15 July 1915
“A” Co. 3rd Bn. A.I.F
On Active Service Abroad.
Dear Mum & Dad & brothers & Sisters.
Well we are still here at the Austn & N.Z. Base at Weymouth tho two platoons of us are standing by waiting for orders. The weekend leave has been cancelled so that looks as if an early departure is probable.
We are fully equipped except for a few trifling articles of personal wear. We’ve got the new equipment which is made of leather & is built the same as the old except that instead of having ten small pouches it had only two. Each of which holds 75 lumps of Turkish Delight. The pack & haversack is canvas same as the old. Don’t know what its like in actual use. The rifles we’ve got beggars description. They dished us out with the old rifles of the Australian Motor Transport Coy which has been in England since they landed here early in the year & who have just left for the front in France equipped with the new pattern rifle which is point blank at 600 yds. Of course it never occurred to the powers that be that the good rifle would be most useful to the men who were actually fighting instead of motor drivers who rarely fire a shot. I think tho that they got them cos they’re using the new ammunition in France & we have none. The old rifle isn’t strong enough for it. It shows rotten management tho doesn’t it, that shortly after the war breaks out that this rifle & ammunition is handed out while we still have to use the old one. Before the war everyone reckoned that the Short Le Enfield was the most perfect rifle in the world. Well we’d had them a couple of days when they were called in & we were given another lot. The one I’ve got is only 21 years old, & the inside of the barrel would make you weep & the sight has got the rickets almost as badly as Viola used to. The bolt is very stiff to work & altogether it is a very good sample of how they muddle through things. They muddled throu the Boer war & they’ll muddle throu this one too. The only objection I’ve got to their muddling is that it costs money & lives. They’ve also discovered after several men had been sacrificed that the bayonet had an awful fault. It’s like this .The fault is the little hook. Why the hook was put on I’ve not the slightest idea. The training manuals which generally explain everything & its uses so carefully makes no mention about this awful hook one way or the other so I presume it’s a sort of kiss curl. It appears that our brawny men are too strong & when they bayonet the gentle Hun about 9 inches would be protruding from the rear. Nothing wrong in that. The trouble commenced when the soldier saw another Hun coming at him & started to withdrawn his bayonet for Hun No 2. The little Kiss curl of a hook in 9 cases out of 10, kindly got itself entangled in No ones tunic & nothing short of disentangling it with the fingers was of any avail. It was while the disentangling was occurring that the tragedies happened. Even a Hun with nothing else to do & time hanging heavily on his hands is liable to bayonet a “tommy” who is trying to withdraw his Kiss curl from Hun No 1. The new bayonet is minus the Kisscurl. Marvel of Marvels.
We are still plodding along without our mail. Its rotten isn’t it. The Authorities know or should know the wounded that are sent to England & their letters should be sent on to them. I expect to get over 50 when I get back to Alexandria unless they’ve been lost.
Vernie must be an officer now. Lt Goldring is in a London Hospital & also his brother. You must feel proud of Vernie. I’m so glad he’s OK up to now. I’ve got the latest list here.
Rixon – you might remember hearing me speak of him as the fastest telegraphist in N.S.W. – has been killed. Saw it in todays papers. Its rotten luck isn’t it. He was a fine chap. There can’t be very many of the original 3rds left now. Our Colonel, Col Owen has been wounded. He’s a fine old chap. Hope that he gets better quickly. He was offered command of the 1st Brigade but refused so that he need not lose the 3rd. When the boys were lined up on the beach the morning I was hit, as soon as he appeared the whole regt broke into cheers. He was much affected but told them they mustn’t cheer.
Friday 16th) Last Tuesday night we had a bonzer concert in the YMCA shed. It was absoballylootly the best that I’ve been to since leaving sunny NSW. To start with we had a little cheeky mite of 9 or 10 who regaled us with patriotic songs. She was just ITT. She’s been entertaining soldiers free every since the war broke out. She soon became as popular with us as she was in all the other camps that she sang to. Then we had a conjurer who was splendid. One of his best was as follows. He got six small balls of yarn each ball of a different colour & got one of our boys to pick one. A red one was picked so he wrapped it up in a plain silk hanky taking care to leave about 6 inches of the yarn protruding. He then stuffed the lot into a small tumbler leaving the loose end of yarn hanging out & then placed the tumbler on a table in full sight of us & didn’t go near it till the end. He then asked for the names of several well known persons, saying that whoever was chosen he would make him appear. He got the names wrote them on a piece of paper, handed the pieces to one of our boys to inspect & then putting them in his hat got one of us to draw one. “Kitchener” was drawn. “Well” he said “K was very busy & will only be able to stay a few seconds so watch carefully – One two three Now” “See him” he enquired. None of us did. “Oh he’s been here right enough I saw him myself. Well we’ll look on the handkerchief in the tumbler to see if he left any footprints” So he pulled the hanky out & unfolded it, & “Kitchener” was worked in large letters across the hanky with the ball of red yarn that had been enclosed & the end was still protruding as it had been the whole of the time. It was very good. Indeed. Then we had a well known Scotch comedian who had us in roars the whole of the time & even the wounded Scotties & several lady visitors nearly had hysterics over one of his jokes which unfortunately wont bear repeating. There was also a good concert on Monday night Wednesday & Thursday nights – four nights running so we have not been doing too badly have we. Of course they are always free & the services of the artists are always voluntary. We owe it all to the chap in charge of the YMCA, who organises them for us & does everything in his power to help & assist us. Didn’t go to the concert on Thursday night. Instead we (a friend & your humble) went to a Methodist ministers place in Weymouth & spent a very enjoyable evening. His wife & two daughters were there also & the four of them made us very much at home & were very nice. We stopped till after ten talking about Australia, England & the war. They were under the impression that Queensland & West Australia were separate islands & that N.Z. was only 50 miles or so from Australia _ _ _. The latter tho is a common impression amongst the English. There is a concert here on next Wednesday night (If we’re here) given by the “boys” & they are going to come to it.
I’ve got two lovely blistered heels. Have got a new pr of feet cases with such tall uppers that they are nearly leggings & they’ve been giving me particular ___. It’s the first time I’ve had blistered heels since we joined up, & I had to fall out on a march – the first time that I’ve missed a parade of any sort since I joined.
I think that is all the news. Hope you all are well & cheerful as I am here. Don’t worry over Vernie he is quite O.K. With best of love to you all your loving son & brother
[sidebar] Viv & Percy
The name of the chap from H.Q. that is here wounded who knows you both well is Peter O’Donnell