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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

On Mail Day

page 12

On Mail Day.

"Damn the Kaiser!" You've heard it often enough, but have you ever heard it in connection with mail day? No? Well, read on, and I'll tell you all about it.

* * * * * * *

We always get mutterings of it at least a week ahead. "There's a boat in at Suez". "Refreshments have marched into Moascar, and brought—anything from fifty to a thousand—bags of mail with them". "The mail arrived at Kantara yesterday; the biggest on record". (It always is). These and similar reliable messages vaguely stir our blood for a few days, and we haunt the postal orderly till that gentleman gets rather short and snappy. Finally we give it up, and regretfully place the mail rumour in that list of "furphies" which is to be posted to somebody's debit in the Doomsday Book. That same afternoon she arrives, and there is a long line of emigration to the postal bivvy. The boys on duty look longingly in the direction, of the general exodus, and sigh and issue themselves with imaginary V.C's. for their devotion to duty.

There is a scene reminiscent of the doors at a popular theatre round the unfortunate postal orderly, who is sorting for dear life, and exchanging "language" with the crowd around him, Expectancy is on every face, and good-humoured impatience reigns on all sides, while the postman sorts on and on—or so it seems to everybody—"with measured beat and slow". At last he is finished, however, and starts to call out the names— in alphabetical sequence, of course. This alphabetical stunt is all right when you happen to be an Atkins or a Bond; but when you are (like me) a Williams, it's rather over the odds. I notice they never seem to pick fatigues on this system, anyhow.

But to get back to the post; the orderly's monotonous voice—painfully slow it seems; I never noticed before what a deliberate, cool cove he is—is droning on: "Adams, Anderson, Arnold, Bailey, Bates", etc., etc. Ah! he's getting near me—I'm always after Vickers on the rolls. "Vance, Varley, Verity (I'm just about trembling with excited anticipation), Vickers (my hand involuntarily slips out), Wilmot (mine must have got a bit missorted), Wilson, Wooton, Young—that's the lot, boys."

I'm left standing, looking stupidly at my still outstretched hand, and can only voice a pathetically husky enquiry, "None for me, Bill?"

"No, you've slipped" cheerily replies Bill, as he settles down to read his own half dozen or so.

Oh! the crushing feeling of it! Have you every got arrangements completed for your holidays to commence on a Monday at home, and then about six of your fellow workers got sick on the Saturday, and you have been knocked back? Have you ever arranged to take your best girl for a lonely moonlight walk, and it has poured with rain? Did you ever set out to hear Billy Hughes speak on an important subject, find the meeting was postponed, and finish up listening to a recital of a socialist's wrongs, delivered from a soap box? Well, if you've done any or all of these, multiply your feelings by the latest-German casualty figures, and you have a small idea of how I feel.

I wander aimlessly away, like a man in a trance, and almost curse the grinning faces of my cobbers as they read interesting titbits in their correspondence. I feel just like one of the "lonely soldiers" you read about, and can almost raise tears of self pity, as I shuffle to my bivvy. I think of Dennis's poem: "The world has got me snouted just a treat," and I feel truly that "all them joys of life I held so sweet, is up the pole." I sink down on my sandy couch, and give way to gloomy thoughts; I feel as though my best girl has thrown me over, my mother has died, and my brother been killed in France, all in one breath. Slowly the relief of expressing candid opinions comes over me, and I condemn everything,
With the Sherif of Mecca

With the Sherif of Mecca

from the sun to the beetles crawling round my feet. Between these two extremes come the G.P.O., the sea transport service, the railway employees, the base postal staff, and our postal orderly; then gradually I work up to the crux of the trouble, and grind out the phrase with which I opened my discourse—"Damn the Kaiser." Yes! there you have it, and how it came about, and I'll go on condemning Old Bill to Perdition till I get tired.

* * * * * * *

In case your'e wasting too much sympathy on me, I'd better tell you that I just got my mail, which had been mixed up with the officers' stuff. So all my curses enumerated above are hereby washed out—that is, with the exception of the Kaiser one, for the Mater tells me that food is scarce, and she hasn't had a mail for six weeks.