3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Tuesday 14 August 1918 – orange gardens, stone tanks, hymns at YMCA

Received mail & parcels ~ fit for another taste of the valley but won’t be sorry if we don’t get there ~ don’t expect rain before December ~ dark heavy sandy country but moist a couple of feet down ~ orange gardens watered from wells ~ water pumped into tanks that we use as baths to swim in ~ doing a bit of mounted drill these afternoons ~ Sunday night church service at the YM, good singing of the old favourites ~ news of Stow’s good soldiering

Same good place
Tuesday 14 August 1918

Dear Father

I posted a letter to Lic about 9 days ago & one to Mother on Thursday last, but since then another batch of letters has arrived – the ones I said were missing have all come from home I think, & besides these I heard from Alex Aird, Donie & Elf. So I spent Friday evening after their arrival with very much pleasure. Then on Saturday some parcels came – only four for me – the one from home with Sal’s flash socks – think I’ll have to keep them for Sunday or the boat journey home, Lic – I’ll wear them the day we land at O’Harbour! Also in the parcel a pencil, towel, soap, letter cards – very good indeed.

Then Aunt Flo’s cake nearly filled another bundle: just the top of the tin was filled in with almods & peanuts: bonzar cake too – worse luck it’s all gone now. Two surprise packets were from the Perth Baptist Church friends – containing socks, hanks, singlets (one in each), a tin of tea & sugar – tinned Canterbury cake & Xmas pudding & chewing gum – & I don’t know what else. One contained a Xmas card with greetings. I don’t know whether it was meant for last Xmas or next – but it was good to have it & the knowledge of remembrance & good wishes with it. They are a jolly fine lot of people at that church – and seem always to be thinking of & working for their soldiers; & altho I was there for only a short time still I’m not forgotten.

I think I told you in a recent letter didn’t I that Colin Wilson has now gone into camp – but Mrs Harry in her letter said that he had just been given a month in which to get his teeth fixed up – he is only about 19 years old.

Well we have been having a fine rest & enjoying the cool weather while here – & feeling tip top too, so no doubt our turn to work is drawing close again. I reckon I’m fit now for another taste of the valley, all the same I’ll not be sorry if we don’t get there: it’s too hot there yet – but it will soon be cooler now.

A kid here today told us that in six weeks – plenty rain here – well it blows up & looks very much like it some days now – but according to last year’s experiences we shouldn’t have much rain – if any before December. All over this part it is dark, heavy & sandy country, & although it gets pretty hard just under the soft sandy surface, if you get through that down a couple of feet it’s wonderful how moist you find it. This is how the watermelons & things do so well no doubt – & the summer fields of maize & millet likewise. I reckon it would grow lovely lucerne or wheat or any crop for that matter, & the old saying tells us – it’s better further up – so I s’pose it’s up we’ll have to go to see for ourselves.

The owners of the orange gardens have good wells – with engines pumping the water into large stone & cement tanks & from thence it is run out in gutters all round the trees. So they are kept in good heart through the summer – & by the look of the orange crop which promises – it’s a good paying game. But these tanks interest us more – they are about 14 or 15 feet square & 8 feet deep & nearly always full of water. So while we have been here a great many of us have been able to use these baths to swim in. They are not far from camp so it’s easy enough to get down after tea in the evening for splash round – & to wash your clothes when necessary.

I was in for a swim last night, & on the way home called at Frank Jones’ bivvie for a few minutes. He & Lance Neville came back the other day from leave – they reckoned Port Said was pretty slow place for a holiday but I think they had a pretty fair time. I’ve had no chance to go away again yet. Our Squadron is doing a bit of mounted drill these afternoons, but as I’m day stableman today I’m not out: I’m keeping an eye on my few odd horses on the line from the bivvie where I’m writing this. I’ve not been given a horse to ride yet, but that doesn’t matter in camp like this – it’s all the less to do & I can always have old Jinny for a necessary trip if Bob isn’t using her.

On Sunday night at the YMCA we had a nice service & some good singing of the old favourites. The CE chaplain from the 2nd Regiment was in charge – he seems a decent sort of chap – quite young I reckon, but speaks well. I was having a continuation of the song service at the finish (with most of the song coming from those round the piano – not from me) – & after the chaps had sung out pretty well & gone home – one standing there said to me ‘You’re not CE are you?’ I said ‘No, Baptist. Why?’ He said ‘I didn’t think you could be or you wouldn’t know all those hymns.’ They were Alexies [Alexander Hymn Book] of course & altho I know ’em well enough I was certainly pretty rusty at playing – the other chap turned out to be a Church of Christ youth from Victoria – works in our Brigade Ambulance – & he was quite pleased to find I knew a few heads & places which he mentioned – Rev. Thomas for instance & Grote Street & Hindmarsh. I asked him if the fame of York had ever reached his ears but he shook his head at that. I’ve never been able to hear anything of Clem Richardson – nor have I had any chance lately of seeing Ern Jarvis – think their crowd is in the Valley at present.

I was pleased to know by your last letters that you had had some more letters from me – & I guessed that that very thing would happen with the cable – arriving just after you had posted the time be4. Glad to hear good reports of Norm F – old Eckie & all of the old boys we know. I wrote to several of them a month or so ago so I may hear soon – direct. Donie told me of the news they had of Stow’s good soldiering – that’s the stuff! The only other thing is the art of carrying out the advice which I found pinned inside my hat two years ago ‘Keep your bloomin’ head well down in the trench’! I hope to let the girl know soome day that I did. Probably Mrs Tommy may be about right with regard to the issue of MMs, VCs etc – but they don’t matter anyway – & in any case there aren’t enough to go round to everybody – so naturally the leaders get most of ’em.

Good for the rains you’ve had at last – hope the season will continue good right through. I haven’t heard anything of Frank for a long time now. I’ve thought I’d like to write to Aunt Grace some times – but I’ve never done it yet. I don’t know her address but perhaps I’ll write & send for Mother to post on. I think my news is about out – I’ll turn on again in a few days if all goes well & weather permitting. I posted to Aunt Flo & Clara the other day.

So Good bye for this time. I’m still looking for more letters & never satisfied! Love to Mother & the girls – still going strong, hope you’re all as fit.

Spence

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