The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
He was happy, and small wonder. He had landed in Sydney that morning, and seen his folk and his friends for the first time after three years of exile in Egypt, Palestine, and such other territories as the misfortunes of war had enforced upon him. He had often dreamed of this day of home-coming, viewing it from half a hundred standpoint; and now it was an accomplished fact—he was home again, as much of him as would ever come home! He put it into those words himself, which is the reason my question took this form:—
"Where did you leave the rest of you?"
"Oh well", he looked at the place where his left leg bad been, and paused perplexedly, then continued, "Now I come to think of it, that question isn't as easy to answer as it seems."
I suppose I looked unenlightened by this answer, for he grinned.
"I'd better explain", he said. "It began quite simply, at a place called Essain, which is in Palestine. We had been out stunting in the saddle all day; all the previous night, too, for that matter. Nothing much came of it, except the rounding up of a couple of 'Jacko' outposts. We were pretty sore and weary when we halted at Essain, to rest and water our noises; and it didn't tend to smooth our nerves much when a brace of 'Jacko's' Taubes came over, and dropped a few bombs. There was the devil of a scatter—for we were bunched, thick and heavy, round the water holes. Luckily, they didn't mean serious business that day; only let go three or four hand grenades to shake us up a bit. A couple of horses and I were the casualties The horses snuffed it; as for me, a bit of iron just shaved across my foot, lifting the leather of my boot and half the nail off my big toe. So I s'pose you can say, I left the first bit of my leg at Essain.
"I got a dressing put on the toe; the saddler made a rough job of my boot, and I never save further thought to the knock for the next couple of days. Then it began to get sore and swollen, till, at last, I couldn't stand a boot on the foot. I showed it to the M.O; of course, the darned thing had gone septic, like most cuts do over there. The M O. had a look at it, and ordered hot foments, which didn't make much improvement. So he imshied me off to the Field Ambulance, to have the rest of the nail taken off. They did the job there quick and lively, putting a bit of local anæsthetic in to kid me I couldn't feel the loss. I know different! We were camped at a place called Marakeb, still in Palestine; so I reckon it's at Marakeb you'd find the second bit of my leg.
"After that, I had bad luck. The Brigade got orders to move before I was cured; and the Ambulance couldn't be bothered with me and my crook foot. I was imshied off again, evacuated to a clearing station. The place was full, choc-a-bloc with a rush of influenza heroes, and couldn't carry another patient. They looked at me, lying in the sand cart, marked my ticket 'next stop', or words to that effect, and sent me on to the hospital train.
"Next place I pulled up at was a stationary hospital at El Arish, where I was put in a surgical ward. They let me off lightly, all things considered. The first day they probed the sore, and looked grave; second day they probed it twice, called the O.C. in consultation, and looked pleased; third day they cut off my toe, to save my foot. And that's how the third bit of my leg came to stay at El Arish.
"After that I never worried; I could see 'Australia' written in big, clear letters opposite my name. I just lay back, and left it to fate and the doctors. About this time, a scrap was to come off up near Gaza; and as one of the preliminaries, they cleared the hospitals to make room for the wounded, who were to come. They cleared me, too: and I finished up in the big general hospital, right back in Cairo. Well, to cut a long yarn shorter, something had gone wrong with the bone it-elf in my foot; and after a fair trial of all the lotions and ointments in the outfit, they put the X-rays on to it. The M.O was quite decent about it. Next morning he put it to me plainly: it was just possible that the place where my toe had been might heal more or less, in time; but it was more likely it wouldn't, because something, spelled with two z's. an x and "œa," had set in. He recommended me, as man to man, to have the foot off, and make a clean, sweet job of it. He promised me I'd get the best kind of artificial foot backsheesh, and that I'd never regret the lost original. I can tell you, I went dead crook about it at first; but he looked so disappointed that I hadn't the heart to refuse. So the fourth bit of my leg stayed in Cairo.
"After that, of course, it was 'Australia' for me as soon as they could get enough forms filled in and signed, to explain what I was, and why. The stump was healing well by the time I got on the hospital ship. And then I had the stiff st luck that ever a man had. I used to like my deck-chair in a corner of the deck near a whole bunch of stretchers, stacked on, a couple of iron brackets let into the side of a deckhouse. It was a sheltered spot. One day a bit of a swell kept the old barge rolling, and I noticed the stretchers working loose I didn't pay much heed to 'em, worse luck. Suddenly the boat gave a big heave, and, 'plunk', the lashings broke and the whole heap—except one which swung over and dealt me a smack across the head—dropped fair across my crook leg. When I came to, I'd left the fifth bit of my leg on the ocean bed."
"You've had terrible luck" I sympathised, "I suppose you're thankful Sydney isn't twice as far from Palestine, or you'd have lost a few more joints before you got here'."
"Never thought of it that way," the battered hero responded. "But what a job my sorrowful relatives will have if they want 10 connect up my lost leg with my body after I die!"