The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Sports in Palestine
Sports in Palestine.
It was Billjim's day out at........., Palestine, on Saturday, March 9th., and he enjoyed it to the full in company with his "chooms" of Imperial Regiments.
A capital programme had been arranged for the Australian Mounted Division's Horse Show and Sports, and it was carried out in a manner which reflects credit on all who made the arrangements. There was not a screw loose in the whole machinery, and never a cog-wheel creaked. Even the weather had been specially ordered. The Committee sent to the Clerk of the Skies a special requisition for "Sunshine and a Spring zephyr", and the Clerk delivered the goods.
The site chosen for the Sports grounds—there were three rings-was a wide valley, with sea dunes on one side, and on the other hills that loomed blue in the distance. An ideal spot. Never before had it seen such sports as these; but of old time, perchance, strange festivals were held in this smiling vale, with white-robed priests, dancing girls and heifers garlanded for sacrifice. Men have fought here, the noise of battle has rolled away to the hills. On March 9th., there were tumult and cheers, but all was in honour of friendly contests, in which men hardened to war showed their strength and skill.
There was a score of events, ranging from a machine gun competition to Officers' Flutter, and each was keenly contested. The attendance was large enough to please the most enthusiastic lover of sport. It is safe to say, that some 500 officers and between 5.000 and 6.000 N. C. O's and men were present. From an aeroplane, the green vale would appear as splashed with moving masses of khaki.
The Sports were organised by a Committee, representing each Mounted Division unit. Major-General H. Hodgson, C.V.O., C.B. was the President, and Major H. K. Gordon, Senior Chaplain, A M. D. Forces, Hon. Secretary. Lieut.-Colonel L.J. Todd, D.S.O., had charge of all the catering arrangements, while Major Watson acted as ringmaster. Among the trophies were several cups, presented by Brig.-General Wilson, CMC, Lieut.-Col. Preston, D.S.O., Brig.-General Grant, D.S.O., Major-General Hodgson, C. V. O., C. B., and Brig.-General P. V. Kelly, C.M.G., respectively. The cup which was first prize in the championship jumping competition (open to Desert Mounted Corps) was presented by general officers of the Australian Mounted Division.
Catering and Comfort.
Every arrangement had been made for the comfort of spectators. In the officers' enclosure the seats were planks laid on sand bags. N. C. O's and men had a grandstand composed of G. S. wagons, placed end to end. There were two or three score of them, and each was crowded with happy warriors. It was a fine idea to utilise the wagons thus.
The catering left nothing to be desired. The A.L.H. Canteen was one of the busiest centres of the ground. At the eleventh hour, it was found that the original arrangements could not be carried out; but the—th Regt. A.L.H. came to the rescue, and by dint of day-and-night labour, a record-breaking trip to Cairo, and return, by an officer and a certain number of other ranks, to procure supplies, the untiring efforts of the regiment's quarter-master and staff, the morning of the 9th. dawned with the big job practically completed. Throughout the day, tea, cakes, and all the "trimmins" of a first-class refreshment booth were dispensed to a very hungry, very dry, but most appreciative clientele. No small amount of the kudos are due to Canon Garland, who, as representative of the Church of England Australian Comforts' Funds, came forward with 5 cwt. of cakes.
At intervals during the day selections were played by the band of the—th. A.L.H., in charge of Lieut. F.O. Boyle, and that of the—th. A.L.H., bandmaster, Sgt. H. Gentley. Both bands played excellently, and their music was a very pleasing feature of the day. Corp. E. Flint and Tprs. E. A. Black and R. E Deanison, of the former, and Tpr. A. Colles and F. L. Thorpe, of the latter, contributed delightful solos. Bookies, of course, were in evidence laying the odds at the double, and they did a brisk business. One chap had fashioned his money bag from a Turkish Camel pack, captured in the Beersheba stunt.
It would be easy to fill pages with description of the sports, and it is certain that those who watched them have vivid records etched on their memories. The programme was entered upon at about 09,00, and finished just as twilight came stealing down the hill slopes. There" was a suitable interval for luncheon, of course, but otherwise the hours were packed with stirring events, and no spectator had the slightest chance to feel bored. Dull minutes were cut right out.
The machine gun competition was the first item" on the programme, and some splendid work was done. The same may be said of all the events, for the competitors were finely trained men and put plenty of ginger into the contests.
The mounted tug-of-war was a fine exhibition of strength and skill, hedged about with comedy. At a critical moment in the pull between an Imperial and A L.H. teams, the leading horse of the latter bent its head and began to graze, amid shouts of laughter from the ringside. Then the horse, perhaps to show its contempt for mankind, turned till its tail faced the head of the leading horse in the opposing learn and chewed the rope. "You're not pulling up Palestine, old moke," cried an onlooker, "you're blanky well helping to pull a team o' Tommies." Excitement ran high in all the pulls, and the competitors were under shrapnel fire of advice and comments all the time. "Go on, Australia, you blinkin' beauts," shouted New South Welshmen, and immediately followed the war cries of rival onlookers. But good humor prevailed all through, it was, in fact, the key note of the gathering. Winners and losers alike were cheered.
Hilarity was also dominant in the wrestling on horseback event. The melancholy king of myth or history could not have helped laughing had he seen some of the merry tussles. The competitors were stripped to the waist, so that good holds were not easy to obtain. Nobody appeared to be hurt much, though there were some pretty stiff falls. Fallen heroes displayed marvellous agility in picking themselves up, and dodging clear of horses' hoofs. There is ever an element of danger in mounted sports, the spice that adds to their charm for men of mettle.
Though rails were kicked and the brushwood brushed by some of the horses, the jumping events were full of interest. One competitor had a nasty spill at the last hurdle, but was unhurt. Some very neat jumping was witnessed, and hearty cheering was the order of the day. A very popular win was registered in the championship jumping event, the Rev. C. Holmes being the victor. He cleared the hurdles in great style, and was cheered to the echo at the end of a perfect round.
The Field Ambulance competition gave the men of the red brassard an opportunity to show
how cleverly they handle their ambulance wagons, collect wounded, and erect operating tents. The mounted bearers trotted to the casualty, rendered first aid, put the patient on a stretcher, loaded him into the wagon, and were back at the tent in quick time. An instructive and interesting display.
Wagons in Excelsis.
G. S. wagons, as a rule, are not particularly beautiful, but those entered for the competition at the sports were resplendent. A Lighthorseman, who reckons that he has done a lion's share of fatigues lately, was observed to shudder as he gazed at the shining array. "What's wrong, Cobber?" asked his neighbour, fearing that Bill had a touch of malaria. "What's wrong?" was the reply, "Why, I'm thinking of the poor blokes who worked at those......... wagons. Strike me dead! I pity 'em."
But the "poor blokes" didn't pity themselves, at least, those whose wagons won prizes didn't. The amount of elbow grease expended on those G. S's. would have sufficed to make all the wagon axles in Palestine move silently for a year. "Fit for a king or a Duke to ride in," remarked a Transport Sergeant, as he patted the side of a wagon. The limbers, too, were right glorious to behold. One is-forced to admit that beauty dwells even in vehicles, which in work-a-day times have to carry such burdens as bacon and bully. But who can picture that proud prizewinner ever again being used for such purposes.
When Event 8a, Swordsmanship Competition, was in progress, excitement ran high. At the critical moments you could have heard a grasshopper chirrup; then, if the thrust proved true, came a burst of cheering which made the gentle, jerbils tremble in their burrows. It was splendid to see a charging swordsman with flashing blade poised, to see his horse's head thrust out, and hear the beat of its hoofs. Australians did remarkably well in the competition, winning-all but the first prize in the officers' section, which fell to the share of Major Watson. They had the bayonet, this being the first occasion on which it had been used in a swordmanship competition.
A Star Item.
The R.H.A. Competition was one of the star items on the programme, and the artillerymen had reason to feel proud. At the start there was an exciting incident. Making a sharp curve, one of the guns heeled over, and in a twinkling it was surrounded by curious soldiers. They crowded in from all directions. However, the gun was soon righted, and the ring cleared for action. The winning team did a superb round, touching the pins only twice, though there was a bare three inches of space for wheel sway to avoid them. It was driving in excelsls, and thorougly deserved the volleys of cheering that marked its conclusion.
Enthusiasm showed no sign of slackening when the last event, Officers' Three Furlong Flutter, for the cup given by Brig.-General P. V. Kelly, was run off. The course was lined with eager spectators, and the race was run to the music of rousing cheers.
In the evening a concert was given by an Artillery company, consisting of Lieut. H. Wesley, Sgt. A. Nathan (Stage Manager), Gnr. F. Grant, Dvr. H. Brundle, Gar. C. Arnold, Gnr. H. Broadfield and Bomdr. W. Harbott. The entertainment was enjoyed by a huge audience, ranged on a sandy amphitheatre. Thousands of pipe bowls and cigarette ends glowed redly, like fireflies entangled in the web of night. It was a top-notch concert, and a delightful ending to a perfect day.
Sergeants At Play.
For a side show, as it were, the Sergeants of one A.L.H. Regiment challenged those of another to play football, and the game took place on Sunday afternoon following the sports. It was some game. Neck and neck with a tied score for the finish of each quarter, up to and including the 75 per cent part, is not bad for a bunch of amateurs, some of whom did not know the difference between a football and 7 days C. B. Len. McKenzie and Gaudy brought home the bacon for Nugget's nimble men in the last quarter, and passed the winning post with four points on the right side of the ledger. The hope of the Westerners, " Billy Bash " (born in 1864 and still going strong), wasn't up to his usual form, and failed lamentably. Usually in the thick of the scrum, Bill got only two kicks—one on the left shin, and the other somewhere else. Q.M.S. Pride forgot that he was playing the Australian game, and bolted with the ball under his right wing for a good 70 yards, until someone blew a whistle; Nugget's bunch was presented with a gratis toot, which was a big factor in the final reckoning. Anyway, it was good sport, and Todd's terrible Westerners now say that they may not be able to play football, but when it comes down to G.S. wagons, they've got Nugget's car backed into the ditch with all tires punctured and the petrol tank empty.
On the Wednesday prior to the big gathering, dismounted Sports were held. Results of both these and the mounted events and horse show are appended; but owing to censorship regulations, unit numbers are not shown.
Dummy Bomb Throwing:— 1st., Sgt. Geary [A.L.H.]; 2nd.,L/Cl. Cox [A.L.H.]; 3rd., Capt. Austen, [A.L.H.].
100 yards. Divisional Championship:— 1st, Tpr. Cashmore [A.L.H.]; 2nd., Pte. Woods [D.H.Q]; 3rd., Tpr. Andrews [A.L.H.].
440 yards. Divisional Championship:— 1st, Tpr. Wales [A.L.H.]; 2nd., Tpr. Tierney [L.H.F. Amb.]; 3rd., Lt. Kendrick [M.G.S].
One Mile. Divisional Championship:— 1st., Lt. Kendrick [V.G.S.]; 2nd., Sig. Sourer [A.L.H.]; 3rd., sgt. Hamilton [L.H.F. Amb.].
High Jump. Divisional Championship:— 1st., L/Cpl. Cant well [A.L.H.]; 2nd., Sgt. Murphy [A.M.G.S.]; 3rd., Pte. Tucke [M.B.F. Amb]. . Long Jump. Divisional Championship:— 1st., Pte. Woods [D.H.Q.]; 2nd., Tpr. Stacey [A.L.H.]; 3rd., L/CI. Liddlelow [A.M.G.S].
Relay Race. Divisional Championship:— 1st, —Th. A.L.H. Regt.; 2nd., Divisional Train.
Tug-OF-War [Dismounted]. Divisional Championship:— 1st, Divisional Train; 2nd.,— A.L.H. Regiment.
Horse Show and Mounted Sports
Machine Gun Competition:—1st.,— Australian M.G.S.; 2nd.,—Th. M.G. Squadron.
Best N. C. O's Mount:— 1st, Set. Ratc'iffe [Yeo]; 2nd., Sgt. Furham [A.L.H.]; 3rd., Sgt. Wynne [Yeo].
Troop Competition:— 1st, Yeomanry; 2nd., —A.L.H.; 3rd., Th. A.L.H.
Hotchkiss Gun Competition:—1st,—A.L.H. Regt; 2nd.,—A.L.H.
Best Trooper's Mount:— 1st, Tpr. Atkinson [A.L.H.]; 2nd., Pte. Pardoe [Yeo.]; 3rd., Pte. Bullivant [Yeo.].
Best Officer's Charger. Heavy Weight:— 1st, Major Harrison [R.H.A.]; 2nd., Lt. Col. A.J. Palmer [Yeo.]; 3rd., Lt. Col. Cameron [A.L.H.]
Light Weight:—1st., Capt. Cowley[R.H.A.]; 2nd., Capt. Mitchell [Yeo.]; 3rd., Major Turner tYeo.].
Mounted Tug-of-War:—1st,— A.L.H. Regiment; 2nd., Yeomanry.
Wrestling on Horseback:—1st,—A.L.H. Regiment; 2nd, —A.L.H. Regiment.
N. C. O's jumping Competition:— 1st., Sgt.
Nixon [Yeo.]; 2nd., Sgt. Mott [B.A.C.]; 3rd., Sgt. Sinclair [A.L.H.J.
Field Ambulance Competition:—1st,—A.L.H. Field Ambulance; 2nd.,— Bde. Fld. Ambulance.
Relay Race:—1st, Pte. Scely [Signal Squadron]; 2nd., Tpr. Solly [A.L.H.]; 3rd., Cpl. He [Yeo.].
Trooper's Jumping Competition:— 1st., Pte. Baker [Yeo.]; 2nd., Tpr. Johnston [A.L.H]; 3rd., Tpr. Maloney [M.V. Section].
Best G.S. Wagon:— 1st,— A.L.H. Regt; 2nd., Divisional Train; 3rd.,—Bde. B.A.C.
Rescue Race:— 1st, Dvr. Blight [Aust. Field Squad.]; 2nd., Cpl. Cowley [Yeo.]; 3rd., L/Cpl. Craig[A.L.H.]
Best Limbered G.S. Wagon:—1st.,—Brigade B.A.C.; 2nd.,— A.L.H. Regt; 3rd.,—Divisional Train.
Officers' Jumping Competition:—1st., Lt. Col. Stuart—[L.F.H. Amb.]; 2nd., Captain Mus-grave [Yeo]; 3rd, Lieut Hargreaves [ A L.H.].
Swordsmanship Competition. Officers:— 1st, Major Watson [Hussars]; 2nd., Lieut. Ruse [A.L.H ]; 3rd., Lieut. Smith [A.L.H.]. Other Ranks:— 1st. Sgt Virgo [A.L.H.]; 2nd., Tpr. Solly [A.L.H ]; 3rd., L/Cpl. Purves [A.L.H.].
R.H.A. Competition:— 1st.,—Btty R.H.A.; 2nd.,—Btty. R.H.A.
Championship Jumping Competition. [Open to Desert Mounted Corps.]:— 1st, Revd. C. Holmes; 2nd., Lt. Col. Sir Mathew Wilson; 3rd. Pte. Baker [Yeo.].
Officers 3-Furlong Flutter:— 1st., Col. Dixon [D.H.Q]. 2nd., Lt. Col. Todd [A.L.H.]; 3rd., Lieut Massie [A.L.H.].
(Illustrations of the sports will be found on Page 12.)
7th Mounted Brigade's Sports.
Showers fell for the greater part of the day on which the 7th. Mounted Brigade's Sports were held, but the meeting was most enjoyable. The racing was good, though the going was heavy. The first race was won in good style by 'Dorothy"; the second by "Mosquito". The Steeplechase drew a number of entries and was run well, with no serious accidents. Captain Fooch had another success with, that good horse, "Clautoi", "Seymour", ridden by Major Walker, threw away his chance, which was well liked by Australians, by running off at the first jump, as he did at the last jump in the Palestine Grand National on the previous Saturday. Lieut-General Sir H.G. Chauvel's horse, "Balby", ran well, and finished third. Though he went much better than in the previous race, he still carries too much condition for the distance, as was shown at the finish, when Lieut Phillip's "Tommy Boy" beat him for second place.' Catice", ridden by Major Avery, in the Palestine Derby, again demonstrated his superiority. In the sixth race, Sgt Hammond's "Policeman" won nicely from Sgt. Lennant's "Alert". Capt. Cooch had his second winning mount on Capt. Buch's "Mahogony" in the Jerusalem Scurry. In the Welback Cup, the ditch jump proved a formidable object, bringing down several of the competitors. The race was won by "Lyon." The Kantara Cup Canter resulted in a good win for the Australian nominee, "Drafty". After the last race, the trophies were distributed by Lieut-General Sir H.G. Chauvel, K.C.M.G., C.B.
Camel Corps Sports.
At the I2th. Company Camel Corps Sports, held on March 22nd. and 23rd., practically every unit of surrounding "Stations" was represented among the visitors. Many ladies were present, too, and some even took seats in the Stadium and witnessed the two preliminary bouts. The efforts of the Committee, and especially the Secretary, Allen Moore, assisted by Pte. Born-berg, as Clerk of the Course, and Cpls. Graham and Deler, met with signal success. In the evening, a Concert Party from No. 2 AS.H. gave an entertainment in the boxing stadium. It was excellent in every way. The Concert Party and many of the visitors were entertained at dinner by the N.C O's. There were cash prizes for each event on the Sports' programme, and a substantial amount was handed to those taking part in the boxing contest-!, the whole of this money being provided by the men's mess funds and gate. Following are the results of the sports:—
Tug of War, semi final: No 2 Section, 12th. Coy. Final: N. C. O's, and winners semi-final, No 2 Section won the three pulls with ease.
Stepping 100 yds. (all comers): Pte. Bagnell. Camel Novelty Race: Pte. Green's Jupiter" There were ten entrants for this event.
75 yd; Handicap, final: Heffernan (scratch), 1; Kehor (1 yd.), 2; Pickston (3 yds.) 3. Books were offering 4 to I against the winner, who passed the tape with 3yds. to spare (no time taken).
100yds. A.I.F. Championship, final: Sgt. Dempsey (A.R.D.), 1; Sgt Collins, 2; Pte. Heffernan, 3. At 75yds., Dempsey put in his run and won by about a yard from Collins.
Camel Scurry: O'Shannessy's "Stock", I; Phipp's "Rainbow", 2; Lt Karnaghan's "Kismet, 3. Seven starters. Half way down the course, "Stock" took charge of the field; the number of camel lengths he won by could not be ascertain-el. "Rainbow" and "Kismet" finished with a respectable distance separating them.
Old Buffers: Ferguson, I; Ryan, 2.
Kicking the Football: Cpl. Delar, I; Chidlow, 2, 440 yds. Handicap: Heffernan, I; Pickston, 2. Hop, Step and Jump: Sgt. J. Dempsey, I; Roach, 2.
Officer's Horse Race: Capt. Lawrence's "Torn", I.
Ferry Post "Kup" (for O/Rk's only): "Bob". Camel Trot: "Fluffy", I; "Stock", 2; "Jupiter", 3.
More than ordinary interest was taken in the Association game between Moascar Camp and a team representing I2th. I. C. C. last month Many officers were amongst the enthusiastic spectators. It was an ideal day for football, but the "Hooshters" had undertaken a job which proved too big for them, the home team being composed of some of the best players in the Camp. At the end of the game, the Moascar team had a score of 7.7 to their credit, whilst the visitors only succeeded in securing 3 goals, 3 be-hinds. For the training Centre, Hilton (one goal), Argue, Lucas, Thorne, Frawley, Eddington and McClements (one goal), Stinton (one goal), and Stevens (one goal) were conspicuous for brilliant play. For the "Hooshters", Harper (one goal), Jones H. (one goal), and Alfred (one goal) played very good football.
During the past month 14th A.G.H. team has played four games and won two of them. The first match, against the Rest Camp, was rather uninteresting. The scores we e: 14th AG.H, 15 G. 31 B; D.M.C.R.C., 2 G. 3 B. The second match, against the 2nd A S.H. on the AG.H. ground, was strenuous throughout, the final ten minutes being highly exciting. Scores were: 14th A.G.H., 5 G. 7 B.; 2nd. A.S.H., 4 G, II B. The return match against the Rest Camp was played on the Hospital ground, in a high wind which spoiled clever football After a rather scrambling, though well fought, game, the bell rang with the scores: D.M.C.R.C, 5 G. 2 B.; 14th AG.H., 3 G., II B. The return match against No 2 A.S.H. was played at Moascar, and despite a strong wind, which interfered considerably with the play, was full of interest. As at the previous meeting of these two teams hard knock- were plentiful on both sides. Within a few minutes of time, 14th A.G H., kicking against the wind, secured a goal which brought their score to within one point of their opponents'. Scores: 2nd A.S.H., 3 G. 6 B, 14th A.G.H., 3 G. 5 B. At the conclusion of the game, the visiting team was entertained at tea.