20 March 1915

Mena Camp
March 20th 1915

Dear Mum & Dad & Brothers & Sisters.

Mum your very welcome letter of 14/2/15, came to hand a few days ago, & my word I was glad to get it. You’ve missed two or three times Mum. Please try & write every week. Even if it’s only a short note, or whether the others write or not, send it along, as I’m always looking forward to it. If you think of it, would you send me clippings of rifle shooting or any thing that you think I’d like to know – any postal or telegraph news that concerns me. Specially send anything you see about the P&T Rifle Club scores meetings etc.

Have just been told that Blake, a late P&T rifleman & a keyshaker in “The Room” has died of malaria fever. You might remember me telling you of a young P.O. chap that helped us with the mails at Aden & who got a tip of £1 from his officer for posting a letter _ well he’s gone under too, poor beggar. Pneumonia. I haven’t been able to get into town this week to see Hutton & Camron, but I’ve heard they are getting on pretty fair.

My word you must have had a job with the shifting. I don’t want you to think hard of me, but I am not exactly sorry that I missed it _ _ _. Well I hope everything in (what’s the house’s monica”) – is very satisfactory & I know I’ll be looking forward very much to seeing the new home when I get back.

My word Viola & Ida & Rita I’m proud of you. You know, sisters are lovely things to own, but when the whole bang lot of them are brilliant into the bargain, - well is it any wonder that I’m so proud of you. Keep on going & always strive to be what you’d like everyone of us to think you are. It will be very convenient, the whole three of you going to the one school.

You got a nice letter from Mrs Richards Mum. Well there’s no need to crow about it. I got a nice one from Florrie Richards. That narks you _ _ _. The only fly in the ointment is that Vernie also got one & I wouldn’t be surprised if his was nicer than mine.

By the way MISS F. MCDONALD, has not answered my last yet _ _ _. _ _ _. _ _ _.

You ought to have seen it. I kidded I was real narked & wrote a very cold letter until just near the last, & then I larfed at her & asked her if she was wild. Poor Girl. I spose she tooked it to art _ _ _. Give her my love next time you see her & ask her how I am.

I suppose by the time you get this, the chocs will have arrived. I hope you liked them. The box ought to come in handy to keep things in.

The I.C.S. will be about paid up when you get this. You might ask them please if they will take the time I’m away at the war off the five years allowed in which to complete the course. If they don’t – well they are not sports.

Poor old Herrick seems to have struck a particularly suitable place for one of his temperament. How does he like Keyshaking in “The Room”. Does it make him at all “nervy”.

I’m so glad that you are getting our military money O.K. & that there’s no trouble or humbug over it. We heard all sorts of wild rumors that the money wasn’t getting paid. That there was a mixup of some sort.

My word Viv you’re a surprise packet. Now I understand why I don’t get a letter from you every week _ _ _. When I first stumbled on the amazing fact that you wrote THREE letters EVERY week to one person, I thort oh it’ll only last about a month, but I’m glad to say I’m wrong. You’ve a sticker_ _ _. I suppose you’ve found out that you’ve drawn a splendid prize in the Engagement Sweeps, & you mean to keep it. Try & hang out till June twelve months & if we are not back by then & not on the way, well get the agony over. You know we all want to be present to see the start of the first “Matrimonial Stakes” run in the Smythes paddock. Anyway Viv tho you’ve got pretty good chances, I’m putting all my money on Clytie. When its all over & the numbers are up I’m afraid that your name will be in “Thealsorans”. No matter how good a start off the minister gives you both, she’ll lead you the whole of the way _ _ _.

Mum my letter to you must have miscarried the week you wrote, as I’ve only missed writing once since we landed in this rainforsaken place, & that was three or four weeks ago.

By Jingo I’m in trouble & no error. What do you think. While examining my clothes today I discovered – well you know. Any way its no disgrace as almost everyone in the camp is troubled with the little beggars. I’m proud to say that mine are not little ones. They are fine big healthy looking chaps & frisky as you please. I had a complete change & then kindly got my inhabited clothes & boiled them alive _ the sympathetic cooks allowing me the use of their fires. I’ve got no hope of getting rid of the beggars tho until I can get some Lysol & then I’ll soak every stitch I have in a strong solution & will also sprinkle my blankets with it, as I think that’s where we get them from in the first place. Such awful horrible looking things they are too. About half as long as a fly & greyish white in colour, which has gained them the name of “Greybacks”. The only redeeming feature about them is that in the middle of their back is a black spot – our hard earned blood – which enables us to detect them with out much trouble. Hope you all are not ashamed of your erring son & brother. Of course I’d be very pleased if you let it get no further, as you are my only correspondent that I’m telling.

Saw a bonzer skit the other day. There is a picture of about a dozen aged decrepit bent & bearded men – all in rags with backs like the hump on a camel, the remnants of the A.I.F, making a pitiful attempt to stand at “Shun” while the Col, who by the way is the present junior Subaltern, was giving them good news. In the background the Pyramids have crumbled away to ruins & are nothing more than a few stones lying in an unpyramidic heap. The Col is saying “I’ve got splendid news for you boys. I’ve got definite information that we are leaving for the front within the next fortnight.” This feeling picture is entitled “the same old tale” _ _ _.
The 2nd Bn held the first of their annual sports yesterday, & they turned out a great success. It is intended to make this event an annual affair & for that reason the ground is going to be prepared. A bicycle track will be constructed on the latest gyroscopical method. Large accommodation stands & sheds will be erected, & the whole ground I believe will be thoroughly uptodate in every respect in about six or seven months time, when it will be hired out to the other Bn’s. Every 5 years it is intended to hold and extra special meeting open to the whole Division. It is also intended to celebrate the day the troops landed here, - about the 9th of Dec I think. So you see we wont be short of sports etc in the years to come. It is also intended to put in a petition to have six months furlough every 10 years – half the men going off in 1925 & the others in 1926. Be sure & have an extra special welcome rigged up for us then _ _ _.

What do you think of your black haired little Vernie. The young scamp now that he’s flaunting three chevrons kids himself a bit, & to keep up appearances he’s bought a very nice Kodak which takes postcard size photos. This afternoon the 5 Jd kids here, Vernie the two Fergo’s, Bill Wise & your ‘umble servant arranged ourselves in a group & Vernie got another chap who’d had a little photographic experience to do the necessary trigger pulling. In case that it turned out a failure, we sat again. The number two tho taken in camp, was so arranged as to take in the Cheops Pyramid. You’ll get no end of a shock when you all see it. You wont know half of us. Maurice Fergo is 6ft something & Bill Wise a little bit higher & Sprigg is not a bantam. Your ‘umble is the lightest of the lot tho Vernie is a shade smaller. If they turn out any good I’ll certainly post you one unless Vernie gets in ahead of me. In that case I’ll send mine elsewhere. I was messing about with a helio the other day when a chap here with a vest pocket instrument came up & snapped me. It turned out pretty good but I don’t like it. It’s too ugly _ _ _. I look a real old descrepid sundowner in my weather & time battered slouch hat.

I’m copying you out two pieces of poetry which were written regarding Dr Beans account of the conduct of the men here. They are very good tho to tell the truth as I see it, Dr Bean was right. However here the poems.

To Our Critic

Aint yer got no blanky savvy
Have yer got no better use
Than to fling back home yer inky
Product of yer pens abuse

Do you think we’ve all gone dippy
Since we landed over ‘ere
Is a soldier less a soldier
Cos he sucks a pint of beer

Do yer take yer whisk & soda
In a cool & shady spot
Waited on by little barmaids
Who the boys don’t know as ‘ot

Aint yer got no lovin’ mother
Waitin for ye over ‘ome
Do yer own no smiling sister
Over there across the foam.

Does yer think yer ____
Cos yer wears a Captains stars
Yer thinks we’re dirt beneath yer feet
Men of low degree & bars

Say yer cannot be Australian
Let us say in our defence
Yer can read it on your coinage
HONNY SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE [shame to him who thinks ill of it]

Cease yer wowseristic whining
Tell the truth & play the game
And we only ask fair dinkum
How we keep Australia’s name

Do yer thinks they likes yer better
For yer tales of drink & shame
Do yer think they’ll praise yer action
In defaming our fair name

One swallow makes no summer
Three shickers not a force
Where the few makes it a welter
You condemns the lot of course

We’re not out to fight the devil
In a new Salvarmy stunt
To reform the Arabs morals
While we’re waiting for the front.

Let us ask yer Mr Critic
Try & face things with a smile
Don’t be findin all the crookuns
Studying them blokes all the while

Then write home nice & proper
Bout the boys thats all true blue
And they’ll love yer better Mr
This is my advice to you

 

ON OUR CRITICS APOLOGIES
So you crayfished Mr Critic
From your journalistic stand
In an impolitic manner
You have surely shown your hand

Seems you were not sure when writing
Of your subject or your theme
In your milk & water scrawling
You neglected all the cream

Now you’re sorry that you missed it
Leastways that is what you say
And back home in fair Australia
There’s the very duece to pay

What they’ve got there let me say it
If at home they name our name
There are our loved wives & mothers
Who will bow their heads in shame

Will your “Pardon me’s” bring solace
Or dispel the haunting dread
Your apologies bring respite
For the bitter things you said

Will they give us back our comrades
Who our presence there will shun
Will they shatter all the fabric
That your venomed pen has spun

Will they calm a sisters dreading
Of an unnamed ghastly fear
Compensate for nights sad vigils
And the salty unseen tear

Will they build & mend the remnants
Of a fathers shattered pride
Will it soothe the wounded honor
Of the absent soldiers bride

For our loved ones wives & mothers
All have felt the poisoned dart
Of your journalistic venom
With your subtle cruel art.

So you say you’re sorry Mr
We sincerely hope you are
& we trust you’ll tell our loved ones
In our southern homes afar.

So just set your pen ajigging
Write & never mind the rest,
But inform them all sincerely
We’re behaving just “The Best”

There’s a few we know who’s throwing
Mud upon Australia’s name
But the rest’s not going to carry
All the burden of their shame

So just train your pen & send home
Just the plain unvarnished truth
And you’ll gain the firmest friendship
Of Australia’s fairest youth

It’s a long way to Berlin City
It’s a long way we know
It’s a long way more’s the pity
We’ve a long long way to go
Good bye Kaiser Billy
We’ll hang you in the square
It’s a long long way to Berlin City
But we’ll be right there

All by F.E.WESTBROOK. 4th Battery. A.I.F.

Well Mum & all the others, I’ll close now with love to you all, from your loving son & brother Bert.

 

 

 

 

 

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