursday arriving home nearly Friday morning. Friday struck bivvie & rolled up spare stuff & Saturday humped out stuff on the saddles & did this best of all stunts: to the beach.

Written in ink at the top of the page is a note indicating that the letter was circulated around the family

It was about time too – cos I tell you we were getting a bit behind with our sleep as well as ‘travelling some’ during the last 8 or 10 days. Just 7 weeks & one day since we went out – so that was not too bad. Don’t know how long we will stay here this trip: longer than last time I think – & hope so too. I had only one swim on Saturday – but four yesterday so I’m doing all right. It’s bonz & no mistake especially before brek – early & fresh in the mornings.

Of course we have our horses & so a fair bit to do always. Fatigues include loading & unloading of fodder & our own provisions from limbers – camels; digging for water which is good & plenteous back from the sea a few hundred yards & now & again a ‘dump’ guard or perhps beer guard if any comes along – & odds & ends but we will catch up sleep & get clean again & have a rest – so good!

I told Ruth about the letters coming – but I had some more later – one from Wit written just the day before leaving for France & my WA mail including Jean Gilmour, Miss Ashton (with a note enclosed from Marion Halliday) & a church letter from Mr Harry – sent to all their soldiers. A note at the end said that Mrs H had had my letter & they would write a decent letter back some time soon – good. Had 2 ‘West Australians’, 2 ‘Sydney Mails’ from Jeff H – with a note inside saying that he was on long leave – a Melbourne Argus from Miss Ashton I now think – same as the West Aust – what’s that? – yes that’s right – your parcel! Good-o – the things are just k’right – pencil, paper, envelopes etc, singlet & knickers, socks (I have plenty of these, don’t seem to wear out), gave Lance N a pair of the socks & the face washer & soap were just the thing to smell & to have a wash with on Friday when I carted a nose bag full of water home for the purpose.

You may think smelling does not count much – but it’s not bad out here when you get a clean decent bit of soap. I nearly felt like biting it to see if it was really good – but strange to say I didn’t which is all a lot of rot perhaps but neffer mind.

I’ll finish this later I think cos I want to have a bit of a kick in the briny before we go on ‘stables’ & tea.

After tea – this is our dinner really – tonight we did rather well on boiled meat & spuds & onions – bread – marmalade & some canteen biscuits to top up with. Usually the [illegible] vegies are in a stew & the meat then is part fresh & part bully mixed: jolly lot better than ‘bully straight’. Bully, bread & marmie usually has to do us for dinner – but now for a while we will be able to get a bit of canteen stuff & fruit occasionally. The YM hasn’t yet opened up on the beach but I guess they will. For brek we get porridge & bacon on alternate mornings & always tea to drink: bread is good.

I had my swim all right this afternoon – not going in again tonight – I’m on horse picket during the night for 2 hours – but that’s nothing. I’ve taken Jinny [horse] in two days out of the 3 for a swim: she doesn’t go badly at all in the water & it will do her good. My word the horses have had some miles to go lately on small feeds & a long time between drinks: it’s wonderful how they stand it cos they carry no light load. We take bread, Bully & jam out on these stunts for ourselves – our bottles & bags full of water & some tea & our quart pots which nearly always we manage to boil up once or twice in the day & make tea: my word it’s the good old quart pot that keeps us alive almost you might say. I’ll never be fussy about tea again I reckon – if ever I was. I can drink it any how now.

I think I told you in my last about the cable I sent. I gave it to Eric Cox to send for me. He went to Alexandria on a week’s leave & sent it from there. ‘Quite well going strong’ – or something to that effect. The telegraph people wouldn’t accept ‘old eight’ cos they reckoned it was code. Anyhow you must have had it pretty quickly cos yours came back here & I received it on Friday only about 8 days after the other was sent. I’ll enclose the form if I can find it: it’s fine to get such recent news now & again – only 2 or 3 days old. I hope to get leave in a month or two myself to Cairo or Alex or Port Said – dunno.

I’ll have to stop in a minute cos it’s nearly dark & I want to post this. Bonzar sunset tonight over the sea & a new moon just showing. I haven’t any money to turn over in my pocket. Bad luck – I can’t see & it’s windy – so I’ll stop.

Hooroo the noo – love to all
From Spence

Mail ought to be in again in a few days

Eh Mother – I’m enclosing a para re death of Pte W Mann – wondering if you would be able to go & see his wife sometime or other – if you think it’s any good. I don’t know her at all but think she is not strong – or else it’s the little girl – I forget. But this was poor old ‘Tom’ Mann – ‘Tommarn’ as we used to call him: went into Exhibition Camp same day as I did & we often used to ride up & down in the train together: he was a jolly decent funny old stick – used to be a sailor & we all liked him fine. It’s a wonder if you don’t remember me talking about him: went away in 21/10 Inf. I was on guard that day & saw him on the wharf. He said – Ah well goodbye laddie – I wish you were coming with us – but perhaps you’re just as well off! etc & shook hands – & I was as sorry as anything to see the old chap going away.

Sending Hurt’s & Dorc’s letters on to Wilf to read – must have been a good short holiday at 2 Wells Dorc