The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Through the way of the Philistines
Among the many cares and responsibilities that rest on the mind of an Army commander is the one of proper sanitation for his troops Without this, his Army may be useless when the day of trial comes. All that could be done to foster and encourage proper sanitation was done, and the health of the Army throughout our Desert campaign was fully as good as could be expected.
We were now not far from Pelusium. The C.M.R., pushing on a few miles in advance of the Brigade, were bivouaced at what was later on called "Pelusium Siding." In ancient times, Pelusium was one of the main towns of Egypt. Guarding its eastern frontier with a garrison of 200,000 men, it rose to be a city of the first importance. It was situated on rising ground not far from the sea, in the Plain of Tina. The main fortress was surrounded by a strong brick wall, with deep moats on the outside. A defensive system of canals was also added—large fruit gardens with pleasant fields, intersected by avenues of trees, spread out in all directions.
The fortress stood four square on an eminence running out towards the sea. Brick-walls were built up from the plain, and to-day—ten or twelve feet in height—are still visible. The town site itself is just one confused heap of broken bricks the tops of walls appearing every where—outlining where houses and streets stood. I heard that Napoleon started excavations, but, if so, everything has been covered over again, nothing showing that the Site had ever been touched. S me very fine, large granite pillars were seen, that spoke of ornate and rich buildings. The history of the town is full of interest to the student. Much treachery has been connected with it, and its perfidy is possibly well rewarded by its present complete desolation, and the entire uselessness of the district, once so rich and flourishing Some three mines east of it—on another mound—stand the best ruins we came across during our whole Desert campaign. They are what is left of an old Saracenic stronghold. If only the s ones could talk, what tales they could tell. The plain at one time surely stood higher than it does now, far, at present, it appears to be so low-lying that drain age seems out of the question. My impression is, that the whole coast has sunk more or less. Even as the sea has encroached at El Arish and swallowed up the old Roman road there, so the land may have subsided here when the Nile mouth was destroyed.
All along the roast there appear to have been lagoons or salt pans—shut off from the sea by the same narrow strip of sand dunes which still exists. Several ancient writers and travellers mention them, and speak of the salt and fish industries that flourished there. One of these swamps is mentioned as the "Serbonian Bog." I have often wondered where it really was, and have been constantly on the look out for it. It was a most treacherous bit of country; much like the inhabitants, I take it. The sand would blow over it at times, and make it look like solid ground; but soon the unwary traveller would find, to his sorrow, that he was caught, and there was no way out of it for him. Parts of several armies are mentioned as having perished in this miserable way. There seems to be some confusion as to where it was really situated, some writers speaking of these calamities as happening near the Delta, some as near Mt. Casius, others again, beyond that place. We marched the Brigade across the salt pans to Gals, whereon Mt. Casius stands. The photographs taken show the horses as walking over a field of snow. The ground was perfectly white, and very hard. So, if the bog existed there in the olden days, it has now solidified. We certainly met with some boggy patches, but nothing so formidable as described by the indents.