The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
They saddled up together when the sky was blushing red,
They mounted in the twilight and the Corporal rode ahead;
Four horsemen paused a moment at the barbed and tangled wire
That fenced a line unharassed by the storm of foeman fire,
And through the ever guarded gate they ambled close abreast,
And darkness hurried back and blotted out the lurid west.
A league towards the east they rode, a league into the night—
The Corporal was a youth who seemed a stranger to delight;
Long Watson was all devilment, and held aloof from care;
Young Dawson had a golden heart, and ever laid it bare;
But Denver was a thoughtless man whose sense was smothered deep
In wasted hours of respite that he always spent in sleep.
In darkness raven-deep, with seeming despair close at hand,
They halted neath a barren ridge that topped a waste of sand;
Then, as their horses munched the corn, a hat was passed, and they
Drew each a turn of sentry-go, to watch till break of day;
The Corporal drew the early shift (an easy watch to keep)—
The last fell to the conscience of the man who went to sleep.
Jack Denver was a man whose sense of principle was lost—
Ah, Denver was a wretched man to take a shift on post.
If man betrays his sleeping mates, nor guards them as he should,
And drowses on his vigil—well, he isn't any good!
Some broken, yearning women have a bitter cause to weep,
Since all his mates were done to death, when Denver went to sleep.
A cloth of mist crept overhead, the stars were blotted out—
Such gloom would tax the vision of the very keenest scout.
Deep hushed with tense expectancy, and hemmed around with fright,
The list'ning horses surely scented treachery that night.
Some watchers take it serious, while others take it cheap,
But none can act as rotten as a man who goes to sleep!
When Denver grudgingly arose the moon was in the sky,
Said Watson, " You've a wondrous lamp to watch the desert by,"
But Denver took a blanket up and wrapped himself around,
And when his mate was covered up, he sprawled upon the ground;
He never strove to keep awake—he never meant to keep
His watch, because he only seemed to live that he might sleep.
The desert is an empty place, where wind and sun have sway;
The sand is wet and cold at night, and burning hot to day.
Whenever Turks came west to raid, they mostly played the game,
But if they took an outpost—well, the sentry was to blame!
That night they stole across the waste, the horses heard them creep,
And pounce upon the comrades of the man who went to sleep.
Long Watson was the first to wake—he never reached his horse—
And Watson slumbers where he fell, beneath a wooden cross.
And Dawson and the Corporal where vultures swoop and hive;
Ah! fate is fickle unto all, for Denver's still alive;
Young Dawson's startled chestnut mare went forward with a leap,
When spurred beneath the burden of the man who went to sleep.
The shots awakened Denver, and he sprang astride the beast,
And like a demon out of hell he galloped from the east!
Oh! Denver rode the chestnut mare to save his wretched skin—
The mare that Dawson brought from home and put his trust within—
The mare that stopped a sentry's shot and fell, a woeful heap,
Ere to the guarded gate she brought the man who went to sleep.
They succored Jack, that he might live to learn this, sure and fell:
" The shot that smashed his arm was aimed by one who knew him well."
Jack Denver, and the man who fired to get him, only know
The reason why three horsemen sleep where desert breezes blow;
And somewhere out of uniform, Jack prays that he may keep
The soul-corroding secret of the man who went to sleep.
"Trooper B. J. writes from the "Clink", Abbassia, as follows": "Last week I was on sentry outside our canteen. A Gippo's cart pulled up beside my post and dropped a barrel of beer. I took no notice of it. Then something seemed to tell me that the bung was loose. Guided by a strange feeling I went and examined it. The bung was loose. I remain at the above address for the next three weeks."
"87": Listened the other day to a Tommy's description of an Anzac: "He's a brown, lanky bloke '00 calls' is cobber 'er cow."
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"P. A.": Trooper Ryan was writing home to to his mother the other day: "Kate sent me a nice parcel containing some tobacco, also a pretty little book that I suppose you have heard of. It is called the New Testament."
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"Bill Bowyang": Yes, Billgim often gets homesick. The other night I was on outpost with a mate—as surly a chap as one could meet. Couldn't find a soft spot in him. He stood there, shivering with the cold and listening to Abduls' trench-diggers half-a-mile away. Then he spoke: "Gor' struth, Bill I'd give ten years deferred pay to hear that kid of mine howl for half-an-hour." Another of our chaps lost two of his mates at Rafa, and he got terribly homesick. He wrote home about it and back comes a parcel of little home-made cakes from his mother. What a time we had eating them—just shut our eyes and chewed. We were at home. The taste of those cakes was as good as a Turkish defeat, in fact next day we took a couple of trenches on the strength of them.
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"Horace Kiwi": Dave was detailed to catch several horses which had broken away from their lines. After chasing them for half-an-hour with out making a single capture his O. C. yelled, "Why the blazes don't you catch them?" Dave swore softly for a few seconds, and then replied, "Think a man's a bloomin' octopus? If I was I wouldn't be 'ere—I'd be in the trenches chuckin' bombs at the bloomin Turks."page 5
Timothy Hogg was a bold Camelier,
From the land of the setting sun;
And the girls gave Timmy a rousing cheer
When he started to mop up the-Hun.
He trekked over Egypt and Sinai;
He led the Jacko's a dance,
And he gleefull cried, as he winked his eye:
"I'm lucky I'm not in France."
When Abdul came with a mighty charge,
And Romani was fought and won,
Tim stopped some shrapnel good and large;
For a while his work was done.
They packed him off with his blood-soaked gear
In a ricketty ambulance;
But the driver laughed, as the shells dropped near:
"We're lucky we're not in France."
At Rafa and Maghdaba, Timothy fought,
Got a holiday wound as well:
"It's no such joke as the home folk thought,
For Jacko can fight like hell."
He opened his mail in careless glee,
Then swore, and looked askance.
Said his "bint" and his Ma, and his sisters three:
You're lucky you're not in France."
At Gaza's heights the Light Horse dashed,
Bold Cameliers charged in vain;
The Welsh were slaughtered, Scots were smashed;
In the Wadi blood flowed like rain.
Then Tim heard an officer—who at Mons
Had stemmed the Huns' advance—
Exclaim, mid the roar of the murdering guns,
"I wish I was back in France."
* * * * * *
"Harry Quail": I take off my battered felt hat to Ex-drover Jack Burgess, who is doing his bit in the Light Horse. He is 62 years of age, but would sooner miss his dinner than an argument with Abdul. Jack has never smoked or drank, but his mates reckon that he is not too old to learn.
"Bill, that ain't the dish you cook in that you're having your bath in, is it?"
"Of course, it ain't! This is the dish I wash up the plates in."
"R.A.S.": There is strong evidence, I state it rather in sorrow than in anger, that teetotalism is becoming rife among the A.I.F. Our unit held a bivvy competition recently, which resulted in a tie between two teams of three men each; but neither would accept the prize, six bottles of beer. Every man was a teetotaller. Is this the first authentic record of beer going begging in the Desert?
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"Corporal Geebung": Since I've been in the Camel Corps, I have learnt something about the animal, and I reckon that it is the most lob-sided thing that ever was created. I think that the Almighty must have been kind of absent-minded when he made it. There is something casual and unfinished about a camel. It has neither length, breadth, nor thickness. It just happens here and there. Yes, the decorative effect of a camel is decidedly limited. Even a young camel is a horrible looking accident; but a big camel looks like a weatherworn piece of rubberoid roofing, thrown over a couple of posts. I suppose camels have their uses, but it always seems to me that carrying men into battle is outside their natural scheme of existence. On long reflection, the only value that can be truthfully ascribed to a camel is, that it is keeping a mighty lot of chaps in the Camel Corps so busy that they haven't time to brood over the other horrors of this awful war. My camel is a harmless looking occurence, with a mild eye and an appealing voice; but it doesn't do to be taken in by these trappings of innocence. That camel can make more trouble than a cyclone.
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"E.A.H.": A member of the A.L.H. was recently brought before his C.O. charged with imbibing too freely of the cup that cheers. His charge sheet did no put it as politely as that, but stated that on such a date Tpr...................was "Drunk." As it was a first offence, the C.O. took a lenient bearing towards the prisoner, and awarded "Admonished." Questioned in the Mess as to how he got on, the trooper replied: "After the C.O. had listened to all the Provost Corps bloke had to say, all I got was 'demolished'."
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"C.C": Event the blinking old Desert preens itself at the magic touch of Spring, and the weird creatures that thrive on sand are marrying and giving in marriage at the double. The black beetles, with spikes sprinkled over their backs, are busy laying eggs, in shallow pits under a leaf or twig. Snakes are becoming numerous, and one of our chaps found a horned asp the other day. Butterflies are chasing each other in the sunshine, and "old lady" ants are running about like mad. It is Spring, all right, and I could reel off yards of poetry.
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"Twenty-Two ": Was one of the Canteen parties that went from the Peninsula to Imbros in November, '15. Everyone was looking out for any useful thing that apparently wanted a home. Being of a rather ambitious mind, I scorned a mere case of milk, but had my eyes glued on a box about five feet long, and nearly three feet square. I had a mate from one of the infantry brigades, and with much skilful work we eventually got this case out of the yard, and on to the trawler. It was a mysterious case, having no brands to indicate its contents, which, of course, might have been anything at all. In fact, there was a chance that there would be about three months in it for the lucky bloke. Well, we got the box to the boat, and landed it on the beach by Walker's Ridge. I had to go up to Table Top while my mate was in Rest Gully; and so the arrangement was, that he should take it up to his place while I was to come around the next day. The following morning I inquired for Bill. "Don't be silly," I was warned by one of the chaps. "Why, what's the trouble?" I inquired. "Oh, nothing, only Bill's gone raving mad. Brought a case over from Imbros yesterday, with some Light Horse bloke, and look what it is." I had a look around, and saw the side of the hill strewn with reels of white cotton No. 30. I didn't wait to see Bill.
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"Bill Bowyang": We were scouting around Anzac beach one night in search of anything in the eatables line, and behind the spot where the boxes of biscuits used to be stacked, we came upon several bags of onions. Many of these were quickly trasferred within our shirts, and we were just upon the point of returning to the trenches when a voice came from the gloom in front of us, "I say, lads, if you want more onions there's about twenty bags down at the A.S.C. dump." We didn't worry about a further supply of vegetables. You see, it was General Bird-wood who spoke.
"Ring orf...'ere they come... An' don't ferget y'owe me arf a dollar, Ginger,"
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"J.A.P.": Chameleons are in demand as flycatchers in Desert camps, every one seen being mopped up, and led into luxurious captivity. The other day, the O.C. of a unit in Palestine was doing inspection when he spotted a big specimen. He caught it, and handed it over to the Orderly Corporal. Inspection was continued, with the non-com. marching solemnly behind his officer, holding the lizard at arm's length.
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"Birdy's Batman": During one period of the Gallipoli campaign there was a certain Major, noted for his bulky figure and wonderful luck in escaping from danger. One morning, however, news came down our trench that the Major had been injured. "What!" exclaimed one of the men, "has the old chap stopped one at last?" "No," was the reply, "they were lowering him into his dug-out, and the rope broke."
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"Waipune": Talking about mirages. We used to patrol the desert between Mersa Matruh and Bareni. One day we spotted a beautiful mirage in front of us. There was a glorious lake with shady trees on the bank, and it was all as real as anything we had left behind in Australia. One of our chaps carried a fishing line with him, and blowed if he didn't bait the hook with a piece of bully, and start fishing in that lake. It was a hot day, and the fisherman soon fell asleep, but was suddenly awakened, some hours later, by-something tugging at bis line. Visions of a fish supper loomed before him; but judge his disappointment when he saw that he had hooked one of the many vultures which hover over the desert sands. Gone were the lake and the trees, and stretching for miles was sun-dried desert. The mirage had lifted.
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"W.O.": When we were camped near Rafa, 8 Gyppo came round the bivvies to collect empty jam tins, etc His greeting was always the same: "Sieda. Finish rubbish?" One morning he picked up a sheet of paper which had blown out of the Sergeant Major's bivvy. It was a poem to some "bint" named Violet. Holding it up, Ali, with a pleasant grin, inquired, "Finish rubbish?" I wonder if he could read English?