21 March 1916

Nothing much doing in the morning except stables and letter censoring. I had a topping bathe at midday. Mails came in after lunch; great excitement, I heard from everyone at home. I am awfully pleased about Egret’s premium and the foals. Also heard I’ve been asked by General Powell to be his A.D.C. in France – very nice if it comes off alright, but it might be awkward to arrange now I’ve got here.
I went for a ride later in the afternon with Alan Franklin. We came upon a caravan of between two and three hundred camels on the side of the canal. We saw lots more of those big carrion birds; they tell me they are kites. We also saw a good many kingfishers, a pair of hoopoes, and a lot of herons and kestrels.
A battleship came down the canal from Suez way this evening, she looked enormous in the canal. Felt a bit better tonight – I think I’ve got a bit touched up by the sun. I have been to my medicine chest and taken 3 squares (7.5 gms) of aspirin and shall go to bed.

20 March 1916

I saw a caravan of about a dozen or fifteen camels going through camp soon after breakfast this morning. The general commanding the division, General Lawrence, inspected the horses of the Brigade this morning. At midday we went for a bathe over the canal and went for about a mile into the desert the other side, wading and swimming through the salt lakes we came across. I saw a lot of wild guinea pigs, also some herons, cormorants and stone curlew, also lots of wading birds. I hadn’t seen some of the sorts before. I am rather sorry we spent so long exploring about as tonight my back is simply burning where the sun got hold of it.
This afternoon one of the staff gave a lecture to all the officers on the cooperation of aeroplanes with artillery. There is a biggish aerodrome here somewhere. He seemed to think the Turks might be going to have another shot at the canal soon and said we are going to act as a mobile force, and are not going to entrench and wait for them, but are going to move out into the desert, if they are reported to be approaching, and fight a moving battle.
Badcock and I went for a ride down the canal towards Ishmalia tonight, saw another camel caravan going along the other side of the canal. My little mare was full of beans.

19 March 1916

I was orderly officer today, took the exercise at 6:30 this morning. The horses look very fit, and my little mare looks well. We are only allowed a gallon of water a day for everything, washing and drinking etc. so we shall have to be very careful. The rest of the artillery brigade of the division are fairly close round about, also the Gloucester Yeomanry and the Scottish Horse. We expect to go on from here to France in about a month or so.
After stables this morning we went and had a bathe. It was glorious and the water quite warm. While we were in the water, a flock of about 20 pelicans flew within gunshot over our heads, ungainly great birds they looked. The Major Alan Franklin and I swam over the canal (it is only about 150 yds) and stayed about on the other side for a bit and then swam back. It was the first bathe I’d had since we landed, though the others had had a good deal at Port Said.
There was nothing much doing this afternoon except the usual orderly officer job of seeing to waters and feeds and mounting guards and pickets.
The canal is full of fish and we mean to have some out for the mess if possible. Elliott had got a line in Port Said and tried tonight, but had no luck.

18 March 1916

Woke up about six this morning; we were going through some very pretty country indeed, all palm groves and cultivation, with little villages of mud huts at intervals. Hooded crows were as common as sparrows – saw hundreds of them – also saw a lot of great big birds like very big hawks, they say they are carrion birds of sorts but I haven’t found out their name yet.
After a bit we began to get into the desert and saw lots of camels. We stopped at one small station, where we had a big camp, but I don’t know what units. We saw a camel corps there.
The next place we stopped at was Kantara (8:30 am) just where the line joins the Suez Canal. I saw Kenning on the platform and he told me the Brigade has been in a rest camp at Port Said and were moving to this place on the canal today, so we got the men and kits out there instead of going on to Port Said. Went up to the camp which is just back behind the canal in the desert. I spent the rest of the day getting straight in camp. I believe we are to move over to the other side of the canal in a day or so. This is just where the Turks attacked last year, but I think it improbable we shall get any scraping here, though the Turks have got a post 50 miles away.
There are two squadrons of Mysore Lancers here, fine looking fellows, they’ve been out occasionally and had a skirmish with the Turks, but I think it’s pretty quiet now. It’s very funny seeing nothing but sand all round; we had a beastly sandstorm this afternoon and it gets in everything. We are a very cheery little mess, though only six officers now, as Powell and Poulteney mess with the Col., and Gassell, who is vet to the Brigade, messes with headquarters. I am in a tent with Badcock and we are getting quite snug.

17 March 1916

Very hot. I went up into the town in the morning to change some money for pay. Payed the men out at eleven o’clock.
I had orders from head-quarters at Alexandria about midday that we were to entrain for Port Said at 11:30 pm and join our units. We packed up during the afternoon, then had a special train to Sidi Gaba station. There were about 300 men and 60 officers to go by the train, so we were packed like herrings. The train left at 12:45 and we are going to do our best for 40 winks.

16 March 1916

Not nearly so hot today and there was quite a cold wind. I took the men for a route march this morning and later down near the shore for a bit. The place was simply alive with duck – they were there in thousands, also red shank and dunlins, and I saw one wildgoose but I expect there were plenty more about close by. My mouth watered for a gun.
About a thousand men marched into camp this morning, I don’t know what they were, but they were all oldish men and armed with the old pattern rifle. The majors were all old dug outs, too, so it looks as if they are for garrison work somewhere.
I had tea up in the town, and there was a concert in the camp this evening.

15 March 1916

All off duty today because of the inoculation yesterday, but I don’t feel mine a bit.
We went up into the town this morning and sat about in the Nouzha gardens. In the afternoon we went down to Mese and had some good liver shakers on some donkeys there; they were very good little beggars and carried us well. I saw some natives fishing and they landed a couple of good fish while we were there; they looked like grey mullet. We walked back by the docks and there was a large transport full of Australians going away, and another one of our infantry unloading. There was a big shipload of natives, who had been on government work at Salonika and other places, disembarking and you never saw a more filthy looking view in all your life. The noise they were making was absolutely deafening, and they were being packed into open trucks and were going to be sent off to Cairo. We also saw a cruiser and a destroyer coming into harbour and a six-funnelled French cruiser landing – she was a funny looking boat. We dined up in the town tonight.

14 March 1916

Took the men for a route march this morning, it was very hot. We brought them back by a banana grove, and it was interesting seeing great clusters of bananas growing. I saw a hoopoe there, the first one I’ve ever seen alive; he came and pitched fairly close to me and put his crest up – he was in glorious plumage. We saw hundreds of lizards of all sizes basking in the sun.
We had all our men and ourselves inoculated against Cholera this morning, there should be a second dose in about 10 days or so but I doubt if we shall be here. I’ve now been inoculated against Typhoid and Cholera and also vaccinated so ought to be everything but bulletproof.
I went up the town with Bradley this afternoon and changed a cheque at the Anglo Egyptian Bank. Met a most entertaining old rascal of a native who talked English quite well; he took us to an old native friend of his who tattooed a snake on my arm. It will be a lasting reminder of Egypt and the war, but I am a marked man if I’m ever “wanted” – but I hope that won’t be. The old boy gave us his card and showed us various testimonials given him by officers who had engaged him as guide to the Pyramids, etc. If ever we get any leave I think we must engage the old knave to show us round.
We had tea at the Mohammed Ali Club. Went back to camp and walked down by the marshes to the shore. I’ve never heard such a row as the frogs were making; the place was alive with them, having a grand concert. We didn’t stay down there long as the mosquitoes were thick.
Bradley’s servant brought us in a piece of bread (chapatti) made by the Sikhs in camp, it was disgusting eating – just like eating the sole of your boot. We could hear the bombardment of Sollum going on tonight – it is a Senussi stronghold. I believe the fleet are bombarding it, and by the sound of the strafing I shouldn’t think there would be much of it left. A most glorious sunset tonight.
I was talking to one of the subalterns of the Herts Yeomanry tonight, they are just back from the Western Frontier, and he showed me some of the bullets the Senussi were using against them. They were bullets for an elephant rifle, and they made them flat-nosed by cutting the ends off. He also had a silver ring which he had taken off a dead Senussi – he found some jackals devouring the fellow’s arm, and went up and found this ring on it.

13 March 1916

It seems as though the hot weather has started in earnest as today was grilling. We took the men for a route march to Mese this morning and halted there for a bit before coming back; it was very interesting watching native fishermen casting their nets. I gave the men some semaphore from 11:30 to 12:30 and again from 2 to 3.
I had a good pile of letters to censor this morning as a mail goes out tomorrow. It seems as though we are going to have our work cut out as nearly every man is in love and he tells his lady that he intends to write to her every other day.
I took a few photos this afternoon. We found an old native with four or five camels, one of them a white one. He posed for a photograph and then came and asked for a “baksheesh”, the old scoundrel. We had to give him something. Any excuse is good enough for a “baksheesh”.
I can now manage to spout out a few of the commonest Arabic words and seem to be understood fairly well. Took my photos up to the town to be developed this evening, one hardly ever goes up a street without seeing a fight going on, and all within sight always seem to find a excuse for joining in, but they never seem to do any real damage to each other.
We’ve been worrying tin hats again about being sent on to our batteries, and hope to hear something in a day or two. They say our division (52nd) – also the 53rd and 54th – are under orders for France, but it may not be for a month or two yet. I think there is very little chance of a scrap out here now, except against the Senussi on the Western Front, and the African troops are busy finishing them off.
Houghton brought me an anklet which he had got off a native woman’s ankle this evening; an interesting thing to have, they all seem to wear them.

12 March 1916

I think the prophecy about seven days bad weather is wrong as today was boiling hot. We walked down by the docks this morning and saw a big transport, the “Transylvania”, coming in simply packed with troops.
Went up the town this afternoon, it seems very hard to imagine it’s Sunday seeing all the shops open and everything going on as usual. Went into the Casino for a bit this evening, there was a sort of variety show going on there, not wildly exciting, all in French. We dined at the Rosette Dancing Cafe, a very low haunt, but it seemed well patronised.
Took a gharri back to camp. Another gharri drove out of a side street right into us but did us no harm – thought it caused much excitement and swearing between the two drivers.