Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Henry Weston Pryce papers, 8 August 1916-23 November 1917
MLMSS 3444 ADD-ON 1255 (MLK 3095 / Item 7)

[Page 1]
[Transcriber’s Note: Henry Weston Pryce was born at Woolway Station in Monaro, NSW. He joined the 9th Machine Gun Company of the A.I.F. on 16 June 1916 and sailed from Melbourne in October 1916. He returned to Australia on 25 November 1917. Both his brothers died in the war. He was a salesman, insurance agent, clerk, soldier, journalist and poet. After the war he contributed verse and stories to Australian literary journals for several years and joined the staff of the Sydney Sun.]

[Some pages have been photographed out of order]
[Photo of Henry Weston Pryce]

[Page 2]
[Notation by unidentified writer]
Henry Weston Pryce
Signaller attach 9th Machine Gunns returned to Aust 1918
later journalist with Sun Newspapers
"Gunner 379"
died 1964. aged 74 years

[Page 3]
[Field Service Post Card with alternative printed messages. The following is the message sent.]
I am quite well and am going on well and hope to be discharged soon.
Letter follows at first opportunity.
I have received no letter from you lately.
C.G.Pryce 28 March 1916

[Page 4]
[Address side of Field Service Post Card]
Mrs H.G.Pryce
11 Ben Eden St
Waverley N.S.W. Australia

[Page 5]
[Field Service Post Card with alternative printed messages. The following is the message sent.]
I am quite well.
I have received your letter dated 30th 3rd. 16
Letter follows at first opportunity.


[Page 6]
[Address side of Field Service Post Card]
Mrs H.G.Pryce
11 Ben Eden Street
Waverley N.S.W. Australia

[Page 7]
[Field Service Post Card with alternative printed messages. The following is the message sent.]
I am quite well.
I have received your letter dated 19.3.16
Letter follows at first opportunity.
C.G.Pryce 27.5.16

[Page 8]
[Address side of Field Service Post Card]
Mrs H.G.Pryce
11 Ben Eden Street
Waverley N.S.W. Australia

[Page 9]
[Letter written on paper with Salvation Army letterhead]
7th Coy. M.G.Depot Seymour Vic [These words added to letter in a different hand]
Seymour, Vic
August 8th, 1916

My Dear Mother

You will see by the above that I am still at Seymour, though, as far as communication with the rest of the world is concerned, I might just as well be in Siberia.Since leaving Addison Rd have not had a word from N.S.W. – not even able to get Sydney papers. Would not have time to read them anyway so c’est n’important. Still very cold. We crawl out in the rain and essay a little drill, then crawl under bushes & stumps, light fires where possible, and wait for a change. The change is normally noticed signified by the rain giving place to sleet & varying winds. At night we go to the camp "pictures," – very rough films abt 25 years out of date – the "stadium," where arguments are settled, or church. As regards the latter, we are well supplied. Pretty well every denom. has a building, making a little one street city all

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on its own – all churches & church-owned shops. Prices are high – the limit, in fact – and so these institutions, though they may benefit military mankind in some ways, take from him in another manner what little worldly cash he may be possessed of. Fancy a city of 15,000 souls, all compelled by circumstance to deal with one firm for every blessed thing they want. These institutions work together, & each sells its own particular. Thus, no competition, plenty profits.

Nothing much to write about. We don’t seem to stand much chance of getting away from here for donkeys’ months & are therefore being specially trained to look pretty by numbers in order that the elite of Toorak & Bendigo may be pleased to gaze upon us & applaud. So far we have stood it. Only last Sunday morning we kicked a bit & caused some little scare at H.Q. Next time the M.G.s have to kick it may cause some flutter, but they have promised if we’re good, things will be much improved for the N.S.W. men & more liberty granted. Love to all & your self


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[Letter written on paper with Y.M.C.A. letterhead]

My dear Mother

Just have a moment to let you know that I have arrived here. Had a tip-top trip down & fine weather all the way in. This was prize luck – as chaps who have been here ten weeks state that this is the first fine week they have had. The country all the way down (that is the part I saw) looked fine, but on crossing the border a big difference showed. Vic. is a land of swamps, scrub, stunted, half drowned wheat, bleak hills & distant snow peaks. The latter, by the way, are a big set off to the otherwise poor scenery but do not tend towards warmth. A balmy breeze is now blowing & the frost is not far away from the ink-well. As for the camp – words fail me to express my own opinion which coincides with that of every other man here.

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The thing however you will be glad to know is that the quarantine yarn was a bit late. That was lifted some time back.

Very busy getting fixed up. For goodness sake send me the address of some people in Melbourne. I don’t care even if its only a chow or a policeman – so long as its somewhere that I can stop when on week-end leave. Melb. hotels charge 2/6 bed & 1/6 meals & we’re only getting 2/- per day. Rail fare 4/2 is another item.

Love to all longer letter when settled down.
from Harry

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[Letter written on paper with Church of England Soldiers’ Institute letterhead]
19 August 1916
My dear Mother
Your letter, with cash, also letter card & tobacco all blew in in a bunch yesterday. Thanks muchly, also, thank Father for getting the weed.I’d about got sick of cheap & nasty mixtures, as sold here. The cash will come in handy as I’m trying for leave next weekend to go to Melbourne & camp expenses are as high as some of the camp mutton – Excuse the goat. The socks from Madeline S. arrived yesterday. When writing there please convey my thanks etc.

Raining here as usual,- harder than usual if there is a difference. We have been digging trenches (the "dinkum" article – as used in France) for the last few days. It is very interesting & exciting work, but would be very tame in dry weather. You go out several miles, carrying a pick. Some other mug carries a shovel. This is the case with many successive pairs of mugs. After a while you come to a river in flood & the High Pan-Jek informs you that this is the first trench of the system under construction. It is a firing trench with "island traverses" he says. You

[the pages of the letter have been saved in incorrect order and the following is saved as page 15]
find it very easy to believe this because the islands are just so – portions of land surrounded by water. You cross the trench by means of sundry bridges & proceed along the banks of communication (trenches) rivers to the next one, same old thing. So you progress until arrival at the site selected for your particular trench. You dig like mad for several minutes. Then your shoveller scoops like mad for half an hour to get the liquid mud & water out of the hole. Next a critical expert comes along & maps out a drain. You dig, not so madly, at the drain & soon have a nice little yellow creek in full action. Being persuaded you then return to the trench proper & renew your efforts. Unless you get sense early, you keep on this way until both you & your shoveller are suddenly overwhelmed by the overflow from the next man’s section & get gloriously drowned. The next man is usually the one who wont dig his [drain?] & collects a lot of water in order that he may suddenly release it down the trench on better "bloques" than he can ever hope to be.

‘To get sense early’ means that you realise what you’re in for the first half hour & evaporate yourself into the dark & silent bush, to drown your sorrows in smoke & contemplate tortures for the Kaiser.

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I dug for several minutes the first day. Since then have been a general critic on trench digging, draining & water-conservation.There is a homestead far away half a mile this side of the trenches. That is the point where the 7th Coy suffers many casualties which pass unnoticed. There far from grief & pain one can sit on the verandah (under cover) & watch the poor devils drown down under. We have a fine man C.Sgt. M "Maori" McGregor, of Walker’s Ridge, who generally accompanies us on these little excursions. A great sport & about the whitest in the company Mac considers that training in the art of individual foraging is far more important than acquiring rheumatic fever in a rain storm. The owners of this station, Messrs. Stanford, are in England, & their manager seems to be quite fond of swaddy. We will be sorry when the trench digging stops.

The latest we have heard is that we leave in September for England, but it seems too good to be true.

I heard that several fellows I know are now in England, wounded at Pozieres; I hope that that is not how C. comes to be there but if it were so & nothing serious the he himself would probably look upon it as a lucky shot. The returned chaps reckon that the luckiest men in Gallipoli were the

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men who were often "slightly wounded" & sent to hospital. They looked upon it as a first class holiday without ordinary time restrictions.

Must ring off now with much love to all, particularly your self.

from Harry

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[Letter written on paper with Church of England Soldiers’ Institute letterhead]
27 August 1916

My Dear Mother

Am seizing a fleeting opportunity of writing – for cash!!! Could not go to Melbourne as am on the beastly guard, but expect to get next week end. Things are "crook" here in dead earnest – raining in oceans & every corner is flooded to the point of drowning. All of our crowd are stony & destitute with through buying tucker at 1/6 per meal & it seems impossible to save a penny as things are. Please send £1 by wire. It will only cost about 1/6. Wire it to Seymour Camp Depot Post Office Victoria.

I have your last letter & am not surprised to hear about Chas. Poor old chap, I hope he’s not having a rough time of it. Will write, when I come off this job, a less hurried letter, but must catch this mail if I want to see Melbourne.

Much love to all

[Page 18]
Pte H.W.Pryce
7th Coy. M.G.Depot
Seymour camp Depot P.O.

Wiring £1

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[Letter written on paper with Salvation Army letterhead]
Seymour, Vic
28th August 1916

My dear John

Thanks for your letter which blew in safely by Saturday’s post. From what we have heard here of the Armentieres & Pozieres scrums, & especially of the part played therein by the 1st Bgde, I am inclined to think that poor old C. may be classed among the more (or less) lucky ones. It has been said here that few of the boys there failed to stop something. Those who only get it well enough to give them a few weeks hospital are often called lucky.

We don’t know when we’re going, but we know we’re on our way! Have been informed that we may leave on the 16th, 25th or 30th of next month, and as, on Thursday last, we had gun drill, for the first time since leaving Addison Rd., possibly we may leave about the 30th. For the past two days the weather has been working up to a crisis. Saturday night wind began at 9pm & by 9.30 a goodly host of tents were somewhat mixed up. the mob

Three pages of the letter have been saved in incorrect order, and the following has been saved as page 21]
was enjoying a free concert, arranged by sundry Melbourne [snifers?], and wind had given place to torrential rain by the time the show ended. Then Oh! the melodious voices in the night! I don’t know whether the curses of the thousands had anything to do with it – but the fact remains that thunder & lightning came into the scheme & the scene was all lit up blue & green for half an hour. The luckless ones slept all over the shop in the "institutes" and the lucky devils did the laughing. ‘The Knuts’ were lucky, having only leakages to worry about.

No doubt this place was designed by the devil, but we get a devil of a lot of fun out of things. We can even get amusement out of such a trivial, common
occurrence a stew made of rotten meat. The boys have some fine exibits saved up & they’re not likely to forget the state that supplied them. We spend most of our cash at the Camp Restaurant & the proprietors must be coining fortunes as the lowewst tariff is 9d for one egg & chips. If they had decent cooks things would be alright, but they have no cooks at all. The cooking is done by men out of the lines – who are in some way unfitted for drill & pick & shovel.

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One is an epileptic, another was found to be not all there & guilty of bad habits. Fancy sticking such men into the cook-house, simply because they’re no good as fighters! Our own special cook is a chap who never cooked an egg in his life & did not know how to cook spuds before he enlisted. He’s proud of the fact & reckons that if the war lasts ten years he may, in that time, learn to boil mutton. He gave us some the other day garnished with onions which had been fermenting for a week or so in wet bags. When the orderly officer came round, he found the mob, armed with sticks, surrounding a big stake to which the dixie was chained & fixed with a padlock. When he roared they just explained that the thing was wild & they’d fixed it so it wouldn’t bite him. He crimed the lot for "disrespect" & we had no breakfast. These jokes are funny afterwards, but one feels up to any sort of devilment at the time.

Am enclosing a photo (?) of the "The Knuts". By the way, did you see Kerrys about the ones I had taken? I left the receipt with Mother. If they’re any good I could do with a couple of Post Cards here, as Lois will be sure to ask for one & Bill Simpson, who is "out" through an accident, has asked for one to take back to Brisbane. Bill is all white & the Knuts are sorry to lose him. He was the head comedian of the company here & Addison Rd.

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You must be having a darned rotten time in the office – but stick to it; I’ve got a ‘kinder hunch’ you’ll get out on top in the end.

Tell old Jim I’m sorry to hear that Resch’s have gone off & hope they’ll recover their quality by the time I get back to Maroubra. Had a letter from Brookie’s cobber – you’ll know who I mean – but no parcel has arrived yet. Brook sent his kind regards etc, so don’t forget to return same from me next time you see him.

I hope to have more news before long – when we get on the guns in earnest, in the meantime must ring off as its nearly near to Last Post & I’m afraid to go home in the dark on a/c of the flood.

By Gum, if old Noah was here in Seymour, he’d have a lively time sending out doves!

Yrs to a ‘D.A.’

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[Letter written on paper with Salvation Army letterhead]
September 6th 1916

My Dear Mother,

You will be surprised to hear that two wonders have happened here at the one time – Firstly I succeeded in getting a week-end off &, secondly, the said weekend proved not only rainless but actually hot.

By the way, although it’s a "long, long way to Blackburn (Left here 11.30 – got there 7.30!) the trip was well worth the taking. The Panton folk made me so much at home that I debated going "A.W.L." (absent without leave) but decided not to become a criminal just yet as it might prejudice my chance of getting across the border of this unfriendly country before leaving. Stan P. is a fine chap to meet. We made a tour of portion of the cherry growing country at Blackburn & inspected all the views. There’s no doubt that Melbourne’s "outer circle" beats Sydney completely as regards rural scenery. The orchards are splendidly laid out & kept – dams & windmills everywhere

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you look and the monotony broken by wind breaks of splendid pines & firs or dense belts of blue gum & wattle. The latter is all in flower – several kinds – and makes a fine show. Altogether one gets the impression of being in a warmer, greener & cleaner country north of the Murray.

Got back here on Monday & same night some of the boys got into a mix up in Seymour through an M.P. knocking a woman & kid down while attempting to arrest the husband on some silly charge. One of "The Knuts" interfered & succeeded in getting arrested as well but later on both were let go by order of the Provost. However the matter could not be called settled there, so on Tuesday night the mob went in to straighten out a few accumulated grievances. When, having shot up a pub, locked the M.P.s in the local cells, commandeered the horses of The Force and caused sundry jobs for the ambulance, they had finished. The men remaining in camp were called out, hastily armed, & prepared for action. Then at the last moment word arrived that the mob was coming home in a good humor to say "beg pardon" - so no battle took place.

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I think that if the armed & organised troops had been marched in, the MP’s might have called themselves lucky to see another day, as the soldier who would lift a hand to help them has not yet arrived in Seymour. As it was they got off well, only suffering about 85% casualties. Today we were all scattered through the wide world digging trenches and several units that figured largely got marching orders & are packing.

It serves the Powers-that-be right for cramping thousands of men in a place like this, half fed & badly housed, & then putting these cold footed beauties round them like warders in a convict prison. Even the law-abiding public here has grown to hate them & refused them sanctuary when chased.

Thus, if the warm weather holds, we expect to have quite a good camp in Seymour ere long. It’s already becoming lively enough to be interesting. We are unanimous in saying this is the first week that all have thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

You mustn’t worry about these alarums & excursions in Seymour City. They provide much laughter - a valued commodity in Vic.

With much love to self and all

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[Loose page:]
The M.G Boys stick like glue, have their rally calls, & as long as one is discreet, one has nothing to complain about need never get into the clutches of the "Bird Cage" while M.G.’s rule MP’s by fear. Having got the upper hand, nothing will wrest away the power from this crowd.

Today we had a fine experience – exploding trap mines & grenades - & shifting stumps with cotton. The mines are voted first class for show purposes. the shaft is sunk on a slant, the mouth facing the enemy. The charge 18 lb to 300 lb of high exp is at the bottom, on top she is filled in with stones etc & packed with sandbags. There are two mines, side by side, & one follows the other at the moment when the enemy is rushing up to occupy the first crater. Things happen. There is a shock like earthquake, a crash like a million bottles bursting, & then up rushes a huge geyser of earth & rock & sprays over poor Fritz’s lines for hundreds of yards. Our mine was only a baby, but it cut up about 100 by 150 yards of turf & tore the leaves from tall gums 100 yards away. Not a yard of ground in that area was untouched, the stone cutting through everything. Some of the boys say they wish they’d seen it before enlisting. Personally, it was the finest fireworks ever. I hope to see some more as good.

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[Letter written on paper with Church of England Soldiers’ Institute letterhead]
2nd October 1916

My Dear Mother

Owing to lack of evidence to prove necessity of my going to Sydney, they turned me down quite flatly. I then applied for weekend leave from Friday night to 1 pm to-day but was again out-manoeuvered – they granted me leave from 6 am Sat to 9 today! - & withheld the pass on Friday night until the Sydney train had gone!

I have now applied for leave without pay to go to Sydney & stated, as a reason for wanting to go home, that you are ill – a semi invalid - & all the rest of it. It’s the only chance & I very much want to get over to see you before I go.

It would look much more circumstantial, in the eyes of our heads here, if I had an urgent wire to back me up. Ask father to send it , will you?

When I have more time I have quite a lot to tell you about the floods. We’ve been, literally, up to our eyes in flood – very enjoyable!

With much love Harry

Writing to Betty next. If you wire, do so as soon as you get this.

[This letter written on 11 October 2016 from the Seymour Camp has been copied as pages 63 and 64. It is transcribed here in its logical sequence]
Wednesday 11th 1916

My Dear Mother
Arrived here once more after pretty fair to middling trip, & am writing this in lieu of a parade. Train travelling seems to produce a most peculiar disinclination for parades or work of any kind. The old camp looks much the same – a trifle drier perhaps, & certainly rotten after Pitt Street! It is now officially stated that our embarkation is fixed for the 23rd, when we will leave in the "Port Lincoln". Also, instead of the three lots of reinforcements, we will be quite a large crowd of M.G.s’ together.
When leaving I left parcel & did not see the strength of rushing back for it at last minute. Also I left my razor in the wash-house & the want of it is occasioning me much bad language. Will you send them on please – to this address:-
Pte H.W.Pryce
c/o Church of England Soldiers Institute
Expeditionary Camp
Seymour, Vic’.
The company address is too unreliable – especially for the razor - as too many have access to the mails.

Some photos I had taken here are finished & I am waiting for pay day to send them on. We expect to get a final week-end in Melbourne – Sat & Sunday next - & I don’t want to be broke then – so am not taking delivery of the photos for a few days. They – the photos - are not up to much anyhow.
If this week-end suggestion comes off I, for one, will be lucky as it will mean only two days messing about here this week & then freedom until Monday morning. Then on Monday week we are supposed to sail, so there wont be very much doing from now onwards.
Just now I can think of nothing to write about, so will go round somewhere out of sight of Hd Quarters & have a snooze in the sun. It’s an A.1 day for a sun bathe.
With love to all & plenty for your self from yr Harry

If you have one of the photos to spare, you might send (one of the best) to Lois P. or perhaps she may get it while in Sydney.

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[Letter written on paper with Church of England Soldiers’ Institute letterhead]
17th October 1916

Dearest Mother

Your card turned up alright to-day but, so far, no parcel. Of course the old address c/o Church of E. Institute, is good until we actually leave here, so I hope it will turn up before Thursday. We’re going this time – dinkum! The camp is cheerful – sincerely – at last ------- and working hard, I don’t think! I’ll keep the English addresses handy – and as for the other contents of your note, well, Mother, I guess I understand. There was quite a lot I had to my mind to say, but sometimes such things are so hard to put in words that they spoil in the saying – I think you’ll understand that too. You must not worry any more than you can help, mother mine, for I’m like that sham ‘Nero’ coin of mine – always turning up where least expected & terribly hard to lose. My address from Friday (the 20th) is No. 379 Pte H.W.Pryce
4th Reinforcements
9th Machine Gun Company
Soon as we get fixed up & under way, I’ll write you all about it. In the meantime for a day or so there wont be much to write home about. With love to all from Harry.

Photos on the way very rough, but a likeness, these days. The enclosure is one of the Boys "Dan" Prisley – he’s a fine chap all round & very popular.

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PARCEL just arrived thanks muchly.

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At Sea
21 Oct 1916

My Dearest Mother

I’m just scribbling this to catch the pilot boat before she returns to port. By the time you get it we will be well out on old ocean & I am led to believe that it will be some time before we touch a port from which we can write. All day yesterday we spent in embarkation – there was a dickens of a crowd, including many Sydney lads & the ships looked fine. Our boat is first rate though small. Fitted up A1 & tucker of the best. Heaven only knows how we will employ ourselves – I expect that we’ll be bribing the stokers to give us something to do before we reach the cold country. Am very fit & well, like the rest, & enjoy the change in tucker especially. We expected to be hung up in port for a few days, but it did not come off thank goodness. Must close now with love to all & heaps for yourself – don’t worry, we’re going to have a fine time on this old tub or I’m much mistaken.


[Page 31]
No 379
4/9 M G.Coy

Enclosed is a note for Yvonne. Please let her have it as soon as you can.

[Page 32]
At Sea

My Dear Mother
I am writing on the off chance of getting this away, just to let you know that things are as they should be with us. Cant tell you anything about who’s who or what’s what but the ship is a good one, small but comfortable & well equipped for her job. The tucker is tip top & as for work ---- It’s a loafer’s heaven. We just eat, sleep, read & smoke. I’m stony, but that does not matter as there’s nothing tono city to spend cash in. The weather has been fair to middling & most of the crowd deadly sick. Some of the poor beggars look as if they cant realise what has happened to them, & as a result they make good pictures of Crusoe for a caricaturist. They just lie round & look as if the end of the world had come. If this is sea sickness I hope it may never get me. So far as I’m concerned this trip can last for months. It’s a great rest to get away from the land for a bit – from the smoke & newspapers. Our quarters are fine. We sleep in hammocks a la HM Navy & they are mighty comfortable after the tents & huts. We go to bed early & get up about 6.30. By the time we get there, I guess I’ll be about 12 stone & then some. Don’t be surprised if I take quite a fancy to the sea life when the wars over. Please remember me to all the folk & tell Betty I’ll write to her next. With much love, keeping plenty for yourself, from Harry

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5681 Pte CJ Elder
1st Batt

My Dear Aunt
I received your welcome letter and was very glad to hear from you. I am with Erick over here I met him as soon as he came back from hospital. He is as well as ever again and we are leaving for France together on Saturday. He was slightly wounded in the [thigh?] it was a very nasty wound but only in the flesh so it healed very quick and dose’nt effect him at all. Aunt you asked me to go and see Mrs Horton but Aunt I did’nt get a chance this time but I will most likely see London again before the war is over and will go and see her then. I am very sorry I didn’t see you & Betty before I left but I will see you both when I come back. Well Aunt the weather is getting very cold here now so we are just leaving in a bad time. Aunt I will have to close short note as I have a lot of letters to write on account of going away. Well Aunt I will write again as soon as I get settled down in France. Give my love to Betty. Erick sends his love to you and Betty.
Love and best wishes from Jim X X
PS Excuse writing & pencil as I am in a hurry as you can guess we have a lot to do X X

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My Dear Betty

Many happy returns for the 9th & also Happy Xmas & NY to all H [Written along the margin]
This is to be a patchwork pattern of letter written in chapters like those of a cinema serial yarn.
29th. You may consider it, for all practical purposes, to represent my diary of the trip to date of posting. My last to mother was written hurriedly, on chance, therefore was the reverse of newsy. Needless to say I cant tell you about the route we follow, the ship or the company. The fact that we were able to post letters at F was due to quite unforeseen circs. We stayed there only a couple of hours – crept into the outer roadstead, like a pirate of old, by night & enjoyed a fine view of the harbor lights. The searchlights, playing on us continually were a fine, but grim, reminder of the times.
Crossing over we ran into a heavy sea rolling up unbrokenly from the Antarctic, wind behind it. I can tell you it made our little home kick up some tango….and as for the poor beggars from way back – words cant describe their sea given misery. They were just anyhow. One hailing from the Northern Territory, asked me several times whether the boat was likely to last long. Each time she lurched & sagged a bit he gave up all hope (The sagging motion is apt to be disconcerting. It’s to be compared only with the

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sensation of falling in a badly driven lift) – he thought she was sinking. Once, when a whisper got round of a wireless received, he bucked up sufficiently to marvel at "how in h- do they manage to catch them wireless messages in a wind like this here?"
30/Oct By the way this same party is now on deck, hourly expecting to catch a glimpse of the shores of the dark continent. He wont be convinced that the world is slightly wider than the Bight. – We did good time in spite of the sea & were beginning to notice the cold, when quite unexpectedly she began to swing away to the North & the following night came round in a wide sweep that brought us under the Leeuwin light at dawn. Didn’t I tell you once before that I usually get back again – but to wake up under the Leeuwin again after saying au ‘voir to Aus. for the long stretch, was some surprise. Rounding the cape the change in the seas was very marked. One hour we were bucking along over seas big as houses, next we were sliding through rich blue water like that of ‘the harbor’ on a fine day. This held good all the rest of the way in – I understand it is due to the prevailing current, think it’s the Equatorial Drift. Then, as I told you, we sneaked away again and are now going strong over good water. The wind is cool, but summery, & the sun hot enough to burn

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31/10/16 Weather still the same & sports of all kinds (bar horseracing & swimming) in full swing. The ark is rolling about three inches, but you’ve got to watch to detect it. Our tucker supply increased to-day – not that it was deficient before – and to-day we dined like kings (of the piratical type) on chops, haricot beans, spuds, pickles, bread & butter, & pudding. I’m afraid we’ll all be too fat & lazy to think of soldiering when we get to the other side.
Alarm signal – that means boat drill – we had life-belt & stations drill…put on life-belt, march to station of unit – where we would parade in case of emergency - & stand like lambs for half an hour or so then, when inspection has proved that each man is in possession of a belt, march below & stow the belts in racks again. Then sit down & write this while the crew of the ark go through a similar performance – When you write please don’t mention the military situation- I’ve seen a bit of censoring, & I can tell you they rip the letters about. I fancy the censorship has been tightened a lot lately, so far as we are concerned.
Saw a fine school of porpoises yesterday ‘shepherding’ a shoal of fish. There were, on a rough estimate, about two brigades of ‘pig’ fish & some of them looked to be thousands of years old – big, bleached fellows with barnacles all over them. They were advancing in extended order over

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a front of many miles & the fish were retreating in close order with some panic, same direction as ourselves. Later we saw piggy’s strategy at its best, for only a few miles further down we ran into another brigade of his pals going like blue blazes to cut off the retreating victims (?) A journalistic exageration permitted by circumstances. These fish must have been eating European newspapers flung out from ships – otherwise how do they get these tactical ideas? They certainly seem to work on some well organised plan, but how they keep a shoal on the surface in 4,000,000 feet of water beats all conjecture. A squadron of trained porp.s ought to be very useful in a minefield. We have also seen a few ‘dolphins’ – a very small caricature of the sea pig – playing about, but otherwise the sea about us is desolate enough. Now & then a whale comes up on the horizon, sports, has a look around, sees our ark and promptly bolts for the S.P. They say the whales have been so often mistaken for subs that time & experience have taught them to shun the society of grey ships that sneak along the ocean’s by-ways. Very probably the whale has also been eating news-papers. Who knows? – not the censor
As for ships – except in port at F. we have not sighted one since leaving Melbourne! We know there are plenty of keels hurrying E. & W., but they don’t come our way, although the wireless talks continuously like a state premier. You can show the message about the Ch Brothers to John –
If you see [indecipherable] W tell her [indecipherable] keeping a look out for ‘Bill’s brothers & will visit them shortly (if I get a chance) – I don’t know about Aunt Jane yet, but don’t expect to have any luck in that direction for a long while.

[the pages of the letter have been saved in incorrect order and the following is saved as page 39]
By the way Wilson’s double is on this boat – he was running a Diddlembuck School & his cry of "Any more for Enny more - ! It’s the little gime o’ diddlembuck! I ‘ides ‘em an’ you finds ‘em!" first drew my attention.

Nov 2. Early this morning we passed a small school of whales, fairly close; They were variously identified by the spectators as whales, porpoises, dolphins, threshers, sharks & seals. Reasons given for a few of them) whales never jump high in the water, Porpoises only are responsible for such capers & are, also, the only "fish that spouts." Its very funny to be in a hammock for an hour listening to the various arguments that crop up. If W.W. Jacobs were on this ship he’d get plenty material. We are finding things a bit monotonous now & I expect that, by the time we are half through the monotony will be the main part of the show. There is ab-so-lutely nothing to do but eat - & when one’s story that has to be confined to meal times. The reading matter has given out and we have no prospect of renewing the supply for weeks to come. I thought of trying to start a ship "paper" but could not raise sufficient enthusiasm to go ahead. The Y M C A officer [indecipherable] lives on the quarterdeck & we hardly know him except by his badges – therefore, as the only typewriter on board is in his quarters the ‘paper’ stunt is not likely to come off. A few days of roaring [indecipherable] storm weather would improve things. The indications at present are favorable in this respect.

[the pages of the letter have been saved in incorrect order and the following is saved as page 40]
The sea is a sickly grey color & a thin haze has settled about us; The sea birds have left us for several hours & an oily groundswell is rising steadily as we go further west. By the way, during the last few hours we have seen several dead birds floating – a circ. which is said to indicate that some rough weather has passed their way.

Nov 5th The rough weather has not, so far, come our way &, apart from a few showers & slightly colder winds, conditions continue ideal. A ship newspaper is to be started shortly – officially – and I’ll try & get you a copy as a souvenir, if the rag proves worth while. Sports are still the rage & we’re having a fine time.

I’m glad I brought a good supply of the weed as under other circ’s I should have been stuck for it. We only draw 1/- per day while on board & that at stated intervals.

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I can tell you it does not go far here, & it is essential to save some for possible leave en route.
‘Five hundred’ is getting the fashionable game aboard now. Last night a chap in my section – Bob Bydder - & I played two others. One game ran out to about 20 hands & ended with us out & the opponents about 1600 behind (-minus) The following game ended at ‘lights out’ with both sides minus – they 600, we 790. We are satisfied that it cuts out time better than chess – when the play goes like that!

Now I’m going to shoot this along to the censor-censorious – hys – sanctum-sanctorium .

With much love from Harry.

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Nov 11th – 16
At Sea

My Dear John

You will see by the date of this that I am still writing from the watery wilds; I had hoped to write it in a nice little African town but circumstance, represented by one of those cyclones such as are only produced by Africa, has intervened. For the past twenty-four hours, we have been going backwards, very slowly, but surely, in the grip of the elements. From a purely personal & selfish point of view, the experience is grand, but it’s a pity some of our poor beggars feel it so badly. The cyclone hit us last night about 1 am – a savage black storm like a madmans fireworks, screaming & bellowing over the water & bringing a deluge of rain. The rain only lasted an hour or so & then came the big seas & the wind. I have heard of ‘screaming wind & mountainous seas’ before, but always took the tales with a little salt. This has convinced me. The wind has done nothing but scream for hours & each hour it seems to get a bit madder. The seas were running like little hills at breakfast – now (8 p.m.) they are roaring & crashing round us (& sometimes clear over us) as big as very

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very respectable hills. Our boat is no chicken for size – she’s about 9000 tons – but this is treating her with no respect; she bucks & kicks, rolls, flings her nose up to the skies & wallows in the spray just like any coaster. Not that she is not a fine sea boat – she’s one of the best – but in such a devil’s cauldron she’s all but helpless – a cockle shell lost among hills of water.

This afternoon a few of us got up on deck & climbed on the derricks amidships. We had a nice position there, about 40 feet above water & clear of the waves, thus we were able to watch one of the finest sights it is possible to see in one’s lifetime – the centre of a cyclone with its ‘pyramid’ waves.There’s no long even roll about it – only immense pyramids of water lifting up in all directions, massing together & often falling in huge masses of white surf. The roar of these seas is indescribable & looking down, as we rode to the crest of one, we had a view of hills & valleys with what looked like an occasional flat & all clouded with smoke like spray.

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One of these beauties broke backwards just a we had cleared it & swamped the whole stern decks of the boat. One of the boys was caught under the aft superstructure & dashed against the deck above. The deck was lifted bodily & split then as the water receded, the poor chap was left hanging by one arm from the split timber. When found about 15 minutes later they had to use a crowbar to lift the planking & release the arm. Well, poor chap, he will soon be home again with his people – the arm was crushed from hand to elbow.

While on our lofty perch we had only one showerbath – a big sea weighing many tons came over the bows, clear over the bridge, & crashed on the boat deck drenching the ship from end to end. We got the spray a bit, but the green water only ran underneath. That wave was 50 feet high if it was an inch but only covered an area of about half an acre. Some that passed us were, on the first mate’s estimates, over fifty. He told me that he has been at sea some years & has never seen loftier seas before. If old ocean continues insane we may be here for days-40 miles from port & unable to move a mile.

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I should like to be able to describe properly the beauty of these pyramids – they are broad broken mounds with gentle slopes & steep pinches almost cliff-like, all running to a central peak. Gradually they increase in height until with a sudden leap they tower up & topple over in a mass of green & white, & thunder down again – then where they were is only a great patch of churning foam. Then they rise again. They don’t run any particular direction, but just slop about all ways.

At noon the sun came out blindingly & we were tossing in a sea of splendid colours – emerald green, purple, turquoise & opal shone in each summit while the hollows were darkest green flecked with yellow & white. I have never imagined any sea-scape so glorious … and I’m glad I happened to get the chance on a boat built for rough weather voyaging.

12th We are just getting a move on once more. About 20 miles on the port bow we can see the mountains of Natal, & altho the sea is still tearing along we expect to get in sometime to-day. Had a fine time last night – men, hammocks, mess utensils, firebuckets & kits were flying in all directions. The sea finished its job on the deck aft

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and did a little extra job in the dispensary. The wreckage of bottles, timber, pills & onions & spuds out of the vegetable lockers affords us a most entertaining & picturesque sight. To add to all this it is raining cats & dogs. We’re awash alow & aloft & all the joy is gone out of Israel! The gale is tuning up as loud as ever but we’re too close under the land to feel it much & also it is returning from a new quarter.
The old rag has gone up & we’re going it strong, so I expect we’re to land to-day. It will be a relief. The boys were getting pretty stale – we had just reached the ‘two fight a day stage’. First fortnight we didn’t have one argument aboard but this week has been one long series of them - & some of the battles arose out of nothing….a genius started an argument as to which side wheels of a motor lift from the ground in turning a corner - the inside said some, the outside said others. The argument became mixed, vague, scientific & technical together. All the laws of gravitation, mechanics, leverage etc were invoked. It led to six fights to finish on the midships well-deck, & two four round,clean break fights. One or two of the combats were draws and are to be settled ashore. Also, a large syndicate has pooled in for the hire of several cars wherewith

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to prove the argument – all bettors to ride in the cars if they so desire. One of our NCO’s has a bet in quids at 20 to 1. He has £3 on his argument with an infantry sergeant (& as he happens to be a pro. motorist he stands a good chance of being someone’s creditor to the extent of £60! Generally this argument should lead to some fun ashore, that is provided half the mob don’t get jugged for riotous behaviour & accidents.
Now I must ring off as we must shave & dress for church parade. I’ll finish this ashore.

5pm We got in about noon, escorted over the bar by about two battalions of hammer-head sharks. The brutes are very daring (or hungry) & hang persistently around the boat waiting for a morsel in khaki to fall over. I’m not swimming any you may bet. Arrived at the wharf we had cold lunch & then went on a route march – round the whaling station to the ocean beach – a very treacherous looking surf - & sat down there for an hour or so. The place is rather pretty; the harbor is formed by a long breakwater on the city side & on our side by a long, steep ridge jutting far into the sea.

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It’s very green – covered with dense scrub & full of all kinds of black brother. B.B. appears harmless enough & inclined to be friendly to the khaki – from long association with transports (coaling) he has adopted something of a military style & may be seen after hours, strutting round
in khaki riding pants & leggings. Always he carries a highly polished stick. The pants are pinched – the stick comes out of the scrub & is usually crooked & far from light. One thing is very noticeable – B.B. says ‘Australian soldier good boy’ with great sincerity of expression. Aus. soldier good boy because he treats B.B. to spare coppers, bread, condensed milk & cigarettes in return for Ju-Ju dances. We had one Ju Ju dance rendered by old Nicks favorite grand child. The biggest & ugliest human being I ever hope to see. Put him on the Tiv. & he’d bring a fortune – if he didn’t start a panic. The whites here look on the nigs as so much dirt, but from a physical point of view BB looks the better man – excepting Raffir & Coolie. The up-country natives are easily picked out by their graceful carriage & big limbs. Some of them would be rough customers to handle.

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Tomorrow we get leave to the town, but all pubs will be closed to Khaki, so the boys will not be likely to get lively. It’s a good precaution as we are not the only crowd by a long chalk.

13th Just heard that all letters from D. are to be censored so am entrusting this to a returning wounded man who will post it in Aus.
Will describe the marvels of this wonderful (?) city later on.

Bearer waiting. Thus for present will say so long. Harry

Sending to Betty small packet contg shells from Bluff Beach – not much chop.

[Page 49]
Sea Nov/16

My Dear Mother & Father

Briefly – Durban will do. It sounds bad to compare foreign ports with those of one’s own country, but its a solid fact that Durban has treated us to a far more comprehensive hospitality than our own cities ever were guilty of attempting. From the cheery Hindu family, who had our wharf to themselves as we drew in, up to the Natal Commissioner’s family & down again to the last ricksha boy to rob us ere we re-embarked. The population of this city let itself go to give us a picnic. They seem to realise the war most keenly – maybe it is brought home, for the port is a cross-road for transports to & from the ends of the earth. The streets swarm with uniforms of every pattern & the faces under helmet, hat, cap & turban are of all hues from pink & black to yellow. Also it is a resting place for the crowded hospital ships, many of which find the beginning & the end of their voyage here…
The enemy they meet in German East is greater than the German. Then there is the memory of past struggle always on top in the minds of the people of Natal. Anyhow we are, none of us, likely to forget our stay here. Whilst lying at the wharf, Sunday evening & Monday morning, the ship was under an incessant bombardment.

Capetown very different to Durban. The only notice taken of us here is to close the pubs.

We left Capetown about 3.30 pm. In front of us went a big ship loaded with black troops whom we may meet again. They looked well in their blue uniforms, we gave them a send off – the whites of Capetown apparently disdain to notice these black beauties who are going out to fight for them. They nearly went mad when the Australians cheered them, & all got on to ‘God Save the King’ in their own language. I signalled ‘Good Luck, Comrades’ as they went by & got an answer "Thank you Australian Much luck.’ These chaps [ought?] to make good fighters especially in cold steel work. Must close now & Ho! for the merry merry Gold Coast, and the glories of the Senegal.

Much love from Harry

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[This page is out of sequence and I have not been able to identify the first page of the letter it is part of. It tells of his experiences in Durban so precedes page 49.]
of fruit etc – bought regardless of expense & flung up by the crowd on the wharf. They must have spent some cash, as you will understand when I mention that fruit is dear – apples 3/- per doz, oranges (any good) 2/- doz, grapes 1/6 lb etc. A little route march round the Bluff Beach [indecipherable] Sunday’s programme. On Monday, after hours of delay, a dredge took our crowd across the waters & dumped us down on the Point – the shipping centre. From there we marched to the residence, about two miles, meeting a great reception all the way. I wont say much about our marching, we had been over three weeks caged up, & the city was busy flinging things at us, thus you can imagine a very soldierly procession (?)
Proclamation closed the pubs to us – not necessarily to Australians only & this was a very good thing; it defeated the aims of the mad element while in no way limiting the fun of others – we had not dismissed five minutes, before self & pals were hooked into a big café & found ourselves hitting up a four course ‘luncheon’. Finished, we asked the Jewish proprietor how much we owed him. He laughed, shrugged & murmured "von bob – come back at five & have dinner!" We paid. Followed a trip (per ricksha of course) round the city. The zoo proved to be small – but very complete & its collection of African beasts must be hard to beat. They have one specimen, carefully caged, that reminded me of a rather handsome tabby cat with black paws. It seemed quiet. The label said ‘BLACK FOOTED CAT’! We came away wondering. Came back, but stopped at Y.Emma (Y.M.C.A.) for after-noon tea. The Yemma is a Hut Bungalow big enough for

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an army & stands in its own gardens. There is a Palm Court with tables scattered about, & the inner sides of the bungalow are open. Strolling out to have a wash I came on a crowd of our own boys & others sitting about
the yard on cases eating a variety of fruit. I called the rest & we joined the fray. Had three fine paw-paws, sundry pines, bananas & lesser fruits. Returned to our table & found egg salad, & English cider waiting. We asked what to pay. They told us 4d. We paid again.
Next we glanced over the gardens, the inner beach – a pretty residential quarter on the harbor side, and The Beach, being the main residential city, looking over the ocean from the slopes of a long ridge that extends the whole length of the ocean beach – about four miles. The Beach is backed by an avenue called the Marine Parade. Behind this again are gardens such as would make a Manly ite drop dead with envy. Put Hyde Park and St Kilda Parade behind Manly beach & you have an idea of it. Add to this a circular swimming bath second to none on earth in size & equipment, & two long piers after the style of continental seaside resorts - that’s The Beach, Durban. Speaking of baths they also have free baths opposite the town hall, West St 100 feet of swimming space – salt water. It must be a great thing for the city ites to be able to have a dip in

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office hours! There is an electric tramway system throughout the city & suburbs which seems to have reached a height of efficiency. The cars are double-deckers, American & London style, very fast & fitted with cowcatchers, basket or scoop shaped that completely minimise risk of run-overs. At meal times in office hours, specials start out from given places & run to the suburbs. The go like fury, bells ringing all the time, & don’t stop. This allows office workers to get right home for meals in shortest time. I don’t know about the fares – the service was free to all uniforms during our stay. As to other traffic, it is all a matter of native traction. One sees a few horse drawn vehicles & plenty motors, but generally carts, lorries & rickshas – also perambulators are drawn, or pushed, by natives. Poor devils, their labor is cheap & their lives cheaper. Slavery was a damnably rotten thing, but some forms of freedom look a mighty sight more putrid. We cleared the ship of all spare bread, condensed milk etc & even the scraps from stew dixies were scrambled for & fought for by the poor kaffirs. They’re always smiling- but- one cant help noticing the sordid misery under the smile. Even the flash & highly decorative ricksha boys are strugglers in ordinary times. They are limited by statute to a charge that works out at about 3d per mile per passenger. A Ricksha carries two.

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Thus you will easily see that it takes many miles of running to earn a dollar. They pay the White Man 2/6 per day for the ricksha. Sometimes, when times are slack, they cant make enough to pay for the ricksha for days at a stretch. This puts them in debt and close to the Old Wolf. Then even the best of them only last about three years. How they keep up the murderous work that long is a marvel. Fine thing to be white – eh?
Architecturally D. is a picture city. No tall buildings. No ugly tenements, even in the native quarter. No plaster statuary or stagnant ‘fountains’. All the prominent buildings are designed and grouped with an eye to artistic effect. Also they suit the climate – wide squares, trees, palms, gardens all about them, wide collonades & balconies: airy, picturesque, useful. The General Post Office, in all but size, beats ours to the wide wide. The Museum Building wins in all but its contents.The Town Hall runs level.But the Palm Court Hotel leaves both Sydney & Melbourne clean out of sight. It’s a long, pillared building three storey , built of white stone and having a wide pillared balconey round each story on all sides. Each of its three balconies is a garden. The roof is another. About the finest building I have ever seen.

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We are told that the place is booming. From the amount of gold coin in circulation, one would get the notion without need of telling. Our boys changed all their notes for gold, without loss; There seems to be no restriction. We met two Australians – a barber and a commercial traveller, who praised the country & its people to the skies. They ridicule the idea of our unpopularity. That exists, they say, only outside Natal - & is shared by Durbanites of whom the [Jewberg?] and Capetown folk are very jealous. You see Durban is fast overtaking her rivals and crows a bit – naturally.With only a population of 50,000 whites out of close on 150,000 they consider they have built up one of the finest cosmopolitan cities of the empire. They’re right about it being cosmopolitan. Take out the black section and split up the white portion – and you get a fine mixture. French & Dutch predominate, next come the Britishers from all over, some Americans, a sprinkling of Greek, Italian & Portuguese, a Russ or two, a broad streak of Asiatic – Jap & Hindu – a little of Norse & Dane and a splash of South American.Not a bad mixture, as one race rubs another and in the process takes off corners or prejudices. Nobody is an intruding foreigner – unless he hails from the Cape.

Three degrees of human degradation – in Natal:- a coolie, a kaffir and a Cape Colonial. Three degrees of the same in Cape Town – kaffir, coolie and an

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Australian – (one Australian equal to one Durbanite).
Our perambulations necessarily cost us a few bob for the Boys, and I’m afraid those of us who happened to be in funds were guilty of the serious offence of paying ‘over the card.’ Its hard for an Australian to be mean with cash – even to a nig - & the general opinion of the boys was that the ricksha boy is worth more than he earns as a hard laborer. Also some of him – the speculative Zulu, Bechuana & Matabele element, is a fine sport. They understand our idea of a joke, &, if properly rewarded, willingly consent to such trifles as scaring tommies on foot & racing madly in West St on the wrong side of the road. Also, for 6 pence, they will sell out & change places with the fare – who always end by flinging in the towel and changing over again. Ricksha running is a poor stunt. I tried it.- Some of the boys are well got up – mostly as devils from Darkest A. – with tremendous polished horns, small Rhino horns, porcupine quills, feathers of all kinds, mostly beautiful, rings, bangles, beads & cows-tails. Travelling, the are absolutely silent-footed, but their bells jangle & they imitate all the noises of the jungle as they run. If feeling fresh, they ring in fancy bits, shying at passers-by, high-jumping & free-wheeling on the tail board with one foot swinging down to act as break on the road way should a collision seem probable.

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After several trials we picked a fine specimen whose get up was a mixture of all referred to further back. He had a face like a coal-box, teeth like a rip-saw, whiskers like a Japanese devil mask, a genuine head-ring, (‘fought with Herero nigger (Bantu) long German other side’) gruesome ornaments of his [indecipherable] teeth, & his general appearance was diabolical in the extreme. In point of physique he ought to give Jack J points & then some With two of us in the seat he ran from the Town Hall to the top of West St, 1 ½ miles , round the native quarter & markets to the beach (another ½ mile) and the length of the Marine Parade (4 miles) & then came up grinning like a set of harrows & hardly sweating. ‘Ver’ fresh’ he remarked. Ten minutes rest & he trotted back & up hill to the town- hall again. There he took three more on & pulled the lot up to the Camera.
When we tried to induce the beggar to sell some of his jewellery, we found he spoke pretty fluent English with a sort of Dutch accent. Wouldn’t part with anything – unlucky. All presents from his girls. ‘Girl give him – sell no goot! me Matabele boy – six wife, plenty cow long way Tugela – ver’ rich! ‘Stralian goot boy plenty money – like spend him. ‘Stralian no come here, Matabele go Tugela buy more wife, more cow – plenty rich like hell!"
Later on, while running on the wrong side of the road, a native copper hopped out & held up his knob stick. Johnson (as we named him) didn’t mind. He kept right on until a few feet from the John, then jumped about

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about six feet in the air & swerved. The wheel hit the John, the John hit the sidewalk & we dashed near hit the overhead cable. By the time the John had stopped cussing & collected his cap & stick, we were out of sight down a side street. Johnson had added to his sins by bellowing like a mad bull & bolting hell for leather. He condescended to explain later that "Pleece not chase me, pleece ‘fraid – me bad Boy, ver’ strong, fight lik’ Hell. Kill plenty man – Grrr-rr-r!
Here he ground his teeth & went through a pantomime of flinging about a lot of spears & wound up by smashing an imaginary head with his stick & blandly demanding ‘six pence for dance.’ some buck, that nigger. I’d like to meet him again.
We returned to the ‘Garden Café’ where our Jewish friend was spreading himself entertaining the boys at the (temporary) expense of his business. Had a five course go – soup, fish, poultry, ros’bif, salads, fruit & puddings of two kinds. Once again we had to ask how much. Once again we were charged the high figure of one shilling. Then through the native quarter by lamp light. It’s all wonderfully clean & one has no need to hurry past even their markets. The Kaffir beaus were out with the Kaffir belles – the latter take good care to make up for the boy’s lavish taste in clothes by wearing as little as possible….their dress seems to consist mainly of beads & bangles.

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At 10pm we got back to the residency but as the crowd had not begun to muster we found our way into the grounds & commandeered their lawn for resting purposes.Instead of shooing us off, the people from the house came out & introduced themselves, also a party of poor devils returned from German East whom they are looking after. The native servants were all kept busy carrying out baskets of fruit & most of us returned to the boat with a fair sized bunch of bananas. When the gunners mustered they must have got down on about a tone of these fruit - & that’s a low estimate. Mid night struck before we thought fit to get back to the Ark, we marched off in great style, but most of us landed at the point in rickshas. From the Point a multitude of launches took us to our ships. It was some carnival, I can tell you. Imagine the scene of troops of all creeds & colors dumped at midnight on circular quay with only launches to transport them over the harbor. The sun was up before all were off & few of us got any sleep that night. Pulled out from the coaling Station at 10 am Tuesday & lay in midstream until a few strays were rounded up & brought aboard. As the police boat came alongside we got another laugh.One of the disreputables took it into his head to swim for liberty & acted promptly on the idea.

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Over he went, forgetful of sharks, & was promptly followed by two of his pals. Once in the water the memory of brown scavenger returned & all hands with one accord swam for the police boat. Instead of taking them on, however, the boat drew off for a while. The trio spent about ten minutes cooling down & then were hiked aboard, wetter and wiser. There are not many such, but Australia can well to afford to lose what there are. A few such wasters spoil the chances of all the rest. But when people tell of Australian rowdiness you can safely estimate the proportion at less than one per cent. There are many tough nuts, but most of them know their own breaking point. If they don’t, the majority soon makes it its business to teach them. Tale bearing is not encouraged, we prefer to dispense justice roughly ‘tween decks. Crossed out in the afternoon. The Grandfather of all sharks saw us across the bar.
While in town could not afford post cards – too expensive for me & was unable to raise a loan. Managed a photo instead & a couple of cards. Am sending on the photo and if you think worth while, you can get it copied. Those while-you-waits fade quickly. The burly savage is the Matabele previously referred to. As for the rest they represent a few of the crowd & our guide while seeing the

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city – an ex member of the’Springboks’ from German East.

Tuesday & Wednesday.
Going south close in to coast, fine weather & beautiful scenery. The sea is so smooth & burnished that its sometimes hard to tell which is sea & which is cloud. All is dazzling whiteness with an occasional dark band marking the cruise of one of the numerous currents.

Evening 15th We have swung round to the S west & are making good running. The Drakenrsberg Ranges lie overside like an endless chain of mine-dumps, peak & ridge arranged in excellent order all alike, & tinted with every shade of purple. They must be about 70 miles away. Between them & the sea numerous scrub fires are clouding the coast line with a fine, blue haze. Saw the whalers taking in a catch to Durban. There are plenty sperm whales in these waters.

Thursday. The ‘Cape of Storms’ must lose its evil reputation. The old ark is as steady as tho in port - & there’s no sign of a change. Will be in port again tonight, but wont be able to do anything as its only for a couple of hours. Passed plenty ships & were passed by one long grey craft that came up from the north, had a distant look at us, & then shot away out of sight in record time. We hurried some for a while but soon lost sight of her. Passed Cape Agulhas at

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At 4p.m. and since then have been steaming N.West along as rough a coast as we are ever likely to see. The cliffs drop down into the sea, sheer walls in parts over 1000 feet. There are deep inlets, but no beaches. At 6.30 we stood to attention opposite the Birkenhead Monument while the Last Post was sounded. The Monument stands on a rock platform close to the water. On either side the cliffs rise up to a height, we were told, of over two thousand. At sunset it was a fine sight, the haze & mist settling round these giant headlands & their crests in the sunlight glowing with all colours.

Friday. Got in at 11.30 last night.Table Mtn is more impressive than its pictures suggest. We were up this morning at 5 oclock & at first could see nothing else. The city seems crushed & dwarfed by this immense mass of rock that overshadows it. There is no break between the waterside & the slope. Cape Town lies in a cleft between two mountains. One, the Lions Tooth, I think, is steep & pointed. Then comes the Table – sheer walled & half hidden in cloud. On the left is Groote Schur- a hump-

backed monster, separated from the Table by a ravine as narrow & black as the gates of Inferno. Back along the coast from the Table stand the bergs, like soldiers at attention. A bleaker, more cheerless or more forbidding

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shore it would be hard to find.

Friday Evening. Pulled into the wharf after all & enjoyed a brief route march through the slums out round the fortifications. (No chance to get any cards or post letters – the authorities being , for special reasons, specially anxious to limit correspondence. This will be posted in the ‘Old Dart’ in about four weeks’ time so I can tell you that the reason referred to is a proclamation dated 13th Inst & issued in Natal and other parts of S.Africa and also there is an easily understood disinclination on the part of High up to let the world at large know the truth about East Africa. All the way from here we will be one of the lightless ships on Lightless Coast. It will make things rather irksome, but its better to live in blackness than to meet the [indecipherable] whales.)
Cape Town so far as we saw it, is a dirty city with rich surroundings. The docks are very fine, but reek like all the sinful smells of Kiplings wildest dreams.The railways run straight along the streets on the water front just as our trams do. They are not very up to date railways. I saw several engines that looked more like ‘Foden’ tractors than locomotives. One thing we saw that deserves record – the Evelasting Silver Leaves of Table Mountain. I’m sending you one – having (at great risk!) secured three specimens. It’s the most beautiful leaf growing & actually everlasting if properly dried.

[Across the bottom of this page is a sketch of the mountain backdrop to Cape Town]
Sketch of this place & an idea of its smoothness.

PS. Dont say I cant write letters – 6000 words in this one.

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[The following letter is of 12 pages and is transcribed here as one page with breaks between each page. The pages were copied in the incorrect sequence.]
Perham Downs
Dec 30 – 16
Dear Mother & Father
Now that we are in a civilized country and have a little leisure (and some notepaper) I’m going to try & give you a little account of our trip since leaving Cape Town – Nothing occurred until evening 25th Nov. I’ll give you it as my notebook (‘Dairy’ as one of our boys named it) shows it.
25th 6.37 pm. The old Lincoln gave a bump, kicked like a dying rabbit, & then stopped. Followed an avalanche of officers into the engine room. It was very funny. Lots of the poor lads from way back thought it was what is known on transports as ‘the death knock.’ They jumped all over the shop, but the majority instantly blamed some Cape mutton we had flung over a few hours before. It sure was strong enough to kill anything. Inquiry found that all that was wrong was the screw & shaft – she had passed over some wreckage, caught it, screwed off a blade and split the tail shaft. The ship’s officers used language unfit for the ears of soldiers – I’m sorry I cant include it here, but the censor might be shocked! We were found capable of 6 knots speed, & on the following day the crew were down working over the shaft for some time, the work resulting in a small increase of speed. On 26th, in evening, we started steaming due west & were still going west on 27th . Had been told that Dakar, in French Senegal was our destination, but the change of course got us thinking. Then on the evening of the 27th the lights were doused suddenly, all hands paraded in the messes & each man had to get into a lifebelt. These were then checked for necessary repairs etc & a submarine guard, of picked

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shots was detailed. 10 a.m. 28th . The sub.guard was double, armed with rifles, ball cartridge, & the lame duck began to waddle to the N.W. Then, respectively, the course was N, N.E., N.W., N.E., E, S.W, S & S.East. We were still speculating, but with a good idea of the trouble. Speed was knocked up to 9 knots. Chaplain’s came down on the troop decks & advised us to be ready for any old thing. Boats were swung out, provisioned, and axes hung ready to cut lashings. Spare life belts put handy. Rambled all day thro thick haze & O.C. cheered us with the news that we’d not sleep if we knew as much as himself. At 8.15 we were steaming due E. but suddenly strange light flashed dead ahead. I was up in the rigging with some of the ‘guns’ & saw it. White flares followed by several sharp flashes very far away. We swung round almost in our own length & scooted back like a sick rabbit into the haze. Then stopped dead for a while, before proceeding west dead slow. This was the case all night, a sneak & a stop from one mist to another. (At 9.30 she managed over 9 knots for a while on a zig zag course, but she was soon sneaking again. At 10.15 we were told quietly (that is , the mob with whom I eat, sleep & malinger under the protection of mac) what was wrong. One of us happened to be on sentry & overheard officers, who thought it wise to tell us on a promise of not blabbing to the ship. On the 29th at 4.a.m. we had worked round to East & began to run S East at all speed possible. At 7 am sighted smoke & soon three C.’s came up. All hands got ‘cheeky’ again & all was well in ‘the Ark’. About 10.30 we saw mountains sticking up out of the haze & soon after found ourselves

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outside the port of Freetown, Sierra Leone, with a large fleet of vessels lying along the estuary in front of the town: Then, at 11.30, after having dodged the sub for days, made a darn fool of him, and all in a crippled condition, we managed to get wrecked in bright sunlight on a sea as smooth as glass! Trying to enter without waiting in the danger zone for a pilot, our poor old Lincoln took the wrong side of the buoy & piled up alongside of another ship, wrecked seven weeks earlier in the same way! From that point I’ll just give you a copy of the Dairy verbatim, to show that even shipwreck is often slandered by well meaning folks who have never seen its advantages

29th 2.30 Kedges out ready to move her at high tide. Boys are raking out stray coppers to enter in the sweep – tickets for 10 minutes of each hour up to midnight 1d each. Winner takes pool less 10% to promotors. The wreck beside us is a steamer similar to the N.Coast boat Pulganbar. She lies nose up, hard & fast, derricks swung out just as the salvage people left her after shifting portable items of junk. Scene from here is glorious – the range rises almost from the shore & the peaks are green to their summits above the mists. The bush covering the slopes is splendid, huge mangoes in young leaf everywhere, paw-paws, palms of all sorts, & a dozen varieties of splendid ‘foliage’ trees. The mountain, on our left & right over the inner end of the town, is grassed all the way up on the seaward side. On top red roofed buildings are visible which we are told are the quarters of a black infantry regiment. The name of this peak is Mount Aureol. The town, or city of Freetown is built in the

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form of a circle about a round hill on which are the white Barracks – fine looking, massive white buildings in which the English Garrison is quartered. The town itself is low lying as we see it, houses look semi-European, that is the roofs are iron & the walls, all of a brownish color, look queer as seen thro the glasses. Palms show up over the roofs everywhere. On our right is a long point, running out into the ocean, on which we can plainly see large cocoa-nut plantations. At the sea ward end is a miniature lighthouse. Churches seem plentiful in the landscape.

30th Efforts to refloat were wasted. Rig failed, navy collier had a try & only succeeded in wrenching her nearly apart & letting the sea in. At low water we were clear amidships but had only 12 feet water amid ships. She stands up like a tower at ebb & we can see the mud grass on the bottom. Under orders to abandon ship.

1st Dec. Came off yesterday in nigger flat boats, full marching order but left kits aboard, landed on wharf & marched off to barracks. Column passed through town, niggers excitedly crowding round from everywhere. Soon began to go uphill. Very hot – very tired, very heavy load – poor - - - soldier! Climbed about million feet – rested. Climbed another million along well made gravel road into dense jungle. Cane-grass ten feet high above & below, trees, scrub, vines & palms. Rested. Climbed two more million – track crosses mountain stream over which stand officers shouting "Don’t drink this water!" Poor thirsty - - - - - - soldier!!! Another million – getting dark - & not many soldiers on road, but plenty along the sides – lying

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down – swearing feebly. Then a scramble & chatter of monkeys, a cheer from ahead, & we’re out of the jungle. In front & above are the barracks!!! Mount Aureol Bks! I got there without having to lie down – but I lay down as soon as I saw a clear path of grass in the ‘square’! Tea of bully & biscuit & water. Quartered in fine airy hut overlooking a wild gully full of monkeys, panthers & wild cats (mustcats) There’s a black regiment on garrison here – Jamaicans – fine chaps – English speaking & mostly bearing English names & well educated – They’ve done everything they can to make us ‘ship wrecked soldiers’ at home. It’s too hot to drill - & if it were not there’s no flat space on which to drill, anyhow! Today we’ve spent our remaining cash on oranges, cocoa nuts, paw paws, yams etc To-night I feel like a boa-constrictor in food business. Have had to forage for tucker all day as there is a difficulty in supply & our tucker is due to-morrow. Have foraged to good purpose too – for the fruit grows here in nature’s orchard. Our huts are ornamented by rockeries & gardens which blaze with tropical leaves & French roses. There are plenty snakes, spiders as big as plates, scorpions, wasps, monkeys, niggers & more obscure company to keep one amused. Also, if the worst should happen, there are hundreds of bald vultures that fly down & sit contemplatively close to you if you lie down in the open. To keep off the malaria there is also Walkers Whisky which you mix with the juice of a wild lime & a grey old sergeant of the Brit. West India Regt introduced me to a decoction, home made, that might be called punch.

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It is taken hot & is a kind of beer made of rum, hops or malt, brown sugar, spice, lime juice, & unknown ingredients. Very sweet & not bad – after ship coffee & condensed water.

2nd Returned to wreck to-day for baggage - & found her floating in the harbor. Wonderful men of the Navy! She’s in a bad way though & finished as far as we are concerned. Sleeping aboard. Most of the MG’s were grabbed to shift cargo, but, having no ambitions in that line, I found an obliging Navy man who appointed me to a sort of sinecure – sitting top of a companion way where one of the winches was running badly, & watching to see no-one got tangled up when the slack of the cable occasionally ran down the stairway instead of round the roller. The Navy being the senior service, no-one bothered asking questions when I explained that this pleasant billet was a navy appointment.

3rd Finally abandon ship & return to mountain. Knowing so much, I paid a nigger 9d to carry my load this time. Hammocks, & kit bags are in the Navy stores. Our sick are with us, so it may mean a long stay. One thing on this mountain made me think hard. I remember a picture under the heading "Curiosities" – in a magazine – a bit of ruined wall, flanked by cannon, on which a kind of fig (monkey-food tree) has rooted. The roots, running down the masonry, have formed a sort of net about it. Thus, this one corner has remained, long after all the rest of the structure has disappeared. Ruin is portion of an old watch tower, used by the slavers while the port was still head quarters

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of the African slave trade.

4th There is a big rockery garden in part of the relic in which lives an 8 foot green snake – terror of the garrison. To-day we killed a member of his family.He was only 18 inches long but had fangs big as a cats long teeth. Talking of snakes – At the observation station on the next ridge, we were shown two live Koli snakes, one 6 foot & one 8 – beautiful creatures of every color shade of green & gold & brown. Very deadly, they say. On the main ridge, a couple of miles inland, mambas swing from the trees & jump on you if you chance to walk underneath. Boas are common & travellers don’t exagerate when they say these brutes grow to 40 feet. One was killed only yesterday at Gloster, village on big mountain just behind us, it measured 34 feet. The niggers say the size is not uncommon.One of our chaps was bitten taking a forbidden short cut – and is now in hospital. Several have had narrow squeaks. Last night a big snake had a game under the boards (verandah) on which our section, including self, had spread oil sheet. I got a shock, as also did others, & we finished the night inside the hut. When the Jamaicans heard of it they were very tickled & told us on no account to sleep outside – or even walk about after dark without our legs well covered & a lamp in hand. What woke me to the danger first was a yell from [Kely?] of "Dinkum - - snake, he crawled right under me – (so-so) ear!" The Lizards here are very fine. Today I counted nine varieties of the frilled type – one a beauty – golden scales with a reed tracing running over them. This evening we were warned to be in readiness to move again. Saw four of the ships move out in the evening – they are finding room on the other ships for batches of our lot & the M.G.s may go at any time.

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Guard for me & mates tonight. From what I’ve seen it’s a good job….the boys come back from town anyhow – & a good ambush may yield some plunder in the shape of to-bacco and fruit –

5th Good guard all right. Fed all night on fruit, tinned tongue, chicken etc, fresh bread, condensed milk & bottled stout. Up at 5 a.m. Advance guard passed out , we are to go last – best position as we have some fun while rounding up stragglers. Later. Luck gone flat – headed main body, but managed to lose it in the town & had a walk round. These natives are fairly civilized & their homes are neat & clean – but civilization has made them rotten with diseases & the coolie element is hungry enough to eat you if they could catch you asleep. Population close on 80,000 out of which about 40 are white – mainly French & Portuguese traders. The Compagnie Francais d’Afrique Occidentale is the biggest trading concern here – they have the one fine business building apart from the churches. Drew our kits, hammocks etc from the stores. Also a bottle of fine old Spanish Tosara (wine) out of a broken case. I can tell you its hard work, carrying, down steps into deep lighters & up a steep gangway, such a load as: Hammock & blankets (2) oil sheet, marching gear with full pack, two kit-bags, sundry bags of oranges & paw paws – & all with a big bottle of Tsara down the leg of ones’ pants! But I managed & am now aboard the ---------- wondering how I’m going to get room to sleep & breathe & how long its going to last. The new home is in an old refrigerating chamber below decks & its crowded some. We learn that our old "Ark" left yesterday, and (D.V.) will dock at Gib. Her pumps will do some overtime on the trip!

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Getting settled in new quarters – we were very free & easy, sort of buccaneers on the old Ark & now they’re out to re-civilize & tame us – its all part of the game.

7th Not leaving yet. Ration shortage – reduced slightly today. Warned against waste.

8th Easy days loafing. War-dogs out this evening, cleared f.a.

9th Today a chap left behind by another ship was attached to our Reinfts. Seeing us broke & smokeless he handed the mess commander 21/- (1/- per man) for to-bacco. We regard him as a hero to risk it. War dogs back with another ship – Greek. We have moved – but only to another anchorage further up the Estuary. By the way this is the mouth of Rokell river – a fine stream, about 300 m. in length, that rises in Liberia. The N.Z.s have had the boats out & been rowing up the stream, but so far no sign of our doing any such violent exercise.

10th Out at 6 am to see the others come back. All ships left on 4th expected back but only two arrived – 10.30 three more arrivals, chow, oil tanker & mailboat. Activity on warships. Church parade 11 – cheerful service all about preparedness for a coffin with portholes in it. Cheerful bloke – our chaplain.
Noon. Two more ships – auxiliary [indecipherable] & store ship. Nothing on board to do but play Five hundred. 4pm. Big Frenchman arrived – Rumoured we are to leave to-morrow.

11th Nothing doing. Paid 9/-. Short of stores, other ships all worse off than we are. Have to ration them. Vegetables run out & water supply going down. Arrival French auxiliary.

12th Officially informed we’re here because we’re here because we cant get out – until they let us. Shortened rations & barred from using fresh water except for drinking. May have to turn to shifting stores & coaling from the lighters. Now 20 ships in.

13th Another big Frenchman, stained & battered & minus her foretop. Other ships in offing.

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13th 1.30 p.m. Fleet of ships arriving. One more of the boats that left on 4th has got back, a castle liner, a mail boat, & a Britisher. The latter is a devil of a ship & good to see. Afternoon & evening brought a Shire liner, two cargos, the marathon, three colliers & others bringing total in to 31 ships. Very crowded. A navy supply went out at tea time & took a big ovation as she went. All wonder at her intentions, but the ways of the navy seem always strange. We get a lot of fun out of the wild rumours that come up "out of the mud" & are generally having a good time, but the sick parade is heavy. One of crew died night before last. Over 20000 here & its not the healthiest place on earth. Up on Mount Aureol we were happy as larry, but the difficulties of supply did not permit us remaining.

14th The French have gone out & we are told a few of us – those shortest of supplies – must attempt to run soon.
3.30. Off at last – five of us & the auxiliary. We go with an invisible escort until well to north. Steaming west, calm weather, very warm.

15th Still west – passed this morning hundreds of brilliant colored nautilus sailing on sea like a mirror. Steamed WNW after dusk. Terrible shortage of tobacco aboard & no matches at all to be had. Orders no one to shave owing to waste of water in process.

16th NW. ‘Living’ in our life belts.

17th NW Clouding over. On sub-guard to-night.

18th Still on guard. Have had the pleasure of reporting an N.Z. boat twice for showing lights to sea.

19th Still zig zagging N.W.

20th Steaming all points from N to E. Are told we are well over 1000m west of trade

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route. Cant get to Blighty before 27th or 28th.

21st Still on the northern zig zag – had an opportunity of seeing how Red X goods are misused. A pal paid 1/6 for box of chocolates & found inside a note from the ‘giver’. He is writing to the party . This is not all & I’m not saying any more except this: Send nothing through the Red X. If it cant be sent direct its better not sent – for what’s the good of enriching mongrels who never see the front? Why – even old white shirts etc & dressing gowns & slippers intended for hospitals are in general use for ‘fatigue’ & knocking about on the transports.

22nd Med Exam final. Xmas orders – no lights, singing or noise. Rougher weather & cold rain.

23rd Rain & squalls.

24th West again last night but now NE. Indications of fog. N.Z ships hove together taking tucker from auxiliary.

25th ‘Cocoa’ & slice of bacon each for breakfast, Duff, pork tinned cabbage & a spud each for dinner. Also the ship presented each of the shipwrecked soldiers with a packet of three-castles. OC troops made a speech in which he mentioned that we closer to the sea-bed than to Britain but if luck continued should soon be ashore. Fog to fog all day, occasional bursts of watery sunlight. ‘Blues’ handed over & given to the crew. Khaki from now on. Today I noticed CGP printed on a life belt belonging to another chap. On examination found the initials ‘C.G.P.’ inside & underneath someone else had printed C.G.Pryce. There were other names on it also. These belts go from ship to ship but it was curious that I should get hold of that one – eh? Afternoon travelling dead slow & at night stopped – burial service.

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26th Slow all day on a devious course NW & W. Just before dark TPO’s came racing up from direction of France & lined up on either side of our squadron, steaming with us until night – when they dropped astern.

27th Between 2 & 3 a.m. heard whistles go & ships raced ahead for a while. This morning TPO’s returned. Later we heard of the affair & can only say God speed to the poor chaps that went out defending us. You will have had all the news re the two TPOs collision before you get this – the other and more pleasing details I cant tell you, but can only say the merchantman that was mistaken for us & the other craft & crews were paid for very dearly by the Hun.

28th After slow passage thro mine area made Plymouth to-day – entered 9.30. Debarking all day with baggage.
29th Entrained at 8.30 last night & spent all night getting into camp & finding billets. Now ‘settled’ in the mud for the final spell before last period of training.

30th Still getting settled. Have written a note to the Hortons re Charlie. He is not in the depot here. No letters so far for us – a few of the boys had letters waiting but the majority had nothing.

31st Settled down – no work – plenty fine tucker. Still no letters. Going to have a look round this afternoon & post this & others. No cash but there’s £ 5 back pay due to me & hope to draw something soon. So far no word about leave or where we are to start training. Love to all, keeping plenty at home – from Harry.

Few little souvenirs of trip am sending soon as I can – nothing much as could not buy but unique in a way. H.

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January 9th 1917

My Dear Mother

We are still here in the mud – altho it does not happen to be quite as bad to-day, following a slight fall of snow yesterday & the day before & a hard ‘freeze up’ last night. It took us a couple of days to get settled here – only stayed three days in our first quarters & then found a larger home among the details. After all its not a bad home – they feed our lot well and never give us any work. – A daily route march being about the limit. Got my kit completed to-day & now have everything necessary to a professional hoboe. The clothing board before which we had to appear provided a splendid comic opera …. the oft repeated woeful tale of shipwreck being the chief comic item. As to our intended movements we know nothing & can say less. No leave so far – I had a note from Charlie & am wild about not being able to see him – but its no good kicking here – they do what they like with you & one remembers that this is A.S. now. However I may be able to have a yarn with the old chap – as there’s a rumor we may get our leave soon & I know where to find him. This climate

[Page 78]
agrees with my appetite if it does make me bark a bit. Am getting as fat as a toad & (ashamed to admit) the color of a Pommie. Re the things I mentioned in an earlier letter – I have not yet sent them on, as I am waiting an opportunity to pack & register properly. A few more of the ‘old shipwrecks’ blew in to-day & didn’t we give them a few rubs. They’ve had a time of it, though, & wish they’d come with us. By the way – there’s an old ruin not far from here built by one Lutegar before woad went out of fashion. Some building – flint rubble & natural cement. The one remaining window has been altered (built in) so many times that its quite a dictionary of architecture of the ages. Of course I’ll send some of the ruins along as specimens – some day I may like to recall how we cooked a chook in Lutegars castle. It’s going to freeze again tonight & there’s plenty snow getting ready for us somewhere. Snow is the best thing they have in this country – it covers their slush and beautifies the hideous landscapes – Thus we don’t mind it any. Must post now, so au’voir – Love to yourself & all from Harry

[Page 79]
Penham Down

Dear Brave little Mother

Up to the present I have little or nothing in the way of news to tell you. A little Australian mail has dribbled through to us – but, so far, nothing of a later date than Dec 12. I had one from Betty dated about then, also your letter card. Poor old mother, I’m afraid you’ve had a bad time of it – but I hope, by the time you get this, you will be about again & better than ever. Perhaps now that the job is done you will feel the real benefit.

As I told you in my last, I saw Chas & spent the night in his hutment at Wareham. They have a far better camp than ours: also it is better situated

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Perham is a daisy when the wind sweeps over…it’s like no other wind on earth in piercing quality & cold as Death’s own fingers. Since the big frost began we have had three weeks of steady freeze. The temperature not once rising above 27 ° F, but often lower. Heavy snow fell from the 4th to the 6th & now lies on the ground (& the roofs) frozen in solid masses. Even the water supply froze up & for some days we’ve had to go without a wash until the pipes could be operated on. Naturally this un-usual cold has made itself felt in the shape of a variety of afflictions, the most popular being bronchitis of which I had a slight touch – nothing to matter. Sergeant "Sugar", one of our section sergts, cured me with rum. As a matter of fact it is commonly said that here & in France Rum is the only friend the sick soldier has in the cold months.

13/2/17 Slight thaw beginning, - that is it got rottenly sticky yesterday evening but froze again & same process is occurring to-day. Have begun our ‘gas’ course The helmets are some unpleasant at first but one soon gets used to them & their peculiarities of smell & taste.

15th Warned to go to the HQ Camp Grantham, in Lincolnshire either tomorrow or day following

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This is for the signalling school where I must put in about ten weeks on the ‘buzzing masheen’./ In one of your letter cards you mention a photo of some ‘mate’ or other – I cant remember who it is referred to & I cant recall the private addresses of any of the 4th/9th MGC. – From a long continued close study of the varying characters in the section, I fancy that any relatives they may own, still alive & unhung, must be either in gaol or the various asylums. This includes the six pommies who don’t own Australia as their home. More next week. Have to pack for the long move north. Love from Harry

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[Transcribers note: The page is headed by a coat of arms comprising a crown above crossed gun barrels with the words "Machine Gun Corps" in a scroll underneath]
Belton Park

My Dear Mother
Just to let you see that the troops are steady & their moral in no way damaged by the frost, we have taken ourselves a crest & arms above.
Very classy – as the Tommy’s say. Sure you will appreciate. – well – work has begun at last; we sat round the hot stoves at Perham Down & went as blue mouldy as time allowed. Then orders came to the specialists to pack up & skip on the 17th – we – that is five from our coy & four from 4th Div.) duly left via Andover & London. We took all day for the move & got in here about seven pm after a glorious march through miles of bottomless slush, but on arrival at A Lines – signalling school – found ourselves in luck

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once more – this end of the camp is sandy, therefore clean. It was strange at first, being among the Tommies, but we found them a fine lot & hit it well together. Of course they are all MG’s – drafted in from all over the shop. I ‘bunked’ for two days between a Highlander M.M. (H.L.I.) & a Royal Suffolk Dragoon – Such are the boys who come daily into the fold of the little Vickers & Umpty-Iddy – The latter is not a new kind of gas – its merely the morse code as known here.

Training is pretty strenuous – Parade 8.30 – 12.30 no break. Then 2 p.m. to 4.30 & 5p.m. to 7.30. There’s a lot to learn. Of course it has its bright side – no inspections, no fatigues, no guards, no church parades in the cold wind (we do 4 hours on the ticker on Sunday mornings instead of church Pde!) You can picture the poor lost lonely nine Australians: They rise half an hour after reveille – the bold bad sergeant who roots the poor old Tommy out of bed sees a felt hat above a bunk --- & goes past on tip-toe. He’s had a boot slung past his head one time, perhaps. The nine scramble out, wash (if time allows), fold blankets, dress (anyhow!) & stampede to the mess-room. Not enough tucker – roar like mad until they get more; Rush back to the hut …no time to shave…boots clean enough…sit down & smoke. About here the Tommy tumbles out on parade like a whole brass band – shining all over. The lost & lonely nine get closer to the fire & smoke on.
8.30 along comes the Boss looking for his class. He carries with him the necessary instruments for the first class of the morning. He greets the class cordially & does not look

[Page 84]
at boots or whiskers. This sgt has had a class of Australians before.

That is the way of it. We pay no heed to any old thing but Umpty Iddy. If asked our religion we are bound to reply: Umpty …iddy…iddy…umpty etc. Oh – it’s a cow to be a lone Australian in the heart of the British Army – I don’t think.

Had a look at Grantham yesterday. Dirty slushy squdgy mean looking place full of poor people & pitiful kids…don’t like it any.

By the way now that we’re settled in the 3rd Division our uniform is altered
[Transcribers note: letter continues in a different ink] 26.2.17 so don’t bother to write for more photos – we’re saving friends & relations the trouble by getting the job through right here.Will send them along one time. Note how I broke off this last night – that’s the sort of thing

[Page 85]
this guy dropped in for when he got bitten by the war bug. Last night I just got to ‘altered’ when bang went the light. It was the first clear moonlight and as to-night is even brighter I may finish this later.

There’s a railway (supply) that connects up all the various depots that comprise this home of ours. You should see it. The old engine (one of the prehistoric type) groans and splutters its way through the park & up between the lines. She comes like a hurricane – for sound – but her max. speed never seems to exceed a knot per h. At night you can see her climbing

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the incline below Belton where sparks & smoke shoot to the stars, steam & cinders hide both track & train, even Umpty-iddy is silenced by the roar… this point she is roughly ½ mile away – but the performance lasts 20 minutes before she passes the hut… and then the thunder diminishes hour by hour as she climbs to the distant Aust. lines…fully 1 ½ miles away. There’s a rumor we may go to Harrowby – pronounced here ‘Araby’ – I’ll ‘sing thee songs of’ etc if we do – as its reported to be a fine fattening place & one is in luck to go there. It’s only a mile down the road – but a mile can make a lot of mischief these days.

27/2/17 Parcel arrived from Blackburn – a first class muffler & pr. of sox – very welcome as the wardrobe was just about bankrupt. This is the first parcel that has so far come to light out of all those advised of – it came from Sammy & had been to France. Lucky it got back! From the look of the few letters so far arrived, I’m supposed to be in F. myself. Sorry I cant oblige the P.Office just yet.

Have not heard from C. since I was in Wareham – have written, but fancy his replies are held up with other letters – have had none

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for abt. three weeks. Address to me still as before –

379 PTE H.W.P….(abroad)
4/9th MG.C
Attached 3rd. Div. M.G.C.
AIF Abroad.
The reason for this is that so far my number is not altered. When I get a new number I will cable it – you can then cut out the 4th/9th part of the address. Savvy? I think its pretty safe to address direct to me that way after you get this letter as I will get them quicker than if sent care of Hortons. Signallers in the M.G.C. handle the Co’s mail & , naturally, look after their share of it!

Must shut off the switch…
Love from Harry.

[Page 88]
Belton Park

My dear J.
Am still, as you see, at the M.G.T.C (Sig. school) and you may not be surprised to learn that I should not mind seeing the war out right here; that is not impossible – we should have been over chasing the big black Bosche on the hills and dales of Picardy but for the usual set of unforseen items that crop up in the AIF wherever it goes.

The winter seems to have just decided on letting up for a bit, there not having been a snowstorm since Thursday last! The sun is actually trying to shine and the air feels warm. Never mind – we had the same experience last week: maybe

Love from Harry [Written in margin]

[Page 89]
we’ll get the same old suck in this time. Am just beginning to feel good enough to take an interest in the country that’s done its damndest to put me underground. It would not be such a bad place if it had a bit more sunshine & less frost. Also a different social & political system. From what one gathers on every side there’s not much difference of opinion on that point among the English themselves. They’re not half as far as we think from waking up – the war has about completed the process – and all they want now is the end of the Bosche. Then will be the people’s time to get up and govern themselves. The Russian business has opened their eyes – everywhere you hear the work people talking of nothing else.

Went up to London again for two days last weekend; stayed at the Hortons place & had a quiet time. Did not go anywhere as I did not feel up to the mark sufficiently. We were given the leave voluntarily by Cpt. Bloomfield, a Canadian serving in the Imp. army, O/C of the School. Just before leaving I got a note from Chas. written on arrival in F. I think I mentioned in a letter home that C. came up to Perham on the morning I left. Both Parties changed trains at Andover and we passed one another on the platform without noticing. When I heard that he was out of that draft and staying on a few days at Perham I wrote to Miss Lane, who used to keep our mob from dying of starvation & boredom. However Miss L. wrote back that she had a look

[Page 90]
for C. only to find that he had gone to F. Thus the old chaps’ luck seems to have gone dead out just about that time. – We were to go ourselves this week but things are changed and we must wait longer. Had full tests yesterday and just about managed to fail in all but the written exam. It was not hard to fail as the tests were for a 3 month class and we had just been training 4 weeks & 4 days! No importance attached to our failing as we must be passed – there’s nobody else to fall back on. Macgregor is here in the offers school. We see him often and are satisfied stars will not spoil Mac. He goes out as our Transport offer. He’s doing good work just now teaching rosy cheeked subs how to play hell without losing dignity. This riding school affords us plenty of enjoyment when we’re

Must close with [written in margin]

[Page 91]
out on flag work. The dashing crowd of young bloods are going round the ring in great style when suddenly one horse shoots out of the ring and heads for the park lake. Probably he’s only taken a fancy for a drink, but the rider always seems to be a pessimist. First he loses cap, whip & gloves. Then he begins a curious sort of see-saw motion, pulls himself over the horse’s head by means of the reins & falls back with a heavy, hopeless thud; the motion is repeated until the dazed animal gets mad & starts to do the Grand National round the park. In rear, strung out over abt. a mile & a half of turf, comes a string of yelling grooms, corporals, riding instructors and pals of the steeple-chasing sub. Always he remains a pessimist, and failing overhaul by his pursuers,

He’s a dirty [lost?] hound at best. [written in margin]

[Page 92]
he generally manages to lose his stirrups while over a soft sand patch and falls like a true soldier. We saw three out of five fall in a long string one morning. The ground seemed strewn with prostrate ‘field marshals’. Another day one of them had ventured for a lonely ride as far as Belton House on one of the school hacks. As soon as he got out of the avenue on a broad green lawn facing the House, the nag decided it was a good place for practice & began the circle stunt. We watched the poor beggar trying frantically to explain to his mount that he was out for a ride & not in the school, but when we left he was still madly carreering in the same old circle & it looked like lasting till the works ran down. We always like to salute the subs we meet riding – some of them nearly fall off when they shift the hand from the pommel to return the salute. Some, honest & defiant, don’t return it at all.

I expect by this you’ll have read all the opinions on the Bosches retreat. It’s considered here a damn interference on his part – but the bright spot is the wonderful rapidity of the French after they found out what was on. If they can stick for a while where they are now all may turn out far better than we expected & von H. will need to look slippery if he wants to keep his reputation.

Did not think to mention earlier that the raider that never went

[Page 93]
home called while I was in London. He did not get close as it was another case of ‘tip & run’, but he made a bad blunder when he took the Paris track. This is a most unhealthy place for Zepo. There’s a Bttle Plane per square mile in the Clouds and a million or so on the ground ready to fly when there’s room in the air. You get used to their row after a while but it beats Sydney’s trams. Rumor says it is scaring all the birds out of the country. You see very few certainly.

So far no parcels have turned up, or papers. It’s useless sending things, few of us get anything but registered stuff & even that fails sometimes. Just got several old letters from Betty & one from Mother – all Hospital, also one from M. 23rd Jan – so that’s not too bad. Believe Ferg. started a rumor that I went away & got sent back ….crook. Heard it from a Randwick chap. I’ll stir the blighter up if I ever get the [?]

[Page 94]
[Envelope addressed to:]
Mrs. H.G.Pryce
11 Ben Eden St

[Page 95]
[Reverse of envelope with Machine Gun Corps coat of arms]

[Page 96]
In Blighty Still
‘Anzac Day’

My Dearest Mother

I got your letter (Feb) enclosing cards also letter with cuttings, early this week. Some of the coy. came up here from our HQ. and brought the letters with them. These boys say that at H.Q. they are told that we wont spend much more time on this side of ‘la Manche’. Anyhow it is to be hoped they are right, as this waiting business is bad for nerves & temper.

I don’t quite see how we can be going soon, as we sigs. have so far not touched a gun or a bomb and did not finish another equally important bit of training on which we made a start just before coming here. It is possible that they wont worry much about us tho, as we have quite enough to do, what with our practice and the care of a specially delicate and valuable stack of equipment. They tell us we represent the nerves and senses of the corps – if that is correct our corps will be under treatment for neuritis if it don’t get a move on after something like work.

Yesterday was very warm, almost hot, and muggy. We were on station work at long distances so tried to get a sun bath but its no good. This English sun has no life in it. It’s just

[Page 97]
like a yellow candle flame shining through warm steam. The devil of a country to fight a war over – one would have thought most of them would jump at the chance to get rid of the useless thing.I suppose though its not the country that matters – its just the same old humanity.

From the daily press mammoth headlines, it would seem that the pessimists who told us on arrival that France was done & short of men etc, must now be regrouping their ideas. The business of last week was the first practical demonstration they have had of what an army can do if it’s strong enough. Blighters coming over tell some great yarns. Boil them down and you come to one fact – that is that Fritz at his strongest was only compared with Nivelle’s army of to-day, also Haigs, was only a beetle crawling round the feet of Jumbo. The beetle at present don’t seem to be in any hurry to crawl home, but then beetles are one-idea’d, narrow minded things and hardly worth pity.

Today being what it is all A.I.F. have a half holiday. We are not AIF for the time being, nevertheless the V.C. informed us that, though it was not officially part of orders, we would no be expected on parade this aftern. Some of these coves are A1 where we’re concerned, but very different to their own crowd, as

[Page 98]
evidence – our little experiences of crime since entering the school. There are but 9 of us – yet in nine weeks there have been 8 separate crime sheets – all washouts, though. I’ve been up twice, two successive days, and the first was my first experience of the "peg" since joining. First was only a minor crime, shaving at night instead of in the fresh and frosty. Next was for a list of heinous crimes sworn duly by the P.Marshal. Went for a walk on Sunday morning, being the first warm day in England. Got about umpty-seven miles from bounds and lay down in sight of road to read a paper. Would not have been in sight had I known the road was there – but then I’m not to blame for the crowded state of the mud bank, am I? Anyhow along came the provost patrol, mtd, and carrying swords as big as weaver’s beams etc. They spotted, I didn’t until too late. I capitulated. Result was I had to make myself an exhibition of bush-bred imbecility & ignorance of simple rules etc. But the Col. didn’t mind, as the Exhibition seemed to amuse him. He dismissed case without argument (and caused a typewritten list of Camp Orders & bounds to be sent to the hut for my edification. Not a bad old sport, but one wonders

[Page 99]
if they really swallow the "imbecile innocence" gag, or whether it is that they cant see a way to get past it. Anyhow my military character remains spotless, so I still have a chance for the V.C. – don’t think!

The photos are very good – I will send them to Mrs Horton to look after for me, with the rest of my things. Did I tell you before that I got two from the Pantons’ – Annie & Joan. Also both write very frequent & amusing letters about Melbourne matters.

Our exam is in progress – stiff, but think it will be all OK as far as I am concerned – though the electric business is pretty complicated. Our work is mostly with the Devil-in-the-Box, and he is a particular friend of mine, practically speaking.

Please thank Bet. for letters. I will write to her soon as I get something to write about.

In the meantime don’t worry about me – the climate (winter) didn’t fix me and its worse than Hindenburg. So, as the job is a "cushy" one, you can just consider that my luck is still in. With love to all from Harry.

[Page 100]
Same Place
9th May 1917

379 Sig. H.W.P.
3rd. Divn. M.G.Coy. AIF.
( no longer 4th/9th) No letters for month.

My Dear Mother & Father

Taking into consideration my ‘luck’ as it has been, up to date, you must not be surprised to see that I’m still posting my letters in the same old box. Under very different conditions now, though! Spring has arrived with evident intentions to make up for past delays. In one week the change passed from snow, ice, quagmires of slush and filth unspeakable, & general desolate greyness – to warm sunshine, earth dry & hard as cement, scarcity of water and an intense monotony of vivid green. It is now three weeks that no rain has fallen and you can just imagine us basking in the sun like re-patriated cats! Of course, under the circs, we do little or no work, being content to let the dogs sleep on as long as they will. Some fine day they must wake and find us – then we will be ready for work.

I have a note to-day from Mrs Horton; she writes to tell me, with evident relief, that the youngster, Elsie, had had a long & interesting letter from Charlie (dated April 25th). He was then well & going strong

[Page 101]
He had not written before as there had been too much work of another sort, but at time of writing was fit, well and , to use the S.M.Herald style, "flush with victory."

In company with the rest of our small but efficient brigade, I chanced upon a dinkum Australian gum tree tother day. It was flourishing anaemically in a Grantham orchid-house! Needless to say it was a gum of the "cabbage" variety & looked very much exiled. Enclosed find 1 leaf for sample, together with some dinkum violets. Those violets are interesting. I guess the violet came over here with the Ancients, maybe the Romans. Anyhow they abound in the country traversed by the old Roman roads – are a weed in fact. These came from the High Dyke (‘Ermine Street’) most noble & Roman of all the Roman roads. We are only a few minutes walk from it & one of their old camps (Ropley) and, now that out-door work is the rule, we often wag our implements of war on the trail of Caesars legions. Lying on the sunny side of the Dyke, a few days back, drinking cider and ignoring vain and distant signals, it

[Page 102]
occurred to me that it would be interesting if the ghosts of the men who marched from Rimini could blow along and tell us what they think about it all. But the poor blamed ghost has no chance in the air now – his graceful wafting stunts are fini – he’s too-too immaterial to compete with the modern war-angels.

These old Roman roads are now only Roman in origin – for the rest they have long since become plain macadam. But this straight sweep is grand. No wonder R.K. raves about his "rolling R.Rd. etc." There’s no end to your view if you get high up – the road goes out before & behind, a shimmering snow white band rolling up hill & down until it dwindles to a silver thread in the haze. There’s not even the deviation of a yard to relieve its rigidity. As for the ruins – well most English ruins seem the same….a litter of broken wall, a tangle of vines and rank weeds, mostly soil smelling & stinging if touched, an old boot full of ear wigs and the inevitable rusty jam tins. That’s the picture. You hear of some old relic that you must see (for the sake of saying you have done so). You go to see it. And all you see is a heap of moss-covered rubble

[Page 103]
strewn with dead matches & wood-bine bumpers and garnished with a broken ginger beer bottle. What’s the use? Reckon the best plan is to look at the Postcards in shops & then say you’ve seen the lot & fully appreciated all.

The Photo of the group was taken by one of the instructors in the school. Other photos I have, I am sending to Mrs Horton to look after and you will get them later on. They represent a few of the characters one meets on the business of Boche hunting and some day may be useful.

Since writing last I have nothing to report about my job. I still have it, and am likely to do so, having passed all tests. At present I’m putting in a few hours daily at map work & its just now that my old efforts at this are proving invaluable….for the simple reason they make it possible for me to study the surroundings [indecipherable] than the job. In fact the 15/- I once spent on a compass was an A1 investment.

Well, now, having no more to write for the present, I will say good night & turn in, with love to all from Harry.

[Page 104]
2nd June / 17

My Dear Mother & Father

A few more letters dodged the C T-other day and finally blew in to K Lines. There was one from Mother in which mention was made of a certain "wind-fall" (also another, Mother, that you regret not having been able to send an Xmas parcel. Don’t let that worry you for a minute – I am glad to hear that one was not sent, as, from the experience of Austn M.G.s in general, that is a wasteful practice. Parcels very rarely arrive, newspapers scarcely ever. When such a thing does happen it is looked upon as a miracle class A. We are lucky enough to get our letters even, and they come just anyhow.) It was good reading that about the cash. I reckon it would be handy; only I hope that you have not been ‘so bold as to disobey my express orders’ re the allotment cash. You must know that it would please me very much if you would make use of that just for yourselves. If you cant do it any other way, go on the spree and become horribly dissipated – but please don’t spend good cash on parcels that never are likely to reach us.

So Willy P. has gone west – poor old chap. I never knew him, but I guess he went as cooly as the Anzac is wont to do. I have heard nothing from Jack, though I have chanced the mail;

[Page 105]
I think he must have gone over shortly before we landed. Of Leon I hear that he is on his way home. Charlie has not written since sending the card to Mrs Horton. It seems that correspondence from the Hospitals over the water is limited. For the rest, well – of all that I knew back yonder in Australia there are none left bar the [maronbraiters?] mentioned by John in a letter that came this afternoon. I spent last week end at "Overstrand" and came back on the midnight express from Kings X. The train was crowded with boys on leave from F., among them some Aussis who had just come down the line from [those?] place long to be remembered by our crowd. They have little to say these chaps – but someday that little will stir the Pacific to a boil, I guess! Saw also a number of Canadians in Town – funny crowd. They dress like the Tommies, look like the tommies, chew gum, and quarrel amongst themselves like true N.Z’s. Don’t think our crowd could ever quite hit it with them like we do with the Scotties. As far as work goes, I cant yet lay claim to a great stress of it – we are still in the watchful waiting position, making the best possible use of the opportunity that offers for rest, peace, and contentment. Of course we are back on the normal level now – there are no excursions etc beyond the usual limits. We have a good opportunity of studying churches – village vicarages – poor parsons etc. The latter party does not seem very much in evidence amongst the villages; to be quite candid

[Page 106]
he seems to be pretty much the opposite! Often the landlord, he occupies the one dinkum home among the thatched huts or mud-rubble hovels. Also he keeps the only lawn and accessories. We made a station ‘longside a vicarage the other afternoon with the result that the family abandoned the near-by lawn & summerhouse, barricading itself behind closed doors & blinds. We did not mind – it gave the slavey an opportunity to run the blockade over the side-wall with a pot of tea and eatables. The Aussis seem to retain a vast amount of popularity with the plain folk of the land, who, naturally, do not lose much by being friendly. Hope we are not teaching them how to loaf and snooze in the sunshine!

Did I tell you when I last wrote that I had to play Bellamy, Lee champion at chess? The games (2) came off last Thursday week and ended in my favor 2-0. Had the mischief of a fight to pull it off, but managed after a bit over four hours solid strafing. Bellamy got disgusted and has not been seen since, having gone on a tour of long visits in his native county (Lancs) "in quest" he says "of his old form!"

We are in such a perpetual condition brokeness these days, owing to high prices, that there is little else to do but play harmless games such as chess & draughts.

Must sign off now – Good luck and DON’T WORRY – Love to all from Harry.

Writing John next.

Doing nothing – expect this indicates early fall of chopper!

[The last 3 paragraphs are written sideways along the bottom of the page. This is not the end of the letter.]

The mob next door has started a zoo. A Welshman has four horny toads, big brown beasts covered with warts, that he is teaching to perform They seem intelligent. A couple of the RND’s have a pair of newts in a pickle bottle. These miniature alligators consume large quantities of worms. Hearing of the new departure, a party of hussars further along the line came along and invited all hands to come and see the pair of Scotch Linnets that had just been sent from home. The unsuspecting nature students went. On the wall front of the Cav. hut they saw a handsome new café. Inside it, perched on sticks, a pair of brand new woollen toy birds from Grantham penny bazaar. On being asked to whistle to the linnets, the RND’s got mad and the Hussars and Dragoons have gone away for a bit to let things cool down. I have a lovely Hussar overcoat that does not interfere with my legs when walking & has a ten inch collar and double front.

[Page 109]
the wearer – first as per text book, second (after discovering mistake) with very impolite remarks. I imagine that one of us, stolling down Pitt St with all gear on (not omitting the young cannon forrard in its Yankee holster) would cause some comment, more or less.

I had two letters the other day, sent on from the Hortons – they date 15th & 23rd April, and in one mention sending things – If you don’t mind me saying so, I think it just as well not to – we wont see them anyhow. So far I have had no parcels or papers of any kind from N.S.Wales – and I fancy there are many letters that will fail to see this child also. There’s nothing to be said in explanation – it’s the case, that’s all. As far as we are concerned except for the letters that come in batches at long intervals, we might as well be on a distant planet so far as Aust. is concerned. Still it is very comforting to read of all

Before closing I must mention that Mrs H. was in the last raid – the big one. She had been shopping. Luckily she escaped with only a bruised elbow, caused by a fall down steps when taking cover in a cellar. She makes a joke of it, poor lady, but I fancy this business has tickled the nerves of most Londoners. Lord have mercy on Fritz-William if they get him!

[The next page of the letter is saved out of sequence as page 114: a6376114]

found its way into our hut. Some treat, let me assure you! Also we get plenty little concessions, notably in matters of dress. In fact I’m more than ever glad the job came my way – for its worth it if only for the fact that it leads to one ceasing to be altogether a numbered ticket in a bunch. After all, the biggest argument against the militarism (against which half humanity is fighting) is that it crushes all individuality. I don’t fancy you would like this place now – a little while ago the landscape was a blaze of rainbow colors, but the flowers go ooh, fast as a good old north coast thunderstorm, leaving behind the old monotonous green that marked the early spring up north. Down here the green is accentuated by glaring patches of chalk that dazzle in the sun – an unholy sort of combination for the eyes.

Charlie writes from over the water

[The following words are written sideways along the margin:

What is the phenomenon – it grew on a rose bush.

[The next page of the letter is saved out of sequence as page 113: a6376113]
lingo and a Russian his they would not have any idea of what language was being spoken, would not know enough to argue if they were told that both parties were talking pure French. Some of the returned chaps create fun over matters of language. A few nights ago I heard a very heated dispute re the literal meaning of ‘tres bien’ One said it was pronounced ‘Trat-bang’ and meant ‘hurry on’. The other party was insisting that it was pro. ‘Tray bean’ and meant ‘all right’ wherein he was not so far off the mark, after all.

I fancy several of my letters posted in May will not have reached you. I cant remember what was in them, but I hope nothing special as my memory will not permit me to review the trifles of last month. The army seems to induce a kind of softening of the brain after the 6 month limit is passed.

Jack Howell is running and has gained a high rep. for ginger and grit – good luck to the old beggar!

Love to all the people at home from Harry.

[Page 117]
379 Sig [indecipherable]
16th Aust.Machine Gun Company
Australian Imperial Force

My Dear John

You may have wondered at not hearing a little more from this infant – well, there’s mostly sweet nixy to write about in this blamed dogs quarantine. Since I last wrote from ["Yaltimundai"?] Lincs (Being short for "work for your tucker", Lincolnshire) no event of importance has come my way – bar the arrival of that which the English are pleased to call summer and our return to the fond care of our own army. After 16 weeks of what amounted to a rest almost as good as leave, the chopper came down – we

[Page 126]
We’re all much pleased with this new shooter – its lighter than the rifle and a ‘bloque’ can afford to swank a bit with one such stuck over his tummy. – I heard from Chas. a couple of weeks back. He was then having a good time, plenty to eat, not too much work, and seemed cheeky again – as witness the fact that he’d had a go for a 3 mile cross country with a lump of iron sticking under his skin. Told me it was only a scratch – splinter affair - & had healed up OK.

Well I’ll leave you at this page. A pile of long letters went on the Mongolia, so perhaps I’d better not test luck again. Remember me to any of the Maronbraites you meet – I don’t write, except home letters, as if I write to one must write to a hundred & I need the d.s for tucker. Love to Home - & yourself & tons of Luck RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE from your brother Harry.

[the following is written sideways along the margin:]
with love to all & thanks for portrait of [Cronge?] just received! most especially Home

[Page 129]
headed "The Smell of London! What do you think the fool writer had to say? Merely that the first & most looked for pleasure of the Londoner returning from F. on leave is "the first sniff of the City air, the scent that is peculiar to London above all places of the Earth!"

The same thing may of course apply to the Chow returning from Sydney to Canton or Shanghai; but it’s a hard thing to say about a white man – because the peculiar scent of which he is so fond is merely the peculiar scent of several million back yards, lanes, gutters etc in which last week’s dead cabbage leaves & yesterdays soapsuds indulge in sun-bathing & grow strong.

Also there are reasons for one staying right there when its Surrey & summertime. It’s about the only place in the Island that can

[Page 131]
rough trellis work forked with all the shades & sizes of climbers ramblers etc. This makes a very fine show, giving the sides of the road the appearance of terraces of roses – to be counted by millions. behind each set of houses runs the ‘back’ street, similarly ornamented , but with any flowers but the rose. General shape of the layout is: [Here there is a sketch of the layout with iron gates at either end of an oblong]
The people who live in these places keep motors, dogs etc. Some of them know that there is a war on – they have made tidy bits since it began. It is rumored that recently one resident of the walk was detected conversing with a person in khaki – but it being proven that the person was of General Rank, the affair was overlooked. Soldiers walking through should keep to the horse track as their ammunition boots may cause injury to the gravel design of the foot walk – also to the playing ‘Poms’

[Page 133]
14th July

[Out of sequence?]
France’s Day was quite a popular day in the Smoke. Plenty much talk, plenty much toast, plenty much butter – to the nation that, as they truly said, saved them, us & the whole bang shooting match & is still doing the Full back share & then some. But we’re all glad to see that, once again, Aussi, partic. Sydney, was not beaten in practical celebration. After having a No 1 Class loaf I rejoined my crowd (the Skeeter & Turner) at W’loo & got back to quarters about 3.30 am 16th inst. – in time to take part in our first big stunt. Very good stunt. My part consisted in lying longside my bike near a road over a wide down – with a bag of rations & my little pocket T-M.B. At finish of the

[Page 135]
29 July 1917

My Dear Mother

We came in yesterday morning from a long trek and, as we are resting a bit, I am trying to catch up with the mail. Therefore, please do not be disappointed if you find elsewhere letters which are, apparently, copies of this. That is about the only way we can write more than a couple of letters – get one finished – then copy it out & send circular fashion. News on this side, of the kind allowed in letters home, is practically nil. News from ‘Aussi’ is about as plentiful as news from Mars. At times one begins to wonder if such

[The following is written sideways along the margin:]
quite accidentally, the postman says! Glad to hear of all the folk who are so solicitous for our welfare – also Uncle H’s kind commendation But – dinkum – I don’t write letters from a lit. point of view & I hope you edit them before circulating – compris Maman? Thank Bet for her note & specimens. The wattle is quite fresh & civilized looking. Best Love to all from Harry

[Page 137]
of the versa – happened upon a village hidden between an acre of oats & two pine trees – there constituting a farm & a wood. Village consists of a few thatch & cob-web huts or cottages, an old inn (or boozer) & a church. But no matter – its name proved to be Orchestron-St-Marys. Another smellful resort of aged persons & pigs – somewhat longer than O-St-M – was proudly named (over the P.O. door lest the inhabitants forget!) Berwick-St-James. Ye Gods! The only town within miles of these places is named Shrewton!

We enjoyed a couple of bivouacs this time, owing to the absence of the usual daily rain. Most

[Page 139]
of things you grow in the garden. The pink clover & scarlet poppies are about the best, and in the gardens the only thing they beat us with is the Begonia – some of the imported French varieties, from the Rhine & Rhone valleys, have blossoms as large as saucers & are very showy. The roses are of course to be numbered in millions – many varieties – but the blooms don’t develop so well as in Aussi & are not as large on the whole.

The main feature in this landscape seems, on analysis, to be the Canadian thistle – a flat-growing variety of the Scotch ditto - - I reckon one could walk from Aldershot to Exeter

[Page 141]
[The following letter is of 8 pages and is transcribed here as one page with breaks between each page. The pages were copied in the incorrect sequence.]
11th August 1917

My Dear Mother,

I have to report, as usual, that – beyond a considerable increase of toil etc – everything is quite all right and the troops are steady! Perhaps it is the lack of disquieting or exciting news from Down Under that keeps them so; Perhaps it is that they find only one course open to them i.e. to carry on & grin. Barring an occasional note from Wallington or from Harold H. at the Troubridge O. Cadet School, I never have any mail these days. In fact it has become quite a usual thing to get none and the boys reckon that the day that sees me get an ‘Aussi’ mail will be worth recording in their diaries of Event! Is it possible that Boche has got a personal & partic. spite on ‘yours etc’?

Yesterday we had a quite passable march – for a wonder it omitted to rain all thro the day & le soleil came out at frequent intervals. I was riding from start to finish so had an opportunity of appreciating the local color without having to put up with any interruptions from the feet.

[Page 2 of the letter saved as p.143]
The first ten miles of the road led out to the level country beyond the near hills, by hedged and tree-lined tracks thro the farms. The trees are – almost – at their best, being full of nuts of various sorts and values; chief among them are the walnut, almond, hazel & beech. Green walnuts are some – they are sour, acid & bitter in one bite: they burn your mouth like a chunk of biblical fire and brimstone: they stain your face, hands & tunic a fine brown-yellow-green color & are enabled to do so by their power to make you spit & splutter as continuously and savagely as a Vickers heavy. I did get a few ripe walnuts – but they don’t come anywhere near the home grown article. As a matter of fact Aussi & American walnuts are the best article for this market & command higher prices than the English goods. Same thing applies to apples – although I know you wont believe me. At one little place, where we stopped for dinner, the people & kids came out carrying baskets of small green apples, hard, woody & bitter, but just beginning to develop the natural

[Page 3 of the letter saved as p.145]
sourness of the junior pomme. It seemed they meant us to eat them! They were eating them with apparent enjoyment …. but there are some things that even soldiers cant tackle. How these people manage to eat them & live is a mystery to us. One thing is certain – they must be constituted differently to any Aussis I ever heard of.

By this village runs what they call a brook, rill or rivulet. On reaching the bottom of the valley this noble stream becomes at once a feature of the landscape. It is a clear, swift running affair, about three feet wide & six inches deep. It’s channel is twice that deep but no wider. The banks are built up of wads, tussocks of grass and water-cress. The bottom is chiefly paved with old tins etc. Nevertheless there are fish in it – about as large as the never to be forgotten gudgeon – and in its neighbour hood spotted frogs and monstrous, warty toads are almost as plentiful as the ear-wigs that haunt our dixies. I should like to make a collection of these toads & frogs to send out to Aussi. They represent about the most intelligent form of

[Page 4 of the letter saved as p.147]
life to be found in the island.

Leaving the valley – after following the stream for quite four miles in the course of which it grows neither in volume nor impressiveness – we cross by a stone arch bridge & begin to wind up towards a stony down. Here the hedges are the most luxuriant feature to be seen – they are, each of them, wider than the road proper and must waste the deuce of a lot of growing land. Also they are full of fruit – blackberries just ripening, a kind of bramble similar to the blackberry in size but built more like a raspberry, sloes by the million and occasional red currants. The queer thing about all the berries seems to be their lack of sugar. Is the war responsible for even the fruit going short, or is it just the lack of sunshine. Anyhow not even the ripest blackberries can be called sweet & as for the other berries …. they’d poison an Aussi goat. Their use lies in the fine ornament they are for otherwise commonplace roads.

Leaving the beaten track we took to what is called a ‘green-path.’ It’s called so because

[Page 5 of the letter saved as p.148]
no other description fits it better. There’s usually no sort of path or track on these ‘green-paths.’ They are just un-ploughed, un fenced strips zig-zagging over the farms & showing plainly for miles against the yellow & red crop or brown village – a river of vivid green. Very pretty. Also beastly rough under their deceitful cloak of green grass, clover & weeds. We followed our ‘green path’ for about three miles, on one side of us a ‘heavy’ crop of barley about ten inches high, on to’ther side long stretches of ploughed & several wheat fields in which the scarlet poppies were sprinkled like millions of little dancing flames.

Leaving the path on top of the ridge we passed thro a wood held by several army corps of pampered rabbits (apparently kept there on the border of the farms in order to give the farmer no chance of forgetting his inferiority)

[Page 6 of the letter saved as p.146]
and leaving the wood, came out on a wide, waste area of brown & white – splotched with shell holes, tattered trees and wire; this was the ground on which, recently, I watched the shrap.& high exs raining. Following the hogback of this ridge we came to yet another green path and at the end of this, saw a long, narrow wood stretching away for miles in a semi circle. Our ‘green path’ led us into it and, there, became a sort of avenue or rather a tunnel, roofed in to a height of about ten feet so densely that for  in three miles we only twice saw the sunlight penetrating breaks. Several of these wood ‘tunnels’ exist in this part of the country, and they almost have a tropical appearance while you are in them. Very pleasant after a hard road, but tricky for mounted men & limbers….Especially limbers – ye gods! You

[Page 7 of the letter saved as p.144]
should have heard some of the remarks! Leaving the wood we skirted round "Inky’s" park & got back on the main road to quarters. You may wonder who "Inky" is. Well, the name is practically its own explanation….being the term of endearment (?) bestowed on one Stevens, maker of inks, by the respectful population that knows so well his laboratories & his fame. Incidentally he owns the ground on which we get wet feet & do our daily fall-in.

In the past few weeks I have amused myself when cash permitted, sending post cards. Altogether I have managed to get off about five dozen on the chance of you getting some at least. I should have sent some other little souvenirs before this but somehow we’re always broke – what little cash we get goes on tucker & necessities & there’s none too great a surplus left over for an

[Page 8 of the letter saved as p.142]
occasional plug of ‘Battleaxe’ or some Woodbines. One of the 4th/9th has drawn on Aussi for over 100 since Dec. and yet he can never show anything for it. An evening in any old village of one has half a dozen pals can run to a fortnights pay without being exactly a lively affair; and how some of the lads manage to booze etc on their pay is a mystery – unless poker game has something to do with it!

I mention this so that you will understand that, if I have not sent any souvenirs of the island, it is not because I don’t want to. Long before you get this I will be quit of it for a while and the general verdict is "sooner the better." We none of us want to go back to Aussi under the title of 16th Lead Swingers! The pack is off to feed & if I don’t hurry there’ll be none left, so will wind up with heaps of love to all, most of all to yourself Mother.

from Harry

[Page 150]
worry, as all is OK. the new address is:

No 379 Signaller Pryce H.W
23rd Aust. M.G. Company
Australian Imperial Forces

For safer delivery, however, you had best send c/o the Wallington address: Am trying to send a cable but cash is rare and the only chance is through the YMCA people. With all love from Harry.

I do not expect to find myself loose in this island again as am told that the 2/- rate goes more than two days out of the fortnight over yonder, things being cheaper and rations heavier. Thus F. will do – but in any case "trench leave" to "Blighty" carrying full pack & ‘fixin’s’ is not a thing to look forward to at all. If only that I had some addresses (of civilian people) in Paris all would be very OK.

Had my second close experience of the Flying Life t’other day. A ‘bird’ wobbles out of a cloud ‘bout

[Page 153]
379 Sig H.W.P.
23rd AUST Machine Gun Company.

All Other Addresses Cancelled

30th August 1917

Dearest Mother.

You see I am still able to write from the island – also to use ink & YMCA paper. However, although I am not allowed to say when we make the change, I can tell you that it’s not a long way off. Tremendous winds and drenching rain storms are now the fashion in this land of moist misery. Also I must put on record that the English "fruit" season is in full sway …. after a nodding acquaintance with the "fruit" called here "choice", I pass on to brighter scenes and subjects merely remarking that, over yonder, in the long lost land of drought and heat, the fruit they label

[Page 2 of the letter saved as p.155]
"specked" excels in appearance and quality the stuff called here "choice". Of course there are exceptional cases – for instance: very fine Aust & American apples can be had for 8d to 1/- per lb (about 4d to 8d each!) and rather cold & squashy spanish oranges cost about 1d each. The local stuff is very much ‘na poo’, on account of not having sufficient sun to develop, sweeten etc. Sour species are to be had in abundance – even the berries having this peculiarity.

For the past several days our crowd have been celebrating what we choose to call "our declaration of war". A regimental comforts fund has been started, each of us who can afford to do so paying in a little each ‘pay’

[Page 3 of the letter saved as p.157]
So far we have got together a strange enough collection of "usefuls" to take over with us – it includes a typewriter, a pair of gramophones, side drum & bugle. By the way, one of the talk-boxes is already a casualty; it tried to keep the floor at a time when several elevated gunmen felt the urgent need of an un-interrupted hearing. But in the midst of general celebrations this is but an item.

Yesterday we got things going pretty early with the result that the afternoon pde ground  looked like a muster ground for the survivors of forlorn hopes. Later in the evening we had a little sociable exchange with our next door neighbours, the –the Coy. It came about because of the

[Page 4 of the letter saved as p.154]
wanton disregard for the decent thing displayed by that Coy. in the laying out of their funds. They bought, besides a kettle drum, a set of bag-pipes. They play, or rather aspiring amateurs attempt to play these pipes at all hours between reveille 6 am & lights out 10.15 pm. They play in their huts – never in one hut for more than half an hour. If the sun comes out the pipes follow & wail horribly in the larch plantation skirting our quarters. In the foregoing you may read all the elements necessary for the starting of a large brawl.

About 7.30 pm yesterday these people, who mostly hail from Vic., bought (having just received pay) a goodly quantity of beer in fire-buckets. Also about that hour a clique of them broke the inter-company 2 up school. Also again the day before that they won a prize awarded for the ‘best packed’ limber – we say they won it more by guile than merit.
[Page 5 of the letter saved as p.156]
All these things being as stated, our prize Badman – ‘Jumbo Griff’ came into Hqrs. hut with an idea. Hqs hut sympathised. Other huts, scenting beer, also complied. In the darkness that followed the sudden crash & collapse of the –th s electrics we withdrew to our own position taking with us material – beer & bagpipes.

They have the pipes going as normal to-day also the fire-buckets, But the beer – Threats of reprisal fill the air. We go about in parties ready for emergencies. But we have the laugh – they are one of those petted units with a comforts fund of its own in Aussi, another on the spot, and an apparently un-interrupted mail & cable service. We are just an ordinary mob, of insufficient importance or pull to interest the Aussi. Comitters & too dead beat to do much for ourselves without the help of a few of our gun-officers. Also our mails are always open subject for speculative purposes.

[Page 6 of the letter saved as p.158]
Thus, having nothing but what the paternal W Dept. issues to us, we have nothing worth a dogs while to plunder…. And ours the freedom of movement & manoeuvre while brother over the road hugs his kit with un-resting vigilance – Got a letter tonight – from C. He’s still out of it but has just had a change of quarters from S. to N. & is expecting work shortly. Poor old chap – he’s done his share, I reckon, if anyone has. It’s up to the people who are ru(i)n(n)ing Aussi to take a tumble & get some of the old hands sent out of it – for 6 months at least. It’s safe to say that no country in the war gets as much work per man from its army as Aussi does – and no country sacrifices its men with more gusto – our colors now are ‘glad eye’ – you can find out at BRs what that is in military parlance.

Mrs H. has a few warm sox, shirts, muffler & gloves issued last winter at Perham,

[Page 7 of the letter written sideways along the top of Page 3 which is saved as p.157]
I kept them out of my kit when packing up & handing over the bag – as I would not have been likely to see them again if left in. I am hoping they will get the warm things early this winter a it wont be very bon if we have to wait for them down a damp hole somewhere. But reckon it’ll be al OK – very few of us feel the W.A.F.

[Page 8 of the letter written sideways along the top of Page 2 which is saved as p.155]
shiver now & will be in better trim for coming cold than we were for the last. So you must not worry about this one, little mother – we’ve cats’ luck so far & the cats still live in our mess hut. Love to all from Harry.
Hope you got the cards – no mail (Aussi) H

[Page 160]
[Reverse of Envelope]
Belton Park

[Page 162]
war cry of la Patrie as it has always been. So do not worry … all will be well. Car le bon Dieu est debonair – Il me prend par le main.

With best love to all and each of the home folks – et toi-meme –

from your son Harry.

[Page 3 of the letter saved as p.167]
truth! It matters nothing that I mention the name of that place for it’s not on all the maps & even if it were a lot of water has gone under the bridge since we passed.

Once to the top of the hills we passed thro a wide tableland, where crops were being brought in, at some places with the assistance of Aussis and N.Z’s. Every man of the country, farm laborer or not unless he be old, wears his uniform….. I saw a fettler, working on the line, who wore the much worn ‘rags’ of a chasseur – a railway guard knows what the clouds look like from above when the sun is on them.

Up on this tableland the roads are avenues of poplars, the woods are dressed & trimmed like regiments of giant soldiers on parade. In a gap between tall trees there

[Page 4 of the letter saved as p.168]
appears a tall white gate of rich design on which gleams some old armorial device. The car draws level & you are looking down a long vista of trimmed shrubs, fountains & gardens to a white chateau among the trees. One glimpse & you see no more – but the old chateau has stood there by the road & watched armies pass, and watched them return – for how many hundreds of years?

Night falls. There is nothing now to see. We stop for tea at a siding and, afterwards, the old guard & I sit up in the box exchanging conversation & cigarettes and drinking each others health in anisette which he has brought aboard for the night journey. At one  twelve I go to sleep in the van with my boots on. At one Huebert (the guard) passes with his lantern & I hear his

[Page 5 of the letter saved as p.169]
‘bonne nuit et bonne chance!’ Then he has stepped out into the dark & the relief, a young infantry ex-soldat comes in with a quiet ‘bon soir camarades.’ C’est l’entente cordiale.

I like the [poilu?] He is so quiet and self-contained, and he never talks about his prowess. If he has an Anzac he leaves it to the historian. If you mention Verdun to him he looks surprised & murmurs "Oh les aura!" (They asked for it!)

In the morning , as the mists cleared we saw that we had passed to a dank land of canals and squalid villages. Soon the finish. Then, for me, a 20 kilometre bike ride & I am here.

I live in an attic, large & roomy, over an old style town residence. The front looks sheer on the street. Inside is a roomy courtyard, high-walled, with vines & pears trained on the walls

[Page 6 of the letter saved as p.164]
and large pear-trees in the centre. The garden is sacred to vegetables – for it is war time.
On the west side of the court there is a door in the wall. Open it & you find yourself standing on the brink of a river, (the river you may have read about (or one of them!)) It is walled up in its passage thro the town & only about 8 ft wide by three or four in depth; But all the same it represents no small body of water for it is very swift. At first we would be awake in our ‘mansarde’ and think a heavy rain storm was in progress, but now we are used to the sound & find it rather pleasant.

Since arrival I have been paying due attention to the "language of civilisation" and find that much

[Page 7 of the letter saved as p.166]
comes back to me. I can now get along quite satisfactorily and hope that, in a few weeks, I shall be of dual nationality as regards speech. The only trouble is that one hears so many dialects that must be recognised & avoided.

Now for the present I must say good-night to you both and good luck – bonne nuit et bonne chance!

To the rest of the folks please say that I remember them, but, as no doubt they understand, I also am too busy to write other than a few letters.

With fondest love from your son Harry.

[The following is written sideways along the margin of the page:]
Two more letters from home & one from [indecipherable] – tell them Ive written & will again very soon. H.

[Page 2 of the letter saved as p.172]
of a house of the old style – I believe it was once the Hotel de Ville or some equivalent, and has seen far better days – even tho its present occupants are by no means ‘nobodies’. The front looks down on a small ‘place’ & its built sheer, entry being by an archway which has been provided with a massive door to keep it up-to-date. This leads to a pleasant court-yard high-walled & fairly large. Pears & vines are trained on the walls. Large old pear trees stand between & the garden beds, erstwhile devoted to beauty, show the effects of war in their ‘luxuriant vegetables.’ All the same, the old place looks dignified inspite of the chou-fleurs. The people are very nice – three in family, father, daughter & a boy about 11 yrs.

[Page 3 of the letter saved as p.171]
They have just lately been repatriated after many months in Hunland, where the girl, who is about B.’s size & perhaps a couple of years older, has been doing such useful work as street sweeping (winter) and farm work at other seasons. They have told me some of their experiences. If God has any use for the Boche, He’d better get a move on … for more than ever now one sees the necessity for eliminating these human monsters.

Met a chap named Soloman (BNSW) tother day my old unit and he knows Bill McCall well. Remember him to W McC. when you next meet him, will you. Have not heard from C. lately but think he’s all right.

This town is very old. In

[Page 4 of the letter saved as p.173]
fact, in peace time, I can imagine it is a most delightful place but in war – how can any town resemble anything but a calvary? Such of the civvies as I have met are decent folk, not quite French, but still decent. In fact I gather that the boys can mostly blame themselves where they meet with incivility. Anyhow I have been treated tres bon, also the other three sigs. for whom I do the palavering. Am getting ‘la langue’ OK and can now comprend mostly anything & talk fairly also. It comes back.

Writing in a hurry as must get on with the job vitement.
Love to one & all from yr brother Harry WP.

[Page 4 of the letter saved as p.176]
Now I have to stay in bed & be tortured daily by an amiable ‘brown man’ whose native pagan arts have taught him how to make the lame walk. He reckons about three or four weeks ought to do me as its only one leg & I’m able to work it about a little already. Shall not be sorry when the job is finished & can get away on furlough – seems funny to write, but I owe it to plain truth to whisper that even in their hospitals the ‘Aussiheads’ are ‘mad militarists’ & dull – painfully dull and reminiscent of the sheep & cow. In this case we are the sick stock. Such is not the way in Tommydom – T. is a domestic biped only in khaki – in blue he is recognised as a human being again. You would laugh if you could sit here for a day & look & listen. You would also get the strength of my remarks above.

[Page 178]
[Page 2 of the letter is part 2 of page 178]
a despatch. My rolled g.coat & oil sheet w.p. cape actually saved me from joining the great majority and when they were disentangling me from my gear somebody went to a lot of trouble to wake me up & tell me I’d topped the list of the Lucky.

Anyhow it was a great kick and what worries me most is that it blew my souvenirs to glory – they were good ones too, including buttons, a watch & pr glasses which had only been in my possession 20 minutes!

It took me 8 days to get this far & I’m expecting to be hopping round to-morrow or next day. After that I may

[Page 3 of the letter is part 1 of page 178]
go to an Aust. M. or Conv.H.

Yesterday Austn RedX visitors called and left me papers, writing material etc, for this letter & bless them, a complete toilet outfit including a tip-top razor.

Ypres is a good place to be away from – war there has got down to about the lowest possible hell of filth and black ruin. Theres not a yard of ground that has not been torn up by HE. Just at the part I got caught in there are only three foot tracks in a mile to get through the shell holes, many of which are from 10 to 30 ft deep & half full of water – death traps full of death itself. Awful.

[Page 180]
Harefield Hospital

My Dear Mother

The address above will tell you that I am still on the shelf. Apart from that item the only other bit of news I can give you is that although not yet free to meander round the huts or to the village I’m doing well and able to take solid nourishment. Massage continues and I hope will not effect my complete cure for some time to come as the prospect of leaving here direct for H.Ship is not at all unpleasant, but early cure would very likely cause revision of this arrangement. To-day the weather is fine – believe me this statement is not symptomatic , but true. Most of the vegetation in view from these windows is of the good old English leafless variety. Heard from Mr H. that the cash had come safely to hand. If I am unable to see them before leaving that is if I do leave for Aussie at all, I shall leave the cash for old C. who is resting in Hospital, France, with slight ear trouble. Quite a pile of letters just arrived . Thanks to all the writers & for leaves, flowers etc

Mrs H.G. Pryce
11 Ben Eden St.
New South Wales

We find a town in every vale,
A village every half a mile,
A dozen different brands of ale –
O’er some we sigh, o’er some we smile
The beer of France is often vile,
But oh! The wines of France are bright!
Sometimes we rest a little while
I broke the ‘Two up School’ last night

Far back our column crawls along
They must be ten brigades behind! –
The Major asks them for a song,
They ask some power to strike him blind.
They thirst, by dusty highways lined
With dusty hedges, parched and white;
We sympathise; our hearts are kind!
I broke the ‘Two Up School’ last night.

The day draws on yet still our star
Reveals some fresh Estaminet;
Madame uncorks the Malaga
"Bon Jour!’ says she. "Encore" we say.
(The column wanders far away;
The major in the fading light
Peers up at sign posts, cracked & grey – )
I broke the ‘Two Up School’ last night.

France 25/10/17

[Page 184]
My Dear Mother,

This is the "scrap" of paper to which I am reduced – but believe me it is quite suitable for one finds little in the way of news to write about. My outlook at present is per several windows, across a ruberoid roof at a skeleton tree against a grey sky. The tree has only become a skeleton in the past few days. Typical English scene, typical English weather --- but not a typical English ward. I believe there is still a war going on somewhere tho all one hears talk of is raid – raid always raid. Almost one is tempted to believe that they ‘have the wind up’ to use modern English. Harold Horton was on his last leave about the time I hit Blighty this trip and by now, I expect, is in France where I hope he will have Luck and gain more & more pips. Think I shall have to make my next pilgrimage over there with a couple of pips – it means so much more personal comfort etc (& the pips take several months in the getting – a good point for the war may not last – ) But there’s a bad point too. The French that is the decent people in that part of Europe that we call France & France calls the "Dirty North," don’t like the dashing Anglo-S sub much. The dashing one of more stars & even crowns, they like less. If the "dash"d one happens to be one of Us they hate him quite cordially & refer to him casually as "bete sauvage." Thus on second thoughts I think indecipherable  it may be wiser to remain what is officially called ‘Other Ranks.’ It is so much better if you happen to need tucker & decent wine. The leg progresses. Matter of fact there’s mighty little wrong with it bar a bruised nerve & the massage is straightening that out. Of course I am obsessed with a wild longing to return to Belgium & my beloved comrades, we all are. This is the secret of the indomitable spirit of victory permeating all branches of the service.

[The following is written sideways along the margin:]
Not bad sniff for fly-papers that bit! I keep hoping that all is well in Aust, particularly in NSW. But bar the letter at Fangs I have heard not a word. A group of Aussi invalids are now discoursing at foot of my bed & it is impossible to continue writing in the national (?) atmosphere.

Heaps of Love from Harry.

[Page 186]
[This page is a pro-forma telegram with typed inserts]

Base Records Office
Victoria Barracks
Melbourne, 29th October 1917

Dear Madam

I regret to advise you that Private H.W.Pryce has been reported admitted to County Middlesex War Hospital, Napsbury, St Albans, England, 8/10/17, suffering from Concussion, mild.

His postal address will be:-

No 379 Private H.W.Pryce,
23rd Machine Gun Company,
(late 9th Machine Gun Company)
Australian Imperial Force, Abroad.

In the absence of further reports it is to be assumed that satisfactory progress is being maintained, but anything later received will be promptly transmitted, it being clearly understood that if no further advice is forwarded this department has no more information to supply.
Yours faithfully
(Sgd.) W.H.Osborne
J.M.Lean, Major
Officer in Charge, Base Records.

[Page 188]
[This page is a cutting from a news paper which includes two photographs]

"…ey Mail" Wednesday, November 7, 1917


[Photo 1: a distance view of the camp showing rows of purpose built huts]
General View of the Grantham Camp.
The Australian machine-gun lines are in the left foreground.

[Photo 2: a view between two rows of huts with assembled men in uniform and clearly defined garden beds.]
Between the Lines.
The gardens are now producing rich crops of vegetables.

The Australian Machine-gun Training Depot is located in Belton Park, at Grantham. The surrounding country (writes H.C.Polyblank, Australian Y.M.C.A. officer with the A.I.F.) is enchanting. Camp conditions are exceptionally good. In the training veterans of three years’ service lend a helping hand to young warriors just preparing for the fray. Concerts, tournaments, and outdoor sports receive the encouragement of officers and enthusiastic support of the men. The sparkling spirit of Australia is unabated, despite the miles that separate us from the homeland of wattle and sunshine.

[Page 190]
Also a Miss Cooper (of Brisbane), who visits here twice weekly, keeps me well supplied with decent cigarettes. By the way Miss C. was over here getting a ‘voice’ put thro squad drill when war broke out & un-dutifully refused to return to the aged official parent & Brisbane Govt Hse ‘shoshuls’, preferring to live here on her own cash & send motors from Silvermere to take the boys out joy-riding. Also received a visit from Abbe’ [Duposs]  Ducants late of parish of Lille – Armentieres who had been asked to call by friend Bucamp of [indecipherable]. Very nice of him.

Have had various letters from the unit & hear that good boys have gone under since I left – you see I was the first, the very first casualty in action! Luckily for myself.

Mrs H. writes to let me know Chas. is waiting to rejoin his Batt. The cash comes in handy, am holding enough & the rest will be used at overstrand as I have directed for Xmas presents for Harold & Charlie & the youngsters.

Love from Harry.

hage  have grown fat in France, but Fate sent me up to Belgium & Fritz had just written my name on a big H.E. so I return to Aust. for a rest before resuming the argument.

[Page 193]
[This is a pre-printed form letter with typed inserts.]

MELBOURNE, 9th Dec., 1917.

Dear Sir,

I am in receipt of cable advice to the effect that No.379 Private H.W.Pryce, 23rd Machine Gun Company, is returning to Australia.

When the transport is nearing Australia, a list of names marked "A" will be published in the Press, beyond this no further information can be supplied. It is regreted that the movements or name of the transport on which he is arriving cannot be disclosed.

It is to be noted that owing to possible mutilations in the cabled advice and other causes this notification may not be correct pending verification from the roll on arrival of the Troopship.

Yours faithfully,
J.M. LEAN, Major
Officer in Charge, Base Records.

P.56 The Tugela is a river that runs into the Indian Ocean to the north of Durban.
P.61 The mountain described as Groote Schur (correct spelling Schuur) is probably the mountain known as Devil’s Peak
P.78 Lutegar’s Hall is the ancient (Saxon) name of Ludgershall, a town on the Salisbury Plain.
P.111.‘Emma-Emma’ is signalese for M. M. ie Military Medal

[Transcribed by Ros Bean, Adrian Bicknell for the State Library of New South Wales]