The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
"So Long, Egypt!"
"So Long, Egypt!"
Wally was one of many "walking" cases, but, unlike most of (he others, he was about to appear before the three judges constituting the "High Court for Australia", sitting (in camera) in Egypt. In the little room just before him, they awaited his appearance.
Sentence was at last pronounced and Wally made his exit. His face showed plainly, that judgment was given in his favour —he was to return Home. His brain cleared a little, and he eagerly addressed the first person he met.
"I say, Digger! When's the next boat going to Aussie?"
"Digger" said he didn't know, but added, as an afterthought, "The last boat went weeks ago; another is just about due now, I reckon."
That was enough for Wally; without waiting to thank "Digger," as fast as he was able, he hurried off, happy and contented, and became the father of yet another furphy—that a boat was going to Aussie very soon, and (no furphy about this) that he would be on board. This latest little furphy was a vigorous infant; it grew rapidly and its presence was felt throughout the hospital in no time. Meanwhile, Wally had packed up his troubles, rammed them well down in his oldest kit-bag, and deposited the lot at the dump, forever.
The first stage, perhaps the one most to be feared, on the long journey towards Home was now behind him. Before the second stage was entered upon, weary weeks elapsed. At last, it was whispered that the Q.M.'s Department had instructions to marshal the kits of all "boarded for Australia" patients. The rumour was speedily confirmed; kits were soon given into the hands of all B.F.A. patients. A new, a joyous spirit was at once apparent in every ward. There was present some intangible thing, some spirit born of gaiety, definite but indefinable. Everybody felt it, for it permeated the hospital, and was pregnant with hope and joy. Most of all was this "feeling" reflected in the faces of our sick and wounded pals, who had been patiently waiting for a boat to take them back to their homefolk, in Australia. A scene of bustle and excitement in each ward, fitting on of tunics, polishing of badges, leggings, spurs, and boots, a smoothing out of plumes. How eagerly the faded colour patches were replaced by new ones of the dear old regiment; service chevrons and good conduct stripes were sewn on, too; and here and there you could see one of the boys busily engaged affixing on his sleeve, down near the cuff, a neat little gold stripe. In all those activities mates lent a willing hand, so that uniforms, discarded for weeks, now appeared at their best; and on each man's tunic sleeve might be read his history as a soldier.
The long day faded and, all too soon, "Lights Out" rang clear. The ward was plunged into darkness, the night sisters, with silent feet, sped here and there in the gloom. Comparative silence prevailed; but an hour passed ere the last whisper died away; whilst long afterwards the sister, peering closely, discovered many a patient lying wide awake, thinking of Home; and of the morrow, when he would enter upon the third stage; of his journey thither.
Morning dawned. Everybody was up early, and Reveille, for once, could have been dispensed with; perhaps it was unheard in the wards. Breakfast was a hasty meal on this morn of morns. Each patient's label was securely and conspicuously fastened to his tunic. Busy orderlies bore 'stretcher" cases to the boat-side, where they were carefully carried on board. "Walking" patients, with their kits, hurried, or were helped, to embark. A scene that became deeply etched on memory. Soon there remained at the quay-side a crowd of patients, sisters, officers, and orderlies, waiting for the boat to cast off—a singularly quiet crowd. As the gangway planks were withdrawn and the "barge-boat" turned, one felt a "foreign body" in his throat, low down, and so… one didn't say anything. But the boys on board gave three cheers as the boat slowly turned, gathered away, and steamed out of the basin, on round the far corner, and so was lost to view—gone from our vision almost before the echoes of farewell had faded into silence. But our thoughts sped overseas to the land where the boat would go—Australia.