The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
The Seventh Day
The C.O. will inspect the camp at 09.00. Church. Parade will be held at the rear of the Sergeants' mess at 10.15.
So ran the routine orders that we were tumbled out of bed to hear read, ere the dawn broke, one nippy Sabbath morn of mid-December. It was in a Base camp, and Base camps have always been—Base camps.
The Squadron orderly sergeant who took the eatly morning parade after roll call and orders had been read, told off a few fatigue parties—quatermaster's, cook-house and the stable picquet, and he finished off his admonitions with, "And now look you fellows go back to your tents and clean up the lines; see that your tents are rolled up and swept out, put your kits out neatly, and be ready for inspection straight alter breakfast" And calling to mind a blast" he had received the last mornine he had been orderly sergeant on the C. O'.s inspection, he added, "And don't leave a thing hanging on the tent pole". There were quite a number of other instructions of more or less importance, but we had heard them all in times of yore. In the main they were calculated to generate that condition of mind that is usually known as "wind-up."
Sunday is the one day of the week on which even the cook-house fatigue is popular. You can, if on some duty of the kind, miss the inspection, and the church parade, and you dodge the hateful process of dolling yourself up like a ''Saturday-night soldier". When the Heads are around you keep out of sight. "Out of sight, out of mind" often applies to camp inspections, as to many other roles.
The Squadron O. C. appears bright and early, a walking testimonial to the efficacy of Griffin and the polishing enthusiasm of a new batman. He espies one of his boys with what a rather pretensious youth in the dispensary would have probably called a "contused optic". It would never do for the C.O. to see him like that. Then he conveniently remembers that a medico in the Stationary Hospital in the nearby town has promised to dine with him that evening. The erring trooper is read a little lecture on the necessity of keeping clear of post-leave nocturnal disturbances. He is then despatched with a note to remind the M O. of the engagement, which he was not likely to fore et.
The O. C. stables takes a turn round the horse lines only to find a native waled industrously cleaning up. The horses are out at exercise. He smiles, and remembers that in his trooper days it was always so. The horses were most in need of exercise round about the time of the C. O.'s inspection. The men in charge of the horses are probably at the moment buying oranges from a waled, after giving the horses a swim, and watching the clock go round until it is time to get back to camp with some degree of discretion. He sighs for those days over again, the free, careless days of irresponsibility.
The bugle sounds the warning for parade. Troopers who have just marched in from hospital after a spell on the desert, and have not shined their boots for twelve months and more, appear with their footgear resplendent with a shine that the native "boots y' clean" waled would have acclaimed as "dinkum". Each man falls in behind his kit. The kits have been laid along inline with mathematical precision. Down at the end of the line there is a diagram that looks much like a catefully worked-out problem of Euclid, as to how your kit should appear when ready for inspection. The plate and knife and fork are to be set so, and the blankets are to have just so many folds. Aspecial fatigue party has picked up every scrap of paper, the quartermaster's assistants's offsider has spent the last hour in dragging a sack weighted with a few bushels of sand up and down between the tents until the sand of the desert takes a billiard table like surface.
Everybody hopes that the CO. will be in a good humour. The officers assemb'e and with them a host of n. c. o.'s connected with the Camp administrative staff. The Squadron officers report "All correct" and the procession commences slowly to meander through the lines. After the CO, comes the officer in charge of the lines at present under review, closely followed by the Adjutant and the Medical Officer, and then the CampQuarttrmaster, the Regimental Sergt. Major, the Regimental Q.M.S.; orderly sergeants and orderly corporals seem unending, down to the sanitary corporal. The C.O. takes one all embracing glance and stops here and there to ask a question or deliver a "blast." Maybe the Adjutant takes a hand and asks an awkwatd question or two. As each Squadron is inspected the officer in cnarge steps out of the procession, salutes, and perhaps receivesa few orders as to how his lines might be improved, or a few words of commerd-ation. Thus the procession moves through lines, messrooms, cook-houses and stables. This weekly inspection is a great incentive to discipline and cleanliness. The camp seem? to exist mainly for the C. O.'s inspection, Each Squadron is marched out to the parade gruund. The regimental band is up the line, so music is supplied by borrowing the piano from the officers' mess, and a pianist is soon recruited from the ranks. The troops in position, the Padre takes up his post. A tail, athletic-looking figure in the later twenties. To-morrow he will play "lock" in the Camp Rugby team, against a neighbouring Light Horse fifteen. A pleasant, commanding voice, he dispenses with anything savouring of formalism. A few rousing hymns, a heart-to-heart talk and a a prayer comprise the service. Soldiers, as a class, are not irreligious; indifferent, careless, they may be, but a man on active service wants something more than platitudes served up in stereotyped fashion. The most striking thing about this service is, how unmusical the average New Zealander is. And the Australian is little, if any, better in this respect. They appreciate good music, but to get them to sing is well nigh impossible. Even old favourites that many of them must have learned at their mothers' knees are sung half-heartedly. To hear a crowd of Tommies on the same hymns is to realise the vast difference between the Colonial and the Englishman, as far as vocalism is concerned.
After a hymn this youthful Padre asks his hearers to seat themselves on the soft sand, and, with his fingers linked behind hi: back, he commences his sermon. He speaks simply, adorning his periods with no flowery phrase or ornale quotation, suiting the manner of delivery to his hearers. There is no fierce denunciation; no sudden gestures or change in the quiet, even voice. He speaks of matters nut usually touched upon in pulpits, and concludes with a gravely quiet exhortation to live for better things, And the force of his appeal loses nothing by the simplicity of the language used; speech meet for a congregation of the kind. Most of these men have faced death many a time, they are men 0f the world who were not as clay in the hands of the potter, Though not irreligious they would behyrer-sensitive to any interference in tneir liberties and affairs. There is that in the sane temperate discourse that passes beyond creed or dogma, and an occasional twitching of facial muscle or the restless shifting of a limb tells where a shaft goes home. The burning forenoon sun p'aying down, even on this mid-winter day, leaves the middle distance a hazy mirage, that seeme to emphasise that we are in the East the unchanging East that has ever been the same, down through the ages.
The service over, all stand rigidly at attention while the National Anthem is. sung, and heads are bowed as the Benediction is pronounced.