Let­ter on the way to war paints a stark pic­ture

The Morning Bulletin - - REMEMBRANCE DAY -

The Palace He­liopo­lis Hos­pi­tal April 4th 1915

Dear Mr Homer,

I am writ­ing to give you a de­scrip­tion of Egypt as I have seen it.

Our first in­tro­duc­tion to it was of course at Suez. But we only stayed about two hours there be­fore we started our te­dious voy­age through the canal which took us two days and a night, hav­ing to stop for the night in the lake at So­ma­lia as they thought it un­safe to travel through in the dark, the Turks be­ing pretty close at the time.

The canal was pretty strongly for­ti­fied when we came through; I be­lieve they have 100,000 troops posted along its banks.

There were trenches and barbed wire en­tan­gle­ments all along a bank; I don’t think any of us re­alised quite the se­ri­ous­ness of things till we saw the real thing. About twenty miles from Port Said we saw a bit of a fight be­tween some Sikks (sic) and Turks but they were a great dis­tance off and pretty hard to see.

We ar­rived at Port Said late that evening and left for Alexan­dria the next morn­ing, ar­riv­ing there at day­light the fol­low­ing morn­ing. We went straight into the wharf and started to dis­em­bark straight away which took two days and a night of con­stant go­ing. Of course we had na­tives ga­lore help­ing us. If we wanted a mo­tor car or lim­ber wagon onto the trucks they would have a muster and get about twenty na­tives onto it. They are pow­er­fully strong for their build, be­ing some­thing like a camel, they can carry any­thing that they can stand up with, which is a pretty heavy load. You never heard such a din as they make when a few of them get to­gether do­ing any­thing they kick up a most aw­ful row, every time they lift some­thing they give a sort of a yell. It is most pe­cu­liar to see the men all dressed up in long gowns, es­pe­cially when work­ing. Every man here, of the work­ing class and poorer trades­men wear the same, and of course, very few of that class wear any boots.

My squadron did not leave the boat un­til nine o’clock at night. We trucked our horses to Cairo, a dis­tance of eighty miles, which took us three hours. We then un­trucked, gave our horses a drink and led them out to our camp at Naa’di; a dis­tance of eight miles, ar­riv­ing there at day­light. Need­less to say, we were fagged out, hav­ing very lit­tle ex­er­cise on the boat, our mus­cles were stiff and sore for three days af­ter­wards, but we got plenty of walk­ing when we first ar­rived we used to take the horses for a four-mile walk every day and were not al­lowed to ride them for three weeks. They are look­ing splen­did now and are full of spirit.

Af­ter com­ing off the boat we had to muz­zle them all to prevent them from eat­ing sand and chew­ing their hal­ters. It was no end of fun on horse picket (sic) at night time be­fore they got the muz­zles, you could not stop go­ing the whole time and oc­ca­sion­ally a stray horse would come wan­der­ing down the lines to meet you. My old horse has got that lively that he has thrown me a cou­ple of times.

This is the dusti­est hole you ever saw in your life. When we are lead­ing our horses to wa­ter we have to lead three or four each and the dust is that thick that you of­ten can’t see two horse lengths ahead. It plays up fright­fully with one’s health and a great num­ber of us have been suf­fer­ing bronchial and chest trou­bles since we have been here. We have also lost a few from pneu­mo­nia. I have been sick a good deal my­self and it has pre­vented me go­ing about very much but still I have been to see the pyra­mids & Sphinx. I climbed the big­gest pyramid to the sum­mit, of which you can get a splen­did view of the Nile and sur­round­ing coun­try. To add to the pic­turesque­ness of it, the Mena camp, where all the Aus­tralian In­fantry were camped, was right at the foot of it. There is a beau­ti­ful av­enue com­ing from Cairo right out to there.

Con­tin­ues Mon­day.

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