The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
What is humour?
Some things are irresistibly comic—to some people. I once saw a portly, bald-headed old gentleman frantically chasing a silk hat down Collins Street: truly a heart rending sight; for his agony was extreme and his condition pitiful. Yet the heartless Melbourians laughed unrestrainedly.
Who is the most important citizen in the Commonwealth?
Why, the policeman, of course. Yet once, when a stalwart upholder of law and order trod on a banana skin in Paddy's Market, and sprawled unhappily in the mud, the youngsters thereabouts screamed with delight. And I ask you, what is more painfully annoying than a snowball fair under the left ear? Nothing at all—unless it be two snowballs fair under the right ear. Yet I remember, in the winter of our discontent at Weymouth, an apoplectic English dignitary received this churlish greeting at the hands of several alleged Anzacs, and every one of the assailants made the welkin ring with their hilarity.
I think the saddest spectacle I ever saw in Palestine was the trek of the Cameliers to Bethlehem. Now the camel—as Macaulay's schoolboy knows— is a sandiverous beast and not a mudiverous one. His habitat is the sandy wilderness. Mud is foreign to his nature. So most of our sandiverous mounts had never experienced a mudiverous environment till they trekked to Bethlehem. That fact alone should have won, the sympathy of the soldiers. But no. Oh dear, no. Every time a camel struck a particulary slimy, slippery patch and sent his four legs in diametrically opposite directions, the unthinking Cameliers laughed immoderately. And when, in crossing a flooded wady, a comrade was precipitated into the muddy flood, the whole Battalion—except poor comrade —jeered and cheered ironically. I regret to state that the only ones who showed a proper appreciation of the situation, were the camels themselves. Their dignity was admirable; their restraint superb; their perseverance heroic. Mud and mire, slush and slime were alike to them. Sometimes in a morass a camel would sink from sight, and the following files, thinking some one had lost a hat, would lean down and find a rider underneath .... Talk about Black Soil Plains!
Covered with mud, tired and weary, footsore and hungry, the Cameliers won through to Bethlehem. Just as the sun was gilding the lips of the Judæan hills the vanguard lobbed into Solomon's Wells. Then on till far into the night the remainder straggled in. It was a memorable trek. The camels were game as fighting cocks and struggled bravely through. But the men I Why, instead of seriously contemplating their unhappy lot, or sympathising with and helping their fallen comrades, they did nothing but laugh and crack jokes, and indulge in the Australian slanguage.
Which only goes to prove that humour is an elusive, incomprehensible thing, after all.