The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
We enjoy the atmosphere in the country of Judaea,
When the heavy batt'ries thunder with their muzzles to the sky;
And we're often glad to see extra grim activity,
When the life-denying rifle-lead is ripping low and high.
But when big persistent flies hover round our aching eyes,
In the bivouac that's hotter than the centre of the sun,
How we dread the distant humming of the "Gotha" when it's coming,
And the inconsistent shelling of the anti-aircraft gun.
Man is meant to forge along with a purpose bold and strong,
Though his goal be almost hidden in a haze of anxious doubt.
So, believing in the right, we are all prepared to fight
Until every living obstacle is down and counted out.
But it's very sad to know that you might receive a blow
In a moment of abstraction, when the hardest fighting's done;
For a distant engine's singing where a little "Taube" is winging
Through the high exploding missiles of the anti-aircraft gun.
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"Vermont": It was just after the little affair at Beersheba, and I was lying off at.....with my section. My duties entailed the installing of telephones in the more or less temporary headquarters of the units, etc, round about. One day. I was told off to proceed at once to .... and rig up a telephone in a certain house, which was being used as the headquarters of a Brigade. On arrival there I was met by a young man, who, in spite of the fact that he was minus a tunic, I had no difficulty in recognising as an officer. 'Come in this way", he said, and led me to the place where he wanted his telephone put. After having installed the instrument, tested it, and so forth, I proceeded to lecture on the use of it. "Be careful", I said, "always to replace the receiver beneath those two hooks when you've finished speaking, and be sure that, when it is in place, it keeps the hooks well up. Never remove the receiver before ringing," etc., etc. He listened very intently until I had finished, and then said, "Thank you, Corporal, I shall pay very strict attention to your instruction." I saluted and withdrew, but on reaching the door my attention was attracted to a chalked notice over it, which I had failed to see on going in; it read, "Brigade Signal Officer". While I stood there out walked the officer whom I had lectured, with his tunic on. I saw three ''pips" on the cuff, and a pair of blue and white armlets on his sleeves. He smiled when he saw me, and no wonder. The idea of an acting, unpaid probationary lance-corporal lecturing a captain of the R.E. Signals on the use and handing of a telephone did not strike me as being funny at the time.
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"S.F.C.": A certain Brigadier-General insists that every squadron and troop leader must know by name every man he commands. He was testing our leader on the matter one day. Pointing to a man in the front line he asked the officer in charge, "What's that man's name?" "Jones, sir," was the reply. "Is your name Jones?" the General asked the man indicated, and was answered in the affirmative. "Very good," went on the General, then, turning to the officer again, "What is the name of that man third from the left?" "Johnson, sir" was the prompt reply "Very good" said the General again when the name was found to be correct. "I'm very glad to see that you notice your men as you do. Most essential that you should know every man. Carry on." Later on, in the mess, a brother officer was "going to market" because he had been rebuked for his failure to name men whose names the General sought. "Well, your luck was out, old boy," remarked our O.C., "I named the men he asked me about, but I'm dashed lucky. He picked out my batman and groom. If he had asked me the names of the men on either side of them I'd have been doomed."
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"A.S.C.": At our mess the other day a discussion on weight lifting arose. One Sergeant related an incident illustrating the strength of Arab women. He was walking with a mate along the sweet-water canal, when they saw a native woman stumble and drop a big bundle from her head. The boys did a chivalry stunt and picked up the bundle. Their united strength was taxed in lifting a weight which the woman had carried easily on her head. Pretty good, but there is a Gyppo attached to our unit who must be related to Samson, who pulled down the gates at Gaza a few thousand years ago. Our "Joe" lifted five I cwt. bags of barley on to his head, and strolled off with them as if it were an every day job.
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"S.F.C.": The Jericho road winds round the foot of the Mount of Olives. There is also a road along the summit leading Allah alone knows where. Along this top road a string of laden camels was passing, and by some means a bale of tibbin broke loose and came rolling down the hill, which at that part is very steep. Travelling along the bottom road were about a dozen Bedouins, and it was as good as a circus to watch them scatter. However, one old "bint" was a bit too slow, and the bale nearly knocked her head over heels. It quite cheered our drooping spirits to hear her open out. Funny thing you can always tell when anyone is swearing, no matter what language they may be swearing in.
"First Major": A staff nurse, now at Port Said, sent a coat and skirt to a dyer's in Cairo, to be dyed and cleaned. In long overdue course she received a parcel back from the dyer. The wrappings were quickly removed, when, to her astonishment, she drew forth an officer's tunic. Now what I want to know is, what the officer said, somewhere in the Holy Land, when he opened his parcel and beheld a sister's coat and skirt.
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"Stralis": Much has been said regarding the number of Billjims who have married in England, Egypt and France, not to mention other smaller spots on the globe. Nothing has yet been said, however, regarding the number of Australian girls, serving in the A.I.F. who have married English officers. Perhaps some authority may be able to give figures. I have good reason to believe that a large number have married overseas, and it remains to be seen what sort of reception they will be given by our brave boys who stayed at home, when they arrive in Australia, if ever they do. We are losing some of our very best girls through this cause. I would suggest that a Bill be introduced into Parliament denying our nurses the right to marry any but Australians; if this were done, it would give Joe, who kept the home fires burning in Australia, the chance of marrying a returned heroine.
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"Baltaggi": During a recent debate with "Abdul", east of the Jordan, a motor cyclist did a spinning nose dive of about 30 feet, liberating himself from the machine before it hit the river. Whether the pilot was qualifying for a job in the Flying Corps, or the bike was pining for a cool off, I don't know; but I reckon t be actor concerned was a circus trapeze specialist before Old Bill blew the whistle for the kick-off. A little crowd soon congregated; and when the discussion was at its height a tired-looking Billjim paused to inquire the reason. Being enlightened, he peeled off and took a header into the murky waters of the river. Up for a breather, he went downstairs again with a piece of rope, which he fixed to the seat of the objective. The onlookers then got busy, but the bike clung to the mud tenaceously. On top again, Bill looked a bit doubtful, then, crying "Arf a mo.", he joined the mermaids, 40 feet below. This time he tied the rope to the handles of the bicycle. The rest was easy; and it was a much happier D.R. who continued his journey on a very muddy machine.page 5
"Magpie": The O.C. of the squadron had noticed some of his n.c.o's wearing indelible pencil stripes on their hats, instead of the usual chevrons on their arms. He instructed the sergeant-major to find out whether the men had been issued with chevrons, and if so, they were to wear them. Our troop corporal, "Bluey" Jones, hailing from "Back o' Sunset," was getting about with two indelible stripes resplendent on his old felt, when the sergt.-major pulled him up with, "Have you got any chevrons?" "Bluey" stood ruminating for a moment, then suddenly burst out, "Blowed if I know, Major; but I suffer pretty badly with corns".
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"Boori": With the last lot of reinforcements there arrived a specimen of the stockyard hero, who quickly made back numbers of us all. Said we had no idea or system for catching "Jackos", and that he would soon teach us how a rifle should be handled. We, being in reserve then, could not reply very well, but thought longingly of some touchy little out posts to be taken over before the week was out. Fate, however, in the shape of a sudden call out, precipitated masters, even though we stopped miles short of the firing line. Camping that night in a cactus-enclosed orchard, we spent the evening filling the head of this S.H. with tales of murdered sentries, fearful ravages by wild animals, and other lurid tales. Towards midnight he was on horse picquet when the agonising wail of a jackal split the air. He rushed wildly for rifle and bayonet, crunching underfoot all the cactus hedge and any weary sleepers in his way. Since that night "Jackal Joe" has not shown any signs of trying to govern the world again from his former throne on top of the rails.
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"Green and White": About midnight the picquet was startled by a blood-curdling scream, and beheld "Snowy" waving his arms frantically and yelling at the top of his voice, "A snake has hold of me, it is coiled around my legs and is trying to choke me." One of "Snowy's" bivvy mates, awakened by the screams, jumped to his feet, and in doing so he kicked a corporal in the ribs, and disturbed a scabbard, which struck him on the leg and the corporal on the face. With one mighty bound, "Sid" stood beside the astonished picquet, and the corporal, thinking that the Turks were attacking, leapt from his blankets and carried the bivvy pole away with his head, in a wild rush for his rifle. By this time the whole squadron was aroused. An investigation revealed that "Snowy" had only been dreaming.
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"Bill Bowyang": It was during the battle of Rafa and Trooper Cluney's camel had just been blown to pieces by an aerial bomb. Returning from the firing line, Cluney was informed of his animal's fate. Someone had found about two inches of his pay book under a palm tree about a quarter of a mile away, and this was handed to Cluney, with the remark, "Hard luck, Bill, losing your pay book—won't be able to draw any cash until you get a new one." Hard luck be blowed," said Cluney, "why that book was full of red ink. Now I'll get a brand new one, without any disfigurements in it."
"Tibbin": After reading the article on "People of the Past" in June issue of the "K.O.C.", I went hunting for relics of them. Found a sort of cairn, with a hole in the side; burrowed down a bit and hauled out of a heap of bones and rubbish a mouldy little book, printed on papyrus and bound in camel-skin. It was written in Syrian or Hebrew or something, but I gave it to a fellow who can read hieroglyphics, and this is his report:— The book is entitled "Potted Palestine" and appears to have been written about 2000 B.C. It contains short descriptions of Jaffa, Jerusalem, Jericho, and the Jordan. Following are some extracts:- "Jaffa is the place where oranges grow—big ones, three for half. How often have I wandered by moonlight in thy groves, O Jaffa, and listened to the sweet song of the E. L. C., 'Camleela, Camlune'. Jerusalem: Bring your own rations to the Hotel Tucker. Eggs are cook in Jerusalem, but they cost three piastres each. Jericho: A suburb of Jerusalem, and the popular summer resort of the wealthy classes. Here, when the City is sweltering Sin torrid sunshine, one enjoys delicious cool breezes that blow from the snowcapped Hills of Moab. There are many beautiful gardens, with fountains flinging silver spray on palms and ferns, while the air is perfumed by roses." The author has some charming notes on natural history. In praise of flies he writes: "These dainty little creatures are so tame, that they frequently alight on one's face, and cling there affectionately. Mosquitoes also are very friendly."
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"Medoc": We were out snake-hunting one bright morning, in the Jordan valley. We travelled along the water-course and searched diligently, but vainly, among bushes, grass and rocks, and were about to retrace our steps when we espied, under the corner of a large rock, a neat little nest full of eggs. After peering in cautiously, and groping about with a big stick, my mate ventured to put his hand in and pull out an egg. Then, one by one, all were removed until the tally reached nineteen. After debate, we came to the conclusion that the eggs, which were slightly larger than a pigeon's, belonged to one of those little brown partridges with red-tipped tail feathers. One egg was broken and proved to be fresh; appetite prevailing over our finer feelings, we took the whole clutch to camp-and boiled them in a quart-pot. Good eating they made, too.
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"Wertago": We were travelling across Sinai, 30 to a truck, and everybody was "kidding" asleep. About 3.30 a.m. one man gave the struggle best, and roared, "Bill, take your big feet out of my ear". And Bill replied, "Haven't got 'em there, not both of 'em. anyway".
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"Mum K.": Apologies to Longfellow —Hear a tale of ward equipping, ward equipping in the Balkans (in a hospital of canvas) when they hustled us on duty in the a.m. 7.30, with two orderlies—equipping didn't seem their true vocation. So we two staff nurses whispered to each other, "Do you ever think this tangle wilt unravel?" Never was a greater mix-up than confronted us that morning. "Start your numbers from this corner" said the sergeant, "number each bed till you get to five - and - twenty—then you stop because the beds stop.
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"W.H.D.": Whether it be to decide who shall get the odd loaf at a ration issue, or anything else, it is the custom of our regiment to "sell a horse". The limit was reached in this direction during the big advance early this year. A couple of miles of "No Man's Land" separated us from the Turks' rear guard. George, Mac and I were sent on to a ridge to observe and snipe. We soon spotted two of the opposition on the same game, with a machine gun. We pegged away at them till one left and the other sprinted for a big stone. We put in the rest of the day in rifle practise on. this rock, observing turn about. All the time our artillery was sending over hints to the Turks to get. That night they got. My mates and I made straight for the rock, when the line was shifted forward next day. We found the Turkish machine gunner with a bullet hole through his head. George thought of a number, I started the count, and Mac cut another notch in his rifle.