3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Sunday 16 June 1918 – anti-malaria team, heard Stow is near the Somme

Special anti-malaria job cutting back vegetation in the waddy ~ horses staying back from here ~ canteen has come out so food is good ~ any form of milk welcome, also custard powder which we no longer get ~ newspapers from home had election news ~ received lots of mail

Tel-El-Bellum
Sunday 16 June 1918

Dear Dorc

Same place as I wrote from last Sunday but a bit later in the day. I have had a special job given me on Monday last. There are six of us – Water Rats or Mosquito Kings – or Anti-Malaria Fiends, whichever you like best to call us – & we work for 3 hours each morning, (9 to 10) & 2 hours in the afternoon (3 to 5) down at the waddy along which flows a bonny little stream – our water supply which comes sparkling down from the hills (in Jacko’s lines). We cut back overhanging bushes, remove stones or other blockages & generally keep the water running freely & clean as far as in us lies. It’s a decent job – clean & cool while we are there, but we have to walk a fair way to & fro.

Haven’t seen Jinny for a week! She & her mates are back a little from here & Mitch & some more are there to look after them. Our canteen has come out this time – & so we aren’t living badly these warm days. Had some tinned apricots, pears, peaches & pineapple this week, also some of the good old Nestle’s cow – which helps in the making of bread & milk for Brek. In the old Boulder days I used not to think ‘Nestles’ such a good institution – to say nothing of Mrs Gundry’s watery fluid, but here, milk of any shape or form or colour or thinness is welcome.

The canteen used to stock custard powders & we often enjoyed a good custard with our fruit last summer, but this year we are ‘custard mafish’. So if you ever are scratching your old noddle as to how to fill that parcel just see if you can find a tin of custard powders – of course I’m not sayin’ as ’ow oim expectin’ of any parcels – but just in case – you unnerstand? Several Baps came to light last week amongst them the one containing account of Mr Norwood’s farewell. Also an Observer & a couple of West Australians. The Observer gave a good deal of Election news: some of the contests were pretty close & I see that some old MPs have missed the bus.

On Thursday evening tho the best event of the week occurred – in the arrival of mail – 16th-17th April. As it happened I was just going out on outpost & had to be content to guess the various writers’ names: it was dark by the time we got out & of course a light was not possible. But we came in at daylight next morning – so instead of sneaking another hour’s sleep before Brek I squatted myself down for a yarn with Mack & Lic & Ruth & Dorc & Father & Mother & Donie & Aunt Sophie & Coz Flo & Miss Ashton & Mrs Harry – which was better than lot of sleeps. The first thing that struck me on opening 4 or 5 letters was the name of Harry Hancock – well I am glad you have seen him & like him so well. That was good fun the way you & Father met him going home from Adelaide Oval. How is he in health I wonder?

We – that is – various chaps in the troop heard from Bede Dowd & Jack Bell, & they & Harry & others have been discharged I think. Jack Bell ‘reckons his arm won’t be strong enough to do any hard work for 12 months so he supposes he will re-enlist! A man might as well be in the Army – it’s about the easiest job I know!’ Nev – his brother here – says ‘There now, what can you do with a man who talks like that?’ But Jack is nearly as big & strong as old Herb – very different in stature to Harry Hancock. I doubt if the latter will ever be passed to come again: hope not anyway.

What the dickens did he tell Lic or somebody about me being ill – having a fever Lic says in her letter? Sorry to contradict digger – but I’m not guilty: never had such a thing to my knowledge. In fact I’ve been only once on sick parade since I saw you & that was a day last June when I felt a bit crook.

Several of you mentioned Jeff H’s wound. He has not taken long to get in & out of it again for a bit. I had a letter from Wit yesterday & he also mentioned it: glad it’s not serious. I’m still in ignorance of Jeff’s address or position in the outfit, but as long as Ruth knows I s’pose it doesn’t matter (by the way I was told to ask Ruth if her recipe book is yet filled up?). On my own account I’ll say that I don’t mind trying my luck on a few of them when I come home. Wit said he had seen Stow just a week or so before writing: that was about a month ago & he was writing quite close to the Somme: said they had discovered a tennis court & were using it a bit; also sent some PC photos taken from Germans. I wonder where his bivvie is pitched now – or in what building he is earning his ‘mongeree’? We don’t know much of doings in France – hope to hear good news directly.

You said you had been to Bernie’s for a sing song! Good! He owes me a letter – but I’m afraid I owe Alex & Mrs ADLA a big one. But they have news from you at home – say Good Day to ’em all up there please & tell them I’ll be writing ‘when the roses bloom again’. Hope Daphne A is A1 by this. Glad you had some of my February letters at last. S’pose [?] one of [illegible] has gone for good – hang on! I reckoned I’d write all about my holiday while it was fresh so spent the afternoon at Belah in doing so – & posted it there before the train came on at night. I had not heard of Erica Prince being engaged: I’ve seen Stan several times lately but not for a yarn for some time. I believe the lucky beggar is going down to an officers’ training school soon! He is a Corporal in the signallers you know & in B Squadron at present.

That argument of Erica’s about India & Christian business men is rather sensible – ‘leaven the lump’ – do you remember. Also your Conference friend Mr Andrews’ idea of living to learn or to give out as opportunity offers. Mrs Martin has evidently been telling tales out of school: I think I told me a while ago that Gwen Harry had intentions of enlisting – well now Mrs Harry writes & tells me it is so – & she wonders if the Miss K who is nearly through her uni course & of whom Mr Martin had told her – was my sister. ‘What fun if they hit it together!’ says she. Perhaps – see when you know each other. Anyhow I hope you won’t be sailing for 10 years yet. You’ll be kept busy with ‘Stew’ this year by the look of that timetable – I hope you’ll have a win. Licking the Greek for a start is a good omen anyway. Keep it up.

Glad you had an enjoyable time at the Freshers Picnic – I remember your account of last years’ too, when you had more work to do.

Eh – just been looking to see what I was doing a year ago today! What do you think it was? Went over to the 9th to see Wilf & Coy – & saw Wilf, but missed some of the others – also Ken Gilmour who was then away at a school. The week before was the day that Col Fulton lined us up & said ‘Hooray’ – thinking that he was going home to Ausie: but he is in a good job in Cairo & now Mrs Fulton is over – so I guess he doesn’t care how long the war lasts. We were then camped back at Abassam-El-Kebir – between Shellal & the old beach – Marakeb near Khan Yunus & we went to the latter place the following week – for 10 days & it was while there that time that I got transferred to A Squadron.

Wilf’s crowd have been close to us here – & I’ve seen a few I know – but I think they are moving again. Curly Williams (2 Wells) came over yesterday to see me, but on account of my skeeter job he missed me: he left word that old Wilf was away in hospital! Don’t spose there’s much wrong with him – dunno. No doubt they would know at the Horseshoe. So you sent Len & Hurt a birthday memento each – good! I wonder how Hurt is getting on in camp? If Len ever has to make tracks in years to come – I reck he’ll have to come in the 3rd. Can’t get see any other way for it! But I don’t s’pose he will be needed.

Do you know a Miss Winnie Harvey of ‘Everley’, Woodchester SA? She only put a little note in a paper which was dumped at our troop last week & I may write & tell her it ‘arrived’ you see? The name sounds like one of your uni pals – or is it Winnie Hardy? – not Berry – & I’m not confusing it with that PLC Hardy – of Dentist extraction: dunno. But it’s decent writing & looks interesting – & she shows good commonsense cos she not only doesn’t run down the LH – but she even sends ‘very best wishes’! Strange but true! After which piece of news I’ll continue a long neglected letter of Gwen’s which I commenced over a week ago.

See you later – noder day. I haven’t answered everybody’s letters by any means – good ones from all of you – great fun always hearing all about everything.

Love to all of ye

Spence

Go it Lic – your turn for next letter. Do you soap Peggy’s face much now?

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