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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Regimental Cooks

Regimental Cooks.

I reckon that I know something about regimental cooks, for there was a time in the early days of the war when I was one myself. Cooking for a mob of Dinkums is about the most thankless job that I know of, and in my time I have tackled all kinds of employment. However, the dizzy limit in cookhouses was perched on the side of a hill in Monash Gully, Gallipoli. Portion of it was in sight of a Turkish sniper, who used to fire from the crest of the range, near Pope's and Quinn's Posts. He was a humorous cuss was this Turkish sharpshooter, and he took a special delight in shooting holes in our cooking utensils.

One night, "Blindo," my off-sider, returned from a foraging expedition around the beach, and the amount of material he had gathered was marvellous. It included half a sheep and a couple of pounds of block curry, such as the Indians used. Of course, I had too much sense to ask "Blindo" how he had managed to procure all these things. It would have been a waste of time, for my assistant could be as close as an oyster when he chose. Furthermore, he had a dread of Court Martial, and I verily believe that if some of his foraging exploits had leaked out, he would have spent many long and weary years in military prisons. Well, he was up bright and early next morning, and made preparations to give the boys something choice in the way of dinners. Soon we had the mutton cooking on the fire, and we then decided to get an hour's sleep. It was here that the keen-eyed Abdul on the ridge above showed an interest in the forthcoming dinner. He took careful aim at the tin on the fire, and put a couple of bullets through it. When "Blindo" awoke, he found the tin dry and the mutton burned to a cinder. We did not see him again for a few days, but some of the lads said they had met him prowling at the foot of the ridge, with a rifle in his hand and a wild look in his eyes, When he did return, he seemed well satisfied with himself, although he was silent, as usual, We noticed that the sniper did not trouble us again, and guessed that "Blindo" had attended to him.

On another occasion, "Biindo" returned to camp about midnight with portion of a sheep, and his remarks against someone unknown cut through the stillness of night like a whip-lash. Now, I had managed to secure a water bottle full of rum a few hours before, so I invited "Biindo" into my dug-out. After the fourth drink he became talkative. '"Struth!" he commenced, "I went down Mule Gully and managed to sneak upon one of the Indians' sheep, and it was counted out before you could say 'Birdy' twice. I wrapped a piece of bagging around it, and started back for camp. Just after I passed the water tanks, blowed if a Light Horse officer didn't pull me up. 'Hullo!' says he, 'what have you got there?" 'Bombs,' says I. 'Bombs be damned,' he replied, in a nasty sort of way, 'whoever saw bombs with hair on them?' I looked up at the carcase on my shoulder, and strike me! if portion of the back of the sheep was not exposed to view. Well, the fat was in the fire then, and I saw trouble looming ahead, when Three Stars said, 'Hurry up rip the pelt off, and let's have half of it. When the job was finished, dashed if he didn't stick half the jumbuck under his arm and proceed on his way."

"Biindo" was the best off-sider I ever had. He was making some Fray Bentos rissoles one evening, when "Birdy" came along. "What are you cooking, my lad?" says the Soul of Anzac. "Gundagai fritters, Sir," says "Biindo." "Never heard of them", replied "Birdy", "but anyhow, they smell damn good. Let's try one." Next day word came from the beach that "Blindo'' was to pack up and report at the Staff cookhouse. I rarely saw him after that. He got swelled head, and strutted about the beach like a Buckingham Palace chef.