It's just music in a sinners ears

The Royal Dugout

We have now been here four weeks and things are as quiet as ever with the exception of a few lively half hours now and again when the shrapnel and 75mm give us a bit of attention. But the casualties for B Coy are very few and far between lately as we haven't had much work in our official capacity although we were roused out of our nice warm beds at 12.45 am this morning to see to a chap shot through the head. He had a narrow escape, the bullet just nicked a piece of scalp out leaving a hole that bleed profusely, smothering him in blood and looking far worse than it really was. The Doctor soon fixed him up and the patient remarked “Well, that bullet didn't have my name on it” which is a saying amongst the fellows here that believe almost to a man that if they are to be shot that no amount of carefulness will avail, and if they are not to be shot, that no matter where they are they will come out alright and so they say that they don't worry in the slightest but for all their talk I notice that the underground sap is pretty full when the shells whizz around (I'm there amongst the first) and they don't poke their rifles through the loophole too often during the day either.

This morning just after breakfast, we got a 75mms at us. I was brushing some of my togs at the time and I decided that I was quite safe in my home and just when I had my cardigan nice and spruce, whizz bang and I nearly got smothered in fumes and dirt so I decided for about the twentieth time that the sap would be the better place so I acted accordingly came back later and had to start on my cardigan afresh. After every shelling I come back and see my Queen Ann still intact and I decide that there is no need to move when they make a target of our trench, but somehow I generally forsake it. I don't think I'm frightened. I think it must be my vivid imagination which reckons of the next shell lobbing on my roof changing my Queen Ann into a Mary Ann. We'll say its imagination anyhow.

I does not take long for our guns to answer back and its just music in a sinners ears to hear our Howitzers send their heavy shells over our heads and into the trenches of our friends, the enemy. They are something like shells you ought to hear them explode. Thank goodness I was not born in Turkey.

Harry Ivory and I were yarning in my dugout last Tuesday and he was remarking on the weird noises we hear when all of a sudden he said “Cripes! What's that? I've never heard that one before” I had not either, then there was a bang, a pretty large one too and we couldn't tell what it was nor whence it came ( as the poet says) then we heard a machine gun cracking away, the sounds seeming to be overhead, we looked up and sure enough a Taube was sailing over our heads. You can guess, we bobbed back. Machine guns and bombs are not healthy, but its very seldom now that the Turks fly over whilst our machines are continually up. Last night one hovered over the Turks and dropped a smoke bomb attached to a parachute which sank very slowly giving forth a thick smoke. I expect it was for the benefit of the warship to enable them to get the range, so I guess that there will be something doing in the near future.

Poor old Abdul, I read in a newspaper that the Turks were quite happy to be allied with the Germans, the paper is now some months old (will read anything here) and so perhaps by now they have had time to change their views I should not wonder.

I like to read some of the wild stories concerned with this place. No doubt many of them are true, in fact I shouldn't wonder if quite a lot of them happened, also to read about Millionaires, Doctors, Lawyers, Guttersnipes, Bookbinders all carrying water together and all that sort of thing. So romantic it reads but I'm hanged if I find much romance about it.

A few days ago we had some real icy weather and now its turned out hot again, revving the flies in their millions the fleas in their billions and the little Scotch Greys in....what comes after billions? What price romance? The flies fight you for every mouthful. You have to watch your opportunity then slip your spoon in quick and close your jaws with a click, if you're not smart enough the beggars follow the contents of the spoon not much romance about it, I can tell you.

Here's some more – last night as per usual I retired to my couch at eight o'clock and after scratching and wiggling all over the place and saying things really meant and thinking a lot more than I dared not say I fell asleep somewhere about eleven. Got pulled out a couple of hours later to take a chap to the dressing station, came back, and had to undergo the same operation before sleeping the sleep of the just, got hauled out again, half an hour before day break for “Stand To” which lasts an hour felt pretty tired too after it was over, went back again for an hour's snooze but before I had a possible hope of dropping off breakfast arrived on the scene, so there you are. Romance is dear at any price. We have a hunt every morning and can generally snare one or two but I think both species are like the stars and false teeth, only come out at night. Before leaving Egypt we were giving two little bags of sulphur to hang around our necks, one for the back and one for the front, to keep away vermin, but my refugees actually thrive on sulphur, its an honest fact so this afternoon I thought I'd like to have my dugout all to myself so as I could write home in peace so I took off one of my bags and after blocking up th front door (I call it the front door cos I've only got one) I set fire to it but it will not burn so I got a couple of cartridges and after extracting the cordite form them both I put it in the bag along with the sulphur, put a match to it, and my sulphur burnt to some order. You can judge the success of my scheme by the lengthiness of the epistle.

I'm getting an expert cook (honest). If you dont think I am I will tell you what I cooked for myself this morning for breakfast. I got issues with a bilious looking ration of boiled bacon but it was a pretty healthy pig it came from for there was only a thin red line amongst a mass of fat. The very thought of it was enough so I carefully ampuated the meat from the rest, then I took one onion, one biscuit, one soup tablet (from my emergency ration) one pint of cold water. I grated my onion into my dixie lid and then grated the buiscuit likewise then inserted the soup tablet and my little bit of pork (chopped fine) then I added the water, mixed the lot up, made a fire, and in a few minutes my savoury dish was ready. I added a little salt and pepper and there was my breakfast. That will show you how a man can make a miserable life happy, just by using his brains. Its the fist time I've ever made that dish and I expect it will be the last, but still, although I didn't think it was good enough to say grace over. I eat it because I can't see any fun at getting nothing else at all. Of course I could have had bully biscuit but that meal is getting sadly commonplace now. For dinner we had rice and as I didn't feel that I had had a genteel sufficiency I finished up with half a tin of beef. I don't know yet what we are having for tea but I have a pretty shrewd idea as for twenty five days out of twenty eight we have been here we had buiscit and jam, the odd three days, we had bread and jam, so its 25 to 3 on biscuits but we are not doing too badly, we were issued a few days ago with a handful of flour each.. We had gridled scones once then pancakes once, then we pinched some more flour and had pancakes again then we made rissoles from bully and onions and still have some flour left which proves conclusively that we pinched more flour than we were issued with but as all fair in Love and War, and so we are at Gabba Teppe our consciences have not troubled us much although our stomachs do at times, too much rich food I suppose.

We are pretty much sick of the trench method of warfare, its awfully dull and uninteresting and I'm sure I don't know what it will be like when the rain sets in and the snow comes, we will have some fun.

The only bright spot is mail day once a fortnight its nearly time for the next for which I am truly thankful. I have not been able to answer several that came by the last two mails. I will try if I can next week, but I'll make no rush promises. I wrote to Aunty Effie during the week, also sent a line to Vic Smith. I have not had time to answer the nippers yet, but I'll wait till after next mail and perhaps there will be some more from them. I hope there are and then I'll be able to kill two birds with one stone. I like to hear from them, Lester writes a splendid letter, Olive also. I couldn't help laughing when she mentioned what a nice time they had at the social. She supposed it was nice because it made you sick on Sunday. I read it to Harry and I guess the Turks wondered what on earth the joke was, it struck him as being very funny. Mabel told me all about her work or at least a good deal about it but did not mention where she was or what she was doing. I expect they are preparing for the Anniversary and by the time this weird effort reaches you it will just about be on. I wish I was squeaking away in the Orchestra again, it seems years since we left and it looks like years before we are going to get back home. I've got a photo of Port Melbourne Pier hanging up in my dugout, Mrs Grundy sent it and it looks alright but feels a long way off. I have not been able to see Ralph for sometime but I would have heard of anything that happened to him. Neither have I seen Dorey since we left Helipololis. They are at some distance at our right, at Lone Pine, a fairly lively place too. At some places they tell us, that the trenches are only five yards apart the further most of them being twenty. Its a great place for bombs Sunday morning.

After writing the foregoing, he came on the scene and then all of a shock a chap came up with a hand full of mail, most of it belonged to ME, one chap got none, he remarked “No wonder, when Charlie gets a bag full” but I've only got about seven so far though I think there will be some more in a day or two, it generally comes in dribs and drabs. I still have more to collect yet. I got the newspapers alright thanks, but so far no Punch or Endeavourer. I was very glad to get your letter August 24 and also to hear from the nips. I will answer them very shortly I hope.

I'm afraid I can't get the address for Mrs. Patterson, there is no lad R. L. Patterson in our company (B) and there was another who was on our boat attached to 6th AMC by that name but I don't know his initials. He used to recite a good deal. Miss Woodfield also asked about a chap in one of the hospitals in Eygpt but of course she will understand how imposs it is now. Please let her know.

I say Mum, don't you think its about time I rung off. I guessed the censor will not get this far and you will be a Briton if you are able to finish it, you will have great powers of endurance if you can read it without a few spells by the wayside I was very sorry to read about poor old Vic Arnaud to see all the grave yards there would break your heart.

This is Sunday morning, the Howitzers have just been stirring the red caps up with their nerve wracking explosions, aeroplane is bzzing somewhere over head, the bombs and rifles are fairly quiet but it just like any other day. So different from the good old times. I will know how to appreciate our home when I get back. I bet wild horses won't drag me to the next war but still I would not like to go home before the business is settled.

So hoping you are well and that everything is going along alright. Your loving son.

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