29 May 1915
Red X Military hosp.
I’m writing this today – the 29th – your birthday. Many Many Happy Returns & I hope you had an enjoyable day. My last letter before we entered into the fighting would just about reach you today as near as I can reckon. This will reach you a month or more late, but better that than never.
My wound has healed up thoroughly externally, but my arm is not much use to me yet. It’s a bit painful & tiring writing, tho I don’t think my scrawl is much worse than usual _ _ _. The Dr has ordered massage three times a week. Got my first dose of it on Friday. I didn’t notice any improvement, tho I don’t suppose there would be any noticeable after only one dose.
We came here from Birmingham last Tuesday – about a dozen of us mostly Austns. There are about 40 patients – 9 of them being Austns & two N.Z’s. We excited a lot of curiosity at Birmingham & Rugby stations. Every one was remarking “Look. There are some Austns”. One would think that we were some rare species of humanity by the way the flappers & kids were staring at us _ _ _. Two or three of the crowd conversed with us, but for the most part they just stared. “Ashlawn” is a very comfortable place. It used to be a private residence, but the owners turned it over to the Military who converted it into a Military hospital. It is about 4 miles out of Rugby & is surrounded by beautiful green fields. The ground is all undulating & the whole scene looks very pretty indeed.
On Wednesday 10 of the men were taken for a motor drive to a neighboring place, & then entertained. On Thursday everyone of us not confined to bed, was taken in drays & motors about 2 miles & spent the afternoon in a very pretty garden. This afternoon a few more were taken out. Five of us went for a 6 miles motor drive to the home of one of our nurses & had a bonzer time. The house is 600 years old & it was very interesting. We were taken throu Rugby on our way there & back & our host & hostess pointed out all the places of interest. Rugby has a very big school as I suppose you know. It was about that school that is in “Tom Browns Schooldays”. Its great being in a motor. We were going at 300 miles an hour in places &I thort it was only 15 – it was so smooth & easy.
The nurses here are all voluntary workers, & get nothing for their splendid services. They do a fortnight, & then they are relieved & a fresh staff come on. They are very nice indeed & make things very comfortable for us. We get 3 meals a day, & also a snack at 11am & another at 7pm. Tea is at 4pm.
We have plenty of liberty & can wander in any direction we like except towards Rugby. However they wouldn’t trust us completely, so we are to be issued with “Blues” as soon as they arrive. Meanwhile they’ve taken our coats from us to be on the safe side. We have a big blue overcoat that we have to wear when we go out, so its no use trying to “break camp” even if we felt so inclined – we’d be rounded up by the first sentry or policeman we met.
Did the Military advise the relatives of the killed & wounded, or did they merely publish the names in the papers? Several of the 3rds including myself, were published in the 13th Battalion list instead of the 3rd. They are very slow here with the Austn lists. The last list I saw – sometime this week did not have all the men that I know fell in the first 4 days fighting. The “Times” gave a complete Austn list of all that had come to hand, & several I know including myself were not shown. I hope to goodness Vernie is O.K. I had the good luck to see him the day I got hit. The 3rd had been relieved & I saw him on the beach. He made me a bonzer drink of tea. I was only with him a few minutes when I had to report to the Ambulance, & before I knew what was happening they were taking us all on board a hospital ship so I didn’t see him again.
The worst of being in England is that we have not the slightest chance of getting any mail. We wont get any till we get back to our base at Alexandria or Lemnos Island. Haven’t had a letter of any sort now for a very long time. When you write don’t put any country on the letters just “AUST. IMP. FORCES. Abroad”
Our boys might be in Europe before your letter can get here. The military P.O. is kept informed of the BN’s movements. We Austns here don’t know each others names yet tho we are all in one room. We have all got nicknames. “Waxworks” “Torpedo” “Searchlight” “Nickadeemas” “Batman” “Colonel” “Major” & “Gunboat”. I get both “Colonel” & “Gunboat”. The Lance cpl is the “Major”. We have mock courtmartials, parades etc to pass the time. Also do a bit of fishing in the neighboring pond for small fish about 3 to 4 inches long. We used cotton & a bent pin & bread for bait. I cort nearly a doz yesterday. We keep them in a dish or bucket till nearly dark, & then let them go.
Last night Torpedo was arguing the point with Searchlight & Nickadeemas over some military point till nearly 12 o’clock. The nurse had to come in & make them stop. The Major told them they’d all be for C.O’s orders in the morning if they wouldn’t shut up, but it had no effect.
The Dr has just been here & “Searchlight” & “Shipwreck” have been recommended for furlough. I expect to be discharged too in a little over a week. We get I believe 7 days furlough after we are cured, & then we go back to the front. If they give us what is owing ought to be able to have a pretty good time. I’ll see as much as I can when my turn comes. It will be the most crowded week imaginable.
I heard a rumour that all we Austns had to go to the Austn Home soon, as they want to get us all together. At Birmingham, my ward – B4, had more Austns in it than English, & yet I was the only one that came here. One of my “A” coy Siglrs was also in the Hospital, but I didn’t see him the whole time. I didn’t know what ward he was in & I was never able to find him. I saw by one of the list that another of my siglrs was wounded. One of the first Bns to land lost all their signallers except 6 – out of 52. I didn’t have to do much flagwagging, & when I did, took mighty good care I wasn’t anyones target _ _ _. Of course when a man stands up in the open wagging a flag he’s asking for a bullet. Well Dad I’ll close now again wishing you very many many Happy Returns, your loving son Bert.