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

Concerning Field Troops

Concerning Field Troops.

Time was when the ordinary soldier was called upon to perform many and varied duties not immediately concerned with strafing the enemy. Many of them he loathed with a deep and abiding loathing. In some units still there are many weird and wonderful jobs to perform, but this is the age of specialisation, and modern warfare has called into being numbers of small units designed to relieve the harassed "askarry" from many irksome occupations and free him for outposts, patrols and similar outings more in accordance with his taste and his mission in life.

These minor unit control certain phases of work that otherwise would have to be carried out as fatigues. The sanitary sections, with the aid of "Achmed" of the Labour Corps, relieve units from worrying about dispensing with the rubbish that the dust-man would, in civvy life call for, and incidentally save the inspecting medical officer much forcible "comment". There are other instances where duties that require special training are carried out by units, much to everybody's satisfaction. Such is the work of the Field Squadrons of Engineers, or, as we more familiarly know them, the Field Troops.

The work that a Field Troop has to do may not be very inspiring, but it is nevertheless important to a mobile force that may be on trek for days and days together, camping wherever night finds them and living a nomadic life like the Arab of old. Their duties are delightfully diverse. To-day they may be constructing a pontoon bridge, to-morrow they may be marking, with neatly lettered crosses, the resting places of comrades of yesterday. They may be called upon at five minutes' notice to put down their canvas troughs to water the horses of a Mounted Division.

You see them as they move out on a stunt, with a wide variety of gear that would make quite a respectable ordnance dump loading their limbers. When a halt is called it is their mission in life to get a water supply available. Now this water supply may be in some delightfully inaccessible spot, far removed from the bivouac site. About the most inaccessible I can remember was the supply the Anzac Mounted Division watered their tired prads at on the night of the Jericho stunt. After the "Jackos" had imshied from their post, we went back to water some seven or eight miles off, in the hills. It was perched many hundreds of feet above the ordinary level of the terrain. Man and beast dog tired, we wound up a rugged path, most of the way in single file, sometimes on the bank and sometimes in the bed of a dry wady that must have been a raging mountain torrent in the rainy season. Right at the top of the hill was a huge cavity in the limestone rock, holding millions of gallons of water. The Field Troop was there with its impedimenta, to render assistance. We started to water before dark, and the last in for their cut came struggling back as we were saddling up to move into Jericho next morning. The Field Troop had its gear packed on pack-horses and was with us on the march into the Valley,

There is a wonderful assortment of tradesmen in a Troop, from wire-rope splicers to sign writers. Just to quote a few from the complement; bricklayers, masons, carpenters, joiners, engine-drivers, fitters, and sailmakers.

If I were selecting a Field Troop, I should require, first of all, that my recruits should possess an insatiable desire for hard work, mostly of the pick and shovel order, and, secondly, a capacity to do all sorts of odd jobs with celerity and with the minimum number of tools necessary.