17 April 1916

Gun drill from six till 7:30 this morning, then stables etc. Bathed about midday, the water was lovely. It’s been very hot today, 90 degrees in the shade, but they say we shall get up to 110 degrees in the shade later.

Badcock came back from Cairo this afternoon.

Gun drill from five till six this evening. We bathed again at 7:15 this evening, there was a very bright moon and the water was as warm as toast.

We hear one of our advance posts of Australian Light Horse at Sinai, east of Ishmailia, has scuppered about sixty Turks and taken a lot of stores.

The Egyptian Mail says that the sandstorm we had on Thursday was the worst there has been for sixty years!

16 April 1916

Bathed before breakfast; no luck with crab trap. Stables at 9:30. Bathed again at midday, and again at 4:30. It’s been very hot today, and the flies are a plague. We brought a chameleon into the mess at lunch and had him on the table. He caught any amount of flies, shot out a very long tongue and very rarely missed, often getting two flies at a shot; but he was a great sportsman, and never tried for the flies near him, always preferring the long shots. The longest shot we saw him make was when the fly was – without exaggeration – a foot from his nose. It was very funny to watch his eyes, they were both rarely looking in the same direction; as a rule, one looking to his front and the other cocked back looking astern.

A perfectly gorgeous sunset tonight. Elliott left this evening for three days leave at Cairo. During mess tonight the major suddenly spotted a scorpion running across the floor of the tent, and as I was sitting with my back to it and nothing on my legs but a pair of canvas shoes I got out of the way pretty quickly, till he was safely squashed. They are horrible looking things, like a small black lobster, only the tail is more dangerous than their claws.

I slept without a mosquitoes net last night and got horribly bitten, so shall put it up tonight, although I generally tear it down in my sleep before the night’s out.

I hear tonight that an Austrian engineer officer has been captured near Katia and that a Bosche aeroplane has been flying over there. I wonder if they are meditating an attack?

15 April 1916

The usual Saturday morning inspection. Bathed at midday. After lunch I went for a ride with Franklyn; we went for about five miles along the Sweet Water Canal. We saw any amount of chameleons, both small and large, and varying in colour according to the background they were on. We brought one big deadwood coloured one back in a holster and put him on a green palm branch in Franklyn’s tent, and tonight he has turned quite a bright green. Some of the bushes growing in the water were thick with locusts. We saw any amount of kites; Franklyn shot at several with his revolver but with no success. We saw several flocks of very pretty birds indeed, I don’t know what they were, they flew very like a woodpecker and much the same size and shape. As far as we could see they had dark yellow backs, some blue under the wings, and lovely green breasts.

On the way back we suddenly saw a very weird animal about fifty yards ahead of us, about the size and build of an otter, but a shaggy coat and it moved very like a stoat. We galloped after it and it disappeared into some thick rushes. We got off and beat about but could find no sign of it, when we suddenly saw it about two hundred yards away. We again gave chase but it got into some very thick undergrowth. If we’d only had a terrier or two, I believe we should have got up to him. Powell tells us he saw some of them in the Cairo zoo but can’t remember their name.

After tea I went out and helped Elliott try and catch some fish in the canal, but we had no luck. The major has eaten the crab that was caught yesterday and so far there has been no ill effects. In fact he said it was so good, that Elliott has rigged up a very ingenious crab trap made with an old sack, some wire, and old horse shoes for weights (and luck!), and baited with old meat.

He swam out and sank it in the canal with a line running in to the shore. We’ve just been out to see what luck we’ve had, and found the line caught round a rock or something, and we couldn’t pull it in. So Elliott swam out to free it (pretty cold at 9:30 at night out here). We got it, but no luck. We’ve set it again and hope for something in the morning.

14 April 1916

It’s still blowing pretty hard this morning, but no sand on the move, thank goodness. I was orderly dog today, and took the exercise at 6 am. Nothing else of importance doing all day. Badcock went for three days leave last night and Kenning returned midday today. We had a small thunderstorm in the middle of the day, but nothing to speak of.

Kitty is going on alright, but I shan’t ride her till Monday. I hope after this she will put on some flesh, but it takes the horses some time to get used to the change of food here. For instance, we get no hay, barley instead of oats, and “tibin” and “berseen” which I don’t suppose any of them have had before. Their coats are beginning to come through well now, though many of them are still very odd sandy colours.

Elliott went out at 4:30 this morning and caught us a very nice grey mullet in the canal, just over a pound and a half. He went out again this evening and got a bass, about three quarters of a pound, and a fairly large crab. We ate the fish for mess tonight and they were very good.

The crab has been cooked, but we’re still a bit suspicious of him.

13 April 1916

The wind died down again last night and we had one or two rain storms. Out early this morning with the guns. I have put Kitty on the sick list for a few days to be physicked so shall have to ride anything I can get hold of for the next day or two.

I bathed about eleven, it was quite rough for the canal today, as the wind was rising again. Just as we were getting out of the water the first signs of an approaching sandstorm began, and it was a very painful business as the sand, driven by the wind, stung like anything. We got back to our tents just about in time, as by twelve o’clcok the sand began to fly properly. Driven by a strong wind, it got in everywhere, even through the canvas of the tents. Several tents succumbed and many others were only just  tightened up in time. Food, clothes, blankets, and everything are nothing now but sand heaps. The storm went on all this afternoon and it wasn’t long before nearly all of the cook houses of the brigade, which are just native rush netting fastened to poles, were flattened out. One tree was blown down near the horse lines but luckily did no damage.

One thing is the horses were sheltered from the storm a bit by the row of trees along the side of the Sweet Water Canal; it’s the only cover there is.

The major, to cheer us up, has been telling us that these storms very often last three weeks! And if that’s the case, as our eyes, ears, and mouths are already full of sand, in three week’s time some of us, like the horses, will be down with sand colic!

The storm eventually stopped just before seven o’clock this evening, and about time too. I only hope we shan’t have a repetition, as I am not particularly keen to see another.

12 April 1916

Gun drill from 6:15 to 7:30 this morning. Stables after breakfast, then a bathe.

We went round to see if the foxes had been to that earth again, but they hadn’t, so I expect they must have moved the cubs out the night before last.

Garside lectured to us and the 1/2nd Lowland Brigade this afternoon on horse management. The flies have been an awful nuisance today, Gen. Horne told Powell yesterday that in about a month’s time the heat, flies, and mosquitoes make it practically impossible for a white man to live here, so I hope we’re in France by then.

Tremendous excitement: a mail came in tonight, and most of us had a double batch of letters which we ought to have got last time, but which we thought had gone. Down in the Sussex came along too; I suppose they salved them.

I believe we are in for a pretty bad sand storm tonight as the wind is steadily rising.

11 April 1916

Orderly dog today. Elliott and I went over with the teams and fetched the guns over the side of the canal near the camp. Bathed about eleven o’clock. We went and had a look at the fox earth which we dug at last night. This morning we could see where the old dog fox had come round outside and opened up one of the holes and there were a lot of pad marks but it was impossible to tell whether the vixen had brought the cubs out or not, so we smoothed the sand down again tonight and shall see if there are any fresh marks in the morning.

Powell and Franklyn went into Port Said today and Powell met Gen. Horne there, who is sailing for France tonight. He told him that two divisions are leaving the canal for France. The next one to go will be the 11th which is waiting till they see how things are going in Mesopotamia ; and the Australians are coming out to hold this frontier which our division is responsible for at present, so then we shall go to France.

Three transports of Russians went down the canal yesterday from Vladivostok, and are on their way to Salonika.

Quite a heavy storm of rain just as we finished bathing this morning, it lasted about a quarter of an hour. The divisional band played this evening and we were told to dance when they played “Destiny”.

10 April 1916

Away early this morning to the guns. General Parker came and watched us practicing in cooperation with the aircraft. We had to wait over an hour before we could get back across the pontoon, as a large caravan of camels of all sizes and colours had to come across before us and they took it very leisurely, in single file.

C.B. is over now, till another canteen gets gutted, so leave can start again. Kenning went to Cairo tonight for three days.

Bathed about half past three. After tea, Powell, Badcock and I and about ten beefy men from the column went to try and dig out a fox earth which Powell had found in a sandhill close to the camp. There wasn’t much doubt about there being cubs there, you could see the scrabbles in the sand all round where they’d been playing. We made three big cuttings and got down about seven feet and then it got too dark to go on. We’ve smoothed the sand down quite flat all round so shall see if anything comes out during the night. An Egyptian fox would make a very good battery mascot.

Mosquitoes rather active again, the major got badly bitten last night, so I shall have a net over me tonight. The frogs are making an awful din tonight, the Sweet Water Canal is full of them.

9 April 1916

Elliott, Badcock, and I went and had a bathe before breakfast. Voluntary Service at 9:30. We bathed again about midday.

8 April 1916

Elliott, Franklyn, and I were away at six this morning to the Forward Observing Station. The 1/3rd Lowland Brigade were firing today at about 3000 yds, our observing trench was about 200 yards from the targets. We were up there till nearly one o’clock. Got back to camp and bathed about 3:30 pm. On the way back from bathing we saw a great grey shrike sitting on a bush; we looked and found the nest with one nearly fledged bird.

Quite a chapter of accidents today. To start with a biggish steamer somehow or other got broadside or across the canal and went aground, stopping all the traffic for a good time. Then an aeroplance came to grief, but I don’t think anyone was killed. And lastly an old steam roller that had been making a road along the side of the bank, fell on its side in the water.

[Later]

Since mess tonight we’ve been arguing and haggling over gunnery, distributions, contestations, angles of sight, etc. till all our heads are in a whirl.