Tag Archives: William Hilton Saunders

Photograph of William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer

Photograph of Wongarbon Coo-ees William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer

William Hilton Saunders and WIlliam Collyer, 1916 (Photograph courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds)

William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer, 1916 (Photograph courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds)

Mrs K. Edmonds has sent me this studio portrait photograph of her grandfather William Hilton Saunders with another soldier, who she thinks is his friend and fellow Coo-ee from Wongarbon, William Collyer.

Driver William Hilton Saunders is seated on the left in the photograph.

William Hilton Saunders mentioned that both he and William Collyer had grown moustaches in the first letter he sent home to his parents at Wongarbon, after arriving in Egypt:

You would not know Will and I now, we both have moustaches, and I weigh 70 kilogrammes, which is equivalent to about 11 stone, so you see I have put on a considerable amount of flesh already since leaving Australia”.[1]

The backdrop behind the two soldiers in the photograph appears to depict the ruins of St Martin’s Cathedral at Ypres in Belgium.  William Hilton Saunders would have been familiar with this scene.  He noted in his diary on Friday, 29th September, 1916:

‘’I went out with G S W [General Service Wagon] & team to Ypres (about 6 miles) for bricks. Cruel yet interesting sight to witness. A fair town in peace time, but was utterly devoid of life except for soldiers who have to live in old cellars etc. Everything is one mass of ruins & where buildings are not blown right down enormous gaping shell holes mark the billet of some of Fritz’s death messengers.  We got a couple of loads of bricks from the Ypres church & arrived back early this morning, out all night”.[2]

On reading William Hilton Saunder’s 1916 to 1918 diaries, I only found one entry in which he refers to having had his photo taken during this period.

On Sunday, 22nd October 1916, he wrote: “Will Collyer & I went to Poperinghe on leave. Rode our mules & had a good look around. Both had our photos taken. Poperinghe about the size of Dubbo …”.[3]

Driver William Hilton Saunders and Driver William Collyer were both in the 4th Division Ammunition Column, which was stationed in the vicinity of the village of Vlamertinghe at that time, about half way along the road from Ypres to Poperinghe in Belgium. It was about 12.5 km (8 miles) from Ypres to Poperinghe. [4]

It seems likely therefore that this is the photograph of William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer that William Hilton Saunders referred to in his diary.

[1] ‘Australians in Action. Letters from the Front’, Wellington Times, 29 June 1916, p. 3. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137412087

[2] Saunders, William Hilton, personal diary, 1916. Original diary held by UNSW Canberra, Academy Library Special Collection.

[3] Saunders, William Hilton, personal diary, 1916.

[4] The Great War 1914-1918, ‘Poperinge (Poperinghe), http://www.greatwar.co.uk/ypres-salient/town-poperinge.htm

Postcard from W. H. Saunders sent from Lithgow

W. H. Saunders’ postcard sent from Lithgow to his mother (advising he was sending his port home with his washing)

I recently received a copy of this wonderful postcard that William Hilton Saunders, who was one of the Wongarbon Coo-ees, sent home to his mother Mrs E. J. Saunders at Wongarbon, while the Coo-ees were at Lithgow.

Postcard sent by W. H. Saunders, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Back of postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Back of postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

His grand-daughter has assisted me to transcribe the handwriting on the back of the postcard as follows:

‘Dear Mother

I am sending my port home to-day with a bit of washing & take all the trousers out & only send the pair of grey ones back. There is some grass in a piece of paper that I got out of the church yard at Wang, also keep poetry. We drilled all day yesterday & are leaving today. We might stay a day at Mt Victoria to see the caves.

Had tea with the Lucas girls last night. Lithgow is a very busy place but very smoky & dusty. We camped in the Trades Hall. Have been having all our meals in the military camp here with the other recruits & the grub is pretty rough. Ask Jack Ryan about our flag as we have not received it yet. All the boys are doing well hoping you’re the same also all the other folk.

Fondest love from your fond son Hilton.

[Written across the top left hand corner]

Will write & tell you where to send my port. We were all issued with Dungarees & white hats yesterday. We all look comical’.

The Coo-ees were at Lithgow from Monday 1st November to Wednesday 3rd November 1915. Based on the information W. Hilton Saunders included in the postcard, he wrote it on Wednesday 3rd November (the day the Coo-ees left Lithgow), and the Coo-ees were issued with their blue dungarees and white hats uniforms on Tuesday 2nd November 1915.

William Hilton Saunders war diaries available online

William Hilton Saunders war diaries

William Hilton Saunders (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

William Hilton Saunders (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

William Hilton Saunders joined the Coo-ee March at Wongarbon. Several of the many letters he wrote home were published in local newspapers. He also kept diaries from 1915 to 1919, which are now part of the UNSW Canberra Academy Library’s manuscripts collection.

Stephen and I visited the Academy Library at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra on 22nd August 2013 to view W. Hilton Saunders’ war diaries. There were 5 small fragile diaries, sealed in bags, which we were able to look at under supervision, wearing white gloves. There were many diary entries of interest in these diaries that I would have liked more time to read, but the time we had available to visit was limited, and it was difficult to write many notes in pencil, wearing gloves.

I was advised by the State Library of New South Wales last week that William Hilton Saunders’ war diaries (1916-1919) are now available online on this library’s website at http://www.acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/search/itemDetailPaged.cgi?itemID=1323843. To access the digitised diaries, click on the Collection Hierarchy tab, then the title for each year’s diary, then click on ‘view images’.

This online access to W. Hilton Saunders’ diaries provides a wonderful opportunity to read through the wartime diary entries of one of the Coo-ees, following his experiences in the First World War, from his training at Liverpool Camp, to his voyage from Sydney to Egypt on the HMAT A15 Star of England, his experiences in the training camp at Egypt, and then on the Western Front, and on hearing of the Armistice that ended the war.

Unfortunately the 1915 diary has not been digitised, probably due to its limited number of entries, with none until the end of the year. The 1915 diary had an inscription inside it from a family member dated 8th October 1915 (the day W. Hilton Saunders did his medical and original attestation at Gilgandra before the march commenced). Unfortunately he did not make any entries for the period of the march, only a mention of arriving in Liverpool camp.   There were however lots of female names and addresses written in the back of this 1915 diary with addresses from many the towns and villages along the march, from Stuart Town onwards (where he re-signed his attestation form on 19th October 1915).

W. Hilton Saunders was one of the main contingent of Coo-ees that embarked from Sydney on HMAT A15 Star of England on 8th March 1916, which arrived in Egypt on 11th April 1916. He recorded daily entries in his diary for this period.

W. Hilton Saunders recorded the following details in his diary for the day the Coo-ees loaded onto the HMAT A15 Star of England, and left Sydney Harbour through the Heads:

W. H. Saunders diary entry 8/3/1916 (Image part of the State Library of NSW collection)

W. H. Saunders diary entry 8/3/1916 (Image from the State Library of NSW collection)

March 1916: 8 Ash Wednesday. “Up at 3 a.m. left Show Ground for wharf 4.57 a.m. & at 8.10 a.m. moved out from wharf amidst cheers from thousands to tune Auld Lang Syne Cleared Heads 2 p.m. water rough chopping seas fore deck”.

The Coo-ees when they joined the Coo-ee March and enlisted in the AIF had expected to be going as reinforcements to support the ANZAC troops on Gallipoli. That campaign finished while they were still in training in Liverpool Camp.

Yesterday as I attended the dawn service at the Dubbo War Memorial commemorating 100 years since the ANZAC troops had landed at Gallipoli, I had wondered what W. Hilton Saunders had wrote in his diares about his experience on the first Anzac Day held on 25th April 1916, where a sports day was held in the Australian camp in Egypt, where he and the other Coo-ees were in training. He wrote the following words:

W. H. Saunders diary entry 25/4/1916 (Image part of the State Library of NSW collection)

W. H. Saunders diary entry 25/4/1916 (Image from the State Library of NSW collection)

April 1916: 25 Easter Tuesday. “1st anniversary of landing at A.N.Z.A.C. Holiday for all troops in Egypt. Sports held on the Canal. Swimming etc. on the water. Did not go over myself felt too lazy. Stayed in camp & wrote home.”

He wrote no entry in his diary for Anzac Day in 1917, but in 1918 he wrote the following entry about his Anzac Day experience for that year:

W. H. Saunders diary entry 25/4/1918 (Image part of the State Library of NSW collection)

W. H. Saunders diary entry 25/4/1918 (Image from the State Library of NSW collection)

April 1918: 25 Thursday. “3rd Anniversary of the landing at Anzac. We were paid today & held sports in the afternoon. Had a good time. No. 1 Section won about 5 events out of 9 – including the officers race … 440 yds, kicking the football & Relay race. Most of the boys are celebrating the great day in “neck oil”. [aka beer].

 

Letter from W. H. Saunders to his sister

Extract from a letter written by William Hilton Saunders sent to his sister Doris in Wongarbon, which was published in an article titled ‘Letters from the Front. Driver H. Saunders’ in the Wellington Times, 16 October, 1916, p. 2.

“LETTERS FROM THE FRONT.
DRIVER H. SAUNDERS.
From Driver H. Saunders, (“Somewhere in France,” 13th August, 1916), to his sister, Miss Saunders, at Wongarbon:—
This is only my second letter from France, although I have sent several field service cards and a packet of fancy P.C.’s. I feel almost ashamed of myself to think I have been about two months over here and only written twice because I can just imagine how you all watch the incoming mails for a letter from “someone in France.” I hope you have received all my letters O.K. I wrote one from Serapeum, containing 17 pages; let me know if you got it alright. The only mail I have received since coming to France was a couple of papers on July 2nd and about three days ago three letters from Australia, all dated 11th July. I can tell you, Dot, I was some pleased, and felt about six months younger. I had just read the letters, and walked down the village, when who should I meet but Will Collyer. He had just arrived from England with some reinforcements, and was getting fixed up at headquarters. He looks well and was very pleased to see me. He was in England for about two months, and has had a good time.

… I saw Don Stewart and a few more of the 13th boys, including Les Anelzark [sic] and Will Robinson, also saw Mr. McKillop, one of our 13th Batt. Lieutenants. Well, Doris, we have been in action, and I had my first experience of shell fire. Fritz shelled four of our waggons one day, and one of our mules was hit in the leg and destroyed. ‘Twas in broad daylight, and when we started to get away a high explosive landed on the road 2 feet behind our waggon. It was fairly close, but although we got covered in mud and dirt, and the explosion lifted the timber about 2 feet in the air, nobody was hurt. It made my ears ring for a while, but although I have been up amongst the batteries with a bombardment in full swing, I have not felt the slightest effect. It is a very pretty and fascinating sight to watch the star shells and shrapnel bursting at night time; the sky is as bright as day, and it always reminds me of some gigantic industrial enterprise with the roaring of the cannon and rattle of machine guns representing the machinery. Our job is not a very dangerous one, but the closer we are to the line the more interesting it becomes. We are now a good many miles away from the roar of the big guns, in a quiet and secluded little village, about 10 miles from anywhere   and somewhere in France, so now, you, by that detailed description of our position, should know exactly where we are camped. (Rats.) We are resting, but expect to be doing another “shove” in the “big push” before very long, and although we have a fair weight to push, the muscle of our chaps will tell in the end, and you will be laying the table for five instead of four as is now the case. Ernie May is still with us, and looks splendid. He is quite fat and looks better now than I have ever seen him. There is no doubt this is a great life, and a healthy one. I will get my photo taken one of these days and send you a couple.

… Mack is in one of the mortar batteries, but I have not had a line from him. I have not received the parcel Mum mentioned, but I suppose it will turn up some day. How are all the home folk? I hope they are all well. I believe it is very cold at home this winter. The weather is lovely in beautiful France, but of course it is summer time now. Well, Doris, I must close now as space is limited. Best wishes to all my friends.”

Click here to view this article in Trove:http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137408900

 [Note: William Collyer, “Mack” Wilfred Ernest McDonald, and Ernest May were other Coo-ees from Wongarbon. Donald Stewart was a Coo-ee from Wellington. Leslie Anlezark was a Coo-ee from Orange].

William Hilton SAUNDERS

William Hilton SAUNDERS

William Hilton Saunders (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

William Hilton Saunders (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4901), William Hilton Saunders was born at Goodooga, N.S.W. He gave his age as 21 years and 2 months, his marital status as single, and his occupation as Grocer. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 7 ½ inches tall, weight 9 stone 10 lbs., with a fair complexion, greenish grey eyes, and fair hair. His religious denomination was Anglican. He completed his medical on the 8th October 1915 at Gilgandra before the march began. He was attested at Stuart Town on the 19th October 1915. He claimed that he had no previous military service.

He was one of the thirteen men who stepped forward and gave his name, ‘either to march under Captain Nicholas, or to come after harvest’, when the Coo-ees recruited in Wongarbon on 14th October 1915.[1]

After completing the remainder of the march he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Wongarbon, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, E. J. Saunders, Wongarbon, N.S.W.

Private Saunders departed Sydney on the HMAT Star of England on the 8th of March 1916. He arrived in Egypt on the 11th of April 1916. On the 16th of April 1916 he transferred to the 4th Division Artillery at Telelkebir, and was taken on strength of the 10th Field Artillery Brigade. He was appointed Driver on 18th May 1916. On the 23rd of May 1916 he was taken on strength of the 4th Division Ammunition Column.

On the 6th June 1916 Driver Saunders left Alexandria aboard HMT Oriana, bound for France, arriving at Marseille on the 13th June 1916.

On the 17th August 1917 Driver Saunders was charged with, when on active service, being drunk in Calais about 9.15 pm. He was awarded 21 days Field Punishment Number Two.

On the 15th October 1917 Driver Saunders was wounded in action suffering a gunshot wound to his right foot. He was evacuated to the 3rd Field Ambulance. On the 16th October 1917 he was sent to the 35th General Hospital, and on the 19th October 1917 he boarded a ship for England. On 20th October 1917 he was admitted to the East Suffolk Hospital.

Driver Saunders was granted leave from Hospital on the 20th November 1917. On the 9th January 1918 Driver Saunders departed Southampton to return to France. He rejoined his unit on the 15th January 1918.

On the 2nd September 1918 Driver Saunders was admitted to the 13th Field Ambulance sick. On the 5th September 1918 he was transferred to the 41st Stationary Hospital. On the 6th September 1918 he was sent to the 9th General Hospital at Rouen. On the 12th September 1918 he went to the 11th Convalescent Depot. Driver Saunders rejoined his unit on the 28th September 1918.

On the 26th October 1918 Driver Saunders went on leave to the United Kingdom. On the 18th November 1918 Driver Saunders was charged with being Absent Without Leave from 6.00 am on the 12th November 1918 to 10.10 pm on the 16th November 1918.

Per his 1918 war diary, this period of absence was while he was celebrating the Armistice in London. His entry for the 16th November 1918 was: “Had a great day … Here I am pinched by the MPs & in Warwick Square quite forgot that my pass is overdue & I should have gone back. Oh yes days ago. Who cares”.[2]

He was awarded forfeiture 5 days pay on 18th November 1918, which was increased to a total forfeiture of 10 days pay on 2nd January 1919.

On the 12th May 1919 Driver Saunders departed England for return to Australia aboard the HT Port Napier. He arrived in Sydney on the 5th July 1919, and was discharged on the 19th August 1919.

[1] ‘The Route March’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October 1915, p. 3.

[2] Saunders, William Hilton, personal diary, 1918.

Wilfred Ernest MCDONALD

Wilfred Ernest MCDONALD

W. Hilton Saunders, Ernest May, and Wilfred McDonald, at Dubbo, ca. Dec. 1915 (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

W. Hilton Saunders, Ernest May, and Wilfred McDonald, at Dubbo, ca. Dec. 1915 (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4858), Wilfred Ernest McDonald was born at Dubbo, N.S.W. He gave his age as 21 years and 1 month, his marital status as single, and his occupation as laborer. He claimed that he had no previous military service. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 6 ½ inches tall, weight 9 stone 2 lbs., with a fair complexion, greenish grey eyes, and fair hair. His religious denomination was Anglican. He completed his medical on the 8th October at Gilgandra before the beginning of the march.

He was one of the thirteen men who stepped forward and gave his name, ‘either to march under Captain Nicholas, or to come after harvest’, when the Coo-ees recruited in Wongarbon on 14th October 1915.[1] He was attested at Stuart Town on 19th October 1915.

After completing the march he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Wongarbon, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, H. G. McDonald, Wongarbon, N.S.W.

Private McDonald departed Sydney on the HMAT Star of England on the 8th of March 1916. He arrived in Egypt on the 11th of April 1916. On the 16th of April 1916 he transferred to the 4th Division Artillery at Telelkebir. On the 27th May 1916 he was taken on strength of the 4th Division Ammunition Column.

On the 6th June 1916 Gunner McDonald left Alexandria aboard HMT Oriana, bound for France, arriving at Marseille on the 13th June 1916.

On the 25th June 1916 Gunner McDonald was transferred to the V4 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery.

On the 10th October 1916 Gunner McDonald was admitted to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance with conjunctivitis to his right eye. He was sent back to the 3rd Casualty Clearance station on the 11th October 1916 then to the 15th Casualty Clearance Station at Hazebrouck on the 12th October 1916. On the 20th October 1916 he was sent back to the 13th Stationary Hospital at Boulogne. On the 26th October 1916 Gunner McDonald was admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples suffering a corneal ulcer. On the 10th November 1916 he was transferred to the 6th Convalescent Depot also at Etaples then on the 23rd November 1916 he was readmitted to the 26th General Hospital with Influenza. On the 27th November 1916 he was sent back to the 6th Convalescent Depot then on the 1st December 1916 he was transferred to the 5th Convalescent Depot at Cayeux. On the 22nd December 1916 Gunner McDonald rejoined his Unit.

On the 2nd of February 1917 Gunner McDonald was charged with ‘’Disobeying in such a manner as to show a wilful defiance of authority a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office’’. A Field General Court Martial was held on the 17th February 1917 where Gunner McDonald was found guilty. He was sentenced to Five years Penal Servitude. On the 25th February 1917 the sentence was suspended.

On the 3rd of May 1917 Gunner McDonald was with his unit occupying a position between Ecoust and Bullecourt in France, preparing to support an attack, when they came under heavy German artillery fire. The store of mortar bombs was struck during this bombardment and exploded, destroying all the battery weapons and equipment. A total of 9 men were killed, 14 were wounded, 8 suffered shell shock and 16 were reported Missing In Action. Gunner McDonald was amongst the missing. This status was later amended to Killed In Action. His name is listed on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

His name is also listed on the Dubbo War Memorial, and the Wongarbon Soldiers Memorial.

[1] ‘The Route March’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October 1915, p. 3.

Letter from W. H. Saunders about HMAT Star of England voyage and arrival in Egypt 1916

Most of the Coo-ees were transported from Sydney to Egypt on the troopship HMAT Star of England, which embarked from Sydney on the 8th March 1916.  A photograph of the ship from an earlier voyage is pictured below.

Details about this voyage were included in a letter William Hilton Saunders (a Coo-ee from Wongarbon) wrote to his parents, which has been transcribed below. The undated letter was published in an article titled ‘Australians in Action. Letters from the Front’ in the Wellington Times, 29 June 1916, p. 3.

Troopship, Star of England at the docks, 1914 [on an earlier voyage]. Photo courtesy of: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number: APE-039-01-0009

 ‘Australians in Action.
Letters from the Front.
… Driver Hilton Saunders, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Saunders, of Wongarbon, writes as follows to his parents:—
I am still O.K., and still enjoying the happy-go-lucky life of an Australian soldier. I have now settled down to camp life after having had a most enjoyable trip over the water from Sydney. There is no doubt it was a lovely trip from the very day we left Sydney till we landed in Port Said. I will try and give you a brief description of some of some of our experiences and the sight we saw.

To begin with I will give you an idea of how calm the sea is in the tropics at times. Well at times it has the appearance of a very calm lake with not even a ripple on the surface except those made by the troopship. I was simply entranced when I first noticed it, and I began to imagine I was once again out on one of the Great Western Plains with a mirage dancing before my eyes; for such it resembled. You have not the slightest idea of what it looks like. The whole spectacle was a revelation to me, because I did not think the restless ocean could be so calm and placid. Then towards evening one sees more grandeur presented by nature in the form of sunset. One sunset in particular presented a very fine spectacle. Viewed from the troopship it looked like a vast work of art featuring an undulating landscape dotted with spreading trees, vegetation, lakes, and rivers. At first the whole scene was of a greyish tinge, but gradually changed to a reddish glow; giving the appearance of a bush fire raging amongst the timber in its midst. Certainly one of the most picturesque sights that has come my way since leaving Sydney. Well, mother dear, I will not weary you with descriptions of tropical sunsets, etc., but will tell you a few of the happenings on the way to Ceylon. Well, after leaving Sydney, we hugged the coast for a few days, and then lost sight of land till we hit the West Australian coast, somewhere about Cape Leeuwin. We only got a glimpse of the hazy coast line, and many were the speculations regarding our chances of landing at Fremantle. However, we were doomed to disappointment, for when we looked out next morning (Thursday 16th), all that met our gaze was an endless waste of water. Nothing very eventful happened on the way to Colombo, not even when crossing the “line” because the Colonel, for certain reasons, would not allow any celebrations to take place. On Saturday, 25th, at about 8 a.m., we sighted the coast of Ceylon. Everyone was happy and excited, because it meant, to most of us, our first glimpse of foreign land. We hugged the coast all day and dropped anchor inside the breakwater at sundown. All along the coast are to be seen hundreds of natives out in their little boats catching fish. These boats are very comical little structures cut out of a log of wood. They are about as long as one of our rowing boats at home, and just wide enough for the natives to sit in, which means about 14 or 15 inches. They have another piece of wood the same length as the boat itself, and this is lashed to the side with two pieces of bamboo and some rope. They are said to be very safe even in very heavy weather. Nearly all of them carry from two to eleven natives. Colombo has not a natural harbour, so three breakwaters had to be built at a total expenditure of £1,000, 000, and no doubt it is a wonderful piece of engineering. We were hardly stationary before the native coolies were swarming round the boat on barges loaded with coal. Of course, they don’t load coal in Columbo with the assistance of machinery the same as they do in Newcastle, but everything has to be done by black labor. These follows are a very dirty low-bred class of men, very small and thin, but very wiry. They bring 50 tons of coal in each barge, and it is all packed in bags, just the same as onion bags. The barges are brought up along-side the ship by a tug and made fast then after a lot of jabbering the loading begins. A kind of staging or scaffolding is rigged on the ship’s side in tiers, two men standing on each tier.
Each bag is lifted separately from the barge to the men on the lower stage, and so on till it reaches the deck, then two more men place it on the shoulders of a native, who carries it to the bunker hatch, and drops it in. Simple enough on paper, but in practice very hard work, and I, for one, would not care about taking it on for twenty times as much as the nigger gets (about 1s. per day). This coaling was carried on all day and all night for two nights and a day from either side of the ship, so you can guess what a state everything was in from coal dust. It seemed to penetrate everything on board, and we were continually washing ourselves, but were always dirty; in fact, it was with difficulty that our officers picked us out from the Cin- galese. On Sunday morning we all had an early breakfast, and half the boys went ashore in lighters towed by a tug at 7.30 a.m. The remainder including the Coo-ees, went off at 10 a.m., when the others came back. We were marched round the town through the main streets, and down past the military barracks along the promenade to the Grand Hotel. Then we turned round and marched back again to the barracks, were we broke off for about three-quarters of an hour, and were treated to cool drinks. We were not allowed to leave the grounds, but there were dozens of natives selling fruits, silks, postcards, curios, etc. Fruit is very cheap, and bananas can be bought about ten dozen on a bunch for 1s., cocoanuts and pineapples 1d. each. Needless to say we all speculated to a great extent in fruit, which was a welcome luxury to us after being so long without it. Nearly all the Ceylon goods are fairly cheap, but anything of English manufacture is dear. The natives have their own way of doing business, and deal very much the same as the Arabs of Egypt. They will ask 8s. for an article which can be bought after a little barnying for about 1s. 6d.   Cigars can be bought in Columbo from ls. 6d. to 5s. per box of 50, and they are real good one’s too. Everybody has something to sell from the oldest man down to the smallest boy. They are also the greatest “hums” under the sun, and I think they are taught to beg before they are out of their cradles, and thieves is no name for them; why they would steal the milk out of your tea while you were looking on. Well, when we had had a rest and eaten nearly all the fruit about the town, we were marched back to the wharf and taken back to our ship (2.30 p.m.). Everybody was disappointed at not be-ing given a free hand to see the town, and a lot of them managed to get back to shore the same night in coal barges, although a strict watch was kept by officers, guards, and native harbour police. I myself was down in the middle of a dirty old coal barge once or twice, but was always shrewd enough to get caught and hunted back on the beat. Next morning I went for a swim alongside the troopship, and among others got very sunburnt on the shoulders and arms. After lunch Mac, Ernie, Will Collyer, and a lot more of us got down a rope (very much against the rules) on to a water barge which was just about to leave for the shore for another supply of water. Once on shore again we began to look about and enjoy ourselves. First of all we had a look around the Customs Offices and wharves; everything here is done by the natives; office work and every-thing. Then we made our way down to the markets, which are a series of shops ranging in size from a small room about 4 by 4 feet to larger and better kept places. The streets leading through the markets are only about 14 or 15 feet wide, and are lined from one end to the other with carts or drays drawn by oxen which are very different to the cattle of our climes; they are only about the size of an 18-months’ old steer, and have a small hump on the top of their shoulders, very much resembling a buffalo in miniature. They are capable of pulling a fairly large load, and if there is one of these oxen-drawn carts in Columbo, well there must be two or three hundred. Everything imaginable is sold in these markets, fruit, vegetables, nuts, flowers, curios, drinks, clothing, birds, monkeys, etc. We did not speculate in the wares because the shops are absolutely filthy in general; so filthy that we had to hold our noses while walking past some of the shops. Of course, there are some as fine shops as I have seen anywhere. One, for instance, Cargills, Ltd., which is situated on a corner just up about 100 yards from the wharf is just as up-to-date as Anthony Hordern’s, only, of course, it is not as big. Almost anything can be bought at Cargills, including all the goods and luxuries specially manufactured for the tropics. The labor employed is mostly white, and there are hundreds of large electric fans running all day to keep the building cool. Then there is the Bristol Hotel, which was built about 200 years ago by the Spaniards, and is a beautiful big building and very comfortable inside. There is also the Grand Hotel, which is situated about 60 yards from the beach, and overlooking the Indian ocean; no doubt a beautiful hotel, and equal in comforts and cuisine to any hotel in Sydney. After seeing a few more of the principal buildings such as the post office, Mosque, Town Hall, etc., we went to the railway station and saw a train go out. From there we went and had a ride in one of the electric trams, which are very much the same as our own with the exception that they are driven by niggers (instead of whites), who are dressed in a kind of light khaki uniform. Charlie Gardiner and I then hired a rickshaw each and went for a ride all over the town again. The day being very hot, my nag began to perspire very freely, but nothing daunted kept up his steady trot, and when he happened to slacken down a little I would break a banana off the bunch I had with me, and hit him in the middle of the back. Off he’d dart again as if stung by a hornet or some other equally venomous insect. To see these fellows trotting down the street they look for all the world like emus, and many were the memories recalled to mind of the Western Plains, when I saw them for the first time. Most of the niggers who pull a rickshaw are very fine indeed, and it is almost possible to hear your pal change his mind on the opposite side of one of them. On our arrival back at the wharf we were making preparations to go aboard when lo and behold! and much to our dismay, the Star of England was just clearing the breakwater. The niggers absolutely refused to take us outside the breakwater to her, so we did not know what to do. We could see the boat outside the harbour steaming slowly, but did not know whether she was going to wait for us, or go straight on, so after a bit of consultation among ourselves we came to the conclusion that she would not wait because a troopship before us had gone off leaving over a hundred men behind to be taken on by another steamer following in a few days. Damp were our spirits, but “ne use for to cry,” so we decided to make the best of a bad thing, and contented ourselves by eating bananas and dried-figs, and discussing the future. However, after going out about a mile our ship “hove to” and dropped anchor (much to our joy), and we were taken out to her in a pilot launch. Our names were taken, but nothing happened to any of our company, although a few of another company were carpeted and fined £5 or 28 days’ detention for breaking ship. After everything turned out alright I was, in a way, glad that we missed the boat, because it gave us a bit of a lesson in punctuality. We left Columbo about 1 a.m. on Tuesday, and passed Aden about lunch time on April 4th, but did not call. The sun was very hot on April 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, just as we were entering the Red Sea. I think the passage is called “Hell’s Gates,” and it is well named. After passing well into the Red Sea the weather began to get very much cooler. On Sunday morning, the 9th, we arrived at Suez at about 5.30 a.m., and left the same afternoon at sundown for Port Said, where we arrived early on the morning of the 10th, on Dorrie’s birthday. We had the bad luck to go through the Suez Canal at night time, and, of course, could not see very much of the scenery if there is any, but I think all that is to be seen is sand, and, of course, the bitter lakes. As soon as we dropped anchor the niggers commenced coaling, but they work very differently to the Cingalese. The coal is brought to the ship’s side in barges, and two long planks are laid from the barge to the ship; the coal is shovelled into baskets which are just the same as a carpenter’s tool carrier, and then these baskets are carried up one plank on the shoulders of coolies, who tip the coal down into the bunker hatch, and race back as quickly as possible down the other plank for another load, which is already waiting for them. They are yelling the whole time this is going on, and it is hard to hear yourself speak where they are working. They remind one of black ants, as they rush backwards and forwards with their grimy loads, but they are great workers, and do twice as much work as the Cingalese. Port Said is said to be the fastest coaling port in the world, and I don’t doubt it the way these niggers work. We were taken ashore on Tuesday morning, and taken straight to camp at Tel-el-Kebir, where we were quartered for a week only. While there I met Corporal Jack Clements when he arrived from Australia, also met Jack Hives in the Light Horse Camp. He looks well, and seems quite contented. We had a long yarn. Since coming here I have met several Dubbo chaps. There is one chap in our tent named Arthur Kidby from ‘Wait-a-While,’ just out of Dubbo, also another chap who was out on Condon’s place when Mr. Condon first came to Wongarbon. He brought his horses over for him. Aubrey Field is also in the 46th battery. I saw Len Butcher here to-day. He brought some horses from Luna Park at Heliopolis to our battery. Roy Stanbridge, who used to be with Dick Skuthorpe, was with Len, and they both look well. Roy is breaking in horses and mules in the remount unit. A couple of days ago somo artillery chaps came here from Cairo, and amongst them was Arthur Roche, who after being wounded, was sent to England, where he has been for the last eight months, and only came back about three weeks ago. He is in one of the batteries, and wishes to be re-membered to Uncle J. Dunn, etc. On Sunday afternoon I walked into the coffee canteen, and who should be there but Alf. McLean, of Orange. He went down to Sydney with us, and afterwards joined the 1st A.L.H. He came over since we did, and was up here visiting his brother. I have not struck Roy Bowling or Uel Armstrong, Lou Lassers, or the Spencer boys yet, but I know where Lou and Norman Levett are, and may get a chance to see them later. They are about twelve miles from here, and Norman has a commission in the 54th battalion. Len Butcher says he saw Jim Olsen about five or six days ago in Cairo. Try and send me the full address of Roy, Uel, and the Spencer boys next time you write, and I will try and look them up. You would not know Wil and I now, we both have moustaches, and I weigh 70 kilogrammes, which is equivalent to about 11 stone, so you see I have put on a considerable amount of flesh already since leaving Australia. I have not received any papers from home yet, but got two letters from you.

We are now camped away out in the desert, surrounded by sand and myriads of flies, but we don’t do much work, and I am perfectly satisfied with the camp and quite contented. There is nothing here to worry about except news, and we don’t get much of that. We had about 100 mules to look after for about a week, and it was great sport watching some of the lads trying to stick them. There were a good many of them who did not have much of a grip of how to ride, but usually had a better grip of the sand. We have not many horses now, and no mules, and I am glad they are gone, for although they are wonderful pullers I have no time for them; they seem silly animals, and they can kick a fellow from any angle of the compass. Why I’ve seen mules kick mosquitoes off their ears without ducking their heads. “I love those mules and donkeys, but give me a horse.” There are any amount of camels about here, and the other day about a thousand went past the camp; it took the “train” about an hour to pass. The railway trains over here have three classes. The lst is very comfortable and more elaborate than the 1st class of the western line. The carriages have no breaks on them; the engines are the only parts with breaks, and the trucks are all red the same as the carriages. One of our cooks is a brother of a J. Macnamara, of Dubbo. Remember me to all Wongarbon friends.

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