3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Wednesday 16 January 1918 – storms, farms & gardens, oranges & eggs

Grazing horses ~ people cultivating farms ~ used to find ploughs out on a stunt – handy to boil a few quarts ~ recents storms and heavy hail ~ now camped on sandy ground ~ among brown bread and oranges again ~ 1st eggs since July 1917 ~ stretcher bearers and field AMC men do and dare as much as the troops ~ your letters help me and all of us more than we know

Palestine
Wednesday 16 January 1918

Dear Mother

It’s a bonny sunny day after the rain – two days of clearing up. We have been out grazing the horses a while: feed will soon be good & plenteous all over this country. The people are again cultivating their farms & gardens – we passed some ploughmen the other day some with a horse – others a camel – & others again with two bullocks attached to their old fashioned one-furrow wooden ploughs. They don’t plough in very straight lines – but they manage to scratch the ground necessary.

I think I have told you how we used to find these ploughs sometimes out on a stunt, & they would come in jolly handy to boil a few quarts with: the nigs would bury them loosely or kick a bit of straw over them: but here – being more civilized & living in houses (even if they do share them with their cattle) the farmers don’t leave their plough out – but when knock off time comes they hoist it on the back of the camel of donk etc & take it home with them.

A good many were just going home & wet through the other day as we passed. Too much rain so they had to knock off. The day after we lobbed here (Sunday) was pretty stormy & wet: in the afternoon when on the way to water the horses, the thunder & lightning started & brought in their wake the heaviest storm of hail I have ever seen: then the rain came – whatO! Fortunately our camp is on sandy ground – so things keep pretty clean, but we don’t need to go far to get into the boggy ground. With the sun the last day or so – our little hump is now getting nice & dry. I’ve got the back & one side open to the sun now.

We are well amongst the brown bread & oranges again. I bought 16 oranges for 2 piastres (6d) this morning & got four more backsheesh [free] so that’s pretty cheap: bonz sweet oranges too. When we struck them first we rushed them – green as grass tho they were: but now we are more fussy & turn down the small & ugly looking ones. Also I bought four hen eggs, each about the size of 1½ pigeon eggs – for a shilling, I’ve paid 3/- a dozen for eggs in Boulder – but much bigger ones than these. I hope they won’t talk when we crack them! (first eggs I’ve had since last July). Some of that cream & butter & milk that you said you had in plenty would go all right here now.

I had a bunch of letters out with me this morning – reading – taking notes & burning them. Lots of them I have never answered I know but – finish! You were asking about Keith Lock. I told you a few weeks ago that I had heard from him – he is well – left the AMC job & is now in a cadet school for officers at Oxford. Tired of seeing all the other fellows doing all the dirty work – as he put it. For my part I reckon the stretcher bearers & field AMC men do & dare as much if not more than the troops do. Our chaps got hit about anyhow – & some won & others were recommended for MM [Military Medal] – MC [Military Cross] etc.

Gordon McCord was one who was recommended I believe. He was stretcher bearer, but some time ago was kicked in the knee by a horse & has since been in hospital. Don’t think it’s very bad.

You told me of Eric Tuck winning the MM – & Phil Bills his commission – good luck to them. They want to look out now: those letters are generally chased up by an RIP. There was a chap called Tuck buried at Beersheba – out of 1st Regiment (NSW): don’t s’pose he was any connection of ours was he?

Just back from dinner – we are a bit ‘miskeene’ for tucker just now – canteen not up yet. We only had bread & tinned cheese, meat paste & jam for dinner. Get a stew from cookhouse tonight. It is in times like this that the little tins of all sorts come in handy: cheese – meat paste – honey etc. We keep them (cos they are easily carried) when we have plenty & sure enough they come out during the first week after a move.

You were speculating in one of your letters as to whether my Xmas parcel had been blown up or down – & telling me to imagine I was eating the things mentioned if they didn’t come. I hope you’ll have had my letter saying that they did come. So there was no necessity for me to use my imagination in such a painful manner.

We did enjoy the things I can tell you – the plum duff & cream for Xmas dinner & dates & Dorc’s bisticks for bites now & again & I suppose just a bit of biccie now & again so as they would not all go too fast. I gave some to Herb Groves & he reckons he’ll have some more please Dorc when he comes home – & old Goldie – whom I wrote about the other day – he is great on home made stuff – & he reckoned the bicks were A1. He sat there munching them & not saying too much but thinking they were good.

Goldie had several parcels about Xmas time – & I had a bit of his Xmas cake sent from Mrs G of course. She can cook too & had the cake bonzarly iced. Did I thank you for going to see Mrs Mann? Anyhow I mean it – & I’m sorry she wasn’t very nice. I think Mrs Goulden will be a different sort anyhow if ever you have a chance to see her. Probably they haven’t got too much cash but I think they are in middlin’ careful circumstances – had a bit of bad luck with some things & bad seasons on the farm.

I have not yet had that letter of Donie’s that she addressed to the 1st Regiment. I went over there & asked about it one day but couldn’t get in its track. Muriel has made a good start – getting right on to a good position from the school: 25/- a week too! Not too bad at all. Here’s a bit of mail in – only one for me so far- from Uncle Bert & he says he had a letter from me on November 23rd. GoodO – your last letters were dated 22.11.17 & you were hoping for a mail from here the next day so evidently it arrived.

I hope you scored all right. I had a lot of letters going about that time – written at the beach last September. Probably we will get more letters tonight or tomorrow – I hope so.

Have to use another page to finish on after all. I hope Mrs Ford has had good news of Norm again – & that his ears are all right again. It is kind of so many old friends to send messages by all of you – I’m sure I’d like to send ’em back some – but a fella can’t write to ’em all, but I think of lots of them. Mr Poore. Mr Ford, Mr Brooker & Mrs Ledger & so on. I read several fine pieces in those ‘Baps’ you sent, some by Mr Norwood, one you marked: another one I think you must have read was ‘A War of Mathematics’ dealing with soldiers getting sort of – if it is – it is & if it isn’t it isn’t etc & not having the gumption – is that a word – to alter it & because of their environment being more or less always a ‘toss up’ gradually losing the desire to kick themselves. I guess it’s a fact – & I think with the writer – I forget his name – that it’s more needful to pray for us to come back with a conscience – & feelings & a sense of right etc all round – than to worry about our carcases. If we are not careful we will be too don’t care a hangish to decide anything or think it out – we will toss up – finish!

Mrs Aird’s letter which I had recently was a good one. She sort of gives you a ‘bucker up’ – & a ‘do it better’ feeling – & that’s what we need. All your letters help me & all of us more than we know I expect.

Love to you all.

Spence

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