Spencer Kentish kept a diary for the first year of his active service in Egypt and Palestine. The diary was a small roan-bound booklet that allocated one page per day for one year.
Inscription inside front cover
Tuesday 16 January 1917
Left Mitcham at 9.30 and caught 10.5 train for Outer Harbour. Good fun in train and fine send off at the wharf. Dorc and Ruth both back from holidays and down from Port by motor car! Good. Also Father, Mother, Mack and Sal of course were there and Benny, Mrs Tommy, Stella Rowe, Mr Norwood and nips. It was as good as anything and everyone was bright. Threw them my Rising Suns etc across the water and waved till all were out of sight.
Wednesday 17 January 1917
Lot of chaps ill at out table so Frank Jones & I had to go mess orderlies. Better than being ill – but the stuffy air downstairs turned me up for dinner! Only once sicl for 5 minutes, so I was lucky. Jack Taylor appointed to assist me as librarian.
Saturday 20 January 1917
Fine day – poor old Bulla going steadily and great excitement when Break Sea Island outside Albany was sighted and later on the mainland. Too dull in the afternoon to distinguish anything on shore. Sports in the afternoon, running and jumping in which I took part. Concert at night – not too bad I spose.
Sunday 21 January 1917
Good fine weather sailing round the Leeuwin and turned north along the coast, lost sight of land again till evening lights of Rottnest and Fremantle showed up and by 10.30pm, we were a few miles away. Had church service at 11 and all our chaps and some of boat crew attended. Mr Heath conducted. Not bad at all and in the afternoon, we dressed up and were picked in squads of 10 for rife exercises. Our squad topped all. Reading and writing occupied the evening.
Monday 22 January 1917
Woke up with Fremantle just over the water and pulled in early. Went off for route march at 9am and I got up to Gilmours and thus to Mr Lamb who got me leave for 2 hours. Met some of friends at Cabin Tea Rooms for dinner and they saw me off at the wharf. Mr and Mrs and Jean Gilmour. Miss Ashton, Ron Thompson, Mr Lamb beside Dot and Mr Bourke whom I rang up and Mrs Carey. Had fruit and cake given me to bring back. Jolly good time. I sent wire and posted letters home and around.
Tuesday 23 January 1917
Well out of sight of land which we left yesterday at 5pm after our trip ashore and taking on WA chaps. 23/10. All of our fellows are pretty well and fit again after their seasick stage. Cleared up library in morning, fixed hours for business with Mr Throssell‘s approval, 8 to 9 am, 11 to 12 noon, 2 to 4 pm, and 7 to 8 pm. Sports in afternoon. I was in for high jump and 100 yds, won my heat. Down in stoke hold at night shovelling coal with firemen.
Wednesday 24 January 1917
Bonny day, not so rocky or swelly a sea today. Good morning’s work in our den, finished reading “The Settler” and started “Glengarry Days”. Both R Connor. Had a ‘box’ with Jack Taylor and Jack Hardwicke and after tea, read a bit and went to the concert. All sorts of songs – well and rottenly sung, accompanied by the Doc on organ. Also a few trys at recitations and a mandolin selection by Chief Engineer. Bed pretty early.
Thursday 25 January 1917
Jack Taylor was taken off the job so I’ve got it on my own but he will still sleep here at nights. The job is alright and suits me A1. Had some good hard exercise at the sports! George Potter just beat me in semifinal of 100 yards and Keay, a WA chap and I had a tough go for the 440 yards. He won by a foot or two. 23/9 pulled 23/10 at tug o war and we pulled and beat 23/9. Good old 23/3.
Friday 26 January 1917
Was busy in the morning fixing up fresh shelves – more boxes – to display my books. Good business doing now that the chaps are well again. We spend the day in reading, working, playing quoits, boxing and various other things. Down the stokehold with Les W for an hour and a bath in the canvas bath on deck afterwards. Read in bed till I went to sleep and Jack T put out the light.
Saturday 27 January 1917
Nothing much on except quoits on deck in afternoon. Engines stopped on account of a hot bearing and ship stood still or drifted with wind or tide for about 2 hours or so, seemed strange out in mid ocean. Had a practice lifebelt and boat alarm and all ran to our various stations. Concert at night, flags and all that around but I did not go. Stayed in library and wrote a letter to Ruth. Supper on home cake etc.
Sunday 28 January 1917
Up for parade at 7am. No jerks, breakfast, then in library for a while. Then at 11 am all dressed up for church. Jolly decent service. Dr Holder organist and preacher Captain Heath “Quit ye like men, be strong” the text. The fellows had a sweep on length of sermon! Pretty rot but they bet on anything here. Had library open again during afternoon and evening and read a good deal. Decent song service in evening for 2 hours. George Potter and I sang duet, number 24 in Alexander Song Book.
Monday 29 January 1917
Busy in morning clearing up my show for usual inspection at 11 o’clock. Read “At the Sign of the Jack O Lantern” by Myrtle Reed. In afternoon, Jack Hardwicke and I went down and cleaned pips (brass) in the engine room. Mighty warm too and good cold shower bath after, was all right even if twas salt. Finals of sports run off, 23/3 scored well in prizes. Nothing doing in the evening. Read away: had supper with all the clan before bed.
Tuesday 30 January 1917
Dull weather but close and warmer than a week ago. Raining a little today. Finished Mother’s cake last night but still have some apricot jam and cocoa. Doing well for food and suppers and lunches so far. Interesting to watch the sea all round and out back in the wake of the ship, especially at night. Saw Southern Cross, soon be out of sight now. Fine moonlight nights look alright on sea. Reading “Queen of the Rushes” by Allan Raine, good book too.
Wednesday 31 January 1917
Jack Taylor and I were Mess Orderlies for the day for our table so not much time to spare. I did some washing in the afternoon, also was in 23/3 number 1 team of ten men to play 23/10 at chase ball and channel ball, of course we won, naturally. Then the second teams had several goes and 23/3 won. I was reading a jolly good book “The Ring and the Man”, the best I have read on board. Good. Played with Phil Prime in deck quoits and we lost. Wrote a bit home to Dork at night.
Thursday 1 February 1917
Getting up into tropics, calm and dull weather but not hot out and up on top anywhere. Nothing much doing all day. Went to sleep up aft with Les W and nearly missed dinner. Boxing contests at night and Herb G was knocked out – rotten luck as he was boxing well and the other fellow fighting. Billy Doman fought well and one or two others. Supper with the clan before bed: drinks, cake and preserved pineapple. I was out for a good while before bed talking with one of the Engineers and watching moonlight on the Bulla.
Friday 2 February 1917
At Inspection, the OC and Captain were gracious enough to mention that my Den was looking very well and tidy. Good luck McGuiness and I scrubbed it out two days ago. Bright warm weather today and not a fleck of white anywhere on the sea. Reading “My Life in the Army” by Robert Blatchford.
Saturday 3 February 1917
Work as usual in the morning and part of the afternoon devoted to sports. I was in for obstacle and potato races and also cock-fighting. I did not win any though I came fairly near two of em. Had a jolly good afternoon, also in the evening: we were out here doing Jimmy-Nasty tricks of our own invention and remembrance, lying on chairs, wrist twisting and balancing etc. Took my bed out on the afterdeck and slept there in the breeze in the cool with Frank and Les.
Sunday 4 February 1917
Nothing much to do before church time, 11 am, when Mr Heath conducted a very nice service. Hymns were Fight the Good Fight, Stand Up and Eternal Father. The address was good re Jacob and Esau – the sale of the birthright for pottage. Had our photos taken both 23/3 and our old No 4 tent. Read and wrote letters in the afternoon. Good singsong in the evening for an hour or more. George Potter and I sang “Looking this way” and Mr Heath and I sang “ There was one who was willing”.
Monday 5 February 1917
Nothing doing except that we are now crossing the Line!!! & are to be ducked tonight. Good fun. The sea all day was like glass – absolutely calm without a ripple – and the sunset was a marvel to behold: talk about colour! Dazzling, ripping and gradually mellowing gold sea and on the other side of the boat all colours, blue, purple and nearly white till it grew all indistinct and dark. Concert at night followed by visit from Father Neptune and his retinue who held their court and pronounced sentence and carried out the penalty of ducking all the new chums who had trespassed in their dominion and so we were duly elected members of the Northern Hemisphere Brigade. Good fun getting in some who objected to the water and ducking but they all got it sooner or later and only worse for resisting.
Tuesday 6 February 1917
Tuesday easy day, read a book by Knowles, “The Handicap” not too bad either. At night we had boxing and wrestling matches. I was put out 2 of 3 by Sommerville.
Wednesday 7 February 1917
Reckon last night was one of the best nights we have put in on board, real bit of good fun. Lance Neville and Robbie had a good “box on” and all the events were carried out well. Wednesday cleaned up and had a shave. Half the silly “micks” on board are growing a moustache – noodles! Read another of Allan Raine’s books “Under the Thatch”, pretty fair. I like those Welsh yarns alright. Bridge tournament started tonight, fair number of chaps in for it.
Thursday 8 February 1917
After clearing up the “show” I went down to the stokehold with Les for an hour – shoved in a bit of coal, and came up and had a swim and a bath in the canvas bath on the deck. Good! Nothing doing in the afternoon and the evening. Read a bit and about 9pm got supper ready, cocoa etc while Les made toast and the “family” had a small gathering. Sleeping alright up on after deck, no pillow or much soft underneath but we seem to sleep alright. Full moon tonight.
Friday 9 February 1917
Woke up with 3 islands in view, long flat topped, steep granite sides, no sand or vegetation to see. On the left, 2 small islands standing straight up out of the water like gate posts. Later on, more islands, some of a decent size, but all look pretty barren. We were out of sight of them again by evening. I did some washing in the afternoon, rotten job I reckon, don’t know how people can stand doing it regularly all their lives, that’s one other job I won’t want after the war is over, “assistant laundry maid!” Started reading the book “Ailsa Paige” by Robt Chambers.
Saturday 10 February 1917
Life boat drill in the morning. We are nearing Aden now in Gulf of Aden but not to call, worse luck. Saw a vessel going out opposite us. Getting into shipping route now and see land occasionally. A few sports in the afternoon, I was in team race and we just were beaten in final. I also was in the “stepping 22 yards”. Concert at night, not too bad but we did not stay long and went pretty early to bed. “Ailsa Paige” jolly good book, I like it A1.
Sunday 11 February 1917
Passed Aden early this am, I saw its searchlight over the water at 4.30 at 10 to 15 miles or more, I should think. When daylight arrived we could all see land, hilly ragged coastline, then a steamer came along fast and passed us going opposite direction. Later on another steamer and altogether 5 today, beside 2 we saw in harbour at one place where there was a fort, bit of a town apparently and two light houses, saw a few men walking around. Most interesting day we’ve spent as yet. Church at 11am , fine service and address by Mr Heath. At 4pm we passed a fine lighthouse and city of Mocca or somesuch, a Turkish possession I think.
Monday 12 February 1917
It is away 15 miles I suppose but looks fine and big and with towers, big buildings etc. We are now going up Red Sea with Arabia on our right. We are surely getting somewhere at last. Hurrah. Land on left at 6pm and passed through “Hell’s Gates” soon after. Land close on either side, light house on north. At 7pm, had an hour’s song service, not bad, sang hymns, duets and solos etc. George and I sang again, Almost Persuaded. At 10pm, just getting to bed, when big P&O mail steamer came along and passed in the opposite direction, all lit up and looked bonny, portholes and deck lights etc and soon was gone. Rough sea at night and we had to shift to keep out of the way of waves coming over the side and end of ship but slept pretty well nevertheless.
Monday morning early passed fair sized island and lighthouse and a boat. Then another boat before breakfast pretty close and after brek a big one a way out on the southern horizon looked like a white painted mail-boat. Calm and fairly cool day for the Red Sea which I thought was always hot. Winter here though. Pretty quiet day – started reading “By Order of the Company”, M Johnstone. Supper at night just our own crowd, lemon squash, biscuits and cake we pinched from baker. Sat round and sang songs etc and yarned for a while, good o.
Tuesday 13 February 1917
Tuesday a bit of thunder and lightning in the night and rain which shifted us into the library. Read nearly all day, good yarn, early Virginian days. Nothing doing at night. No ships today – expect to arrive at Suez on Friday next. Good.
Wednesday-Thursday 14-15 February 1917
Jolly interesting travelling, seeing land now on one side or the other most of the day. Passed a rubble island or two: one with a big lighthouse on it and 3 or 4 men outside, they looked like darkies, Arabs or something. Saw on the right a range of mountains and they said it was Mount Sinai in the distance. Anyhow they all looked tier on tier and rugged and barren with great sandy stretches in front of them just like any old Biblical pictures ever I’ve seen or imagined about the country. Getting into Suez we could see big high cliffs close in from the shore – at least only a few miles. Had a great supper the last night at home – the old tent together.
Friday 16 February 1917
Into Suez Harbour at 9 am and watched the ships – Dutch and all sorts – hung up there. O/a submarines. Could see white women on one of em! a big mail steamer. Had dinner, shifted our baggage and followed it on a lighter, arrived on land once more at about 2 o’clock. Had a march round the town and had donkey rides and bought biscuits to eat. Seems a good deal of French about the place – writing notices and a French man in charge of East Extension tel office: we could not send cable from there. Entrained at 5pm and had decent 3 hour trip to Moascar Camp – near Ismailia: ordered out by Sgt Mjr and met by an officer and marched straight off to Isolation Camp about 1 mile away. Dark and a few lights – had tea and biscuits and issued with blankets and sent to our beds, good. Our old 8 got in the same tent together again. That’s luck for you.
Saturday 17 February 1917
Reveille at 5.45 and out for jerks before brek, did some troop drill and messed round out on the sand till about 11 o’clock, then were dismissed. Had to pull down a few tents and fall in numerous times during the afternoon. Well pleased with our accommodation and general comforts of this camp.
Sunday 18 February 1917
All new men from overseas come here first for isolation for 3 weeks or so – get inoculated a few times and do musketry. About another 120 other Light Horse and Camel Corps fellows beside our 100 at present. No work today or church. Good tucker here. Porridge, cold meat, cheese, jam, stew, good bread, tea – jolly good meals I reckon and a shed, tables, forms etc to eat in and on. After dinner, Les, Phil, Jack, Lance and I went for walk to village 1 mile away: saw chap praying, washing and playing dice etc in streets and a band and an orator of a sort kicking up a row in their lingo. Walked out to an irrigated garden, got peas for cigarettes. Fair sized fresh water channel running through the village – and bridge guarded by Tommies.
Monday 19 February 1917
Up and on parade at 6.15am and started on musketry but after brek I was put in the office to fix up some nominal rolls. Not very keen on office work. I hope it won’t last long. Lovely weather here and very interesting all round – the endless sands and acres and acres of endless canvas here about, clumps of palms and green gardens under irrigation from fresh water canal – from Nile I believe. Went after tea with Jack and Herb to the big camp tho we are in isolation -! we went to the YM canteen and to the Kitchener Hall. Here a concert was on given by 9th Manchester “Jolly Boys”, heard two chaps sing and they were pretty good. The hall and every place were crowded out mostly by Tommies tho there are plenty of Australians here. Home to our tents and in bed by about 9 o’clock and slept jolly well.
Tuesday 20 February 1917
Still in the office, not very busy, making up rolls and copying conduct sheets for our 100 new arrivals. My teeth are classed as “A” class on my papers. We all got 2 inoculations in the afternoon, one in each arm for cholera and para-typhus. They did not hurt much, made our arms a bit sore and itchy by bedtime that night.
Wednesday 21 February 1917
Had a fairly easy day, don’t reckon I’ll stop in the office too long and miss musketry or I’ll be left behind when the chaps move out. The other lad in the office has the chance of going on to office work at the other camp and is going, I believe, and he is a slow sort of coot. That’s no good to me anyway. At night, Lance, Phil, Herb and I went over to the big camp again and saw the crowds of chaps. A big trainload of Tommies off for Alexandria and they are shifting crowds of ‘em back to France. Saw a chap addressing a meeting in the YM Hall.
Thursday 22 February 1917
Made up my mind to get out of office and saw Cam who promised to put someone in my place tomorrow: good. Had to make up some record roll of incoming and outgoing soldiers. Nothing doing at night. We yarned away in the tent for a while and went early to bed. I had a good bath during the day out on the sand heap near the water trough. Got half tins of water and with aid of my face washer had a tip top wash and rub up afterwards.
Friday 23 February 1917
Out with the chaps today at musketry instruction: theory only so far. We are to go shooting on Monday at the butts. Great excitement at night when some home letters arrived. Most chaps scored one or two, some more, but I missed the bag, evidently mine have gone astray and will turn up later on. Wrote and posted a letter to Dorc.
Saturday 24 February 1917
Went out with rifles before brek but after we just had to pull down our tents to lie out in the sun. Then we were paid in 50 piastre notes. I am getting pretty well used to the money system now. At 11am we had to stick up our tents again and soon it was dinner time. After dinner we were inoculated again and then we played a scratch game of footy. I was on the losers’ side but we had a good game. Went to bed early and was nearly asleep when some letters were brought in. I had one from Dorc, Elf, Miss Ashton and Jean Gilmour. Good, and sat up in bed and read them by lighted candle stuck in an empty bottle. That was alright.
Sunday 25 February 1917
Church parade at 7am. Mr Heath spoke for a short time and we sang a few hymns. Wrote to Wilf Rowe and went for a walk in the morning and after dinner we walked to Ismailia along nice limestone road near canal. Saw camps and man drawing water with cow and buckets. Saw soldiers bathing in big lake near Ismailia. Walked round the town and bought silk things and postcards and had a good tea on fish, eggs etc. Hired a motor and had a good drive around the gardens and parks and avenues and decent parts of the place. It was real good and cost us only 8 piastres (1/8d) each. Walked round after, had supper, found a YM building near Ismailia station. Played piano and at 9.30, caught train home.
Monday 26 February 1917
Out of bed at 5.20 reveille – pretty dark and cold so very early. Had a cup of tea and a few biscuits in our tent and at 6, we had to fall in and march out to the butts to commence shooting. Started with 5 rounds grouping at 100 yds. I got 4 bulls – but my 5th shot was wide and only scored 15. Back to camp about 9.15 for brek. Out again and fired 5 rounds application at 200. I scored 19 out of 20 and in the afternoon at 5 rounds rapid I sent only 4 bullets going and scored 4 hits in half a minute. Very easy day’s work. Nothing doing at night so early into bed.
Tuesday 27 February 1917
Continued our unearthly hours of rising and went out shooting again before breakfast. I did not score too well, only 12 out of 20 at 5 rounds application at 300 yards. After brek, we shot at same range, 10 rounds rapid. I scored 7 hits out of my 10 shots in a minute. In the afternoon, it blew up dusty and we did not shoot but went out instead and cleaned our rifles with hot water. Jack Hardwicke and I walked over to Nefisha station after tea to see if any chaps were on the train from Suez. We are looking always now for the 24th reinforcements. Bath before going to bed.
Wednesday 28 February 1917
Out again at 5.15am and shot at the 400 yards range – 5 rounds application. I scored 13/20 which was fair for the distance and they do look tiny from that range. At the rapid firing afterwards, I got 3 hits out of 4 shots in ½ a minute. After dinner I was sent into the office for the afternoon. Posted letter to Mack today. Nothing much doing at night. We had another “noc” given us after tea by Dr Holder.
Thursday 1 March 1917
Our arms are all right this trip. Out doing some snap shooting at disappearing figure targets, running in from 400 to about 200 yards. I sent 9 shots and scored 4 bulls – jolly good practice and the sort of stuff we need. Herb got 9 bulls out of 10 shots. Good. After dinner did an hour’s squadron drill with the 9th and 10th under Mr Throssell and then played a footie scratch match. We won by about 3-7 to 1-6: good scramble and had a bath after. Herb and Jack and I walked over to the village and round to station at train time, Nefisha but no troops yet.
Friday 2 March 1917
Dusty rotten day and stew for dinner and little enough of it. Up and struck our tents and packed up to move in to Details camp – 1st Light Horse Training Regiment made up of 1st, 2nd and 3rd LH. Marched down to Head Quarters and there parted with Mr Throssell and the 9th and 10th and marched back here. Roared at by old Major “Some of these men are filthy: not fit to be on parade!” Not me anyway but he is a great ass anyhow! Had to put up our tents and told off 6 in each. Drew lots to stay in and Arch and Lance had to go out into sergeant’s tent, bad luck but can’t help it. Nothing to do after dinner so we lay around, saw Billy Gill at night and listened to his story of Egypt and Johnny Turk and fighting – very interesting indeed. He is an old Kyrian [Kyre College] and pal of Les Williams.
Saturday 3 March 1917Had to shift some tents in the morning – one big one for Capt Biggs. He is a decent chap, told me he knew old Donkey Bray – Donkey taught him. After dinner we had a footy match with the 9th Regiment and some of our new arrivals were picked. We kicked about 4-8 to 8-8 and lost but had a good game. I was in ruck one quarter and back the other three. I kicked one goal. Went over to YM and got some jam, cocoa and stuff to eat and drink. Concert on in hall.
Sunday 4 March 1917
Fall in at 6.15 and told to get ready for Guard that day by 3.45. Had some slope arms for a while after brek. Cleaned up our gear during the day and when we went on in the afternoon, were much complimented on our turn-out – and later on were told it was the best guard put on HQ as yet. Different to our reception by Major. Arch, Herb and I were 3rd shift and shared a tent alone. Its all right to have old Herb about, he knows lots more people up Laura and north way whom I know than any others here. It’s sort of old times and home like.
Monday 5 March 1917
Continued our guard job (beats 9 to 11 and 3 to 5) till 5pm on Monday. Had pretty decent easy enough time saluting a few officers and heads. “Best guard put on HQ up to date”. Kid stakes if you like. Wrote a letter to Father during the day. Nothing doing at night, went to bed pretty early & slept tight. Mother’s stray letter from the West came to light at last. Good.
Tuesday-Wednesday 6–7 March 1917
Warned for guard again – for tonight, and nothing to do all day but get ready. Frank, Herb, Lance and I & 2 others were put on Bridge picquet down near Ismailia. Very interesting down there, plenty of n-ggers and passes to examine and officers going into the town. Frank and I were on from 7 to 9 pm and had a few gharrie rides in with Escorts, mostly officers. It was bonny moonlight too, a lovely night. I was on for an hour, 1 to 2, weird looking and sounding place then – water & rats & croakers. Gurkhas on Guard and Tommies over at the water works, Bitter Lake a bit over – good sized patch of water and canal runs through it. Saw ship coming along with lights on. Went to bed again and had a good sleep till 5.15 when Capt Atkinson – the orderly officer, decent chap too – came round and told us we turned out smartly. Went to sleep again till 7 o’clock & then on beat again & so on through the day: jolly good guard done I reckon. Saw lots of loaded donkeys going in to market & out again & people riding them – swinging their long legs. Saw camel getting loaded up with timber.
On Wed night Phil and I went along into Ismailia again. Bonny walk, some decent places both public and residential and military, avenue of trees along by the canal, we saw houseboat on the water too. WA chaps on guard at the bridge and “Dinkum” was there with them by the fire.
Thursday 8 March 1917
The troops marched out for the Regiment – old Phil looked a bit lonely – but I guess we’ll soon be there. Moody, Geo Potter and Billy Doman were amongst those who went out. Nothing much doing with our crowd.
Friday 9 March 1917
No work except Guard for some of the chaps. I struck horse picquet at night and pulled for shifts. Mine was the 1st from 9 till 11, then I made my bed in the grain box – which was empty – and slept snug and warm till 5.30 next morning.
Saturday 10 March 1917
Rotten windy and dusty day: pulled down tents and put em up again in adverse conditions: a few blew down again during the day and we had to hop round and put a few up again occasionally. Lazy enough day and they call it “being at war – noble heroes!!!” Thought they were 24/3 coming in but found 25/3 and 25/9 etc – in all about 500 – had beat them here by “Karmala”. Fred Hollis with them, good enough!
Sunday 11 March 1917
More news this morning, another crowd going out to join the Regiment! Old Arch and Herb are among them. Frank was mentioned once and I was first standby but all the chaps passed the Doc and we were left behind. I’d have liked to go alright with Herb. Herb and I went to YM at 9 o’clock for church conducted by a C of E Chaplain, about David and his army “Standing by the stuff”. Windy and dusty day. We went into Ismailia at night. Frank, Arch, Herb and I and had a look round. Came back in a hurry to meet the Suez train with troops on.
Monday 12 March 1917
Out with Lieut Hamilton, son of Dr Hamilton – knew Perce Smith. Hoorah! The cat came back – so says Sal. Good on her pluck. 6 letters – & more sent by Mack from Father, Mother, Ruth, Dork, Sal, Ray, Elf, Jean, Aunt Flo – great fun. I can see that mail days here are going to be some event! Frank & Les also had 6 letters each. Out all day riding ove the sand hills etc with Major, 5 Lieuts, a Capt, 4 Sgts, 2 Cpls & 3 soldiers. Roy Hicks & a New Zealander had dinner out under the palms, saw old shacks, natives living in them, fowls, goat, dogs all together. Monday night saw Laffer and Fred Hollis went down to aerodrome to see Les, Lance and Jack on guard for 48 hours. Had cocoa and cake for supper. Only Frank and I in tent to sleep. Les, Arch and Herb gone out to Regt today.
Tuesday 13 March 1917
Out again with the officers riding but only over by Nefisha and saw gyppo kids and played about and learnt their writing, Mohammed Ameda, 5 horses, numbers of 1 to 20. Saw Fred Hollis again at night and had supper at YM. All our 5 back in the tent to sleep this night. We had more mail and papers and parcels.
Wednesday 14 March 1917
Out as usual with 1 Major, 2 Captains, 5 Lieuts, 4 Sgts and 4 soldiers, 16 all told in party. We rode out past No 2 Isolation Camp and crossed the Cairo railway line further down, no fences, saw big train. Trains good and fast with fine big engine. Rode over little stream and cultivated plots watered from fresh water canal, saw nigs putting on manure with little trucks on lines and two ploughs working with 2 bullocks on each. Just an old crooked stick or tree for a plough. Dead funny. Over to big building which looks like Governor’s residence and big old prison sort of place near by. Went over to canal and gradually worked up back to Nefisha and on to camp by 2 o’clock, early finish
Thursday 15 March 1917
Left main party with Mr Hamilton and another officer and rode over by native houses out from Blackfriars Bridge and then over to the big high reservoir. Sentry on guard presented arms. Had a fine view of Lake Timsah and city of Ismailia from up there. Over to a nice shady spot for dinner, rode into camp with horses and out to the canal again to Mr Hamilton and other officers. Had a real good & interesting day. Old 3 sided sheep yard shacks the Gyps live in, out amongst the sand drifts.
Friday 16 March 1917
Nothing much doing. I wrote to Mack and Dorc during the afternoon, saw Fred Hollis about every day this week. Lance and I were alone in the tent and Frank, Les and Jack were on aeroplane guard. Went over to the concert after tea with Harry Lewis and heard a good chap at reciting, he said 2 pieces.
Saturday 17 March 1917
After brek 2 of us had to take a bird to the clink and then the usual tent pulling down and repitching. After dinner, Lance and I walked into Ismailia, had a swim in Lake Timsah on the way. Lot of chaps down there, old Bulla 9th and 10th fellows we knew. Went in and had tea, then bought some stuff at the shops and went to the pictures. Not a bad show and good fun making out and guessing at the French description. All soldiers nearly and a few others. Old tunes and piano and fiddle, “Mother’s got a mangle” etc.
Sunday 18 March 1917
Went to church at 9 am at YMCA conducted by Capt Chaplain O’Halloran, a good big crowd there, mostly the fresh chaps. Saw Fred Hollis and we stayed after for communion service in little hall. Wrote to Hal and & Ess & saw Mr O’Halloran for a yarn during the afternoon, he seems a decent old cove and knows WA people a bit, Mr Wilson & Mr Harry. In the evening had a song service – good, and address after by one of the YM secretaries. Had a yarn to Mr Smart, he knows Two Wells and Mallala people a bit.
Monday 19 March 1917
Out on physical jerks with “Dashing Harry” otherwise Lieut Harry Oborn, very funny too. Out afterwards for rifle exercises for a while then warned for supply guard at night and let go to clean up and get ready. I wrote to old Capt Eckee and posted the letter straight away so as he can get it and perhaps write back soon. At 5 o’clock, we took over guard and had a quiet night and a fair bit of sleep.
Tuesday 20 March 1917
On guard – supply guard, just near the YMCA canteen and my post was round the picture palace & as I was on the first shift, I was finished by 1 o’clock, my shifts were 5 to 7 and 11 to 1, twice over. I wrote to Elf during the day and good job, that’s one more out of the way and not that I don’t like writing to ‘em all but I am lazy. Went to lecture in the YM at night by Capt Chaplain O’Halloran on 12 years in jail, being some of his experiences while chaplain at Fremantle gaol for that period – very interesting.
Wednesday 21 March 1917
After jerks with Dashing Harry and brek, Lance and I were told off to clean up at the sergeants’ canteen and mess. Very easy morning’s work and a drink and oranges thrown in. Had a tent to rig up after dinner, that’s about all we did all day. I went and saw a chap playing tennis after tea, then to the YM and wrote letters to Jean Gilmour & Miss Ashton – 2 more off the slate. It was letter night at YM hall and hundreds of letters were written in the evening.
Thursday 22 March 1917
Had letter from Herb Groves. He and Arch out with Regiment, all right. Had some slope arms during the morning and then some of us got leave for Ismailia from 2.30pm to go to opening of NZ soldiers club. We were marched to the town and dismissed. Les, Tommy Henderson and I went along and had some nice cakes and tea and looked round a bit and through the rooms. Played piano, went out and hired boat and sailed out to a British monitor on the lake, shown the big 9.2 guns, carry 22000 yards and cartridges weigh nearly 400 lbs. Back to town for tea and walked round shops and home by about 9 o’clock.
Friday 23 March 1917
Jack to go out to the Regiment. Out on the horse holding job again. Mr Hamilton and 2 NCOs, about the same number altogether in the party and my NZ friend still here. Along the fresh water canal saw n-ggers washing themselves and praying to Allah or the sun, bobbing down to the ground and carrying on. Ameda came along and I let her hold my horses, she is alongside now while I am writing – “Ameda 3 horses”. Had dinner by old white house and then we were on patrol party at work all the afternoon. Had a good ride or two. Posted letter to Herb, went to Ismailia at night with Fred Hollis, Dave Lines.
Saturday 24 March 1917
Jack Hardwicke had to go out at 10 o’clock. I helped him get ready and carried his pack to the railway station and saw him off. Back and helped pull down and pitch the tents again. After dinner, went over to the YM and wrote to Marj and Mother and had a play for half an hour on piano. After tea we went to the boxing and saw Fred Hollis have a good hard fight and beat his man. Other good fights and some very funny ones. Met Don McCord and had good yarn about old Two Wells people & days and footie matches.
Sunday 25 March 1917
Church at 9am, preacher Capt O’Halloran again, decent service, met Fred Hollis and we heard that letters were in. Came over and got a lot from home – good o – from Donie [cousin and sister of Stow], Aunt Annie and Hal & co. Good fun getting letters here I guess. Fred and I went into town for tea and a walk, got cake etc at NZ soldiers home and came home early. Fred is a good chap.
Monday 26 March 1917
Up and bunged without the option into Lewis machine gun school. Les Williams with me and Lance and Frank in the Hotchkiss and Maxim machine guns respectively. Interesting enough but no good to us cos we want to go out to the Regiment at first opportunity. It is better than mucking about doing nothing if we must stay here – because of course we are learning something useful.
Tuesday 27 March 1917
Going ahead at machine guns – wrote to Father at night at YM. Talking to a WA chap whose face I recognised and who also seemed to know me. We must have met in Perth in the bank or somewhere I think.
Wednesday 28 March 1917
Had first exam on description of parts of Lewis gun. Only got 90%. Frank and I were out early and went for a good swim in Lake Timsah. Got back in time for dinner. Bought and ate lots of oranges. Wrote and posted letter to Donie. Nothing much doing at night. Had a field card from Ken Gilmour, he is all right.
Thursday 29 March 1917
Had a cable from home – good o! – came about tea time and was sent on Monday afternoon, only 3 days so that is pretty good travelling and quite fresh news too. Happy birthday letters received, all well, glad they’ve had my letters from here. After a kick of the footie, Frank and I went to see the semi-finals of the boxing, pretty good some of it, Fred Hollis will win against his opponent Edwards on Sat night but it will not be any easy matter. Fred had no fight tonight.
Friday 30 March 1917
Heard at 6am that we, Les, Lance and I, were to go out to Regiment tomorrow. Great joy and gladness and preparations. Cleaning going on all that morning. Then at dinner time we heard we were not to be allowed away from the school and had to go back in the afternoon. Talk about stiff luck, we never dreamed of being blocked. Others put in our places. Of course old Frank who was not picked is glad in a way. We will get next chance. Over ar YM with Fred Hollis writing letters home.
Saturday 31 March 1917
Second exam this morning in connection with machine guns mechanism, got 98%, not bad. Over at YM afternoon and wrote a letter to Stell Rowe and after dinner wrote postcards to Beecher Henderson, Bingo Henderson, Bennie Bennett, Ruby Howard & Hal. Had a good clean close haircut and shave and then a bath, good. Went after tea to boxing, 4 finals, two good fights against Edwards and won by Fred Hollis and Gardiner, both 3rd LH men, good old 3rd. Glad Fred won and had a good go but wasn’t knocked about at all.
Sunday 1 April 1917
Bit of a cold, nothing much, went to church at 9am and when Chap O’Halloran called for a pianist, I volunteered and played for the service, mostly old well known hymns so I got on all right. Stayed afterwards for communion, C of E and a bit long and tedious, but I should not growl. Lucky to have church here at all I guess. After dinner went with Harry Lewis and saw Jack Burgess in his little tent dug-out and he showed us some peculiarly marked stones and gave us fruit, cocoa and milk etc. VRC stuff for soldiers. We four and Fred Hollis went into town, went out to Terry’s post on Suez canal, had a swim in baths.
Monday 2 April 1917
Had a birthday, quarter of a century old today and going strong. Had birthday tea on VRC gift fruit, bonz tinned peaches. At the machine gun school during the day. Nothing doing at night except pictures at the new cinema theatre. I went in to YM and wrote to Ruth and Dorothy Wellington, getting my letters up gradually – good.
Tuesday 3 April 1917
On the gun racket all day – nothing special doing. At night after tea, Frank and I went out for a kick of the footie, then I went over to the YM and into little hut, played organ for sing song and stayed for Bible reading etc. Wrote afterwards to Stow in the YM.
Wednesday 4 April 1917
Third exam in our Lewis gun at “mounting gun” before brek and fixing up “stoppages” after brek. I got 100% this time & an average right through of 96%. After dinner we prepared the gun for shooting at the ranges tomorrow. Finished early and went over and met the train which brought more reinforcements, the “Stokers” as the old hands call them, as they “kept the home fires burning”! Our 26/3 were there and 26/9 and old Carpenter came with them. Good. Saw him to speak to on way back to town, had tea at the Victory – conjurors doing tricks. We ate ham and eggs and coffee. Went into NZ place and home.
Thursday 5 April 1917
Out at 6.30 on the way to butts – had breakfast and dinner out there and did our shooting with the Lewis gun and the Maxim and Hotchkiss chaps were also there. I got on middling well, score 10/15, 7/8 and fairly well in the traverse continued bursts of fire and shooting at falling plates 25 yards and 400 yards. Went to pictures at night and YM afterwards and heard a few songs, a singing competition was on.
Friday 6 April 1917
Good Friday! I was in Perth a year ago and went to church and to the zoo and played tennis, I think, and to an oratorio service at night in Trinity Cong Church. Well today I went to church at 9am Easter service by Chaplain O’Halloran, good address. Saw Fred Hollis and we were thinking of a swim for the afternoon but a bunch of us were told off for quarter guard and so I got ready for that. Also prepared my parcel of rubbish silk scarves & hanks for Mother and the girls.
Saturday 7 April 1917
Had my parcel censored during the day and sewed it up in Chap O’Halloran’s presence. Had a fairly easy day on guard and wrote a letter to Dorc, off at 5 o’clock, forgot what we did in the evening, couldn’t have been much on.
Sunday 8 April 1917
Sunday 9am – a church parade – good bright Easter service, went in afterwards to Communion service. Wrote a note to Mother and Father for their birthdays. After dinner, we yarned for a good while then got ready and went into the town. Had a swim in the “city baths” – very nice too. A walk round and tea at the Victory. I met Dave Lines and came home early with him. Got cake at the NZ soldiers club and good cup of cocoa.
Monday 9 April 1917
Thought of going to Laura for their Sunday School picnic, remember some good old happy days at picnics there. Went to the butts shooting and did fairly well, 25/25 – 18/20 – 16/20 and then did some marking. Stayed out for dinner on ‘dorg’ break, marmalade and water in our bottles. Had letters from home and Lic, Faith Hollidge, Muriel and Jean Gilmour. More letters still to come and parcels. Good o for mail day.
Tuesday 10 April 1917
Went to a lecture on machine gun tactics in cinema theatre at about 6pm for about an hour given by a Captain and very interesting after our recent school. Over to YM after and wrote letter to Licko.
Wednesday 11 April 1917
Working in the sergeants’ mess all day, easy. Bit of setting tables and washing up to do. Had two good meals and then knocked off for the day. Got our watches from Chap Beaumont at aerodrome at night, going all right now.
Thursday 12 April 1917
Shooting again in the morning and didn’t do too badly. Forget my scores. We had a good afternoon a swimming parade in Lake Timsah, had a bonny long swim out. Les and Frank went out to Regiment this morning, only two of our old 8 left now – Lance and I. Wrote two letters, to Aunt Flo and Ken Witford and had one from Ken Gilmour.
Friday 13 April 1917
Out in the morning at mounted drill, Major Love barking round. I rode my old baby chestnut. again After dinner we did some bayonet fighting with Mr Hamilton directing. He is a decent chap all right. After tea went to a lecture on “The Western Front” by a captain just back from there. Devons were giving a concert in YM and after that went and saw the last picture “baksheesh”, Charlie Chaplin.
Saturday 14 April 1917
Posted paper to Licko, Egyptian Gazette. 9am down in the pits at the butts marking for the chaps shooting. Pretty warm morning, bullets whizzing over head and hitting sand and targets. Did some shooting after, while the other chaps marked. Got in for dinner and found that Lance and I and Joe Bilton had to go out to Regiment tomorrow (Sunday) morning. Good luck at last! Spent after noon fixing up, packing, cleaning, and sent cable home “Letters received, feeling fit”, no good mentioning going out to Regiment, only make ’em worry for nothing. Went into Ismailia and got a few things at night.
Sunday-Monday 15-16 April 1917
Up at 5 o’clock, or rather stayed in bed till 5.30 and wrote a bit to Father, telling him we were going out. Had a good bath, examined and passed by doctor and equipped with 48 hours’ rations and 20 rounds ammunition by Quartermaster. All ready to fall in at 8.30. Saying “Hooroo” to the chaps when Sgt Major Slater told us we were not to go after all. Talk about foolery! Fred Hollis, Dave Lines, Roy Hicks, Frank Burgess and I had struck 1st relief so not too bad a job on guard. It was a pretty warm day, flies were bad in our tent, we ought to be out at El Arish or somewhere near the front by now – instead of on this rotten guard. Read a magazine a bit and wrote a letter to Mack. Talking to Jack Burgess after tea.
Tuesday 17 April 1917
Out with horses in the morning, Major Love who roared came out and roared. I was on a lively little bay, nice pony tho. Got paid in the afternoon. Had a card from old Wit also a letter from Jim Cowan so I answered it straight away. On horse picket at night, 7 – 9 and 1am – 3 am.
Wednesday 18 April 1917
Out with the horses again doing mounted drill both morning and afternoon, had a letter from Stan Prince. Lance and I have our Cairo leave through for tomorrow. I fixed up photos for Les Williams and had a letter from him. He is out at the Regt and has seen “Jacko”. Lucky beggar has got into A Squadron with Herb and Arch. Talking to old Harry Lewis after tea.
Thursday 19 April 1917
At 10 am, Lance and I caught train and arrived in Cairo at 1.30. Drove to Anzac and had dinner. Drove round to Ex. Tel. Co and Banks and Shepperds and Continental and Esbekir Gardens. Up to Citadel – saw 2 mosques, Sultan Hussan and Mohammed Ali – not bad. Could see old cannonball & marks of Napoleon’s long ago bombardment of city below. Could see pyramids in distance, tombs of Caliphs, Heliopolis and all round and over Cairo. Very interesting. Tea at Anzac – then out round streets and shops till 9pm and then into a play called “Carry On” at the Kursaal.
Friday 20 April 1917
Lovely hot water bath for nearly an hour. Had brek and then walked and drove round until about 10 o’clock. Got Lance’s money at bank and hired motor car, drove to pyramids and Sphinx, photographs taken on camels. Kids with donkeys etc all about. Saw zoo and Kitchener’s house on way back. Got lunch and drove on out to the barrage of Nile about 20 miles, very much worth while. All bridges and arches and locks, nice gardens and lawns too and barrage tea rooms. Back and out to Heliopolis, good streets, buildings. Finish motor at 6pm for £3, good. Drove to old Cairo musky bazaar. Crowds and crooked streets, donks and kids galore, old tumbledown places. Had a bonzar meal at the Retrograd [?] and ice cream at an open air under the palms place.
Saturday 21 April 1917
Up at 5.45 and caught gharry to station about 6.40. Rode home with some naval chaps, comfie ride in 2nd class carriage, back at Moascar by 10 o’clock. Jolly fine trip anyway though 48 hours is much too short. Nothing doing all day. I wrote to Mr Norwood in the afternoon, heard one or two decent players on the YM piano. Went to boxing at night, not bad. Fred Hollis won his contest all right, he is A1. Home to bed about 9pm.
Sunday 22 April 1917
Had a shave and brek and at 9am went to church in YM as usual. Capt O’Halloran was preaching. Wrote letters to Les Williams and Stan Prince during the day. Had a good old bang at hymns on the piano after church till nearly dinner time. Old Jaick is in hospital in Ismailia. After tea, waited round for Lance to come back and news of Jack. He was hit in side of jaw and is getting on A1. Going to see him if possible. On horse picket tonight.
Monday 23 April 1917
Out at the butts again all day shooting. At 6pm, Joe Bilton and I went in and saw old Jack [Jaick] – looks like a bushman with his face tied up and his whiskers all sprouting. He is well and cheerful though. Got a few things from Ismailia and when we got home, we found that we had to go out to the Regt in the morning. Good!
Tuesday 24 April 1917
Old Lance Neville is still left behind, bad luck. Up and examined by doc and busy getting ready to go. Caught the 1 o’clock train and reached Kantara about 3pm. Crossed canal and walked a mile and waited at other side station till 6 when our train left. We had bought stuff at the canteen meanwhile, and ate our tea on that fruit cake beside our ration of bread and bully. Just before leaving Moascar some of our letters were handed out. Good o. Got 3 from home. Good fun and 2 others, read em going up in the train. From Kantara, we travelled all night, 25 in each open truck, no room to sleep or stretch our legs and too bumpy to get any rest.
Wednesday-Thursday 25-26 April 1917
ANZAC DAY and we are going up north to the firing lines. We passed Romani, Ber El Abd, El Arish, Raffa. Got cocoa and a biscuit at Ber El Abd and washed at another place in the morning. Reached Khan Yunus and our camp about 9pm and dumped down inside and around some bush and trees a mile from the railway line. Real dinkum camping out here alright. Only brought our 2 blankets and overcoats, a change of underclothes and a few odds and ends beside the clothes we stand in. Looks more like business. Jacko came over while we were at the station dropping bombs but got for himself a good hurry-up from our anti aircraft guns and shooed off home. It was hot enough to kill but we walked over the sand hills to the sea and had a bonny swim in the Mediterranean Sea! It was bonny but the walk back was stiff and Charlie Hiern (taught him to swim) and I were glad to get a cup of tea at wireless tent to keep our peckers up. Rode over on Thursday to spring water hole towards beach, seems nice water to drink. Another hot day but we filled our water bags and got lime juice and fruit from the canteen so didn’t do badly and it got cooler by night time and came a bit of rain.
Friday 27 April 1917
Saw Jacko again – 2 Taubes this time flying way overhead but then had to get a move on cause our guns did some good shooting. Could hear the big guns booming at the front all day – only a dozen miles away. Also the monitors out at sea are rocking in the shells and it sounds all right. We are just waiting now for horses to go out any day or any hour to join the good old 3rd Light Horse.
Saturday 28 April 1917
Having a very busy time here, scarcely any parades. I have been watering horses a few times but that is good fun to ride one bare back and lead two others. See old Jacko every day – he comes over with his Taubes to lay his “hard boiled eggs” as the chaps call the bombs but doesn’t seem to do much damage. Our reception is too warm for him! More letters for me, Hal, Aunt Flo, Aunt Bertha, Mrs Harry, Miss Ashton, and Maggie Halliday – what a bunch. I’ve had 11 this mail, wrote to Mrs Harry and Dot McLennan this afternoon.
Sunday 29 April 1917
I was on horse picket last night from 12 – 2 am. No parades for church or anything here, we have made dinky little dugouts, round and under bushes with our blankets for a shade by day. Make cocoa every morning first thing, boiled quart pots very “ot” for soldier. After dinner got a party of about 20 horses and men and we rode down to the old Mediterranean Sea for another swim. It was rough and bonz, the roughest ever I’ve been in the sea. Nice to get wet and have a decent wash all over.
Monday 30 April 1917
Slept at dump on Sunday night and at 3 am got up and went with saddles and bridles to the station to get a mob of horses. They didn’t arrive until 9 o’clock and we had to go on to the Belah railhead by train. Untruck our horses and ride ’em home or rather ride one and lead 3 more. We were warned for moving out from Khan Yunus to join the Regt tomorrow so that’s good business. Were issued with our horses, saddles, bridles, gas helmets etc and got ready as far as possible.
Tuesday 1 May 1917
Up early and got busy finishing up and packing our stuff on saddles, watering horses etc. Had an early dinner and rode off, took till nearly sundown to ride out with a stop or two at Shello where the 3rd are camped and attached for the time to a Tommy Infantry division. I had a bonny little black horse to ride out. Good country and crops a good bit of the way. Enjoyed the ride out, watered our horses in big wadi in which the Regt is camped. Joe and I put in for A Squadron to get in with Les, Arch and Herb but of course we were put off and shoved into B Squadron where we know nobody.
Wednesday 2 May 1917
Saw Major Brooks OC of B Squadron, he seemed to know Uncle Ern Kentish at Jamestown. Had our tea while we yarned with Les and Herb. Saw Arch down at the water troughs and George Potter and Moody etc. Good fun to see them all again. Powell has been wounded by a bomb, killed his two horses and hit him in 2 places. Got an inoculation for cholera, nothing to speak of. Not doing much during the day, but Joe and I were on trench post overlooking the wadi towards the Turks during the night.
Thursday 3 May 1917
We were loaded up with a bandolier and a belt full of ammunition, dinkum active service. Guard job that was just grazing the horses in the morning and Digger, Joe and I all went down to the waddy, had a bath and washed some of our dirty clothes in the afternoon. That was good too but could not dry the things. After tea, we were shifted down to C Squadron where some of our chaps are. Laffer is in my section and two Tasmanian chaps – seem nice fellows. Frank Burgess is in next section to mine. Strange thing that at Khan Yunus, they issued me with my spare bandolier and I am hanged if it wasn’t old Jack Hardwicke‘s. Then up here, I am now put into Jack’s old section. Seems as if I am chasing him up, good luck. Up here we have to stand to arms every morning at 3 o’clock, pretty cool at that time too. That means get full dressed and equipped and saddle your horse ready for an immediate move out with everything at shortest notice.
Friday 4 May 1917
Friday morning left camp at 5am after a bit of brek and two troops of us went out to patrol some of the Turks’ trenches and territory. We rode out to another waddy with screens out in front and at sides, and by about dinner time, had the necessary information. About 6 of our chaps were fired on. We saw the Turks over a bit on the rising ground. Look as thick as flies. Also some few cavalry came about and were hunted by our Hotchkiss guns and some shrapnel from the artillery. I had a good ride and enjoyed the morning. Jacko had been over our camp and watering place and dropped 3 bombs, killed 6 horses and wounded 3 or 4 men, one rather badly. I’d like to see the rotter shot down. He was over us a good bit. We grazed horses in the aftie and I was on trench post at the waddy at night. Not bad.
Sunday 6 May 1917
Up at 3am and stood to arms as usual, saddled up etc. Nothing here to know it was Sunday or another day. After stand to, we usually roll up in our overcoats and blankets till about 5 or 5.30 and get in a bit more sleep but it is not too comfie with all your gear and a belt and bandolier full of ammunition on. I had an easy day on the squadron fatigue and stayed in and look after our fires, tea etc for the section. Wrote to Sally.
Monday 7 May 1917
Out grazing all day, wrote to Muriel in the morning. Had a bit of fun, all helping to catch a stray “choom’s” [English person] mule then one chap rode it while it bucked like fun. Two chooms looking for it asked “What are they doing with that horse over there, choom?” John Murdock told them “Breaking it in choom” and the sweets rode on quite satisfied. Chaps steal horses, mules or or anything here especially from the poor Tommies. I was on trench post again at night at the wadi, went over and saw Frank Jones and had a good two hours yarn to him from about 7 to 9 o’clock. He is on his own over on the Machine Gun squad but seems to be cheerful and doing “not too bad”.
Tuesday 8 May 1917
Grazing in the morning and watching a taube that looked like business for a long time but it didn’t drop any eggs. Out trench digging in the afternoon and had a good bath with a canvas bucket down in the waddy afterwards and before tea. Good tea, on hot McConnachie [Army ration meat stew] and peas, tea, bread and jam etc. Bright moonlight these nights. A taube came over and hung round for a long time and chaps ran away everywhere, those who had dugouts into them and as soon as it had gone, the rest got picks and shovels and started to dig in for all they were worth. Funk holes, they call them. I have not yet contracted taube-itis so am still curious and unafraid of them. As for a hole, too much bother and work. I sleep well above ground.
Wednesday 9 May 1917
Out grazing in the morning. Boom go the guns in the distance all day long and every now and again, through the night. Wrote to Mr Hall and filled water bag in the afternoon. Talking to Herb Groves, Les and co up at A Squadron.
Thursday 10 May 1917
Out on patrol, left camp at 5.30 after a cup of tea and bit of brek. Sent out on the screen with 6 others – ahead of the troops to see if the way was clear. More interesting and exciting than staying with the troop. Away on until we had crossed 2 or 3 waddies, then turned to the right, fired on by big guns – shrapnel, one horse hit on flank. Soon met with a volley of rifle fire. Some zipped past pretty close. The troop had gone back down into the waddy and we followed them when told to do so. It was a bit interesting and funny, wondering where the shells would lob and the bullets would miss. Strange luck that nothing was hit. Plenty of Turks up on ridge and in barley in front.
Friday 11 May 1917
Stand to 3.15am, up about 5 and got the troops’ letters, good. Got 8 for myself, 4 from home and photos and all and also Donie and Jeff Hartley, Vera Baker and Lance and one from Mack still missing. Out grazing in the morning, taube overhead, big guns and machine guns firing at it. Reading my letters out here holding 3 horses in sunshine, Mr Lofty and the pack horse. Taube came again, got well shot at and imsheed at the Lickory. On horse picket at night from 10 to 12, easy enough job.
Saturday 12 May 1917
Out again at the grazing job on Saturday morning and wrote a bit of a letter to Mack in the afternoon. We were issued with short pants and puttees so are all going round looking like school boys! There are now some chaps cooking for us so we have a little more time to ourselves when we knock off instead of lighting a fire, cutting and splitting wood with a pick, boiling a billy or cooking up some bully or McConnachies [Army ration meat stew].
Sunday 13 May 1917
Wonder of wonders, we had a ½ day off. Don’t know if it was because of Sunday, course there is always plenty to do with horses to feed and water several times a day. Our papers came today – good – I got 2 Registers from home and a paper from Vera Baker so took one out in the afternoon while grazing to read. At 6.30pm, went to church, Herb Groves was there. Parson (Slim Jim) and about 10 chaps just squatting around in a washout in the bank, back of horse lines. Talking about this old place and country and people. Finished up with prayer. Seems nice to have a little service though so small and under such crude conditions.
Monday 14 May 1917
We had to pack up all our stuff and shift camp at 8.30am. Have to put all your possessions on horses so can’t carry much. We moved up waddy for 2 or 3 miles – nearer the Turks – we are in the front line now. I had to pack up all the picks and shovels and lead Mr Lofty with them on his back. Got on all right. My other letter from Mack and Lic came after all, good luck.
Tuesday 15 May 1917
Grazing in the morning. Good feed for the horses in the barley between us and the Turkish lines. Saw our patrol out beyond in action, shots and dust pretty thick but our side got in alright. Captured 6 Turks, good. I had a wash at the waddy near the water troughs in the afternoon and washed 2 singlets, shirt, knicks and 2 pairs of socks and towel in canvas water bucket so reckon I did well. Pretty windy and dusty there too, and in the evening for a time. No picket tonight, good sleep.
Wednesday 16 May 1917
Should see my clothes line of last night, two spades with string and strap in between and kept from blowing down by a bayonet stuck in the ground. They helped to dry my wet things anyway. Grazing again this morning and Rob Peters took horses out this afternoon. I want to finish my home letter. Rumours of shifting are all over the place to Khan Yunus for a spell and to France! Wish the latter were true – if we go with our horses. Wrote to Mack and Ray, posted them both – good. Horse picket again tonight. Some of our chaps on outpost. Father’s birthday.
Thursday 17 May 1917
Out grazing in the barley in the morning as usual, along in the waddy this time, some real beauty Palestine poppies growing about here and like our wild poppies but much finer and larger, also other varied coloured flowers. Wish I could send some home. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we moved back to our Shelloh camp ground which we left only on Monday. I had Mr Lofty with the picks and shovels and wood bags etc piled up. Got another horse instead of Kindly Light. New one called George, black and good walker. Think I’ll like my new horse, he is a bit skinny though. I’ll have to give him some milk like Sal did with Peggy. We boiled billys and made tea for ourselves last night, good o!
Friday 18 May 1917
Friday morning, rifle and gas helmet inspection (no stand to arms and we did not get up till 5.30!) Quite a sleep in. Grazing all morning. Rumours about us attacking Beersheba tomorrow morning. Supposed to be dinkum. Good, it will be on first go really. I feel A1 and ready for it any how. Had a wash in the afternoon and went down to the waddy with Frank Burgess.
Saturday 19 May 1917
Started blowing first thing and kept on all day, rotten and dusty all day so we did nothing all day except try in vain to dodge the dust and it was no good even at meal times so we just carried on and ate dust and bully. Not too good tucker here lately. At night Moody and I went down to the waddy shower bath and had a bonny wash but it still blew and blew all night. Oh what a night we had. Dust over everything. At stand to arms at 3 am.
Sunday 20 May 1917
Mother’s birthday. Bit better sort of weather today. No grazing this morning only grooming, watering and feeding up the horses. Went to CE church service at 9 o’clock, about 240 there I suppose from 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments. Chaplain spoke on the Tongue, good too out here, specially as a reminder of what’s what! Communion service afterwards – just 20 or 30 in a kink in the wadidy Wrote home to Father and Lic in the afternoon and church OD [Other Denominations] at night when our Slim Jim was the preacher.
Monday 21 May 1917
After breakfast we had a gas demonstration, first a lecture, then a trial with our helmets and a smoke bomb. Then the real stuff. Its like sulphur and very strong to smell though I did not have enough to worry me. The wearing of the gas helmets is the worst part of it. Not much to eat, a bit of bacon and bully for brek and scored a tin of marmalade for dinner, lucky. Any jam is a luxury here. Taube over.
Tuesday 22 May 1917
Had a letter last night from old Capt “Eckie” in France, good o! Nothing much doing in the morning, except to roll up our stuff and get all ready to start out on a stunt – 2 divisions of us going after dinner to blow up some miles of Turkish railway and bridges. Only supposed to be 15 miles away or so. So we may be back in 24 hours if we don’t meet too much opposition. I am to lead McGinty, the ammunition pack horse. Started about 3pm and went right on through the night, stopping every so long for 5 or 10 minutes or more. We would dismount and lie down and snatch a bit of sleep still holding our horses, then mount and on again. It was interesting to me and I did not get very tired or sleepy. Pretty dusty at times. Not bad country, gardens and farms and sand sometimes. Stopped for tea and watered horses after dark. Brek at 7 or 7.30 right in near the line, can see it through glasses. We came 25 or 30 miles after all. Planes over us looking at our doings. Saw in the distance the blowing up of lines and bridges done by engineers, no fighting our way at all. Took a few Bedouin prisoners, saw woman who wanted to go with her hubby, saw old well and stone vessels round it. Burnt crops after us on the way home.
Wednesday 23 May 1917
Stopped for water and tea at same waddy as on the way out. Bit of a drag leading old McGinty all way there and back but on the whole, I enjoyed the trip, all new and novel. Long ride home in dark and into barbed wire and wadi round bluff Tel-al-Jimmy. I lost my hat, no chance to get off or look for it, too many troops right on our heels. A few chaps fell over, waddy soft. Got home about 11 pm and boiled billy, made tea. bonzar. To bed by midnight.
Thursday 24 May 1917
Nothing much doing, lay around all day, got my hand dressed, had a bath in waddy in afternoon. Bed was welcome that night. Mail came in, good luck and I read a few before dark and the rest on Friday morning. Had 5 from home, also photos from Ruth taken at Port Victor by good old Jeff. Also Len Rowe, Dorc, Donie, Aunt Carrie, Dean Gilmour and very nice all of them. Good news. A parcel coming too.
Friday 25 May 1917
Didn’t do much on Friday except to water and look after horses as usual. Went down for a yarn with Herb in the afternoon and compared “letter” notes. Old Lance came out at night and got into A Squadron. Lucky dog – with Arch and Herb too. Stand to nearly every morning at 3am.
Saturday 26 May 1917
Up at 4.30 and out for a regimental patrol all day long. A good day too (saw Scotty Rowe at water troughs in the morning). Went out to find out about Jacko’s trenches and positions etc and two sections of us were sent out on a bit of patrol towards a hill over waddy. Got 200 or 300 yards from waddy, Jacko let us have it with all he was worth. Billy Marshall was riding next to me and his horse was shot but no further damage. We got out at the Hickory, then later we went in again and got closer and they opened up with pretty warm rifle fire again but couldn’t hit us. Somehow I was rather enjoying it. Didn’t think they would hit me and they didn’t. Must be pretty rotten shots some of ’em as the bullets were kicking up dust all round our horses’ feet. We lay down and ate our bread and bully as if Turks were thousands of miles away instead of 1000 yards. During aftie, they came up and shot at us and we had to move further back and at last got back to the troop and back to camp by 7pm.
Sunday 27 May 1917
Sunday church, Slim Jim, Ern Pederick, Frank Jones. Went for parcel, and had great joy out of it.
Monday 28 May 1917
On the pack up and moving again, only back this time, near to Khan Yunus, for a spell, good. Get some letters written and sleep, perhaps without “stand to” down there. Arrived at new camp ground at 1pm and soon had dinner, dug trenches and took McGinty for 2 [illegible] of water in afternoon and before tea, got orders to shift again. Had to pick up all our stuff and move a mile or so. I had a return journey with packhorse for water etc. Started on trenches again and settled down for the night.
Tuesday 29 May 1917
Up about 5.30 and had brek and at 7.30 and started on way for beach for a good old swim! It was a pretty long way to ride and dusty too but the swim made up for all the discomfort – bonz. I led McGinty and on way home, went to canteen to buy up stuff for ourselves and the troop, 70 p worth of chocs! & fruit, fish and biscuits etc. We had a decent feed again anyway – good o. On picket from 12 to 2.
Wednesday 30 May 1917
In again in the morning to Khan Yunus with all horses, watered them on the way and handed in our old rifles and were issued with all new ones. Greasy but look pretty good and alright when cleaned. Back about 4 o’clock pm – plenty of riding lately. Supposed to be back here for a rest. Just up to Military. Went over and saw Lance, Arch and Herb for a while in the evening. Good sleep and all OK for now.
Thursday 31 May 1917
Len Walsh and I went with Lofty and the mule to get wood and water for the cook. Chopped and bagged up part of an old tree and stuck a junk on top. Good load on old Lofty; good. Nothing much doing in the aftie, chaps came back from Rafah with their kits and stuff. Say it is all over the place, lucky if I get my razor and stuff again.
Friday 1 June 1917
All who did not go to Raffa yesterday went today – and of course I was amongst them. Not a bad 8 or 10 miles ride, no coats or gear or rifles. Quite comfortable. Saw old threshing floors and two teams at work, one was 3 big camels tacked to 3 little donkeys, camels on outside! And another was a donk and 4 or 5 cows all together, very funny. Saw kids minding and driving sheep and goats. Found my stuff all correct, lucky again and got razor etc, shirt and sewing kit. Good ride home. Brought more reinforcements with us, Bob Fawcett, Kelly (Kidman) and others, just from Moascar. Suppose Fred H will come soon.
Saturday 2 June 1917
After watering the horses in the morning, I was on regimental fatigue. Very easy job. Rode a few miles and loaded and unloaded a bit of stuff. Wrote to Jean Gilmour, Dorothy Paynter and Dorc in the afternoon. Put up a record I reckon, 3 letters in one day. Bombs dropped over by AMC quarters today but only one mule hit. Taube got away scot free as usual.
Sunday 3 June 1917
Bonzar Sunday I don’t think. Early brek and out on the newly made rifle range, trying our new rifles. I got on fairly well at first practice, 100 yards grouping, 20/25. Watering horses, mucking about till 4pm and had to go out again for a shot at 300 yards. Only scored about 12/20 at that. Lovely and restful for a Sunday, going all day. Had a letter from Stow and Norm Ford, both in France and well and fit. Having a spell after a stiff time in the trenches.
Monday 4 June 1917
I put in and was accepted for bombing instruction class to be held here for the next few days. Went for a swim to beach near Khan Yunus, bonny! I washed my towel and hanks in the sea, home by tea time, good tea too. A few home letters came at evening time, Lic, Dorc, Mother, Father, Mr Norwood and Miss Ashton, more to come yet. Just got ’em read by dark. Taubes about and orders for lights out.
Tuesday 5 June 1917
Watered horses early in the day and started on bombing school in the morning. Not bad fun trying to throw them. Good luck for home letters, they are A1 here. Had my cable alright, within 2 days. Good. Parcels coming!! Jacko flew over Camel Corps ½ a mile away and dropped 4 bombs. Saw them kick up dust – he got 2 chaps killed and 15 wounded, the rotter – 40 camels. Wrote and posted letter to Ray.
Wednesday 6 June 1917
Continued our bombing school, not too bad, better than messing about with drill etc, throwing the real dinkum articles in the afternoon. One small pellet hit me in the back even though I was well down in the trench. Jacko flew over and bombed our brigade between M Guns and HQ but dropped his 4 bombs in clear ground and did no damage: good.
Thursday 7 June 1917
Wrote to Miss Cunningham at last. A few parades – drill in morning and lecture in evening beside looking after the horses as usual. Papers and parcels came in the afternoon – good. I got a Critic and 2 parcels, singlets and knicks, just what I wanted. Mrs Tommy made ’em. Good old Tommy! Also socks and hanks and face washer and a tin with a bonzar cake in it. I took it up to M Guns with Moody and we found Frank Jones and we opened it and ate a bit! Frank also had a parcel for his birthday, a few tins of tobacco, cigars, a new pipe, socks etc. Good fun seeing and opening parcels.
Friday 8 June 1917
Friday wrote to Mrs Wellington and Kath Harry. Nothing special doing, news from Major Bennett that I am soon going to be transferred to A Squadron, that will be the day!
Saturday 9 June 1917
Out on a bit of a make believe stunt, taking a position on a hill for the benefit of a French General. We galloped into action, whole of 1st Brigade and Camel Corps on flank. Took the possies and had a march past and saluted the ’edds. Home in time for dinner, only had a few miles to go to the place. Frank Jones and Stew Sommerville and Herb Bail, Billy Doman, Moody, Bill Peters were all here at night and we had a few old 23/3 yarns.
Sunday 10 June 1917
Up at 5.30 – stables, watering, general round the lines at 10 o’clock. Parade to hear Col Fulton’s farewell message at 11am. He is off home to Aus. for 3 months leave. Stables dinner, wrote letters to Mrs Wellie and Kath Harry. Paid up to date during the afternoon. Church parade at night, CE chaplain preaching, good speaker and decent old chap. Nice quiet communion service afterwards.
Monday 11 June 1917
Left camp after brek and spent day down near water troughs washing our saddles and had a wash myself in the dust! Good fun. Found some wood to take home on McGinty in some of the houses there about. We got in some canteen stuff, fruit etc.
Tuesday 12 June 1917
All off again to the beach near Khan Yunus for a swim and had to shine up our stirrup irons in the sand. Had a bonzar swim, pretty rough and bouncy out a bit, just great fun. Wish Len and Hurt were here now.
Wednesday 13 June 1917
Cleaning up again with soap and Kiwi now – so our gear starts to look like something pretty k’right. Cleaned up my leggings and boots, look quite like they used to.
Thursday 14 June 1917
A year ago today I was in Perth, getting my decimals and new ledgers ready for the “Balance Day” tomorrow. Glad I am not there now anyway.
Friday 15 June 1917
Swimming parade at beach today, good o! Do me as often as they like. Spent a good long day away, had a swim both before and after dinner and got back to camp about tea time. Think we are going to beach to stay next week.
Sunday 17 June 1917
Went out with Walsh to the 9th to see Wilf Rowe and Jim Cowan and all the rest. Found Wilf at home all right but Jim and Don McCord were out on patrol. Saw old Harry Schwartz and had a yarn. Rode over to see Ken Gilmour but found he was at M Gun school for 2 or 3 weeks. He has just got his commission. Good luck to him. Spent a good day and saw fair bit of old Wilf, quite like old times.
Monday 18 June 1917
Shifted down to the beach, hurrah. Into the sea for a 5 minute swim before dinner and after went back for bedding etc with 4 pack horses. Had 2 more swims before bed – good o. Plenty of messing about with our gear and rifles and gas helmets and horses but it will suit me alright, living on the beach and with roar of the old Mediterranean Sea to send you to bye bye at night.
Tuesday 19 June 1917
Same programme, cleaning up our saddles and irons for coming inspection and still the swims. Took horses in in the morning and I had 4 swims today. Went up to M Guns with Moody to see Frank Jones at night.
Wednesday 20 June 1917
Still cleaning up, took my saddle to the saddler to get it laced up and freed up a bit. Saw Dan Rickaby, one of the saddlers, he knows Uncle Herb at Lameroo and Arnold at Sherlock. Three swims today, good o .
Thursday 21 June 1917
Cleaning up for an inspection by the GOC [General Officer in Command], Desert Column – Cheville. Cleaned leggings, boots, spurs, bandoliers etc and all saddlery and irons. Vic Rule and old Goldie came out today at last . I saw dentist and had old stumps pulled out and teeth cleaned. Two chaps out a bit getting pulled out from drowning. I had my usual before brek swim, then in the afternoon & at night after tea. Pretty sunset, clear sky and all starry after. On picket 9 to 11 pm.
Friday 22 June 1917
Just lay about and didn’t do much today after all our work at cleaning up. Took horses in for a swim in the morning, George, McGinty and Marjorie: bit rough, good fun. Felt crook at tea time and was sick as a fool. Colonel Bell came riding along and asked me what was up! He seems a jolly right old sort.
Saturday 23 June 1917
Missed my swim before brek, not feeling too grand or hungry yet. Filled panniers with ammunition and had a swim before dinner and Major Bennett (Wallaby) came and told me I could go up to A Squadron – hurrah. Got my transfer at last after a good deal of push and worrying of the ’edds and carted up my stuff, got into section with Dunk Bros and old Goldie – good. Saw all the old diggers up here, had a swim after tea. Posted letter toicen.
Sunday 24 June 1917
Up first morning in A Squadron, helped groom horses. Got horse and saddle, not a bad sort of horse, chestnut with white stripe down her face. On squadron QM fatigue all the morning. Had another swim though. Saw Bell from B Centre, he is Aunt Edie’s cousin. Cpl Johnson knows Uncle Herb at Balak[lava] and Len Lewis. Seems better and more like home with familiar fellows up here. Glad I’m out of C Squadron. Three swims during the day, marched down the beach for church parade at 6.30pm and we formed up 3 side of a square 100 yards from the sea – had piano, well played too, good. Communion service after church, about 25 or 30 of us and then shifted the piano to YM marquee and had an hour’s sing song and bit of a talk by Padre, good sort. Walked home along the beach in the moonlight. Enjoyed the evening very much. Good old hymns etc.
Monday 25 June 1917
Mounted with Sid Dunk at 7am and away all morning on Reg QM fatigue loading fodder etc.
Tuesday 26 June 1917
On beer guard on Monday night – but woke up next day feeling pretty rotten, went on sick parade for first time. Was well sick too, lay about all day in our bivvie. Herb Groves brought up some cocoa and that made me feel a bit better and the AMC chap gave me some arrowroot pudding at night. Couldn’t eat much. Mood and a few others came along at night
Wednesday 27 June 1917
Woke up a bit better after a good sleep but still rottenly weak. Didn’t go on sick parade again cause the Doc doesn’t do anything for you, only dishes up 2 or 3 pills. I lay about and did next to nothing all day, didn’t have any swims, too lazy. Had a good sleep at night and felt pretty fair next morning, good!
Thursday 28 June 1917
Cleaned my saddle, straps and stirrup irons etc a bit and helped with the general work of cleaning up the camp ready for moving out tomorrow (worse luck). Had 2 swims so didn’t do so badly. Major Dick told me he had heard from SA that I was coming. Decent!
Friday 29 June 1917
Moved away from beach to El Fukara near old camp: got bits of dugout bivvies with hessian roof. They are great for the day time. Not much doing. Wrote to Vera Baker and Wilf Rowe and Miss Ashton. Old Bill Peters in C Squadron cook house and rousing like fun!
Saturday 30 June 1917
Watering horses and cleaning rifles and gas helmet drill – nothing much. Wrote to Jack Hardwicke. Mail came in in afternoon and I had a flood. Got about 15 letters altogether. Good o. From home and Elf and the Wests and all round good fun.
Sunday 1 July 1917
Out grazing the horses all day, took dinner. I took my letters and reread them and wrote to Roy Dyer. Back in time for tea and church parade at 6.30. On horse picket from 9 till 11 and from 2.20 to 3.40 and feeling A1 and well again now and hungry. Good o!
Monday 2 July 1917
Did a bit of mounted drill with Major Dick preparing to meet cavalry. Got my parcel from Aunt Flo, good. Bonzar cake, toffee made by Donie and dates and tinned peaches put in by Muriel and Aunt Edie respectively. Course we didn’t enjoy it, specially the cake! Taube knocking about and we had lights out about 8 o’clock. Bed early.
Tuesday 3 July 1917
Took our horses to water and filled water bags and got ready to shift. Left camp at 1 o’clock after dinner and travelled back near to Tel El Fara by about 4 o’clock. Had to get early to bed cause we left camp again at 12 midnight for a 24 hour stunt, travelled all night, nice and moonlight – & till about 6 next morning and took up positions for day.
Wednesday 4 July 1917
Old Goldie‘s first time on a stunt and we got shelled pretty hot and after we had been up only about quarter of an hour. First few shells lobbed pretty close and we had to bob down and then imshee [gone] with the horses for a bit. It got quiet after a bit and we had a fairly long slow day in the hot sun. We were acting as a covering party to surveyors well inside Jacko’s land, could see his railway line and bridges and camp bivvies etc. Near evening, Jacko’s cavalry started up in our direction and we had to ride up a few hundred yards and dismount for action and put some bullets into him. I was holding horses so didn’t get a shot. Shells came over again pretty thick but we had good luck, no one got hit, reckon 2000 shells for the day. We had to lickety out of it at dusk and got well shelled at again. Good bit of a gallop out. Rode home by about midnight – full moon and total eclipse by about 11 pm. Big crowd riding in.
Thursday 5 July 1917
Thursday at 12 noon left with a chap for rest camp on the beach, good long ride. I had a swim, good and good tea. I came back in evening with 4 chaps and got home by 9.30 and to bed.
Friday 6 July 1917
Feeding horses after we had moved camp inland 3 miles further inland. Six miles to go to water now. Finished Mack’s letter and posted it. Wrote to Dorc as well, re water bags.** Out in the trenches all night, did shift from 1.30 to 2.30 and stand to arms at 3.30 till patrol reported all clear at 5am.
** Dear Dorc, Do you know what sort of water bags we brought over with us? They are made specially for carrying on the horses with leather lining on one side and straps for going over horse’s neck and for attachment to saddles. I think Mr Carpenter got our 23/3 lot early in January at Colton, Palmer and Preston’s so they should know the sort, later reinforcements have brought them too. Cost us 8/6 pence each but they may cost you more. Please collect the cash from Mother from my next screw and get two bags and send them along as soon as you can after you get this. I don’t want ’em to cost you anything in cash, postage or any other way so just tell me what they cost. I can sell one (or a dozen) easily here. Also please pay up my YMCA subs about ten shillings, due in August, I think. Beside that, pay in 3 pounds 15 shillings to that account of yours, that will about square me to end of June. You can collect that War Loan Coupon as your commission if it hasn’t already been collected; get the 4/6 pence anyhow and buy yourself a motor car! Sharp short and shiny, hooroo, Spence.
Saturday 7 July 1917
Out grazing all day again. Watered horses on the way out and in. Pretty warm in the sun. Bed at 8 o’clock and knew we had to get up at 12 to go out on stunt. Letters came just after we got into bed from Father, Mother, Lic, Dorc and Mack, Jeff Hartley and Uncle Bert so we lighted up candles and read them. Good.
Sunday 8 July 1917
After 2 or 3 hours sleep, we got up at midnight and got ready, saddled up and set out. Our troop on screen and Mick Dunk and I were way out on right flank pair. Rode all night until about 7 Sunday morning and struck no Jackos or shots on way. Pretty neutral all day, even boiled pannican and made tea for dinner and read my letters again. We saw Bedouin graves and graveyards on way back along the waddy. Stayed a while on green flat and let horses graze. I wrote a letter to Mother and others came along later.
Monday 9 July 1917
We started on the march home, a long way and got home about 12 o’clock, stew and tea ready and had a good feed and then to bed. Gouldie and I stayed and had a lie in in shade of bivvies all day Monday. Did practically nothing all day. Had another good sleep on Monday night and was all OK again. These stunts all day and night are not bad except that they make you terribly sleepy.
Tuesday 10 July 1917
Out grazing again today, boiled billy with weeds and straw. Also rigged up a shade with the saddles and blankets. More letters for me from Miss Ashton and Jean Gilmour, good luck.
Wednesday 11 July 1917
Stayed in again – Sid and Mick Dunk went out with horses. We had to do a bit of trench digging in morning but nothing in afternoon. I wrote a letter for old Gouldie to his wife, good fun. Also shaved him, what oh. Wrote a letter to Harry Lewis and Mr McQueen. Out on listening post on mounted patrol, not much sleep.
Thursday 12 July 1917
Out grazing, wrote letters to Mrs Tommy, Aunt Flo and Jean Gilmour and Fred Hollis. Got a bit of a move on with my letters. Good o. Slept up in the trenches and did shifts on the “look out” post.
Friday 13 July 1917
Out grazing again, not much of a job, too slow and hot. Had some parcel cake for dinner, Syd had a parcel on Thursday with a cake in it. Got to move in the morning from this camp – the 6 mile post too far from water.
Saturday 14 July 1917
Shifted 7am to a camp about 3 miles from the waddy. Better than away out. Fixed up tents and bivvies while others went to water and had a fairly slack day. Went to water in the afternoon, only 2 hours sleep at night. Had to leave at 10 on another stunt.
Sunday 15 July
Rode all night out on screen again with Mick Dunk on left flank this trip. Not a bad night – out to the white hut, Rashed Beck, then split and hid our troops to let Turks come in between us and get caught. Waited till dawn and sure enough old Jacko’s patrol came over a hill and headed down the waddy between us – we thought we had him – but his screen and scouts saw us and they turned and fled at the hickory. Finish. So our big game hunting came to nought and we went home and had brek and fed up down by water at Assani. Arrived home by noon. Pretty sleepy as usual after a stunt. Lay off during the afternoon and had a bonzar sleep at night.
Monday 16 July 1917
Was on pumping fatigue for the Regiment. Not a bad job. Visited canteen, got fruit, lollies etc, & after dinner did a whole lot of washing and had a bonny bath myself – nice and clean once more. A “West Australian” [newspaper] from Miss Ashton and a letter from A Aird came to light tonight. – good old Alex.
Tuesday 17 July 1917
Tom Gammon cut off all my hair with clippers all over, gas parade during the morning.
Saturday 21 July 1917
Had a mail in and a good one too from all at home. Miss Ashton, Dot McLennan, Ted Black (with photos enclosed), Stella Rowe, Agnes Halliday and cousin Dave from France. Frank Jones was over for a yarn with Lance, Herb and me after tea. I read my letters on picket at night.
Sunday 22 July 1917
Packed up by 7.30am with all gear on horses and shifted down for a week on water guard at the waddy – Gamli. Good luck. We will miss stunts and rotten stand to arms at 3 am every day for a week anyway.
Monday 23 July 1917
Grazing horses in the morning and down on the drinking water guard and pump at 12 noon – a 24 hour job. Not bad. Had a rush with bottles for brigade coming back from Beersheba stunt in the afternoon. Just about emptied out our two tanks and the well too.
Tuesday 24 July 1917
Came off the water guard at dinner time and had odd jobs to do afterwards. Had a good wash for one thing. That is the best about being down here at the waddy near the water.
Wednesday 25 July 1917
On ‘pumping’ at the water trough all day. Pretty constant job and hard work to keep at it too – gave me a good appetite. Getting fed well down here. Paddy cooks for the troop and does his job well. Had a bath before going to bed. Good.
Thursday 26 July 1917
No special duty except horse picket at night. Grazed horses, wrote letter for Goldie, had good dinner, gift stuff and tea. Mick and Sid Dunk both had parcels, good cake and all sorts. Issue of water bags for men of the regiment today. That’s some sense this weather. Mine had gone bung a week or two ago.
Friday 27 July 1917
Pumping at the troughs again today. Had a bath. Wish the job would last a long time.
Saturday 28 July 1917
Came a bonzar “buster” this morning. We had no notice of it but a troop of 2nd LH came riding down to relieve us of our job so we had to pack up and get back to our old camp. Stand to is finished for the time being.
Sunday 29 July 1917
Stunt today and out in afternoon and all night, got back Monday afternoon.
Thursday 9 August 1917
Gave Eric Cox a cable to send home for me from Alexandria where he was going for a week on leave. Hope to get leave myself in a month or 6 weeks with plenty of luck!!
Friday 10 August 1917
Mail day – hooray. After 3 weeks of waiting, we had a bonzar mail from Father, Mother, Ruth, Sal Dorc, Mack, Ray, Frank, Donie, Hurt Rowe, Aunt Flo (photos of Lic and co playing hockey on tennis court – good). Parcel and papers still to come. Hooroo.
Saturday 11 August 1917
Out all day on outpost with the regiment. Not much doing our way but we saw our big guns in action in the afternoon. Put a few shells into some Turks moving up towards our position, scattered them. Posted a letter to Ruth before going out.
Sunday 12 August 1917
Watering horses in the morning and left about 3 in the afternoon for a stunt. Three feeds and 2 day rations to be carried etc. Went out to Assani and watered and rode on all night to a position near Beersheba.
Monday 13 August 1917
The Jackos seemed to have flown before us cause we saw only a few at a distance but they sent a few shells going and the 1st Regiment lost a man killed and 2 or 3 wounded. Pretty long trip, got back about 9 o’clock at night, good stew and bed.
Tuesday 14 August 1917
Stand to arms at 3am, not sleepy for a long time so soon got our saddles, feed and gear on and hopped under the blankets again and slept till 5am. Out all day on outpost with B Squadron. Not much to do but hot and long day in the sun. Home about 8 o’clock.
Wednesday 15 August 1917
Stand to again at 3 o’clock am, grazing etc and ready for another 24 or 36 hour stunt by 2pm. Started about 2.30 and made out to Assani by dark and watered and fed up. Boiled the quart and had our tea on bread, bully and marmalade.
Thursday 16 August 1917
We rode on all through the night. I was out on the left flank guard, not a very sweet job, pretty tired and sleepy by 7 or 8am, when we stopped near Beersheba. Crossed the BS road and could see bridge and railway line etc. Some old wells, one in waddy, chalky steep sides, old buildings with cattle and donkeys and women and kids inside. Heaps of chaff and grain covered with earth and fed horses.
Friday 17 August 1917
Cable from home, all well in answer to mine sent last week so that’s good. Got back about 10 last night, tired and sleepy enough. Stew was ready for us as usual and Mick also had a nice powder custard made, good. Had a solid sleep and no stand to this morning. Just as well. Grazed horses during morning. I had a bath, took water out in the nosebags, Lance and I made a bivvie for shade.
Saturday 18 August 1917
Up at 3am and started to get ready for moving to the beach, hurrah. Good, good, good. Started with all our stuff on the saddles at 6 o’clock, watered at Gamli and rode straight down past old camp at Bassen El Kebir [Abasan al-Kabira?] and lobbed on our old posie at the beach by about 1 o’clock. Had a swim in the afternoon.
Sunday 19 August 1917
Up at 5.30, stable 5.45, swim at 6.30, brek at 7.15, watered horses 8.15, fatigue 9 to 11, swim before 12. Feed and groom horses. Dinner. Read papers, had a swim and took horses in at 3 o’clock, stables at 4.30, tea at 5.30, swim at 7.30, fed up and bed at 8.
Monday 20 August 1917
Swim before breakfast, my word it’s A1 down here again. Inspection of horses and lines by General Cox during the morning. Wrote to Mack. Had to help dig a well for fresh water in the sand about 200 yards back from the sea. Good water and plenty.
Tuesday 21 August 1917
Cooks made a duff for dinner today, pretty good too but a bit heavy. Believe they had to nick the flour from HQ to make it with but that’s nix. They get fed pretty well always. Three or four swims today and horses in as usual.
Wednesday 22 August 1917
Swimming etc still going strong. I cut my foot on a sharp rock, made it a bit awkward and got it tied up at the AMC tent. Got some stuff from the AIF canteen – fruit etc. We are not doing badly here for tucker, you bet.
Thursday 23 August 1917
Had a letter from Mr Goldsack in Cairo asking me to call if in the city any time. Very decent sort of note. I guess I’ll see him if I get the chance. Sports held here in the afternoon. I ran about next to last in the 120 yards, saw some good jumping by some of the chaps.
Friday 24 August 1917
Read “The Red Chancellor” today, not a bad yarn. Rather bloodthirsty and far fetched but certainly interesting. Got my foot re-dressed, getting better. Wrote a letter to Stow on receipt of a postcard from him. Good. Went down to YM tent after tea, had a bang on old piano.
Saturday 25 August 1917
Spent all day cleaning up my saddlery and irons. Made a pretty good job of them with dubbin, saddle soap, Kiwi and sea sand. Swam horses before dinner, water is just great – a bit rough sometimes. On picket at night, 11 to 1am.
Sunday 26 August 1917
First thing after orders, we hopped on our horses bareback and rode ’em down the beach about a mile and back for exercise sake. Pretty quiet day. Bit of cleaning up still going on. Church parade at 6.30pm, old parson with spectacles and squeaky voice. A good crowd there and a fair number stayed for communion after. Met Clarrie Chambers, Lieut – Aunt Edie’s nephew, a decent sort of chap.
Monday 27 August 1917
The inspection happened at 11 am and everything was laid out and shiny and satisfactory. Had a couple of swims and went down to YM canteen in the afternoon. Mail came in at tea time and good o. We did not know when to expect it. I heard from Alex and Mrs Aird, Jean, Mack, Dorc, Lic, Father and Mother.
Tuesday 28 August 1917
Swim before brek, bonzar in the water. Papers came today. I got Argus, Critic, and 2 Laura Standards. Not too bad at all. Gift stuff came to light at dinner time, good o. We got fruit, milk, lollies, sauce, pickles, plum pudding, tinned meat, shirts and tobacco, so won’t starve now for a day or two. Good old S Aus fruit too.
Wednesday 29 August 1917
Bit of fatigue this morning on Regimental QM job getting fodder and rations etc. Had a swim before dinner, got an inoculation after and wrote to Alex Aird and Ruth. Pay day, drew 2 pounds so as to have plenty for canteen stuff. On picket at night, bonzar and moonlight, bit of firing up.
Thursday 30 August 1917
Wrote to Coz Jim Tuck, post card to Howie, Alf Lowe and Elf, going to clear up my letters a bit.
Friday 31 August 1917
An hour each time, morning and afternoon learning to “lay an aim”. Not much doing, plenty of swims as usual. Went to the canteen and got a good stock of fruit and stuff and biscuits.
Saturday 1 September 1917
On Regimental Quarter Master fatigue the morning. Wrote to Dorc for her birthday and had several swims during the day. Arrival of parcels, good o. I got mine with socks, hanks, rag, cocoa, raisins etc and Mick and Sid Dunk each had one with cake, jam, dates and things.
Sunday 2 September 1917
Nothing much to do, I put in to ride over to the 9th Reg but my application was turned down. Wrote to Mother and Licko and had my usual swim. Church parade at 6.30 down in YM tent. Stayed afterwards for the communion service and then had a good sing song for a while. Got on to the piano for a while and kept going till late. Had a drink of good cocoa.
Monday 3 September 1917
On picket last night, up at 4.30 this am. Fed up and had an early swim while the sun got up and left camp for the butts, mounted before 7am. We shot at 100, 200 and 300 yards. My scores were 15/25, 12/20, 16/20, 13/20, 16/20 and finished about 6th in our troop (Score was 72). Top score was 76. Pretty hot and sweaty shooting in our gas helmets at 200 yards.
Tuesday 4 September 1917
Took horses to Belah in the morning to bring back the workers on the railway job. Inspection of all horses at 11am. Belah has gone ahead since I saw it first, then it was railhead. Not much up that far now. It’s camps and tents all the way and ground cut up and dusty.
Wednesday 5 September 1917
Bonzar day, good swell out in the sea, good swimming before brek. Reading a magazine, wrote to HP Henderson during the day. Down to see Frank Jones and Herb Bail at night. Had swim with them in M Gun swimming area.
Thursday 6 September 1917
Out all the morning doing a practice shoot with the Hotchkiss rifle. Got on fairly well for first shot at it. Swims, good o!! Good concert at night by 2nd Regt, singing, funny stories and a farce to finish with. Good for desert.
Friday 7 September 1917
Bomb throwing in the morning. On camel and water fatigue after dinner until about 6 pm. Went to boxing contest at night, Herb Groves back from rest camp at Port Said and old “Jaick” back from Moascar, quite better from his wound.
Saturday 8 September 1917
Saw old “Jaick” down having a swim, took horses for exercise along the beach and then for a swim. Pretty rough. Wrote to Ken Watford and Uncle Bert and HP Henderson. Went to another concert at night in the YM by Welsh Engineers, pretty good too.
Sunday 9 September 1917
Wrote to Jeff Hartley and Tommy. On day stables so missed church in the morning but went after tea to the song service and address by Lord Radcliffe, a decent old guy and good speaker and dinkum looking from England. He goes round for nix helping the YMCA in its many works and not a cheapjack like our old parson. Had a cup of bonzar hot cocoa at the good old Y Emma. [YM]
Monday 10 September 1917
Out during the morning bombing. Had to get ’em ready for Derby and he called me Corporal. Not too hot, old chap, sez I to myself and carried on. Cleaning our saddles and irons all the afternoon. Swim after tea, went to boxing in the evening but came home early. A few fights, not too bad.
Tuesday 11 September 1917
All our stuff looks fine and gay, ready for inspection. I’ve got my saddle looking pretty well! Had a swim before brek and in again with Jinny [horse] after. Rotter didn’t inspect till after 3pm. Had stuff out in dust for 5 hours. Wrote to Joyce, had another swim also visited canteen and bought up. Talking to old “Jaick” in C Squadron.
Wednesday 12 September 1917
Sports day today, jolly good programme of running, jumping, kicking footy, mule race etc and Solly V and Scholer ran the championship. Scholer won every race for the day and high and long jumps too. He is a marvel. Frank Jones was up all day and stayed for the evening.
Thursday 13 September 1917
Swimming as usual and read a book called My Lady’s Garter, jolly good too by Jacques Futrelle. Wrote to Norm and Ruby Howard. On picket at night. Good. Still no letters. When will they come?
Friday 14 September 1917
Good in the sea. Kit inspection this morning. Sent postcards to Mr Diamond, Mr Walker and Mr Reiher. Got a letter from old Hal – hooroo-oo-oo – and sent him a pc back straight away. He is looking forward to some fun. Good luck!!
Saturday 15 September 1917
Spent nearly all day reading “Anna Lombard” by Victoria Cross, not a bad book at all, very interesting. Went down to the YM at night to the concert. Had a few swims, good o, feeling very fit both in and out of the water.
Sunday 16 September 1917
On RQM fatigue, missed church parade in the morning. Wrote to Jean Halliday, had swim and at night went down and saw Frank Jones and from there to YM for song service.
Monday 17 September 1917
Pulled down our bivvies all ready for a move out tomorrow morning. Two swims, sea very rough. It washed up to some of the horse lines and over the AIF canteen ground and flooded out the YM. It looked bonzar, big breakers coming in all day. Wrote to Keith and Aunt Flo.
Tuesday 18 September 1917
Left beach at sunrise and after a warm dusty ride, arrived at new camp Kilo 9, between Raffa and Abasan El Kebir before dinner. Got bivvies up and comfortable as possible by night. Wind and dust blowing all afternoon.
Wednesday 19 September 1917
On horse picket last night and day stables today. Routine as follows: reveille 5.30am, fall in for orders, stables parade in gas helmets, brek about 6.30, water horses 7.15, fatigues etc. Ditto horse 12.15, stables parade, dinner, nothing much in afternoon, water horses 4.30, stables – tea, feed up and bed 8pm.
Thursday 20 September 1917
Same routine as Wednesday. Wrote a couple of letters in spare time to Aunt Annie and Eve Paynter and Lic for her birthday. Went up and saw Jaick Hardwicke after tea, about sending our cable.
Friday 21 September 1917
On fatigue this morning off loading party. Not much work. Not much tucker these days, back on issue rations for a few days while canteens are getting settled. Plenty of bread and marmalade and bully too. Neffer mind.
Saturday 22 September 1917
Fatigue again this morning. Wrote to Dot McLennan after. Getting letters nearly up to date, good o but I wish the mail would come in. Got nothing to read. On horse picket at night from 2am to 4am. Pretty cool.
Sunday 23 September 1917
Watered horses, church parade at 9am and when they wanted a pianist, I helped out. Not a bad service, held at the big YM marquee. Nothing special doing during the day. Went again to YM in the evening and played for song service held both before and after the address by Chap Bateman, a Presb I think. Not a bad sort.
Monday 24 September 1917
Out early on the ranges doing a few shots at targets at 500 yards, just scored moderately. Wrote to Lic, got an old magazine and read for a while.
Tuesday 25 September 1917
Field day, up early and in drill order. Went out and helped to take a hill – baksheesh – a bonzar position all the same for Jacko if ever he came back this way. A ditch with barbed wire entanglements and trench further in and machine gun position fixed up by our Indians.
Wednesday 26 September 1917
Told off with Malcolm and others from our squadron and Regiment for a week’s water guard. Got away by about 8.30 am and soon had a bivvie fixed up for four of us. Bruce Underwood, Dick Watson, Stew Malcolm and myself. Good o. Think we will do alright together for the week. Not too much work and two chaps out of the 20 to cook so we ought to do well. Put in 5 shillings each (our 4) and got one pound’s worth of canteen stuff.
Thursday 27 September 1917
Thursday morning up and had a bath, good too. Did all my behind hand washing, 3 shirts, singlet, 2 pairs socks, one pair knicks and a towel. Trying to learn to play bridge in spare time.
Friday 28 September 1917
My word, talk about fogs! I never saw such a beauty as early this morning and up to about 8 o’clock couldn’t see trains in station about 2 chains away. On duty on the troughs on the day, seeing that pumping is done and troughs kept full and the right water used for drinking. Water comes all the way from the Nile, probably central Africa – pumped out at Kantara and there are also pumping stations at Romani, Ben El Abd, Mozar, El Arish and Raffa. Pretty big scheme and jolly good water.
Saturday 29 September 1917
Wrote to Jean Gilmour and Hubert Long and Elf on Saturday. A bonny sunshiny morning. I was off duty today. We work it 24 hours on and 24 hours off. It’s a jolly good job, as good as the beach I reckon. A bath first thing every morning A1.
Sunday 30 September 1917
I wrote to cousin Frank after about 3 years or more! Good. On duty last night and today so could not go to church in the morning. Read a book called “Lord Petworth’s Daughter”, not much good but nothing else to read. Went to church at night and got there early and played some hymns. The band came to play for church, good hymns and played well. They gave first Peal on Sweet Organ, then Fight the Good Fight, Lead Kindly Light, Eternal Father and Abide With Me. Bonzar, few pieces after church too. The band playing made me think of old Boulder Band which used to play some of the same bonz pieces. It was a perfect night, full moon and I walked home half a mile odd and thinking my thoughts and talking to myself and thinking of other Sunday nights.
Monday 1 October 1917
Good sleep as usual, up and had a bath before brek. Wrote to Father and Aunt Bertha, Mr McDonald. I’m a voluminous correspondent. Good. Rather dusty afternoon – though nice morning. Roast meat and vegies for dinner!
Tuesday 2 October 1917
On duty for one and a half hours through the night. Up early – had shave and bath and washed out 2 shirts and towel before brek. On the shovel job keeping water clear during the day. It started blowing and got dusty early. Wrote to Mr Norwood, good, its about time. Finished well on our water job. Played bridge during the evening. Getting quite expert!
Wednesday 3 October 1917
Up at 5 am and struck our bivvies, rolled up blankets etc ready for limbers. Joined up our squadrons about 9 o’clock, just as the Brigade set off for Raffa. Arrived at the beach and made our camp by dinner time, close to the sea and not bad. Got bivvies up and all at home again.
Thursday 4 October 1917
Up and had a swim on RQM’s fatigue during the morning. Saw Roy Hicks down at the veterinary camp, been in there for 3 weeks. Swimming again – dinner – sloping arms and bayonet fighting in the afternoon and bit of a lecture on the rifle by Captain Biggs and Major Dick. Horse picket at night.
Friday 5 October 1917
Up – stables with gas helmets, then a good fresh swim before brek. Bonzar back at the old sea again. Out in the morning exercising the horses and swam them. Day stables after dinner till 7pm. Went to canteen for half an hour and got fruit etc. What ho. Bit of old mail in, been around to Africa and England and back, dated 18th July. Good – got letters from Mother.
Saturday 6 October 1917
Swim before brek as usual. On the pump all day today, better than out at “slope arms” .
Sunday 7 October 1917
Still got no decent trousers except shorts so missed the morning church parade. Mail in at dinner time. Goody good good. Missed a month since date of last letters and these are up to date. Fine Fine Fine.
Monday 8 October 1917
I had about umpteen letters, each from all at home and Ray and Joy and Ev and Aunt Annie and Miss Ashton and Roy Dyer and the next day from old Stow in France. About 18 or 20 altogether. Whew. More letters to write now.
Tuesday 9 October 1917
Papers in today, Observers and Baptist and Register from home. An Age and Leader from Cousin Alice and Laura Standards from some kind unknown friend. I’ll have to write and find out who is doing this. So now we know all about everything and stay home reading at night.
Wednesday 10 October 1917
Carrying on swimming and drilling and in our spare time, still reading up the papers, reports of Aust Days and flood and all sorts. University lost hockey final, bad luck, good fun tho.
Thursday 11 October 1917
Ruth’s letter from the Gunyah was a long bonzar one. She is liking it alright up to date. Saw Jean at Balak and Ben W at Laura on the way. Good o. Lic’s basketball team to play off for top. Good old WH [West Hindmarsh] School. Hope they won.
Friday 12 October 1917
Sent a postcard to Dorc and wrote to Benny at night. Bonzar day here and good October weather but no crops, flowers etc like they have at home just now.
Saturday 13 October 1917
No half holiday for tennis, footy, or hockey or trips to Hills or waterfalls etc.
Sunday 14 October 1917
On fatigue in the morning so missed the old church parade. Kit inspection in the morning, only so much gear to be carried from here. I got a good new pair of riding pants. Went and wrote a letter for Charlie Hiern after tea, then down to YM for service. Good old singsong afterwards till pretty late. I had the luck to play the piano, good.
Monday 15 October 1917
Swim before brek, pretty rough in the sea today. Heard of a chap being drowned yesterday, bad luck. Had a letter from old Hal – good. He is going strong and by now is with his bonny little lass at Darjeeling. Good luck to them. On water guard for 3 hours, not far from home, pretty good job. Wrote to Dorc.
Tuesday 16 October 1917
Back from our guard at 4pm and found that a big mail of parcels had arrived. Three for me and 2 for Sid and 3 for Mick. Mine were from home, Ruth and Bertha’s Baptist friends and I had all sorts of good things, socks, singlet, chocs, nuts, milk, cocoa, devilled almonds, and a Christmas cake from Ruth. Good luck. Cake received and inscribed “Xmas 1917 – Good Luck Spence” and in bonzar order.
Wednesday 17 October 1917
Bit of drill and swimming and kicking around all day. Cocoa for supper. Wrote to old Myrt and Hendie, about time too and finished Dorc’s off and posted it.
Thursday 18 October 1917
Swims as usual and more mounted drill in the am and slope arms in the aftie. Had our Christmas cake for dinner and invited Mallie in to have a piece and he struck the threepenny piece. Good supper at night with Harry Hancock and co on cake and coffee etc.
Friday 19 October 1917
Wrote to Ruth. Drill early in the morning and swim after brek. On dressing parade (first aid) and done up like two Christmas cakes plus a sore and tied up foot. Alright. Quiessketeer [good], Mounted drill in afternoon, cavalry action.
Saturday 20 October 1917
Colours issued to us – black and white and I sewed one piece on my coat in place of one I’m going to send home. Wrote to Hal and Ess and sent them on my long letter from Ruth.
Monday 22 October 1917
Pulled down all bivvies and packed our stuff on horses after dinner as we will when we shift. I was on the pump today. Letters came at teatime – good one from Mother, Hurt and Donie and pocket writing pad and photo of York church kindergarten chairs etc for anniversary. Wrote to Mack at night.
Friday 26 October 1917 – Fukara
Moved from Fukara in afternoon to Assani where we lobbed at 2 o’clock Saturday morning after a pretty decent but long and tiring ride.
Saturday 27 October 1917 – Assani
Nothing much doing today – on pumping, got hair cut by Tom Hogarth, had a wash and shave.
Place used to be dangerous with Jackos. Now all alive and in preparation with our men and stuff, infantry, saddles and all.
Sunday 28 October 1917 – Assani
Out early and spent all day on outpost a few miles Assani side of Beersheba. Pretty quiet lazy day, got home about 9 pm, fed up, stayed an hour and boiled quarts etc and got a few old letters. Then again saddled up and rode on about 10 or 12 miles to Khalasa by about 2 am.
Monday 29 October 1917 – Khalasa
Woke at daylight after a few hours sleep – watered at old Khalasa wells, trough put down by our Engineers. They are great goers. Stayed all day, went looking for wood with Mal, taubes over, left at 5pm and marched till nearly midnight. Arrived at Asalage.
Tuesday 30 October 1917 – Asalage
On a drawing water job all the morning with windlass and buckets. Hungry enough, back for late dinner and ready to move by 4 pm. Watered with buckets at bridge we blew up, bonz building and stone all scattered and wrecked. Rode and walked all night. Fed up once and helped carry stretcher sticks now and again.
Wednesday 31 October 1917 – Tel el Saba, Beersheba
Landed a few miles north east of Beersheba at dawn and moved up, put nosebags on, order to bit up and gallop in after Cavalry. Dogs and all running from shells, Al Rogers and all full of fun and good spirits. Later on troops went into action without horses. I held our section’s nags in gutter, bullets and shells going overhead. Our chaps knocked about but running. Some die. Tom Hogarth killed, and Jack B and Sid Dunk wounded.
[The stretcher bearers did splendid work in attending to the wounded in this exposed area and showed an utter disregard to the danger to which they were exposed. L/Cpl AC Rogers and Tpr TR Hogarth, both stretcher bearers, were killed, the last named being post-humously awarded the Military Medal.
From The Story of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment, World War One, by Trooper Frank M Blackwell, page 96.]
Thursday 1 November 1917
Got horses up and watered them and then got well shelled up in waddy.
Friday 2 November 1917
Moved over to other side of waddy early after breakfast and put lines down. Rain (muddy) water dried up now. Had to water near the town from wells. Went to funeral in the morning. About 70 chaps – mostly 3rd Regt, Tom H, Rainsford, Boundy, Sandie, Mjr Markwell. Padres and fatigue party in a little patch of gum trees where they lie. Saw Jacko Hospital, now ours of course, and 2 Austrians and lots of Turks, some Red Cross workers for their wounded mates and motor ambulances, telephone wires.
Saturday 3 November 1917
Kicked out of bed at 9 o’clock Friday night and rode out about 12 miles by 3am near redoubt. Stayed with the artillery all day and got shelled about a bit. Saw some of the artillery chaps get knocked and the 1st Regt got cut up. Home that night by about midnight and took an hour to get water for the horses.
Sunday 4 November 1917
Nothing doing in the morning but at dinner time, letters came from home. I was sent off with grave digging party to one little gum tree patch in Beersheba. Dug with Herb Groves, don’t think about anything except its a hole to be dug. Rotten job though, about 75 buried at dusk (1st Regt) service by our Chaplains and RC padre and we filled in the graves after Last Post.
Monday 5 November 1917
Sent into the town on a sort of water-getting well-cleaning fatigue. Camped by big bridge in wadi. Worked shifts in the night as well – no good. The Jacko had blown in all the tops, but the wells were almost undamaged down below, good water too.
Tuesday 6 November 1917
Still another well to draw from this morning. Working with Engineers on some, and horses with pulley etc on others. Went down one about 40 feet deep and 7 feet in diameter, built in with all stone sides all the way down – bonzar well and old as the hills. Shifted out at about 5pm.
Wednesday 7 November 1917
After riding all night or nearly, we stopped, did an early patrol, got peppered with shrapnel, little later eating bully [beef] while galloping round. Jim Ayliffe got hit, died next day. Sneaked round waddy, saw dead Turks where they charged the ridge, past ammunition dumps and when staff left in a hurry, out on the flat and full gallop 3 miles into railway station.
Thursday 8 November 1917
9th Regt was ahead and got lots of prisoners, cavalry and infantry, poor old Jacko’s horses. We hopped off and got Jacko’s bread and figs and odds and ends till the beggars started to drop shells into us so we cut railway carriage and explosions and burning dumps. Shelled and shifted about all day. Good luck for me but only rest at night. Thursday quiet and got tibbin [horse fodder], barley and beans from nigger camp. Had feed of fresh killed and cooked sheep.
Friday 9 November 1917
Another night on outpost near the railway station and big 3,000,000 pound worth ammunition
dump. See Jacko’s fires as he ran away. Got bombed by our own aeroplanes, only 5 or 6 of the beggars and we were all joking how would Jacko feel when bang! and scatter. Bead, Dowdie, Stinker Smith and Dunstan and Dunny Lines and 9 horses on our troop got hit. Friday galloped for miles past limbers and guns and mules and all sorts of stuff, cattle and sheep, storm at dinner time, on towards the sea after dinner and struck a lot of Jacko prisoners.
Tuesday 13 November 1917
Bonz old beach for one night. Had a swim and lazed about and washed singlet and towel this morning. Left at 1pm and rode north again past our fighting village and spell town etc and camped at about dark about 6 miles from Ramli – supposed to be a big place, a railway junction. I was on picket at night. Stand to as usual at 3.30.
Wednesday 14 November 1917
Had brek and moved into another town (saw Chuck Murrell) and saw people with hats and decent dresses and could talk a ‘leetle English’ – good water for us and horses, got oranges and talked to the Jewish maidens who looked like Rebecca out from the windows above. One from hotel at WA. Out on outpost in afternoon, left horses and got out on hills and got machine gun bullets on to us but got out alright.
Thursday 15 November 1917
Getting shelled a bit all the time, a few casualties yesterday. On Cossack post at night and early today into the town for water. Got 6 or 8 loaves of bread – brown and good but a bit doughy. Lazy morning, moved at dinner time, our troop Artillery Escort through Ramli and on to Ludd – dirty places. Got a bucket from burning building and after a while camped near dead horses.
Friday 16 November 1917
Stayed in Dead Horse Camp till about dinner time and went on a few miles – watered at wells with old camel pulling. Plenty of oranges and Geo Brooks A Div watching water coming slowly into the tanks. Got 2 or 3 radishes. Out before dark on to flat and took up outpost. I was on Cossack post in prickle [cactus] garden.
Saturday 17 November 1917
In from all night Cossack post with Johnnie, Bernie and Joe. Got tibbin [horse fodder] from nigs and watered horses at old well that the camel worked. Got lots of rations today, cocoa, bully, biscuits, jam and a lot of bread. Mail sent out in afternoon and I posted cards home to Elf and also letters home and to Hurt Rowe. Watered at old garden wall, best orange grove I’ve yet seen.
Sunday 18 November 1917
Out after early brek to garden into Luad for water. Got oranges for one anna – got monger and fodder and back to garden till 2 o’clock. Then in and drew rations etc at old camp and on the road to Jaffa for 3 miles or so and camped about dark. Saw Ern Pederick and he predicted mail and reinforcements. Bonzar orange gardens around. Rained a bit at night – boggy ground.
Monday 19 November 1917
Moved out from Boggy Flat camp near evening (a section of us with Col Bell, Major Dick and co) and took an outpost outside Jaffa all night, rotten wet night – on Cossack post and holding horses with Bennett. Watered next morning in Yahed Ben – a dirty native village – old well. Saw the German settlement just over from us a bit.
Tuesday 20 November 1917
Back to A Squadron HQ near green tree and stayed till 12.30, then with Hudson, Hordern and co into village. Saw lots of white people, German Jews, Greek and Turk citizens, now English of course. Is it necessary? Bakers and chemists and fruit shops and got old Jacko prisoner coming eating up the street and took him back on mule. Back and got our letters and rations – good o. Back to Boggy Flat and into Hill nearer the town and camped.
Wednesday 21 November 1917
Spent early part of Tues evening in reading all my bonzar letters. Got a bit of candle from Joe Bilton – it rained a bit but I was safe and dry under a bit of a bivvie. I was on picket at night. Moved after watering at the bonzar place back about 10 or 12 miles and camped on Dead Horse Flat for the night. Dead camels and horses and mules.
Thursday 22 November 1917
Moved on early after brek and at last pulled up near the white tomb on the hill and camped just on edge of sand near where we went in for night at the beach. In to beach to water horses, bonzar sleep with boots off at night.
Friday 23 November 1917
Got paid today, I drew one pound. On an early job escorting the transports for fodder and rations through a bit of a village. Saw Jacko’s railway that we now use, train engine and all, to bring up our rations with. Talking to Ern Pederick going in. Home before dinner and down to beach after for a swim and wash clothes and swim horses.
Saturday 24 November 1917
Carried on just quietly all day. Captured two sheep, a treat for A Squadron and spent nearly all day cooking and eating them. Not a bonzar feed on a month on bully beef! Also had a few raisins and dried apricots and dates etc on issue and bread so living well. Sent cable home.
Sunday 25 November 1917
After another trip to beach for swim, washed shirt. Church parade at 10.30, Chap Bates and communion afterwards. Saw Lieut Chambers too, back from detail. Laffer went away sick. Wrote home to Mother and notes to Hal and Mr Gilmore and Doll Wellie and Miss Ashton and slipped on posting them. On picket at night at 3am. Thought of it being 11am Sunday at home and church time. Had a fire going. Jim Watson.
Monday 26 November 1917
Got parcel from home – water bags, socks and cocoa etc and papers, Observer from V Baker and Miss Ashton. Also parcel from Perth Baptist church. Good one too. A woollen waistcoat and mitts and socks and butter scotch, chewing gum and cocoa. Saw Moody at night and found out that Geo Potter was back, talked to him a bit, he looks well. Fred Hollis came over from 4th Brig for few minutes. Good o, he is well too.
Tuesday 27 November 1917
Moved out at 8 am and marched pretty fast till about 3 or 4pm back nearly to Ramli in sound of the guns and sight of taubes again. I am now riding Sid’s mare – not so bad but a bit of a jigger. Scotty Bell back and took my old nag, worse luck. He and McGregor riding and tuckering in our section. Got brown bread.
Wednesday 28 November 1917
All day in the camp near the town of the water taps and brown bread and third biggest winery in the world. Plenty of oranges too. Wrote long letter to Mack, Greenlaw, got Mr Cock to censor all my others.
Thursday 29 November 1917
Jacko flew over in the night and dropped bombs a mile or two away. Stand to at 3.30, pretty cold too but I slept well. Had a chance to post letters, hooray. Sent mine going home and to Hal, Mr Gilmour, Doll Wellie and Miss Ashton. Grazing horses this morning close to the camp. Harry Lewis came out at last and is in my troop. Good o. Took him round to see Lance and Herb and Les and Jack H and Bert B and Don Rickaby all came up from C Squadron to see him.
Friday 30 November 1917
On fatigue digging hole for tins – permanent camping ground, maybe not for us! Hope it is for a while. Wrote to Frank Jones re sending our cable home cause other didn’t go. Hang the blooming military.
Saturday 1 December 1917
Taubes over during night, moonlight. Jewish Sabbath. No one round as usual this morning with bread and cakes and fruit and tobacco and jam. Blooming German Jews they are, I reckon. We cleaned our saddles and dubbined them in the morning. Got issued with new proper bivvie sheets, not bad at all. Grazed horses after dinner.
Sunday 2 December 1917
Wrote a letter or two home and to old Hal. Sent a one pound note for Xmas. No church parade today. Left camp and rode out to front line and dug trenches where Camel Corps were on outpost. Shell holes all about, some wounded just before we got there, long walk back to the horses. I got left behind the mob.
Monday 3 December 1917
Walked in about 2 miles and camped near Camel AMC till daylight. Just going to have cocoa and brek when saw Mick and McGinty with my horse so missed my hot brek and rode back to camp. Saw Charles Murrell for a yarn, Camel Corps camped just near us.
Tuesday 4 December 1917
Mucking about with nothing much doing but to graze horses and do picket at night.
Wednesday 5 December 1917
Moved over to top of hill nearer to town. Better camp if it rains. Town is called Ankara and not bad to what we have had but we are not allowed in it anyhow – the people are all Jews or crooks.
Thursday 6 December 1917
Went on a lousing parade in the morning but only number 4 troop was done as the boiler nearly burst. Good luck, I didn’t need any lousing. Did a good day’s washing after dinner, shirt and singlets and all and didn’t get on duty.
Friday 7 December 1917
Rain in the night and found it wet and still raining when we got up. Pretty miserable for my washing on the line and cooking etc and mucking around with the horses. Still might be worse. Good job we have bivvies.
Saturday 8 December 1917
Still wet and cold and lines in a bonzar mess. Still we got two hot meals cooked, stew and porridge so did all right. Got a bit of canteen stuff between the sections, chocs, biscuits, sardines, peas, milk, jam, smokes etc.
Sunday 9 December 1917
Wet as ever and I’m on tibbin [horse fodder] fatigue, going all day in the rain, till about 3.30pm in old native hut where they live with fowls, pigeons, cattle and donkeys. Moody and I got oranges from garden on the way home. Wet through but hot tea and then into humpy and dry blanket.
Monday 10 December 1917
Out round the flat and over sand hills for exercise for horses and ourselves. Bit of a canter, went A1 and warm. Detailed for guard on ration dump for the night but the guard wasn’t wanted, good o. Did a shift of picket.
Tuesday 11 December 1917
Fine again and sun doing a bit of shining. Let bivvie down and warmed the ground and dried our clothes etc. Wrote to Dorc and sent Xmas card also. Transport and guns going out past us today. Great fight in the air. Our planes and Jacko’s drew.
Wednesday 12 December 1917
Exercising the horses again and grazed them a little bit over near Jaffa. Looks a good town , wish we could go in and see it. Caterpillars still pulling up the stuff past us out to the front – shells landing not far away, guns going all day long. Got new boots!
Thursday 13 December 1917
What oh and they say we are not winning! A second blanket per man issued today, new and warm and bonzar. Had a letter from Norm Ford in France and he is still going OK. Wrote to Mother and Freda Harry this aftie.
Friday 14 December 1917
Still doing nothing much, just waiting and expecting to move at any time. Had a brigade parade this am and were addressed by Brig Gen Chauvel. Kidded for our good work done. He looks a bit like Sir Hy Galway. He is not a bad seeming old cuss. On horse picket at night, stew for dinner, bread and milk for brek.
Saturday 15 December 1917
The Sabbath of the Jews – some special festival day and troops are not allowed in the town for period of 24 hours. Voted on the referendum for conscription this morning, only one way to vote I reckon, though some idiots think otherwise. What oh, the mail in tonight and I only got 19 from home and around.
Sunday 16 December 1917
Church parade in the morning, Padre talking about places we have seen Acts 9: 10, Zephaniah etc. Only had another bunch of letters in today – another 7 for me – good and they are dated up to 8th November after news of Beersheba had got home. Now a bonz lot of letters.
Monday 17 December 1917
Got news of our Brigade going up to take over the trenches for 10 days over Xmas! I was detailed to stay with horses, one man to 4 horses to bring them back to camp and stay here and look after them. Don’t know whether I am glad or not – think I struck the better job.
Tuesday 18 December 1917
Went out with the crowd on Monday evening and left them to take over and we got back with the nags by 9pm. Shifted line on Tues morning, round other side of hill near to number 4 line. Out exercising in afternoon. Waseye and I have one bivvie up again all night.
Wednesday 19 December 1917
Wet morning, I was on picket last night, kept fine luckily. Exercised the horses through the mud and sand in the afternoon. Deuce of a heavy bombardment during the night up in the line. It was followed by an attack on Jacko’s lines by Scotties and we won.
Thursday 20 December 1917
Still a bit wet and showery but it fined up a bit after dinner. wrote to Lic and posted. Wasbye got a parcel, cake, sweets etc so I made cocoa after tea and we had cake and cocoa for supper before going to bed.
Friday 21 December 1917
More doings with Jacko. Pretty hot night and a day in the trenches with guns big and small. Our chaps advanced and kicked Jacko out of his dugout. Mr McBride killed and Major Derrington badly wounded. Others killed and wounded too. Bad luck. But a good advance. Some progress in here with horses.
Saturday 22 December 1917
Still no parcels have come for Xmas, at least mine? Will it come? Yes! Plenty of time yet. Had a shower bath before dinner in a little shanty, at side of a house and washed my clothes after. Wrote to Marion Halliday. Bald Hill snipers.
Sunday 23 December 1917
Out to try the drill for a firing party for Mr McBride and two others, then to funeral – up on hill just close to the cemetery. Tall gums and a dull day. Out with horses to the trenches – got our chaps back, good o for coming back before Xmas. All muddy and hungry, wet night on horse picket.
Monday 24 December 1917
Still wet and cold weather. Canteen opened this aftie and I spent one pound on biscuits, sausages, milk and fruit and was sent back to repeat the order. Good crush to get inside. Bit of gift stuff came at tea time, also our Xmas boxes, one each from Lady Mayoress.
Tuesday 25 December 1917
Strike me fat – we reckon we had nothing for Xmas and we got another lot of parcels in this morning, mine amongst them. Dinner on hot cooked beef and bacon then Xmas puddings and tin of cream. What ho and biscuits and dates, butter scotch, fruit and cake for tea. Dodging rain all day. Exercised horses in and out, not a bad Xmas.
Wednesday 26 December 1917
Bank holiday, reckon it ought to be. We only shifted camp about 15 miles back through bog and slush and water, most of the way. Deuce of a load of all sorts of stuff on the horses. Camped in the sand near Ezdud, old Ashdod, and seems a good spot.
Thursday-Friday 27-28 December 1917
Ashdod and Ezdud. On RQM for tea in the morning. Must not cut trees or vines nor tie horses to them. Pretty short of wood here, good job we have a bit of fruit and canteen stuff to eat. Gave Herb Groves some dates and some of Dorc’s biscuits. They are alright. Wish I had a case of them. Keeping a few for old Gouldie. Nothing special doing the day.
Saturday 29 December 1917
Doing well now for scram. Found some wood and made sop out of biscuits and milk for brek. Also fried bacon and sausages. Parcels in today and I got two, one from The Horseshoe and the other from Aunt Annie Tuck. Jolly good inside, biscuits, sweets and all sorts.
Sunday 30 December 1917
Wrote home to Father, missed church parade – on an off-loading fatigue at divisional dump all afternoon. Open slather as Tom Skeenes called it. Got milk, jam, dates, candles etc. Home for tea about dark. Big mail in. Good Good Good.
Monday 31 December 1917
Ashdod, no Ezdud. All sorts of rumours of going back to Belah to train as Infantry. On fatigues digging wells all afternoon. Got cable from home, all well, best luck for Xmas, Donie, so not bad after big batch of letters last night.
Tuesday 1 January 1918 New Year’s Day
Bit wet and cold, not too bad, though nothing doing. Lousing parade was on but had to be postponed. Good.