3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Tuesday 25 September 1917 – short of reading material, a week on rations

Running short of reading material ~ played piano at church service at YM ~ new provisions in after a week on rations ~ played at soldiers & took a hill ~ Indians did the barbed wire entanglements ~ had practice at live bomb throwing and Hotchkiss gun



Dusty Villa
Tuesday 25 September 1917

Dear Mack

Seem as it’s over a month since I wrote to you – by my diary. I posted to Lic the other day – about Thursday I think – now it’s Tuesday.

I saw Jaick the other night about coming in with us in the cablegram (by the way I’m not sure that I told you that Jaick was out again). He is very willing to join in this group but is going to write home to his wife to tell her about it so we may hang off sending for a week or 2 longer: anyway he will be included so that’s 7 of us – old Phillis didn’t reckon it’s worthwhile. If we speak just generally you’ll know it means the 7: don’t know exactly how we will word the messages but I guess you’ll be able to make sense of them at your end. If any one or more are sick we’ll try to make it clear as possible – good.


Now this following is for after the first: Jaick’s particular pal Laffer who was in 23/3 but was a standby and came with the 24/3, is in Jaick’s section – and he thought he would like to put in too and send with the rest of us. His mother’s address is Mrs Laffer, Sturt. So I guess you gels would not mind adding that name and an extra letter to the joy list eh? So after the first message it will be the 8 we will talk about. To distinguish from any private messages I may send from time to time I’ll sign Kentish to the company cable and Spence to my own. So kindly get that into your block my lad – also an you at the same time grasp the fact that we are positively starving for mail – letters you know not the Gyppo mail. Getting on now for 5 weeks I reckon. It’s time the aerial service was started if this is the way the boats are not going to run.

I don’t know if you’ve had any of my letters written since the beginning of May – and if things were going straight. I should just about have an answer to my letters written 2 months after that. A fellow stops talking if he’s not sure anyone is listening – but no doubt most of ours will eventually reach you and we’ll hear of it someday. I hope it will be soon.

Papers and books and magazines are all exhausted and if we are to keep up our knowledge of reading I reckon we’ll have to start on our identity disks for practice. What do you think? I had another play on a goanna. Last Sunday at the ODs (other denominations – not CE or RC) service – they were short of a pianist so I had a go. In the evening there was an unofficial voluntary service in the YM – song service to start and finish with a speech in between by Capt Bateman – I think a Presb. Chap who has recently come out from France. He seems a decent sort and better than old CE cheapjack who has lately conducted all the services.

The piano is not too bad –  a good one, I reckon a bit out of tune probably caused by heat and shifting about: it is a different one and better than the old barrel of a thing that they had down on the beach. But I wish someone would spring up and tune it up a bit. Think I’ll take a walk over tonight after tea and see if I can still play a few of my old pieces. The YM and AIF have at last got a few provisions in stock and after nearly a week on rations we are once more dining on fruit etc. Biscuit issue last night instead of bread and bully but the biscuits were a better brand than usual and anyhow we had a bit of bread left and have done alright today.

We are still in the same camp as when I wrote to Lic. Some talk of our horses still being unfit to go out just yet – dunno – if it is so we may stay here a bit longer or even go back to the beach – that would do me! Square in all – the last couple of weeks at the beach just topped us off in fitness. I reckon I feel as energetic as ever I have done or more so – than since I lobbed off the ‘Bulla’. Perhaps it is so partly because it is not so hot as it has been for nearly 12 months where I have been. It has been a long summer hasn’t it? As long as we can keep a bit dry later on I don’t reckon the cold will worry me any. I’ll probably get fat then next winter at home on the top of it – I’ll weigh about 15 stone – don’t know what I weigh now. I’ll see when I go on leave, that still seems some distance off.

We played at soldiers this morning, we went and took a hill. My word you should see the barbed wire entanglements in a ditch cut all round it. If Jacko ever gets back this way a few hills and redoubts of this sort will cause him some hurry and scatter. The Indians here were the artists who fixed up the jigger. They are great on such jobs also at road making and preparation for railway etc.

I don’t know whether any of them have ever met Aunt Bertha [Bertha Tuck, missionary in East Bengal]. I’ve not asked them yet: you say ‘Salaam Johnny’ to them and they say ‘Salaam Johnny’ to you. I heard of one chap who met some of the Injuns and called out to one of them ‘Salaam Johnny’ – and got a bit of a shock when the reply came back ‘Good morning Australian, how are you?’ Bit rough wasn’t it? I’ll bet Aunt Bertha would laugh to hear it. Perhaps I’ll tell her when I write.

Old Stafford is going strong and still as happy as usual according to the letter I had from him 2 weeks ago. Ethel had gone to Darjeeling Hills and he expected to follow shortly. I must go and see them some day.

Had a field card from Coz Dave yesterday [David Kentish, cousin from Pompapiel, near Bendigo, Victoria] in reply to my letter on 9 August to him – so that was not bad time. Did I tell you that I had a bit of practice with live bomb throwing, also Hotchkiss gun while at the beach. The latter goes one to every troop and is good as a machine gun: usually referred to in short as the Hopscotch. Do you remember what shall we play – hopscotch or leapfrog in the first reader?

No news I’m afraid. The ‘old family’ is all present and correct and quite well and so say all of us.

Love to you all, Spence