3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Saturday 6 October 1917 – at the beach, some horses in poor condition

At the beach again ~ Jinny going well but some horses in poor condition ~ 2 or 3 swims per day ~ Jack Hardwicke wound ~ living conditions comfortable in Palestine ~ scarcely worn boots or socks for weeks

 

Boomerangita
Beachopolis
6 October 1917

Dear Mother

In case you should have forgotten my number & address I’ve inserted the above particulars. Most important news – one bit of a mail in altho pretty old: got yours and Dorc’s letters of 18 July dated 6 days after your last which came here 6 weeks ago: but this came by the boat you were doubtful about I guess & probably went round Africa to England & back here, which explains its long passage. Also one from Miss Ashton dated 27.7.17.

Next important news: a mail in – a big one – direct from ‘Ausie’ & now on its road up here: may reach us tomorrow. Gibit!

3rd important news: we are again at the beach – if you ever heard of such luck – not at same place tho – a few miles further back. Not for long I believe – dunno what’s next.

Left our good water guard job on the morning of the day we came back here – Wednesday – it was a jolly good week’s job, best I’ve had. Didn’t get on a horse’s back for 7 whole days – that’s a record for some months past for me. I’ve still got Jinny – looks as if her old owner is never coming back. Jinny is still all right – has been all along but some of her brothers & sisters are pretty low in condition which I think is the reason of this extended rest. I think they are like us – don’t get enough to eat – but with this difference we can buy up at canteen & so live well, but there are no canteens for horses! We are getting our share of the drill & work down here this time – but that’s not surprising. We don’t need rest now. We still work in at least 2 or 3 swims a day though. The early morning one before brek is not rushed like it used to be. Getting pretty fresh but it will be a good deal colder before I cut it out. It’s a’right.

Our section is temporarily reduced to two – Goldie is acting as bottlewasher for the A Squadron sergeants – may be permanently; & Sid Dunk is on leave at Port Said; only Mic D[unk] & I here.

Look at the picture of 23/3 & find Cpl JE Murray – he was a returned soldier – came back here with us – & the other day he got his commission. So that’s not bad for him is it? I think he had bad luck in not getting it on Gallipoli – they evacuated just as it was going through & on arrival back at Heliopolis there were so many new soldiers & their officers with them that no more ‘stars’ were dropped for the time. He is now in charge of a group in B Squadron. That is the squadron that Perce Smith once belonged to. I was just talking to Lance Neville & Herb Groves. Lance got 2 letters & Herb 4 – so everyone is getting a little news to go on with. You mentioned about that Atkinson in hospital with Uncle Bert. I knew that Reg A had gone away but thought he might have been back or something & I was going to ask about him.

You asked me once to tell you what I knew of Jack Hardwicke’s wound etc. I asked him casually whether he had told them at home about it & I guess that he has written a fairly full account – that’s why I didn’t write of it anyhow – I couldn’t tell as well as he. I think he got a bit impatient because he couldn’t get a good enough shot – & exposed himself more than was good for his health: it was probably a sniper who got him. They used to hide & sneak about in the crop of barley etc & so could get pretty close up to the waddy or wherever our chaps were – & then they could pick their targets. They used to pick at us afterwards but – luckily – their hands shook. Jack told me that his officer came to him after he had been fixed up a bit that day & shook hands with him & told him he had done well. So that was something to chew at while being carried back to rail head hospital on a camel chair & sand cart.

They use camels for carrying sick men rig up a sort of lying-lounge-canvas couch or chair in which the patient lies flat out. Two of these are fixed to the camel’s pack saddle, one on either side of him, & a seasick sort of ride I reckon it would be. They swing & rock quietly & pretty easily perhaps – with the motion of the walking hospital. The doctors made a good job of Jack’s jaw – & you can hardly see anything for his adventure.

You were telling of the week of cold & rain at home – similar to the week I got home in the Kaiser. I remember that all right: it was a bit muddy but I don’t think I cared much! I remember the Tuesday night – seeing the Semaphore lights & all – & then finding out we were not to go in till the morning! That was ‘dead crook’ but morning fixed me up. And I could live for 2 years in WA – surely I can hang out in Palestine for a year – or two if necessary: probably it won’t be necessary – at least the latter. I wonder where the old Kaiser is now? I wouldn’t mind a trip home on her next time if she is anywhere convenient when I am ready to sail. No wet or mud here yet – and as for your idea that I might have any inconveniences – little or big – whatever – that’s altogether a mistake. Plenty to eat, feeling fit, nice clean sand to kick into for a bed at night & warn blankets! Velly nice & comfortable altogether. We have rigged our bivvie of course for living under during the day – changed its name though.

I think I told you that I rec’d those two parcels safely – one of clothing & the other with cocoa, raisins, socks etc. For 6 or seven weeks now I have scarcely worn boots or socks at all so my socks are keeping well. I have given away one or two pairs- but up to date I have not thrown away any worn out & I’ve never mended them either. No doubt the knitted socks wear well. Our dress here – except for drill & church parades etc consists just of hat, shirts & shorts – just like Gyppos or raggamuffin kids.

It’s Sunday morning now – church is on but I’m not there because they won’t let us go in shorts & my riding pants are so out at the knees & ragged that I objected to wearing them – daresay I’ll get a new pair some day. Anyway I’m not sorry to miss this compulsory parade at which we have to wear bandolier & belt & be marched down & so on. There’s not a more ‘growly’ parade in the whole ourfit – it’s no good. Any good that might otherwise result is annulled by the messing about.

I s’pose Ruth is well settled in her ‘new kindergarten’ as Dorc calls it, long before this: no doubt I’ll hear something about it in a day or so whenever this big mail comes in. Is ‘Tommy’ back at home yet? I’ve not heard of her for a long time. I wonder if she had my letter. Dorc said that Mrs Hale was axin about me. That’s pretty sure proof that my letter to them didn’t arrive – bad! You can say Goodday to Mr & Mrs Hale for me if you see them Dorc. I’ll write again to them soon if possible. I’ve written just lately to Mr Norwood. Glad the ‘gels’ still go up to NA [North Adelaide] occasionally. They must have had a crowded church on SS Anniversary night. Bad luck Jim Campbell going to the war I reckon – having to I mean. Good on his pluck tho & some more ‘noodles’ who would willingly go. I hope they’ll all miss the bus – or else – as Mr Gilmore once told me – just arrive in time to march with the victorious troops into Berlin! That day has been expected & delayed for a long time hasn’t it? One thing we are over 3 years nearer to it than we used to be. Can’t be too long now.

I’m enclosing a couple of paper cuttings which may be of interest. I don’t count them as part of my letters – or write less – they are extras. The long piece ‘Trek in Palestine’ isn’t a bad description of some places we have [illegible] … life generally – only it’s never one thing for any length of time – that’s the consolation of it. Stand to is at 3am in summer – as we have had it on the front line – it is light then at 4. But now the sun doesn’t rise till after we do – about 5.45. We hop out at 5.30. It’s nearly 5.15 before it gets properly light.

I meant to ask if you knew Jim C’s address – or please can you find it out. Kyle Gault & his pals were pretty quick & lively getting into khaki after their [illegible] … not bad going the 2nd time to the war as a Doc. Did the chap bring the gown back Dorc? I didn’t know that you had lost yours: bad luck. No news lately of hockey – s’pose I’ll get hockey & more terminals & school holidays & nearly Adelaide Show in the incoming mail. I’ll post this & write again when the next comes in.

Good Day to you all.

Love from Spence

I’ll just tell you which I have had & then carry out my intention about posting this to go on with. The one that came before was no 42 (Dorc’s and Mother’s before mentioned) – & then a jump of a month from July 18th to today’s lot – written from Aug 6th to Aug 28th nos 49, 50, 51, 52, 53 & 55. Also another from Ray & a bonzar long one from Ruth – & Coz Ev & Miss Ashton (dated 1.9.17) & Elf & Aunt Annie Tuck. Those from home include just about a double round from Father, Mother, Mack, Dorc, Lic & one from Joyce & Ray.

I can’t start to squeal about them – no time now – best Sunday afternoon I’ve had for a long time. I got them in their order pretty well so read up the hockey in order & was quite eager & excited over the final before I read of it. Bad luck Varsities were beaten but it must have been A1. Hope Wooder won the basketball Lic! Never mind about the ‘Knucks’ – don’t play ‘em here.

The mistake you mention re numbering of letters I think accounts for absence of No 54 – it is non est [does not exist].

Finale!

The numbers from 43 to 48 inclusive probably went by a long way round are and still to come – good luck. Glad to hear you have had my letters written up to July 6th or so. I don’t think more than two long ones could have been drowned. Ruth & Ray’s – not sure about one to Father & certainly a few to other people.

I was over at Frank Jones’ bivvie last night & Phil & Les W came along too & Stew Sommerville, another 23/3 chap. Lance N was away on a 24 hour guard & Arch Blue is down at the mobile station for a few weeks helping to look after some of the sick horses. Then I stopped to water horses and groom them & get dinner & sure I’ve been going ever since & it’s now 4 o’clock – reading – if you understand – all afternoon – course a mail didn’t come in! Oh no!

Letters Fine Fine Fine – good, [illegible] smiling, laughing & grinning & all!

Hooroo, Spence

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