Officer in Waiting
4 May - 12 June
The Somme Again
13 June - 24 August
Dompiere & Mont St. Quentin
25 August - 6 September
7 September - 10 November
11 November - 28 Feb 1919
The WWI diary of Percy Smythe was transcribed by his daughter Betty Smythe.
Saturday, 2nd. Lost the run of things during the past week. During the trip from Lemnos Island to Malta I was at the lowest ebb. At first I was afraid that I was going to die, then I lost all fear of death and became convinced that the end was fast approaching. I had no pain, but a terrible inexpressible "feeling" seemed to pervade my head, and, indeed, my whole body, and one dismal evening nothing seemed worth while and I longed and prayed for death to come and end my misery, feeling, as I did, that I might linger on for weeks in that miserable condition. I think my mind must have been a bit affected. I had had practically no sleep for days, and was living on milk, beef-tea, and brandy. On that dreadful night, a doctor, not my regular doctor, came and asked me how I was. I told how I wanted to die.
"Good gracious. What for?" he exclaimed.
"Because there's no fun in being alive", I answered wearily.
He then got the orderly to shift my bed out on the floor of the serjeants' mess, where I would get more fresh air, and to give me a cold sponge all over. The cold water seemed to have a soothing effect, for I got a fair bit of sleep that night.
After that I began to improve a little, and got some sleep every night. Had been told that I and a few other bad cases were to be put off at Malta, and I was glad of that, for I dreaded another week in that old troopship. I think it was Wednesday, when we arrived at Malta, but I didn't get off till Saturday, that is, today. By this time I had improved a lot, and had lost that terrible "feeling". Was very weak, however, and time seemed to drag by awfully slowly, making life very monotonous.
However, this morning I was hustled into a stretcher, taken up on deck, swung down into a lighter. Caught a glimpse of Malta, and it looked just beautiful with its large, square, brown, clean-looking buildings rising up from the sea.
After a while we moved away from the troopship, and I wasn't sorry to see the last of her either. We went away up the bay to where the town was not so nice and clean-looking. A long train of red cross motor ambulance wagons, were waiting for us, and I was put into one of these, and conveyed to St. John's Hospital, where I was taken to No.19 ward, and put into a nice comfortable bed. There are about half a dozen other chaps in the ward which is nice and clean and tidy. Things will be much better here, with nurses in attendance, and every convenience, only the flies worry me a great deal. Am still on milk diet. The milk here is made up from Nestle's, and is insipidly sweet.
Fri. 15th. Things are going fine and I'm looking forward to a trip to England as soon as I'm convalescent, which shouldn't be long now. The days have dragged by slowly, as there is nothing to do, but I've been improving all the time. Wrote to Bert and Vern as soon as I was able to do so, but the writing was pretty shaky. Also wrote to Eric Conolly. A couple of days later I could write steadily, and wrote to Mum and Dad, also to Clytie. Was supplied with writing paper and envelopes from some patriotic movement. A nice lady would come round sometimes with cigarettes and tobacco, and sweets for the non-smokers. I took butterscotches, as I didn't care for chocolates. It was thoughtful of the patriotic ones to include sweets for the non-smokers.
For some time I remained on milk diet, getting milk, pudding, beef-tea, and cocoa, also a little toast for breakfast and sometimes bread and butter for tea, but at last the doctor, a good-natured Irishman, put me on ordinary diet with beef-tea, pudding, and cocoa as well. We have toast for breakfast, and sometimes manage to score a bit of porridge. We also get a basin of tea or milk, I always take milk. Our one trouble is, we don't get enough butter. Most of it is used for breakfast, and but little left for tea. However, we overcome the difficulty by breaking dry bread into our basin of milk and making bread-and-milk. For dinner we get meat, stew, and potatoes, with sago, rice, or maizena pudding.
About an hour after dinner the beef-tea comes along, and about a couple of hours after tea the cocoa is served out.
Yesterday was a red-letter day with me. I got up. Had decided on the great event the day before, but when I mentioned it to my ward mates yesterday morning, they all strongly advised me to stay in bed. However, I was not to be daunted, and when the doctor, a good-natured old Irishman, came round, I asked him if I could get up. "By all means, get up", he replied, heartily, and I did, and walked three yards to the table in the middle of the room. The gait was like that of a man walking on broken glass with bare feet. Later on I walked two or three hundred yards, very, very slowly of course, as I was too weak to go at anything above a snail's pace. Then I sat down at the table writing for awhile and then reading, but it proved too much for me, and turning suddenly sick and dizzy, I had to go and lie down on the bed. Was determined, however, to have dinner at the table, and when twelve o'clock came, I made another effort, which was a failure, and I had to have dinner in bed.
During the afternoon Lord Methuen, who was a great general in the Boer War, visited the hospital, and in course of time, came to our ward, and went round speaking to the patients and asking them questions. I was distinguished from all the others in the ward in that I was the only one he didn't speak to. His lordship had overlooked me. However, I was also distinguished in being the only one Lady Methuen spoke to, and she seemed to take quite an interest in me. The cigarette lady also came yesterday, and I got a supply of butterscotches and acid-drops, which didn't last long, however, the last of them going this morning.
Last night I wrote to Ida with greetings for her birthday, which I think is on the 5th. November. Also wrote to Viola. The sister hunted me off to bed early.
This morning I wrote to Rita, Gordon and Eric. Told the girls I would send them some heather, which was sent here all the way from Scotland, if I could procure a box to send it in. Managed to get a little box, and packed a few small pieces of the heather in it to send to the girls.
Am getting stronger and better now, but can still only walk very slowly. Tea is over and night is coming on. I don't like the night much, as I have to go to bed, and after having been in bed constantly for three weeks, I'm not over fond of it.
The clothes they supply us with here are a bright royal blue, with a bright cardinal red neck-kerchief. They are gaudy enough to suit the loudest tastes.
Wrote to Mr. Harward, and to Mr. Saunders at Randwick.
Sat. 16. Asked the doctor to add porridge and lemonade to my diet list, which he promptly did. Butter supply very short. We complained again to the orderly officer. At dinner time we were told that the pudding wouldn't be ready till 3p.m. When it was ready, our ward was overlooked, and we got none.
Read all day. Played "Bookem" after tea.
Sun. 17. The doctor put me on extra butter this morning. Asked him about a trip to England when I'm strong enough. He said he didn't know yet.
After tea, went to Presbyterian service in library with Mr. Dickinson. Stayed for communion. It was an interesting fact, as mentioned by the chaplain, that there were eleven of us there besides the chaplain, as in that upper room only two thousand years ago, there were eleven disciples besides the Master.
Mon. 18. Got an attack of indigestion, and the consequent sick headache. Tried to walk it off by walking round the courtyard till I was too tired to walk any more. Ate very little all day, and lost all of what I did eat.
Hodgson and Grattan got leave to go to Valetta and I got Hodgson to buy me an exercise book in which to try my hand at writing short stories to fill in time.
In the evening my headache eased off a bit, and I was able to sleep pretty well.
Tues. 19. Wrote to Mum and Dad. Not feeling too well yet. Had a little porridge and toast for breakfast. The Scotch sister brought in some stuff for creating an appetite, and it worked wonders. Dickinson and Oberhumer got leave and went to Valetta this afternoon. Asked Dickinson to get me some Beecham's pills, but they were unobtainable.
Wed. 20. Commenced writing a story, "The Lonely Australian", and continued it all day. The doctor marked me down for the Dining Hall for tomorrow. Dickinson, Grattan and Oberhumer are to go to the convalescent camp on Saturday.
Thurs. 21. Continued story. Hodgson is also booked for convalescent camp on Saturday. Started at the Dining Hall this morning. There is a grand concert tonight in Valetta, and patients are invited to go. Extended leave is granted. Four of us put in for leave, Grattan, Hodgson, Dickinson and I, Oberhumer being unwell, but as only a limited number of passes were being granted, Grattan and I had to stay behind. The Scotch sister gave us an egg each as compensation.
Got Dickinson to get me a box of Beecham's pills while he was out.
Friday, 22. Wrote to Mrs. Tanner. Couldn't think of her address, so sent the letter to Perce Tanner to be sent on to her.
Sat. 23. Paid today, 2/-. Continued story. Hodgson, Dickinson, and Grattan left for the convalescent camp this morning.
Sun. 24. Continued story. Went to C. of E. service in morning, and Pres. service at night. Commenced Fair Copy of story. The title is, "At the Shrine of Mars".
Mon. 25. Continued Fair Copy of story. Worked at it all day.
Tues. 26. Worked all day at Fair Copy of story. Finished it at bedtime.
Wed. 27. The doctor marked me convalescent today, which means I'll leave on Saturday for the convalescent camp.
Wrote a list of aboriginal words and names of towns, birds, animals, etc. and arranged them in alphabetical order. Made up a song out of the words by arranging them to sound euphoniously and to rhyme. Called it, "An Australian Aboriginal Love Song".
Oberhumer got a letter from Dickinson giving a bad account of the convalescent camp. According to him, food and doctors are conspicuous by their absence, and no leave at all is being granted. Commenced Australian Bushranger story.
Thurs. 28. Went to see the C.O. about getting some money to buy writing materials and other things at Valetta. Failed to see him. Got leave from 2 till 6p.m. and went for a walk along the shore by the ocean. Afterwards went to Sliema. Met an Irishman on the way and he gave me a good account of the camp just opposite the hospital. Bought pens, pencils, ink, soap, and a lot of sweets. Coming back, a half-starved looking little boy followed me and begged for a ha'penny. I gave him a penny, and he seemed quite pleased.
After tea, went on with my story, entitled, "Crum Dobbin, Bushranger".
Fri. 29. A lance-corporal came round with Captain Gillespie's convalescent list. My name was not on it, so it looks as if I'm not going to the camp.
When the doctor came, he reckoned I was going to the camp, and he and Sister Thompson had quite an argument over it. Sister reckoned that I should be sent to England. It appears that it was by mistake that my name was not on the convalescent list. Diphtheria has broken out. Hospital quarantined till Wed. Can't leave now till tomorrow week. Wrote to Mum and Dad.
Sat. 30. Continued story.
Sun. 31. Quarrelled with Whitcombe. Took chair up on roof to do some writing there. Was afterwards examined by Doctor Gillespie, and he said the pneumonia had all cleared up splendidly. So probably I'll go to the convalescent camp and not to England.
Went to Pres. service after tea.
Monday, 1st. Whitcombe was examined for diphtheria and sent to the suspects ward this morning. Commenced my story all over again, as I was not at all satisfied with it.
Tues. 2. Continued story. Finally revised "At the Shrine of Mars", and packed it ready to send away.
Wed. 3. Continued story. Drew a comical picture in Sister Thompson's autograph book.
Thurs. 4. Completed story and got Fair Copy more than half finished.
Fri. 5. Finished Fair Copy of "Crum Dobbin, Bushranger". Wrote a letter to Mum and Dad. In the evening there was a concert in the dining-hall, amongst the patients. It wasn't bad at all. Quarantine was lifted today, and all the supposed diphtheria cases were dismissed. Whitcombe back in the ward.
Sat. 6. Commenced another story, "Abide with Me". It is to be a sad story, concerning a drunkard and his Christian wife, and has a sad ending.
Drew a small sketch, in pencil, of a familiar scene at Gallipoli. It was a view of the sea from the rest trenches, with the Isle of Imbros on the skyline. We go to convalescent camp on Monday. Drew extra kit today.
Sun. 7. Drew a small pencil sketch of a little bit of Sliema viewed from the hospital roof. The sun was glaring on the buildings, and I could not distinguish them too well. It would have been better had I waited for a duller light.
In the afternoon I drew a pen and ink drawing of a bush scene.
Went to Pres. service in evening.
At the last moment word came that we are not going tomorrow, more cases having broken out.
Mon. 8. Continued writing story. Wrote ad. to "Daily Graphic" for someone to dispose of my stories for me.
Tues. 9. Continued story.
Oberhumer and Stephen and I made a plot to escape from hospital tomorrow night and go for a walk along the Esplanade.
Wed. 10. Physical drill was started this morning. The men were formed into squads in charge of instructors. We are to do an hour every morning and half-an-hour every afternoon. It is not compulsory, but patients are advised to go. Did an hour at it this morning, but didn't go this afternoon. Continued story today.
We three colonials carried out our little escapade. I took my tunic, and the other two took overcoats to cover the blue hospital uniform. We got them out through the window on the veranda, so as not to excite suspicion in the other wards. There was no piquet or guard near the old closed entrance, so we got over the railing there and jumped to the ground. Climbing over the outer iron fence, we went round by a back way to the Esplanade. It was a lovely breezy night, and we walked about a mile and a half along the Esplanade. Met lots of fellows in khaki, but were not challenged. It was after "Lights Out" when we got back. Crossing the road one at a time we climbed back the way we came out. The other two went first, and they made such a noise getting in that I was afraid we would be noticed, and I waited a while to make sure nobody was about before climbing up on the veranda. However we got back safely, and, being hungry after the walk, had a supper of bread and jam in the dark.
Thurs. 11. The physical drill seems to have fallen flat, few turned up this morning, so I didn't bother with it.
Tonight Oberhumer was determined to get out again, but someone must have informed the heads that we were out last night, for there were police and piquets everywhere. He came back, but later on went out again and just got nicely outside when he ran into the arms of a sentry. His name was taken.
Fri. 12. Started on my Christmas greeting correspondence first thing this morning, and wrote all day.
After tea, started copying, in pencil, to a four times enlargement, a picture of a girl sitting on a stone parapet overlooking some water.
At 7p.m. a lance-corporal came out and turned the lights down without allowing me even a few seconds.
Oberhumer and I went on the roof and walked around a bit, talking. It was after ten when we came down. I went to our ward, and the officious, self-important lance-corporal who had turned the lights down pounced on me and took my name and address for being out of the ward after 9p.m. I was very surprised not knowing it was against the regulations. Oberhumer came along a bit later, and was also nabbed.
Sat. 13. Had to go before the staff serjeant-major this morning. I argued the point with him about going to bed at nine, and asked if there was any possibility of getting permission to stay up till ten, but he said there was not, as they were Standing Orders, and the C.O. had no power to alter them.
Went on the roof and got on with drawing.
Paid today, 2/-.
Finished the drawing tonight. Also finished my Christmas correspondence. This afternoon sports were held in the square, consisting of tug-of-war, in which Australia beat England easily, relay race, potato, and wheelbarrow races, etc.
Went through a bit of Swedish exercise after Light's Out, before turning in.
Sun. 14. Up early and went for walk on roof.
Went to Church of England service this morning. Rather good sermon. Continued story.
Mon. 15. It is said we are going out on Wednesday. Many of the wards have drawn their kits.
Tues. 16. Went on the roof early and went through some Swedish and deep-breathing exercises.
Continued story. Sister Brooke has invited herself to come and have tea with us tomorrow. She is greatly disliked by everyone in the division, and is very jealous of Nurse Kerr, who is a general favourite, and is very sweet on Oberhumer, to whom the sister has also taken a great fancy. "Sister Susie", as the boys call her, is very partial in her dealings with the patients, and rather underhand in her treatment of Nurse Kerr. She has a set on some of the chaps, especially young Kibble. For some reason or other she has always bestowed especial favour on Ward 19, but we don't appreciate her favour very much, for she makes herself such a confounded pest, especially to Oberhumer, by whom she will go and sit for hours, while he is writing or drawing. She appears to be one of those old maids who would give anything to catch a "bloke".
After tea, went for a 2-mile walk, consisting of eleven times round the building, on the upper balcony.
After "Lights Out", went through the usual exercises, which are beginning to amuse the other chaps. They tried to make fun of me, but found it took no effect.
More cases have appeared, and the quarantine is again prolonged.
Wed. 17. Exercises on roof first thing. Sister Brooke brought me a "Pitman's Phonographic Teacher", in Valetta, also some Bovril paste.
Sister Brooke came to tea and brought some lemon cheese. Now it appears that she took a pot of lemon cheese from 24 ward, as they were not to have it, and it was alleged that she brought it to 19 ward, and no end of trouble has been caused over it. The sister, however, was in the right this time.
Finished story, but it isn't quite up to the mark.
Thurs. 18. Oberhumer came with me on the roof and we went thro some exercises. Started learning shorthand.
Fri. 19. Oberhumer and I went on roof for exercises. Studied Phonography. Started a pen and ink drawing from memory of a scene viewed from the side of Mt. Comboyne.
After tea, concert in Dining Hall. While the men were out we went into Wards 20 & 21 and did some mischief. I shortsheeted Kibble's bed and put sugar in another chap's. Smith reversed the legs of one bed and placed bedpan, bottle, dustpan, saucepan, etc. in various beds. Sister Brooke sang "Comin' thro' the Rye" at the concert, and the boys yelled and applauded and made a fool of her, but she couldn't see through it. After the concert, there were rare ructions in 20 ward. I was blamed for it all, and while I was out of the ward for a few minutes, Kibble scattered my bedclothes all over the floor. I went in there and got hold of his bolster when Fitton rushed at me with a bolster and we had a regular set to, Kibble joining in with a pillow. After we had all gone to bed and settled down, someone from 21 threw pepper into 20, and set them all sneezing.
A man in 18 ward is very bad with pneumonia, and is not expected to live through the night.
Sat. 20. All of ward 19, except Harold are convalescent, and are leaving next week. Studied phonography. Paid this morning, 2/-. Got an "Evening News" (Sydney) which contained a list of wounded having Tom Martin's and Wall Park's name in it. It was dated Sept. 11th. It must be a mistake about Wall. This afternoon sports were held in the square. I entered in the Blind Squad drill, but we were mucked up at the start.
Sun. 21. The man with pneumonia in 18 ward died during the night. Went to Church of England service this morning. Studied phonography. In the evening there was a lecture at the Pres. service by Lieut. McKinnon on his experiences in Arabia in the hands of the Turks. It was very interesting.
Mon. 22. It is uncertain when the convalescents are leaving yet. Studied shorthand. Someone put sand in my bed. Harold, Maltby and Smith laughed, joked, and hurled papers, books, etc. while I was going thro' exercises after "Lights out", and I returned them with interest.
Tues. 23. We got scrapping about this morning before breakfast. While I was on the balcony, pillow fighting with Kibble, someone upset my bed, which I had gone to the trouble of making up properly.
Nurse Kerr has been removed to another ward upstairs, and a new nurse put in her place. We all concluded that Sister Brooke was responsible for her removal, Oberhumer especially being very vehement in his denunciation of her. He called her some rather nasty names, and because I put in a word against it in her favour, I was ridiculed by all of them, and Oberhumer even got quite wild about it.
Came to the end of Pitman's Phonographic Teacher. Can now write and read shorthand very slowly.
After tea, someone announced that the mail was coming round, and I remarked that I would give my day's rations of bread to get a letter from home. Strange enough, I got one, the first since I left Sydney. Also got two from Vera Billingham. When Mum wrote, on Sept. 5th. Viv had passed in the second school, and was undergoing a month's probation at Liverpool on 15/- a day before being permanently commissioned.
Vera's letters were written, one on Aug. 27th. and the other on Sept. 5th. They were characteristic of her. She enclosed envelopes and writing paper with them, as it had been said in the papers that the troops were very short of writing materials. Ernie Sadler has enlisted, and was in camp when she wrote. The second letter was written in answer to the one I wrote her from Aden. Poor old Mr. Freeman died painlessly of heart failure. It would be a happy release to him. He always looked forward to the time when he would go to that better world beyond.
Ziegenbein has enlisted from Taree. Being a German Boer, and, as I thought, a German sympathiser, I never expected him to leave a good (job) to enlist.
The three letters were readdressed by Vern, with his signature to them, so he must have got at least one of my letters, to know my whereabouts.
Tonight we shortsheeted Oberhumer's bed and got to throwing a dirty floor-cloth at each other. Found my bed full of sand.
Wed. 24. Quarantine is raised today at last. The convalescents can't go yet as all the camps on the island are full up. Dr. Kelly said there are six hospital ships waiting, and we are going, some to England and some to Egypt. I would like to get back with the battalion, which will probably be sent to Serbia.
Wrote a letter to Mum.
The C.E. parson took thirty patients out for a drive this afternoon, including Maltby, Harold, and Whitcombe. Oberhumer and I were granted leave and I went to Valetta to buy some things. It is a rather nice place, compared to Cairo. The streets are very narrow, and it is a common sight to see the washing hanging out over the front balcony to dry, right in the main street of the city. Walked down the Strada Reale and came to the palace. Went in and had a look over the armoury.
There was a splendid collection of old suits of armour; swords, rapiers, helmets, breastplates, spears, old flintlock guns and pistols, primitive types of cannons and trench mortars, powder horns, shields, battleaxes, standards, flags, old type bayonets, knives, cutlasses, etc. There was an old coach, and a couple of howdahs, all highly ornamented, as were also most of the armour and weapons. One little brass cannon had a brass lizard crawling along the barrel, another had a pair of dolphins on it. At one end of the long room was a row of very long thin cannons made of steel. Some of the guns were higher than me, standing up on their butts. One had a large spherical attachment on the left of the breech, like the float on a pneumatic water tap. One curiosity was a sword and gun combined, the barrel being formed along the top of the blade.
In one compartment the floor was made up of marble tiles, and a pattern worked in with it. Along the middle of the floor were circular spaces containing escutcheons. One was a shield with flowers on it. The green leaves, the flowers with their petals shading from orange at the centre to white at the outer part, and all the different parts of the design, were made up of pieces of different coloured marble, nicely fitted in together.
Went to the tapestry room, which contained about ten or twelve large tapestries, most of them being about ten or twelve feet square. All the finest details were put in, in fact, they were rather overcrowded with detail, and must have taken years to make. Some of them had gaudy fish swimming in the water, and crabs, lobsters and various queer and prehistoric creatures crawling about in the water and on the land. One picture was of a prehistoric scene, showing jaguars attacking other animals, their teeth and claws ripping through the skin, and the blood trickling down. In the background were two large birds like tremendous bats, while a small sea-serpent swam along in the water. Birds of very gaudy plumage were plentiful in most of the tapestries. One had a macaw, and another a parrot which was very like the mountain lory. One picture represented two black men carrying another in a hammock slung to a pole. It was very pretty. Another was a little black boy in the middle of a large heap of fruit of all kinds, with an elephant standing with upraised trunk on the right, and a black woman on the left. Another showed a man shooting an arrow at a pheasant, while all sorts of birds perched in the tree just above his head. Another showed some horses drawing a coach-wagon along by the edge of some water. Though gaudy, they were all very pretty and wonderful, and the colours harmonised well together.
After leaving the palace, I strolled down to the bottom of Strada Reale and then up again. Bought a Pitman's Shorthand Manual, which goes on further with it than the "Teacher". Got a thimble at a tailor's, and sweets, cigarettes, and tobacco for Maltby and Babestock.
Strolled round the railway station, and then went back to the ferry, crossed over to Sliema, and arrived at the hospital five minutes before the leave expired.
While I was having tea, Kibble, bent on mischief, put a tin of jam in my bed, and of course the jam ran out on the sheet. Had to take the sheet off.
Thurs. 25. Commenced writing a story in shorthand.
Fri. 26. Concert tonight by an outside party, from the Royal Engineers. After tea, before the concert came on, we were suddenly startled by a loud explosion in the Dining Hall, followed by the falling of broken glass. Convalescents poured out of all the wards, like so many ants, and made for the Dining Hall, or gathered around the gratings. I went downstairs to see what was wrong, and found that it was only the large gas-light globe. The gas had probably been turned on too long before the match was applied, which resulted in the bursting of the globe. Nobody was hurt.
When the concert started I didn't go down at first, as I was very interested in writing my story. But about an hour later I went down and was very glad of it, for it was a splendid turn-out. There were three nice girls, very nicely dressed in white frock, elbow-sleeves, long black gloves, black belt and hat, with a red rose in the hat and another in the belt. They were simply charming. It did one's eyes good to see a nice British girl nicely dressed, after seeing none but nurses and foreigners for so many months. Have seen some pretty foreign girls, but they never seem to possess that daintiness and charm that our own girls have.
The concert was a great success. The songs were all acted, and were simply ripping. There was a short but very laughable cantata called "A Broken Mirror"; the song "I was only teasing you", splendidly acted; a matrimonial song; patriotic, and various other items.
Sat. 27. Continued writing story in shorthand. Paid today 2/-. No sports this afternoon.
Sun. 28. Put a small drawing, also a parody on Tipperary, in an autograph album for a friend of Jack Ramsden's. Went to C. of E. service. In the afternoon, finished the pen drawing of the scene from Mt. Comboyne. The Maltese photographer took the ward with Whitcombe, Harold, Maltby, the new nurse and I.
Mon. 29. We go to Convalescent camp tomorrow. Drew our kits this afternoon, and got out of our hospital clothes. The photographer came with the photos. They were not extra good. Took two.
When the mail came round there were nine letters for me, quite a bundle. Two from Mum. One from Viv, one from Viola, one from Clytie, one from Mr. Harward, one from Beattie Bostock, and two from Vera Billingham. Viola's letter contained some French, which I was unable to read. Was kept busy for the rest of the evening reading, and had not finished them at "Lights Out".
Had a pillow fight with Kibble and Foy in Ward 20. The noise we made attracted Jack Ramsden, the night orderly, also the night doctor and the night sister. The latter went crook about it.
Tues. 30. Finished the pillow fight with Kibble and Foy this morning. After breakfast we fell in with our kits. There were about 200 convalescents going out. We went in the motor wagons, 22 to each wagon. After a drive of about 11 miles along narrow roads, we arrived at last at Ghain Tufficha camp, where we were told off to different marquees. The floors are concreted, and we have the same sort of beds as in hospital, except that there is no linen. Met Roach and Frank. They said Wickham is also here.
Went to the Y.M.C.A. tent and wrote a letter to Mum.
Had a good dinner, plenty to eat. There are separate marquees for having meals in.
After dinner went down to the sea. There is a lovely little sandy beach just below the camp. Went along the coast to the right, where it was very rough and rocky. While climbing amongst the rocks, I happened to notice what looked like a bit of bone breccia. Having a natural weakness for fossils I began to look about, and soon discovered that nearly all the rocks were nothing but masses of petrified seashells. Spent the rest of the afternoon hunting for some nice specimens, but could only get some very small ones, besides a few barnacles and fish-bones. All the larger shells formed part of the solid rock and could not be got out without being broken.
Got back at 4.30p.m. just in time for tea, which consisted of bread, butter, jam and biscuits. Went for walk down to the beach. Had bad headache and indigestion.
Wed. 1st. After breakfast we fell in for roll call, and then I went off along the coast in search of fossils. Got a few better specimens today, but not as good as I had hoped. The coast is very rugged and broken. In places there are deep fissures and caves. There is limestone formation, where the water has soaked through the rocks. Got back at dinnertime just about dead beat. After dinner went for a swim at the beach with three of the chaps in my marquee, and then slept till teatime.
After tea went to Y.M.C.A. tent and continued shorthand story till 9.30p.m. by which time we had to be in.
Thursday 2nd. After breakfast we fell in and whole camp were formed up. Lord Methuen addressed us for a few minutes, saying that we could not get away to Gallipoli at once as nearly all the transports were being used for landing troops at Salonika. Continued story.
In the evening there was an open-air concert, but I did not go to it. Met a chap who was in the same tent with Viv and I at Liverpool, and later transferred to the 19th. batt'n.
Continued story in shorthand. After tea, walked over to St. Paul's Bay, where the apostle landed when he was shipwrecked.
Sat. 4. After roll call went up to the Garrozzini stand and five of us took a Garry to Birchircara, passing through Musta and by the Musta Dome on the way. Took tram from Birchircara to Valetta, passing through Floriana.
Met Fitton in Strada Reale and we strolled down to the Chapel of Bones. It was a very interesting spectacle. The bones of the soldiers killed during the war with the French at the time of Napoleon had been unearthed and arranged in artistic form all over the walls and ceiling of the chapel. On one side were preserved whole the skeleton of the French leader, and opposite was that of a Maltese lady who built a hospital. On a low shelf were a row of five skulls with large bullet holes in their foreheads. They were Maltese civilians shot by the French.
Leaving there, we came up the main street. Fitton went into the palace to see the armoury, and I went along to do some shopping. Met him again at the Connaught Home for sailors and soldiers, where we had dinner.
We then went and had a look through St. John's Church, which is beautifully got up. On the pulpit were five large silver candlesticks with huge candles, about 31/2 feet long by 11/2 inches thick in them. The floor was of marble tiles let in to make pictures and designs. The ceiling was covered with large paintings with also a number of different coats-of-arms. Along each side of the main chapel were a number of smaller chapels.
We strolled along the street for a while, looking in the windows. Saw some rather beautiful silver ornaments in the shape of Maltese boats. Some of the gold Maltese crosses were very beautifully and cunningly made.
Taking the ferry we went over to Sliema and up to St. John's Hospital. A batch of men had arrived from Gallipoli suffering from frostbite. It has been very bad weather there, and men have been drowned in the trenches. Being tired from walking, I lay down on Harold's bed and slept till about 4.30p.m. Sister Brooke had invited us to go out and have tea with her at Valetta, but when I awoke she had left the hospital. Went to the wharf and waited for her there till 5.30p.m. but she did not turn up. Went over to Valetta and bought a few cakes for tea, leaving me with only a shilling. Caught the train to Imtarfa, and that left me only 10d. It was 4/6 for a Garry from there to Ghain Tufficha, and I couldn't find anyone else to make up a party, so set off to walk it, a distance of 7 miles. However, it was impossible to find the way at night, so I went to the Imtarfa military hospital, where after some delay, owing to its being a fever hospital, I was put up for the night in a marquee with some orderlies. Was given a bed that belonged to one Bustie who was supposed to be on night duty that night and was leaving those quarters next day. Turned in and about an hour later Bustie came in drunk and kicked up no end of a row, so I had to turn out again. Fortunately there was another spare bed, and I got in there for the night. Was so cold that I could get but little sleep.
Sun. 5. Up about 6.30a.m. and set off without any breakfast to walk to Ghain Tufficha. The great Dome at Musta served as a good landmark to go by. Walked about three miles when a chap came along in a Garry and gave me a lift. Arrived at the camp just in time to get the report of my absence withdrawn from the Orderly Room.
Fell in for roll-call and church parade, but managed to slip away and went to the mess tent and got some breakfast. Finished shorthand story. It is to be entitled. "More Precious than Diamonds".
After dinner revised story. After tea went for walk along the coast. Finished revising story and commenced Fair Copy. Service in the C. of. E. Church army shed.
Mon. 6. Went for walk along the shore and commenced a seascape drawing.
After dinner continued Fair Copy of story. Got letter from one M. Haslock in answer to my ad. in the Daily Graphic. He or she misunderstood the ad. and thought I wanted magazines sent to me. A Pearson's Magazine was also sent.
Tues. 7. Letter from Sister Brooke enquiring why I did not meet her as arranged on Saturday. She arrived at the wharf at 4.50, waited till 5.10, and then crossed over to Valetta, thinking I might be there. She invited me to come with her to San Antonio Gardens some other time. Continued Fair Copy of story.
After tea took my writing materials and walked over to St. Paul's, a little village about 2 1/2 miles away, and went to the Soldiers' Club, where there was a nice quiet writing room. Almost finished Fair Copy of story.
Wed. 8. Kit inspection this morning. Left my things on the bed, and went to Church Army shed, where I finished Fair Copy of "More Precious than Diamonds", and answered Sister Brooke's letter. The Quarter-Master came on the kit inspection while I was away, and took my name. I have to parade at the Orderly Room with full kit at 9a.m. tomorrow morning.
Kibble and Foy arrived at the camp this morning.
After Tea Kibble and I went over to St. Paul's. There is to be a concert at the club tomorrow night. Wrote to Mum and Dad, Sister Brooke, also to M. Haslock, explaining my ad.
Thurs. 9. Studied Shorthand "Manual". Went up for classification today, and was put down for one hour's drill daily. The doctor wasn't going to put me on any duty, till I told him I could easily manage it. Gave me strict instructions not to do more than one hour.
After tea, could not find Kibble, so Foy and I went over to St. Paul's to the concert, which was not too bad.
Fri. 10. Paid today, 10/-. Studied "Manual". After tea went to St. Paul's. Wrote to Editor, Pearson's Magazine, for "How to Write for the Papers".
Sat. 11. Paraded sick this morning to try and get a pair of glasses for reading and studying, as I have been having trouble with my eyes lately. The doctor said I would be notified when to come and see the optician.
Goldsmith and I decided to go in to Valetta. Met Roach, and the three of us, with two other chaps, took a garrotze to Birchircara, and tram to Valetta. Roach cabled to his people for £20. Bought some drawing materials, four candles, and four yards of calico.
Met a chap from the 7th. reinforcements to the 1st battalion. He was camped with us in Shrapnel Valley. Told us a shell landed in a dug-out there, killing McNulty and three other chaps.
Goldsmith and I left Roach and caught the 4.15p.m. tram to Imtarfa. We walked from there to Ghain Tufficha, arriving here about 8 p.m. Had tea at the canteen.
Took the four yards of calico and folded it double, and ran a seam two thirds of the way up each side, and hemmed the end, thus making a kind of sleeping-bag sheet. It was much nicer to sleep in than the coarse blankets.
Sun. 12. Got a touch of diarrhoea this morning. Went to church parade.
Mon. 13. Paraded with the Light Duty men this morning. We had one hour's physical drill. Continued shorthand studies.
Tues. 14. This morning the Light Duty men had to fall in with the others, forming a battalion, and we went on a route march to St. Paul's, halting for a rest once on the way, and again at the Soldiers' Club, after which we came back.
Wed. 15. Wet this morning, so the parade was dismissed. Studied Shorthand all day, coming to the end of the "Manual" before bedtime. It turned out a very stormy night, rain coming down in torrents at intervals, and the wind threatening to carry our marquee away. Every moment I expected it to come down on top of us. As usual I was kept awake by the pestilential fleas for hours.
Thurs. 16. After roll-call as we began to march away it came on to rain, and a number of men broke from the ranks and ran for shelter, despite the expostulations of the non-coms. Following their example I ducked away also. Started reading "Little Anna Mark", and continued it all day. After tea set out for a walk to St. Paul's Bay, thence to Meleena, and back to camp. It was a rather interesting walk, about 7 miles altogether, and the bright moonlight gave a rather weird aspect to the country, with its wide deep valleys divided by low stone walls into square, oblong, and irregular shaped patches of green or brown of various tints, where vegetation flourished, or where the reddish brown earth was ploughed ready for the seed. The village of Meleena turned out to be the usual Maltese village of square stone buildings without verandas, and narrow streets without pavements, overlooking a panorama of blue waters and tiny islets, and rocky hillsides.
Read "Little Anna Mark" till bedtime.
Fri. 17. Saw the eye specialist this morning, and after testing my eyes he said he could not give me glasses for reading only, as it would ruin my eyesight. He said that the trouble was due to my physical unfitness, as I was physically in very poor condition. Paid this afternoon, 10/-.
After tea, went for a walk, this time to Melbuoka first, then by St. Paul's Bay, and back again.
Stayed up late, reading, while some of the others were gambling. At 11.50p.m. Captain Valentine and a couple of police came and took the names of Bob, Dick, and Munster for gambling.
Sat. 18. Didn't go on parade this morning, being that interested in my book that I didn't hear the "fall-in". Finished reading "Little Anna Mark".
Went to Valetta. Met Foy and Kibble going in, and after having dinner, we went over to St. John's hospital. Sister Brooke and I took a garrozi to San Antonio's Gardens. After a look round there, we had tea at the Melita Hotel, and came back. Crossed to Valetta, bought a few necessaries and caught the 6p.m. tram. Walked from Imtarfa, arriving at the camp about 6.30. Went & had some supper at the canteen.
Con Somebody, our orderly, showed us where he had been caught by a machine gun, there being a line of six bullet marks running diagonally across his body. It seems a marvel that he was not killed.
Sun. 19. Church Parade this morning. Wrote Christmas greetings to Bert and Vern. Also wrote to Mum and Dad. Commenced another story called "Killed in Action".
Mon. 20. Continued story. Put on Fire Piquet for the week, so will not have any parades. Received three copies of "Punch" and a brief letter in answer to my ad. in the "Daily Graphic". According to the readdress marks they were at St. John's hospital on Nov. 30th., the day I left, and have taken all this time getting over here. They were from a Miss B. Thorne, of Hilton, Hilve, near Bridgwater, England. She made the same mistake as M. Haslock, in thinking I wanted magazines sent.
Tues. 21. Replied to Miss Thorne's letter. Finished story and commenced Fair Copy. Went for a walk along the shore to the southward. The scenery was very pretty. There were small bays and beaches, some sandy, some stony. The track ran along the side of a steep clay bank some hundreds of feet high. The sand on one of the beaches was of a pretty orange colour. Got a few good specimens of petrified shells, which were everywhere in abundance.
Wed. 22. Continued Fair Copy. Went for walk along the southward shore after tea. It was a beautiful picture of green, blue, and purple waters, with yellow and brown rocks and grey clay on every side.
It is now officially announced that our troops have evacuated Anzac as well as Suvla Bay. I wonder how Bert and Vern got on.
Finished Fair Copy of "Killed in Action", & commenced "Solomon's Daughter".
Thurs. 23. It appears certain now that we are giving up the Gallipoli campaign altogether. I suppose we will be sent to Salonica, but there's a possibility of going to join General Townshend's forces in Persia. We may even go to France. The Balkan situation seems to be changing in our favour, and I should not be surprised if Rumania were to come in on our side at any moment now. There has been fighting between the Greek and Bulgarian outposts, which may mean Greek intervention, and even Bulgaria may yet turn and come on our side. Austria-Hungary seems to be clamouring for peace, which is a good sign.
Paid today. Only the usual 10/-.
Fri. 24. Christmas Eve. We are each to get a present tomorrow, sent out from Australia. All the Light Duty Australians were moved to No. 4, the new camp, under Captain Valentine, this afternoon; we are in bell tents, three men to a tent, with bedsteads, etc., complete. In accordance with my old custom, I hung up my sock before going to bed. There is no kind mother here now, though, to put a half-a-crown in it.
Sat. 25. Christmas Day. How the time has flown since I was but a child, delighted by the gifts of Santa Claus. I had felt sure of spending Christmas at the front, but now it seems as if it will be some time before I go back.
After breakfast went in to Valetta, and bought Pitman's Shorthand Reporter, some copies of Pitman's Journal, and a bottle of ammonia for fleabites. Went over to Sliema and up to St. John's Hospital, which was beautifully decorated for the occasion. Sister Brooke's Division was rigged up to represent an orange grove, real orange branches bearing fruit being used. Most of the other divisions were got up with coloured paper, etc., and the whole place looked very gay and pretty. Chummed up with some of the patients. One had come from Anzac but two weeks ago, and when he left they were then preparing to evacuate, getting all the valuable things away, and everybody knowing what was going to happen.
Tables were put together in 18 ward, and all the patients in the Division, who were able to, came there for their Christmas dinner, some of them having to be carried..
We had a good dinner, being waited on by Sisters Brooke and Mortarboy, nurses, and Dr. Thacker. There was plum pudding and fruit to finish with, and altogether we did remarkably well. In the afternoon a French naval band came and entertained us. The performance was concluded with "God Save the King" and the "Marseillaise".
Then we had tea, which was quite a stylish affair. Bonbons were cracking all over the place and soon everybody was wearing a fancy paper hat, even to Captain Gillespie, and the C.O. There was an abundance of cakes, buns, biscuits, lollies, nuts, fruit, and sandwiches.
After tea there was a concert in the Dining Hall, and there were some very good humourous songs and sketches, including "Finigan's Fusiliers" and "The Night when the Old Cow Died". There was a farce to finish up with, but as it was getting late we could not stop to see it out. Foy, Garner, another chap and I went over to Valetta, arriving at the tram terminus at 9.40p.m. Took tram to Birchircara, whence I intended to walk the rest of the way, about 7 miles. The others wanted a Maltese to take them out for a shilling each, but he insisted on five shillings for the three. Eventually he came down to four shillings, but they reckoned it was too much, so we set out to walk it. Half a mile further on we were overtaken by the cart, and the driver then offered to go for a shilling each. I wanted to walk, but the others persuaded me to go with them. It was only an open cart, with no protection from the wind, and it was awfully cold.
Sun. 26. Not feeling too well today. No appetite. I hope it is not a relapse. Went over to No.1 camp for the Christmas present, but there were none left, what were left over being given to the New Zealanders. Feeling much
worse tonight. Very feverish.
Mon. 27. Not so bad this morning but still no appetite. Got worse again towards evening.
Tues. 28. About the same today. Temperature still high. Feeling very weak. We were put on erecting marquees today in this camp.
Wed. 29. Erecting more marquees today. Still weak, but feeling better otherwise. Can't help worrying about Bert and Vern these last few days. I ought to have heard from them long before this. Also worrying about Mum and the others.
Thurs. 30. Took charge of the four spare Malta men today. After cleaning up the lines around the new marquees, we had to get to work on a stone building near by and get it scrubbed and cleaned out.
Paid this afternoon, 10/-. Half holiday. Continued studying shorthand, advanced style. Feeling somewhat better today. Letter from M. Haslock. She cannot undertake to dispose of the stories. Wrote to Mum and Dad.
Fri. 31. Went on with our cleaning up job this morning. Half holiday this afternoon. Studied shorthand.
Well, here ends the year 1915, in warfare, sorrow, and misery. Am getting very unhappy, for dreadful possibilities are beginning to force themselves upon my mind in regard to Bert and Vern. If I could only get some news of them. The suspense is the worst part of it.
N.Y. res. 12 months M.T.
Saturday, 1st. New Year's Day. We fell in for roll call this morning and were then dismissed. Goldsmith and I went in to Valetta. Had dinner at a restaurant and was just setting out to do some shopping when I found everyone was putting up their shutters. I was too late. Strolled down around Grand Harbour. There were five French cruisers in the harbour. Bought an Ingersoll watch, 5/- at a shop which happened to be open.
Crossed over to Sliema. Meant to go to St. John's but altered my mind. Went into a picture show and stayed till halftime. Came back to Valetta, had tea at the same restaurant, and then took the 5.5p.m. train to Imtarfa. Walked from there to Ghain Tufficha
Sun. 2. Church Parade this morning. Studied shorthand all day. Went to service in Y.M.C.A. tent tonight. The service was concluded with the hymn "Abide with Me", the first verse of which fastened itself in my mind as strangely and sadly appropriate. "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide". Indeed it does seem as though the eventide is falling, the darkness deepening, and the clouds of trouble and sorrow gathering about. Still I can only trust in God, and leave the matter to Him. It might turn out yet that the boys are all right.
Mon. 3. Got book "How to Write for the Papers".
Wed. 5. Letter from Jack Elliott, Taree. He knew I was in hospital at Malta, so it must have been in the paper. Said he had sent me a photo of my brother, who was reported "missing", but it must have been some other Smythe, for at the time the battalion was resting at Lemnos Island. Have never received his previous letter, or the photo.
Thurs. 6. Sent three of my stories away; "Crum Dobbin, Bushranger" to Cassell's Magazine; "Killed in Action" to the London Magazine; and "More Precious than Diamonds" to the Grand Magazine.
Friday. 7. Letter from Mum, saying Bert was in hospital in London suffering with debility. He must have left Lemnos Island about the same time that I left the Peninsula for Malta. They were informed at home of my coming to hospital here. There was no mention of having received the letters I wrote from Gallipoli, but perhaps they were acknowledged in a previous letter, which has failed to find me.
Mrs. Johnson was to be married soon after date of writing, 15th. November.
Paid this afternoon, 10/-. Frank showed me a letter he had got from Frost, who was in Egypt. Frost said that Drain, Duggan, McNulty, Bishop, Blatch (possibly he meant Dudley Blanche, with whom I used to box on the "Orsova") and others, had gone under. He had met lots of the boys in Egypt, either sick or wounded. Charet was there with a wound in the hand. Gardiner sick, Ide, who was wounded by the same bomb which did for poor old Duggan; Foley, Hart, Hicks, and others whose names I can't think of just now. Frost had been up against the red-caps for not obeying an order which he declares was never given. Anyway he did seven days in "clink" for it.
Wrote to Bert addressing the letter to London. Its just possible that he has not left there yet. It was a relief to me to know that he was not with the battalion during the five weeks of fighting prior to the evacuation.
Commenced making some big alterations in the story, "At the Shrine of Mars".
Sat. 8. Got away from parade this morning and went in to Valetta. Started to walk to Imtarfa, but got a lift in an ambulance car almost to Valetta. Strolled round the town, had dinner at the "English Cafe", bought small dictionary, fountain pen, watch guard, purse, and other things. Left about 2.30p.m., taking train to Birchircara. Walked to Musta, and looked through the Dome. It is a fine building, and contrasts strongly with its squalid surroundings. There was a service on, and a choir was singing over at the far side, and their voices seemed to resound wonderfully round the circular building. A number of believers were kneeling on the floor, and I thought it was nice to see such devotion to religion. There were some beautiful pictures on the wall.
A Maltese attendant took three of us up to the top of the Dome, up a long spiral stairway. From the top a fine view could be obtained. Saint Paul's Bay, with the little islet where the apostle is supposed to have landed, could be seen easily, also the Malta Bridge, over a ravine. Beyond the bridge was a fort, looking just like a great mound of earth.
Leaving the Dome, I walked back to Ghain Tufficha, and spent the last two pennies I had on a couple of cakes at the canteen.
Sun. 9. Church Parade. Short but good sermon by the chaplain. Wrote to three literary agencies, asking them their terms.
Wrote to Mum, four pages.
After tea, went for walk round through Melluccha and by St. Paul's Bay.
Mon. 10. News has come that Cape Helles is also evacuated, thus completely ending the warfare on the peninsula.
Commenced a plot for a long story, to be called, "The Closing Generation".
After tea, went for a walk by St. Paul's Bay, and through Melluccha.
Tues. 11. Got to work on the first chapter of Part 1 of "The Closing Generation".
After tea, started out on a walk round through Melluccha, but turned off on a byroad to northward, with the intention of finding out if the bluff which can be seen in the distance is a separate island. Had the idea it might be Gozo. Climbed down a steep stony track into a wide valley & got on to a road which ran alongside a beach on the east side of the island. Just above the beach there was a camp.
There seemed to be an air of oppressive loneliness about the desolate treeless mass of solid rock, and several times I was minded to turn back, but having set my mind on ascertaining whether my objective were a separate island or no, I would not give in, though the way was much farther than had at first appeared. I felt pretty blue what between one thing and another. The hopes and dreams of my younger days seemed to rise up and mock at me. What advance had I made towards the perfection I used to dream of? I had thought by this age to have overcome all the faults in my nature that were of any consequence, and not only that, but to have also become a powerful influence for good. And what advance have I made? Not much, I'm afraid. Am I to go on through life to the grave as just an ordinary man, living more or less for himself, and doing no particular good in the world? I felt very discouraged, and even the thought of the success of others only seemed to accentuate my incapability. I believe I have brains enough to make some use of, but the qualities of willpower and "stick-at-it-iveness" are sadly lacking. The recollection of recent incidents did not tend to decrease my pessimism, and several times I offered a silent petition to God for help. After all, I am yet young, but will have to make the most of the next decade, if I want to do any good in the world.
Kept on going, and eventually reached the top of the hill beyond the valley, and going a little farther, I could discern by the moonlight that the distant hills were completely separated by a wide strip of water from the land I was on. Probably the other island is Gozo.
Feeling satisfied, I returned by the way I had come, and no longer felt any "blueness", simply because I had attained my object. It just shows how easily I am affected by circumstances.
Upon arriving at the tent, I read in the Acts of the Apostles, the account of Paul's shipwreck and landing on this island, and was struck by the fact that wherever Paul seems to be for my own welfare.
Tried to do a bit on my long story, but was too tired, so went to bed and read London Magazine till the police came and ordered "lights out".
Wed. 12. Had a game of rugby this morning, and felt better for it afterwards. Read Strand Magazine. It is said that a large number are to leave No.4 camp tomorrow, & if its true, I'm likely to be one of them.
Took charge of the digging party this afternoon.
Did not go for walk tonight, as it was too cold. Continued story.
Thurs. 13. A large batch are to leave here between now and Tuesday, probably on Monday. The weather is getting a bit stormy and wet. Finished Chapter 1 & started Chapter 2 of Part 1 of story.
Fri. 14. Very stormy and wet. Paid today, 10/-. Went for walk down to beach and along the rocks. It was a grand sight, the way the water broke over the rocks in huge clouds of spray. Went along to the place of which I commenced a drawing some time ago, and every now and then the water would dash over the two big rocks, and shoot away up into the air.
Sat. 15. Our party were put onto re-erecting all the bell tents which had been blown down. There were about twenty altogether. Had decided not to go to Valetta today, in order to save some of my cash, but after dinner I altered my mind and went in. Strolled about a bit, had tea at the "English Restaurant", & then went to a picture show.
Got on a Birchircara tram, but it broke down, so three of us took a garozzi from Valetta to Ghain Tufficha, arriving there about 8.30p.m.
Sun. 16. Church Parade. After dinner went out along the shore and sketched in a bit more of the scenery in the drawing I started some time ago.
Mon. 17. We went on a route march this morning in convalescent order (ragtime, keystone, or whatever one might call it.) each one keeping step with and dressing by himself.
On the way we passed an orange tree, and, as it turned out later, some of the boys near the end of the column rushed the tree, & not only took the fruit, but also broke the tree about.
Every tin along the road was kicked into the column and then kept rattling along, and when a number of these tins got going together, it was an infernal noise. When coming back, as soon as we got to the camp grounds, we found that those in front were breaking off, so we thought it was ordered so, and everybody broke off.
Got three letters, one from Ettie Cunynghame, Oberon, one from Lorrie Maloney, and a postcard from Viv. He is now in Egypt in the 6th. Rfcts. of the 17th. Battalion.
After dinner we fell in and were taken over to the parade ground, and then Gilbert gave us a candid piece of his mind, illuminated with many inflammatory adjectives. He roared about the conduct of this morning's route march, & the smashing of the peach tree. Also about "some blackguard" blowing a whistle when we arrived at the camp grounds, and the column thereupon dispersing and leaving him "standing there like a fool", a thing he had never before known in his 14 years' service. As a punishment, he gave us about 3/4hr's drill, which was a very ragtime affair, the boys treating the whole thing as a huge joke. Before leaving the parade, Gilbert said, "Remember, if you want to play the fool with me, I'm quite willing to come out here and drill you all the afternoon." As soon as the parade was dismissed, a great yelling cheer arose on every side.
Met Foy tonight. He is being invalided home with bad eyes, and is recommended for discharge.
Tues. 18. No word yet of when this batch is leaving No.4 camp.
Wed. 19. This morning the Australians were separated and the infantry and cavalry were also separated. The infantry were divided into 4 sections, and I was put in charge of No.1 section. We went out and went through some squad drill. Some of the other non-coms did not seem to know their drill too well.
Went to see Goldsmith in the hospital this afternoon. He has pneumonia and is pretty bad.
According to the paper, Montenegro had surrendered unconditionally to Austria. It is hard luck.
Thurs 20. No.4 camp went out on a route march this morning. We passed through the village of Izzebia. The officer said it was the best route march he had seen in the camp.
Went to see Goldsmith after tea.
Fri. 21. While drilling this morning, one of the corporals, who takes a lot on himself, and is a rather assuming sort of a chap, made a lot of mistakes, and once, when he had given a wrong order, and then started explaining to the men that they had not carried out his order correctly, I deemed it necessary to intervene, whereupon he flew into a temper. I offered to stake the week's wages on the argument, but he knew better than to come at it. I took the platoon then for a while, and put them through the movements he had bungled, to show them the right way.
Met a chap afterwards who is in A. Co. of the 3rd. and found that he had been in the same section as Bert, and knew him well. He reckoned Bert was very game, and told lots of amusing stories of the fun they had in Egypt, teasing Bert about writing to his girl (Elsie Maloney, I suppose) and accusing him of getting drunk, etc. He also knew Vern, but not so well. His name is Gimbert.
Paid this afternoon, 10/-.
Sat. 22. Had a crook night with toothache, which is probably the result of the knock I got playing football the other day.
The parade was dismissed this morning. Went to the dentist, who put a plaster on the gums, saying it was probably inflammation.
Walked in to Citta Vecchia. It is a queer old township, with the narrowest streets I've ever seen anywhere. Went through Saint Somebody's Church. It was even grander than St. John's Church at Valetta. There were some fine paintings in it, one of exceptional beauty being the "Annunciation". It represented the angel, with golden wings, speaking to Mary, who was clad in a robe of red and blue. She had long dark wavy hair, and her downcast face was a picture of modest beauty. The light effect was splendid. There were also other angels floating in the air and holding a scroll with some Greek writing on it.
After leaving the church, went and looked through some catacombs. They consisted of caves tunnelled out of the solid rock. They were low and narrow, and must have been horrible to live in. Recesses for beds were cut out of the rock, and were only wide enough to permit the sleeper to lie on his side. Others were made to hold three, father, mother, and child, and were barely large enough to accommodate me in comfort. Some of the bedrooms were cut in the wall, like a dugout in the side of a trench, only they were entered by a very small opening, through which a man half the size of George Reid would be unable to pass. Portion of the catacombs was set aside for a cemetery, and consisted of a number of shallow recesses like the beds. In two places, a portion of the stone was cut round and smooth for grinding grain on.
Caught the 1p.m. train to Valetta, had dinner at the "English Cafe", bought a few things, and went over to Sliema, to St. John's Hospital, where I had tea. Took leave of my old acquaintances, as I suppose it is my last visit there, and went over to St. Andrew's Hospital, where the new Australian Hall was being opened. My tooth, which had been aching all day, was by this time intolerable, so I left the concert, and started out in search of a dentist. Eventually managed to pick one up at his residence in Valetta, & got the troublesome tooth out. It was one of the front ones that Mr. Maloney at Taree had filled with porcelain. It was a pity to lose it, but I was well rid of the toothache. In getting it out, the dentist managed to break the crown alongside it, which Mr. Thompson at Drummoyne had put in some years ago.
Took the train to Birchircara, and walked from there to Ghain Tufficha, arriving at the camp in an extreme state of dead-beatness at about 12.30, with the sum of 11/2d left from the week's pay, thanks to the dentist's charge of 2/6 for a non-painless extraction. Hm, well. Luck is war.
Sunday, 23rd. Church parade. Afterwards went to the dentist and got him to grind some of the sharp edges off my broken crown. Read Strand Magazine most of the day. Wrote to Mum and Dad.
Mon. 24. We went out on a route march to St. Paul's this morning. After dinner we fell in and the Sjt. Major warned the A.S. and L.C. men not to leave camp, as they may get notice to go at any moment. As soon as the parade was dismissed I went and spoke to Cptn. Valentine about going, and he had me marked A.S. and my name put on the list. Packed up my things.
After tea, revised a story I wrote while in hospital, called "Abide with Me".
Tues. 25. Have been warned for embarkation. Finished revising "Abide with Me". After dinner commenced writing Fair Copy. Changed name to "Under a Curse".
After tea, went for walk along the shore to southwards. The sea was perfectly calm and the beaches quiet, and it all looked very pretty. The water was so still that the rocks and stones on the bottom could (be) seen quite plainly through its pretty shades of emerald green.
Went to mess tent, and continued writing Fair Copy of "Under a Curse". Got embarkation pass. We have to get up at 5.30a.m. and have breakfast at 6.