3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Monday 31 December 1917 – digging wells, hoping for Jerusalem leave

Received lots of mail ~ camped in a good spot on the edge of the sand ~ well digging-water not far below the surface ~ was on grave digging in Beersheba-cemetery among young gum trees ~ nearby is Lydda-dirty with filthy surroundings ~ hoping to get to Jerusalem on leave


Monday 31 December 1917

Dear Father

Not bad day here lately – Saturday evening a parcel mail in – & two for me: one from the ‘Horseshoe’ & the other from Aunt Annie T. Both real good ones & in top notch order tho they had been some time on the track. Then last night (Sunday) a heap of letters came along. I scored an even dozen envelopes & several were double banked inside – a 22 pager from Ruth amongst ’em. Now Monday morning. I’ve just had a cable chucked into the hump! So things are not too bad in the mail department. The cable says ‘All well best luck for Xmas’ and is signed Dory & dated 20th – so that’s good recent news.

I’m afraid you can’t have had any cable from here up to date – as no mention is made of it. I’ve tried to get one away by various means but can’t say for sure whether any had been sent or not. I’ve not heard from Frank J whom I asked to send for me – then again Jack H may have sent for me – he is also away. Also we seem to be getting our letters even more regularly than you are & with few if any losses. Sorry you had not heard for so long: if all my letters turn up eventually you’ll have a mail to read when that day arrives.

I think I missed writing for about a month from 25th October except a scrap one Saturday but that could not be helped. Since then our postal arrangements have been more or less irregular but now I think we will be more settled for a time.

Since last writing to Mother (on Xmas Day) we have come back some distance thro mud & slush & are now camped in a pretty good place on the edge of the sand.

I forgot to say that your cable arrived in Cairo on 21st inst – the day after it was sent so has taken 10 days to come from there. Bad luck it didn’t reach me in time for Xmas Day – but never mind, it’s very good to have it now. Our old slush light was going its hardest last night from about six till nine o’clock while I was enjoying my letter feast. Nos 71 to 76 inc from home (so I’ve got them all again) & Ruth’s & Mrs Rowe & Ida, photos & cards from Stell & Len, card from Will Jarvis, card & letter from Clarrie Jarrett & letter from Donie written after her arrival home. I may yet be able to get her other letter because the 1st Regiment are pretty close to us. I’ll go over today & see if it’s there anywhere.

New Year’s Day

Letter writing came to a sudden stop yesterday when I had to go away with a well digging party. It’s not bad going in the sand – we make big shallow holes as the water is not very far below the surface. It is pumped by hand pump into the troughs at watering time.

Herb G & I were on a grave digging job the Sunday we were at B’sheba – pretty stiff ground there – not the best job in the world – but you don’t think what you are doing, same as you don’t think of lots of things out here. The service & burial took place as soon as the graves were ready & we had to finish off the job. Our cemetery there is amongst a patch of young gum trees – perhaps 3 or 4 years old – so the spot will never be forgotten. They were the first gums we had seen up till then – in this country – it seemed a very fitting place to leave the boys from the land of the gum & wattle.

The other day (last Sunday week) I was one of a firing party for a funeral. One of those buried was Mr McBride – a C Squadron officer. He was a South Australian, a cousin of our late officer Mr Sandland & one of the best Lieuts in the Regiment. His brother is a trooper here in A Squadron.

Did I tell you that our padre reckons he has seen the house of Simon the tanner – standing near the sea side at Jaffa? I don’t know whether Dorc’s house is still standing.I didn’t see either. A chap doesn’t have the opportunities of a tourist for seeing everything as its best – but of course we see plenty of things interesting enough.

It is pretty certain that Rambi is the present name for Arimathaea of old (it was there that I saw the hospital with the inscription over the gate ‘Hospitium S Nicodemi de Arimathaea’) & near by is Lydda, now called Ludd, from which a good road runs into Jaffa, so we have travelled on some old & well worn highways. Lydda is not much of a place for saints nowadays judging by the dirty looking nigs who live there in their filthy surroundings.

We have not been over to see Jerusalem yet- perhaps we’ll get our next leave there! Instead of tripping back to Egypt. Well I’ll post this I think & write more another day. Bit of rain here today & cold.

Love to ye all

from Spence