3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Monday 1 October 1917 – on water guard, blanket bivvie, playing bridge

On water guard a mile from camp ~ tanks and troughs supplied by ‘scheme’ water from the Nile ~ in blanket bivvie for 4 ~ evening church at YM with band playing hymns ~ Samson’s Ridge ~ learning to play bridge


Railway Terrace
1 October 1917

Dear Father

They call October the ‘month of roses’ I believe: don’t think that can apply to the ‘oliland. I guess there is a good show in our garden now at home & all round the Garden City of the South – wouldn’t mind paying it a visit for a week end to have a look. If only these flying for a week machines could go a bit faster I might hire one & come home for my leave instead of going to Port Said.

Our camp is still in the same place as when I wrote to Mack last Tuesday but I am about a mile away – with some more chaps – on a water guard. No waddy this time – just plain country; the tanks and troughs here are supplied by the ‘Scheme’ water which comes from the Nile & perhaps originally from away in the mountains of central Africa.

The work of getting it here is only another of the small jobs of our pioneers & engineers – laying of pipes & erection of pumping plants at various stations from Kantara to here & onwards. I think it is first pumped at Kantara from the fresh water canal – which runs from the Nile – & was probably first made to supply water to the workers on the Suez Canal – cos it runs for a long way pretty close & parallel to the latter.

At any rate the water is good – & so is this job. We came up last Wednesday for a week – only 2 days now to go worse luck; it’s a lot more free & easy than with the Regt & the work is not hard. Even if it is dusty all day we can reckon on a calm quiet night & plenty of water for a wash: it’s bonz to hop out first thing in the morning & have a bath to start off with.

Two of us came up from our troop – Stew Malcolm (of whom I wrote before – a friend of Maude’s & Alex Young’s) & I; & we have made up a temporary section with 2 other A Squadron chaps for living & tuckering purposes & we have made a blanket bivvie for four. One is Dick Watson – in Lance Neville’s section when he is ‘at home’ & the fourth is Bruce Underwood – from near Balaklava: his home is out Mount Templeton way & he knows Rex B & Len Lewis & Uncle Herb etc etc. I know Uncle Herb often used to go about on political or some such business with Mr Underwood. I’ve heard the name plenty of times up there. We are getting on fine together anyway.

Got a stock of canteen stuff in at the start & with the good tucker we re getting here it is lasting out well. There are 20-odd on the job all told & 2 of them are cooking for the lot. The cooks are exempt from all other work of course & they are looking after us well.

Amongst the other chaps here are Doug Dick from Balak[lava] & a brother to Major Dick; & Bert Arthur from Orroroo – the latter is a jolly nice chap. I’ve wondered if he is any relation of the Mr Arthur who used to live near Laura & bought ‘Snowy’. This chap knew the Hallidays well before they went to WA & went to school with George & Jean.

I was on duty yesterday (Sunday) morning so could not go to church but I went across last night to the YM where a voluntary service was held. There was a good crowd there, because of the extra attraction of the Band which supplied the music for the hymns – or led it at least. Before the start they played ‘[illegible] sweet organ’ – a bonz piece of music. I’ve heard it at Wesley Church Perth on the pipe organ. I forget the name of the organist but he could play his organ. Then after the service last night the band stayed and played several bonny pieces – some of them were airs I’ve heard & got stored up somewhere in the back of my head & they always wake up when I hear them well played.

I could have stayed lying there listening all night I think as long as they had kept on good music. But of course the musicians wanted their rest, so we had to leave for our respective bunks. Mine was only about a mile away & it was a perfect night – full moon – so I didn’t hurry & just came along thinking of lots of other Sunday nights & enjoying myself thereby.

The new Presbyterian chaplain led the service last night but the CE chap gave the address told us some very interesting facts – or otherwise – about this country & the places a bit further up which we hope to visit soon. One thing which I didn’t know before was the following: all of us out here know Samson’s Ridge [near Gaza] – some have found it a pretty warm spot at times. It appears that this ridge was named so because it is the ridge on which Samson deposited the gates of the city of Gaza after he had found them closed against him – to keep him in. He just hawked them off at their moorings on to his shoulders & dumped them there. The ‘Chappie’ reckons also that Beer is an old meaning for well – & sheba means seven – & he says that at Beersheba there are 7 old original wells dug by Abraham – & now being used by the Bedouins living around – & so on – he can spin them.

We have a fair bit of spare time on this job & I’ve written 2 or 3 more letters – wrote yesterday to Frank – also read a book which our job-officer lent me. By the way he is a Mr Macdonald – from Crystal Brook & was an auctioneer for Bagot S & L [BagotShakes & Lewis Ltd, stock and station agent] before coming to this outfit. He knows Laura & the north all round pretty well. You’ll probably see his signature on the envelope that goes with this letter. We have been learning to play bridge since being up here – it’s better than most card games I think & perhaps harder to play than some. I can’t see much tho in cards at any time – it’s mostly luck; but it’s a way of passing the time.

Nothing much to write about – still no news of mail – it’s rather joyful to know that at least we don’t have to wait that 5 weeks again & surely we will get something soon. Eh Mack tell Alex Reiner that I’ve met Jim Mullins from Renmark – he is in C Squadron & reckons he knows Alex & Janet: how is ‘ickle Janny’?

I’m wondering how Ruth is living in her northern home. Seems a long time waiting for news of you all – but no doubt you are A1 splendid. I’m fit! Think I’ll stop at this – it’s getting pretty near dinner time & dusty too. But never mind the weather!

Love to you all from Spence