3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Wednesday 15 May 1918 – dirty Jericho, gifts from 3rd LH Comfort Fund

Near location of Good Samaritan story ~ Jericho dirty and closed up looking but may improve under British occupation ~ gifts – cotton shirt each, tinned fruit, milk from 3rd LH Comfort Fund, shirts from Lady Mayoress Patriotic Fund Melbourne ~ rode over to visit friends, had good yarn with George Smith (Laura) ~ Palestine poppies enclosed ~ also see white & yellow daisies, violets, hyacinths, hollyhocks ~ in As-Salt a few times, natives went mad in their welcome the 1st time we entered

Wednesday 15 May 1918

Dear Licko

It looks as if I’m a bit short of paper doesn’t it – well so I am. Only go a few dirty sheets & can’t get any better just for a minute or two, but we may strike a canteen with some in at any time.

Still enjoying some sleep at night. I told Dorc in her letter last week that we were at last neutral for a time, tho not far from the front line. We would almost forget our friend Jacko if it were not for his kindly thought in flying over to peep at us from the clouds nearly every morning. Sometimes he lays an egg or two – which burst with a decided ‘splash’ when they hit the ground, but we are well in our funk holes before that happens & he doesn’t do much damage.

We have moved a few miles since I wrote – it might have been somewhere about here, where that chap was pushed off his donkey & left to die on the rocky road to Dublin – no not Dublin – you can ask your little SS class where? & when you tell them about the Good Samaritan – you can say that you know the road was rough & rocky & steep as your ickle bruvver has been along it – & he says so. Tell me about your little nips Lic!

Then they stopped at an inn at the end of the journey: I wonder if it was then called the Jordan Hotel – or Inn – as is the one I’ve seen in the present Jericho. It seems to be closed for business now though. The whole place is rather dirty & ‘closed up’ looking, but I’ve no doubt that things will improve now the British are in occupation of the surrounding country. We had a fine treat the other day when some gift stuff came for us. The latter came from the 3 LH Comforts Fund, but the shirts are from the Lady Mayoress Patriotic Fund Melbourne – very nice too.

Last Friday I rode over to see if I could find Fred Hollis & some others. I saw Ken Gilmour again for a little while & George Smith – but Fred was away temporarily from the Brigade – so I didn’t see him. He is all right though & I may yet see him before long. I had a good yarn with George Smith (Laura). You don’t know him – but Father will remember him – old ‘Nip’ as he used to be called. He look exactly as he used to years ago when I last saw him – wished to be remembered to Father & told me all about his sisters & asked about mine & so on. Dot Smith is still at Blyth Hospital, where she was training under Nurse Veit – before the war. George said he thought that Nurse Veit was now out at Jaffa: she wanted to come out to the front when I saw her in Port Said, but refused to come only as far as El Arish where they wanted her to go – too far back from the front she reckoned – she wanted all or nothing.

Hazel S is engaged to a chap at Orroroo or somewhere – Kate is still Mother of the home at Laura. George was a Corporal until just the other day, when one of their Sergeants was wounded & he has now his three stripes – so is getting on well.

Ask Ruth if she ’members writing to me about a youthful 3LH Hobbs whom she met in the train? Well he has just hit the Regiment – with several of his mates of 33/3. He looks much as he used to do – just as fat & a bit bigger perhaps.

Don’t think I’ve got any too much news this trip. I’m enclosing a cutting from a paper – which you my have seen – but it mentions Nebymusa – the old monastery that I was talking about in last letter to Dorc – the traditional burial place of Moses! Also I’m giving you two or three more Palestinian flowers. I picked these some months ago near Reshon about last January-February when everything was bonz & green except in patches where the flowers grew thickly. These poppies were lovely in patches – & would show up bright scarlet & there were daisies white & yellow – & sort of wild violets – & other flowers – pink & blue. I’ve seen bulbs – some like hyacinths & bonz pink hollyhocks growing wild like all the others.

But now back towards the sea on the plains – & here in these hills – & in the hot valley of the Jordan the flowers & grasses are drying off – things are still fresh & green out in the rugged mountains of Moab & the wheat crops out there recently helped our horses along muchly when rations were cut off for seven days. Our own had to stretch out a bit. Did you ever hear in your geography of a place called EsSalt [Al-Salt] or Amman? They will probably soon show on British maps – pretty exciting sort of places to live in these days. I’ve been in the former a few times & the natives nearby went mad in their welcome the first time we entered. Fired off rifles & revolvers & thronged the streets etc: it is a very old place – monastery, RC & Mohammedan churches & Sisters of Mercy – & a Jacko-Fritz hospital & all & all.

[written on the back of a letter from friend Wit dated 5 April 1918 (see text below)]

This I just a bit of a letter of Wit’s – dated April 5th which I received & answered the other day. I’m using it partly because I’m short of paper. Wit evidently hopes great things from this recent Deutsch onslaught – I hope he is right & that peace may come one of these days. The trouble with us may be that we won’t hear – & go up scrapping when all our France diggers are hopping on the boats for home. Don’t forget to write & tell us – or better send a cable I think if the war ends!

Saw old ‘Gouldie’ last night & he gave me a chew of some figs & lollies which he had had in a parcel from home: he had a bonzer birthday cake a few weeks ago from Mrs G – all iced & decorated. I had a bit of that too – it was good. Haven’t had any papers lately nor has Aunt Flo’s parcel come yet. Out of this paper – so pip pip – hope to have more letters soon & hear about school & tennis & all sorts.

Love to ye all from Spence

PS Did Wit tell you he hoped to get to England for a ‘course’? If the mix keeps going I daresay he will still go but he is quite ready to quit it – & return without promotion if the war will end. Good luck to him.

Wit’s letter (part)

… conviction that we shall come out on top in the end, as our forefathers have done in days gone by. I am proud to belong to part of the British Empire and trust in her strength together with that of her allies to withstand this great attack and be able to conclude a satisfactory peace in the near future. But above all, who would not be proud of Australia today? Over more our fellow have earned the highest distinctions and praise in their wonderful stand they have made. Today has been a memorable day for them. It has been one of the hardest days experienced in France for our Boys, but once more they have acquitted themselves as only Australians can. The world does not know of it yet. Fritz tried to simply overrun them with a huge mass of troops, but they have stood their ground and defeated him. All day long there has been a most desperate fight, but our fellows have done little less than a marvel. I am sure they have sprung one of the greatest surprises on the enemy that it is possible to do. And the result must be a terrible knock to the enemy. How our fellows managed to stand it is simply marvellous but they did it. And tonight I am more proud of them than ever before.
What a tale some of them will have to tell when they have come through it all! God bless our splendid men!
Must close now as I have just received some very urgent work to attend to. Good night old boy and the very best of luck,
from your ever sincere pal,

‘Johnny’ Turk on the Run, Cairo 3 March 1918


Palestine poppies enclosed – their imprint can be seen on the letter