Thursday 20 September 1917
It’s not your turn for a letter but this is to try and catch your birthday – if it hurries up it might get to you by the 26th October. We are still looking for our mail – nearly 4 weeks since the last and it seems longer than that, no doubt it won’t be very long to wait now so I hope we’ll get an extra big lot when the letters do come.
One good thing perhaps is that I’ve gone ahead with my answers by leaps and bounds – and now I have only about a dozen to catch up all I owe. I don’t know if my energy will last the contract out. See our new name for the villa? Same construction but mighty different situation from last week. Still we are only half and half here – ie in reserve I believe – so probably won’t have any stunts for awhile and if the dust will give us a chance it should not be too bad in this camp for a week or so.
It’s nice and quiet at night and we have had 2 lovely mornings but in the afternoon the wind rises and sets the holyland drifting into our eyes, ears etc. I suppose when the rain comes we’ll growl at the mud – so we had better be content with the present dry beds. No canteen here up to date so we are once more down to bread and marmalade for dinner – but I think it’s likely the canteens may come here. At any rate we had porridge this morning and we’ll get stew tonight so that’s not too bad at all at all.
We carried on with our bonzar swims etc at the good old beach until last Monday: we left just as the sun rose on Tuesday morning and after having brek and packing our saddles so you can guess we were like the soldiers in Home Boys Home [song] – up in the morning be4 the break of day but that’s not the first time. You should have seen the Mediterranean on Monday: I don’t know if it was mad because we were leaving it but if got into a terrible rage and lashed and foamed all day long.
I was in swimming twice and the current was almost the strongest I’ve struck there – couldn’t get out beyond the breakers at all. It’s bonzar going out to meet them. They lift you up for feet and then send you sprawling shorewards: but trying to swim just after they twirl the waters about is something like trying to swim in the soapsuds – no grip in the water at all. The sea that day came right up higher on the beach than it ever has done at other times: flooded out the YM and the big marquee went over flop when the sea loosened the rope pegs. It washed right up to some of the horse lines and over the place where the AIF canteen had been for a month. Only moved a few minutes previously. The YM lost a bit of small stuff – paper, boxes, tent ropes and pegs etc. Some biscuits were damaged – but rescued and soon were devoured by a hungry crowd of schoolboy soldiers. The salt water in them didn’t go badly – I sampled ’em you bet.
I was on fatigue on Sunday morning so missed church parade – but I went down in the evening to the song service where we sang some good old hymns and Alex’s [Alexanders Hymn Book] for an hours or so. The Sunday before we had a song service in the evening too – and an old English gentleman Lord Radstock gave a jolly good talk to the crowd. He’s a sort of independent old josser, travelling round helping the YMCA in various places and seems alright. Our chaplain told us that he had turned his home and grounds into a hospital for soldiers so he gives his time and money in helping all he can. He looks about 60 years old. The last week or 2 at the beach were pretty lively. We have quite a number of concerts at night – jolly good too considering where we were and the time since the singers had seen their songs or the pianist the music as it is written. The piano at the YM was a bit rattly but still better than our usual instrument – a tin whistle or mouth organ here or there. There was a good band concert too given by the 2
After tea now – the sun just down and quickly getting dark. It’s surely getting winter here cos it gets dark so soon after sun down. Little slip of a moon up there too. It was new last night I think – see how big the moon is next month when you get this. We get up at about sunrise here these mornings 5.30 – not bad. The dust hasn’t been so bad here this afty – not so windy. Had a good tea – nice thick stew of bully beef and veggies, then bread and apricot jam.
I posted to Joyce [cousin] a week ago today so you’ll know whether you are getting all my letters. I think I always say to whom I posted last: numbers are alright so far from your end.
We had a little excitement here this afternoon. I was in the bivvy writing – some were reading, others playing cards or lying about sleeping when a voice was heard – stand to your horses! And as no very quick response was made the order was repeated with the added injunction “get hold of them”. There was no mistake this time – everything was dropped and everyone sprang out on to the lines on quick time – no knowing what terrible things was going to happen. In days not long since this order was usually connected with Taubes [World War I monoplane] loaded with bombs which or course sometimes make a bit of a scatter: however this turned out to be a mob of horses which had broken loose and were galloping down straight for our lines. They were stopped all around here and caught and soon their owners from a nearby regiment came over to take them home. We got that order one day out near Beersheba on a stunt – and we thought that Jacko’s cavalry were coming – but out there too a few horses had got away and were stampeding. It’s too dark to read this after I’ve written it so I hope you’ll be able to read it.
Many happy returns of the day. I heard from old Hal the other day.