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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Droving "Jackos"

page 15

Droving "Jackos".

Only those who have had experience in droving sheep in Australia can appreciate and comprehend fully the unique task allotted to our Regiment, in the escort of four thousand odd Turkish prisoners taken at Ziza—across the Moab plateau to Es Salt, down the narrow, tortuous road to Shunnet Nimrim, and finally across the arid portion of the Valley tra versed by the Jordan, until we handed them over to a fresh escort at Jericho. Of all the unique incidents we have experienced, I doubt if any was more novel, or called for more patience and strategy, than the handling of this army.

Never have I seen a closer resemblance to a mob of mixed sheep. The leaders, with dogged persistence, would forge ahead, breaking between our mounted men, who rode abreabt ahead of them to steady the pace; while the "tailers" straggled along in dejected disorder, immediately losing heart and "throwing it in" when the mob in front drew too far away. Had each of our boys carried a stockwhip and been followed by a "kelp", the comparison would have been complete.

The theory of march discipline appeared to be unknown to them, and the way in which they would gulp down the few precious mouthfuls of water they were able to carry, within an hour or so after the commencement of the day's march, was exasperating. On one occasion, early in the morning, a spring was passed, and with a cry, some of the wing brokeout to fill their bottles. In an instant pandemonium reigned, and, looking like famished animals, the mob was surging round the small pool, trampling down their mates who were unfortunate enough to lose their footing, and muddying and putrifying the very water they hoped to drink. It was not until fixed bayonets had been used that order was restored.

Sanitation and cleanliness of any kind, but for our authorities, would have been neglected, and the state of the water some of the men would greedily drink was astounding. Towards one another they displayed a sense of selfish and almost brutal indifference; and should further evidence be necessary to convince anybody of this, he had only to witness a distribution of rations among them upon their arrival at the night's camp. Tins of bully or jam, which would have to be divided amongst a number, would be grabbed by one the moment they were past the guard, and a free fight ensue before satisfaction would be arrived at; and even then there was no guarantee that no man went short of his particular share.

On breaking camp of a morning numerous malingerers and sick men would be lying upon the ground, declaring their inability to walk another ya'd; and it was only after considerable forceful persuasion had been resorted to that the former were weeded out and compelled to march, while those who were genuinely ill immediately received good medical attention and transportation on motor lorries and other conveyances.

During the five days we were with them many showed naught but stolid indifference towards us, and would plod along on the march with an expressionless look on their faces.

Every ready to barter any trophy they possessed for food (especially jam), they showed the usual characteristic of the Easterner in striking a bargain. They seemed to take it for granted that they would receive the best of treatment, and I do not think any of them could truthfully complain in this respect.

When Jericho was reached, and our task completed, we were not sorry to hand them over and be done with the responsibility. I think, if all accounts be true, that they then learnt that they were really prisoners of war and not curio dealers travelling free of expenses. Could their opinion be obtained, perhaps many of them would look back with a degree of pleasure to the days they spent under the protection of the "Dinkums,"