The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Our Camel Corps Cobbers.
Look at 'em! Cheer at 'em!
Swinging along, Devil-may-cares in a mob,
On ships of the desert all lanky and long,
But a dinkum old crew for the "Job."
The job that old Jacko 'as give 'em to do
From Suez to 'ell only knows,
Who, chivvied and chased, sees the land of the Jew
Is slipping from under 'is toes.
Look at 'em! 'Ark at 'em!
Their "hooshters" a'skimming the sand;
As quick with a slug as they are with a song,
And to 'ell with yer colours and band.
Romani to Rafa, from Gaza to Ludd;
Thev've brought Tacko down with a cropper,
And linked up the leagues with Colonial blood,
From Jerusalem over to Joppa.
Look at 'em! Up at 'em!
Their 'eads in the blue of the sky,
Dodging the aeroplanes humming along,
And the clouds when the wind blows 'em by.
Twenty-two, twenty-three 'ands for a mount,
"Hi mate! do they drag yer up there with a rope?"
"No, Dig a big 'ole for 'im, then scramble on,
Yer' oof-picking, 'orse-grooming dope?"
Look to 'im! Drink to 'im!
Fill up 'is glass,
Pour it in, plenty and neat.
If cruising round Cairo yer meet 'im on pass,
Well, then yer carousal's complete.
Riding a "hooshter" or riding a horse,
We're one and the same in the line;
If the lead it's yer life box yer take the same course,
Where yer spurs never need any shine.
So 'ere's to yer, Cobber, for all what yer are,
For all what you've been, there's none better,
I drink to yer crowd, and our land of Afar,
Our island around Oodnadatta.
* * * * * *
"Nemo": Man is an imitative animal. I could produce a wagon load of proof, but will give only one example. Out Beersheba way, a Taube Came over our camp, and next minute it was hailing bombs. A big "Crow-eater," who had read a lot of stuff about the ostrich sticking its head in the sand when danger threatened, made for a hole (the burrow of some animal) and Shoved his head in. He wasn't hit, and I guess he reckons that the ostrich stunt is not too bad.
* * * * * *
"Waipune": Ever heard the full strength of the message which was sent to Headquarters after the supposed bones of St. George were found under the Mosaic at Shellal? Here it is: A certain Padre, well known to the Anzacs, wired that he had found the bones of the Saint. A Staff Officer on Headquarters, who was about fed up with the discovery of the ancient church, immediately wired back to the Padre as follows: "Cannot trace Saint on the official casualty list. Send fuller particulars from identification disc, or other property on deceased." The Padre replied: "No trace identification disc. Have found pay book, which shows that Saint is Considerably overdrawn."
"Bill Bowyang": Anyone know a cure for a jibbing camel? I've read several, but none of them has proved successful so far. My "hooshter" goes on strike at regular intervals, and I've tried fire sticks, military boots and other things on his carcase, but there's nothing doing. I've got wise of late, and when my steed takes it into his head to stop work I treat him with contempt, unroll the blankets, and sleep. It's just as well to tie the camel down before drifting into the land of dreams, else, on awakening, you are liable to find a wide expanse of sun-parched sand stretching before you, with a small speck on the horizon. Said speck, on closer observation, will turn out to be a camel.
"Getis": While we waited for the billy to boil, Billy Cronin told me all about it. It was just before the Gaza stunt, on April 19th., and one of the Billjims, who had a forty horse-power whisky thirst, was sent back to the L.H. dump at Rafa for a spell. He carried a note from his CO. to the Sergeant in Charge, which contained the following words, "See that......gets no whisky." For two days Bilijim longed in vain for the forbidden juice, but on the evening of the third day a truck containing 40 cases of "Oh be joyful" was shunted on the siding, and two gaunt camels proceeded to take it, case by case, to the Canteens. When darkness fell twelve cases still remained, and these were carefully counted and stacked just outside the R. T. O's door, and a sentry put on guard. At 7.30 p.m., the Bilijim with the whisky thirst walked briskly into the R. T. O's office, saluted, and said, "Excuse me, Sir, but when does the next train leave for Kantara?" "In half-an-hour," replied the Officer. Bilijim thanked him and retired. When he reached the sentry and the twelve cases of whisky just outside the door, he bent down, seized a case, and called out, "From here, Sir?" "Yes," Came the reply from the R.T.O. inside the tent. At the inquiry next day, a bewildered sentry stated that he heard the R.T.O. tell an Australian to take a case of whisky. The R.T.O. told him that he was a liar. Just about the same time, a bleary-eyed Bilijim was seated on a half empty whisky case somewhere in the sandhills, and was passing more spirit through his neck than any other forty troopers in Palestine.
* * * * * *
"Feloush": Some chaps can make money out of straw, more easily than the Israelites did bricks without it. For example. Two of our men converted their dug-out near the Wadi Ghuzze into a photographic studio. They had a couple of V.P.K's, a dozen spools of film and plenty of printing paper. Started biz in the portrait line, and roped in clients by the dozen. Their work was good, too.
* * * * * *
"R.H.": It gives me the hump to hear fellows arguing about the breed of camels used in Palestine. A corporal wanted to bet that our mounts were the Bactrian species, which, of course, has a brace of humps. I ought to know a dromedary when I see one, and I have seen a devil of a lot, worse luck, both in Palestine and Australia.
"Twenty-Two": He was the interpreter to the Brigade. We called him Jack, not because that was his baptismal moniker, but because it was much easier to pronounce than his dinkum one, which was Greek, and embraced two or three lessons in geometry. He was always willing to sit down and absorb weird tales relative to the one and only country that is worth a tinker's damn. All might have been well if the fellows had only used moderation, but one day they fairly went over the line. It was watermelon time, and we had a bit of a blow-out, having found a patch where they were as big as Cinderella' pumpkin. One thing led to another, and at last Bill gravely starts: "Yes, they're not bad, for this land, but you should have been with me but on the Downs. Water-melons! No, not exactly big ones, just medium son of size. Old Bluey Jones and myself lived in one for over four months. Dinkum! it took us nearly three weeks to saw the end off to make the doorway, But then, our gear wasn't up to much. Reckon that if we'd had a decent kind of saw, we would have had the end off and the place fitted up in a fortnight at the outside." When I came to, I crept away to the bivvy. It was too much for me.
* * * * * *
"Bill Bowyang": Remember the time the Y.M.C. A. opened a canteen on Anzac Beach. They generally sold out their stock in half an hour, and a chap had to get in early to secure anything better than a comb or a pair of bootlaces. On the side of the hill above the canteen there was a big hole, where all sorts of rubbish, such as decayed meat, Stale preserved vegetables, etc., was thrown. "Birdy" happened to be prowling around the beach one day, just after the canteen had sold out, and he spotted one of the Billjims kneeling over the rubbish hole, and gazing into its depth. "Hello, my lad," he says, "what's up?" "My tunic's down there, Sir," replied Billjim, "it slipped out of my hand." "Well, never mind, you'dnot wear it again after being in that filthy mess, would you?" asked "Birdy". '"No," replied the Dinkum, "But I waited three hours to get a cake in the bloomin' canteen, and, by cripes I it's in the pocket of that tunic. I must get it."
* * * * * *
"Gelantipy": Pass the word to "Harry Quail," who had something to say about Jack Burgess in your last issue, that he can put his battered lid on again. He is right off the track when he states that Jack was in the Light Horse. Jack came to Egypt with the Remounts over two years ago, and recently returned to Australia. I've known him for years, and was with him in Queensland when he contracted to lift 3,000 bullocks at Wave Hill Station, (Northern Territory), to be delivered at Burrindilla, 2,000 miles away. As a judge of horseflesh, old Jack took some beating.
* * * * * *
"F.R.": About the coolest chap I met on the Peninsula was Billy Walls. I remember, a sniper's bullet grazed his face one morning and drew blood. Billy felt the scratch and walked on, whistling, just as if nothing had happened. I reckoned that after that nothing short of an earthquake would scare him. Judge my surprise, when I dropped into Billy's dug-out one evening, and found him quiet and moody. "Had a h—I of a fright last night," he said, "haven't got over it yet." I asked for further particulars, "it was this way;" he said "yesterday the Indians and not turn up with the rations. I would not have cared so much, only that it was rum issue day, and when the boys came down from Quinn's they would be looking for a drink. I goes down to the A.S.C. dump, and borrows a mule, loads him up with tucker and rum, and takes the lot up to our camp. On my way back, I was leading the mule by a long halter, and just as I came out of the sap near the beach, a loud 'swish' made me jump about two feet in the air. 'Cripes!' I said, 'Old Beachy Bill nearly got me that time:' I did not look around, but hurried along as fast as the heavy sand would let me. When I gets to the dump, I says to the A.S.C. cove, 'Hey, mate' I've brought back your mule?' 'Where's the mule?' he says. I looked behind, and, spare me days! there was only a long-piece of blood-stained rope in my hand. 'Beachy's' shell had shot the mule clean out of the halter."
* * * * * *
"Field Censor": Billjim is a terror for brevity. Following is a letter, which was handed to me for censorship the other day: "Dear Mother. Letter received. You are well, I am well, we are all well. Yours affectionately, Bill."
"Boori": The article on Souvenir Hunting ("K.O.C." 15/3/18) recalls the quest of a badly wounded Ghurka returning on a big Peninsula hospital ship. For two days an awesome smell drove the patients and stokers to their limit, and then things happened. In a jealously guarded bundle of clothes beside the Ghurka was a Turk's head. Orderlies rushed in with antiseptics, and tried to remove the gruesome object, but the owner made such a desperate attempt to commit hari-kari that they had to desist. Finally, the head was removed and sealed in an airtight zinc case; then the Ghurka was happy.
* * * * * *
"Jeffess": Met an old cobber in town the other night, and passing the time of day one with the other, we naturally drifted to the nearest pub. After the usual exchange of compliments, I remarked that I was thinking of going to the nearest show. "Oh, you ought to go to the..... picture house, that's a bloomin' good film there; I saw it last night", said my cobber. "What's the name of it?", I inquired. "Mercredi Pro-chaine" was the reply in all good faith. I did not go to that particular house for amusement, I went to another show with my pal, and in the interval I got a lot of information re the social life of the Cairenes. "You see that girl over there?" "Yes, what about her!" I would reply. "Oh she's so and so". Marvellous, I thought "You see the fair girl with the big hat; no, not there, farther down the row?" "Oh yes, I see the girl with the feathers; well, what about her?" "By cripes 1 she's a clever girl that. You ought to hear her play the piano. Yes, she's a teacher. She teaches music in three languages, English, French and Italian. It takes a bit of doing, I can tell you." I reckoned that it did.
"Boori": Have a few words to say about old cobbers. There are two varieties of lice known to Billjim and his mates from Maoriland. They are boot lice and lousy lice. When one has only a water bottle for twenty-four hours or more, and one shirt, the lice have a blithering time. The classification is difficult to an outsider, being governed by a minute colour scheme. First, there is the Transport Marine —a big grey chap with sooty markings; next come the Greybacks, which are too universal to deserve mention. Then there are the various Brindles, which are natives of Egypt, and I am told that some of them have been found embalmed in the tombs of the Pharaohs. These are generally distributed in fodder, bagging, and general merchandise, With the arrival of the fierce Red-uns, the board is cleared of others entirely. Finally, at the end of a lone; list, are the aggressive Turkish Blacks, the pioneers of the harem system, and the way in which. they multiply knocks old Bunny completely in the shade.
* * * * * *
"Booligal Bob": Who said we couldn't get smokes sneaked into the Clink? I was doing twenty-eight days for telling a certain sergeant that he had no father. The Clink was a wire netting enclosure somewhere on the Canal. My cobber •heard that I was without smokes, and immediately gut to work. He approached the Clink from the rear, yarded up half-a-dozen of those beetles that old Pharaoh's missus used to call sacred scarabs, squatted himself outside the wire, and pretended to be reading a book. After a while, he digs a straight line under the wire, fastens a smoke to one of the beetles, and puts him in the furrow. The insect inarches straight ahead, and I got the cigarette. Others followed, and when one of the scarabs showed signs of going on strike, another one was detailed to do the job.
* * * * * *
"Billy Pelorus": It was in the Heliopolis tram, and my next door neighbours were two French ladies. Here's portion of their conversation: "You are making excellent progress with English, Madame. Where do you learn?" "Oh, I get the much practice with the Sisters of New Zealand at the Aotea Home." "Really!" replied the first speaker, "I did not think that they spoke English—why I cannot understand them. Still, they are not so bad as those Australian sisters."
* * * * * *
"Corrie": It's dinkum and happened here the other day. A certain trooper, who had been waiting several months for a commission, was caught by his O.C. in the act of breaking some small routine regulation. He got seven days C.B. Two hours later, his commission came through, but he had to do the week's C.B. all the same. That's what I call stiff luck.