Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Letters from Louis Vasco (Vasco Loureiro) from England and France, 1916-1918
MLMSS 8191/ Box 1X
[Transcriberís note: Sapper Vasco of the Field Company Engineers joined the Army on 11 May 1916 and embarked on the Suevic on 11 November 1916. He was a Caricature Artist and Draftsman and there are many of his drawings in the following letters to his wife from England and from France. He died of illness on 3 August 1918 and is buried in Hatfield Cemetery, St. Albans, United Kingdom.]
Australian Red Cross
"This side of the fence is out of bounds to all ranks and patients."
"A study in Blues"
"Vasco on the Rocks"
47th General Hospital
June 20th 1918
How goes it? I can hardly believe it true. If all goes well the next letter to you will be from England!
After about a month as a bed patient I was allowed to walk round a bit today. As you will see by the diagram in my letter I "strolled" to the edge of the cliffs (a 300 ft. drop) little expecting that an hour later our doctor would be marking me across to the
opposite side! The folorn expression of Napoleon on St. Helena has vanished and the slight spinal curvature from the nape of the neck to the base as shown in the sketch has straightened out considerably. Even the malacca cane has been discarded. I hope you received Murgerís "Vie de Boheme" posted about fourteen days ago, several French papers, two or three letters and "Vive Le Quartier Latin". Shall write a good long letter as soon as things are a bit settled. Love to Jack, Jen and all at home.
Toujours a toi
[line of kisses]
Somewhere in England!
June 30th 1918
Jíai des nouvelles vertigineuse! No more France for Muh! Iím not writing too long a letter. Too excited!
Brave little Woman. [line of kisses] I just pray that youíre well and happy. The old Victoria tune is ringing in my ears. Theyíre wonderfully good in the hospital and thereís a glorious garden with real thrushes as my Irish actor friend says dropping their "nhotes from the trays". Each day one feels the benefit of a complete rest. I have absolutely everything and people are wonderfully good. At present I am in A Ward F Block, Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, London S.E. 5. We get an absolute rest here and I am told afterwards either home service or perhaps Australia. Donít say anything to relations or build too much on it but thereís absolutely no need for further anxiety. We have every reason as "Hosky" says to keep smiling.
Send all letters to 11th Field Coy. Aust. Engrs., France or Abroad. They forward my mail immediately. Hospital addresses change all the time.
Love to Jen, Jack and all at home (not forgetting the dorg).
Your Vasco forever and ever and ever. [line of kisses]
"Somewhere in France"
June 25th 1917
C/o British Australasian
115 High Holborn
Itís just glorious to hear that youíve been to Toowoomba. Your last letter speaks of the Duffyís and joy rides. Ever since I landed in France life has been perfect. You couldnít imagine a more lovely spot than the one we are in now. This morning Iíve crept through a forest alongside our camp into a glorious farmyard where they cook the most delicious French (they canít help it) meals where the open mouthed ginger cat catches milk squirted form the cows tit. Absolutely the latest "farmyard Mandeville" stunt. Just the old mountain home all over again with a French old Mrs. Roberts, open fireplace, grandfather clock and the dear dog.
This is our country. If Iíve ever made up my mind about anything itís to get you over here "Apres la guerre". Thereís more life and fun on a Sunday in this big port. More violent contrasts, more delicious food, wine, exquisite country, music, more cafť life and true "bohemianism" on a Sunday or any week day than England ever dreamt of in a lifetime. Hypocrisy, mock modesty and snobs vanish. People here are natural. Itís good night to the d__ "subbubbs". Too lovely for words! Hard to believe! etc. etc. The other day I came across Paragot
[Various drawings with the titles "Le Petit rouge la bas", "Grandmere et son fagot" and "Voila avec ma brouette"]
his pretty little wife and the boy Asticot. All three tamoshantered and corduroyed bohemians playing mandolins (not a patch on yours) in the city square. They sell leaflets with words of the latest vaudeville "hits" to a large and interesting crowd. This crowd doesnít gape and stare but enjoys itself singing the choruses. The temptation was too great for me. I jumped on to the platform with my bones and sang "Hiens Pompoule to a vigorous accompaniment. You should have heard the applause, French girls, soldiers, old ladies, civilians, cab drivers. I could almost see you laughing as I danced round making bloomers of my engineering riding breeches. Australians here have a great time and adapt themselves to the hitherto unknown freedom with an abandon that startles their "dopy" English brothers.
One finds out here the freedom vaunted of in the old Dart is all B.S.
Thank God the doleful, dirge of wowsers Sunday music does not infest this most beautiful of countrys. Sunshine as mellow as Brisbaneís shines day after day on La Belle France. The landscape is indescribably rich. "All the colors of their vegetable soup" (one of the Popsy Wopís). The people! You canít imagine how good I find them.
The Kiosks covered with French Papers are just a scream. The pastry cook shops make our
pastry cakes taste like piffle. You couldnít believe there was a war on here.
Any day now and Iíll know all about it. Thereíll be a draft. Then "up the line with the best of luck". Two of Franceís largest seaports, an inland town a week at a leading and "fashionable" seaside resort, a train trip through the most wonderfully green and rich country you could imagine for a day and night have formed part of the program during the past five weeks. French I speak far better than English. No groping for words
to that canít be found to express what you feel. Here youíre understood in a flash. I posted you a tip top description (badly illustrated) "Paris by Night" (after the style of London by Night that we read in Vancouver). Should you have not received it Promise. Buy it right away. Itís "good-oh". Dear one Iíve got to dash off to a Sergt. Majorís tent. For the past two weeks Iím his interpreter.
Talk about the adventures of Aristide Pujol. [The Joyous Adventures of Aristide Pujol by William J. Locke.]
Heís engaged to a little French lady and writes her a feverish letter in English once a day. This I rewrite in still more heated language and all her letters translate. A glorious job but so exhausting that I feel Iím using up all
the my latent mental love motive and literary psychic energy forces in his romantic cause and neglecting my one and only precious little Wife.
If thereís ever a little person I speak of with pride that Person is you dear. If thereís ever a good boy friend who hasnít heard of My wife and seen her photograph playing the mandolin, Iíd like to know who he is.
All the kisses and love in the world my Dear Precious one! I just pray that you are well and happy.
Your Vasco, for ever and ever and ever xxxxx
Love to Jack, Jen, the Children, Tom, Max, Hughie and the dear good Duffys.
Everybody turns up here in this camp. Even Jack Sexton and Bill Chadwick a Cousin of the Winterbottoms and friend of the Duffyís. I can promise you I have great times and lots of real French Leave.
Love to Mrs. Daly.
I never wrote to find I didnít write to any of them in France (Pas díobligations). I must finish with just one more hug xxxxx and an everlasting kiss of love that I hope will bring you all the luck and happiness in the world. (Love to the dear Mandolin and once more to yourself, xxxx.
Oct. 29th 1916
To the Trustees of the Brisbane Museum
Prior to my departure for the front I should like to present my valuable and exceedingly rare collection of cheque Harris Tweed clothes to the Brisbane Museum.
I realise that it is only a question of time when "Round the World with a Pencil" and The bob portrait business will belong to the past, and the necessary "clobber" a rarity which well deserves being stuffed and shown in a glass case to your good natured and much caricatured public.
late of the "S.S. Koopa"
[Transcribed by Judy Gimbert for the State Library of New South Wales]