14 January 1915

Mena Camp Egypt
14th Jan 1915

Dear Homefolks,
Got a very welcome letter from sweet little Maysee, she’s a Daysee, from Dear little Rita, & from dear old Ida, & of course enjoyed them immensely. As Ida’s was the first one written I attend to her first.

Well Ida as you’ve gone to such pains to let me know that there is a lovely girl living right opposite, I’ll commission you to put in a good word for me & if have possible have it all arranged by the time I come back. You can tell her I’m sound, have good teeth, very docile & even tempered, rather shy, very forward in going backwards, freckly, sulky, easily amused, easily otherwise, & a lot of other things. That’s a good girl now. You might inform her that I’m an expert gladeye[?] & wink purveyor.

I’m sorry little girl that you did not cover yourself with glory even if you did with ink, in the international exploration, Oh I mean the intermediate Examination – I’m slitely mixed but never mind kid, do your best every time that’s all any one can do. I’m just as proud of you as I would be if you passed top. You are like all my other many sisters – a lovely thing to own.

I tried “the Sydney cort the Emden, hip - hip – hip – hoorah”, to the tune of “God Save” as you recommended, at a concert t’other night & I cort, well to enumerate, I cort – in my hands a mess tin, large bar soap, & a tent pole – in my ear an overripe tomato, & in my eye, a piece of bread & jam. Observe how even in the midst of a heavy fire I practice the Maxim. “Of two evils choose the lesser” & catch all the hard things in my hand. Your recipe was not a success. Wish you’d prove them before letting a novice experiment with them.

Yes, it was a shock to hear about poor Mrs Egger. It was very sad indeed.

By Jingo my lass if I was in charge of you at school you wouldn’t play up like you do. You’d be as quiet as dead mice. Yort to hear me drilling a section, or correcting my squad when I’m teaching sigling. You wouldn’t know your bashful little brother.

Don’t you worry your little head. I’m cutting out your French notes & giving them to a school teacher in our coy who is an authority on French & German. He is the coy interpreter. So I’ve got you on hot spuds. _ _ _. _ _ _. _ _ _. _ _ _.

Am glad that you got such a nice little present for your birthday. Hope you bear in mine that you are a fine big upstanding lovely girl now, & help Mum all you can like the good little ducky darling that oo is. You know Mum has kept you for 15 years so its up to you to turn round & pay your debts. This lovely confection, or dream or whatever you call it, will I think also fit Viola & Rita. Unless they take an outsize in hats.

Sorry Herrick was off color. Hopes that he has recovered completely long ago & also hope that the cold that you have is gone.

There now Ida, I’ve done with you for a while at least. Your letter was very nice & interesting indeed.

Now Maisie we’ll see whats up with you. Well both Vernie & I are getting on lovely & are enjoying ourselves a treat with the little black girls. Some of them are very nice. Such lovely lips. The prettiest ones are waitresses to the officers. You see they can carry a plate of soup in one hand, turkey with the other, & the dessert on a plate on their lower lip. I like Egypt fairly well, but there are no Turks here yet, so of course we’ve done no fighting except when we’ve been drunk. Hope you had a  good time at the theatre. I’d love to be back again to see you all. Remember how you used to sit on my knee for a while. Till all of a sudden you’d remember something I did or didn’t do, & then you struggle to get off _ _ _. I’m saving my knees up so that they wont be worn out when I get back. Haven’t nursed a girl since – since – since – the last time.

Yes I suppose that you did find G.L. altered a bit. It altered a lot during the short time that I was there.

I suppose that you’ll be in K.D. long before this reaches you. Hope you like the change. That was nasty of Percy to make Vivie get his own tea after making a cup for Clytie & Jean.

No, that scamp of a Vera HAS NOT written to me yet, or at least I should say that up to date I haven’t received a letter from her. Give her a good shaking up for me. If she still wont write toss her up to the ceiling like I used to do.

Well Maisie I finished your letter now, & a very nice letter it is too. I was very pleased indeed to get it. Don’t forget what I want when you are 21. I’ve made up my mind not to marry a black beauty now – I’ll wait till you grow up instead. Now don’t forget, will you.

Now for you Rita. Do you know little sweet heart that yours is the longest letter I’ve ever received? I hope that after all your weeks of grinding & toiling, that you have succeeded in getting a bursary. Wont it be nice. What an honor for my little sister who had to catch up to the others after being so long away from school. We’ll be so proud of you.

Hope that your school concert was a success, & that you played your part as a Jap very well. Of course you would.

Am sorry that you & May & Mum were off color for awhile. Hope that you all are in good health & spirits & continue so.

Well I can’t crow over you much in the heat line. It was nothing extraordinary crossing the line. Its very hot or at least fairly hot in the day time here & freezing cold at night. The temperature is very even, or rather regular. If you were to compare the heat at certain times say 8am, 12 noon & 10pm with the temperatures at those times on other days there’d hardly be a degree of difference. There is nothing uncertain about it. We know exactly what we are going to get.

Now Rita, you mustn’t complain of the way Vivie is carrying on. You know that he is not responsible for his actions. So treat him kindly & with consideration, & when he has select company always manage things so that he is not interrupted.

Yes Viola poor girl, has apparently got a bad attack of rickets _ _ _. A short spell at the seaside K.D. for preference, will probably cure her.

Pleased that you enjoyed the “Seven Keys to Baldpate Inn”. I’m going to let myself in for a thoroughly good time when I come back before I start keystaking[?].

Tell H.J.W that I’m real glad that he got such a good sendoff. His presents will always be a reminder of pleasant days spent in Booligal & Jd.

By Jingo I’m hanged if I know how Vivie works the oracle & gets such a lovely present as a good suit case from such a lovely girl, do you? I must get a few tips off him.

Mind you don’t wear your clothes out in the shute at the white city. I was slithering down it, & to save myself from an end on collision with a nurse in front applied the brakes (my elbows) to the side, on the Westinghouse principle with the result that I spoilt a good suit.

Tell Miss Turner that I hope she is better soon & has no more attacks of illness, also wish Mr Turner a happy & prosperous New Year.

Well little sister that finishes your most appreciated letter. It’s a bonzer.

Had leave last Sunday 10/1/15 & went into Cairo on my own, but being on my own & with very little money didn’t enjoy myself worth skiting about.

On Monday 11/1/15 the siglrs were kicked back to their coys & for the next two days I did no sigling as I’m second in charge of no.1 section & the sergt had other work on so I took his place. I think I did very well considering that I’ve hardly ever been with the coy since I joined. I had to instruct them in all sorts of things. As the Capt has the power to make me a full corporal, I think I’ll put the hard word on him soon. My word he’s a corker. This sums him up. “Steady. STEADY there, not a move” “absolute steadiness” “implicite & instant obedience to all orders”. The second day he had 4 N.C.O’s under open arrest for neglect of duty & yet when you do what you’re told he’s as nice as anything. He’s determined that A will be first & the rest nowhere & by jingo he’ll do it too.

Vernie has been made a full corporal. That is a good start off for him. I don’t suppose that we will see much of each other when we get to the front as he is with Headquarters & I’m in a coy. He has only a Sergt Major & G.A. over him.

Capt Brown of A has informed the ten commanders & I’m one, that if the tent is ever reported as dirty the N.C.O in charge will get into trouble & not the tent orderly. He said the N.C.O is responsible & if the tent orderly doesn’t do what he’d told, then we know what to do – arrest him _ _ _. Fancy arresting a man, becos, when you tell him to pick up some orange peel, he says “…….. you – can’t you see I’m cleaning my ….. rifle, you …..” _ _ _. A chap would be arresting them all day long. So I tidy the tent up myself _ _ _. We were also warmed that if intoxicating liquor of any sort was found in any tent, bottled or otherwise, the N.C.O in charge would lose his stripes. This is where I put down my hand with a firm foot & you can imagine the uproar in the tent. There are 12 of us. One chap is in the guard tent more often than otherwise, & the others are all tipplers on a smaller scale. I’m a wowser, a nark, a pig & lots of other nasty things, but they know that I mean what I say, so they drink their beer at the canteen, & that is all the capt wants.

We went through muskety[?] on a 30yds range with miniature targets & I did fairly good. Our Capt is holding one more shoot for those who failed & if they again fail they are going back to Aust. He says that a man who can’t shoot straight is no good to him & a danger, a menace & a nuisance to himself & his coy, & that he is filling the place of another who can shoot. He means it too. Must knock off for tonight its after 10pm.

Friday afternoon. Our mail that went astray is arriving in dribs & drabs. Mums letter of 8/11/14 and also your nice xmas cards came to hand this arvo. Also a nice letter from Enid, & a card from Mrs Fox 6/11/14 & a nice card from Clytie. As we have had letters dated in Dec, you can see how things have been mixed up.

Well I’m mighty glad that you are getting our money. We both have left you 4/- per day or 28/- per week – that is (pound sign) 2-16 per week altogether. Hope that they post is to you to save you the trouble of going in for it.

Yes very likely we will be issued with a sheepskin coat when we get to England or rather to France, as I don’t think that we will see England before the war is over. We get lots of illustrated English papers here, & they are very interesting indeed. They show the troops, both allies & Germans at the front in various phases of the war. We got a London paper yesterday showing a view of the Austn camp at Mena Egypt. The photo shows the 3rd Bn lines & also two chaps in the foreground in the old F coy. We saw the original of this photo shortly after it was taken so of course we recognized it immediately in the London paper. Would like very much if you cold post us any clippings from the papers that you think would be of interest to either of us. Was very pleased to get those clippings. Send them all along.

I have no idea whatever where that paper about the insurance is. It must be all right as several other P.O. boys here, got similar notices. Anyway I’ll drop them a line about it.

Well I’m jiggered. Fancy anyone liking those photos. Well the only conclusion I can arrive at, is that I’m uglier than I thort _ _ _.

Saturday 15th Jan 1915 we had to turn out in fighting gear today & full strength besides. Had to carry every blooming thing that we would need if on the field & my word it was solid. One good thing, they take the packs off before going into action. We only went a little way off, & some of us had to have our kits inspected to see that we had a complete equipment, while the rest of us were put through various evaluations. Our dinner was the usual dry bread meal but I know I appreciated mine. We the whole Battalion were completely mixed up & then on a given signal we had to form up. The 980 odd men did the job in 45 sec. the old Brigadiers throt he’d catch us so he gave the order to “form fours” but it wouldn’t act as the men had all got into their proper places. Afterwards each platoon in A coy had a race in piling rifles & ### packs. No.1 won easily & not only won but had the best dressed piles & packs into the bargain.

A coy has a piano now. What do you think of that _ _ _. A real piano. We have great times too – the latest pieces done to a turn by our ###. Its very cheap too – only 5/- a week.

We used to be mighty particular in what we ate but now _ _ _. The cooks put spuds a la whole into the soup, with their jackets on. At first we used to skin them, but now skin & all goes down. We do not growl now when we have only dry bread for midday meal. It’s an occurrence far too common to growl at. But tho we mostly have only dry bread for lunch, we get a good hot dinner when we return to camp between 3 & 5 & then we get our regular tea at 6p. One Monday we are going for a route march & for the rest of the week we leave early in the morning & return at 5p. Got 4 letters from Tassie yesterday night. 3 from Minnie & 1 from Ella. Minnies were all a week apart & they all arrived here together.

The most that any of the men can draw is 2/- a day, so you see we are not much worse off than they are. In case you’ve been wondering how we would be able to manage, we are able to manage very well.

As I’ve been writing this the regimental rat – a white one – belonging to one of my tent has been chasing the pen point over the paper & trying to chew it. I’d love to have it at home to put down Viola, or Ida or Rita’s neck. Wouldn’t they squeal _ _ _. The other day a chap put his boots on & finding something tickling his foot, started to take if off again, when the head of the rat appeared out of the eyelet holes. My word he’s a slick little chap, can almost get throu the eye of the proverbial needle. He’s running all over us at night, but lies low during the day as the tents terrier has got him bluffed.

At this present moment, the pioneers are erecting a stadium in the adjoining messroom. Very likely there will be a few “goes” with the gloves tonight. I’d go & have to look in only I’m very busily engaged in more important work. Last night I was just going to have a go at this letter, when I had to go with the fatigue party to unload bread. There were 4 tram cars full of it – one days supply.

Well I’ll close now. Post this on to Dad, Percy & Vivie. Love from your loving son & brother Bert.

 

 

 

 

 

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