7 February 1915
Mena Camp Cairo
More disappointment this week. There was no mail of any sort again. It is apparently being held up somewhere. Hope to goodness that it arrives during this week.
Did I tell you that I went to a Pres. Church in Cairo the other Sunday? Well now I’ve got an invite to an “at Home” next Wednesday night at the minister’s place _ _ _. When I got the letter with the Cairo date stamp I couldn’t make out who the dickens it could be from, & I got a shock on opening it to find it was an invite. I’ll go if I can get off which I very much doubt. Thursday is the regular half holiday & its not likely that they’ll let me off on Wednesday.
Last Monday night A had a splendid concert. I had been to the camp pictures & turned up at the shivoo rather late, but late as it was, I enjoyed myself. There were songs & recitations, both comic & sentimental & also a bit of boxing. Most of the boxing was up to putty, but the next was O.K. Our old Col gave us a comic & we cheered & clapped till the old rogue _ _ _. Was as red as Viola sometimes gets. He’s a dear old chap, & all the men fairly love him. Capt Brown of A also gave us a comic which took very well.
While on the march the other day, we killed a death adder. It was only about 20ins long, but deadly all the same. It was a mottled brown color, just like the sand. I never thought snakes lived in such inhospitable & dry places. It must surely live on the big beetles that are pretty plentiful in the sand.
Well some of our boys have got a shift. On Wednesday the 7th & 8th, both of Vic marched out of camp for the canal. They all were loaded up with ammunition. Since then there’s been fighting on the canal, but we don’t know whether it’s the Indians, Terriers, or our men that were engaged. The paper doesn’t state, it only says “our troops” anyway in one scrap they had over 50 killed. The Turks lost pretty heavily casualties, being 1500. They left 300 dead on the field. The 1500 is only an estimate of 5 wounded to 1 killed. Very likely their losses were a lot heavier as at the front it works out between 10+11 wounded to 1 killed. According to today paper, it says the Turks are abandoning the idea of invading Egypt.
I was up before the O.C. on Thursday, but luckily only as a witness. My mess orderly had failed to attend to get the tea & the L.M. Sgt, sent him up. It appears that while we were on parade, he got leave & as it would have spoiled his day to wait till we returned to tell us, he just went off & trusted to luck. His luck was out. We knew nothing about it & so when mess orderly blew, no one went. He got 3 days C.B (confined to barracks) first offence.
During the week one of my tent went to Cairo, & while there met a few friends & got very unsteady. Feeling very gay he started to check officers & landed in the Citadel. He was brought back two days later a sadder, & a wiser man. As it was his first offence he got 7 days defaulter drill & to answer every defaulters call. It goes every half hour after 5.30 till 10p, so they have a very irksome time of it.
B coy having scored the best in the racing ### shooting was selected to rep. the 3rd in a Bde match, & they won easily by over 40 points from 2nd. The 3rd appears to be the best in everything in the brigade.
We got leave on Thursday from 12.30p, & as we will most likely be leaving here shortly I threw off my laziness & decided to ascend the largest pyramid, so that I would not need to transgress if I was ever asked what sort of view the pyramids offered. Perhaps I ought to tell you the reason I decided to clime the largest one, was cos it is both the safest & easiest. On my arrival at the foot of the ancient tomb, I had considerable difficulty commencing the clamorous guides that owing to pecuniary circumstances, I would make the ascent without their valuable aid. All the guides seem to be under the impression that it is certain suicide for a European to attempt to reach the top without one of them to assist him & guide him & spoonfeed him & a lot of other things him as well. On my way up saw a name of a Sydney man cut in the rock dated 1857. There is also a Sydney AMP man’s name somewhere dated 1830 something, tho I did not see it. That’s convincing proof that the pyramids are pretty old. On reaching the top looked round for sometime to fine a vacant allotment on which to build my name. When at last I did find one I was too lazy to carve, so I started to enthuse over the view. After tiring of enthusing. I read a book & sentimented over a photo _ _ _. I’d have been there sentimenting yet, only I was disturbed by the arrive of two “ossifers” & their guides. The view is splendid while looking towards Cairo. Beautiful green cultivation with clumps of palms here & there & in the distance the winding Nile & Cairo in the background. Owing to the many different kinds of greenstuff, the whole looks like a huge patchwork quilt of various shades of greens. In every other direction there is nothing but sandhill after sandhill as far as the eye can see, & utterly devoid of vegetation. Out to the east are several other pyramids but considerably smaller than the Mena ones. I looked round for a few nice pebbles to bring back with me, but the smallest was 4x4x6 ft so I had to leave it. Viola take note & tell Nancy Wicks. I promised I’d send her some.
Well Percy Friday was your birthday. Hope you had a very enjoyable one, & may you have many many more. Am sorry I was not in a position to send you a little present. Have they been censoring any of our letters? We were told shortly after our arrival here that we could say what we liked, but now every one seems to thing that our letters are being censored although no warning has been given to us. Hope that our letter to Aust. are not being messed up the same way as yours to us.
On Friday & Saty morning we were taken out & put throu quick snap shooting with blanks. Small parties were sent out into the hilly grounds with flags & these were to appear anywhere they pleased & as soon as the N.C.O in charge gave the range, the man with the flag had to hold the flag up so that it could be seen. In the scheme yesterday another chap got the credit of a suggestion I made. He & I were the only N.C.O in the party & as he was an old solider he was senior to me. I advised him to try walk up a hill doubled up, until you could almost see the enemy & then at a given signal, all stand up, fire quickly & then duck down. We did this several times getting down every time before a shot was fired tho after we were down several shots were sent at us. Well shortly afterwards an officer came up & asked me who was in charge & I told him so & so & he went over & complimented him on what we’d been doing & said it was splendid & remarking at the same time. “of course you’ve had previous experience haven’t you” He then made a note of it & took this chaps name & coy, & will probably report on it. I was annoyed over it, tho I didn’t say a word. He might have owned up & said it wasn’t him that suggested it. It would have seemed to caddish for me to stand up & say it was me that suggested it, so I kept quiet.
On Saty afternoon we had a sham fight with blanks. A gun was near the pyramids & it had to be shifted & it would take till 4 pm to get it away. We had to keep the enemy back until it had got away & then extricate ourselves. It was alright. When it was over the Col wouldn’t tell us who won, he said we could talk that over amongst ourselves. Of course by that means both sides won easily.
Well I’m sorry that I will have to post this without stamps, but the fact of the matter is, that I’m broney stroke & I don’t like borrowing. As there was not 10/- due to me last pay, they would not pay me so I only draw 7/- a week, every now & then I don’t get a pay & it makes things awkward.
In the early part of the week there was great excitement about the prospect of a very early shift at the very latest on Sunday but Sunday is here now with no further word, so it seems as if we are to be again disappointed. Our going to the front from here is just like our leaving Aust, when we were in Kenso. You remember all the false alarms that we used to get. That’s just what it is like here.
I hope that you are not being left at all short throu V & I leaving you. I suppose the old type is my own exclusive property now? If by any luck you should draw my Starr Bowkett & am not in need of the money, you could bank it & help pay the payments with the interest.
I saw a sad occurrence in an English paper, the newly married husband was killed at the front, & his wife was killed by a German bomb in an English coastal town. A chap from here was sending contributions to the paper from the front for some time, but he got killed after sending in a particularly witty & amusing account of the troubles they have. It was hard luck. Well Mum & Dad & everyone else, I’ll close now with love to you all, not forgetting Maisie, your loving son & brother Bert.