Tuesday 28 August 1917
See my fine looking paper – things are looking up in the paper & envelopes line. For a while I was very short, especially of envelopes – cos you can generally rake up a bit of paper, then 2 or 3 weeks ago I was able to get a writing pad from a canteen; on top of that my parcel came to light & in it one of Hartley’s writing pad cut down to handy soldier-size – & now just down the beach about ¼ mile to the YM – the Y-Emma as it is usually called – where we may go & write as much as we like, paper & envelopes provided. I haven’t done my writing there – usually too much of a crowd – but I scored some paper to use while here – & so save my stock for when we’re out of reach again.
The Y-Emma chases us up whenever possible & establishes at least a bit of a canteen tent but we are so often on the move that it’s a bit of a job. Our camp – ie the place we headed for when a stunt was done, could scarcely call it the place we lived in – cos of late we were never there – was in the same place for over 5 weeks the last time out – about a record I think – tho our troop was not at home all the time on account of our weeks job on water guard at the waddy. No news yet of any move from here – & I hope it will be a while before it comes. I can do with heaps of our present programme – looking after the horses – swimming them & ourselves incidentally – bit of fatigue now & again & horse picket: also we have been having an ‘Inspection’ – happened yesterday – for which all the saddlery, irons, straps & gear of every description had to be cleaned – but that’s nothing – it’s good for saddles too – they need a bit of a birthday occasionally. Mine is a very good saddle, luckily. I’ve still got my sturdy little chestnut mare. She has not so much ‘podge’ on her as she had 2 months ago when I first had her – but she is not in bad condition at all, & looks well. She stood the long trip very well – used to get a bit tired towards the end but many of the other horses were knocking & getting sore backs etc which she never did.
We get a bit ahead of our bread sometimes – but Jinny will always accommodate by eating up the stale bits or a whole loaf if she can get it: I gave her a loaf last night. The horses get next to nothing to do here of course – only 200 yards to go to water – so we usually exercise them for ½ hour in the mornings first thing. Hop on bare back & lead one beside & go all together & in order for a mile down the beach & back. Very seldom move faster than a walk. The sea looks bonz always – but especially in the morning early when it’s a deep blue & glittering in the sun – & when in the words of the song ‘Every little wave has its night cap on so very early in the morning’. I think Miss Ligertwood taught you nips that song at Erith – didn’t she Mack? Bad luck!
It was morning when I started this: now it is evening & nearing sunset. The wind is blowing a bit & the old sea is roaring – just like it does on a windy wintry night down by Estcourt House. It’s not wintry or cold here of course, it’s just k’right. Later on though the water will get dark & hungry looking as if it would like to draw you in & carry you away for ever. It’s marvellous how strong it is – just like the bits of breakers & tides that kick round here: they can toss the best of us all over the place if we are not watching. The ships out & up along a bit look A1, especially those that go full steam ahead! But they make you think of sea trips & home & you come nearer to being homesick here than ever you can do when out amongst the dust & things. Nothing to remind you of it there I s’pose. A mile or so up from here the boats are always in unloading stuff for our side.
Nothing of importance happened during last week – we had a few old papers to read – & most of us were lazy & getting a bit of sleep caught up at any time day or night. We didn’t know when to expect mail but on Sunday evening just as we were getting ready for church parade the letters arrived. Quite a modest mail for me this time as far as numbers went but a good one for a’that. Your next three home nos came – 39, 40 & 41 – including letter from you all except Ruth & I s’pose her feelings wouldn’t bear setting down just at the precise time of writing – so I’ll patiently wait until the solitude of the bush or the company of blackfellers has somewhat soothed & quietened the ruffled surface of her existence & she has time to reflect on the fact that ‘there are others’! Good Day Ruth – when are you going to write to me anyway? Bad luck. I think I’ll send a letter card –along with this to Wilmington & chance whether Ruth gets it. My other letters were from Mrs Alex Aird & Cousin Jim.
A letter came from Mr Goldsack telling me his address in Cairo – & saying he’d be pleased to make my acquaintance if I’ll call on him. I replied that I’d have great pleasure in accepting his invitation if at any time I should be visiting the wicked city again. If I have heaps of luck I may get a few days leave after another 5 or 6 of our troop have been: I don’t know whether I’d go to Alexandria or Cairo – or to the military rest camp for impecunious soldiers at Port Said – where you can get the best rest – cos there’s nowhere to go & plenty of good swimming as well! For all that I’d like to spend a few days longer in Cairo sometime. Herb Groves‘ turn has arrived & he left today for Port Said (not to say he is ‘stony’ [broke] though). Herb is still in the cook house – & keeps well. He is about as fat as he used to be.
We are talking of sending a cable occasionally – say about once a month from our old eight, but haven’t finalised it yet – I’ll see Les & Phil sometime this evening & of they agree to join in I’ll add their addresses later meantime here are the other: Mrs Neville, Balaklava; Mrs W Cowin, Laura; (Henry’s brother married a second time) Mrs Hardwicke (mother knows); Mr Z Jones, Woodville: the last named is in business in the Port; I think ‘Jones Bros’ – but not sure – anyway the Woodie home may be on the phone or perhaps Lic knows where it is, & could deliver any message on the bike or going to school. I forget the address but it’s on the other side of the line – about one street down & one street back on right hand side of Wooder Road – going over at the station.
Of course ‘Jaick’ isn’t out yet, but he is getting on all right & had a temporary job in Moascar I think, but if we send before he comes out I’ll first write to him & get his up to date assurance etc & then send along.
If the mails re to continue to be so irregular this will help a bit, tho we may not be able to get our cables through at exactly regular intervals. It won’t be much good sending before about end of Sept or early in October – cos you’ll not have this advice till then.
Our papers came today – quite a bundle for me – a Critic (good), Baptist – haven’t read it yet but will have plenty of time to do so here – Argus & two Laura Standards – don’t know who has been so good as to send these – not too much in them but they are interesting. One of the Lowes has been welcomed home from the war – Harold I think: I sent a card to Alf the other day. Then also today we had some gift stuff distributed – it was all right too. Our section got 2 tins fruit (SA pears & peaches), a tinned plum pudding, 4 tins milk, a bottle of tomato sauce & one of pickles, 2 tins of ham paste, 2 tins of saveloys in nice thick jelly, half a tin of lollies & 6 tins of tobacco (3 smokers – 2 tins each – bucksheesh for them) & one home made shirt for which we drew – as we do for everything here – & Mic Dunk won it. So didn’t we have a dinner? Oh no.
Of course we are not doing badly here in any case, getting fruit, jam, chocs, biscuits etc from the canteen – but a bit of stuff from home comes in better still. No-one seems to mind spending all of their pay 1/- or 2/- a day – on buying canteen stuff whenever there is a chance. I wouldn’t mind for one – but when we are out back we get ahead a bit & now I have about six pounds to draw when I want it – that will be when I get leave of course. Besides that I still hold a bob or two & one of the old Australian notes that I brought from home, so I’ve never yet been quite ‘broke’. I’m glad I’m drawing 2/- though: the 1/- a day fellows are cut pretty short at times I reckon, & it’s not much fun going short when stuff is to be had for the buying.
You may reckon we count a lot on ‘eating’ here – but the craze – if such it is – will pass with the finish of the war & the regular good tuck again. What we all do look for is ‘mail day’ & above all in the indefinite future – the day when we are once more pulling into the Outer Harbor.
I was going to tell you about the church service on Sunday evening. This service was the first one for 8 weeks cos we were never in camp a single Sunday while out this time. We marched down to the YM tent & the other Regiments (1st & 2nd) did the same – a fairly big crowd formed up outside in three sides of a square – with the chaplain with his back to the YM & the piano – filling the 4th side. The hymns were ‘Lead Kindly Light’ & [illegible] & ‘God Save’ & didn’t go badly with the piano. The chaplain is a bit like a school master but not a bad old stick. Some of us fell out afterwards for communion service – while the rest marched back to their camps.
It was dark before we were through except for a bit of a growing moon: a song service was on the programme but I saw Lieut Clarrie Chambers – introduced myself & found that he was he all right: he know Uncle Ted & the whim etc (& Rita is his sister – Mack) so we yarned & walked back along the beach together. He seems a very nice chap. I heard a chap wondering how on earth Sgt Chambers had won his commission! – not that he didn’t deserve it – but that ‘he was too much of a gentleman for this game’ so that wasn’t a bad recommendation was it?
Love to all from Spence