Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Roy Richards war diary and letters, 4 March 1915 - 17 November 1916
ML MSS 1186
[Transcriberís Note: The letters are mainly to his mother, father, sister and brothers written from March 1915 to November 1916 and cover his voyage to Egypt, his time in Egypt and also at Anzac Cove. From there he went to Lemnos Island and on to France where he arrived in March 1916. Because of censorship he is unable to describe in detail in his letters just where he is in Belgium and France but he gives a general description of his life on the battlefields. He was granted leave from 27 September 1916 to 10 October 1916 and visited London, Birmingham and Eastbourne. Also included are letters of condolence to Mr. and Mrs. Richards following his death. He kept a diary from 15 August 1915 to 17 November 1916 which gives more details of his experiences. He was wounded on 6 November 1916 in France and was taken to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, England where he died on 26 November 1916 following an operation to remove shrapnel from his lung.]
Letters and Diary
1280 19th Battalion A.I.F.
5th Machine Gun Co.
This book was presented to The Mitchell Library
by W. E. Richards, Esq.
Messrs. Hill Clarke & Co.
"D" Coy. 19th Batt.
My dear Mother,
Received your letter this afternoon, but sorry to say that I never got Rubyís till Monday afternoon and of course too late to let me know where you would be so I could look out for you. The Ward must have been a fine sight, but of course, being in it, I did not see too much of it, but the crowd was wonderful. What struck me most about it was the way the soldiers as a whole behaved, and I think it showed the crowd what a fine mob they are. Was not a bit tired after it. Three or four miles was nothing after going twenty a couple of days before, besides there was too much excitement along the route to notice how far I was walking. I never knew I knew so many people. As I was on the outside of a four in front of 5th Platoon "D" Coy, I was in a good position to see people.
The rain was rather a pity, but luckily we just escaped it. We struck a shower or two, but light ones and we were under cover at the Railway when the heaviest came down and reached home dry.
With regard to Kit, we have been issued with the following:- 2 Flannel shirts, 2 singlets, 2 prs underpants, 2 prs socks, 2 towels, 1 comforter, and have other things to come such as a Cardigan Jacket, cholera belt, brush and comb, shaving outfit etc., so you see we are pretty well provided for and donít think I will want you to get me anything else, except more socks, but I can get them when I come down on final leave, which will probably be next week.
Am feeling very fit and well, in fact never better. The nights are getting very cool now and the morningís at about half past five are nice and chilly.
Might mention that those last socks you made are too big to March in, as they crinkle under the feet.
No more news this time.
4th March 1915.
My dear Mother,
I am quite O.K. up here and the game suits me to a T. Up at 5.30 in the morning, start drill at 6 oíclock till breakfast at about 7.45. Drill again 9.15 to 12.15 and then Dinner till 2.15. Drill again till 4.15, so you see they donít overwork us. At half past five a.m. we get a cup of coffee (black & thick) for breakfast we have Stew and same again for Dinner, for tea we have bread and jam and tea (nothing to drink for dinner).
Canít write too well as have two crook arms, one (left) from the Vaccination and the other from inoculation, which was done to-day.
Have a very sore throat to-night as I have been drilling squads since yesterday, and it makes you hoarse, I can tell you. Am going up for an Exam for Sergeant very soon, but am very doubtful over result. There are only 12 Non Commissioned Officers wanted and there are about 100 fellows going up for the positions and most of them have been here some time. Anyhow, you never know your luck. Of course you have to be an N.C.O. before you get a chance to go to the School for Instruction, but even if I donít get there, a Privateís life is not too bad, it is not nearly so bad as I thought it would be.
If you care to come up on Sunday afternoon, Iíll be here, but there is really nothing to see, though of course Iíll be very pleased to see you.
I think that is all I can think of. There is a terrible mob in this Tent singing Rags, and it is not easy to write. There are dozens of fellows up here I know, so am O.K.
Any letters addressed to Ė Pvt R. Richards, "S" Coy. Inf Depot, Military Camp, Liverpool, will find me.
With love from
If you come up bring as many cakes as you can carry. If you feed me, you have to feed the Tent (12 men)
My dear Mother,
A notice came out to-day that there is a probability of dropping a mail shortly, so I am writing this in rather a hurry. There is very little further news to tell you, as ship life is very much the same. I do not know whether you received my previous two letters or not, as I heard a rumour that neither mails had been dropped, so you will very probably get all three together.
Since writing last, I have joined the Machine Gun Section, which is a jolly sight more interesting than the ordinary Coy Drill, of course I have a lot to learn and am a long way behind the rest of the Section, who had been through their course at Liverpool, but I have a good chance here of picking it up. I have for a long time been wanting to get in and naturally I jumped at the chance. There has been some ----- practice on board which has been very interesting to watch.
I am feeling very well indeed and must be putting on a lot of weight, though it has been very hot lately. I am not allowed to say anything as to where we are, and where we are going but to tell you the truth I donít know myself, there are so many conflicting rumours going about.
There has been some very good Concerts on board and boxing contests and there is generally plenty to do to keep going. The life on board has certainly not started to get monotonous, in fact I can hardly find time to do my washing. Have taken to sleeping out on deck of a night, down below being too hot. The only trouble is that we have to get up at 5 oíclock to allow the decks to be swept, but by the time one has a bath or shower it is generally parade time.
I suppose Father is away on his trip by now. I only hope it is doing him as much good as this one is doing me.
The sea is like a mill pond to-day, and it is over a week since we saw land. Of course you know Harry is in the Section with me. He wishes to be remembered to you all. He is putting on weight every day. There are also some very decent fellows in the Section. Have mutual acquaintances with 3 or 4 of them.
Will of course write again as soon as there is a chance of dropping a mail. Hope you and Ruby are well and are not worrying at all.
Love to all
Your loving Son
Pte 1280 Roy Richards
Donít forget to add the Machine Gun Section to your next address. All the rest of it must still go in.
29th June 1915
My dear Mother,
I am starting this to-day to be finished later on as I get the chance. I have to be careful what I say as these letters are censored, and I am not allowed to say anything as to where we are going or anything else.
Am having a splendid trip. It has so far been very wet and stormy and the sea has been pretty rough, but I have turned out to be a good sailor and have not even felt sick yet, in fact I never felt better in my life. There is always plenty to fill in the time, but so far owing to the crowded space, we have had very little drill. Food is still very good, yesterday I was offered a position as typist to the Coy for the voyage. Of course I did not come for that sort of thing, but I took it on as it means me missing all fatigues and guards on board and also all parades which is a good thing, as a guard on the ship in wet and stormy weather is not to be envied I can assure you. Also the main thing in its favour is that there is very little to do.
Met Arthur Adams for the first time to-day, but did not have time to have a yarn with him. Will see him later. Have also seen Mr. Mace and Roland Rogers and also several old school mates. Of course I donít know when this letter will be dropped, but will leave it open for a day or so.
Am writing to the boys to-night Ė Wednesday Ė Notice has just come round that we May be dropping a mail at any time now, so I have to close this off in a hurry.
I will write again when I get a chance or rather when there is a chance of getting a letter away.
Love to all at home.
Your affectionate Son
Pte 1280 R. Richards.
Pte 1280 Roy Richards
Machine Gun Section,
19th Batt. 5th Brig. A.I.E.F.
Just a note from the edge of the Sahara to say that I am slowly getting fizzled to death, but otherwise am feeling very well.
We, as no doubt you have gathered from my previous letter had a very fine trip over. We only called at Port Suez, Port Said and Alexandria, where we disembarked. These places are very similar from what we could see of them from the boat, some fine buildings on the Sea Front and the rest very poor. The trip through the Canal to Alexandria was very interesting. Not much to see as far as scenery goes, mostly desert, but the main interest was the Camps of troops, both Indians & Kitchenerís Army, which were camped practically the whole way along (about 100 miles). The Canal is very narrow in parts, and we could talk from the ship to the men on shore. There are several Canal Coy Stations at distances along the line, which are otherwise the only signs of habitation Ė except here and there there are instances of an attempt at irrigation noticed by odd patches of green.
An interesting thing at the Ports was the natives, who came out to us in Bum-Boats to sell to us and otherwise rook us as much as they could. We coaled at Port Said and it was the fun of your life to watch the Niggers and Coolies. They came alongside in a sort of Pontoon, about 500 of them, and we started throwing bread etc., over to them and then a regular riot started.
We arrived at Alexandria about 4.30 a.m. on Friday and then had to wait until 6.30 p.m. before we got off, we being practically the last Section to disembark. Then we had the rottenest trip in a train I ever wish to have. About 8 hours in cattle trucks packed full, the blooming old puff puff ran in fits and starts and ever after this Iíll have some sympathy for cattle in trucks. We arrived at Zeitoun, which is the nearest Station to here about 3.30 in the morning and reached Camp at 4.15 and then we had the bad luck to be put straight on guard, so never got any sleep till the following night, so first impressions of Egypt were not too brilliant.
We went into Heliopolis on the Saturday night and I was agreeably surprised with it. It is only a few minutes from the Camp and we are allowed leave every night. The buildings are magnificient, in fact finer on the average than anything I have seen in N.S.W. It is only a young City, about 7 years old. There is the remains of an old City further out which I have not seen yet, in fact it is not yet properly excavated. A rather interesting thing is the fact that our bread is baked in the identical ovens which Napoleon used to bake for his troops over 100 years ago. There is one building, formerly an Hotel, but now a Hospital for the wounded which is supposed to be one of the finest in the world. The Streets
are very finely laid out and are either asphalted or paved, which in this sand is a very fine thing. There are also some very fine sights round about. The Hotels are run on a very fine system, practically all of them have gardens outside, in which they have tables and chairs, or if they have no garden they put them in the Street. These have a stage at one end, and while you are drinking what you like, you can listen to a very good Concert or else watch a good Picture Show. The Niggers here (mostly low class Egyptians) are a perfect nuisance. They do the very best they can to take you down and if you show the slightest sign of familiarity with them, you canít get rid of them. You only have to stop a minute in the Street and there is a kid at your feet, waiting to clean your boots. He takes a bit of getting rid of too.
The coinage here was rather strange at first, but am getting used to it now. The chief currency is half piastres and piastres. A piastre is worth about 2ľ, about 5 going to a 1/-. All the buying is done by bargaining and you can bet we get some fun out of it. They are very keen, but if you offer them about one-sixth of what they ask, you can get somewhere near it, though even then you are not sure if they have got the better of you or not. They are a very dirty mob too.
There is a very fine Railway from Heliopolis to Cairo, or rather it is more of an Electric Railway Tramway. It is about seven miles long and the fare is only Ĺ piastre. Three rails are laid down, one supplying the Electricity. The run only takes about 15 minutes, so you can see it moves.
Cairo. Donít think too much of this place, it is too dirty and filthy and is very badly laid out, of course some parts are worth seeing, but for the most part it does not compare favourably with Heliopolis. There is only one really high class Hotel (Shepherdís) in Cairo, and that is too bloomin expensive for a common private. The slums are simply squalid, and unless there is a party of you it is not safe to walk down them. Four of us went through the other day and I think it was only luck that we came through without striking trouble. Some of the streets are that narrow that one can only just see the sky overhead. The Niggers lay about all over the street and they are the filthiest beggars imaginable.
It is extremely difficult to get a decent feed in Cairo as the natives are not above using filthy means of serving and cleaning it. The only decent place I have found at all where we can get a decent feed at a fair price is the Soldiers Park, where we have three courses for 8 piastres.
One or two things around Cairo are worth seeing; notably the Sultanís Mosque and The Citadel (an old Fortress) but the main points of interest, such as the Zoo, the Museum and the Pyramids are some distance away from Cairo. We have been to the Pyramids, but have not had time to see the other places yet.
Pyramids:- Approached by tram from Cairo to about a mile of the first one. As soon as you get out of the tram you are assailed by a horde of Camel and donkey men and guides, waiting to take you over the sights. However, we thought it safer to walk. The Pyramids and Sphinx are of course very interesting, but they turned out to be no ways different from what I imagined them to be. We had a very good guide, only a young fellow, and he told us a fine tale, about how they were built, and who was buried under them and in the tombs etc. Of course we werenít in a position to doubt his word, so I suppose he manufactured a bit as he went on.
As to the Camp:- It is as hot as ---- and we only drill in the early morning and the cool of the evening. The tucker is rotten and from 11st 1, which I weighed when I first came here, I have gone down to 10.6. There was a mail in to-day 2nd August 1915 letters posted about two days after we left. Some of the boys got one or two and there is great excitement. It is a great event in Camp.
Iíll have to knock off now for lack of more news and hope you and Bill will keep a supply of letters coming this way.
Hope it is not as hot over your way as it is here.
Donít think there is any hope of action for some time yet.
Your affectionate brother,
Pte 1280 R. Richards.
26th July 1915.
My dear Dad,
Well we have arrived in Egypt worse luck and at present I donít think too much of it. We had a very good trip over and rather interesting sights at Port Said and Alexandria. On the arrival of the boat at both places the Natives came out in Bum-Boats and robbed us right and left, selling silks etc. It was rather good coming through the Canal, the whole way long was practically lined with troops, Indians and Tommies. At Alexandria the Harbour was practically full of troopships. We arrived in Alex. about 4 a.m. on Friday morning and got off the boat at about 8.30 that night, being practically the last to leave the ship. Then we had the rottenest train trip I ever wish to have. We travelled for about 7 hours in 3rd class (Natives) carriages which were pretty crowded and stuffy. We arrived at Zeithoun about 3 oíclock and then had the bad luck to be put on Guard straight away and therefore never got any sleep till the following night.
First impressions of the Camp were therefore rather rotten. We went into Heliopolis Saturday night, I was agreeably surprised with it. The town is only about half mile from the Camp and we are allowed into it every night. The town is only about 6 or 7 years old and is beautifully laid out. The buildings are very fine indeed, in fact much finer on the average than anything there is in Sydney. There is one place formerly a Hotel but now a Hospital which is supposed to be one of the finest in the world. It is a surprising thing that though all the buildings are so beautiful, the Natives are absolutely filthy. They (especially the kids) are a terrible nuisance. One canít walk down the street without kids hanging round crying out for "backsheesh" and if you only stop for a moment there is a kid at your feet trying to polish your boots. Everybody carries a cane to hunt them away from you.
The Hotels are run altogether different to those in Australia. Everyone of them (and they are young palaces in themselves) have gardens with small tables outside or instead of gardens, in some places the tables are in the Street. In these gardens there is a Stage at one end, on which a fine Concert is given every night or else a Picture Show. These Concerts are very good indeed. They have some really high class Artists. The Pictures are mostly topical.
Next morning (Sunday ) we had a church Parade at about 7 a.m. and at 10 a.m. were again allowed general leave of which we took the advantage and went into Cairo. I was very disappointed with Cairo. It has, with few exceptions, none of the fine buildings of Heliopolis and the Streets are very badly laid out, in some cases (in the poorer quarters) you can hardly see the sky above the houses are that close together. Of course Cairo is a very old City and I might mention here that our bread is baked in the identical ovens in which Napoleon baked bread for his troops in
26th July 1915 Page 2.
about 1813. The City is absolutely filthy and the squalor of the Natives is indescribable. In some cases it is unsafe for less than four or five troops together to walk about, as the Natives would stick a knife in you on the slightest provocation.
The Hotels are run on the same style as at Heliopolis, but as a rule they are not so clean, and with a few exceptions are for the most part small and badly run.
It is very hard to get a decent feed in Cairo. One has to be most particular of what you eat as the Natives are not too particular as to how they serve it up, or how they wash or clean anything. The best place we struck, was in the "Soldiers Park" which was inaugurated by some of the ladies of Cairo for the benefit of the troops. We had a square feed there for 8 piastres (about 1/6). All the buying in both Cities is done by bargaining. The Natives are great at taking you down, but if you give them about one-sixth of what they ask, you are generally right, though sometimes even then they get the better of one. The coinage was a little strange at first, but have about got it now. The most used coins are piastres (commonly known as disasters) of which about five go to the 1/-. The Egyptian Government give 97Ĺ piastres for a £1/-/-.
The tucker we are getting is very off, though we have one consolation the Egyptian Govít allow each man 8Ĺd per day for extras and we practically live on that.
We have a fine tent for the Section and it is about 25 x 14 and holds the lot of us comfortably. We only use it to keep our clothes in as everybody sleeps outside.
As I said before it is terribly hot here, and we do no work at all in the middle of the day. Our drill hours are Ė from 6 a.m. till 9, breakfast about 9. At 11 a.m. till about 12.30 we have lectures, which are held in large shelter sheds, which are fitted up with tables and are used for messing in. After Dinner at 1 p.m. we are free until 5 p.m. and drill till 7, then tea. We are allowed general leave every night from 7 till 9.30 and on Saturdayís from 12 till 9.30 and Sunday ís 10 till 9.30, so you see we are not badly off in that respect.
We have been issued with new equipment, 2 light tunic shirts and 2 pairs of short light pants which leave the knees bare and are a lot cooler than the ordinary cords.
There are a few things about Cairo which I forgot to mention. One is its fine drainage which would take a book to say all about it in Ė another is the Electric Railway which runs from Cairo to Heliopolis, about 6 miles, the charge is only Ĺ piastre, and it has 1st and 2nd class carriages on. It takes about 20 minutes for the trip. The old Citadel and the Sultanís Mosque and Temple are also well worth seeing.
26th July 1915 Page 3.
The vehicles are for the most part drawn by donkeys and it is funny to see one drawing a load about twenty times as big as himself. Sometimes when carrying maize etc., you can only see their ears sticking out. Horses are mostly used, but for the most part only for carriages. There are also a few motors and have noticed some Fordís carving through sand. Camels are also used a good deal.
Well I suppose I had better stop or else you might think I was going to write a book, but I thought you would like to hear something about where we are.
Hope you enjoyed your sea trip as well as I did and that every body is O.K. in the Office. Kindly remember me to every body.
Met Roy Clune to-day. He has been here for a week and is going to the Dardanelles to-morrow. He is in the reinforcements.
Have not seen anything of Major Martin yet. His Battalion is here. Have met a lot of fellows I know. I wish you would send me over the "Sun" or Times" every week as would like to see how things are in Australia. Will send back some Photos when I get them done. Can get them printed here.
Give my love to Mother and Ruby and remember me to all my friends round Homebush.
Your affectionate Son
Pte 1280 Roy Richards,
19th Batt, 5th Brig.
Harry wishes to be remembered to you all.
Have you heard anything from Roy Fleming, if you know his address send it over.
I might also mention that I weighed 11 stone 1 lb in Cairo Sunday , so you can see how I wasted on the trip.
Pts. 1280 R. Richards
M.G.S. 19th Batt.
5th Brig. A.I.E.F.
Heliopolis Ė Egypt.
12th August 1915.
My dear Mother,
Just a few more lines to say that I am still very O.K. and getting very fit. Getting a bit used to the sand and heat now, though it is terribly hot.
There is very little further I can tell you about here. Have not had a chance to get into Cairo and see any sights as leave was stopped. There is a Ramadan Festival (a religious ceremony) on now, and as they say the natives feelings are very easily aroused at this time, they stopped us from going in, as they did not want any friction caused.
We had a night attack and bivouac one night this week, which was pretty strenuous as far as we were concerned. We left camp at about 7.30 and Marched into the Desert until about 1 a.m. We then dug ourselves in, we of course having to dig trenches for the guns. We were supposed to be taking up a defensive position and our guns were on the left flank of the Companyís line of trenches. We then had to do guard in half hour stretches through the night, and during the remainder got what sleep we could. We got our packs on again at daybreak, and got back to camp at about 8.30 a.m., just about knocked up. We have also had a long route March .
There are rumours that we are leaving here in a few days now, and I am jolly pleased to say that I think it is pretty true. We of course have not the least idea as to where we are going, but hope it is the real thing, though, it sounds too good to be true, as we have only been over here such a short time, and there are troops over here who have been over 10 months and have not seen action yet. Anyhow if it is so I feel very confident that I am coming out all right.
I mentioned in my previous post cards that I was sending over a few souvenirs. I bought a couple pieces of silk for you and Ruby, which I think you will like, but I have not yet had a chance to get them away. If I donít get them away before we leave I will hang on to them and send them first chance I get.
Donít think I can scrape up any more news, but will write again first chance I get.
Love to all.
From your loving Son
3rd September 1915.
My dear Mother.
Just a few lines to say that we have been over here for about a fortnight and am thankful to say that I am still whole, in fact none of the Section have been wounded yet. We have all of course, had some pretty narrow escapes, but a miss here is as good as a mile. Where we are now, we are pretty safe, in fact practically the only danger is from Snipers, and you May be sure, we donít give them much of a show.
You of course understand that we are not allowed to say anything that might be interesting.
Arthur Adams is camped very close to us and also several other chaps I know well. Major Martin is also near here, but have not seen him yet.
The flies here are simply awful, and it is a work of art to get some food to your mouth without half a dozen of them on it. There are also some other of the insect tribes.
The food here is pretty good, in fact better than I expected; that is of course under the circumstances.
I am sorry to say that is about the extent of the news I am allowed to say anything about, except of course I am well. Address as usual to Egypt.
Harry wishes to be remembered to you all.
With love from
Your Loving Son
Up to the time I left Egypt I had received your first letter and two from Ruby.
9th September 1915.
My dear Dad,
I was rather in a hurry when I wrote to Mother last week and will try and give you a fuller account of how things have been, though of course it will be necessary for you to use your imagination with a lot of it, as the Censorship is very strict from here.
We left Helopolis Camp on Sunday August 15th and entrained for Alexandria, which we reached at about 4.30 a.m. on Monday morning. We then went on board the "Saturnia" a rotten tub, filthy and covered with coal dust. The Machine Gun Section mounted the Guns on the After Deck and during the whole of the trip was on Guard against Submarine attack. The blue of the Mediterranean was remarkable and Sunsets beautiful. We reached Lemnos Island on Thursday 19th. The Harbour presented a fine sight, being filled with Battleships etc., and hundreds of troopships. Had a swim off the ship here. On Friday we transhipped to the "Osmanich" which was a fine boat Ė great contrast to the "Saturnia". We left Lemnos that night and arrived off the Peninsular in the early hours of the morning. Saturday morning Ė We were transhipped into lighters and made our landing safely. Only danger was from flying bullets and luckily no one in our boat was hit. Then followed an awful walk to a place of comparative safety. It was not the distance that told so much, but we had to carry the Guns. It was rather a peculiar dawn that we had to snatch what sleep we could, with bullets flying round. I succeeded pretty well as I did not wake till 3 oíclock that afternoon, being dead beat. We moved out again that night to another
place of so called safety, where several fellows were hit by Snipers. Later in the day (Sunday ) we went through an experience that I donít think any of us will forget for a long time. We had to run for it across an open plain for about 400 yds, carrying the Guns and accessories, with the Turks pouring shrapnel into us all the time. None of the Section were hit, which was remarkable, for I think the enemy paid us special attention. The Coy suffered fairly heavily. We then went on to trenches in rear of firing line and passed a rotten night, being kept awake all the time having to pass along ammunition etc. Needless to say we were all worn out. From Monday to Thursday we camped in this trench, - on Guard all the time. Friday 27th. This night we again had a rotten experience, we did a five hours March carrying those blooming Guns over mountains etc., till we reached our present position, where we have been in the firing line up to the present. We are now settled down and are beginning to feel rather fit again.
We are in a very safe position and I am getting quite an adept at hitting periscopes, which the Turks use on their rifles. He is not a Sport as he very seldom gives us a chance to hit anything else.
9th September 1915. Page 2.
The tucker here is rather good, but the flies are absolutely awful.
So far this is the extent of my news, but I think you will see that things have not been too slow.
If Mother is sending anything over at all, please tell her to include papers and envelopes. Address as usual to Egypt.
Hope you are keeping a good supply of news coming this way and also reading matter.
Tell the whole bloominí staff to write.
Love to all at home.
Your loving Son
Pte 1280 Roy Richards.
Our Mountain Home.
14th September 1915.
Just trying to write a few lines, not that I have any more news to tell you Ė but just to try as far as possible to get a letter home as often as I can.
We are still in the same place and still O.K. though most of us have not been too good lately. Think it must be the change of climate and the hard tucker. For my part I have been pretty lucky.
It is getting very cold here now and think we are in for a very cool winter. Warm clothes are pretty scarce. One could also do with a couple of good fairly solid books. Something to argue about. One gets a trifle tired of playing cards, which is practically all we have to do to fill in spare time.
I received your first two letters in Heliopolis, but have not heard from home since, though there have been several mails in. Expect I will get a lot in a bunch.
I was very pleased to see by a stray paper the result of Australia Day. I only hope they never have to use any of the money on me.
Remember me to Mr. Rose. I will write to him when I can think of some more news.
I wonder if you could find out Frank Eatherís Battalion and Brigade. If he is still here I would like to look him up.
This letter seems to be a list of requisitions. I still have another one. Send over some writing paper and envelopes. I mentioned this in the last letter I wrote to Father, but just in case he forgets. I had to cadge these sheets. Chocolates and cigarettes ought to carry well through the post. Address as per usual to Egypt. Think that will be all I want for the present, though I daresay I will be pretty lucky if I get any of them.
Iím sorry my letter is not too interesting but will try and do better next time. Will write to Western Australia this week or next, also Charlie.
Love to all at home,
Your loving brother,
Pte. 1280 Roy Richards.
22nd September 1915
My dear Mother,
Your letter of the 8th August came to hand here to-day and I was very pleased to hear from you as it is only the second time I have heard from home since I left. Rubyís came at the same time. The news was therefore a little stale, but nevertheless was very much appreciated. I am pretty certain some of my letters from home have gone astray and no doubt I will get a lot of old ones in a bunch, as I feel sure you are writing every week. Have received no parcels or papers yet. Also have not heard from Rita except Aus Day Post Card.
Glad that Father has gone away for his trip, I hope it will do him good, though I suppose by the time you receive this he will be home again.
I am not at all surprised to hear that Os is coming over and I am very pleased indeed he is. He is only doing his duty and it is an experience I would not have missed for anything, and I feel sure it is doing me a lot of good in many ways. Things were all right with me in Egypt. My head grew a little too level for that.
Things here are practically as usual, though we have our little excitements and adventures. All the little details I will have to leave over till I get back.
Keep the news and parcels coming. Make a spec of chocolates and cigarettes.
Pte 1280 Roy Richards.
P.S. I know this is very short, but paper supply is shorter.
1st October 1915.
My dear Mother,
You will notice that this letter is numbered No. 14. I have omitted to number previous letters home, but this is about the number since we left. It is quite possible that it May be one or two over or under, but if you have received anything near the number, you will know you have pretty near the lot. In future I will number from this on. Before this reaches you, you will no doubt have heard the sad news about Roland Rogers and Lieut Ralph Mace. Roland was killed a few days after landing in a charge made by the 18th, and I think will be talked about for a long time. It is impossible to get any further particulars. Ralph Mace was killed on 29th September, was hit in the head by Shrapnel whilst in the trenches and died immediately. You May also remember Pt J. Robinson who was with me on the March down to the wharf. Poor chap was also killed some time ago.
I hope that these accidents will not lead you to think that I am in any great danger. These are of course only the fortunes of war and everything is on the knees of the Gods. You May be sure that I am looking after myself, and if I have any say in the matter I will certainly be home to have a decent feed as soon as it is finished.
I have now received all letters from home up to No. 6. I have received Nos 3, 4, 5 a few days ago Ė that is about a week after I had got No. 6. They were certainly a bit out of date, but was pleased to know that they had not gone astray altogether. Also received one from Pat (first one) dated July 20th.
Please to hear of Mr. Gellingís good luck. It will be a great trip and one I would give a little bit to do.
By the time this reaches you I suppose you will have made my Christmas Cake and sent it on. As I mentioned in a previous letter address everything direct to me (address Egypt) and not through the Comforts Fund. So far the first parcel has not come to hand, but I am living in hope.
Hope everything is O.K. at home and all are well. Harry wishes to be remembered to you all.
Love to all.
Your loving Son
Pte 1280 Roy Richards.
5th October 1915.
My dear Mother,
Your letter of the 21st August to hand to-day and was of course very pleased to hear from you.
Think to-day must have been my birthday as I have received no less than twelve letters, which is not too bad. We also got issued to-day with fresh meat and bread and have just finished a feed of steak and onions and there is joy in the dugout in consequence. To-day we got a small issue of Comforts about 1 stick of chocolate per man, either a shirt or a pair of socks and about half dozen biscuits, not much but a welcome change.
It was a very good idea of yours to enclose an envelope and paper. If you do this you May be sure of always getting a reply and there is an absolute dearth of paper etc here.
Things here are just the same old excitements and escapes. Just as I write there is a heavy artillery dual going on two Aeroplanes are hovering about dodging shrapnel, and altogether it is rather difficult to write.
I would like to know Bernard Roseís Regimental No etc., so I could look him up. Did not strike too many I knew in Egypt but of course I had the disadvantage of not knowing their Regimental Nos Brigades etc. Have not seen Frank Eather yet. Waiting for his No. etc.
Parcel has not come to hand yet, but have not given up hope yet. Harry Smith has received a parcel from Home, so mine should not be far off. Articles most needed are:- Chocolate, Tobacco and Cigarettes, Socks and light flannel shorts, also a few boxes of matches. There May be a few little things you could think of which May have slipped my memory. Of course I donít want to break you, but if you have any money left over after Australia Day etc., I could do with another wristlet watch and case (preferably luminous). There are only a couple left in the whole Section and it is pretty off when watching at night time not to know the time.
Well Iím pleased to say that I am still very much O.K. and getting fat. Hope to hear from Os by next mail. I hope Bill decides to come. You know they are all wanted here. Have not heard from Charlie yet. Think you had better shake him up for me. Surprised Colin did not get through and also that Alan did. Will be very pleased to see them over here. Hope Dad enjoyed his trip.
Will write again next mail.
Your loving Son,
Pte 1280 Roy Richards.
8th October 1915.
Iíve a pretty crook finger, having cut it on a jam tin, so if the writing is any harder to read than usual please excuse.
This is now our seventh week over here, so you can bet we have seen most of the fun thatís going. Am still O.K. and doing real well and hope everybody at home is the same.
While I think of it would you make enquiries some day at the Commonwealth Bank and see that my money is being paid in regularly. My Number is 112788.
Nothing much in the way of news here, that I can say anything about. We have our usual daily excitements and escapes.
I had a short relapse and wrote Mr. Cizzio a page on scenery, but you neednít be afraid I wonít do it again. The view in front was easy to describe, but sorry I canít say as much for the rear view, in fact must admit I am very seldom game enough to see it. About 30 yards away and in some places closer are our pals the Turks and we knock up some great excitements over bomb throwing competitions. This is rather a dangerous pastime, as they need careful handling. A few nights ago the Turks got rather cheeky and started throwing them over in great force, but a few well directed shots from our "Typewriter" soon silenced them. Mr. Turk is rather a humorist in his own way. The other night we threw them over a tin of bully beef and after a short interval they threw back some cigarettes. As usual we gave the parcel a wide berth for a while and then investigated. They were O.K. Then some English speaking individual, presumably a German Officer, shouted out "Is there any one from Newtown there" one of our chaps said "Yes, two of us". He replied "well split this up amongst you" needless to say when it exploded we were absent. This is the sort of thing that makes life here interesting. Sniping with the aid of a telescope is also good sport and we have accounted for a good number this way.
Here is a yarn that is vouched for. A captured Turk is said to have asked "Is ----- (a well used Australian swear word) one of your Gods" on being told Ďnoí he was much surprised as he said it was practically the only word an Australian uses when he bayonets a Turk or is otherwise annoyed by them.
By the way, this is rather amusing. When we first landed here we were told not to mix with the English Tommies, as they would teach us bad language!!
We are fairly well off as regards news from the Eastern and Western Fronts here. Telegrams and wirelesses fre-
-2- 8th October 1915.
quently only a day old are posted up, at the entrance to the trenches and the news of late has been most gratifying. Any Australian news we get is always over a month old, and beyond our own little sphere of ground we know very little as to what is going on on the Peninsular.
Mails here are fairly frequent now, but so far I have not received a paper or parcel.
Glad to hear Os has joined up, though canít quite understand his idea of joining the Light Horse. Of course he knows he will have to come over here as Infantry and believe me he will want all the hard training he can get for this sort of business. It takes a bit of getting used to.
Life here is not so bad considering and it certainly has the added zest of risk. A great trouble here is the live stock, which dispute with us most heartily as to who is going to have possession of our dugout, and otherwise we are pretty comfortable.
Hope everything and everybody at the Office is O.K. and that you are keeping a good supply of news coming this way.
Your affectionate Son,
Pte 1280 Roy Richards.
I am enclosing you a little piece of poetry composed by a Signaller in the 8th Batt. I thought it was rather good.
23rd October 1915.
My dear Mother.
Just another try to fill up a page on nothing. News has absolutely come to a dead end now. Still going strong etc., now end of ninth week here.
Winter is just about coming on now and we are not looking forward to it very keenly. It promises to be very cold but luckily we have two blankets each and a comfortable dug out, so we ought not to do too bad.
Expect Charlie over here any day now. Believe they are in Egypt now.
Met a couple of old Grammar Boys this morning, rather a pleasant surprise.
Have just about used up the contents of the last parcel and am now anxiously waiting for the next.
Expect by the time you get this you will all be getting ready for Christmas. Mine this year will be under very different conditions to the last one. Hope you sent me along that cake etc.
Hope every body at home and round about is O.K. Remember me to everyone I know and wish them all the Compliments of the Season for me.
Will try and think out some news by next mail. This is rather in a hurry.
Love to all
Your loving Son,
Pte 1280 Roy Richards.
Fatherís letter arrived last mail, will answer shortly.
30th October 1915.
Your welcome letter came to hand last week and have duly noted all remarks re technique etc. I am sorry to say however, that it was a mere flash in the pan. Lack of news over here and also, more important still, lack of writing material, wonít permit of any more outbreaks like that.
Glad you enjoyed your Island trip, though it makes oneís mouth water to think of all that superfluous fruit laying about. Havenít seen any since we left Egypt and even over there one was frightened to eat it.
A chap came here to see me the other day by the name of Arnold, who said that a friend of his by the name of Buchanan who worked for you or knew you or something, asked him to look me up. I didnít know him or Buchanan from a bar of soap, but as he had some cigarettes I entertained him to the best of my ability for a few minutes. I think somehow he was suffering under a bit of a delusion. Anyhow, I donít mind how many chaps come to see me as long as they bring their own smokes, and donít want to stop for dinner.
I have been feeling a bit off for the past couple of days, so took a stroll down to the A.M.C. The Doctor who fixed me up was Captain Frizell, a son of an old friend of yours.
I got a pleasant surprise to-day in the shape of a letter from Mrs. McKnight (England). Iíd very nearly forgotten she existed. It was very good of Mother to send her my address, as letters over here, especially the least expected ones are very welcome. She says the Australians have won a great name for themselves in England. They deserve it too. If you could only see the seemingly impossible things they accomplished at the start over here, you would say so too. We are now on the top of a hill, about 500 feet high with a grade of about 1 in 2, and to think of this being taken at the point of the bayonet seems nearly incredable, even to us over here. I might state that it is bad enough carrying water up to the top without rushing up in a charge with Machine Guns etc., playing on you on the way up.
Nothing more this week, which is the tenth since we arrived. Am still going strong. Expect Os will be on his way shortly now. Charlie Witney is I believe still in Egypt. Hope you are keeping a supply of news, reading matter etc., coming this way. Kindest regards to everybody in the office. Hope some of them are writing.
Expect the Wool season has started in full swing again. What are the prospects and what was our total on the last. By the way I never heard anything about the Stud Sheep Sales of
-2- 30th October 1915
July last. How did they get on. Very pleased I missed them.
Love to all at home,
Your affectionate Son,
Pte 2380 Roy Richards.
2nd November 1915.
My dear Mother,
A letter came to hand from Ruby this mail, but so far have received no other. However, there is more to be delivered yet, so May have some luck later.
Very pleased to hear that the Scarves arrived O.K. and note Rubyís flattering remarks on my taste etc. I was very doubtful if you would receive them, as I had a bit of difficulty in getting them away.
I had a visitor yesterday in the person of Tom Price of Homebush. He has been camped within 50 yards of us for the past eight weeks, and I have only just found him out. Naturally we found a fair amount to talk about. It was a great change to be able to talk over "home town" affairs with someone who knew practically everyone I did. After reckoning up we came to the conclusion that there were no more eligibles (that we knew of) who had not joined up, which is not too bad for our slow old place.
An enterprising individual with a brain called at our Dug Out the other night with a couple of cakes to sell which we of course bought. He had got the necessary commodities from goodness knows where and made them himself. We had to pay 2/6 for cakes the corresponding size of which you would buy for 3d or 6d at home. They were as heavy as lead and practically indigestible, but Ė oh! what a change. We also bought some penny sticks of chocolate for 6d each. Think I will chuck my rifle away and take on dealing. It must pay better.
No signs of any more parcels yet. Expect they will all come in a bunch.
Run out of news and paper for the present, so will knock off.
Hope everybody is well.
Love to all
From your loving Son,
7th November 1915
My dear Mother,
Your letter of the 7th September and Fatherís of the 18th both came to hand this week, also three papers, which of course I was very pleased to receive.
Iím sorry that that remarkable letter of mine from Egypt should have had to be given a bath. It strikes me if you wanted to keep it so much, the best and easiest thing to do would have been to take a copy.
With regard to Photos. I had bad luck with these. I had a lot taken and had them at the Developers, but we left Heliopolis in such a hurry that I did not have time to get them, so I suppose its good bye to the lot.
Have not seen anything of Charlie Witney yet. I had a letter from him this mail, but it was written in Sydney when he was on final leave. I understand he is now in Egypt, but expect he will be over here any day now.
You might send me Willie Stewartís Reg No. etc., I May be able to look him up. Understand Frank Eatherís Brigade is again over here. They are a good way away from here however, and it will mean a day off to find him. As soon as I can get the necessary leave, however, I will look him up.
Tell Father that the Magazineís he packed will be much appreciated by the Boys over here. I suppose it will only be luck as to whether I see any of them, but someone is sure to enjoy them.
Things are pretty quiet here now as to what they were but still they donít give us too much time for sleeping.
It suddenly struck me that to-day is your Birthday Iím sorry I did not send along greetings earlier, so as to catch the date, but better late than never. Iíll enclose best wishes for the day and also for a good and Happy Christmas in this.
Hope you have a good Xmas Dinner and a better one than mine. I often wonder what it feels like to have your legs under a table again.
No more news this time. Still going strong.
Love and best wishes for Xmas to all.
Your loving Son,
27th November 1915.
Nothing much to write about this week except the weather. Itís Cold. It has been snowing all night and things this morning are pretty miserable I can assure you. My hands are that cold I canít hold the pencil, and my feet feel as if they didnít belong to me. Have got "cold feet" in earnest, in fact we all have here. The trenches are good places to keep away from this weather, especially when a chap has to put in a night trying to keep warm. Anyhow we have one consolation Ė Old Abdul & Co. must be feeling it as much as we are. Anyhow we are as cheerful as can be under the circs. and my sleeping partner is at the present moment endeavouring to sing carols. He says he can nearly imagine he is home for Xmas. I say "endeavouring" advisedly, but it is very hard to try and write in the row.
The only thing that I am pleased about is that I am feeling very fit at present. I pity anybody that is crook in this weather.
It is a magnificient sight alright, but a chap does not feel much inclined to think about the beauties of the scenery specially when he starts to think and wonder when he is going to get something hot to drink.
There are a lot of rumours flying around that we are going to be relieved very shortly, and go away for a spell, but I am afraid it is only rumours. We could do with one however. Have had close on 4 months of it now without a rest and have been in the firing line practically the whole time, in fact the only time we come out at all is to do fatigues, and this weather I, for my part, would rather stop in the trenches, miserable as they are.
We are expecting a mail in shortly now and also some comforts Ė Food Stuff -, and I hope my luck is in.
By the way in a letter from Ruby she mentions that you had bought a new horse. Youíll have to have that changed into a Benzine One by the time I get back. It will be too slow for the time that I am going to have!!
There is nothing doing in the news line from here, but I have enough material on hand to last me for a long time when I get back.
Suppose by this you are all recovering from the effects of Xmas. I am afraid ours is going to be rather peculiar this year.
How is the Wool going? Iíd be interested to see result of some of the sales.
My partner is just beginning to sing again so Iíll have to give in.
Best wishes to everybody in the Office, and love to All at home.
Your affectionate Son,
Pte. 1280 Roy Richards.
22nd November 1915.
Please donít think me ungrateful for not having sent regular replies to your weekly letters. I have endeavoured to send a letter every week to either Mother or Father as I thought they had a prior claim and I am afraid that the want of news will not stand two letters home in one week. However I can assure you that your chats are most welcome and I look forward eagerly to them every mail. Even now I have started to write to you I am afraid I have got very little to say.
Have you taken a weekly ticket to Liverpool Camp? Judging from your letters you seem to be always up there. I wouldnít mind having some of the feeds I can imagine you taking up there. Just at present I am feeling 99% O.K. I have taken 1% off to allow for hunger. The tucker here is not too brilliant. The quantity is alright, but it is the sameness which is beginning to get on my nerves. I have just finished a feed (tea) of hard biscuits and jam. Am certainly full, as I can put a vast quantity away, but feel far from satisfied, and you can imagine how anxious I am to see my Xmas Parcel.
Beginning to get very cold and Wintrified here now. Night before last had a violent storm, wind and rain. Luckily we had made our dug-out fairly secure and were pretty dry, but we had to accommodate a few homeless and washed-out ones, which made our place rather overcrowded, so we decided to sit up and smoke and watch for a hopeless dawn Ė (The humours of soldiering are all here).
Am still going strong, though have been very luck lately. My latest:-
The other night I got into a bit of an argument with a bomb and it won Ė was outed for a few minutes Ė but beyond a few bruises and a bad head for a few days, nothing happened. This morning I got a bit excited and put my silly head up above the parapet to watch a bit of excitement in the shape of a bomb throwing contest and had my hat knocked off for my cheek. Suppose spectators werenít allowed.
These little things are every day occurrences here and nothing to worry about.
I suppose by this Os. must have left or at any rate near leaving. Charlie Witney has not turned up yet though expecting him every day. Am going to try and get a day off
shortly and try and find Frank Eather.
Best wishes to Mr. Rose. Have not seen Bernard yet. I do not know what he is in so have no idea where to look. Had a letter from Mr. Pauch last mail. He tells me Gladstone has been home and left again. I hear from Rita fairly regularly.
Please get into the habit of enclosing paper and envelope. I am just about out of writing material now, so if some weeks you donít hear from me, you will understand how it is.
Hope everybody is O.K.
With love to all,
This is written under difficulties, and May be hard to read.
1st December 1915.
My dear Mother
Well thank goodness the snow has cleared away, and we have had some sunshine again today. It is still bitterly cold however, and I have not been able to get any life into my feet yet. I am afraid cold feet are going to be only too common this Winter. It is fairly easy to get the body warm, but the feet get you beat.
I am very pleased to say that I received a parcel of clothing yesterday from the Comforts Fund. I am rather amused in a way at getting the towel and soap Ė If you could only send over a bucket of water I May be able to make use of it. Imagine your little boy having to walk about gathering snow to get a drink of water! Ė One does a lot of funny things over here. Iíll appreciate a few of the little things when I get back, I can assure you. However the life is suiting me, and as long as I can keep as well as I am at present and they can give me enough to eat, Iíll not complain. It has made a bit of a difference to me being over here.
By the way in the parcel you enclosed a towel for Harry. He also received a parcel in which there was a towel and soap, so he told me to hand it to someone who was short, so I handed it to George (my sleeping partner). I am sure you wonít mind. Harry says to thank you for thinking of him. Will you also thank Miss Wise very much for her kindness, and tell her I hope to have an opportunity of using it shortly.
Old Abdul has had another go at me but I am pleased to say he does not know my Regimental No. yet. Last night on watch (in fact I was just turning in for my 2 hrs. spell) I stopped a piece of shattered bullet behind the left shoulder. The Dr. took a couple of small pieces out and patched me up as good as new again. It is a trifle inconvenient just at present, but will be alright in a day or two. Only just broke the skin. It made a hole about 3 inches long in my sheepskin and I have it to thank for saving me from something worse. Thatís three goes they have had at me now so I consider myself safe. I am going to keep the piece of bullet to hang round my watch chain.
They are going to look after us pretty well here this Winter I think. We have been issued with new Cardegans, and for the men on watch water-proof capes & I believe top boots are to follow. Itís a lot more than I expected. I could write a lot more as I feel in a good humour, but scarcity of paper wonít permit. Hope all are well at home.
Love to all,
Could do with another pipe.
28th December 1915.
My dear Mother,
As you will see by the address we are now off the Peninsular (you have probably read by this of the very successful evacuation), and am pleased to say that we were able to spend our Xmas in peace. The 19th Billies have not yet come to hand, but we got an issue of a Billy per man on Boxing Day, contents of which were very useful. I believe our own billies will be issued at our next destination, though we donít know for certain where that will be, or when we are going to leave here. This is a pretty desolate sort of place, with a few native villages, and is used as an Army Base for all Mediterranean Operations.
My arm is quite O.K. again now, though I was forced to travel very light from the Peninsular.
Have not received a mail for a long time now, and donít expect we will get one here, unless we are to stay here longer than we think. However there ought to be a big one when it does come to hand. Received a parcel from you a couple of days ago, and it was very acceptable.
It seems very funny having to sleep in tents again and it is hard to get accustomed to the quietness. We miss the noise of the trenches.
Have had a little over a week away from things now but most of us are beginning to wish for "something doing" again.
Hope all are well at home. Will write a longer letter as soon as the Censorship is a little less strict.
1st January 1915.
I wrote to Mother about a week ago, but am not too sure whether the letter went or not. Well thank goodness, and also thanks to some marvellous organisation we were able to spend both Christmas and New Year on this Island (which since the commencement of operations on the Peninsular has been used as a Military Base). Of course cannot give you any particulars of the evacuation, but by the time this reaches you, the papers will probably have given you full particulars. We arrived here a few days before Christmas and hardly had time to get settled before it was on us. It was a strange comparison to others I have spent. For Dinner we had a stew (fair) and also a tin of fruit bought at one of the villages. Also had a swim to celebrate the occasion, and if it is any colder next time, I am going to make it an annual event. Church Service on this and also Boxing Day at which I noticed the Major (only). He had been invalided to Egypt, but rejoined his Battalion shortly before we left, and is now looking well.
Our concession for New Yearís Eve was "Lights Out" 12.15 (we are now living in tents again) and the boys showed their usual aptitude for being cheerful under any circumstances, by singing and making other awful noises. The Battleships, Troopships etc., in the Harbour also helped in the row. Shortly after three the rain came down in torrents and practically everybody was flooded out and wet through, so our introduction to a new year was not very pleasant, and is one I will have much pleasure in forgetting all about.
Very little to be seen here, but what there is is interesting. The Villages are very dirty and every house is a shop. Buying has to be done through iron bars and they are very keen business men. All Villages are "dry"
The Greeks have very ancient customs, some of which I think must date back to the Prehistoric ages. Such a one is Stone Rollers driven by wind mills for crushing wheat. One of the Millers said he could do from three to five bags a day provided he had a good wind. ĎSome goingí. Of course the husks all go in with the flour. They apparently havenít thought about it or else havenít the means of separating it. Their plough is about the crudest thing Iíve seen Ė one furrow Ė all wood and is pulled by two undersized oxen. They also have sheep here or rather I think it is a cross between a sheep and a goat. The women spin the wool by hand in the Street, and without the aid of any wheel. The children as soon as they can walk are Traders. Thought the Egyptians were pretty slick, but these have got it all over them. The happiest time one of these Greeks have is when some one dies. They wrap the corpse in a blanket and carry it to the place where the grave is to be, singing a terrible dirge all the time. They then lay it down and set to work to dig the grave, those not engaged that way will sit down, take off
-2- 1st January 1916.
their shirts and look for live stock, which makes the onlooker very itchy. The grave completed they lay a couple of blankets at the bottom of the grave and lay the body in a comfortable position. The mouth of the grave is then covered with wide boards, so as not to allow the earth to fall in. A mound is then built on top of the boards and a stick with pars written in pencil acts as a headstone. Plenty of enthusiasm is put into the singing during the proceedings.
About four or five miles from our Camp is a village where there are hot sulphur baths. Was going over to-day but is too wet, though some of the boys have taken the risk.
Your letter of the 26th October arrived a few days ago, also Motherís and Rubyís of a week later. Glad to hear everybody is O.K. and that Charlie had got through all right. Hope none of you are starting to worry at all over me. I certainly had more than my share of narrow shaves on the Peninsular, but we are not there now and have no idea as yet where we are going to next or how long we will be here. My arm is quite O.K. again, but at the time of leaving it was not strong enough to carry any weight, consequently I had to drop my pack and arrived here with only practically what I stand up in. Fortunately, thanks to the Comforts, I am all right as regards Socks and shirts etc.
I was rather interested in one little item you sent along. Hope She is young and none of the others have cleared out with her before I get a chance.
Pleased to see Wool is selling well and hope it will continue. Suppose sales will be restricted the same as laAt Season. Have not heard from Fleming yet. Some of his sheep must have got out while he was talking to the Guard.
Best wishes to everybody in the Office including the extra.
Love to all at home from
Your affectionate Son,
Pte 1280 Roy Richards.
Would you please send me along a new pipe.
Suez Canal (or thereabouts)
28th January 1916.
I had a long letter written to you, full of particulars of our doings lately, but it has just been handed back to me and I was told to cut out all the "news", so am afraid this will turn out rather uninteresting. Well as you can see by the top, which is the nearest address I can give you, we have again shifted, and sorry to say canít say the change is for the better.
Before we left our previous Camp we had a great opportunity one day, whilst on a visit to the Rifle Range, of seeing the wonderful Irrigation System of the Nile, or rather in this case some of its tributaries. In the middle of the Desert we saw growing Rice, Cotton, Sorghum, Lucerne, and a lot of other cereals we couldnít place. Another thing we struck here was the inevitable smell of the East, which we had missed for so long. Itís marvellous how the natives follow the Australians wherever they go, and shops of all sorts spring up in no time; though I donít suppose they will ever get to us here.
We left the Camp on Sunday night, or rather early Monday morning, had another ride for a couple of hours in the inevitable Cattle trucks (only for a change this time they were open), and then set out on a March over about 8 miles of desert, for the greater part of which the sand was over our ankles. It was a bit of a staggerer, as we had a big weight on our backs and practically nothing inside, so most of us were pretty well beat when we got here.
You must remember however that we have had no training for over 6 months and trench warfare and active service tucker are not conducive to March ing in heavy sand.
The weather conditions here are remarkable Ė Fine and clear one minute, and a torrential downpour the next. This happens about 6 or 8 times a day and this is the heaviest rainfall in these parts for over 50 years.
Ismailia, a city we passed through on our March , is, as far as we could see in the early morning, a beautifully laid out city, with fine buildings, and wide streets, and I suppose for about 3 miles we walked through fine avenues, with trees (mostly dates) on either side and tarred roads. This avenue was double, one side I presume for up traffic, and the other down. The old Egyptians could teach our people something in the
way of City building alright. Met Billy Mahoney on our way here he is a Corporal in Signallers 30th Battalion, so have now accounts of all the Office Boys who are on this side, excepting Roy Fleming, whom I havenít heard from yet. Was pleased to get the Wool Catalogues Ė donít suppose my idea of values would be much good now on those prices, though I donít think they can be giving Mr. Hanson much cause for worry. Stock also seems to be bringing high prices.
Had a talk with the Major at our last camp, first since we left. He is too far up for Privates to be visiting too often. One has to be careful. Have received, I think, all the Home letters lately and also the Sunday Times, so things that way are right again.
Donít think there will be much chance of seeing Chas. or Os. from here, but hope to run across them before long. Billy I suppose is on his way now. Iím glad Iíve had one lot of excitement in front of them all, as I will be able to talk to them pretty big now.
Hope you are O.K. again and also Mr. Doyle. Have any more of "Her" invaded the sacred precincts yet?
Canít think of any more news as it doesnít grow in desert, so I think I had better knock off and catch live stock.
Am still in the best of health, thank goodness.
Best wishes to all in the Office, and love to All at Home.
Your affectionate Son,
By the way I could do with a new razor and gear. My piece of Army Hoopiron is getting very pliable.
1st February 1916.
My dear Mother,
I have written to Father this mail also, but as some of the Section have a chance of going into civilization, I am just dropping you a few lines, in case the other one does not arrive, as I have my doubts about any mail leaving here for some time. Well, they have got us away from civilization this time and no mistake, but it is not worrying me much. The sand of the Desert gets a bit monotonous, one can climb on the highest mound, in fact we have walked miles in order to do so, and just to satisfy our curiosity, but the only thing to be seen for as far as the eye can see and I suppose farther is undulating desert. However the climate is beautiful as yet, the rain having cleared away, and we are most of us feeling pretty fit, though Active Service tucker is not too brilliant.
I donít know why they have put us out here, as for my part I cannot see any action in sight, though they must have a reason.
We had a most exciting football match here on Sunday last. The Gun Section played the Signallers of the Battalion. We won (of course) 9-0 but it was pretty stiff playing with sand over your ankles. However, it is good sport and we intend keeping it up every chance we get, as it is about the best training we can get.
All provisions etc., are brought by Camels, and we are getting quite used to seeing long trains of them coming in. We are anxiously waiting the arrival of a train with mail on board but so far nothing doing.
This is about the extent of my literary efforts this time, as news is very scarce here. Have seen nothing of Chas or Os yet, but May bump across them before long.
I hope you are all well and also everybody round about. Hope you got the cable I sent to the Office.
Harry wishes to be remembered to you all.
Your affectionate Son
18th February 1916.
My dear Mother,
Your two letters of the 1st and 9th January respectively both arrived together yesterday and I can tell you the Mail was much appreciated as this is getting very monotonous. Also heard from Father same mail. A Xmas Bulletin also came to hand but no other papers, perhaps they will turn up later. Have not received any parcels since the big issue we got when we arrived at Tel-el-Kebir but I suppose the same thing will happen again, we will get them all at once. Hope the cake will not lose weight in the meantime.
I am afraid this letter will be very short and uninteresting as there is absolutely no news from this part of the world. Afraid I canít give you too many particulars re Dardanelles just yet, but hope to later on. Besides I have to wait till I am in a good writing humor and I donít seem to be able to get into one out here. Itís a jolly hard thing to write about anyway. So many incidents were crammed into a short space of time. I will try and write some of them up one of these days and send them along. They May be interesting to you. They mostly seem a dream to me now.
Have had several letters from the boys at Maíade Camp but so far have had no chance of seeing them, though have visions of doing so before very long. From all accounts they like the life and seem to be enjoying themselves.
Had a letter from Roy Clune, one of the Office Staff who was one of the Returned Soldiers some time ago. He never had my luck, only being on the Peninsular a few days.
Was very sorry to hear of Harold Roseís death. It was news to me. I only saw him once on the Peninsular. He was looking pretty well then. Broughlea must be rather a quiet place just at present. Donít think it will be too long now before we all fill it up again.
Hope Billyís cigarettes arrive safely they will come in very handy. They are hard to get here. The Artillery should suit him.
Well I now this is a very dry letter but it canít be helped. Hope Ruby is O.K. again. I am still in the pink.
Love to all
Your loving Son
Received the P.C. from Ruby of the two boys. We certainly are a good looking lot in uniform.
20th February 1916.
Yours of the 14th January came to hand in the mail this week, together with several Bulletins and other papers, which were very acceptable.
We are still out on the Desert and despite all rumours I think we are here for some time. At any rate address all letters as usual, in fact wherever we are the same address will always find us.
Have not had a chance to get into Maadi to see Chas or Os yet. Have applied for leave but so far no result. Could do with the trip, if only to meet a good feed again. Have not been near civilization since we were in Heliopolis in August last.
From all accounts the mechanic Billy brought along with him would be much better at breaking in brumbies than Motor Cars.
News here is at absolute bedrock, so will try and fill in with a few incidents re the Peninsular. Itís a long while ago now but might interest you.
By the way Bean was a bit out re positions of Battalions in the evacuation. The 19th Batt was on Popes, the most advanced of the Anzac positions and part of the Gun Section on Pluggeyís Plateau and the last to leave. The remainder of us were the last (or practically so) to leave Popes, so you May guess we had some anxious moments. Here is a little incident that occurred about the middle of November, which possibly you have not heard about:-
One day we received orders that not another shot was to be fired until further instructed. This was ostentatiously to get the Turks to attack, but as it turned out later was a rehearsal for the evacuation,. Old Abdul however soon dropped to it and took advantage accordingly. Big guns were brought up into position closer to our trenches and we received the full benefit of them a few days later. They also took the opportunity to rebuild their parapets and we could see parties of them within 30 or 40 yards of us working for dear life. It was very annoying to us, especially of a night time when parties of them would sit on their parapets a few yards in front of us and calmly discuss the position. Of course they sent out reconnoitering parties, but ours were also out, so they never got to our parapets except in one instance. At Quinnís on about the second night two or three of them got as far as our front line trenches. Our Sentries spotted them and immediately everybody disappeared into supports. Being a bit cocky a couple of them climbed on to our parapet to investigate, one of them happened to sit on a loose sandbag and almost before he reached the ground he was full of steel. The other one made a hurried exit, and we not being allowed to fire he got away whole. Quinnís was a very hot place
-2- 20th February 1916.
at any time (ask anybody whoís been there) and at this time they made it that hot with bombs that we had to get special permission to retaliate. This silence lasted for three days and we were jolly glad when it ended. It meant "stand to" practically the whole time and was a big strain. Of course to make matters worse it must take it into its head at this time to snow, so you can imagine it was no joke. Itís not fun having to stand for 24 hours at a stretch practically knee deep in snow and expecting an attack at any moment. However, nothing came of it excepting a terrific bombardment for several days afterwards, during which there was hardly a place on Anzac which was what is known "as safe". Our gun positions were also very unhealthy at this time and again and again we had to dismount under shell fire to save them from being blown to atoms, so we had some narrow escapes from sharing the fate of the guns.
I was extremely lucky during the whole 18 weeks I was on the Peninsular, the only momento I brought away with me is a small scratch behind the left shoulder, which I will have for a while.
We were on Popes for about six weeks and saw more excitement there, barring the first two weekís when we were mixed up in that Anafarta affair, than we did in the whole of rest of the time put together. Hardly a day passed in which we did not get the benefit of a heavy bombardment, and rifle and machine gun fire at us was very consistent. Here also we had better targets than we did from Courtneyís and you can bet we took advantage of them.
By the way Iíve heard since Iíve been here that somebody took a report back that I was seen in Malta Hospital with all sorts of things happened to me. It is of course untrue. Have never been near the place, in fact have never been away from the Section since we went over.
I see the Govít is going to call for more War Loans. I think it would not be a bad investment if you would use some of my superfluous in getting me a few. They look good to me, but of course you are in a better position to judge than I am, so do what you think best. Let me know your idea of it...
I got a few priced Catalogues this mail, and reckon by them, constituents are being easily pleased this year. RE/WV ought to go well. I was rather surprised to hear Tom Croft had enlisted, but am worrying if he got through. It will be hard luck on him if they pass him out.
Best wishes to everybody in the Office. Reckon its time I heard from Mr. Cizzio again.
Hope you are now quite O.K. again, also Mr. Doyle.
Love to all at home,
Your loving Son
1st March 1916.
Donít get a shock because Iím writing my home letter to you this mail, but I think you deserve it. Itís jolly good of you to write every week, and I can tell you I look forward to them.
Glad you got the cable all right. I heard of all sorts of rumours flying round about different things that were supposed to have happened to me, in fact a chap in the next tent has just got a letter to say how sorry he (the person writing) was to hear that I had left an arm on the Peninsular. I was beginning to worry if any of these rumours had reached home, so was glad to hear the cable arrived to say I was all here.
Just had a bit of bad luck. After going to all sorts of trouble etc., to get leave, I managed to get out to Maadi to see Chas and Os, but found they left the night before, so I travelled over 200 miles for nothing. It was a pretty strenuous leave I can promise you. After walking about eight miles over Desert I put in a very cold night by the wayside. Early next morning I got going again and caught a train and reached Cairo about 9.30 a.m. After breakfast I went out to Maadi, only to find Ďthe birds had flowní so had to come back to Cairo and put in as good a time as I could. Luckily I struck a pal or else I would have been pretty miserable. However, was determined to have a good time, so put up at the best Hotel and imagined myself a gentleman again. Gee! a feather bed was funny. Thought it was never going to stop sinking, and could hardly balance myself. Also nearly went to sleep in a hot bath. The only fly in the ointment was being waken up early in the morning by an officious picket, who wished to see my Pass. After satisfying him, couldnít go to sleep again, so pressed the bell and ordered coffee and toast and later on my breakfast to be brought up to me. Was beginning to think I would make a good gentleman if I could only get enough practice. After breakfast got up, wandered about a bit, caught the train and reached camp that night and also that night came back to earth again in two ways.
Last Thursday was my birthday and strange to say that day we received some Comfort parcels, including two from home, and the last I think was dated November 17th, so you can see they are a bit behind time. The cake of course has not arrived but will be none the less welcome when it does. I also got a parcel from Harryís people at Wahroonga. A small mail also came in while I was away, in which was yours of the 23rd January. Notice what you say re paper in envelopes. We have plenty of paper here at present, so am not using yours. It has been coming along all right, but perhaps Iíve omitted to mention it. Sorry that letter went under in which I mentioned getting Joeís sheepskin. It came along all right, while I was on the Peninsular
-2- 1st March 1916
and was very grateful for it later on. It saved me from a nasty wound. I also wrote to Joe at the same time thanking him, and that must have shared the same fate. Yes, Ernie Lyons is in the Section. A fine chap. So Les Atkins has joined up. That must be the finish of the old hands. Was very pleased you put in for Os and I for a Memorial to Harold. It was what I would have wished. I wrote to the Rector last mail. I often hear from him. Apparently he is not forgetting his old boys.
Suppose you will have finished your spell by the time this gets home. I hope it does you good and you have a good time. Youíve evidently had a pretty rough time.
The report from the Comforts Committee was interesting. They are certainly doing great work.
Had a letter this mail from Roy Fleming, from "Somewhere in France" first I heard from him since leaving. He is getting a Commission, so will have to be careful how I address him in future. Rumours are getting very persistent about our going over his way, and I am beginning to believe there is something in them. Hope so anyway. May as well see a bit more of the world while I am at it, especially at the expense of the Government.
Will probably have a change in my address shortly, but will let you know definitely next week. Will probably be H.Q. of Brigade.
I wonder if you ever sent me along a watch from home. Itís very awkward being without one. If you havenít please do, preferably luminuous.
Well I guess Iíve done pretty well this mail and am quite exhausted with the effort, so will close.
Hope Mother and Dad are quite O.K. Love to all and best wishes to friends round about. Please thank Miss Wise very much for the soap. As she says it was a very Wise choice.
21st March 1916.
My dear Mother,
As you can see by the above address we are now At Sea again, bound for further action, though where we are not allowed to say.
Thank goodness we have at last left Egypt and I can tell you I am very pleased to get away from the land of Desert and Dirty Niggers.
We are on a decent ship this time, and the tucker is pretty good, though she is rather overcrowded. The weather has been pretty rough and wintry and just at present we are preparing for rougher which is coming up fast. Thank goodness I am a good sailor, though an innoculation a few days ago shook us all up a bit. What do you think of this for a luxury for a Private Ė We have a swimming-bath on board, though the water is too cold to induce us to patronise it too often.
Donít forget my address for the future is Ė
Aust. Machine Gun Corps,
5th Brigade Ė A.I.F.
You will know the address I suppose almost as soon as we do.
As per usual when At Sea I am feeling tip top. The Major is on board, but have had no chance to have a talk with him.
News on board is necessarily scarce so please excuse brevity. Its some time now since we had a mail, but there ought to be one waiting when we get there.
By the way the day before we left Egypt I received a parcel of tobacco from Billy which was very acceptable. I will drop him a line when we settle down a bit.
Hope you are all keeping well at home, and gathering up a lot of news to write to me.
Love to All,
Your loving Son,
Somewhere in France.
27th March 1916.
My dear Mother,
Arrived here yesterday and so far rather like the idea of the place. We reached Marseilles about 4 days ago and have been travelling ever since. We did not see very much of the Port. The Harbour is mostly artificial, and is apparently a very big shipping centre. Our first glimpse of land reminded us slightly of Gallipoli. The mountains seemed to be very barren and rise straight from the sea, but the Port itself is rather pretty. A railway line runs right alongside the foreshores and the mountains further back (which are composed of some white substance, probably lime) which we saw with the sun just rising over them, made a very fine scene.
We entrained about 4 oíclock and then put in 70 hours travelling through the most glorious scenery. We were very much surprised at the class of carriages we had to travel in. Second class mail train carriages and very comfortable, and certainly were an agreeable contrast to the animal trucks of the E.S.R. While waiting here for the train to start we tried our poor French on some of the inhabitants to, I am afraid, rather poor effect. We also tried their oranges and made fine progress in this line. They were XXX.
We passed through most glorious scenery until dark that night, including 5 tunnels, the longest one being 3 miles long. We had a fairly comfortable night, though we were wakened up at 4 oíclock for a drink of tea. It was very acceptable, but rather fancy most of us would have preferred to sleep. The scenery is still beautiful Ė passed through miles of vineyards and olive groves to-day. We received a fine reception from the inhabitants of the different villages we passed through, though we canít help noticing the absence of men of military age and that Black is the most prevailing color worn by the womenfolk. Same class of scenery next day. A feature of the whole trip has been the beauties of the Seine and Rhone which followed us all the journey. We reached ----- at about 5 p.m. where the ladies of the Crois Rouge Francais were waiting for us with tea and bread, and generally treated us splendidly. So far we have a very fine opinion of the French hospitality. We reached our destination at about noon next day and are now very comfortably billetted in a farm house.
So far I rather like this country. The climate is most bracing, though it is rather damp and cool. Just at present it looks as if it would snow if it had any encouragement.
We are all very much taken with the jeune filles. They certainly are a pretty lot, and have a wonderful complexion. Think Iíll come back here to live when the war is over. You might let all my girls know, will you? My French is coming on fine and most of us can manage to make ourselves understood pretty well, though the coinage is pretty strange as yet.
Will write again first chance, as we are not allowed to say too much as yet. Have not had a mail for some time now.
Love to all and hope all are O.K.
From your loving Son,
16th April 1916
Still going strong over here. Must say its a jolly sight better place to be fighting in than Gallipoli. We are at present on our spell out and having a good spell at that. This afternoon we are going to have a hot bath. They are a fine institution these hot baths. A fellow comes out of the trenches, has a bath and is presented with a clean change of underclothing whilst his other clothes are put through the fumigator, so we have practically got rid of the live stock at last, and you can bet what a relief that is.
Received your Newspaper Cutting re the Riot of the troops in Sydney, but no mail so far from home. Have said enough re our opinion of those sort of chaps. Wish we had them here for a few minutes. We are expecting a mail in every day now, so hope to do better in this.
We have of course shifted from the billet we were in last, in fact several times, and we are if anything a little more comfortable. Had a long March to get here, nearly 40 miles. The hard roads played up with our feet somewhat, but we had a very good trip extending over two days.
At the last billet we were in I fell violently in love (for two days only) with Gabrielle, the daughter of the house, but someone who spoke better French than I did, came along and shook her. Wish I had paid more attention to French when I was at school.
For the past week it has been raining on and off every day, and by way of a variety we have a slight fall of snow about three times a week, so things lately have been pretty cold and miserable, but it has fined up again now and we are having beautiful weather again.
When I start talking about the weather, reckon its time I knocked off. You can guess news is pretty scarce. Nothing I can write about from here.
Am feeling tip top and fast getting fat on eggs, milk and butter. These things are a trifle dear, but worth it.
Best wishes to everybody in the Office. Hope all are O.K. and have plenty of work to do.
Your loving Son,
11th April 1916.
My dear Mother,
We are now on the way to the trenches again, having just finished a March of nearly 40 miles. It took us two days to do it, but we rather enjoyed it as we had a good reception at the numerous Villages we passed through. The only trouble was the hard roads which played up with our feet, as we had done no March ing for some time and what we had done was on the Desert.
Have not got the same mixed feelings about going into Action here as I had when we landed on Gallipoli. From all accounts the life is very much easier than over there, and one thing at any rate we will get here which was unknown on the Peninsular, that is a spell out of the trenches after a certain time in. From all accounts too our little section of the Army has a very easy time.
Hope I get a chance to get to England. Suppose we will get leave after a time. Harry and I intend going together if we can. He has a lot of relations over there and we are looking forward to a good time.
Received a Newspaper Cutting from Father in the mail we had at the last billet, but no letters from home. The boys over here are absolutely disgusted with the way the fellows are behaving in Sydney. I pity them when they get over here if they ever intend coming.
Had two letters from Ruby in Brisbane in this mail. Hope the trip did her good. Also a note from Os in Egypt.
Hope all are O.K. at home and round about.
Your loving Son,
5th Aust Machine Gun Coy.,
THE DUG OUT,
21st April 1916.
My dear Mother
We are now up in the trenches again and as you can see by the above I am writing this in our home. We have a very comfortable little home this time. There is plenty of room for the two of us, and we are very cosy. We have a fine stove rigged up with everything complete, not forgetting the flue. The walls are fitted up with shelves, cupboards etc., and our sleeping quarters are on a bench raised from the ground and which just holds the two of us nicely, in fact the only things missing to give it the home touch are some pictures on the wall, a piano and a billiard table and a few more odds and ends like that. Plenty of firewood is obtainable round about and fuel is supplied so we have the fire going all night and day. My Companion in luxury this time is Don Gibson. Donít think you have ever met him, but the Karenza people did. He is one of the group taken on the "Ceramic". An old friend of Harryís and one of the best. He is also a fine cook, which in these circumstances, is the best recommendation I can think of. Here is our breakfast for this morning (served in bed) Porridge with fresh milk and sugar, bacon, steak and chip potatoes, with toast and cocoa as an afterthought. Not bad for Good Friday, and the trenches and a bit of a contrast to Gallipoli. This has been a picnic so far compared with what we went through over there.
It has been very wet and cold here lately, in fact it has been raining on and off practically ever since we got here. It also snows a little too frequently, so things in the trenches have been pretty miserable, but we are well provided for in the way of long rubber boots etc., and it does not worry us as much as it would do otherwise.
The ravages of war are very apparent round about here. We have seen numerous Villages practically razed to the ground during the early part of the fighting, but the most marvellous thing of all, according to me, is the quiet unconcerned sort of way the inhabitants of these Villages carry on their life, with probably fighting going on not half a mile away. Everything is taken as a matter of course, and they all have the one confident feeling Ė A successful issue in a very short time Ė Poor devils have been carrying that feeling for a long time now.
We have just finished having a good spell. Nothing to do and all day to do it in, with a hot bath thrown in now and again, so I am feeling tip top and will soon have to get a uniform that is larger round the waist band.
Nothing as usual in the way of news from here, of course there is a lot I could say, but the powers that be object. However, Iíll be able to talk for months when I get back. Suppose Billy has left by now. Have no idea where Chas or Os are. Last I heard was they were still in Egypt.
-2- 21st April 1916
Best wishes to every body round about and love to all at home from
Your loving Son
5th Aust Machine Gun Company,
28th April 1916.
Am not going to answer your long letter of February last by this mail, this is only asking for a bit of information.
From here we stand a pretty good chance of getting a weekís leave to England, in fact I believe mine comes pretty shortly, as I happen to be an original, and also had the luck to go through the last campaign without getting on injured or sick list. One thing is blocking me in a way though. I happen (as far as I know) to have no relations over there and was wondering if you could remedy that for me. If you have no relations over there, youíd better invent some, as Iím anxious to get this trip. It will break the monotony somewhat. Another thing if I do get there, could you fix up anything about me getting some cash. Of course I have my pay book and Commonwealth Bank Receipt, but I understand there is some delay in getting fixed up in this quarter, and as I said before we are only allowed seven days.
Am now back in billets again after a spell in the trenches. Had a fairly easy time though for the first part the weather was very rough. It has fined up now though and is beautiful.
Mail arrangements over here at present very disarranged, and we are still getting dribs and drabs of our first mail.
As I said before will write more fully when I can think of anything interesting.
Am just going to have a hot bath.
Love to all,
Your loving Son,
5th Aust Machine Gun Coy.,
7th May 1916.
My dear Dad,
Have had several letters from you lately, and am afraid Iím getting a bit behind in answering them, but news of interest is as scarce as ever.
Things have been going on as per usual, with perhaps the exception of the night before last, when we had a taste of Hell, in the form of a bombardment. As a result I am practically destitute once more. My tunic, pack, equipment etc., were all hanging up in my dug out. This was blown to smithereens, and I havenít found any of my belongings as yet. One of fates little tricks I suppose that I wasnít at home to share the fate of three of my pals. I thought we had experienced a few heavy bombardments on the Peninsular, but they were a mere trifle to what we get here at times. For some hours every possible description of shells come over from whizz-bangs to Jack Johnsonís and coal boxes. Parapets and dugouts or anything else were useless as regards cover. So we just had to take our chance as best we could. Thank heavens these are rare occurrances, as they donít act as a tonic for the nerves. Otherwise we have had a fairly easy time and it will do me for Active Service.
So they shaved off Billyís moustache, he should very nearly look handsome now. Tell him not to worry about not getting away and as long as he doesnít shake all my girls, heís better off where he is. This fighting game is all right when you get used to it, but it takes a terrible lot of getting used to.
The Light Horse Carnival must have been a great success as far as the monetary part of it was concerned. The people of Australia always come up well to anything Patriotic.
The English trip has not come off yet, but will pretty soon I hope.
Some time ago I put in a footnote to the effect that I would like a new shaving outfit, but apparently that letter never reached you. In the meantime I had collected an outfit from various quarters, but this all went up in the disturbance, and I would like you to send me along another outfit, as it is impossible to buy anything decent in that line here, and I canít get another issue from the Army. Send along a Blade Razor (not a safety) strop etc. Try posting them. Those of the chaps here who have parcels posted to them seem to get them more regularly and rapidly than those sent through the Comfort Funds. By the way the Civic Pipe you sent me was one of the very few things I could find in the debris.
Suppose the Wool Season is finished now. Mr. Croft should be pleased at his sale and I know Mr. Missen is judging by the price he got.
-2- 7th May 1916.
Nothing to add now Ė Iím stuck Ė
Hope everything is going on O.K. You should be able to get away for a spell now. Get someone to take you on the Birtles trip on the Mitchell, but keep her in good order till I get back, when I shouldnít have any trouble in busting her up again.
Love to all at home.
Your loving Son
5th Aust Machine Gun Coy.,
22nd May 1916.
Yours of the 26th March to hand last night. Sat up till after 12 oíclock waiting for the mail, and incidentally cut out my watch.
That chap you picked up at the Pictures from the 19th Battalion is a bit of a romancer Iím afraid. Have never heard of him. Daresay you can easily find plenty of these sort of chaps, who are willing to give information Ė for a consideration. I would like to have seen those Pictures of Gallipoli. Donít suppose you saw anything of the fire trenches (front line). Think you will be able to get a better idea of the life over there from that Anzac Book I sent home. Iíve very nearly forgotten all about the Peninsular. Thereís only a few of the more exciting incidents still sticking to me. Things over here have crowded them out. Weíve certainly seen a bit of life and travel in a comparatively short time.
Having fairly regular hot baths, we are practically free here from the vermin and live stock which made our lives such a miserable existence on the Peninsular. We have a substitute though in rats. Theyíre here in all sizes from elephants down to minor details. Theyíre welcome in a way though. Even if they do eat all our tucker, they eat all our scraps too, and get us out of rows with the Doc. They have passed away many a weary nights watch for me by making themselves targets for the bayonet point or spare bricks. Iím getting an expert at it now and its good practice for Fritz.
We are having glorious weather just now. Its twilight up to about 9 p.m. and light again at 2 in the morning, so the nights donít take much sitting through.
These past few days the Gun Section has been suffering a great indignity Ė we have been forced to do hard work! Our gun position was "upset" and we have had to rebuild it which has involved much sand bagging, rock chopping and cementing. We have cursed most numerously, but it has done us good and got some of the superfluous off us, as the blisters on my hands will testify. You would have been amused to have seen us rock chopping. All we wanted was the broad arrow on our uniform and we would have been set up. Get some of the experts in the office to reckon up how much labor we expended in breaking up into small bits for concreting, 330 cubic ft of solid rock. Finished it to-day thank goodness. Only four of us on the job, hence the sigh of relief. Wonít tell you how long it took. Reckon Iíll be able to take on any job under the sun when I get back. Iíve tried my hand at a few things up to the present. Didnít think Iíd ever get acquainted with hard work, but when itís a case of "have to" its wonderful how easy it is to adapt oneself to anything.
-2- 22nd May 19816.
Think I told you that Jim Stafford, the pal of mine, whom Charlie knew, was killed on my gun, the night we saw life at its worst.
So Billy has got a unit at last. He should be over this way shortly now. Mother sent me one of his Photos. He is a worthy representative of the family. Only got one lot of his tobacco.
My furlough to England is still on the hang on but am still hopeful of its coming off shortly. Hope the trip to Harwood did you good, the place must be looking well now. Glad all my girls round there are O.K. The free trip out with the mail is certainly an inducement.
Nothing fresh. Things going along in the same old way. Hope things at the Office are O.K. and everybody the same.
Love to all at home.
Your loving Son,
5th Aust Machine Gun Coy.,
14th May 1916.
My dear Mother.
We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of another mail from Australia, so as yet there is nothing to write about but rather than miss a mail I thought Iíd let you know I was still on top and feeling O.K.
The last few days have seen a re-occurrence of wet weather but as at present we are not in the trenches it doesnít matter much, as we are able to keep dry here and it is not often necessary to go out in it.
Not far from where our last position was in the trenches is rather an interesting sight,. It is the remains of a large house of some sort in which the only thing left standing from the effects of shell fire is a large model of the Crucifixion. On anybody who is at all religiously inclined this always leaves a deep impression. I might mention that the French people round here are all deeply religious. There are models of the Crucifixion in every room of the houses, and also on the outbuildings. There are also Chalices at nearly all the street corners.
By the way the only thing I found in my tunic pockets (or rather I should say, in the remains of my tunic) after the smash, was my New Testament Ė Quin Sabe?
No parcels have arrived so far. As I said before you had better post them in future. Our mail arrangements so far are not very brilliant, but are getting better. Papers have been coming along a little better too and have had several Bullies and Australasians lately. In fact we seem to get more papers here in France than we did anywhere else.
Later Ė just received a small bit of mail, two letters, one from you and one from Ruby. Believe there is more to come in to-morrow. Iím sorry to hear Alan Gelling has not been too well. I have written to him pretty often but he is not a very brilliant correspondent.
Glad to hear Splinter Hudson has joined up. Have met several Grammar Boys here lately, which is always a treat.
I can quite understand the returned 19th Battalion chaps not knowing much about me. You see the Machine Gun Section
-2- 14th May 1916.
on the Peninsular was for 11 weeks separated from the Battalion and we never saw anything of them during that time, but if you should come across any of the originals of the old "D" Coy they might know something of me. There are not too many of them left now, in fact there are very few originals left in the Battalion. Over here in France we have nothing to do with the 19th at all as all the Sections of the Battalions have been formed into a Brigade Coy.
Have not seen Charlie as yet. Have been rather unfortunate in that respect. I always seem to be in the trenches when he is resting and vice versa.
Mr. Croft must have to work pretty hard now Tom has joined up. Notice Tom joined a Gun Section. Must be catching Ė I only hope he has the luck Harry & I have had all through.
Glad Father went up for a week. The change should do him good. Any signs of Billy leaving yet? He is having a good spell of camp.
Well this is just about the finish this week. Am still feeling O.K. In fact ever since Iíve been in France Iíve felt better than ever I did, which is saying a lot.
The conditions and tucker here are ever so much better so suppose that is to blame.
Best regards to everyone round about, and love to all at home,
Your loving Son,
5th Aust. Machine Gun Coy.
25th May 1916.
My dear Mother,
Just a line to say that I received two parcels yesterday, both through the post. They are pretty late ones too as one was dated 30th March . Iím not at all sorry that they have discontinued sending parcels through the Comforts Fund,. I never did have much faith in it, and it was no use spending all your time and energy, if the parcels were not going to reach their destination. The parcels contained:- No. 1. A pair of socks, some thin under-belows, writing pad etc., and was very acceptable, so my earthly possessions are now at a low ebb. You certainly can make socks. They are the envy of the mob here. Though we have not the need here for the fine underwear as we did on the Peninsular, they are very handy all the same. They were the first lot I had received. The other parcel was a tin of biscuits which were tres bon. Itís a long while since I had a decent feed of decent biscuits and as we were in the trenches when they arrived, they came in very handy. Keep the socks coming along. Cigars are very nice for a change too. A good while ago in a letter to Father, I said I was sadly in need of a new shaving outfit, but I donít think he could have got the letter. Will you please post it along for me. A blade razor (not a safety) please and a strop etc., I hope you donít mind me telling you what I want, but these things are impossible to get here and are necessities of course I donít know whether you call cigars a necessity or not, but Iím fed up of Army tobacco etc., and would like something to swank it with for a change.
No news this time. Am feeling very fit after a bit of hard work.
I had a letter from Mr. Pauch the other day. He drops me a line fairly often. I wonder you could find time to go round and pay them a visit. Also had a note from Mr. Rose. He tells me they are going to put up a big Honor Roll at Hayfield. Gee! Iíll be seeing my name on the Street Corners yet.
Love to all at Home.
Your loving Son,
5th Aust Machine Gun Coy.,
-2- 25th May 1916
P.S. Am enclosing a Photo of Harry and self taken "in action" in Sinai, after the evacuation.
Also sending under separate cover one of three of us taken Somewhere in France.
If you have any old Magazines at home send them along.
1st June 1916.
Have just received yours of the 5th April. Was very much amused at hearing you had your leg stretched by a wounded hero. He must have got up earlier than I ever could. I heard all about it in Motherís last. Iím sorry his dream holiday never came off.
By the way thereís going to be trouble. If you are going to hand my letters round as if I was a Public Library. How the dickens am I going to write to these people and find some news for them. Youíre ruining my reputation. Why youíve no idea of the terrible mental strain Iíve got to go through every week to scrape up enough rot to make it look like a letter, and then I have to send the same thing along to everybody. I think its harder to find news here than it was on Gallipoli, and thatís saying a lot. The Censorship from here is stricter if anything, so by the time Iíve finished talking about the weather, and saying that Iím still O.K. and going strong, Iíve just about reached my limit.
Glad you donít place any credence in that yarn about me being wounded. Iíve still got a few scratches on me Ė souvenirs of Gallipoli, but nothing to warrant my being reported wounded, and still less going to Hospital. A certain chap by the name of Forrest, will be told off in detail when I get back. I canít see the sense of spreading silly rumours like that.
Have just had a look through an Anzac Book. I sent you out a copy some weekís back. Its pretty good, and gives I think a better idea of the extraordinary conditions and difficulties we had to put up with there, than anything Iíve seen yet.
Thanks re War Loan. It certainly reads pretty well.
People are getting pretty flash around New England way. Suppose the Harwood people will be yarding the cows in a Rolls Royce before long. Hope you are keeping the Mitchell in good order.
I had a letter from Roy Clune by this mail and hope by this he is back in the Office again. He seems to have had a pretty rough time of it. Sorry to hear Allan Gelling has not been too well. Would like to see him in Town again. The land does not seem to have agreed with him.
Billy I suppose has left by now. I should imagine he will come over here, so I May have a chance of meeting one of the family on Active Service. Reckon I can make his mouth open with some of the yarns out of the store Iím keeping for future use.
-2- 1st June 1916.
Les Stewart must have come out of his shell all right. I can hardly imagine him trying to put one over on the Ticket Collector. Great must have been the fall thereof. His no-breakfast scheme will stand him in good stead in the Army, but this time it wonít be a fad Ė it sometimes is a necessity.
Sorry to hear Mr. Doyleís eyes are troubling him again. They seem to be giving him a rough time.
Glad to hear another of Mr. Cizzioís brothers has joined up and certainly hope his luck is better than his Brotherís. Patriotism affects people in different ways, but I certainly would not care to have the consciences of some of those chaps whose only job is to keep the post in front of the Pubs from falling down and obstructing the traffic. Thereís traffic here of a different sort and plenty of it at that, that needs obstructing.
Got a Bulletin from you this mail also. Its always looked for eagerly and read from the red page to the last advertisement. We can generally get a good argument or two out of it and a lot of the Cartoons etc., give glory to the walls of our various dug-outs.
Do you still collect Magazines from America. A few sent over every mail would be very much appreciated. Reading matter is at a very high premium here.
Well this is finish. Weather still great and am feeling A.I.
Kind regards to all in the Office and love to all at home.
Your loving Son
5th Aust Machine Gun Coy.,
6th June 1916.
My dear Mother,
I received three parcels yesterday, so things are looking up. One was the Vest, which is more than handy just now, as I am without an Overcoat. The next one was from Ruby with a couple of pairs of socks, writing pad etc., and the other one as far as I can make out, as there was no note with it, was from Mrs. Moore. Please thank her very much for me, it was very good of her to send it.
Things are as per usual here. The fine weather has broken and we have had a spell of rain and cold, but it looks as if it is going to clear off again.
There was a mail in some days ago, but a very unsatisfactory one. I had a letter from Father, but it was the only one from home.
We have been kept going some lately and I have no time to sit down and try and think out a letter just at present, but will write again in a few days time.
Am still O.K. and going strong.
Kindest regards to everyone round about and love to all at home.
Your loving Son,
5th Aust Machine Gun Coy.,
10th June 1916.
My dear Mother,
I wrote to Father from Lemnos Island where we were for a fortnight after the evacuation, and you will have probably seen this letter before this reaches you. Two letters have also been sent from here, one from Lt. H. Rogers and Harry and I also sent a joint one to the Office, so I hope any anxiety you May have had will have been relieved long before you get this.
Donít think too much of the place. Itís a desolate sort of a camp in the middle of the desert, about 50 miles from the nearest town and the only thing we can see at all is Sand Ė Sand Ė Sand!. However we are being fed pretty well, and having no particular anxiety to get to town am not grumbling much.
Received a big issue of mail when we arrived here. I got no less than 43 letters, most of which however, were months old, and should have been delivered on the Peninsular. Goodness knows how I am ever going to answer them. This is the first start I have made and I believe there is another batch to be issued in a day or two. Also received 3 parcels from Home and several others, and also the Broughlea Xmas billy and 2 others Ė so I did pretty well. I will try and write to Lynette and Mrs. Pakerson by this mail, but if I donít please ring up and thank them, and tell them how much I appreciate their kindness. Youíve no idea what these parcels from Home and friends are valued at, but I can tell you they help a lot. By the way if you know of anybody I should have written to lately and havenít please explain that I havenít been able to hire a Secretary, but will endeavour to answer them all in time.
Have had several pleasant surprises since Iíve been here. First person I saw practically on arrival was Charlie Witney and the same afternoon Dave Fehon Ė also a day or two ago Lieut. Harry Rogers who looks real well. Dave & Charlie are both browned up and looking splendid, but are both very disappointed at not having been over to the Scrap. Canít see what theyíve got to be disappointed about. Believe Allan Cameron and Dud Deering are expected here shortly so there will be a real gathering of the old boys. Anyhow Iíve got the count on them all, having been.
By Jove it is a treat to meet somebody from Home way and hear the latest news.
Well Iíve a lot to write and news is scarce here so will close for the present.
Hope everybody is well at Home and Father much better.
Expect to meet some of my big brothers here shortly. Harry and myself both well and getting fit again.
Love to all,
Last letter from Home was No. 22.
12th June 1916.
My dear Mother,
The mail is suffering from a lot of vagaries lately. I have had about 4 letters from you in a week, but as none of your letters had been coming along suppose these were they. I also got some letters dated 1st May, but as I havenít had any mail yet for the 1st April, donít know where I am, and my correspondence has all gone to Billio.
Well weíre out for a short rest again thank goodness. I wrote you a short note from the trenches to keep the mail going but was too busy to say anything. We had a pretty miserable time in Ė wet and cold and slush the whole time. Iíve completely changed my opinion on this French weather. Iím satisfied that the spell of fine weather we had was only out of the box, though it was beautiful while it lasted. I couldnít find it in my heart to part with a pair of Rubyís sox as requested. I was right out and as I very seldom have dry feet now, I hung on to them. Tell her to try again. As you know by now we are separated from the 19th Battalion Ė in fact have nothing whatever to do with it, so have seen nothing of young James. I had several yarns to him on the Peninsular. Heís a fine Kid Ė One of the few who stuck it out.
Am glad Alan Gelling is in the Office. Think it will suit him better. I had a letter from him this mail. He told me he went up to enlist but was turned down. He ought to be satisfied now Ė Nobody can do more than try.
Iím pleased Anzac Day was kept up in the way it was. It would have been out of place to have kept it up in accordance with the Meaghervellous persons idea.
Canít understand why they are going to hold back our mail for six weeks. Thereís no occasion for it as far as I know as from all accounts you knew we had gone to France, almost as soon as we did.
Tell Ruby not to bother about putting envelopes and paper in her letters. We can get plenty here in the Canteens and besides the envelopes are always closed with the heat.
We are going to have a bon time to-night (Fritz permitting). Itís some time now since our Section has all been
-2- 14th June 1916.
out in billets together, so we have organised a programme to celebrate.
Nothing more just now.
Love to all at Home, and hope all are O.K.
Your loving Son,
5th A.M.G. Coy.
P.S. Next Morning. The Concert came off and was a brilliant success. Will enclose a programme if I have time to copy it out. The Band was a scream. Home made instruments including xylophones (donít know how to spell it), banjoes, numerous mouth organs and kerosene cans, not forgetting the dorg, with the "Colonel" officiating. You should have seen the stage. Ė An old bench decorated with tins of jam, sandbags and dirty towels, and about 50 candles for footlights. Iíve seen less for more in Sydney! We had some real good talent. A few very fine voices and the humorists were Ė humorists!!. Hereís some of the supper Ė Lobster, Asparagus, Tongue, Biscuits, Cake Ė Cigars and --- Champagne!!!! My sore head this morning is probably due to the latter. Out of respect to the ladies of the Billet, who were invited, and the Officers who came along and helped (at the supper) everybody was very well behaved, and things went off O.K.
We are not doing too bad for Active Service. This all took place within 2 miles of the firing line.
Grand Concert and Supper
By No. 1. Battery Ė 5th Australian Machine Gun Company.
At Billets Ė France Ė Wednesday 14th June 1916.
AT 7 p.m. SHARP.
Overture Ė "The Pigeon on the Gate Post" Ė Billet Orchestra
Song Ė "When I go down the Vale" Ė L/C Signaller Griffiths
Recitation Ė "Lascar" Ė Gunner Brown
Comedy Sketch Ė Colonel "BoB" Woods
Song Ė (accompanied by Ted Winthrop) Ė "Snowy" our dog
Coon Song Ė "Steamboat Bill" Ė L/C Fred Holmwood
Duet Ė Selected Ė L/C Griffiths & Pte Lloyd
Coster Song Ė "What Oh ĎLiza" Ė ĎArry Horsetin
Banjo Solo Ė "Corpies Nightmare" Ė Signor Georgio Corpio
Mouth Organ Solo Ė "Barcarolle" Ė Ted Winthrop
Recitation Ė "Gungha Din" - Scout L.K. Stewart
Dramatic Sketch (by kind permission of Mr. Joolyer Snite) Ė "Colonel" Bob Woods
Song Ė Selected Ė "Major" Leech
Ventriloquism Ė "Colonel" Bob Woods & ĎArry Horsetin
Feats in Mesmerism Ė Signor Georgio Corpio & H.R. (knock out) Brown
Grand Concert & Supper.
Song Ė "Queen of Angels" Ė L/C Signaller Griffiths
Recitations Ė "Star of the South" Ė Scout L.K. Stewart
Mouth Organ Solo Ė Selected Ė Ted Winthrop
Song Ė Selected Ė Lieut. Congdon
"God Save The King"
Any Odds and Ends thankfully listened to after submission to ----Promoters.----
All Songs and other Inflictions subject to Censorship.
24th June 1916.
Yours of the 23rd April (just two months old) came along last night. I have received a later one from you than this, so you can see the mail is all any how and I donít know where I stand.
Glad to have the new list of the Parish Volunteers and to see our name can top the list as regards numbers. Some family us! Iím rather inclined to think the Rector made a mistake in his classification of "H"
Geo Sharpe seems to have had a pretty bad time all through. I tried to trace him when we were in Egypt but couldnít. Yesterday evening we had about the worst thunderstorm Iíve seen since Iíve been away. One I remember on Gallipoli came pretty near it, but this was a beauty. It must have frightened old Fritz a bit, for he made things pretty willing while it lasted. He seems to have caught the habit from Johnny Turk, as if the weather came up at all threatening, he always made things lively.
Will expect to see Billy over here shortly now. By the way I donít think he will find Gladstone on the "Argylshire". If my memory serves me right he was on the "Ayrshire" of the same Line.
Later. Excuse the interruption. I thought it had been too quiet this last half hour to last and I was right. On a calm day the roar of this artillery is deafening. An Artillery Duel gives you funny sensations. Its both fascinating and terrifying, especially when its close at hand.
I see the Easter Show was about as per usual. Its wonderful where the people come from these times.
Excuse the brevity (same old yarn) Iíve got a slight excuse this time though. Iíve given my wrist a bit of a twist. Skating in the muddy trenches and sitting down too sudden did it. Nothing serious, canít even get off duty with it.
Love to all at home and hope all are well. Iím feeling very fit but could do with about a weekís sleep straight off to make up for lost time.
Just twelve months to-morrow since we left. Have seen a little in that time.
3rd July 1916.
My dear Mother,
Just got yours of the 7th and 14th May, both together and also two from Ruby and one from Dad, all the same dates, so you can see Iíve been minus a bit of home news for some time. Also received a parcel with a double supply of underbelows. These are very handy here now, and I greatly appreciate the regular supply. Your last letter was one in answer to mine written "At Sea" on the way over here, but posted from France. I know our letters were stopped for some time when we first got here, but hope you managed to get some of these I sent along. Sorry if you donít find the letters up to the mark in length etc, but with three brothers at it now, thereís too much competition. You people at home must have a fair correspondence to keep up. I had a note from Charlie this week. He had spent a few days in a field hospital, but was O.K. again at time of writing. Was still in Egypt, but said that rumour was very strong about them coming over this way.
Am sorry we did not have that good time in London on Anzac Day (spent in the trenches). It certainly would have been very nice, but am afraid it was only another dream of the newspaper men who have credited us with many great times which we donít get. By the way Iím afraid my furlough will be postponed. Leave has been stopped indefinitely, so am afraid will have to wait till the war ends after all. I will be very disappointed if I donít get a glimpse of London after getting so close and will probably do it at my own expense, when this finishes. However, more of this anon, as there is plenty of time left yet to think about it.
Thanks for the family group. Itís the only one Iíve got of you all. I wonder if Iíll be able to recognise Billy if I see him. Lets hope heíll know me.
I also had a letter from Crpl Tom Croft, written on the troopship coming over, so I ought to be able to find him soon. Was surprised to hear Col Richards had joined up. Thought he was a "deep thinker".
Ruby is a little bit dubious at my efforts in French. I know enough to get anything I want (she is right that far anyhow) and what I donít know Harry does. Singly in a conversation we get hopelessly mixed, but collectively we shine. We donít get much of a chance to learn the language properly anyhow. The people up this way speak a sort of cockney dialect, which at times doesnít fit in with the text books we had at schools. My dream of fair women over here is also shattered. Down Marseilles way and coming up in the train they certainly were beautiful, but up this way they run to flesh.
Ruby sent along a fine account of the Memorial Service
-2- 3rd July 1916.
to Ralph Mace. It certainly was a fine tribute to a man who lived like a man and died like a man.
Am sorry to hear Mrs. Forrester has not been too well. Give her my kindest regards and hope she will soon be about again.
Hope Father is O.K. again now, Iíll have to take him away for a holiday when I get back. Iíll have a lot of Army money to draw and bust.
With love to all at home
Your loving Son
14th July 1916.
Had a bit of a change of scenery since I last wrote. We are now right back out of the range and sound of the guns, for a week or two, and I can tell you it is a relief to be able to ease the strain for a while. This continual "qui-vive-ness" we have been under for the last three months, would make you go bald in time. We had some trials and tribulations getting here though and altogether we padded the hoof for over 50 miles, with a twelve hours train journey sandwiched in between. As we had had no exercise for some time it played little Hamlet with us especially with our feet, but we managed to struggle along somehow. At one stage of the March we pulled up for the night at one of these fine old French Chateaus, I used to read about in Charles Garviceís books (at any rate if it wasnít him it was Bill Shakespeare). Had a beautiful wooded park all round it and carriage drives leading up from all directions. The moat and remains of the old draw bridge are still existing though there is a modern touch given to the place, by the presence of a line of present day trenches running through the grounds.
France is looking beautiful just now, and all along the route we saw crops of wheat, barley, oats etc., all of which of course called for the opinions and admiration of the Amateur and Professional Cockies amongst us. The crops are full of red poppies and cornflowers, which are no doubt very pretty, but canít be too good for the crops.
We are now billited in a pretty slow town, though a large one. It has an interesting feature in some historical ruins of an old chateau and a Church of the 12th and 13th Centuries respectively. The old place has gone to ruin absolutely, though we can still see that it has certainly been some size, and that they knew something about building in those days. Also we can see the signs of an old system of defences which I suppose they used in those days, and the moat and draw bridge are again in evidence here. The Church has been well looked after and is in fine condition. Though it is of course Catholic we went to a very interesting Service here. France takes a great pride in its Churches, and we have been in many beautiful ones, some of which have been ruined by the Germans. One was shelled the day after we had seen it, and I believe is not now standing.
Have just got yours of the 21st May. You should have had some of mine long before this. They made it impossible for us to cable, otherwise I would of course have done so. So you have got rid of Gídah Garage at last. It must have been a bit of a white elephant. Wonder what Charlie will take on when he gets back. Heíll buy a pair of bees and start a farm next. Certainly hope he will be able to get out of the Light
-2- 14th July 1916
Horse. Heís right out of his element there. Even if he canít get into anything in the Motor line, the Machine Gun Section is a good catch, though its jolly hard work at times. Also had a letter from Mother written at Katoomba dated the 29th May, and am glad to hear the trip has done her good. I hope she has not been worrying at all, because no letters have been coming through. Goodness knows you all have enough to worry about with four of us away, though I know you both would sooner have us over here than have us stay behind and join the ranks of the "deep thinkers".
Nothing more in the way of things I can write about. Believe I told you Iíd been promoted to the magnificence of a Lance Corporal.
Love to all at home.
Your loving Son
21st July 1917. (1916?)
My dear Mother,
Am sorry I canít write a longer letter this time, but we are pretty busy. Was very pleased to hear from yours of the 4th June that you got 3 of my letters. It was beginning to worry me that none of them had been getting through. Was also pleased to hear that you heard from the other boys. Have seen nothing of any of them so far, or Tom Croft either, though fully expect to bump some of them soon. Am very glad to say that the parcel with the silk underbelows came along. The only fault Iíve got with them is that they remind me too much of better days.
Getting pretty used to March ing now Ė We are still at it. The tucker over here is a Paris House dinner as compared to what we had on Gallipoli, so we are in a better condition to be able to stand it. Thanks for the address of Miss Tolefree. Hope to be able to use it, but Iím afraid now England is only one of the many dreams we have had shattered. Hope the other boys have a chance to see something.
Have not seen anything of Charlie W. since we started to walk, but he was thriving the last time I saw him. This hard living has the curious effect of agreeing with some people you perhaps never thought it would have.
I had a letter from Mr. Croft last mail. He seems to be pretty pleased now that Tom has joined up. Tom should go a long way over here considering he started with 2 Stripes. Thereís plenty of room for promotion here for anybody that goes looking for it.
Well I think Iíd better close and try and get a little sleep. We donít get too much these days.
Hope all are well at Home,
Love to all,
Your loving Son,
9th August 1916.
Think I must have missed a mail home last week, but have been going so brisk that havenít had a chance to write bar sending along three or four Field Service Cards to say I was still on top. Canít of course, say what we have been doing, but if you have been reading the news around this date, you can get a fair idea. We are now right back again for a short time after a very severe time in. Harry and I are still on top, but pretty well knocked up, but with a day or twoís rest will be O.K. again. Charlie Witney is wounded, but as far as I can find out, not seriously. The Colonel is still going strong. Naturally, we are all feeling a little proud of ourselves for what weíve done and are going back to repeat the dose when weíve had a bit of a spell. Could talk for a week on the events of the past fortnight, but they will have to hang over. The Censorship is naturally stricter than ever just at present.
Thanks for fixing up things for me in case I get to England Ė (I am still dreaming of it). I had a letter from Kreglinger & Fernan to say everything would be in order.
Also had a letter from Billy in England. As far as I know he and Tom Croft are still there. The other two must be mixed up in that affair on the Canal. Hope the family luck still holds.
Have had a spell of real Summer weather here lately. Did not think it could get as hot as this over here. The Farmers are starting harvesting here now and causing great arguments amongst the so-called "Cockies" amongst us.
Hope you are now quite O.K. again. Glad Ruby has gone away for a trip and hope it does her good.
Kindest regards to all in the Office,
Your affectionate Son,
14th August 1916.
My dear Mother,
Iíve just received yours of the 25th June with the sad news of Aunt Maryís death. It was a big shock to me, especially as I was so far away and its rotten not being able to offer any sympathy. Sympathy is I know but a poor thing and little compensation, but it is the most I can do from here. It must have been a great shock for them all, particularly so to Pat, being away from home. Iíve just written to her Ė I think the hardest letter Iíve ever written.
Iíve also had a very rough time lately, but am thankful to say both Harry and myself have come through it all still sound, and feeling very proud of ourselves for our share in a big victory. The Australians are living up to their reputation. You will probably read glowing accounts of their doings in the papers and you can take it from me that they are not in the least exaggerated. I could talk for a week on the experience of the last fortnight, but of course they will have to stand over.
I also received a parcel this mail with Towel, underbelows, socks etc., I wonder why you never date the parcels. The socks were particularly useful and as usual well made.
We are now enjoying a well earned rest but will be into it again shortly, with the same success I hope. Will write again before we do.
Love to all from
Your loving Son
P.S. Charlie Witney was wounded, but as far as I can find out, and Iíve tried hard for particulars, not seriously; Heís lucky in a way to be out of it.
31st August 1916.
Many thanks for yours of the 6th July 1916, saying that the Razor gear had been sent along. Parcels mails has not been sorted yet, so if it was sent by this mail there is a hope it will turn up in a day or two.
Before I forget it. Norton Bloomfield Iím sorry to say has been killed in Action. I had been trying to trace him for a long time and when I did get near his Battery, I found he had been killed some time ago. Harry Rogers sent word to me by the stretcher bearer who carried him down, that he was wounded, but not seriously. I think I said before that Charlie Witney had been wounded. Have not heard anything of Roy Fleming for a long time, so donít know how he is faring.
Harry and myself are going strong thanks, and I sent a cable to that effect to-day. Also wrote to Billy and asked him to send one from London, so you ought to get one of them. I have had several letters from Billy. In a weak moment he asked me if there was anything I wanted him to send me, and I forwarded him a list, that will take a waggon and six mules to draw if it all comes along. I hope it wonít break the poor chap. It does not always pay to be polite.
Well, weíve been up for a second cut at Fritz in the Big Push, and if possible had an even worse time than previously. We did nothing spectacular in the way of charges, bomb-fights etc., as before, but beyond a few stunts, had nothing to do but hang on. This hanging on is a nerve racking business. Imagine a few men in a shell hole, that was once part of a trench, (trenches have been blotted out long ago) for days and nights with practically no communication with the outside, and keeping a constant watch, while Fritz tries his hardest to shell us out. A constant stream of shells of all sizes comes over all day and night from the 77 whizz-bangs to some that appear to be as big as iron founderies or Eveleigh Workshops. One gets very callous and is inclined to develop into a fatalist, on the assumption that what has to be Ė will be. You canít help getting that feeling, when you see men go under right alongside us. Its nothing to see men buried alive. I was lucky - I only had one such experience this time. A rum issue soon put me to rights, and was busy on the shovel myself in five minutes.
The worst and saddest part of the whole business is of course the aftermath of a charge or a severe shelling. The Stretcher-Bearers are I think the bravest crowd of the lot. Iíve seen men carrying wounded at a walking pace, through a heavy barrage of fire, through which one would think it would be impossible for any man to live, and return the same way and carry on again, as if it was part of an ordinary dayís work. Its hard to draw a comparison between any branch of the Service. When
-2- 31st August 1916.
put to the test, they all come up to the scratch, and it takes "action" to bring out a manís quality all right.
Now Roumaniaís into it, we are all feeling very optimistic again. Speaking personally, judging by the amount of ammunition Germany has been throwing at us lately, it is a long way from finished yet, but of course its not this, but infernal politics that will end it. We have read letters taken from German prisoners captured up here at Pozieres, which have a very despondent tone, and we have seen hundreds of Germans themselves who have a very dilapidated and dejected appearance which makes us think that things are not as they ought to be in the German Army.
We are going off this front for a spell now, thank goodness, though I suppose wherever we go things wonít be too quiet. These Australians have earned too great a reputation over here. It doesnít pay.
The fine weather has deserted us. It has been raining now for over a week, and made things very miserable in the trenches. We made a great picture coming out I can tell you. Covered in mud from head to foot and I looked like a combination of a mud house and a brick. Have only just scraped the last of it off.
Well, as Iím not thinking of writing a book Iíll knock off, though I could go for weeks I think.
Let us hear how the Stud Sheep Sales went off. Sorry to hear you were laid up with a cold again. Think weíll all have to go away on a trip when we all get back. Sounds Irish doesnít it.
I wonder if the Mitchell has gone yet. It will be very great sadness if you havenít one to meet us on the Wharf, when the ship pulls up at Woolloomooloo. It will upset all my plans if there isnít.
Kindest regards to all in the Office.
Love to all at Home.
Your loving Son,
3rd September 1916.
Have written several letters to both you and Chas lately, but have had no reply, so am wondering if things are O.K. with you.
Since last writing (after we came out of the offensive the first time) we have been up to the line again for a second cut at Fritz and am pleased to say am still on top. We had if possible an even worse time than previously. Had nothing spectacular to do in the way of charges, bomb fights etc., as before and beyond carrying out a few little stunts, simply had to hang on to our positions, while Fritz did his damndest to shell us out. Imagine two or three of us in a shell hole with the gun (trenches have been flattened out long ago) for days and nights at a stretch, keeping a constant watch, while a big stream of shells of all sizes from the mere 77 whizz-bang to some that appear to be as big as Iron Foundries or Eveleigh workshops is landing round us all the time and keeps us guessing I can tell you. I was fairly lucky. Was only buried alive once. Got a bit of a shaking up, but a rum issue soon put me to rights, and beyond nearly splitting my nice new uniform, no harm resulted. You can take it from me though that we were a mighty pleased mob when our relief crawled out to us.
It was raining like blazes the whole time and things were pretty miserable, and you can guess we were some pictures. If you ever see a moving picture entitled "Anzac Machine Gunners coming out of the Push" Its us. We were snapped just out of the trenches. We are now going off this front (Pozieres) for what they call a spell, though there wonít be much of that wherever we go. These Anzacs have made too good a name for themselves over here. It doesnít pay.
Suppose you are getting it pretty rough where you are. We had two months of Sinai, so have a fair idea, of what you have to put up with.
Let me hear how you are as soon as possible.
I have had several letters from Billy from England giving most glowing accounts. They are starting leave again shortly so hope to see him before he leaves. I hope he hasnít spent all his money before then.
Some time since I heard from home and all were O.K. then except the Dad who had a bad cold. You of course heard about Aunt Maryís death. It must be pretty rotten for the girls.
Your affectionate frere,
6th September 1916.
That little top note of yours on your last letter brings me to many apologies for not writing to you oftener. Itís so jolly hard though, after writing one home letter a mail, to try and find some news for another one. News from here at the best of times is scarce and at the present, with the big Offensive on, one is allowed to say even less.
As you can see by above address (if the Censor leaves it in) we have moved from the Pozieres front, to further up North. We had a very rough time down there, the roughest I think Iíve been through in my career as a soldier, even counting the Gallipoli Campaign, and goodness knows that was bad enough. It was an eye-opener all right as to what War could really be like and a totally different affair to the ordinary trench fighting we had been accustomed to up till then. We had only dreamt of hand to hand fights out in the centre but they were a common occurrence down there. In everyone that I had any part in at all, our crowd always got what we were after, and we are now fully convinced and certain that man to man the Germans were no match for our chaps, in fact its only their machinery (artillery and their inhuman weapons) that keeps us from walking straight through. We had a good bit of experience with their latest Gas Shells. They can throw this anywhere in range and itís pretty deadly. Itís mostly used for putting artillery and machine guns out of action, so we get our share, but luckily were well prepared and our gas helmets are quite effective. I have seen some effects of this stuff, so was determined not to be caught.
The most annoying thing of the lot though was not so much Fritz, but the weather. When we went up to the line for a second go, it rained the whole time and we had to fight practically all the time in knee-deep mud and slush, and thus of course it was impossible to even attempt to even lay, or even sit down, and sleep was absolutely out of the question. We were a pretty picture when we came out I can tell you, and alas for my nice new uniform Ė itís practically ruined!
Now that we have come up here (we have taken over a famous portion of the Line, and of course a lively one) we are told that leave to England will be starting in a few weeks time. I hope to be one of the first to go, so reckon on seeing Billy before he leaves. I hope so anyway as he ought to know the ropes by now.
For a few days we are quartered in a very fine town,
-2- 6th September 1916.
just over the Border. It has not been much affected by the way, except for a daily visitation of long range shells, which have not so far done much damage. The chief occupation of the people in the town is lace making at which they are very clever. There are many fine shops, at which we can get almost anything including Australian fruit, but you need a fortune to buy anything with.
We went through a fine Church this morning, built to the usual grandeur of French Churches, but most of the more valuable paintings etc. have been removed for safety. The most wonderful thing of all though is the fact that the inhabitants mostly all speak English, in fact better English than we do. I say "Better" because Iím afraid weíve nearly forgotten how to talk Kings English. Our conversations now are a mixture of Arabic, French and English. Itís a pleasure though to be able to talk to a girl without having to think for half an hour of the French for what we want to say.
A group of us, all old hands, had our photo taken in the last town we were in, and when they come to hand will forward one on, but if I get to England will have one taken separately.
By the way Iím sorry to say that Stan Crasks was rather severely wounded at Pozieres. He was hit in both arms and legs but from what I could find out, he is not expected to lose any limbs.
We are expecting a big mail before we leave here, so will hold this over in case there is some questions that need answering.
I have felt particularly well since Iíve been in France (yes, Iím touching wood), but am afraid am getting too fat. Harry is also O.K. and wishes to be kindly remembered to you all. I think I told you before he is a full blown Sergeant now, and I fully expect to have to salute him before long.
Well this has been rather an effort, and a bit of a record for me lately. Many thanks for the weekly epistles. Please keep them going.
Love to All,
Your affectionate brother,
L/Cpl 1280 R.R.
5th Aust. Machine Gun Coy.
A.I.F. B.E.F. On Active Service Abroad.
24th September 1916.
My dear Mother,
All being well and Fritz permitting Harry and I leave here for England on the 28th. Will write from there. This is only to say that I received a parcel from you last night. Two pairs of socks, underpants, tablet etc., for which many thanks. Will you also please thank Lynette Gelling for hers, which also came along.
These came in very handy just now and Iíll have clean socks to take to Blighty now. Itís going to worry me how Iím going to meet Billy. He says he can only get week-end leave, and we will be travelling both ways on both week-ends. However, must trust to luck.
Well Iím now counting the minutes and keeping my head low, and am too excited to write.
Will cable from there and get my photo taken.
Love to all,
Your loving son,
19th September 1916.
My dear Mother,
Yours of the 25th July just come in. Glad you liked the Photo. Will send you a separate one when I get to England. Please thank Ruby very much for the one she sent me of herself. Do you know thatís the first only one, bar the snapshot of the group, that Iíve got of the family, so donít you think itís up to you and Dad to get one taken and send us all one each.
You apparently did not get my letter saying the Birthday Cake had turned up in splendid condition. I think it was a week after I got the waistcoat. Am very sorry to say I had to sacrifice the latter for lightness in the Battle of the Somme. We took practically nothing into Action with us, as you canít do charges etc., with a full pack up. Have not had any parcels for a couple of weeks now, but Iím keeping a special lookout for the one with the Cake and Cigars in. That sort of parcel rather appeals to me. Expect youíll have to start now and put in warm things for the Winter. A sheepskin would be just the thing. Iím sure I Donít know how we are going to get on in the cold over here this Winter. Itís bad enough at times and it hasnít started to get cold yet, but anyhow weíll worry through somehow as weíve always done up to the present.
The Bulletin and other papers are coming along all right.
Things so far on this Front have been deadly quiet. We notice it especially now, coming straight here after the excitement in the fight for Pozieres and afterwards. By the way we made rather a name for ourselves over that fight. The British and French had taken it no less than seven times and were driven out each time, and it was considered untenable. They gave us a go at it, and we are still there, or rather are several miles the other side now. We ran right through it, - according to the English papers, thereís nothing like us on earth. Itís a bad reputation to get though. We got all the hard jobs down there, and am afraid the price we paid was terrible.
I had a note from Charlie this week and was very pleased to hear they had both come out of the scrap on the Canal all right. Richards, is apparently a full brother to luck.
These last couple of days here have been very miserable, raining cats and dogs (think that ought to be changed to rats) and the trenches have been and still are feet deep in water and mud. At the present moment there is about 18 inches of water in the bottom of my dug-out, and I can generally manage to get in half an hours sleep after Iíve pumped for about two hours.
-2- 19th September 1916
The rats are here in millions. Spending our spare time teaching them Company formations and how to form fours etc., but they are not too amenable to discipline, and they want a constant application of the stick to knock them into shape (or out of it).
Still in the best of health and spirits.
Love to all at home and kindest regards round about.
Your loving Son,
20th September 1916.
Donít know whether the Postal Authorities made a mistake in the date or not, but they must have thought it was my birthday. I received no less than 15 letters last night and a parcel of tobacco from Mr. Pauch. It was a double mail, six of them being from Home Ė yours dated 17th & 31st July . I wrote to Mother a day or so ago, and she has absorbed all the news I had to give. Am writing this to thank you for the way you have fixed up my money for me. It certainly is a better way than the one I suggested, and I must say you have treated me splendidly. As you say it is going to be a hard job to settle down to Office again after the excitements of a life like this. It would mean starting in on the ground floor again in the wool business, and three years is a lot to pull up. However will have plenty of time to think it out when we finish knocking Germany about. My ambition at present is to see some of the world before coming home, and if I can get a mate think I will do so. Think I would get more out of my Military pay that way, in education and experience, than merely busting it in Sydney. Its been too dearly earned to think about putting it away for a rainy day, and besides I can always buy an umbrella for that.
Had a letter from Os and one from Billy this mail. Os sent along the only first-hand information of their scrap Iíve had so far. Charlie says Iíll find it all in the papers, but he doesnít send them along.
Iíll willingly hand the palm over to Os for letter writing and also the cake, but that unwillingly. With an incentive like that I almost feel like starting again, but Iím enclosing you a cutting out of a Sunday Sun you sent me (and you will probably have seen it) for you to take warning by. If you will have me write long letters you might have to put up with something like this, and then you wont be far wrong in saying the war was getting on my nerves. It puts me off writing letters to read the letters some fellows send along for the papers. Anyone would think to read through them we were just having one long picnic over here.
Billyís letters are full of the good time he is having in England. He talks about London as if it was some one-pub joint heíd lived in all his life, but I hope to be over there shortly now and get my own impressions.
The shaving gear has not happened along yet, but I must give it time I suppose. There have been very few parcels
-2- 20th September 1916
at all delivered lately, our shifting about so much has upset all arrangements I suppose, but hope to get it shortly, together with several from Home, which are getting behind. The papers you are sending are coming along pretty regularly. Ė So you still have the Mitchell on hand? - the sale couldnít have come off.
You say the Military are commandeering all the Rabbit-skins to make hats for us. Donít know what they do with the hats when they are made. Canít get one anyhow here and Iíve worn an ordinary Tommies Cap for the last 6 months, so Iím afraid Iíll lose all my glory when I do get to England.
What do you think of our latest Trench Comfort? Theyíve issued each Gun team with a Primus Stove! This is of course no good for warming the place up, but as we have to do our own cooking, and are not allowed to light fires for fear the smoke would give our position away, it comes in jolly handy. It will take a lot of things like this to enable us to see the Winter through, if we have to put it in here. Itís cold enough now, and it hasnít even thought of starting yet.
So our photos were in the Pastoralists Review? Ė Iíll bet that issue was sold out in a hurry. Think I mentioned before that I had had a yarn to the Colonel.
Hope Mr. Cizzio has lost the "itis" whatever it was, ere this, and that you are keeping well and free from colds.
Kindest regards to all in the Office and love to All at "Broughlea", and any of my stray girls you might come across.
Yours loving Son,
24th September 1916.
Have already written this mail, but as I will have a good chance of getting this through, will try and give you a few particulars of our doings in general since Iíve been here. D V W P etc., Iím off to Blighty for a week, leaving here on the 28th.
Iíll start from the time we landed in France on 23rd March . The trip up in the train Iíve already tried to describe. We had a great reception during the whole of the trip, which lasted for about seventy hours and so had a good opinion of the French to start with. Weíve never lost it yet, though in the various places we have been in, we have only met with the poorer classes, and to make up I suppose for losses during the War, they do their best to rob us right and left. Itís certainly rough when you stop to consider how far weíve come to fight for them, but as long as the boys will pay for things one canít blame them.
Our first Village was Boeseghen near Aire. We were here for about three weeks, which was one continual period of hard training etc. Here we had our first experience of gas. Went to a demonstration and walked through a trench full of it. Found the helmets were quite proof against it, and our pet bogey was chased. The thought of a gas attack always had us a bit bluffed before this. Had a few trips to Aire from here. A fairly large town with a fine Cathedral, where we went to a Service. France is a deeply Religious Catholic Country and takes a great pride in her Churches. In every town or Village we have been in, the Church has always been the main building.
We struck France at the wrong time. It was bitterly cold for the first few weeks, in fact snowed more than once, and coming as we did straight off the heat of the Desert, shook us up a lot. On 7th April, we left here and started on our March to the trenches. At about 5 mile out we March ed past and were received by General Joffre, the French C.I.C., and Staff. The General was just as I expected to see him. The Gun Coy., being in the lead was Photographed and appeared in one of the English Periodicals as the arrival of the Anzacís in France. Have seen a copy but couldnít get hold of one to send along. We March ed about 20 miles that day Ė full pack up and for the most part over cobbles, so you can guess we were a bit knocked up. March ed for about three days altogether and finally reached Erquingham, near Armentieres, about two miles from the firing line. From here, before I went to the trenches two others and myself out of the Company were sent to an "Indirect and Overhead Fire School". Rather an interesting work, but a strain on the brain. First went up to the trenches on 18th, though the others had been in while I was away at the School. First took my gun into a position in a Graveyard.
-2- 24th September 1916.
Rather gruesome but soon got used to it. Had a rather amusing experience here. Some of the boys thought they had a spy. An Officer was asking a lot of questions about Gun Positions etc., so the boys took him in hand and March ed him about two miles to H.Q. to be identified. He turned out to be O.K., but youíve got to be careful. One night here our Artillery opened out and we saw or rather heard our first bombardment. Fritz replied vigorously and things got very lively for a few hours. During this the gas alarm sounded and we put our helmets on in a hurry but it never came our way. Itís no good attempting to describe a bombardment. I couldnít put it in words. After a week or so here we went back to Billets a couple of miles away. This was a regular home to us, we were in the same place for about three months and the people would do anything for us and were genuinely sorry when we left. Next time in we were further up near the line, in a position called White City. Here on the 5th May we had our first cut at the Germans. At about 7.30 that evening Fritz opened up with a heavy bombardment which caught us unawares. During this my gun pit, gun and all was blown out and three of my mates killed. Fritz came over and got into our front line, but we got him out after some stoush. Casualties were pretty heavy, but it taught us a lesson. This portion of the line was supposed to be the quietest on the British Front when we took it over, but after this experience we made things hum. About every second night we raided Fritzís trenches and brought back prisoners and before we left we had him guessing. Towards the finish he wouldnít stand up to our chaps, but cleared. Before the Offensive started we had made it the hottest place in the line. After three months in the trenches here we were due for a spell back in a rest camp, but the offensive started and we were booked for the Somme.
On the 9th July we left Erquingham and in a couple of days March ed forty miles to Wizernes where we entrained. The carriages were a familiar sight and a disappointment after our first trip. They were branded:- "Homnes 40 Chevanp 8" but as we were only soldiers they included us with the neddies. All our travelling since has been done in these. Passed through Bolougne, Calais, Etaples etc., on the way and had our first glimpse of the sea and detrained at Ė (I forget it now) and March ed fifteen miles to Picquigney. We were here a week. Still training hard. Rather a fine place this with the historical ruins I wrote about. Had our first Church Service in France here. Canít say I enjoyed it very much as none of us are in love with the Parson. Immediately after this we packed up and moved off again.
On 22nd we bivouacked just outside of Albert. This has been a fine place, but of course practically no longer exists. An interesting sight here is a figure of the Christ, about 30 ft long in bronze, which has been struck by a shell, and now hangs at an angle of 45° to the ground. There is a legend to the effect that when this falls the War will end.
-3- 24th September 1916.
On the night of the 23rd the first Division took Pozieres and we moved up and bivouacked in the original German first line, behind Contalinaison. The preliminary bombardment must have been terrific. Nothing but shell holes. At la Boiselle there is a mine crater which is about 200 yards across the top. This was the start of the offensive, being blown up a minute before twelve oíclock midnight on 30th June.
On 25th July , we went up into the trenches and took over from the 1st Division under a heavy barrage of fire. The 20th Batt attempted a raid straight off, but beyond taking a few prisoners did not do much good.
On the 26th the Germans attacked in mass with bombs etc., and for eighteen solid hours we stood up to them, without a breather. We eventually repulsed them and took 150 yds of their trenches as well. I couldnít describe the heroism and grit displayed by our boys during this stunt, and they were an eye-opener to the Tommies on both flanks. I had the gun working hot at this time and generally enjoyed myself in getting a bit of my own back. Fritz was using gas and lachrymatory shells on us but we were ready for him and beyond added discomfort did not do much harm. Well for twelve days we hung on there in a position, the Tommies had been driven out of about seven or eight times, in the face of what was I suppose the severest shell fire ever troops were subjected to. Casualties were very heavy and things looked very black for us, so we got out. We got out in front though (August 4th) and took two more lines of trenches, capturing the ridge in front and Fritzís main system and second line defences. This forced him to withdraw his guns and things got a bit easier. The following night we were relieved by the 4th Division. It was a great strain, but the excitement kept us going and it was an experience Iím glad to have gone through with no pretence at sleep for the twelve days and nights we were just about all in, and with a March of eight miles back to Warloy Baillon where we billited, and could have slept for a week. General Birdwood received us on our way back and expressed great appreciation for what we had done. If ever these Australians had a reputation over Gallipoli, theyíre got one now, which will take some living up to. Another two days March ing brought us to Pernois where we were to spell. Here we got reinforcements Ė we wanted them Ė and me having a stripe had to spend my rest training them Ė such is fame. We got a new rig out here and a bath and weíre new made again. This place was near the City of Amiens and a lot of the boys took French leave and went in one Sunday . I thought I could spend the day better making up arrears in sleep so didnít go. Was rather sorry afterwards as they had a good time. On the 15th we left on our way up to the line again and by the 20th August were at it hot and strong. We found the position slightly altered this time. No trenches to speak of and my gun was in No Manís Land. Had nothing to do this time but hang on, in fact I never fired a shot. Only in for six days, but it was raining like blazes the whole time and we were laying in mud and slush. Fritz had found our range too and was making things very lively, so we were jolly pleased when the relief
-4- 24th September 1916.
crawled out to us. On the 31st we were at Warloy Baillon again and Birdie presented the medals, won by the 5th Brigade. Individual acts of heroism were many, but I reckon everybody who went through that first twelve days, deserved a chain of them round his neck. While we were here the Canadians March ed through. They looked a very fine crowd, and quite capable of taking the Australians place in the line!! From here we went to Beanwal. This was the largest town we had yet been in and we had a good time for the couple of days we were there. Entrained at Doullens North a couple of miles away. Had a six hour trip and pulled up at Poperinghe in Belgium. This is a larger place than Beanwal where the main attraction is that the people speak English. It has been shelled several times, but has not been very much damaged.
On 8th September we entrained in an armoured train and ran under shell fire as far as Ypres. This was once one of the finest Cities of Belgium, but is now a mass of ruins. We took over from a Tommie Regiment and things so far have been quiet. One annoyance here is that this place is known as the home of gas. One side or other lets it off nearly every night, so we have to be in a continual state of readiness. Iíve said before anything thatís to be said about things here, so suppose itís no good repeating. We will finish up in Blighty.
Donít flash this about too much, as I might have said too much Ė compree!
Am now in England Ė Birmingham to be precise. Harry and I left the trenches on the night of 27th and rode down in the ration limber as far as the transport Camp and then walked the extra three mile in to Poperinghe, arriving at about 2.30 a.m. Slept in the train which left at 6.15 and eventually reached Boulogne at 2.30, just in time to miss the leave boat across. Went to a Camp there that night and caught the boat which left at about twelve the following day. It was crowded of course, but we could afford to put up with a lot of little inconveniences like that. Reached Folkestone about two, (The Channel was obligingly calm for us) and arrived in London about five and went to the Australian Offices in Horseferry Road and registered etc., and then we were free to wander. We had been recommended to a good hotel, so got a taxi and engaged a room. Some flash place this (The Kenilworth) and we had to laugh when we saw the feather beds, carpets etc. First of all we went out and bought clean clothes and then came back and had a hot bath. Feeling very much better we went out to a flash Restaurant and went through the Programme. By the time this was through, it was too late to see a Theatre, so we dropped into a Picture Show and then home to bed. You can take it from me the old yarn about not being able to sleep in a feather bed is all rot. All I remember is Harry saying "Switch off the light" and a knock on the door and somebody saying "Breakfast ready Gentlemen please". Iíve underlined "Gentlemen" it sounded so strange. After breakfast we went down to Commonwealth Bank, drew out some cash £20/-/- each. That and £7/-/-
-5- 24th September 1916.
I had in my book and which I drew at Horseferry Road, should see me through a week Ė what? You will see that I didnít have time to make arrangements to meet Billy this week-end for the long arm of coincidence stretched out (thatís in a book Iíve just been reading and sounds well) and I fortunately met an old "better-day Pal" of mine in the Bank who is camped right alongside him, and I gave him a note to meet me next Saturday.
Coming out of the Bank we thought we would walk round a little, but somehow we found ourselves down the East End, somewhere, so we jumped into the nearest taxi and got out. Itís a big place this London, but while youíve got money and there are taxiís and policemen about, youíll never get lost. The traffic arrangements are of course splendid and I guess it takes some arranging. Tubes, underground Tramways, overhead Tramways overhead and underground roads for different kinds of traffic. Motor omnibuses and double-decked tram cars etc., etc., and taxis by the million all get rid of it somehow. Most of the work over here is of course done by women. They are the policewomen, post-women, taxi drivers, tram drivers, ticket collectors, carriage cleaners and all sorts of other jobs they tackle, but beyond this and the fact that no lights are allowed in the Street at night, you would hardly think there was a war on. The Streets are always crowded and standing room only is the rule in most Theatres at about 7.30. Of course we havenít seen anything of London yet, though have seen most of the interesting sights, such as Picadilly, The Strand, The Museum, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament House etc., all from the outside. As we left London about twelve that morning, (only had the one night there) I did not have time to call on Kreglinger & Fernan, but if I donít get the opportunity next week-end, will drop them a line.
Well, as I said we left at twelve and came up to Birmingham to relations of Harryís. Here we are having a great time. They are very nice people, especially the two girls ahem! and being Australians am afraid we are being spoilt. Anyhow Iím not complaining. This is of course a great manufacturing centre, engaged now principally on war work. To-morrow, we are going up to Leeds to see a wounded pal, but I think I will post this off here, or you might think Iím writing a book. Will also divide it up into three envelopes, or somebody might think it is too.
Kind regards to all,
37, Loveday Road,
8th October 1916.
My dear Mother,
As the Irishman says, "before I start talking Iíd like to say something". Just before Harry & I left the trenches for Blighty I received a parcel from you containing the box of Cigars, the pudding and Miss Hurstsí pair of sox. Unfortunately I had only just time to open it so I grabbed the cigars and sox and had to leave the rest for the boys, so will give a report on the pudding in my next. The cigars were very nice, and I hope the next lot will be as good. Harry and I smoked them round England Ė A very nice pair of sox too Ė Please thank Miss Hurst for me. I have not her address, or I would have done it per letter myself.
I posted three letters to Father last week, or rather one letter in three different envelopes. Donít know whether I said too much, or not, but hope he received them all. Am also sending a cable to-morrow.
Very sorry to say I missed seeing Billy. I wrote to him from France before I left saying that in all probability I would be over at the end of the month, and when I got here I met a mutual friend of ours and gave him a note to Billy asking him to wire me at my address if, and when he could meet me, and also I wrote to him a day afterwards (to make certain) to the same effect. Last night (Saturday) I rang up an hotel in London from which he has written to me several times, but no luck there either, and as this is Sunday night and no telegram has arrived, have given him up. The only explanation I can think of is that they have gone over to France. I did my best and itís rather hard lines, but I suppose canít be helped.
Well Iíll try and give you an idea of what we have been doing since we left Birmingham (from where I wrote to Father). We left there on the 3rd and went to Leeds, to see an Uncle of Harryís, who is wounded and in hospital there. Leeds is another big industrial and manufacturing centre, larger than Birmingham, and also as dirty. It has a larger population than Sydney, and terribly overcrowded. We were only there a few hours so did not see much of the place. That afternoon we went down to Leicester (more relations of Harryís) and stayed the night there. More girls there, and more good times in consequence. Next afternoon we started to travel again, and caught the train to St. Pancras Stn (London). Had an hour in London and went down to Eastbourne, where we stayed till Saturday. At all these places we had to sit up all night, relating
-2- 8th October 1916.
our experiences and you can bet we laid it on heavy too. The earliest we have been to bed since weíve been here is 1.30 a.m. but if I am not a hero after all Iíve told them Ė well, Iíll give up taking!
Eastbourne is a beautiful place, nothing like it in Australia, and the only thing I can think of to describe it is to say itís a glorified Manly. It has rather a dirty beach, but is beautifully laid out with red brick paths, and avenues of trees etc. We never went in for a swim Ė too cold at this time of the year. Harryís people all came from Eastbourne, so of course he was very much looked after, and me, being his pal, came in for a big share of it. They took us for a motor drive one day, about 30 miles in all, round a bit of the coast. It was very pretty and a great treat. It was round these parts that William the Conqueror landed in 1066 and we walked over the old battlefields and saw old relics in the shape of guns, etc. Pevensey Castle, around which a big battle was fought for many days, is still standing, but gradually crumbling away. Beachy Head and its lighthouse is a well known place, and no doubt youíve heard of it. Itís a big cliff standing high and rugged on its own, and a great sight on a rough day, as we saw it. Also saw a bit of the famous Downs Country Ė a beautiful landscape scene. The country in England is looking fine just now but of course we only caught glimpses of it passing through in the train. While at Eastbourne we went to a theatre, (the first since weíve been here), but intend going to another one in London to-morrow night to get the bad taste out of our mouths Ė Too heavy for my liking.
From there we came up to Ealing near London, and are staying with Mr. Ellis, a friend of Harryís Father. To-day Sunday we went to Church in the morning. It was a treat to hear a good sermon and good music again. This is the first time weíve been to a Church of England Service in a Church since we left Sydney Ė about 16 months ago. A fine church too, and save for the fact that the pulpit was on the right hand side, is almost identical inside as St. Annes.
Mr. Ellis interests himself in a sort of Brotherhood for young men, so we went along with him this afternoon. This is a sort of Bible class and Debating Society combined. We struck it unlucky though. Some chap came along and spoke in favor of Conscientious Objectors. He made me rather wild, as he hadnít a decent argument to put forward in support of himself Ė (he was one), and I can tell you I would have liked to have got up and delivered myself of a few home truths anent conscientious objectors and shirkers in general. I think I could have opened his eyes somewhat and also eased my mind a lot, but being a visitor it wouldnít have done.
-3- 8th October 1916.
Well all good things have to end and our holiday is drawing to a close. We go back early Tuesday morning. It certainly has been some holiday and a very crowded one and Iíve enjoyed every minute of it.
Here in brief is where weíve been, -
London to Birmingham, Birmingham to Leeds, Leeds to Leicester, Leicester to St. Pancras, London to Eastbourne and Eastbourne to Ealing.
If you get hold of a map you will be able to see that weíve travelled some in a week.
To-morrow, Monday, we are going to have a day in London with the theatre at night, and are leaving first thing Tuesday morning. It will be a great strain going back to it all again, and all weíve got to look forward to now is another twelve months to pass, when our leave will come round again, or else Peace in the meantime.
Have fitted myself out pretty well. Bought a watch etc., but Iím sorry to say will have to put some money back in the Bank as I hadnít time to spend it all. Shame, isnít it?
Well Iíll close now. Am expecting to find a big mail waiting for me in France and if I can think of anything else to tell you, will write from there.
Had my photo taken at Eastbourne Ė didnít have time in London. Will send you over a couple when they come along.
Hope all are well at Home. Love to all.
Your loving Son,
14th October 1916.
Well itís hard having to take to work again, after my trip to England. Hope Mother and Father got the letters I sent from there, telling something of what I had been doing. Also sent a cable the day before we left, which of course you will have had long before this reaches home. It was rotten luck missing Billy, but couldnít be helped. Donít think there is anything further I can add about the trip, to what Iíve already written, though the morning we left we went over St. Paulís Cathedral, the Guild Hall and the Art Gallery. We expected to see a fine sight at St. Paulís and were not disappointed, though in one way I was, as it was exactly as I had pictured it from descriptions I had read previously. The Guild Hall (where all the Public Banquets etc., are held) is also a fine sight. Around the walls are wonderful examples of statuary and also original paintings of great events such as the opening of the First Parliament, Signing of Magna Charta etc., etc. The Art Gallery of course needs no description. Youíve seen Sydney Art Gallery and all you got to do is to imagine one about twice the size, with thousands of pictures and youíve got it. Around the steps of St. Paulís there are millions of pigeons flying about which are quite tame, and eat from your hand. Itís a little startling to be walking along and all of a sudden find one on your hat or trying to get in your pocket. We only had a couple of hours to do these places in and it wants a couple of months. We had to do everything in a hurry though in fact the only thing we took any time over was our meals. Made a good job of them. I weighed 11 st 7 lbs one day there and left at 11.3, so you see Iím not fading away. Had our Photos taken at Eastbourne Ė no time in London Ė and will send a couple along when they come to hand. With this I am enclosing a Photo of a group of the "boys". Itís rather a good photo I think, though Iím sorry I look a habitat of Wíloo. Please save it for me. They are all in the Company, barring Jack Studdart and all except him are original 5th Brigade men, and there are precious few of them left these days.
By the way, Iíve collected information about your pudding, which it seems I was unfortunate to miss. They say it was tris bon, which is about highest tribute of admiration possible from these parts and Ernie Lyons wants to know when the next one is coming along. Please excuse his manners Ė cíest la guene.
So youíve had the house re-decorated etc. We did ours too though we had to spend all one night pumping the water out of it first, and in about an hours time it was full up again.
-2- 14th October 1916.
Glad you got some news of the boys through Corp Barker. Itís a lot better than letters isnít it.
Hope you are busy getting Xmas Billies ready, which reminds me that Iíll soon have to start scattering Xmas Greetings about.
Nothing more to add. Am expecting a mail in. Your last was August 13th.
Hope all are well at home,
With love from
22nd October 1916.
Well old Son Iíve had my leave to Blighty and some time too. Have been back now about a week, and I can promise you itís a great strain coming back to hard work, hard tucker and hard beds, after ten days of luxury and comfort over there. I was unfortunate in not seeing Billy, but arrangements wouldnít fit in at all.
London is a wonderful place, greatly overcrowded of course and very dirty, in fact itís hard to get away from the smoke etc., in England, unless you get out in the country somewhere away from the manufacturing centres. The main thing that strikes you first is the marvellous arrangements they have for dealing with the traffic. There are underground and overhead roads for foot and horse traffic, underground Railways and tramways, tubes, motor buses, and taxis by the million, and the way they get away with the traffic is wonderful. Youíd want a nerve to drive a taxi in London. To see the crowd passing to and fro from a Tube Station in the City or over London Bridge in the busy hours youíd wonder if there was a war on or not. Donít think their Tram Service is as good as Sydneyís, the double deckers they use are too slow and cumbersome. They can show us a lot of points as regards train travelling though we only saw 2nd classes on the Railways, 1st and 3rds and the latter is easily as good as the first class at home. All the Railways are of course privately owned, which will probably account for the comfort provided. We never saw many of the sights of London, as we only had one whole day there, while it wants months to do it properly. We did our best though, and went to most of the more interesting places we could get in, in so short a time. St. Paulís Cathedral is a beautiful place and came quite up to expectations. The Guild Hall where all the Public Banquets etc., are held, has some wonderful examples of Statuary, and round the walls are huge original paintings of old time famous events, such as The Opening of the First Parliament, Signing of Magna Charta etc. Also saw the Art Gallery which is the same as other Art Galleries you have seen only larger. We saw a good deal of England in the short time we were there though. Had better explain that "we" means a pal of mine in the Company, who went over with me. First of all we went up to Bermingham and spent the first week-end there. This is a very large and dirty City, with big Manufacturies now chiefly engaged on Munition work. Next to Leeds. Larger than Bíham but practically the same. Then on to Leicester, much smaller than the other two Cities but cleaner and prettier. From there we went down to Eastbourne for three days, a very pretty and beautifully laid out place on the Sea Coast. From here we came up to Ealing, a Suburb of London, and about half an hour from the City, per underground. Our last day we spent in London
-2- 22nd October 1916.
and went to a Theatre at night. First one for about eighteen months, and you May be sure we appreciated it. Following morning we left again for France, so you can see we crowded in a bit in the short time we were there. Think the only thing we didnít hurry over was our meals. One day there I weighed 11.7 and left at 11.3, so you can see Iím not fading away.
Am enclosing you a Photo I had taken in Eastbourne, didnít have time in London, so donít blame me for the result.
The last letters Iíve had from home have all been full of Barkerís return. I daresay they were pretty excited at getting some first hand news of you both. Trust both you and Os are both keeping fit and that Jacko is not worrying you too much.
Excuse the scrawl, but it is now 2.30 and the frost has not gone off the ground yet, and itís too cold to hold the pen. We are sure going to have Ďcold feetí this Winter.
Remember me to Leo Johnstone if you come across him.
Write as often as you get a chance.
Your affectionate frere,
30th October 1914.
My dear Mother,
Before I forget it I have to thank you for another parcel which came along a few days ago, containing a shirt, socks etc. Have been getting them regularly lately. Also please tell Father that I have had the American Magazines he has been sending, also Bulletins etc., so have been doing pretty well.
Well there is nothing much to write about now. It has been raining incessantly for a week or more, and things are very miserable all round, and on top of that I have had a lovely cold from wet feet, which I am just getting rid of.
We have again had a shift, but this time a miracle happened, and we were transported in Motor Cars. Had about a seven hours ride in them, but there was a drawback, we had to March six miles in pouring rain and then had to sit cramped up all the way with wet feet. Hence the cold.
Thanks very much to you all for the numerous Xmas parcels you are sending me. I only hope that we will be out of the trenches, and so be able to enjoy them to the full.
I had a letter from Billy not long ago, saying he expected to be on his way over here shortly, so hope to see him soon, and also a number of mates in the 3rd Division.
I had hoped to be able to send you a Photo for Christmas, but they havenít turned up yet. I had two as samples and sent one to Margaret and one to Egypt. They are not too brilliant, but I suppose the subject wasnít too brilliant either. I have never seen anyone yet satisfied with their own Photos, so perhaps you May be better pleased than I am.
Well, Iíve run out as usual and will end up by sending everybody my best wishes for a very Happy Christmas, and I hope to be able to say it in person next year.
Your loving Son,
England, 16th Nov. 1916.
My dear Mother,
Well this is a treat to get in between clean sheets etc., for a while, after the mud and slush of France. Itís awful over there now as regards weather conditions, and I reckon Iím very lucky to be out of it.
After all these months Iíve at last managed to get a bit of a crack. A small piece of shell in the chest is the trouble, but it is not at all serious, and as a matter of fact I am walking about in the day time and scarcely notice it. Have not had an operation yet, but as it will only be slight am not worrying about it. Went under the X Ray to-day for second time and will probably have it out to-morrow or the day after. Have written to Billy and am expecting him to come up any day now. He is not so far away. Have several pals from the Gun Company in the same ward, so am not lonely. Harry was all right when I left, in fact he walked down nearly as far as the Dressing Station with me.
This is a very decent Hospital. The Sisters are O.K. and the people of the town are always arranging motor trips, Concerts etc., for the boys, time never hangs heavy. The first trip I had in a motor car I thought I was a public hero or something, the way the people line up and cheer is most embarrassing, but suppose will get used to it in time, and will soon be expecting it everywhere I go. Thatís the worst of it. Next time I walk down Pitt Street, if half Sydney doesnít turn out to cheer, Iíll want to write to the papers about it.
Address all correspondence as usual, as only expect to be here for a very short time. Am sorry in a way that I wonít be with the boys for Xmas, and Iím sorrier still that Iíll miss all those Christmas parcels, which you all so thoughtfully sent over for me, but still Iím sure youíre far happier to think Iím away from danger over here, and will not mind the others having them.
Best love to all and please do not worry at all, as there is nothing in the least to be anxious about.
Your loving Son,
(Copy of Cablegram, Dated London 22nd November 1916)
IN SOUTHMEAD HOSPITAL, BRISTOL, SLIGHTLY WOUNDED CHEST DOING FINE SEVENTEENTH NOVEMBER
(Copy of Telegram from Victoria Barracks, Melbourne dated 29th November 1916)
Mrs. F. Richards,
REGRET REPORTED SON PRIVATE Roy Richards DANGEROUSLY ILL GUNSHOT WOUND CHEST WILL FURNISH PROGRESS REPORT WHEN RECEIVED
29th November 1916.
My dear Mr. & Mrs. Richards,
It is with great sorrow that I write to-night about poor Roy. I have just heard from my Uncle George that he passed away on the night of the 26th. It came to me as a great shock, as I was under the impression that his would be a speedy recovery. I beg of you to accept my deepest sympathy, I lose in him the best friend and comrade I ever had. We were always together even when he was wounded. I took him out to the Dressing Station and saw him safely away and expected to see him again in a few weeks. And now it is too hard. He was one of the gamest. In the trenches when the shells were dropping close he was always comforting others. When put on to a critical position, he never flinched, and always went willingly. Out of the trenches he was the life of the Section. He is sadly missed by all who knew him, and the old boys wish me to send you their deepest sympathy.
Uncle George is writing you also. He attended the funeral at Bristol and will tell you all there is to tell. He looked upon Roy as a nephew while we were staying with him two short months ago. I cannot write more now and I hope you will excuse this being so short.
Yours very sincerely,
(Sgd) Harry M. Smith
29th November 1916.
My dear Parents,
Itís a very sad letter that I am writing this time. Roy died in Southmead Hospital, Bristol, yesterday after an illness of seven days brought on by a wound in the chest.
When I saw him on the Saturday, he was doing well I came back to the Camp on Sunday , but on Tuesday evening I received a wire from the Hospital to go over. Was there by 6.30 on Wednesday morning and he was doing fairly, also Thursday but on Friday he had a bad day, and on Saturday he picked up wonderfully and the Doctors had every hope, and I had to return to Camp.
Received a wire from the Doctor on Sunday night late that he had passed away that morning. Everything was done for him that could be done, both the Doctors and the Nurses were very good to him and I saw that he wanted for nothing while I was with him.
Double Pneumonia set in on the Monday caused by the shrapnel touching his lung and the cold and exposure that he had gone through.
He was buried in Bristol Cemetery this morning the coffin was carried to the Cemetery on a gun carriage (being awarded a military funeral). I obtained leave to attend and return again to Camp to-night.
All his personal property has been forwarded to A.I.F. Headquarters London, and will be forwarded on to you by them.
With love to all,
Your loving Son,
W. E. Richards.
3rd December 1916.
Dear Mr. Richards,
I heard to-day from a Sgt Smith of the 5th Machine Gun Company of Royís death. He told me at the time Roy was wounded, how they had been going into the trenches and a shell burst over them and caught Roy in the right shoulder and that he was quite bright and cheery and every one believed he had only got a blighty, but it appears the shrapnel travelled from right to left and lodged some where under the neck. He told Smith to tell me he was not badly hurt and would soon be about again, so you will understand what a great spirit he had and only for the fact that we were going into the trenches ourselves, I intended writing to tell you he was alright. I have asked Smith, who by the way says he went to School with Roy, to send you full particulars of the funeral and where he is buried.
I trust you and his Mother will get some consolation from the fact that he died in England and received Christian burial, as many poor fellows are often just put in a shellhole and covered up with only a bit of boxwood stuck in the ground to mark the spot, and no word of prayer said over them.
Roy was a great favourite with all he came in contact with and as fearless as the day. I saw him several times lately and he always had a smile and was looking the picture of health.
If there is anything I can do for you in regard to his grave, if you will let me know, I will of course do anything in power, Smithís relations are however on the spot and can probably do more than I could. Royís personal effects should be sent you from the D.A.A.G. 3rd Echelton, [Echelon] A.I.F. London, that is, his pay book, jewellery, private letters and papers etc., should these not come to hand within a reasonable time you should write to the above.
Yours very sincerely,
(Sgd) E. Martin
5th Aust M.G. Coy,
Somewhere in France,
4th December 1916.
My dear Mr. & Mrs. Richards,
As a close friend of your dear son Roy, I feel that I cannot let this opportunity pass to ask you to accept my deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement. I myself was wounded in the right thigh by the same shell that caused dear old Royís death, and I was with him till our arrival at Rouen Hospital. There we parted, going to different Hospitals, and at the time were laughing and joking about a trip to Blighty. Imagine therefore, the shock I received when our genial friend Harry Smith, told me he had passed away at Bristol. Even now I can hardly realise that my beloved and true friend is no more, as he was so bright when I last saw him.
It will no doubt be a great consolation to you to know that the brave lad was among good friends when he died, and that the funeral arrangements were of a most impressive character.
Believe me the loss of such a staunch and true pal as was dear old Roy to me, is a very hard one, and I think his bright face and cheerful disposition will always be green in my memory.
Again asking you to accept my heartfelt sympathy,
Yours in all sincerity,
(Sgd) Jack F. Leech
14th January 1917.
Dear Mrs. Richards,
Just a line to offer you and Mr. Richards my sympathy on hearing of Royís death. This, I know is of little use, but I thought you would be pleased to hear from any of the boys who were with him. Roy was one of my best pals and I was very sorry to hear he had gone. Roy and I were together in a trench up near Ypres before coming down to the Somme. The dugout was too small to hold the remainder of the team, so he and I had to put in the day time by ourselves. The only amusement we had was cooking our meals on a primus stove. We used to take turn about. He was one of the coolest boys of the Company under fire, and I well remember the first time in the trenches at Pozieres when things were pretty lively, Roy stood to his gun practically the whole time, it being a job to induce him to take a spell. I was in his party when he was wounded, but did not know at the time he had been hit. We had gone to bring the guns and gear up to our dugouts, and were subjected to a rather heavy shell fire. Most of the boys had on returning, gone below, and I was standing on top to direct the last lot whom I thought were going past the place in the dark, when Roy came along and asked where his dugout was. I did not know then that he had been hit and he got down all right, and had a dressing put on. Harry Smith, whom you will know, and who has no doubt written you, later on took Roy down to the Dressing Station, and from what Harry said I concluded he was not seriously hurt. Shortly after this I was wounded and sent to England and later on received the news of Royís death and also that several others, including my Officer who went over with me, had been killed.
I trust that you will be comforted knowing that your Son could not have died a nobler death, and could not have given more for his King and Country.
Yours very sincerely,
(Sgd) Ernest Lyons
20th January 1917.
Dear Mrs. Richards,
Itís quite beyond me to write and express how sorry I am about Roy. He was my chum and itís something I always will be really proud of.
He had a duty to do and he did it as a gentleman, and Iíve thought how great it must have been for him to hear "Well done", because it was well done and he did hear. He is a great loss to you, only you know how great, but it must be great to have been the Mother of one who has given all he could so nobly.
I only saw the news in the "British Australasian" two days ago and yesterday heard direct from Mother.
I send you all my deepest sympathy.
(Sgd) Charlie Witney
1st Síthn Gen Hospital,
20th January 1917.
Dear Mrs. Richards,
I was very sorry indeed to hear the sad news of Royís death, and wish to convey my heartfelt sympathy to yourself and family in your very sad bereavement.
Nothing else on earth could have cast such a gloom over the Section, for he was idolised by every one. Having been informed that the wound was only slight, we were pleased for his sake that he would get a rest, but we little knew the nature of that rest.
The last occasion on which we went to the trenches was the first time he and I had been separated, having been together ever since coming to France. None knew him better than I did, and I can assure you his memory will ever live with us, for the memory of such a loving character can never fade.
Words can never describe our feelings, so will you kindly accept our sympathy, as we would wish it.
(Sgd) Donald S. Gibson
27th January 1917.
My dear Mrs. Richards,
When reading a letter which came in the last mail, I was very much shocked to hear of the sad news about Roy, of whom I should like to offer you and the whole family my sincerest sympathy. Everyone knowing Roy even casually would at once perceive his sterling qualities. Few however had the same opportunities as myself, who found him in everyday life in sport, and as it has proved in War as true and as honest a chap as could be wished for.
Yours very sincerely,
(Sgd) Dudley Deering
16th February 1917.
Dear Mrs. Richards,
My deepest sympathy goes out to you and all in the loss you have had through the death of your dear Son Roy. As you know, I had known him for a considerable number of years, and the last time I saw him was in France, near the front line trenches. It was about eight months ago.
We were at Hayfield, and the Sydney Grammar School at the same time.
One wonders when this awful business will be over. I think and hope by the end of this year.
With kindest regards to you and all.
Yours very sincerely,
(Sgd) Bernard Rose
Notes from diary of the late Private Roy Richards "D" Coy, 19th Batt, 5th Inf Brigade.
Sunday August 15th 1915 Left Heliopolis Camp about 8.30 p.m. and entrained for Alexandria, which we reached at about 4.30 a.m. Monday morning.
Monday 16th August 1915 Came on board "Saturnia" a rotten tub filthy and covered with coal dust. Have mounted the guns on the after deck and the Section is on guard on lookout for Submarines.
Tuesday 17th August 1915 Still on guard on deck. No excitement so far. Lifebelt parade to-day.
Wednesday 18th August 1915 Same as yesterday. Expect to reach Lemnos Island to-night. Submarine guard doubled. Saw Volcano at night. The blue of meditteranean is remarkable. Did not reach Lemnos.
Thursday 19th August 1915 At Lemnos. The Harbour is filled with hundreds of Troopships and Battleships etc.
Friday 20th August 1915 Had a swim. Are now on board "Osmaniet" which is a fine boat. Very clean. Bound for the Dardanelles. Time 6.30 leaving.
Saturday 21st August 1915 Arrived at Gaba Tebe at about 3 a.m. Landing uneventful. A few stray bullets, but no wounded. An awful climb to the rear of trenches with the guns. Am leaving to-night for the firing line.
Sunday 22nd August 1915 Am camped in dugouts just behind the line. Great danger from flying bullets and shrapnel. Several wounded. Just leaving for the front. Later:- have had a rather gruelling experience. Just up in a trench as reserves in the firing line. Had to double across about 200 yds by shrapnel swept open land with the guns was no light job and am still absolutely knocked up. Several killed and many wounded, including Mr. Killeen.
Monday 23rd August 1915 Still in trenches as reserves, but are moving still further along to-night.
Tuesday 24th August 1915 (Morning) Orders came along last night cancelling and we are still in our dugout. Very cold of a night and we have no coats or blankets.
Wednesday 25th August 1915 Still in the same place. A party went back to base and brought all our overcoats. Also went down to have a swim. On guard to-night.
Thursday 25th August 1915 (Morning) Still here. Had another swim. Moving further on to-night.
Friday 27th August 1915 Have just gone through an experience which I donít want again. We left our trench at about 7 p.m. and reached here Popeís Post 12 p.m. March ed eight miles over mountains with the guns under fire practically the whole way, and was absolutely knocked up when we reached here. Half the Section was separated and have only just reached here 3 oíclock in the afternoon. This is awful. Later:- March ed up to our position on Courtneyís Post.
Saturday 28th August 1915 Have settled down here and have been in action. Firing at intervals all day as opportunity offers. Can see very little as to results, as we only see periscopes of Turks rifles above the trenches. Also firing with rifles from Gun position which are very safe. Am on regular guard Ė three hours on and six off. Pretty bad with dysentery, most of the Section have it.
Sunday 29th August 1915 Still on same duty, not much excitement. Several mines exploded by us shook our position somewhat. Sent P.C. home. Still bad with dysentery.
Monday 30th August to Friday Sept 3rd 1915 Very much the same much better.
Saturday 4th September 1915 An attack was expected to-night, but never eventuated.
Sunday 5th September 1915 Wrote to Pat. Still expect attack. Major Murray (?) killed by sniper, also J. Robinson.
Monday 6th Sept to 9th 1915 No excitement. The six Brigade have relieved the 8th Battalion, which were here about four months. A Turk wandered into trenches last night and gave himself up. Don very bad.
Friday 10th Sept 1915 As per usual. Don still bad.
Saturday 11th Sept 1915 Went away to Murdois Island for a rest.
Sunday 12th Sept 1915 Same as before, pretty sick. We are now doing eighteen hours guard and eighteen off. Most of the Section are sick including Harry.
Monday 13th Sept 1915 Simpson sent away to Murdois sick. Getting cold.
Tuesday 14th Sept 1915 Nothing fresh.
Wednesday 15th Sept 1915 Nothing fresh.
Thursday 16th Sept 1915 Bit of demonstration on both sides to-night. Shells landed very close to our position.
Saturday 15th Sept 1915 Attack by both sides; about tea time to-night we had superiority of fire, bombs very close, they found
the range of our trenches, and knocked the parapets about, several of the 21st killed. The guns were not in action.
Sunday 19th Sept 1915 Had a swim, very cold. Eight reserve men from the Battalion came up to-day for training.
Thursday 23rd Sept 1915 Little excitement to-day. A shed caught fire, had some difficulty in putting it out. Fumes from W, proofs and equipments was awful. Also danger from exploding cartridges.
Friday 24th Sept 1915 To-night we had the guns in action, but failed to draw very much opposition.
Tuesday 29th Sept 1915 Ralph Mace killed by shell on Popeís.
Saturday October 2nd 1915 Stewart sent away ill.
October 4th 1915 Heavy artillery duel this morning.
October 12th 1915 Mail in Ė 12 letters Ė also a few Regimental comforts.
October 11th 1915 Section took over two more guns on Quinnís Post. 7 men from this Section including Sergeant and Corporal Harris, also 12 men from 17th Gun Sec with them.
October 12th 1915 Shrapnel at our No. 1 position this morning, no result.
October 20th 1915 Bolain (?) sent away to Khermaren.
October 25th 1915 Porter sent away
October 28th 1915 McShane & Morris both sent away with yellow jaundice. Letter from Mrs. McKnight.
November 12th 1915 Shifted from Courtneyís to Popeís. Sorry to lose a comfortable position.
November 26th 1915 Snowing to-night, very cold, feet frozen three days silence.
November 28th 1915 Knocked out by bomb.
November 30th 1915 Splinter of bullet in shoulder. Night off duty.
December 10th 1915 Carmichael came back.
December 13th 1915 Harry Smith hit Ė splinters on the neck. Corpe hit on forhead, and Brown on finger. All from same Rieochell during stand to.
December 14th 1915 Preparations for leaving.
December 19th 1915 Left Popeís 5.30. From amb to beach 35 minute. All aboard without a shot fired. 11 Gun Sec left behind, 7 men and O.C. on Popeís and 4 on Pluggs Plateau. On board H.M.S. Mers Ė Now at Lemnos enjoying ourselves shifting tents.
December 21st 1915 More men successfully evacuated.
December 25th (Xmas Day) Had a swim, very cold, but feel cleaner. Dinner: stew.
December 26th 1915 Xmas billies arrived (Victorian) very much appreciated, mine from Mrs. Vickery, "Glynn" Seymour Grove, Brighton Beach, Melbourne, Vic.
January 1st 1916 (New Yearís Day) very quiet, raining. Saw the N.Y. in plenty noise.
January 2nd 1916 Walked to Castro 45 miles. Had a hot Spring Bath.
January 4th 1916 Left Lemnos and came aboard "Ascanius" at night.
January 5th 1916 Have mounted the guns on Poop deck, and am on guard against Submarines etc. Rather rough.
January 7th 1916 Arrived Alexandria about 9 a.m. Left boat about 6 p.m., entrained in same old cattle trucks and reached our Camp Tel-el Keber about 3 a.m.
January 8th 1916 Donít think much of this place. Muddle of desert, and up to present have no tents. Big issue of mail etc. Received 43 letters and three parcels.
January 9th 1916 Put up tents. 8 men and Corporal went to Zeitoun school. Met Harry Rogers. Received two parcels and billy from home.
January 10th 1916 Machine gun school re-started.
January 16th 1916 Elementry examination. Boss went away.
January 20th 1916 Went out to ranges for a shooting practice. Had a great opportunity of viewing the wonderful irrigation scheme. Small mail in.
January 24th 1916 Left Tel-el-Kebir. Reveille at 12.45 a.m. entrained about 2 and reached Ismalia about 4. March ed over 5 miles through beautiful avenues and reached here (about one mile from Ferry Post) about 8 oíclock.
January 25th 1916 Don was again sent into Hospital Ė mumps.
January 26th 1916 Left Camp at about 9 a.m. and March ed about 8 miles in heavy sand to our present camp, or Pinch Gut Hollow.
Very tired when we got here.
January 27th 1916 Tucker is very off. Bully and biscuits only so far.
January 30 1916 (Sunday ) Church Service to-day at 11.30 a.m. This afternoon the Gun Section played the Signallers of Battalion Football, Rugby Union. Heavy sand, therefore slow. Won 9 to 0 Mr. Saddler Ė Referee. Tucker no different.
February 1st 1916 Much the same beginning to get a bit monotonous. We are doing very interesting work with the guns, as the work is very different from Gallipoli. The tucker is about worse. We get issued with about three biscuits a day per man and no bully. Two meat stews a day is supposed to keep us alive. Filling in our spare time with 500 and getting about sick of that. Issued with ľ oz tobacco and packet of cigarettes to-day.
February 2nd 1916 Great excitement. A small mail arrived to-night, three letters for me, dated 26th December.
February 3rd 1916 Rest of the Battalion arrived to-day at 4 p.m. also rest of the Section except Winthorp who broke leave. Corporal Carmichael and Hill with Instructors Ticket and all the rest except Winthorp have 1st class tickets. We also got some fruit in per camel.
February 4th 1916 To-day "C" Coy refused to parade in March ing order. Result about 12 men in Guard Tent. Work on Barr and Stroud to-day.
February 5th 1916 7 more men out of the Section went to Zeitoun School to-day. This afternoon Reinforcements came for the Coys. Amongst them were Bingham and Whalen.
February 6th 1916 Church Parade this morning. Spent a quiet day in which I wrote letters.
February 7th 1916 Aeroplane came out to day and circled round our Camp several times. The 19th Band played a few selections after tea to-night, which was rather good and was practically the first music we have heard since leaving the Pen.
February 8th 1916 Went out to trenches this afternoon for drill.
February 11th 1916 Small mail in to-day but no luck.
February 12th 1916 Paid to-day £3/-/- each. Mail in to-night and also more on Sunday . 18 letters, no papers. Had to drill Sunday morning. Church 4 p.m.
February 16th 1916 Harris and Luke went to Hospital to-day with mumps.
February 17th 1916 Big mail in to-day and also our comforts from
February 18th 1916 A new gun came in to-day from Brig. This evening shifted the Camp round. Usual mess up. Ellis and Bingham had a slight difference to-night and resorted to fists. Bingham won. Had best wind.
February 21st 1916 Skipper came back.
February 23rd 1916 Started digging our Gun Pits to-day. Very hard work as the blisters on my hands will testify. Also got in some canteen stores, and am feeling full in consequence.
February 24th 1916 Birthday to-day, spent it digging trenches four parcels arrived, two from home, one from Pevensey, one from Dos.
February 25th 1916 Went into Ferry Post and put up at Rest Camp, very cold night and rotten walk in.
February 26th 1916 Early morning, walked into Esmalia and caught train to Cairo, arrived 9.30. Met Don. Went out to Maadi to see Chas and Os, but missed them. Gone night before. Put up at Bristol that night and imagined myself a gentleman again.
February 27th 1916 Left Cairo at 11 and reached Camp at about 5 p.m. caught train back. Small mail in when got here.
March 1st 1916 All packed up to-day ready to go over to H.Q. being transferred, but order was cancelled till Battalion got Lewis guns.
March 4th 1916 The Battalion changed rifles to-day for M.K. 4 M.V. firing mark 7 ammunition.
March 5th 1916 Early this morning all our guns, gear etc., went away and Pte Hamilton, Corporal Carr and three men went into Ferry Post to draw New Vicars.
March 6th 1916 The Battalion moved this morning to Rest Camp at Ferry Post but unfortunately I was not with them. Being a bit off I was sent to 5th Field Hospital.
March 7th 1916 The Hospital moved this morning and carted me along with them. My first experience of a ride in an Ambulance Waggon.
March 8th 1916 Now at Maadi? Still in Hospital. Had a good walk this morning.
March 9th 1916 Regained the Section. Don is back again.
March 10th 1916 Small mail in.
March 11th 1916 Paid to-day, also got our black kit bags.
March 13th 1916 Sgt Ten French 2nd Lieutenant.
March 14th 1916 Filling belts to-day, leaving to-morrow Saturday. Parade. Simpson came back.
March 15th 1916 General mix up, packing up etc.
March 16th 1916 Duty Sec. Packing up etc. Left Camp at about 7 oíclock. Baggage Guard, entrained at about 12 in same old cattle trucks only for a change this time the truck was covered in coal dust.
March 17th 1916 Train left 1.55 a.m. and arrived at Alexandria about 10 a.m. after a very cold night. Came on board "Arcadian" H 1 at 11.45 worked like blazes all day, loading gear etc. Left Egypt at 5.45. Slept on deck. Weather very wintry and wet, but got in a good sleep. Two guns mounted, but was too rough to keep them up.
March 18th 1916 Still very rough, several sick, 2,300 troops aboard. Very rough day. Innoculation.
March 19th 1916 Rough night. Feeling effects of innoculation.
March 20th 1916 Calm to-day, tried all guns, all very satisfactory. Passed Malta at about 4.30. On Guard to-night.
March 21st 1916 Rough weather. Had to dismount guns.
March 22 1916 Still fairly rough. Put the guns up again last night, but had to dismount them this morning. Our destination in sight to-night. Everybody is packing up. General confusion.
March 23rd 1916 Up at 5 a.m. this morning. Had a hot bath, came on deck and saw magnificient sight. The Sun was just rising over the Hills which surround Marseilles, and the white Cliffs looked fine. We are now in the Quay and busily engaged tasting the fine oranges. The Harbour, what there is of it is mostly artificial. The view as we first saw it looked very like Gallipoli. A Railway and Tram line runs along the shore. Later:- disembarked a fairly long wait on the Wharf during which we had Dinner. Then a March for about a mile to the Station. We did not see too much of the town, but we were struck with the beauty of the women and the scarcity of the men folk. Of course we had a good reception. Arriving at the Railway we were very much surprised at the class of carriages we had to travel in. They certainly were a fine contrast to the old animal trucks of Egypt. We tried our very poor French here to bad effect. Train left at about 4 oíclock and we travelled through the most glorious scenery until dark. Passed through five tunnels, the last one being about three miles long.
March 24th 1916 Had a fairly comfortable night though we were
wakened up at 11 oíclock to a drink of tea. Think we would have rather had the sleep. The same beautiful scenery this morning. Passing through Vineyards and olive groves this morning. Passed Lyon at 6.10 a.m. A fine town what we could see of it. Passed over the Rhone here. Fine Bridges. Getting a great reception from the inhabitants of the Villages we pass. Ravages of war are apparent. All the women are in black and no men of military age are visible. Rain spoilt the day somewhat. Later on: Travelling very slowly.
March 25th 1916 Had a very cold night. Frost and ice on the ground this morning. Stopped for tea at 4.30 a.m. Same class of scenery. Reached Monterause at 12. Had dinner here, returned at 2. Were very disappointed at not seeing Paris. We branched off about 13 miles beforehand at Jowish. Saw outskirts of it later on. Reached Versailles at about 5 p.m. where the ladies of the Crois Rouge Francais handed us tea and bread and generally treated us fine. So far we have a very fine opinion of French hospitality.
March 26th 1916 Another cool night. We are now getting close to firing line. Arrived at Thiennes at about 12 oíclock, 70 hours in the train, where we detrained. Were issued with a blanket here. March ed 3 K through Villages. Are now billited in the barn of a farmhouse. Pretty comfortable. Bed of straw on floor. Walked down Village where we made the acquaintance of all the pretty girls and exercised our French. Plenty of wine and beer at 1d glass to be had.
March 27th 1916 Cool morning. Cleaned guns this morning raining nearly all day. Very cool. Cleaned ammunition this afternoon.
March 28th 1916 Very cold day. March ed to Aire this afternoon 4 K.
March 29th 1916 Half Holiday to-day. Went to Aire. Not a bad little place. Bought a few odds and ends. There was a slight fall of snow while we were there.
March 30th 1916 19th Batt played the fool to-night and in consequence all Pubs were shut, but opened later.
March 31st 1916 March ed four miles to-day and had our first experience of being gassed, not too pleasant. Reached home at 3 oíclock Ė very hungry.
April 3rd 1916 A few of us went to Morebecque to-day and saw a demonstration of liquid fire. Put under arrest.
April 5th 1916 Gun practice, stoppages very satisfactory.
April 6th 1916 Packing up and cleaning the guns ready for shifting, usual mix up.
7th April 1916 March ed off with full packs (our blankets were carried for us) at 8 oíclock and joined the rest of the Brigade at about 10 a.m. At about five miles out we were received by Gen Joffre and staff. The General was just about as I expected to find him. Altogether we March ed about 18 or 20 miles and by the time we reached our billet we were tired out. Passed through numerous Villages on the way.
8th April 1916 Next morning off again at 9.30 and did about 12 miles to our present billet a few miles behind the firing line and in range.
9th April 1916 Got the guns ready for action, No 2 Sec and Nos 1 and 2 guns of our Section went up to firing line to-night.
10th April 1916 Expecting to leave any minute. Everything ready.
11th April 1916 Moved further up into another billet. Two more guns went up.
12th April 1916 Three men from Company and self came to school for overhead and indirect fire, four miles from Groise der Boe Billet. 1st Lecture at 2 p.m. on culminating points.
15th April 1916 Left school and came back to billet. Had a fairly good time though place was very slow.
16th April 1916 Shifted into another billet nearer the line.
17th April 1916 Had a trip up to the trenches to-night with rations. Very wet. Rather exciting.
18th April 1916 Had a hot bath and clean change.
19th April 1916 Came up to the trenches to-day. Got lost on the way up, but eventually reached our position in a Graveyard. Don and I are in one dugout and very comfortable. Only watch at night. Have a good stove and cook for ourselves.
20th April 1916 Some of the boys thought they had caught a spy very amusing. Shrapnel over to-day.
21st April 1916 Mail in to-night.
22nd April 1916 George Ball and Darkie Mill went to town to-day and came home slightly irresponsible. Looked as if they swam home. George had both pockets full of eggs which also got mixed up in the struggle. Raining heavy to-day.
23rd April 1916 Fined up this morning, plenty shells. Saw about 200 shells at aeroplane without result.
24th April 1916 Six men under Harry took over position near
25th April 1916 Anzac Day, very quiet.
26th April 1916 Vigorous bombardment of our second line. Very little damage.
27th April 1916 Very heavy bombardment on both sides to-night. Rumors of gas attack and we all turned out about 11 p.m. with helmets. Fortunately only a rumor.
28th April 1916 Left our post and went back to billets for a spell.
29th April 1916 Had a hot bath.
30th April 1916 Went in and had our Photos taken don, Ern and self.
2nd May 1916 Mail in to-day.
4th May 1916 Up again in trenches to-day this time closer up to White City. Things pretty lively.
5th May 1916 At 7.15 to-night while Don and I were down for rations a heavy bombardment started, which gave our positions a terrible doing. Stafford, Flabman and Wheeler were killed in our Pit which was blown right out. At Emma Post three men were buried. Sgt Carmichael was rather seriously injured. Bombardment lasted for nearly three hours and other casualties were heavy. A very long and cold night. I lost all my clothes and things in my dugout.
6th May 1916 After sitting up all night expecting another attack we were relieved at 2 p.m. much to our delight as we were all pretty merry.
From 6th to 15th May 1916 Back in billets.
16th May 1916 Came up into White City again. Have plenty of work to do as we are rebuilding possey. Gas alarms all night.
17th May 1916 Still on rebuilding.
18th May 1916 Finished the dugout. Few shells over. Having beautiful weather.
23rd May 1916 Back into Billets again.
29th May 1916 Into No 11 Cemetry Post. Mail in before we left.
30th May 1916 A heavy bombardment on our right caused a stand to at about 10 p.m. but nothing eventuated.
1st June 1916 Aeroplane duel this afternoon. Taube went down. Later on one of ours came down. A captured balloon of ours broke loose and floated out of sight. This evening they bombarded our position and caused a scatter.
3rd June 1916 Came up into Firing Line to-day. Captain Tate and six men.
4th June 1916 An Artillery duel on our right caused a stand to at night. Some shells over in the day.
5th June 1916 Shelling very close. 7th Brigade intended doing a stunt to-night and had to stand to from 9 p.m. till 3.30 a.m., stunt never came off.
6th June 1916 Standing to all night again. At 11.30 our Artillery opened out on to Fritzís parapets. Fritz paid it back with interest and things got lively. Not many casualties. 7th made a very successful raid.
7th June 1916 Shells flying about.
8th June 1916 Quiet day. Raining bombs at night.
9th June 1916 A lively day with shells and bombs.
10th June 1916 Fairly quiet day, bombs and shells.
11th June 1916 To-night at about 11 p.m. Allemand? started to throw bombs which we paid back with compound interest. Artillery opened up and things got very mixed for a while.
12th June 1916 Another stand to to-night when we had to submit to bombardment while the 1st Brigade did a stunt.
13th June 1916 Relieved to-day thank goodness. Had a very lively ten days.
14th June 1916 Clocks put forward an hour. Concert to-night great success.
16th June 1916 On guard Ė Billets. Gas Alarm.
18th June 1916 Came up into White City. Harry S. in charge. A lively night. Stood to about three times for bombardments. Received two parcels from home and tobacco from Mr. Pauch.
19th June 1916 Very cold day. Plenty of shelling. Up again twice during the night. Fritz seems to have developed a habit of annoying us.
20th June 1916 Quiet day. Some 14th Battalion men came to look over to-day, so our dreams of a spell seem to be materialising. The Company had bad luck to-day. A shell hit the billet (intended for a Battery behind) and killed four men and wounded eleven. No. 2 Section and reinforcements.
22nd June 1916 To-night a bombardment on both sides. Shells very close to us but no damage, also gas alarm.
23rd June 1916 Up again to-night for bombardment, violent storm ce soir.
24th June 1916 Twice out to-night and two gas alarms.
25th June 1916 Twelve months to-day since we left Sydney. Places seen in that time. Suez, Port Said, Alexandria (3) Heliopolis, Cairo (2) Lemnos (2) Gallipoli, Tel-el-Kebir, Ismalia, Ferry Post, Mount Katoomba (Sinai) Moascar, Marseilles (France). By way of celebration, after a heavy bombardment which lasted nearly two hours, the 5th Brigade made a successful raid on the German trenches. Saw a peculiar cloud effect in the afternoon. Shrapnel at Ďplane broke clouds.
26th June 1916 Two observation balloons destRoyed by our planes this afternoon and four more forced to descend. To-night was extremely lively. Fritz got in on us and gave us a lively time for about an hour. Starting at 9 oíclock and kept it up every half hour for about three hours. However, we replied vigorously and quietened him. Later on we gave him his own back with interest and incidentally carried out a successful raid and repulsed one by Fritz leaving.
27th June 1916 Bustling around to-day getting ready to hand over. Some bustle too. Relieved at about 11.30 tonight. The boys were filling in time with the rum issue and were rather funny. I had to stop behind all night and hand over. No sleep, raining all night. Just as they left a stunt happened on the right and mixed things up.
29th June 1916 Came out about 8.30 and had to set to work cleaning the gun which was covered with mud. Nos 3 and 4 Sections moved off.
30th June 1916 Before moving off to-night we had a small concert most amusing. Came in to Erquingham and are now in huts. Heavy bombardment, a soir.
1st July 1916 Looking over gun belts etc., and generally straightening up.
From 3rd to 4th July 1916 Same old thing. All the boys seem to be having birthdays which have to be celebrated.
5th July 1916 Gas alarm at 12 tonight.
6th July 1916 On guard. Another gas alarm.
9th July 1916 On the move again. Left Erquingham at 11.15 a.m. and reached Strabeele at 7.30. March ed about 10 miles. Everybody with sore feet.
10th July 1916 On the move again, 12 miles to Eblingham. Fine billet old Chateau.
11th July 1916 Up early this morning March ed 10 miles to Wizarnes and entrained 40 miles in three days, pretty well knocked up. Sore feet.
12th July 1916 Detrained at 2 a.m. after passing through Calais, Bolougne, Etaples, unloaded horses and limbers and then set out per hoof again. Did about 15 miles going about 6 miles out of our way and finally pulled up at Picquigney. Very slow town though big.
13th July 1916 To-night we had a look at some historical ruins. An old Chateau of 12th Century and a Church of 13th. The Chateau is crumbling down but the old Church is in a marvellous state of repair.
17th July 1916 Off again to-day immediately after Church Parade (the first in France). We set off and did about 12 miles in fast time. Are now at Coisy.
19th July 1916 Left again and reached Rubenprt, only six miles this time. Good Billet.
20th July 1916 Now at WalRoy Baillon, 8 miles to-day. Getting close up.
21st July 1916 Witness at F.G.C.M. to-day J. Hill.
22nd July 1916 Packing up again off at 7 p.m. reached out-skirts of Albert and bivouacked.
23rd July 1916 Heavy bombardment last night. 1st Division took and held Pozieres. Packs handed in.
24th July 1916 Moved to-day and bivouacked a couple of miles behind the line, in fact on the British original front line.
25th July 1916 Had a look at the first system of German trenches to-day. Ground simply ploughed up, bombardment must have been terrific. Saw Crater blown up by us on 1st July over 100 yds across top. Said to be over 600 buried in it. Moved up to front line to-night and got lost and took over from 3rd M.G. Company6.
26th July 1916 All 1st Division got away this morning, 19th are holding Pozieres, 17th 18th and 20th on right and 6th and 7th Brigade in Reserve. Tommies on both flanks. Welsh on our right planned a bomb attack, but on being repulsed called on our Company, the 17th went out and took on a battle with bombs which lasted over eighteen hours.
27th July 1916 The fight which extended through the bombers of the whole Brigade lasted through the night and well on in the
morning, we eventually gaining our objective Ė 150 yds and trench. We assisted as much as possible. It was a glorious sight and heroism and grit displayed by our boys baffles description.
28th July 1916 Relieved this morning and went back amongst the Artillery. Glad to get out of the trenches where the strain is awful. Position as we found it. Things were a big mixed all right.
29th July 1916 Still in reserves and carrying rations and rum to firing line.
30th July 1916 Moved up to supports where we do indirect fire. An Officer captured at Pozieres said that our machine Gun fire did more damage than Artillery. We are enfilading a main sap. Some of each Brigade charged to-night, but the Artillery failing to cut the wire failed though the German line was entered at several points.
31st July 1916 Still in supports and being very much worried with gas and lachrymatory shells.
1st August 1916 Relieved again and backed into Reserves. Harry Austin and Plume and Hearst caught the full force of a gas shell. Afterwards all died.
2nd August 1916 Supplying fatigues again. Our Brigade has done marvellous work and badly needs a rest which wonít be until we take the Ridge in front away.
3rd August 1916 Up in front line again. Fritz is shelling like blazes. One of our guns buried and Sgt Tate killed, two others had to go out with shell shock. Rotten night.
4th August 1916 2nd Anniversary of the War and we hopped the parapet to-night. Our Artillery has been going all day and cut all the wire in front to bits. Barrage started at 9.15 and lifted 9.18, when 18 and 20 and some of the Company Brigades went over. One of our guns went.
5th August 1916 Morning found us in possession of two more lines of German trenches and our chaps running about looking for Fritz. Resistance only slight. Fritz is pouring in shells like hell. Three of our boys wounded in charge.
Sunday , 6th Aug. 1916 We were relieved last night & glad to get out of it. It has been a great strain but I think we lived up to our reputation. We were reviewed in the forenoon by Gnl. Birdwood who expressed great appreciation of our work. These Australians will do me for fighters. In the afternoon we moved to Walhoy, Baillon, 8 miles. Going back for a short spell to re-organise and then into it again.
Monday 7th August 1916 Moved again from W.B. to a small village, La Vicogane, 12 miles away and bivouaced in an orchard.
Tuesday 8th August 1916 March ed to Pernois, a village 8 miles away, where we are to spell.
9th 10th 11th 12th August 1916 Resting. Went down to baths (cold). Got a complete new outfit. Tres bien!!
Sunday 13th August 1916 Most of the boys have taken French leave and gone to Armiens. Would have gone myself but thought a sleep would have done me more good.
Monday 14th August 1916 Started a programme of work today Ė pretty stiff. Am training recruits.
Tuesday 15th August 1916 DO. Raining.
Wednesday 16 August 1916 Shifted again suddenly and bivouaced in the same orchard. Rained during the night and did much cursing.
Thursday 17th August 1916 Off again and do about 15 miles Ė feet gave out and did the last 7 on a limber. Now at Harponville. Good billet
Friday 18th August 1916 Paid today. Raining.
Saturday 19th August 1916 Small mail Ė 2 letters. Raining.
Sunday 20th August 1916 Moved up close to Albert Ė No. 3 & 4 Sections went up.
Tuesday, 22nd August 1916 Moved down to Sunken Road H.Q. In reserve.
Wednesday 23rd August 1916 Still H.Q. Severe shelling tonight. 2 men wounded.
Thursday 24th August 1916 We moved up into trenches. Found
the position slightly altered. Incessant shelling had flattened out the trenches and we were practically in Nomanís Land. Was buried after 5 minutes in.
Friday 25th August 1916 Very severe shelling. Mr. Gritten was buried Ė severe shaking.
Saturday 26th August 1916 Heavy shelling all day. Bingham Norris & Bill hit 26.
Sunday 27th August 1916 Relieved by 7th M.G. Coy. Very pleased to get out. Rained the whole time and very muddy and dead-beat. Came back to Limbers.
Monday 28th August 1916 Paid to-day.
Tuesday 29th August 1916 Moved to Walhoy Baillon Ė Left 8 a.m.
Wednesday 30th August 1916 Walhoy. Canadians went through Ė fine lot.
Thursday 31st August 1916 Medals presented to heroes in 5th Bgde. Gnl. Birdwood. Left Walhoy 2 p.m. March ed to Beaval about 12 miles.
Friday 1st September 1916 At Beaval Ė fine town and good shops.
Saturday 2nd September 1916 At Beaval.
Sunday 3rd September 1916 Church parade today. Only few in France. Cpl. Langworthy made Sgt. & Corps Lce. Cpl.
Monday 4th September 1916 Duty Section.
Tuesday 5th September 1916 Reveille 4.30 a.m. left at 5. 30 March ed to Doullens North. Entrained 44 in a cattle truck and things were very crowded. Only 6 hrs trip and pulled up at Paperingha in Belgium.
Wednesday 6th September 1916 Still in Paperingha Ė fine town, plenty of shops, and people speak English.
Thursday 7th September 1916 Expected to move up today, but cancelled.
Friday 8th September 1916 Moving up to-night. Left billet about 8 oíclock and March ed up to Railway Station. Entrained about 9.30 in armoured train and ran with lights out to Ypres. Our first experience of going up to the line by train. Some shells pretty close to us in the train and also while we were waiting to move off. March ed through Ypres Ė A once beautiful city in ruins. Took over at about 12 oíclock from 11 Welsh
Tommies. My position is isolated and we are living like rabbits. Not allowed to go out of the dug-out in day time.
Saturday 9th September 1916 So far it has been very quiet we have to watch all night and sleep in day time. Our rations are brought up at night and that is the only time we see anyone. A bit of excitement tonight Ė the dug-out caught fire, burning one of the boys packs and several waterproofs.
Sunday 10th September 1916. A mail came in tonight and a small parcel for me.
Wednesday 13th September 1916 About 11.30 to-night we were relieved suddenly by the 6th M.G. Coy. After carrying ammunition to Tillebincke Village, came back to Coy. H. Quarters. Fine row of dugouts. Issued with a blanket and got to bed about 4.30 a.m.
Thursday 14th September 1916 Pay today. Moving up again tonight Ė Only 2 guns Ė Left at 9.30 p.m. and came up and took over a rotten position. Only my gun stayed, the position too precarious for another gun.
Friday 15th September 1916 The 19th Div. carried out a stunt on our left using gas. There are only 2 of us at the gun, the other 3 are behind. We have to divide the all-day watch between us.
Saturday 16th September 1916 Another stunt on the right this time tonight. So far Fritz replies to the bombardment have been very weak, and rumours are flying around that he is rushing from Ypres front.
Sunday 17th September 1916 Great sadness tonight Ė Nothing to eat!! Ė something went wrong with arrangements.
Monday 18th September 1916 Nearly flooded out, raining all day. Issued with rubber boots.
Tuesday 19th September 1916 Issued with a Primus Stove for cooking. A big mail in tonight, 14 letters and a parcel of tobacco from Mr. Pauch.
Sunday 20th September 1916 Relieved tonight and came back to B---. 2 parcels.
Wednesday 27th September 1916 Left B--- at 8 on leave to Blighty. Went down as far as transport in limber, and walked to Paperingha, about 2Ĺ miles.
Thursday 28th September 1916 Train left at 6.5 a.m. Reached Boulogne at 2 p.m., missed boat and went to Rest Camp.
Friday 29th September 1916 Left about 9.45, March ed to wharf and boat. Left at 12.45, about 2 hrs. across the Channel and reached London at 5.30 p.m. Went to Horseferry Rd. and got fixed up. Engaged a room at Kenilworth Hotel Ė some class Ė Had a hot bath, went out and had a feed and then to Cinema.
Saturday 30th September 1916 Went to Commonwealth Bank and drew £20/. Bought some clothes etc. Went to Euston Station and caught train to Birmingham. Took the girls to the pictures at night.
Sunday 1st October 1916 Went for a walk in the Park and lazed the afternoon away with ditto.
Monday 2nd October 1916 Met the girls in town, went to pictures. Up till 2 a.m.
Tuesday 3rd October 1916 Left for Leeds this morning, and went to see a wounded friend in hospital, and from there down to Leicester.
Wednesday 4th October 1916 Stayed the night and came down to London again this afternoon Ė then going to Eastbourne. Talked all night.
Thursday 5th & Friday 6th October 1916 Having a good time at Eastbourne, including a motor trip round Beachy Head, Pevensey, etc.
Saturday 7th October 1916 Left at 2.25 and are now at West Ealing. Went to pictures.
Sunday 8th October 1916 Went to Church in the morning and Brotherhood in the afternoon and listened to a speech by a Conscientious Objector.
Monday 9th October 1916 Went into London for the day, visited St. Pauls, Art Gallery, Guild Hall, and theatre, Daddy Long Legs, at night.
Tuesday 10th October 1916 Up early this morning and caught train at 8 at Victoria, arrived Folkestone about 10 and Boulogne at 1 p.m. Very rough crossing, stayed in Boulogne till 6p.m. Saw the city Ė narrow streets and dirty Ė Reached Harebrouck at abt 11.30 and stayed in a Rest Camp the night.
Wednesday 11th October 1916 Caught train at 10 a.m. and came to Paperingah and spent the day here and night on the floor of Y.M.C.A. Hut.
Thursday 12th October 1916 Wakened up at 6 this morning and walked out to S--- Camp, arriving there before the Coy.
Saturday 14th October 1916 Left here Ė went to Ontario Camp Reninghalst.
Tuesday 17th October 1916 March ed to S--- about 11 miles and walked into W--- for tea.
Wednesday 18th October 1916 Left again this morning and March ed 16 miles in pouring rain to Arncke.
Thursday 19th October 1916 To-day we had to vote For or Against Conscription.
Saturday 21st October 1916 Another long March today to Y--- 16 miles, very good billet. Heavy frost these last two mornings.
Sunday 22nd October 1916 Sunday Ė Wrote letters. Very cold.
Tuesday 24th October 1916 Walked about 2 miles and entrained at Audrick at about 12 oíclock. Train left at 3 and we detrained at 12 p.m. after passing through Calais, Boulogne, Etaples etc. At Pontrenny where we were billeted.
Wednesday 25th October 1916 Went into Abbyville today and had a fairly good time. It has 3 beautiful churches and a fine statue.
Thursday 26th October 1916 Raining like blazes today and we had to shift, March ing 6 miles in pouring rain and then got into motor cars. Travelled about 7 hrs. in these and came to ---. Had wet feet and clothing to start with, and so had a rotten trip. Came through Blixicourt, Requigney etc. Had a good billet that night.
Friday 27th October 1916 Shifted billet Ė had to pitch tents in the mud, and pinched straw etc. to dry the floor.
Saturday November 4th 1916 Dropped tents this morning and shifted up to camp -. Raining all the time.
Sunday 5th November 1916 Went up to Reserve to 7th Bgde hop over the attack, was not too successful, but were not required.
Monday 6th November 1916 Moved up to take over from the 7th about 6 miles walk in pouring rain and mud feet deep. About
11 the shells were flying thick and I stopped a piece in right chest, walked back to dressing Station, about 4 miles through the rain and mud and spent the night there.
Tuesday 7th November 1916 Left in an open char-a-banc and went down to 5th A.M.C. Pouring with rain and a rotten ride over rough roads. Dressed again here, and then in a motor ambulance to No. 37 C.C.S. where we spent the night.
Wednesday 8th November 1916 Caught train at end day and reached Rouen at about midnight, and am now between clean sheets. Also wounded same night Corpe Lawrence, Lanc Cpl. W. Lawrence and I are together so far.
Saturday 11th November 1916 Went under X Ray today. Concert to-night.
Sunday 12th November 1916 Supposed to be leaving for Blighty. Left 4/30 and came on board Hospital Ship Western Australian in port that night.
Monday 13th November 1916 Left 5.30 this morning, found Mr. Shane and Joe Hill on board. Heavy fog came up and we had to put back Ė very crook.
Tuesday 14th November 1916 Started again this morning at 9 and reached Southampton tonight Ė anchored for the night.
Wednesday 15th November 1916 Pulled into wharf at 9 a.m. and finally left in the train at about 1, and reached Bristol about 3 p.m. Had a great reception from the people. Went to Southmead Hospital.
Thursday 16 November 1916 X Ray today.
Friday 17th November 1916 Snowing to-night. First of the Year.
[Handwritten note] Died 26th Nov. 16 at Southmead Hospital Bristol after operation. Shrapnel in Lung Ė hemorage setting in after removal. W.E.R.
Abbeville is misspelt as Abbyville
Amiens - Armiens
Arneke Ė Arncke
Audruicq Ė Audrick
Beauval Ė Beanwal, Beaval
Birmingham - Bermingham
Boeseghem - Boeseghen
Boulogne - Bolougne
Boulogne Ė Bolougne
Contalmaison Ė Contalinaison
Ebblinghem - Eblingham
Erquinghem Ė Erquingham
Flixecourt Ė Blixicourt
Gaba Tepe Ė Gaba Tebe
Hazebrouck - Harebrouck
Ismailia Ė Ismalia, Esmalia
la Boisselle Ė la Boiselle
La Vicogne Ė La Vicogane
Mediterranean - Meditteranean
Monterause - Montereau
Morbecque - Morebecque
Mudros - Murdois
Picquigny - Picquigney
Picquigny Ė Picquigney
Picquigny - Requigney
Pont Remy Ė Pontrenny
Poperinge Ė Poperinghe, Paperingha, Paperingah
Reningelst - Reninghalst
Rubempre - Rubenprt
Strazeele Ė Strabeele
Tel-el-Kebir Ė Tel-el Keber
Warloy-Baillon Ė WalRoy Baillon, Walhoy Baillon
Wizernes - Wizarnes
H.M.S. Mers Ė H.M.S. Mars
A.M.C. Ė Army Medical Corps
B.E.F. Ė British Expeditionary Force (Belgium, France, England)
C.C.S. Ė Casualty Clearing Station
D.A.A.G. Ė Deputy Assistant Adjutant General
F.G.C.M. Ė Field General Court Marshal]
[Transcribed by Judy Gimbert for the State Library of New South Wales]