11 March 1915
Dear Mum & Dad & all the others
Your undated letter Ida of the somethingly something of something from GL to hand on Wednesday! I suppose Freckles that I’d better tell the truth & say that I was very very very very very very very very very (how many’s that? Oh that will be enuf) pleased to receive it, but unlike you, I did go into hysterics – oh hang it I mean es – esk – eks – oh bother, exstasies. Hope its spelt right. Being unable to spell it myself I was perforce obliged to copy it from you.
If any norty words happen to appear you must please skip them. You see, the flies are the most persistent beggars that I’ve ever had the pleasure of squashing. The only thing, the beggars are so blooming lively & frisky that my poor cheeks are very red & very sore from the severe bombardment & the enemys casualties are dishearteningly small being one killed & 2 badly scared. The remaining 45,892,756,897 being merely amused.
There wont be much news this time, as the censor chappie insists on perusing all correspondence leaving Egypt, & you know my reserved nature too well to think that I could calmly discuss certain subjects when I think that some watery eyed, big nosed, sallow faced, asthetic, bespectacled censor might be defiling the sanctity of my private correspondence, & greedily absorbing my most sacred thorts.
See those dots? I went to blow an accumulation of dust off the paper but the only thing that shifted was the ink on my pen. And I’m short of ink too. We are not short of dust.
I’m so sorry Ida that you’ve become attached to your surroundings of G.L. I do hope that Mum did not have to resort to the drastic method of soaking you off with boiling water.
Am glad little Freck, that you came first in S. School. You must be in a pretty lively class of irresponsible damsels. Did you ever notice how appropriate a word. “Damsel” is? When you come to think of it most girls are “Damsels” Oh Ida I didn’t swore. Most girls ARE “Damsels”.
Re the rotten tomato incident closely connected with “Maryannshesafterme” I’m so pleased that Viola has still got a shred or 4 of sense left, even tho she does intend shortening her lovely locks & lengthening her dress. Of course you may imagine that the punishment was not justified by crime, but you just listen to ___ next time she thinks she’s singing, imagine your own vocal efforts on a par with it, & then you’ll see the justice of it.
That’s a likely yarn I must say about you getting sick that morning that you had to get up early to iron a dress off a lump of fat. Very peculiar indeed you recovering at 10am precisely – just in nice time to miss school. However as you improved your mind corresponding with your erring brothers, I’ll let you off with a kiss & a hug & a toss over my shoulders & round the world & back again. I suppose that you’ll be so long & lanky when I get back that your number nines will be smashing up the ceiling when I give you your medicine. Wouldn’t be at all sprised if the fair & most adorable Viola will be so much the other thing that it will be a route march walking round her. Dear little Rita will of course emulate Frecks example.
Oh Ida I’m so pleased with your success at school. Let me congratulate you, I’m so pleased & proud of my little sister. I suppose tho, getting B’s for nearly everything stung a little? Never mind Ida you rub it wif a teeny weeny bit of Kerosene & your poor little head will feel a lot easier. There’s no need to skite about getting A for Art, as the blooming thing starts with A. However I’m properly pleased with you for not getting R or T instead.
Yes you’re right. Things WILL be lively if the 3 Smythe girls get into one school. Pity help the poor teachers. If you could only see the calm peaceful contented expression of my clock since I left you. You’d be surprised.
13/3/15. Excuse me Ida for contradicting you but there is a teacher at Jd. I’ve received inside information from that part of the world, & among other things I’m informed that there is a teacher there. Pls do be careful & don’t go making such rash statements in future.
Sprigg Fergo is O.K. & doesn’t appear to be going to the dogs any more than the rest of us. Like us, he has not as yet been convicted of murder, arson, pillaging, robbing the dead or any other of the many minor crimes committed by victorious soldiery. Mrs F ought not to worry. He is O.K. as we all are. I hope more of you go carrying on like that.
Oh Maysie I’m sprised at you, screaming like any other damsel just cos a tryantiwontigong was having a barf & you accidentally disturbed the poor creature. Ida told me all about it. Look here Maysie this is no good to me. You really must stop those capers. I can see that I’ll have to take you in hand when I return or you’ll be altogether too obstreperous.
About a fortnight ago we went for an early morning route march of 12 ½ miles, & as we were nearing camp we were inspected by French & Belgian officers returned from the front. I hope they were properly impressed with our magnificent bearing, acquired as per officers orders about 300 yds before we came opposite them & not dispersed with until we were dismissed.
We have been issued with some additional clothing. I got a big flannel which reaches past my knees & is wide enough for Sir Geo Rush. Also got a pr a puttees, pr of underpants & a white linen tucker bag & a pr of cheap sox. My old puttees are pretty badly done up, & so were the underpants so the new ones are just in time. I have plenty of sox, & just as well, cos the issued ones are not nearly as good as the ones you & Mrs Fox gave me. If it had not been for them I’d have had sox trouble long ago.
Early morning route marches are getting quite popular with us here, & we’ve been doing a fair number of them. I like them cos you’ve finished for the day about 9am. It hurts a bit tho getting up at 4am.
I supposed you want an explanation from me for not writing last week. Well I kept putting it off till Sunday & then got rushed & was unable to write. As it’s the first week that I’ve missed since landing here, I hope you’ll excuse me. Bring me under the first offenders act.
Last Friday week we commenced a Divisional scheme, in which the 12 Bns & the others arms which make up the Division were all engaged. We left camp about 1pm & returned about 6.30am next morning. Most of us got 4 to 5 hrs sleep. Our blankets came out, but as getting them necessitated a mile walk, No. 1 sect. decided to do without them. As I generally suffer from cold feet when I sleep out without blankets I thort of a new scheme which was O.K. I wrapped my feet up in the jersey which we have to carry, then stuffed them in a pack & fastened it up & my tootsies were as warm as toast all night. I went to sleep in my overcoat, & lo when I awoke, I found a blanket over me. After inquiry found the culprit to be Capt Douglas, second in command of A. Not too bad of him was it.
Last Monday we had to pull the tents down & sun our blankets. It was an awful day. Blowing like mad & could hardly see your nose for dust & yet we had to spread our blankets out to be sunned, but instead of being sunned they got covered in dust. After getting them thoroughly disinfected with Sahara Dust we took them into a mess room & filled in time with a little livening up rifle drill. Major Brown has applied for 4 competent signallers for A coy, so if he gets them it will be O.K. I’ll be able to do something. As it is, I’m heavily handicapped having four very incompetents in my lot.
A couple of days ago there was a Brigade scheme on, & we Signallers were very busy indeed. A coy had 12 piquet posts out & they had to report on every movement that they saw. Myself & another siglr were to send their reports back to A coy. By jingo we were busy. At times we got so congested that I had to send my mate down with batches instead of signalling them. To make matters worse we were two men short. You’d have died laughing at some of the reports. Some of them were long flowery efforts of 50 words or so, that could have been disposed of in a doz words.
Wednesday & Thursday we, (the 1st Bde) turned out very early & entrenched about a mile from the camp. We had to dig trenches suitable for artillery fire. They were 5 ft 6 deep 4ft wide at the top & 2 ft at the bottom so the ledge is of course to sit on. The dirt is thrown up in front of the trench. We also erected a very good barbed wire entanglement under the supervision of an Engineer officer. Yesterday (Friday) we left camp about 4pm & occupied them intending to remain there all night, but about 7 we were called away & had to sleep out in the open. There was a lot of shooting going on through the night but luckily we were not called upon to assist. Early in the morning the Maj said all that wanted to go back to camp could do so. I was quite comfy so I didn’t budge worth talking about. But so many wanted to return that we all had to go.
We’ve got the day off & I’ve got leave but of course can’t go out till I get paid. I’ve got to get a few things & also visit a friend of mine Hutton who is in the hospital in Cairo.
I hope you always remember to post my letters on to Dad & Vivie & Percy. It would be too big a task to write to each & give all the news. Post them to Dad first & he can post them to Vivie & Percy.
Poor old Hutton is rubbed off the strength & will be sent back to Aust as soon as he has recovered sufficiently. Camron will not be sent back if he can take the field in 5 weeks time. I have not seen either of them for well over a week as most of the patients including them, have been removed to the Citadel in Cairo.
There are several pretty good picture shows here & some of them give the explanation in English for our convenience, tho the very best still doles out sereenfulls of French to us. I went to one the other night & there was a vaudeville entertainment that was fair to middling.
Some of the bills that the Cairo Shopkeepers distribute amongst us are dead funny. Most of the stores are French & their translation is very amusing at times the way they express themselves.
To walk along the main road of our camp you’d think you were in Sydney. The first thing that catches your eye is a big wooden building with a signboard that advises you to dine at “Sargeants Ltd” Geo St Sydney. A little way on you come to Mick Simmons Hairdresser & tobacconist. A fine refreshment house advocates “White Australia” but evidently doesn’t object to black Egypt as the same shops employees would never pass as ghosts.
Well I’ll have to finish up as I’ve got no more news. Would like to hear from you Dad, & Viv & Percy occasionally. Viola would also please her eldest brother if she wouldn’t ignore him so completely _ _ _. Hope every one of you are well & happy as this leaves both V & I your loving son & brother Bert.