The Land of Milk & Honey
Thursday 8 August 1918
Writing the date reminded me that it was on the 8th August 1915 that they had a busy day on Gallipoli, the 10th Regiment especially were cut up & on that date the last was seen of Norm Dyer, Roy’s brother. Don’t think I told you did I – that on account of our last little stunt nearly a month ago now Major Dick won the DSO & Lt Treloar (No 2 Troop) & Foster (temporary No 4 troop) were decorated with a Military Cross each. I reckon our officer – Mr Macdonald – had the worst job of the lot tho & he got nothing. Still that wasn’t bad for the Squadron.
We had a big mounted parade last week & General Allenby told us what nice boys we were & praised the work of the old Brigade. I’ve got an idea meself that it’s the best Brigade in the world – except perhaps the NZs who with the 2nd Brigade & we us & co form the Anzac Mounted Division – that’s in case you didn’t know before. So you see it’s 3 Regiments to a Brigade & 3 Brigades to a Division & then you get to Desert Corps – & Armies & such things.
Yesterday the old Hoss in command of this Anzac M Division – General Chaytor (with umpteen ribbons on his chest & letters before & after his name) came to see our clean saddles & irons & bits & shiny leggings & well groomed horses etc & he told ‘old George’ (that’s the Colonel) that the show was very good.
We used to clean up for his inspections at the beach last year – you may remember, I’m without a horse at present as since all the reinforcements came out last week we have a few more men than horses. Perhaps we’ll have some new remounts before long & I’ll stand a chance again of getting one of my own. I’ll bet it won’t be as good as my old Brownie tho, or Jinny either. I was jolly sorry to part with the latter again as she is looking fine & well & she is a wonderfully good & strong little mare. She is still in our section cos Bob Bell came in and made up our four – in Perce M’s place. I haven’t heard yet from Perce since he went away. He was pretty bad [malaria] – but I guess they’ll soon have him right with rest & hospital comforts.
I really forget what I told Lick in the letter I posted on Sunday. Don’t think I mentioned our trip to the old sea. It’s only 5-6 miles from here – easy 1½ hours riding: we started as soon as Brek was over one day – took tucker for ourselves & horses for 4 meals & so stayed until late afternoon of the next day. Only a Squadron went down at a time so we had a real free & lazy picnic. Just pulled in on the sand which is flat for 300 yards or so from the water, put down a horse line & then made one rush for the water. It took till dinnertime to fetch most of us out that morning & we carried on them much as we pleased – ate up & swam up & swam the neddies for all we were worth. A limber load of grapes & wine was sent down to us – which made things pretty noisy at night. Cliff Jenkin was down there with the limber & after tea he & I went for a mooch up the beach as I often used to do at Marakeb. It was nice to roll into the blanket that night & listen to the sea roar for a sleepy lullaby.
We were in the sea again before breakfast next morning of course, & were thinking of swimming a few miles up – 7 or 8 perhaps – to Jaffa but we reckoned it was too far to go before mongering up & also there are the floating mines to be considered to say nothing of the submarines which I believe still visit the waters here abouts. Most of us have lost a square yard, more ore less, of skin since that trip cos our backs are not hard & brown like they were last year. We could go about in the sun with no more clobber on than a n-gger & never get sunburnt, but that doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t change this bit of country for that hot & dusty place where we thought a prickly pear a luxury in fresh fruit! Here we still can buy plenty of watermelons, tomatoes, grapes etc – besides which the Regimental funds buy grapes wholesale for the troops every 2nd or 3rd day. We heard last night that the war was over – & we were worrying for fear a lot of us wouldn’t be able to get a job – but this morning again up north I can hear the rumble in the distance of the big ‘Eckees’ talking – so I’m thinking someone must have started again, so we are saved from present anxiety.
A Jewish woman has just been here with washing: she says that before the war she used always to stay at home & give food to her husband & children. Her hubbie worked at the big winery near Reshon – & things weren’t too bad. Then the Turks took the hubbie for a soldier – he got sick & was taken to Stamboul (Constan.) where he died 3 years ago – so the Turks inform her – & now she has to get out & go round the camps looking for washing to earn money – & it is misquiess (no good). She has a daughter married with 2 children so we call her Grandma & treat her as well as possible. We were telling her we’d fix the Turks & the war would be finished etc – but she won’t be comforted altogether – she says ‘Yes – the war finish – & my husband finish!’ Well you can’t argue with her there & it’s not much use telling her that she’s not the only one. I believe now the Turks are out of it that the people are in for a much better treatment as far as the respective armies are concerned & in a few years time the country will show it everywhere.
On Sunday eve at the YM I couldn’t help noticing a little n-g. One of our chaps was at the piano & singing & this nip came to the open side of the marquee looking on in wonder & interest at the musical box. I wondered what his n-gger nipper brain did work out about it all. But what struck me most was his fat face & clean healthy appearance. Apparently he lives with the canteen chaps & has had good tucker for a while: you should see the difference in his appearance from that of the many half wild half starved little brats that come picking up crusts & empty (except for licking which they do) tins from the rubbish bags about our camps.
We had a sort of church parade on Sunday morning & I was amongst those detailed to go. The Bates [chaplain] affair was spouting. At night we had a bit of a sing song – not very many there but some of the bandsmen came & assisted to swell the music: good old hymns & finished up with ‘Abide with me’ – a good concert – & the last item was an exhibition piece for the drummer who is the best at his game that I’ve ever seen. A chap from the M Gun Squadron sang a couple of songs very finely.
Did I tell you that Lance Neville & Frank Jones went away on the last leave party to Port Said – not lucky are they – striking it together like that? Vic Rule (a 23rd) who has just come back said that he saw them down there with Bert Moody & Herb Groves, so there is quite a lot of the old crowd down there. Moody went sick some time ago & Herb had has typhus pretty badly since his wound was fixed – but they are both getting on A1 now I believe. George Potter has been away for some time but came back last week looking well & fat again. He had bad news recently from home – his father died in May after a short illness. George is the chap who used to win most of the running & jumping events in the Bulla & was a very popular 23/3.
Once more a mail has reached us – came in on Tuesday afternoon. Jean Halliday, Miss Ashton, Mrs Harry & Mr Diamond (CBA Perth) – & Nos 130-1 & 2 from home beside the envelope with the photos of Dorc’s club room – which looks very nice & clean & shady. I’m not quite sure what nos I had a fortnight ago at our Hebron Road camp – I think they ran up to about 126 but I didn’t put them down for once. However I know there are 3 or 4 still to come: the last were dated June 2nd & this mail June 20th – & this time you say you have posted letters a week ago in answer to some of mine – well I want those – but they’ve either caught a slower boat or else gone the long way round. I know you’ve had that June cable too, cos Aunt Annie T mentioned hearing of it.
That was interesting Ruth meeting Mrs Henderson Senior. I’m glad you saw Mr Jones that day & I guess it is interesting to hear indirectly of ‘Probable sons’ if you don’t happen to hear direct. Someday again the others may hear when you don’t. Thank you for squandering that £1 – action endorsed! You’re pretty tight at shouting for your own birthday aren’t you? 2/- too much – too much! Glad you liked the brooch the ‘sistren’ gave you – I think it ought to look all right. Hope Sal is allright – her throat especially – I guess she & Hazel would have a good holiday with Rex & Irene. My word – I hope you don’t mind hearing it again – but letters are good to get here. Benny wrote me bonz old yarnie letter – & Mrs Harry’s are always jolly k’right.
Father said that you always have an appetite for more news even at the end of a mail time: well I guess we do too – but perhaps as it is we appreciate what we do have all the more. It’s just like a real home trip & a dinkum yarn with the people who write. Kath Harry wrote me a rummy little letter & finished up by giving all her exam percentages – which were very good – & then some barbed & wire netting arrangement labelled 100 kisses & 50 hugs! I couldn’t help laughing t her ‘excuse spelling & writing cos I have to write to Billy & his wife’! She’s a bonny little kid.
Miss Ashton too always sends fresh cheery notes. I had not heard from the Hallidays for a long time until this mail – they are all well. Mr Diamond wrote a short note & among other things told me of the death of O’Gorman & Halliday in France, both fellows who went into Camp about the time I left Perth: both in CBA service. A brother of the latter was one of Jeff Hartley’s Sgt pals. If you see a few of these people please tell ’em Good Day for me – some of you gels – Mr Brooker, Mr Poore, Mr Ford, Alex & Mrs Aird & tell ’em I know I owe them a letter – pay it soon I hope: Clara Follett & congrats on her attainment of Professorship or summat – so Benny tells me. Vere Teague, Mrs Tommy & all old York Tennis Club any time: Stan H.
Enough paper to risk in one envelope so here I wind up the clock.
Hooroo – I’m feeling tip top & a little bit – no word of my leave – it may be a week or so yet.
Good bye the noo
With love from Spence