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

A Transitional Xmas Day

page 16

A Transitional Xmas Day.

At one of the groups scattered about the Brigade recreation tent, the first topic was of phenomena witnessed in the desert at night. One chap told of three outposts, situated several miles from each other, and at widely divergent angles, all reporting a signal light operating directly from the enemy's lines to ours. A keen young sleuth of the Intelligence Department rode hotfoot next morning round the posts; and from compassca! culations, the three reports tallied to a degree. In the early hours of the following morning, cramped and cold, peering over the edge of a sand-swept hill he saw the brilliant Jupiter slowly rise, scintillating through the morning mists! Others told of scarabs, scorpions or mice, suddenly appearing over the parapet with the moon full behind them, being magnified into the proportions of forms of raiding Turks. Dreams were next on tap, and many and "tall" were those recounted. Just when this topic looked like petering out, a Cornstalk, wearing another Brigade's colours, spoke: "Well, boys, if you care to listen, I'll tell you of a strange dream I had; of how I lay down in the desert and dreamed I was home—and when I awoke l was."

"Tell us the brand, mate", "Give us the recipe," and like remarks were jocularly flung at him.

'There wasn't any brand boys, and as for the recipe, well, it's obtained any where near the front-line. But here's my tale. We were in the throes of a night stunt, ana as we had been trekking and scrapping for days, everyone was dog-tired. Most of you boys have been through it, I suppose, and know the joys of 'Halt! Dismount!' And you have only just falen off your horse, with visions of five minutes' spell, when Get mounted!' is passed back along the column. But at last came a halt that looked like a spell, and I was asleep before I hit the ground. And I areamed—or was it a vision? I thought I awoke in my old room at the homestead, with the new risen sun just entering. Through the half-opened doorway I saw the smooth, pale-green boles of the young gums, shaded in tints of purple. A carpst of green herbage accentuated the golden hue of the newly-thatched stack. Just outside, a small spech led hen was noisily clucking and industriously throwing dirt over herself. The faint peal of a bell came wafting over from the little church across the hill. And I said to myself, 'Hullo! It's Sunday; I'd better hop out, for I must break in that chesnut colt to day!"Just then. Betty, my brown-haired sister, looked in at the window: 'For shame, Tom, how could you lie so late on Christmas morning.'

"Chris—. Well, boys, just then I seemed to be hit with a l6 inch shell and everything went black; and for what followed 1 had to piece together from what I heard through the mists of semi-consciousness and from what others told me. It appears that the halt was due to the screen coming in contact with a body of the enemy. Although we were out of direct ranee, a spent bullet came sizzling over the hill and picked me for its billet. Entering my head, it caused complete paralysis and loss of speech; but for short periods I was able to hear and understand what was said or going on about me. By means of cacolet, sledge, sand-cart and, finally, the railway, I reached the "Fourteenth" in Cairo. There, the M.O. decided that the only hope was to get me home among my people, where environment, rest and quiet would do more good than a dozen specialists. A hospital ship was leaving the next day for Aussie, and they hustred me on board. My mind was a blank during the trip over, but I understand I landed a week before Xmas, and was taken straight home. Here's were the coincidence comes in. I awoke with the peals of the old church bell in my ears, and the scene very much as I saw it out on the desert—only my mother sat on a chair by my bed, and I wondered why she looked so worried. 'Hullo! Moher!' I said, 'Is it Sunday morning?' 'Thank God, he speaks!' she said. Then, 'No, dear son, it's not Sunday—but Xmas
Officer: "One of ours, isn't it?" Trooper: "No, sir, hostile."

Officer: "One of ours, isn't it?" Trooper: "No, sir, hostile."

morning.' Chris—", and the Cornstalk paused. This gave one highbrow a chance to air his wisdom: 'That was not a coincidence; it's what we call psychology."

"Oh. is it?" said the narrator. "Well, that word sounds pretty strong; but it is not ha'f as strong as those I used when I was dragged to my feet, rubbing a lump on my head the size of a hen's egg. 'Here!' I snorted, 'What the, who the?' 'Sorry, Tom', said my mate, 'but I dropped my rifle when getting up, and it caught you on the head'."

A bell on a Bedouin camel tingled across the sandhill.

"Come on there, get a move on and get mounted," came the raucous voice of the sergeant. "It's two minutes past twelve and Xmas Day. We have to be to grips with them at daylight in the morning."