THE Division's route through Palestine to Syria ran by the Sea of Galilee and through Damascus, and on all sides there was an immediate quickening in interest in the history of these places and the general background of the Bible. This interest continued in Syria. There were many signs of previous civilisations which demanded attention: the huge ruins of Baalbek and Palmyra, the fortified villages, the Crusaders' castles, and the giant water-wheels were all objects of discussion and inquiry.
The three months in Syria provided the chaplains with many opportunities for Bible instruction. but it was difficult to give full and precise teaching about every place and many a chaplain thought wistfully of his books of reference and maps at home in New Zealand. The bulk of the Division was stationed round Baalbek: quarters varied from Nissen huts to tents, sometimes close to a village or the main road, or perched on some almost inaccessible hilltop.
There were few facilities for leave in Baalbek and the intense cold of the early weeks kept most of the men at home in the evenings. The main work of the Division was digging defences, and after long days spent with pick and shovel the men needed some mental relaxation and activity. The chaplains set to work to provide it.
The first difficulty was accommodation. The YMCA and the Church Army equipped a number of canteens where the men could play cards, write letters, or listen to the wireless and have a cup of tea. The value of these canteens would have been lost had they been cleared frequently for lectures or debates. Often the chaplains were allowed to use the mess huts or the mess tents, which had the advantage of already being supplied with tables and forms, but the chief problems were lighting and heating. The pioneer platoons in various units would usually provide some form of wood stove, but lighting was more difficult. The obvious solution was petrol power lamps which gave a very good light, but these had to be paid for.