The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
The Bivvy Beautiful
The Bivvy Beautiful.
Fresh from the tents of Moascar, we were dropped in a sandy waste, not a hundred miles from Wadi Ghuzze, and ordered to prepare lodgings for the night. Most of us were callow Desertonians, with the haziest notions of bivvies and how to make them. But there was a sprinkling of veterans among us, and they very kindly put us wise to the main points. We ran up temporary humpies, slept the sleep of the weary, and got real busy next morning.
"None of your Queen Anne villas," says the sergeant. "Make 'em a couple of feet deep, rig up a blanket, and you're right." Good advice; but the trouble was to follow it. Picks and shovels were at a premium; so was building material. Those of us who slipped in the early door rush called a spade a spade—and something else. We had to do our navvying with any old thing that would move sand and make some impression on hard earth—it was worse than chopping green wood. That's why I formed myself into a foraging party and let my mates carry on with the excavation work. Foraging was no sweet cop, let me tell you. But I managed to collect two sticks, a few yards of cord, an "Ideal" milk case, and a few other valuable articles. The lot wouldn't have brought a piastre at a Gyppo fair; but I clung to them jealously, and hurried back to the bivvy site. There were dumps of unconsidered trifles dotted about everywhere; and men digging fiercely, my cobbers amongst them.
"Where the dickens have you been?" cried Curly, throwing down a bayonet and wiping his beaded brow. "D'you think we're going to do all the blooming graft, while you go mooning around?".
A soft answer turns away wrath—sometimes. It didn't in this instance. My tale of heroic struggles for a pole, and wild rush for a stray box, was received in silence, stony, unsympathetic silence. My natural gifts mark me out for managing affairs, rather than taking an active part in them; but my mates were too dull to realise this, and I had to wield that bayonet. Between us we got the excavating done. We didn't find a mosaic, by the way, only a few dozen fragments of pottery which Bill reckoned were about five thousand years old.
Day by day our bivvies improved till we became quite proud of them. They were some class at the end of a week, and ours (Curly's, Bill's and mine) was the daddy of them all. We piled up a rampart round it, planted dhourra, pinched from the camel lines, and erected a name-plate to let all the world know which was "The Hotel Sinai". Everything within the bivvy was wondrous neat and clean. There were niches for nick-nacks, caverns for cupboards, pictures on the "walls", a table fashioned out of a bacon-box, and other "fixtures" too numerous to mention.
The proudest moment of our lives came when the O.C., on inspection of the lines one morning, complimented us on our bivvy. "A model of neatness and ingenuity", he murmured to the orderly officer. We generously told the other fellows to drop in any day, if they wanted to pick up points about bivvies. They didn't seem interested though. In fact, our next-door neighbours had a strange delusion, that their bivvy was the best in the lines. Some chaps are like that; they always think their own little tin-pot show is first, and the rest nowhere.
Pride goes before a fall. Just when the dhurra had flushed the rampart with tender green, and we were boasting of our agricultural prospects, we got notice to quit. "Get ready to move out". You know what that means. It was heartrending to destroy our handiwork. "The Hotel Sinai" was a bonzer bivvy and we shall never look upon its like again.