18 February 1915

Mena Camp
Thursday 18/2/15

Dear Homefolks,
I’ve come up to the YMCA to write & have forgotten to bring up your letters so you must excuse me giving you the camp news before attending to your letters.

Owing to our bivouac I was not able to give you a decent letter last week, must make up for it this time, so I’m getting in early.

On the Friday morning we left camp about 9am, going to the same place as the previous bivouac. As it was a Brigade Affair, it was necessary to let the 1st 2nd & 4th come out also. A lot had not got over the effects of the day before & consequently quite a lot fell out on the way mostly with sore feet. The day before I fixed my feet up. There was a corn on the sole that had been giving me castor oil all the way home so I got on to its track with a safety razor blade. I tracked the little chap nearly throu my foot & was obliged to give him best owing to his tracks being obliterated by gore. Anyway I gave him such a scare that he scarcely troubled me at all so I felt O.K. after we had left the miles behind us & were tearing gaps out of our dinner.

After dinner was obliged to put one of my men under open arrest for refusing straight out to do signaling duty. There wasn’t any bad feeling over it. He simply & firmly refused to do it & he wanted to go back to the ranks. I had to get a scratch lot of men. Two sick & one refused duty so I was three short & had to use rankers who had a slight? knowledge of semaphore. We loafed till 5pm when the 1st 2nd & 3rd  marched off to take up a defensive position, whilst the 4th representing 2 brigades went off in another direction & were to attack us anytime they liked after midnight. While they were digging their trenches I got my men allotted. Hqtrs sent a stn of 3 to A coy but Brown packed them off & told them that they were no ___ good _ _ _.

Another siglr & I slept near the Capt & about 3.30 I was woken by a few isolated shots. At 4am the Sgt Maj & I had to get up & wake all the platoon commanders so that they could man the trenches. The attack did not develop till about 11am. The signalling system worked without a hitch except that the men were not too good in the actual receiving. During the attack handled 21 messages. About 12 the Capt took two platoons to a hill on our right front, but while there I rec’d a message ordering us to retire back to the trenches & to hold the enemy back at all costs. Just as they were delivering a bayonet charge, another Bn came in on their left & theoretically wiped them out. The battle was all over at 2pm so we marched back to the bivouac & had dinner. After dinner, as I had an attack of diarohea (that’s not spelt right I know) I thort I’d go to sawbones & get some medicine. On getting there imagine my disgust & annoyance on being ordered off to the hospital. Told him I felt OK. etc but no good, to hospital I had to go & was consoled with the information that I might only be there 4 days. So I gathered up my immediate necessities & 24 hrs rations & went to the house of pain & sorrow. On getting there the sawbones in charge gave me two nasty pills & took my temperature & pulse beats. He might have taken other things only I was watching him like a hawk. Next mng (Sunday) I was feeling better’n’ever so was in high hope of being kicked out, especially on whispering my tale of woe into the Drs ear. An hour afterwards the chap in charge of the tent read out the names of those who had to be taken to Mena hospital & your freckled relation was one of them. Got my belongings together & made the best of a bad job. At last the ambulance wagon came round & had put my things in & was on their track when the officer roared out “Hey you you’re not going”. I didn’t kiss him, chiefly cos he wasn’t a girl, but I was pleased as punch would be if BILL laughed at his caricatures in the paper called punch. As I was not to be discharged before 5 I got special leave to see the orderly corporal so as to get him to call for me early. Saw him & returned. He called for me abt 10 mins after _ _ _. Had a bit of a job getting away but did it. At 5pm I was told to go to the hospital & take delivery of two discharged patients. On getting there could only find one. After a bit of detective work found out I was the other chap I had to get  _ _ _.

About 9pm that night we were given a hot drink & then marched off. Of all the dreary deadly things imaginable, a night march is about the worst. We couldn’t talk & we could only go at about 1 ¾ per hour. We were half asleep the whole of the time. One of my men walked slap bang into a tree _ _ _. We went along a good road for most of the way & then came to a place where only a man at a time could pass. Had a sleep waiting for the man ahead to get through. On getting past this place we went along a 6ft road between two mud walls about 3ft high. The road was horribly rough & uneven & I was quite sure I’d break my ankle as we were almost galloping in order to make up what we’d lost owing to the narrow bridge. At last we got into open country & then formed up in columns of platoons in line for the cold steel work & then we charged the position in silence except for the noise of the tramping on the ground. Everything was carried out O.K. only we charged the wrong hill _ _ _.

The day broke shortly afterwards & so did our fast. As I passed the Brigadier, saw the old scoundrel making a nice ham look foolish. There was also a chicken there that didn’t look at all happy. We couldn’t growl tho. We had fresh herrins & jam & tea & bread & cheese & sand. The Col sed we had plenty of grit. We all agreed  with him. After brecker we attacked again & finished it about 2pm when we were marched back after almost continuous going for 18hrs. Didn’t feel a bit tired after it was over. Next morning (Tuesday) the Brigadiers got the 4 Bns formed up & said we were splendid & that we were fit for the field (of course we did not contradict him) but that owing to smallpox having broken out amongst us it was useless to expect to get away until the camp was declared clean & that would not be until 21 days after the last case had been reported.

It appears that it is on both sides of us – in the 2nd & 4th & there has been one death already. It is nothing like the smallpox in Sydney. This is the square dinkum Asiatic smallpox that either kills or horribly disfigures its victim. The chap that died had not been vaccinated.

We have been given 4 days holiday to put us in a good humor for the 7 days Divisional bivouac training that commences on either Sunday or Monday. We got back to camp about midday on Tuesday & had the rest of the day off. Yesterday (Wednesday) we had leave from 12 to 9.30p I didn’t get off till about 3 as I had to appear before the O.C. with regard to my man refusing duty. He was let off & can return to the ranks when he provides a substitute. Went to a skating rink in Cairo & had two lovely falls & some lovely chocs. I got the falls free but had to pay for the chocs. The skates were awful, & so was the floor. The left foot skate insisted in leading a straight & honorable career, but the other was different. It persisted in attempting to depict XYZ all in one as I went rollicking along. I was going to say “gliding” but that would not be quite correct.

We have all been revaccinated & he gave me a splendid dose. You remember the marks of mine were very small & it did not take at all when I was done in Kenso. Well the old coot got his facamatite & did on my poor arm & then slathered the stuff on & rubbed it in with the flat of his knife. This serum is very strong compared to the Sydney stuff. I thort the old beggar wanted to play crorts & nosses the way he disfigured my arm. Well I’ll finish this up till tomorrow.

Mum your letter of 10/1/15 to hand a few days ago. That was timed nicely wasn’t it you getting the Xmas letters on Xmas Eve. I thort you’d get them about Xmas.
Yes both your dutiful? sons were very much present in that ceremony of taking over Egypt, as you probably know by now. As for buying curios well you know  _ _ _.

Your new house appears to be in a pretty good position. It will seem strange when we come back having to go out to Kd instead of GL.

Oh Mum steady up a bit do “If you are not married in 6 years time”. Oh do you want me to die right out _ _ _. Or perhaps you think the war will last 6 years _ _ _. There is I sincerely hope no danger of me being alive & unmarried in 6 yrs time. I wont be both. Am glad that you are able to keep the Starr Bowkett going. Did the I.C.S. say anything about knocking the time I’m away at the war off the 5 years allowed in which to complete the course?

Well Ida sweeter than a spider. I spose I’d better attend to your Freckleness now so here goes. Your bonzer letter of 29/12/14 is resting on my knee (where I’d like you to be – also several other lovely girls I no)

Yes since you are so jolly impertinently inquisitive. I’ll tell you. I have seen a few nice “Gypsy” girls here, but they are few & mostly about 6 years old.

What did you do to get a fountain pen? Answer me. Well now that the damage is done I suppose I’ll let it drop. You’ll be able to write every year now instead of every league.

Yes Ida your complaint about Viola dragging you into every shop in the district in her vain endeavour to procure a suitable hat, is quite justified. That’s what I used to enjoy when I went shopping with her. She was a different person at each hat. I’ve known her to be 28 different characters in front of one window.

I’m sorry for that poor splinter that committed suicide by burying itself alive in your number tens. The poor thing must have been unhappily married or living with its motherinlaw to indulge in such a violent end.

Am so sorry to hear about Mrs Olive Watts being so ill. I hope she is O.K. now. You might remind me to her & M. also her mother & father.

OH OH Did she? So its come to that has it? The case is developing with interesting speed.  And when she got the card from Raffles did she get ricketts & gestulate about pie-bald horses? Terrible isn’t it? I can see that my beneficial influence is sorely needed to restrain her. Ask her to try & hang out till I return & then she’ll be O.K. with me there to look after her.

Alright Freckles. You go slinging French at me, I’ll toss you a few logs of Egyptian. And mine is correct into the bargain. Kayfa hhalak? Fehemteni? Ana awez tawaddini shubia, wa el-qalaah wa bri yussef walgameeh el-gedid. And that done you can Waddine gabal el-Khashab wa baddeein ala gabal el-ahhmar. There now. The more alleged French you toss to me, the more good Arabic I’ll heave at you, so be careful.

Thank Mrs J & Mary for their kind wishes which I reciprocate heartily.

That’s the end of your epistle to the Egyptians oh beg yours, I mean the Australians in Egypt so I’ll switch off on to young lady who used to insist on falling out of prams & used to like me blowing on the soles of her (then) dainty tootsies & used to gurgle a million when I did so _ _ _.

Well Viola how times change. One would never thing to see you now that your favourite hobby a few years ago was playing tiggy in a pepper tree _ _ _.

From what you say I gather that Mrs Farance is somewhere in Sydney. Whereabouts? Give her my kind regards when you see her next & put in a good word for me to Ethel.

Yes I’m am so proud & pleased to think that you thought about your erring brers in Pharohland on Xmas Day. That must have been why I felt so happy that day & thanks so much for all the kisses you sent me & V (tho in the next you only sent one each boooooooooohoooooooo) you impertinent inquisitive young rascal asking how the down on our upper lips is progressing. What down? I’ve no down on MY upper lip. As for Vernie, well he hasn’t either. The last girl I kissed didn’t complain of prickling so you can draw your own conclusions.

Look Viola I can see that you have a lot to learn yet. The next time you go to anywhere with a spoony couple it’s the correct thing to forget something & ask them not to wait.

Yes I quite believe it. The complaint takes different people different ways. Some people get gloomy & miserable & others get quite otherwise. Yes Viola I’ve heard of that no money dodge before. It works well with some people of ricketty natures _ _ _. but with others its no go.

Yes little kid I’ll try & forget all the revelations you’ve revelled to me. I’ve just learnt them off by heart so that I’ll know what I’ve to forget.

My opinion of the fair Nancie is improving no fast very better from the things you’ve been telling me about her. And I do so want to think of her as such a nice sweet adorable little peach so please don’t tell me when she pokes faces at scatch cocky’s topnot.

Both the Corp & R Mathie are quite well I thank you. I remonded you to them as per inquest & they both went so red & blushed like you did when Mr Lackamafite shook hands with you during the piebald horse affair.

I can’t see my way very clear to oblige you in the corporal line. Theres 10 lance cpls in A & most of them are senior to me so until there are casualties I can’t get any higher. Its ard luck when one man had to be killed or wounded before anyone under him can rise.

Yes you are the bonzerest kid out for writing such long lovely letters, & so often too. They cheer me up nearly as much as   ‘s   _ _ _ . Well that finishes up your two letters.

How is my little mosquito progressing? Also Eric & Gordon?
Hope you all are well. Am so glad Rita that you got such a nice prize at school. I spose you Eric & Gordon are great little swimmers now. You’ll be winning big races when you are a bit older.

I suppose Dad that you are back in Coolamon now. Hope the holiday in Sydney agreed with you & refreshed you a lot.

Viv or Percy, you might give me any news about your arbitration. You could cut out the accounts & send em along. Also any little item that you think would interest either of us. Hope you both are getting on O.K. & Percy I hope to hear of you following Viv’s lead very soon. Remember that you’ll never find an angel. I’ve got my eye on the nearest approach to one that’s down here below _ _ _. so don’t expect too much. I suppose Viv you’re looking for an argument now, but it will have to wait till I get back.

Is Maisie still with you Mum? If she is, give her my love & wishes for her welfare. Remind her of her promise.

The siglrs are having bad luck lately. Several of them are in the hospital for various reasons. One of my mates – an old F man & one of my A men are in hospital very ill with pneumonia. I’ve been up to see them several times. I cannot stay too long as it excites them & that does them no good. They are both I believe past the danger zone, or at least they’ve past the critical part & unless they have a relapse its only a matter of recovering lost strength. There are 3 or 4 others in the detention wards also, but for minor complaints. There was a death in the 3rd today. A poor beggar named Simon. He’s to be buried tomorrow with military honors. Pneumonia was the trouble. Nearly all the serious cases are pneumonia.

I think I’ve as good as got another decent signaler. He’s one of the reinforcements & is a pretty good man so I understand. I’d like to get a few more decent signallers & then I’d be more contented. I’d have got more only Hq must go & snavel up all they could grab before I knew there was any to be got. Considering that GA knows what a rotten lot I’ve got the begger ought to have got me two or three. Capt Brown sed that I’d have a chance to drill my men a bit soon. He’s O.K. to me lately & things have been working fairly smoothly. He throws all his “slack” at the Hq men now. He gets far better attention than any other man in the Bn _ _ _.

Well I’ll close now with love to you all, hoping you all are well & happy as I am here, yours sincerely Bert.

Will have to post this to pay most likely as I’ve been spending my stamp money on “luxuries”  _ _ _.  for the poor chaps in hospital they don’t get any dainties there & cant draw pay till they come out.






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