15 March 1918
The cat came back! Hoo-jolly-ray! Poor old Peggy – she looked a bit skinny did she? I don’t doubt she is all right now though on your liberal milk treatment: s’pose it was just as exciting as when old Gyp came home years ago. All your whole bunch of letters came night before last – pretty much of an event here – I reckon – mail days. I had Nos 1-2-3-4 all right this trip & also one from Aunt Flo & a ‘Bond’ or something from Elf with an account of the wedding in India – & tonight a late edition arrived back from the Regiment – a letter from Donie. Counting the letters enclosed with yours from home I had only 12 this time!
I’d better have a look at some of them again & see what needs answering or remarking on – & tell you my news & doings in a later scrawl. It’s nearly 8pm & I’m writing in the tent – by candlelight. Frank had just got into bed, Les is reading, Jack is over at the YM – Lance is on horse piquet & that’s all the family now – cos Herb & Arch have gone out to the Regiment – where I guess we will all be pretty soon: good.
First – I’m sorry I’m not at home to soap Peggy’s face – you had better get Stan or Jeff Hartley to do it. Bad luck you had 3 shops to go to when my letters arrived – & the potatoes cooked late & such like: that’s a fine way to carry on when a few old letters arrive! I’m glad you like it at the WHS [Woodville high School]. Mind you keep up that reputation of which you have heard – but if you write me a letter in Latin I doubt if I’ll be able to red more than ‘Mensa Mensam’ etc. I’ll put in a bit of a French paper & you can try your skill at reading it.
You must be getting short of soldiers now – I’m glad Wit’s address was put in – I’ll write to him soon: by the way – after long waiting the 24s have arrived – Laff – Wag & co & what’s more the 25s are here – Fred Hollis with them. That’s goodo. I hope they won’t be too long in Isolation – I’d like to get with Fred later on – & Herb Groves again I hope.
What did you think pf the little photo of me in front of the church? It’s pretty clear & all that – even if a back view. Just another of Teddie’s little camera tricks. Very kind of him to take the trouble anyhow.
I’m wondering how the Fair at Woodville got on & all your nips on your stalls: s’pose I’ll hear all about it pretty soon. Please pass me an ice cream – a 6d one – sure!
Guess you don’t know what decent weather we get here so far. It blows a bit occasionally & then the sand & flies are quite rare visitors: people seem to think Egypt a terrible place but if they came here they would not worry again about the weather at this time of year anyway.
I think I’ll go to bed – make it first of course – & continue this tomorrow. I’ve been out riding all day today – in fact every day this week: it’s a good & interesting job I’ve struck. Tell you about it later. Goodnight – sleep tight – knock on the wall when you are asleep – I’ll race you.
Tomorrow Friday morning
I’m going out riding again today: will you come & see some n-ggers on donkeys & camels – or carrying baskets or water jugs etc on their heads – or feeding the chickens that live in the same house (!) as themselves – their babies – goats – dogs – pigeons or any other think they own. Or come & I’ll show you the people working in the gardens – growing tomatoes, beans, cabbages etc.
Then at lots of little farms where wheat & green fodder grow we will have a look at some old looking ploughs working. They are made of wood – or crooked timber just like the old bible picture ploughs, & a cross piece is fixed to the end of the pole to which 2 bullocks are yoked – what O! – driven by a shoeless n-gger who whacks or pokes his slow team along with a stick. Just heard that 21 Zeps [Zeppelin airships] visited London yesterday – that’s a good brood of them. I wonder if they did any damage.
You should see the planes flying round here. They look all right – some right overhead now – by the noise they kick up you’d think they were coming into the tent. I was looking just now & could see seven hovering round: some fly low & others high & far away. I’ve seen ’em so as you could scarcely tell whether they were birds or aeroplanes. But if they travel towards you it is very soon evident – ‘cos they don’t crawl.
I’d like to go for a ride in one & have a look at things from above. Some of the chaps reckon they would get into the Flying Corps if any chance occurred, but I’m satisfied to stay down below. The sergeant has just been along to tell me I’m not needed out riding today so I’ll be able to write a few letters. We have had a pretty lazy time this week – ’cept for a bit of guard work.
This looks like funny old letter , no doubt – but it may be interesting for you to know that a young Gyppo wrote the above stuff & I wrote the explanations immediately above. They all write backwards but the numbers apparently run the right way. The top sentence reads from right to left ‘Ameda 5 (an English 5) horses’ which means that on Tuesday – while we were waiting at Nefisha village with the horses, a few young Gyppo kids came along and wanted to hold them for us. Ameda was a little girl about 10 or 12 years old who held my horses & Mohammed was her brother & wrote the above. So that’s how he came to write ‘Ameda 5 horses’ – tho then he was holding 2 of them himself. She – Ameda – was very proud of her work & wouldn’t give it up tho we were there for a long time.
I cut up a small piece of lead pencil & gave them a piece each & a page or two of paper – & set them writing & drawing. I drew a picture of Ameda & wrote her name to it, then Mohammed started & drew one of me – & at the finish asked – ‘Wot you name Johnny?’ (Johnny is common to any soldier) I said ‘Jack’ – for short & he reckoned he added it to the picture & showed it to me.
They were interesting enough & could talk fairly well – said they went to school & all sorts else. The boy explained his name to us. ‘My name Mohammed Hussan – my fader – Mohammed; my fader fader – Hussan, my name Mohammed Hussan.’ At that rate his own great grand children will have grand names, eh? Another kid was named Abraheem & another Ahmud & so on. A big boy was spinning a top & when I tried & made a mess of it he reckoned it a great joke & said ‘you no savvy!’ But when I spun it well the next time he was very surprised & pleased. ‘You savvy allright Johnny’ – good.
I’ll knock off & write some more to someone else soon: hope you like reading lead pencil scrawl.
Love from Spence