3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Friday 8 November 1918 – at Boulac Convalescent Depot, death of Stow

Posted a parcel with a few things I picked up ~ 4 parcels from home – one from somebody who can make bonzar cake ~ came just as my appetite was reappearing ~ left the rotten hospital & came to Boulac Convalescent Depot ~ never reckoned on things shifting as they have done in France ~ Red Cross trip to Helwan sulphur baths ~ church service-short of pianists so I played for the hymns ~ sleeping between sheets & in beds for 4 weeks ~ most of our chaps were worse than I was & quite a number have died ~ rotten coming home without Stow

Friday 8 November 1918

Dear Everybody

Before I start writing to Dorc I must make a few remarks: so here goes. I wrote from hospital to Father & Ruth beside which I posted a parcel addressed to Licko. Nothing very lovely in the tin – still I thought the thing interesting enough to pick up & carry. The belt came off a big fat Jacko who went to his happy hunting ground on the occasion of the Jacko-Fritz attack in July – see he was wearing the German buckle ‘God with us’: the other buckle with no belt is a Jacko as you can see by the crescent sign etc. Came from the same locality as the other.

The same day too I was out with a small party – with Colonel Bell & Major Dick & between the lot of us we found a good many Turkish notes: those in the tin are what I had left of my share – I’ve given some away – the small one is for 2½ piastres I think – two larger ones are £1 each & the biggest is a £2-10/-. I have been offered small prices for them in Jeroos & elsewhere by Jew dealers, but I reckoned they were worth keeping.

The Turkish sovereign which I found that day I’ve kep cos I didn’t like putting it in a parcel. The clock there is one which I got just after Beersheba scrap: we galloped into a station which the Turks had just left – they had set alight to everything that would burn but we poked about & picked up things including some of their brown bread & figs & all sorts of stuff until shriek – bang – bang & so on – he had fixed his guns a few miles further on & straightaway shelled the place he had left. Made us shift too for a bit – but he also made things very unpleasant for a crowd of his own soldiers who had just been taken prisoners & were being marched away.

Those pieces of glass are lamp hangings – off old lamps in Nebi Musa – or the Tomb of Moses – near which we were camped just before our first trip to the Jordan – the time we bridged it. The two china affairs I picked up just a week or two before I left the Regiment – at a station where we had a lot of cleaning up work to do. I think the round one was used as an inkwell – perhaps by the Jacko station master. I forget if there’s anything else in it. Anyhow I hope you’ll get it.

Don’t think I had had any mail or any such thing for weeks when I wrote to Ruth. Well all of a sudden four parcels came to light – one from home with custard powders, butter, shortbread, dates, raisins etc – must have been the Aunt Eva parcel by what I’ve heard since – velly nice too. I’ve had two custards up to date. Made ’em myself with some sugar & milk that came with dried fruit & other good things from Finsbury Park SS. Then there was one from Mrs Fred Hughes with apples whole & sound – & some cut up dried apple. Bonzar! The 4th was from the Horseshoe – & I’ll tell you later on what is in it – cos I brought it down here & haven’t opened it yet: making good things last.

The next day I was ‘donner’ struck to see 3 more – one from York Girls’ Knitting Club per Mrs Watson, with socks, Xmas pudding, cheese, butterscotch etc in it: one from somebody who can make a bonzar cake but I can’t even guess who sent it. There were some nuts & almonds on the top: good thing about these parcels was that they came just as my appetite was reappearing – so I was able to help eat & enjoy the contents of them. They would have been tip top to get out in the ‘big paddock’ but all the same they were very welcome visitors to the hospital.

I brought another parcel down here too – one that I’ve been looking for & that I thought might have gone astray in its wanderings – the one from home with Lic’s cake in – Hooray it did come & was all right too Licko. I’ve still got a piece for today’s lunch or supper & that will finish it.

Guess the blue & white socks were those Ruth said she was sending – I’ve got ’em on now – goodo – & the knicks also arrived in good condition – just the right size this time, the last were a bit big. So you see I had a desperate rush of parcels – but still no letters came.

On Sunday I left the rotten 31st [General Hospital]. Came here to [Boulac] convalescent depot which is a bit better. There was a bundle of letters waiting for me here – dated about August 25th – & two days ago another lot (September 12th) came back. Both lots had been up to the Regiment & back. I think another must have missed one No 146 – none seem to be missing – & I’ve now had up to 156 – also heard from Dora & Aunt Carrie, Uncle Bert, Uncle Arthur, Jean Gilmour, Mabel Walter, Myrt & Hendie Henderson & Miss Ashton.

Did I ever say that in that big mail I had about 5/6 weeks ago the photo of Sal taken at Henley Beach was duly discovered: it’s bonz I reckon – but goodness gracious – dearie me, what a chile! She has grown miles since that one Jeff took in our garden only 18 months or so ago. And in the last mail was another taken with the calf (with its head in the milk bucket) at Balak[lava] – not bad either – & a bit of Australian cow & country with it. And that just reminds me that I have a bit of a picture taken here the other day in which I’ll leave you to find my doleful countinghouse [countenance]. It’s a brown mug I’m holding in my hand – plate etc in the one you can’t see, just after dinner.

1pm at Boulac Convalescent Camp. Mail time – see the man by the pillar at the top with the bundle of letters – which he will distribute by calling the names & handing out as the owners answer
Detail – Spencer Kentish – top LH of photo

Father said ‘send a photo of self & Jinny’ – well I’ve never had one of the lady in all these years & now it’s possible I won’t see her bonz old face again – I’m a bit of an ass eh. Dorc – wot you tink? Never reckoned on things shifting as they have done lately in France & around that way but there it is. Ruth invited me home for Xmas & some fun & all that – wal I guess I’ll make it Easter & accept – fair dinkum – that’s not from Lloyd George or Kaiser Bill or any other ’edd – only my poor humble opinion.

That was a good yarn about the hockey finals too, Ruth – bad luck varsity’s got so well licked at the last. I dare say you did have a good time too at McLaren Vale amongst the hills & wattle & springtime not to mention people. Found your little sprig of fern & wattle alright.

So they gave Mack some farewells – & other things – did they? Bad luck – I wrote the other day & told her about it – but I forgot to wish her Many Happy Returns which I now do for Ruth. S’pose Ruth will now be elected to the Miss Kentish state.

These pages & pages get you don’t they. But I’m glad I have these pads as no other backsheesh paper is available here & cash is mighty short. They won’t let you draw much until you are discharged as well & fit. I sent a cable from Cairo Telegraph Office on Thursday afternoon stating ‘On leave, well etc’ which was not ’zactly the truth as you’ll read it. Cos although I was on leave for the aftie I’ve not got my dinkum leave yet, but that will come in a few days now most likely & I wanted to get the cable away.

I hope you may get it today if it has decent luck. I’m going in again this afternoon (Saturday now – I started this yesterday) – not very much to do in town – but it’s worth going now & again for a dinkum meal. We went to the YMCA in Esbekich Gardens on Thursday & had a very nice tea. I first put in about an hour & a half at the Museum looking at the old old old statues dug up in all sorts of places & the older mummies of Kings & Queens & witches & such like of millions of years BC. Old Rameses II is there & his wife I think & Dad & Mum – he is the joker that was after Moses & all the other nips about that time – so they tell you – but he slipped on Moses. They used to have better looking noses in those days than present day Gyppos. ’Spect a chap would have to spend a week in there to get an idea of all the musty old stuff & stories pertaining to the ‘antiquities’. I had a very short walk through.

The day before that I went on a Red Cross trip from here, to Hellouan [Helwan], up to Cairo by tram – thence to Hellouan, about 10 miles by train. We had a swim in some sulphur baths out there & then had tea (very nice bread & butter & eggs & tomatoes) at a place nearby.

Last Sunday eve here we had a church service in the large main hall of the building (we all live – or rather sleep in marquees). The parson happened to be a bit short of pianists so I was promoted to the platform & played for the hymns. It was the best service I’ve been to for awhile. I’ve had a couple of good old goes on the piano for my own amusement – find I’m getting more finger stiff then ever – but I can still remember most parts of 4 or 5 old pieces, tho I can’t play one decently. This piano is the best I’ve struck yet in military possession – it’s actually in tune & had quite good tone.

Well Licko – I wonder how the Junior work is going – it must be just about on now. Hope it’s not too bad. I’ll be hearing soon all about your trip to Port Pirie & whether you won your tennis or not – guess you had a bonzar time, And you’ve been trying to be ‘not too good’ have you. I’ve been the same way lately – ‘weak & anaemic’ – that’s me! Strike me fat – that’s a bit of a joke, don’t you reck? Supposed to be a soldier too! Ah well I’ve been sleeping between sheets in beds for 4 weeks now – so there are compensations.

Most of our chaps were a lot worse than I was & quite a number have died. You may have seen the names of Vic Rule & Phil Prime, two of the old 23/3 – rotten luck. Phil was one of our original 8 you know – tho he was not in the cable scheme. Never heard a word about old Stow till my letters came this week. I wrote some sort of a letter to Uncle Bert the other day – but I can’t altogether make head or tail out of it yet. It will be rotten coming home without Stow.

Think this is enough for one envelope so I’ll shut up shop & go for my quinine.


Love from Spence