The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
I am not handsome, neither am I vain; but when they issued me with "blues" at the 14th. A.G.H., and I got a glimpse of myself in a mirror after donning them—well, I wanted to go away and die quickly in a dark corner. I was some guy.
The pants were built for a seven-footer, and I am 5 feet and a bit. I turned up a couple of feet of spare cloth on each leg (made pockets for fags and matches), and the white lining contrasted very artistically with the blue stuff, while added effect was given by a big patch on the left knee. By the law of compensation, my jacket was three sizes too small, but the sleeves very decently covered my elbows, and the collar tickled my ears. They gave me a white shirt, and a bonzer red tie, too, large enough to serve for a banner in a Socialistic procession. I was proud of that tie. But it took me quire a long while to learn how to tie it; had to take daily lessons from the prettiest Sister in the Ward. I put up with that.
Yes, I was some guy all right, in Hospital clobber; and when an artist chap wanted to sketch me, I put on a cheerful grin for the occasion. Must keep smiling, you know, when you're a wounded hero—I wasn't wounded, by the way, only "ill", but the other sounds better. My pal "Hoppy", who lost a leg at Gaza, reckoned he was lucky; he had only one trouser leg to turn up, and his tunic fitted him here and there Besides, he wore a felt slipper, while I had to hobble round in number 10 "issues" —the Q.M. swore that he hadn't any sixes, when I was being "fitted".
Another of my cobbers was Bill Bray ton, who had his right eye in a sling and always wore a fag in the corner of his mouth. We knocked round together, "Hoppy" and Bill and I, and the artist wanted to draw us in a group as the "Three Graces"; but we wern't having any. So he sketched us separately. Waiving my own claims—I think 1 told you I'm a modest cove—I put my money on Bill if we are ever entered for a beauty competition. After I'd been in Hospital for about three weeks, they treated me pretty low down, I thought—took me off "light diet" and sent me into the "bull ring" for meals. Yes, I was feeling good, but I liked having my meals brought to me by an orderly; made a bloke feel like he was on leave in Cairo, stopping at the Continental—I don't think! Anyway, it was the "bull ring" for Bill and me, while old "Hoppy" still swanked it on "light diet." We didn't envy our pal, but we felt aggrieved. The "bull ring" somehow didn't agree with us. We went off our tucker, and within a week were on "light diet" again. Then our appetites revived; which goes to prove that "l.d." is the stuff to give the troops. (We suggest, however, that the menu be "extended" to include grills, quail on toast, pate de foie gras, and a few other wholesome dishes, to be ordered as the patient fancies).
"You're down for light duties, Geebung", says the orderly to me, one morning. "Me!" I cried. "Why, I'm weak as a kitten! It's over the blooming fence, I'll see Sister".
And I did; but she only smiled sweetly, and said, "It will do you good. There's a nice little broom in the pantry—you can sweep out the ward."
Me! Anyhow, I didn't get a yard job, and have to scoot around with a stable broom and a bucket, like Joe Fergy —he was a bank manager in civvy life.
I got busy and finished just before lunch. Then I sat in aneasy chair, puffing a fag and smiling cheerfully when the orderly came staggering along, carrying two huge tin dishes, with a bucket stuck on top. They do graft, those A.M.C. chaps; no soft jobs in a hospital, take it from me. When the Matron came around on inspection she couldn't find a speck of fluff, not even a sparrow's feather, on the floor. A new broom sweeps clean. I guess Sister was pleased, too; anyway, my name was down for a Red Cross trip next day.
I stuck to the sweeping job. Bill had to polish brass work or something. "Hoppy" filled in time reading stories about Anzacs who won the love of English maids worth tons of feloos, or led to the altar some V.A.D., who was an Earl's daughter; and all that sort of bunkum. He reckoned the chaps in Blighty were lucky. Whenever Sister was near, Bill and I barracked for Australian girls. But a V. A. D., with £10,000 a year!
Well, I had a bonzer time in hospital; and if ever I land there again! hope they'll send me to Ward—, give me the same old clobber, and put me on "light diet" without the other "l.d.".