27 December 1914
Things are very comfortable indeed now for the troops stationed here. Large sheds with seating accommodation for 320 each are being erected all over the place for the men to dine in. We have not started to use them yet, as they are not quite finished, but they will be ready in a couple of days. Of course they are rather rough but we are here for rough work so we don’t mind. They were constructed by the niggers. It was found much cheaper to use them than to utilize the available carpenters in the regts. The carpenters loss of training was not worth it. Everything here is done by the niggers. When I say niggers I don’t exactly mean full blooded negroes – I mean any of the darker skinned natives & there are hundreds of different sorts. They do all the cooking for the “ossifers” & even wait on them – WHITE men are good enough for us _ _ _.
Well xmas has come & gone. Xmas under the pyramids. Fine romantic [title?] for a penny horrible isn’t it. Give a man a dusty taste in his mouth wouldn’t it. All things considered, dust, sand, stew, wind, after dinner akes, & other misfortunes – our Xmas was fairly Merry & bright we have all survived the unusual ordeal. We, our tent, were supplied with 4 tins of fruit 3 bottles of wine, 4 lemonade & a small plum pudding each. Besides this we tossed in ten piastres 2/1 each & purchased 4 tins of fruit, doz of softs, lots of biscuits & nuts, 2 tins of milk, two strings of figs, doz tins of herrings & a few other things as well. During Xmas Eve night, somebody stole one of our tins of pineapple & added insult to injury by eating it out of one of our mess tins & burying the tin in the sand in front of our tent. We all enjoyed the good things immensely. They were great. I didn’t feel a bit hungry afterwards. The only fly in the butter was that the cooks sent us up the usual stew at dinner time. We all turned our dainty noses up at such common food. Wouldn’t look at it. The plum puddings that we were issued with, were about as big as a large orange & were tied up in small pieces of cloth. I don’t know exactly of what ingredients they were composed of. I opened mine examined it very carefully with my nose, eyes, & fingers, carefully tasted it, & gave it to my neighbour just to show I didn’t bear him any ill will even at xmas. We were informed that some of the puddings contained coins. But I doubt it very much as they were made by niggers. After the food has been disposed of, we knocked the heads off the wine bottles & we all got Shickered. It’s a bonza feeling being shickered, especially when you reach the stage of seeing double or in my case fourble. Every time I drank a glass, thort I was drinking four. Couldn’t wear my hat next morning.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, I was given leave, from 2p to 11pm. We generally get our leave two or three hours after it has commenced. That’s a playful little habit of the powers that be, in the 3rd. Went into town arriving there about 6pm & set out to have tea. The first two places we went to we received a very cold reception. We were actually turned out. You see, they had run out of feeding material, owing to the rush. Next place we went to were told that we’d have to wait till 7pm before we could get a seat. Waited 3 minutes & faded off to another place where we found room for two & sat down with thankful hearts, & smiling faces, & beamed good humour on the assembled populace. The place was full of soldiers, eating & otherwise – mostly otherwise. There was about 308 men in the place, & 3 very slow – or tired – waiters who couldn’t speak English, trying to attend to the hungry crowd. A lot of those that did get anything to eat, ate it, & went off without paying. Of course that sort of conduct made the propr very excited & I think he might have been swearing, but am not sure as I couldn’t understand his language. It was very easy to go without paying, as it opened on to the street in several places. We waited – I wont say patiently – but we waited till 5 past 7, & then we went back to the place where they said we could dine at 7. After considerable trouble & delay got into the dinning room & took seats at an empty table & about 8.15 we had finished our tea. It was very good indeed & the tariff was 2/6. There were 6 courses & we had to help ourselves off a big platter at each course. I took such liberal helpings of some very nice fish & some nice looking roast, that I was quite good humored & full at the 4th round, so I threw the towel in & paid over the stakes. After tea it was almost time to go home as the journey takes nearly two hours. We just had a bit of a look round & buzzed off home. When going in the men created great excitement & astonishment among the natives by climbing up on & riding on the roof of the cars. Our car was absolutely full up when returning, & as 5 minutes late brings 2 hrs pack drill, my mate & I had to ride home on the buffer at the back.
A large programme of races tug of war, wrestling etc had been arranged to take place Xmas afternoon, all the events to be with donkeys. But had to be abandoned at the last minute, no donkeys being available. Its great fun here seeing the men riding donkeys for the fun of it. The donkeys are not much bigger than big dogs & the men look such nutz on them.
Major Bennett said that we would be going to the front in 6 weeks time. We are not going to England first, but going to land in France, probably at Marseilles. We will probably get 2 weeks training in France first. Of course if Turkey decides to take possession of Egypt we will probably be kept here to dispute the matter with them. The men are playing up a treat here. They get into town, forget that they are Australians, forget their uniform, their self respect, & associate themselves with the very lowest vices & pleasures. We Australians have a bad name already, tho the men are no worse than the others, but our numbers predominate.
Well Mum, & Dad & Brothers & Sisters, can’t think of any more news so will close with love to you all from your loving son & brother Bert.
At 9:30 a.m. on Christmas Day during Church Parade at Mena Camp each man received a brass tin containing
chocolates and cigarettes from Princess Mary.