24 June 1915
AUST IMP FORCES ABROAD
Dear Mum & Dad & Brothers & Sisters.
I’ve had my furlough – a fortnight & am now at the Australian base waiting to be sent back to the front. I heard that a batch of us were going on an English transport about the end of the month.
Chickerell is about 2 ½ miles out of Weymouth a pleasure resort on the South Coast of England. There are about 160 men here, all Austns & N.Z’s & we live in huts & have straw mattresses to sleep on. We have a pretty easy time of it. Do a little light marching in the morning, & a little again in the afternoon finishing about 4pm.
I’m sending you some photos. I’ve got two enclosed in with yours that I want you to send to Elsie. I didn’t send them separately as I thort they’d get broken on the way. Keep one of the big ones for yourself & give the other to Mrs Fox if she cares for it.
Had a fortnights furlough but didn’t enjoy myself much. Too blooming lonely. Was among the first lot of Austns to be discharged from hospital & just after we got out the English discovered that there were wounded men from “down under” & all the ones left in hospital were invited to private families as soon as they were discharged & had the time of their lives _ _ _. But all the same managed to knock out a bit of fun. Went to a theatre almost every night, but with the exception of “The Arcadians”, which was in Sydney not so long ago the plays were not up to much. There were two war plays “For England home & beauty” & “In War Time” but they were very lame, unconvincing & in parts ridiculous. Visited the zoo & Art gallery, & in fact don’t know what I didn’t visit. One day went to Madame Taussards the waxworks. You might have read of them & the Chamber of Horrors. I went particularly to see this chamber of Horrors as I’d heard a lot about it. One of the attendants goodnaturedly showed us around & at last as I was getting impatient asked him to show us the Chamber of Horrors. You could have knocked me down with a feather when he told us that we’d just been throu it _ _ _. It was very very tame indeed. When we were near a door one of our party said “Doesn’t she look natural” referring to a figure at a table. “She” immediately began tidy up some papers on the desk & seemed quite amused _ _ _.
I’ve bought two collapsible periscopes one for Vernie & the other for myself. I was going to get something for you at home when I remembered about the necessity for a periscope each, & I knew you’d rather I spent it on them than otherwise. They were 15/- each. As we have to do a lot of observing they might be the means of saving our lives some day.
I suppose that Vernie will be a Leuit by the time I get back if he’s not one already. GA has been seriously wounded & Vernie certainly should get the position. I hope GA recovers OK but at the same time I hope Vernie gets a commission.
I see by the honours list that Cpl Moore of “A” co, 3rd Bn, won a “D.C.M.” – Distinguished Conduct Medal. It is equivalent to a D.S.O. with an officer. I knew him very well. He was a nice & very quiet boy, only about 5ft 6 high too. Good Luck to him.
Saw a Sunday Times tother day – the first one after we’d landed, & amongst other things it supposed that that 1st Brigade hadn’t been engaged in the first few days fighting cos they hadn’t received any officers casualties for that Brigade. We lost a lot of men & officers on that first Sunday & were at it a couple of hours after the first party had got ashore.
They made some mistake about the casualty lists here. I drew their attention to the fact that at least six men marked “13th Bn” were 3rd men, & about a week later saw that the whole sheet of names including those six had been changed from “13th” to 3rd.
We had a strawberry fight the other afternoon here followed by a concert. It was organised & got up by the Weymouth people. Besides unlimited quantity of other goodies, we each had two large plates heaped with strawberries, & cream ad lib (Note that Viola – AD LIB – Do you know what it means _ _ _.) In fact we were being continually urged not to spare the cream - & we didn’t. Well I’m fond of strawberries but I could only account for one plate. After the strawberries we had to do our best with the cakes etc. The concert that followed was pretty good.
Was taken out twice whilst on the in the Big Smoke. Last Saty the Austn War Contingent Assn took a large party of us in a char-a-banc to St Albans where after reviewing the very ancient church, we were entertained by the Mayor. It was a very pleasant afternoon. On the way home they gave us a pleasant surprise by taking us in to see our boys at our own Australian hospital at Harfield. The Dr, staff & patients are Austn. You could almost see Kangs & Emus, & smell the wattle _ _ _. Saw a lot of chaps I knew there. The next day – Sunday – a Mrs Chisholm invited six of us to afternoon tea & kept us there till 10p, & we had a bonzer time. There was a little girl of 9 & a boy of 7 there & they kept us entertained almost all the time. Both were pretty efficient in rifle drill & made us drill them for quite a while. The little girl got me to promise to send her a Turkish field gun, machine gun, & rifle when I go back. She also wanted me to post her a dead Turk, until I told her he’d go bad, so she sposed I’d better only send his clothes _ _ _. Before she went to bed she gave me her address on a piece of paper, & after she’d been sent to bed came running out & whispered in my ear “Don’t forget” _ _ _.
Met one of my signallers Percy Morgan who was also wounded, & he invited me out to his mothers place. Arrived there one afternoon & stayed till late next night. His mother is a dear old lady & she quite spoilt me. It made me think of home again & I longed to be back. One of her sons took us all out for a nice long motor drive to our boys at Harfield, & next day we visited the aerodrome & inspected several machines. Saw one go up & then saw it alight later. We spent the rest of the morning motoring, & in the afternoon visited some places of interest per bike. On the way home had a collision with another cyclist. No one hurt. Mrs Morgans grandorter is named Eileen so with a Percy & an Eileen in the house I couldn’t help feeling at home could I.
Well I’ve run out of news so I’ll have to close, hoping everyone of you are quite well & happy. Haven’t had a single letter since 20th of April. They’ve got all the letters at the base at Alexandria, so I’m quite anxious to get back there & get some letters. With best of love from your loving son & brother Bert.
[Sidebar] That letter I wrote to Miss MacDonald sometime ago must have offended her proper _ _ _. And yet I thort I’d pologised quite handsomely. Can’t understand women _ _ _.