Archive for February, 2015

Leaving Egypt

Posted: February 25, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

We were told tonight that we are leaving here on Sunday night (prolonged cheer) so our mail service will probably be upset a little.

We are playing the great lacrosse match England v Australia at Heliopolis, tomorrow. I think I will get a game. I can’t see myself playing in an International in Australia though.

All our little party are well. An auction was held over Fordham’s effects yesterday. I bought his rug for 25 paistres.


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Hullo Australia!

Posted: February 24, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

I had a great time at the Barrage yesterday, it is a very pretty place. It is situated just on the Delta of the Nile, and is a series of big dams across the five different streams and canals. There are some really fine bridges there, over half a mile long a couple of them are. They were built by Mahomet Ali, somewhere around 1880. The idea, I found out, is to keep the Nile at an even level all the year round. The bridges or dams are fine pieces of architecture. There are sluice gates all the way across, and on every bridge are several battlement-ed towers that look very fine. On the islands, or land in the Delta are beautiful gardens and lawns laid out. There is a museum of models there too. It shows working models of all the locks and dams, as far as Assuit, 200 miles above Cairo. I took a donkey and rode over the whole place. It took me two hours. The shipping moves from one side of the bridge to the other by means of locks.

After I got back to town I purchased a few necessities, and spent just about all my money. I got a few trinkets in the Turkish bazaar, which I am sending to you. I couldn’t get any article of value on account of the shortage of the currency.

I had dinner at the Y.M.C.A., and had a very good meal. It was cheap too, only 8 paistres. If you want a good meal you have to pay anything up to four shillings. I finished the day by arriving home too late to read this week’s mail. I got two letters from Father, one from Mother and a nice long one from Mollie written from Hazelton, two from friends, and two papers. It was hard having to go to bed without being able to read them I can tell you.

Today we have been having an easy time. We had to hand in the blankets issued to us on the boat. I suppose they consider that we do not need them now, as it is getting very hot. We had to air the remainder of our blankets, and strike our tents, then several medical examinations. I have been passed as exempt from vaccination now.

Have I told you about the boot cleaning shops? You walk into a saloon like a hair-dressers and sit down, and let the menials get busy on your boots. I had mine cleaned yesterday, and you wouldn’t recognise our dirty old barges. The man put seven coats of polish etc. They get a marvellous polish on leather, I could see to curl my moustache in them yesterday. I tell you I was growing another?  A much better specimen than the last. A stranger described me as a tall cove with a fair moustache, the other night, although my friends won’t recognise it as one. Refer to it very sarcastically in fact.

The Egyptian winter is like our Autumn, the rainfall is only one inch per annum. It is rumoured that we are leaving shortly. The 9th and 10th have been told that they are leaving on Saturday, as an advance guard, but it is hard to tell. We have no idea where we are going. If we do move it will be very welcome. I received the sox alright thank you, and could do with some more too if there are any knocking about.

The beetles are the famous “scarab beetles” sacred to the Egyptians. There are dozens of them in the sand – big black ones. Tell Miss Drew that her scarf has been of infinite value to me, wouldn’t have been without it for worlds. You don’t want to take too much notice of newspaper reports, re. Behaviour. I have seen several of them and think they are gross exaggerations. There has certainly been a lot of trouble, but when you consider that there are, I should say roughly, from 50 to 100,000 troops in Cairo, and they are not all Australians, the percentage of rotters is very low.

I think we are all splendidly trained, both in drill and physically. I had my hair cut yesterday, the best cut since I left Adelaide, had it done at a place run by a man named Richichi pronounced “Ri-sish-y”. I noticed in the glass the difference in colour of the skin on my forehead, and on my cheek. We are a lean-faced, tanned, wiry looking lot. We don’t notice it much, but we must be nearly black. I noticed that my arms are absolutely brown, and my hands are black. The natives think we are all very wealthy. They say “Hullo Australia”! Australia very nice, very good, give it baksheesh, give it half paistre – Australia plenty of money”. I haven’t received the book of Longfellow yet, but it will come in a day or so, no doubt. You would enjoy a donkey ride, sometimes you have stirrups, sometimes not. The donkeys are so small that you nearly knock them over. You can’t steer them, they go full tilt down a crowded street, around a cart, over a nigger, nearly under a train. It is a ride of shocks.


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Posted: February 23, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

Yesterday we had to repeat the rearguard action that we did on Friday, on account of some bungle or other. I think every part of me was dripping wet, bar my throat, and hat was as dry as a lime kiln. As I missed my leave last week, I was given a pass from 9a.m. to 10.30p.m. I spent the morning going through the Turkish and Silversmith’s Bazaars. They are simply a narrow street, with shops on each side. I rode a donkey through and my feet were knocking each side. You can see any article being made, and purchase it after if you wish. There are practically no factories here, all the goods are made in this way. I saw carpets being made, all sorts of silver, gold and brass work as well. I bought a buckle made of oxidised silver for 10 piastres. The trader wanted 32 for it. I stuck for ten and got it. He looked imploringly at me, and heaved a sigh and said “Ah monsieur I will take it, and hope it brings my Ten pounds”. I am going to the Barrage of the Nile this afternoon. In fact I am on my way now. I am writing this in the train. This Barrage is about 16 miles above Cairo, it supplies the water for the city. On either side are six native villages, the country is all cultivated.


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Orderly corporal

Posted: February 22, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

The Brigade had leave from 9a.m. to 10.30p.m. as I am orderly corporal I have to stay in, not that I mind much, as I haven’t any money and am rather tired of town. I spent the day in printing photos, washing clothes, washing myself, and darning sox. I am some tush on socks now. I have darned nearly every sock I have. We are all short of socks now, have had only one pair issued since we left.

Among the Turkish dead was found the body of a German Officer, who led the attack on the Suez. He had a decent burial, and his grave is marked by a cross, with an inscription.


Notes: This letter is dated 20th February 1915.

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Posted: February 21, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

We started Brigade work on Monday. It means that instead of only a battalion, we are drilling with 4,000 men. We did attacking scheme over about four miles of country. I suppose you have heard all the details of the attack on the Canal, we don’t know very much, but boiled down it is this. The Canal was defended by about 6,000 British, mostly Gurkhas. There were about 3,000 casualties with the Turks, and about 200 with the British. The Turks brought water in drums, the drums were to be used for making rafts, also big iron boats, there were eight boats and they were filled with water and dragged on sledges over the sand by the soldiers.

The Turks are buried in big pits with anything from 20 to 30 in each grave. In some cases they are buried so shallowly that their boots can be seen sticking out of the sand. We got this news from the Brigade Major.

On Tuesday we had a light parade. Went out and carried out attack quite close to the camp, and then came in to dinner. We had the afternoon off on account of having to go on parade again at 7p.m. We went out and conducted another attack in the dark. We had to march miles over the hills carrying out all sorts of movements. It was 3.30a.m. before we got back. We were not allowed to carry great coats or blankets. We didn’t get a chance to have any sleep. To balance this we had all the next day off, so it pays to do a little night work at times. Most of our training now takes the form of attack.

We were paid in the morning and then those who had not been successfully vaccinated were done again for luck. We were afterwards given leave from 2p.m. to 10.30p.m. As I happened to be orderly corporal I was not allowed to leave the camp. I will also lose a full day’s leave on Saturday, but will redeem it next week I hope.

We are being fed very well now, although our only meat food is stew. We get a pound of meat and a pound of bread per day from the Government, and we are allowed 6d. per day mess allowance with this our Quarter-master buys anything necessary for the Company, such as jam, porridge, and vegetables. Our menu is stew with porridge about twice a week for breakfast, sometimes a couple of hard boiled eggs for a change, also tea without milk. Dinner – bread, jam, and a tin of fish among three men. Tea – another dose of stew, bread, jam and tea. We can generally toast our bread if we like. Our mess puts in 5 paistres per week, which keeps us in butter at the rate of a pound per day of best Australian at the price of 9 paistres per pound. You will think we are getting on pretty well, and so we are I think, but we don’t dare let the Authorities know it.

There was a lacrosse match played between a couple of Territorial teams the other day. We saw the notice of it in the paper, and wrote them re. a match and a loan of sticks. One of our fellows saw their Secretary, and found that they had about sixty lacrosseurs with them, and could put practically a full International team in the field. They are loaning us their sticks to find out the best twelve men in the division, with a view to an All Australian v All England game. Last night we had a meeting of lacrosseurs of the 10th Battalion, and formed “The 10th Battalion lacrosse Club”. We had a very successful little meeting, there being fifteen present. We elected officers, and chose a team to play the 9th battalion. We decided on All Blue for our colours, blue sweater, and dungaree trowsers. We played that match this afternoon. We were short of sticks to begin with, so played a scratch match with Queensland. We absolutely walloped them. At half time more sticks arrived and we played a match – two quarters of 15 minutes each. We lined ‘em up to the tune of 11 goals to nothing. It was like playing with the old North Adelaide’s again, there were so many of the old players. We played within 300 yards of Cheop’s Pyramid. Today we completed our recruit-ship. It is six months today since we joined the Military.  It seems longer some times doesn’t it?


Notes: This letter appears to be from the 18th of February 1915.

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Exploring the citadel

Posted: February 21, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

I got quite a budget from you all, it was very nice. I have been fortunate with my feet so far. Sox are the chief trouble. I have darned a lot but don’t know how I am going to wear some of them – the holes are so big. You are asking how I am off for money, I have nearly forgotten what it looks like, it is the most slippery stuff ever made. Last week I went for three days with a milleime in my pocket (1/4d).

My moustache has been a thing of the past for a long time. I am giving it another run now.  If it gets anything like one I will have my photo taken with it.

The last week I have been diving into the mysteries of the past. We reckon time in Egypt in hundreds of years, not just common garden variety years. On Sunday afternoon I wandered all over the Pyramids again, there were three of us, Lce.Cpl. Davidson, Crowie and myself. Davidson is a fine fellow, he is a quiet chap, but very well informed on every subject, something like a walking dictionary – a handy man to have with you. We examined all the ancient tombs and Pyramids that I have told you of, behind the large Pyramids are three smaller ones running at right angles to the others. We had a candle with us, and crawled into the middle of the smaller trio. There wasn’t much to see though, but we kept crawling into every hole we saw, and had some very interesting experiences.

At one place where the excavators had been at work we found some very fine writings and carvings on tombs, and in many places the original colouring was still quite good. We crawled into one place, it was made of granite with a lot of glistening stuff on it, iron pyrites I think it was. There was a coffin there made of some stone. Although the coffin had been opened, some human bones remained.  I would have secured some, but they crumbled to dust as soon as touched.

In the evening several of the 2nd Contingent came over, and we were glad to renew our acquaintance with many we knew. We had several impromptu gatherings of lacrosseurs. On Thursday we struck camp, and aired the ground properly, also our blankets. On Monday we had leave from 10a.m. to 10.30p.m I went to town on 8 paistres (1/8) not because I wouldn’t borrow any, but it absolutely couldn’t be borrowed. I think five pounds would have bought the whole Battalion out. I rode into town on the roof of a car, it was much more comfortable than hanging on by one’s eyebrows below.

Crowie and I explored the Citadel and surroundings in detail. The town is very flat, in fact only on the southern side are there any hills at all. These are the famous Mokattan Hills. There are immense quarries there, the stone for the Pyramids came from them.  The Citadel is built on the slopes of these hills with the quarries behind it; on the right, on top of the hills is Napoleon’s Fort, with which he captured the Citadel, and incidentally Cairo.

Running from the gates of the Citadel, right round the quarries and forts and meeting again at the gates in the “City of the Dead”, it is a huge cemetery.  In 1882 Cholera swept this part of the town, and the people were buried where they dropped. In places holes were dug and a roof put over them and the bodies shoved in. We entered several of them and found skeletons, bones etc., would have brought a skull or two with us if it had been possible to carry them. After we had cir-cum-ambulated the Citadel we crawled up to Napoleon’s Fort by means of a steep narrow pathway. Although the fort was built only a hundred years ago, it is totally different to our conception of a fort today, that you would be inclined to think it older. In front there is a ditch dug, with a draw-bridge and port-cullis, places to pour boiling water on attackers etc.  Inside there are dungeons, passages, and all sorts of dark chambers. The dungeons are only accessible by means of a small manhole and a rope.

After we had seen everything that was worth seeing we proceeded to the Citadel itself, and saw Joseph’s Well (an immense well, very deep) and the famous Mahomet Ali Mosque. The Mosque is made of  Alabaster inside and out, and is very fine. In the court yard there is a well that used to supply the Citadel with water in cases of siege, it is over 350 metres deep and reaches to the level of the Nile. Inside the Mosque are hundreds of wonderful lamps, and the floor is covered with a lovely red carpet. There are a lot of Goorkas stationed there, also a few of the wounded from the Canal. We saw a couple of the former flogged for some mis-demeanour. They had to strip off their clothes and were seized by each arm and held over a box, and then thrashed with thin canes, each blow bringing blood. Afterwards they were carried to one side, and dropped in a huddled, writhing sobbing heap.

These chaps are very devils to fight though. A Sergeant was saying he saw them down at the Canal get to work on the Turks with their Kookris. One whipped an arm off with one stroke, and another claimed his “pound of flesh” out of a Turk’s side. The Canal trouble seems to have subsided. One Battalion came back last night, and another today.

After we had finished our wanderings, we caught the car home, dead tired, and dead broke. I got in with one milleime (1/4d.) on me. When the 1st reinforcements arrived we had just completed a four mile skirmish, it frightened them when they heard what sort of work we are doing.

Last night we had bad news. Horace Fordham, our Fordham’s brother has been ill for about ten days, and died last night. At first they said  it was small-pox, and then, that it was a bad case of influenza; up to last night Fordie hadn’t been able to trace his brother anywhere. He had been whisked off to some obscure hospital, and they wouldn’t tell him (Fordie) anything, so you can imagine what a shock it was. They say he had the worst form of small-pox, and didn’t have a chance from the first. It will be a big shock to his people, tell Mr. Fordham how sorry we all are. There is a lot of sickness here, it is like it was getting at Morphettville. There have been about 200 deaths since we have been here, and there are 1200 in the hospital now. I think we are getting too much work in the sand. I am glad to say that our crowd are all quite well.

Yesterday was a very hot day and we had a skirmish over all sorts of hills, and sand-drifts, it just about settled me, as I had a slight attack of influenza. I am alright now. We had a typical African sunset last night. The sky was a bright gold colour all over, and the Pyramids were bathed in a soft golden light, just as if they were made of gold, it looked fine I can tell you, also this morning we had a good sunrise. I might mention that I was not particularly virtuous in being up to see it rise, as it doesn’t put in an appearance until close to 7 o’clock. All the east was a bright crimson colour with black clouds all over the sky, with the edges tipped with fire. All these photos and cards you see of the Pyramids that appear to be so highly coloured are in reality true to nature, only rather flat compared with the real thing.


Notes: On inspecting the notes, this letter appears to be from 12 February.

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Posted: February 19, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

We had our twelve hours leave today. We all took motors – our party had a nice little torpedo built French car. I was in the front seat, it was fine buzzing along at about 40 miles per hour, though the sunlit avenue on asphalt roads. I spent all my morning inspecting mosques. I did the two just below the Citadel, they are called the “Tombs of the Caliphs”. I could write pages and pages about them, but can only find time for a few notes and facts.

The first one we saw was 1100 years old.  It has the highest doorway in Cairo – 65 ft.  It is like a big domed porch, and beautifully carved, and wrought on the stalagmite system, with alabaster from the casings of the Pyramids. All round the walls are Cufic writings about Moses and the bulrushes etc. The inner temple and domes are all made of alabaster and one is 180 ft. high. All over the ceiling or roof, gold, turquoise, ivory, elephants tusks, and silverwork is inlaid. One door is similarly treated in ivory and gold, and is beautifully done, it cost about 14,000 pounds to make. All the walls are dovetailed ivory, and must have cost an immense figure. Just outside the door is a jet black stone, said to be the stone on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. The other mosque is where the Caliph and his mother are buried, also Saladin the mighty warrior who fought with Richard Lionheart in the Holy Wars.

The tombs are wonderful – ivory, gold and all sorts of jewels everywhere. Solid silver candlesticks 6ft 6 inches high and two feet in diameter in large numbers – some 600 years old. The roof is solid gold with Sandalwood, Alabaster, Ivory, and every precious metal one can think of. There are lovely windows made of Agate, every one a different colour, one tomb cost a million francs (45,000 pounds).

All over the floor are silk carpets. We had to put on sandals over our boots to see these places. Incense braziers of gold, praying stools of silver, and Koran stands of sandalwood everywhere. The Korans are all hand written in gold, with blue fancy work all over them, beautifully done.

This was the only available time to see these mosques as they were being cleaned for the Sultan to worship there today. I didn’t see the Citadel Mosque, it contains Joseph’s well, 320 ft deep. Napoleon was in a destructive mood when he visited Egypt. He fired forty five cannon shots at the first mosque mentioned, but didn’t do much damage, only knocked out a few bricks. In one place the cannon ball is still in the hole. Also knocked several holes through the big iron gates of the Citadel Barracks, which is no mean job.

I saw amongst my many sights the Palace Hotel, Heliopolis, which is now a Military Hospital. It is an enormous place, about 1,000 rooms, it was originally intended for a casino in opposition to Monte Carlo, but didn’t take on. The hall has an inlaid wooded floor, and enormous Egyptian lamps – very costly and beautiful. It cost 3,000,000 to build, Electrical Fillings 1,500,00 pounds, when all the electric lights were switched on it cost 70 pounds per hour.

To finish my day, I went home on the roof of a car, cold, tired and poor. I weighed myself the other day and scaled 12 stone 1 lb., have lost about 5lbs. There is a lot of influenza and pneumonia about here, although there is a lot of malingering. One fellow perfectly fit went down to the Doctor and asked for “light duties” in a very husky whisper, “as he had caught a cold on sick parade”.

On the 19th February we will have finished our six months training – it seems a long time, tomorrow we will have been two months in Egypt. We have a bugler in our tent who has two brothers at the front. He got a letter from one in the Leed’s Hospital suffering from frost bitten feet. He had been in all the fighting from the start, through the battle of Mons, and all those big engagements. He hasn’t heard of the other one at all. I enclose a coin supposed to be Roman, and found in the Pyramids.


This letter appears in the diary as Friday and sequentially for the 19th. However, Lance writes about the 19th of February in future tense as the day they complete their 6 months training. He also refers to having been in Egypt for 2 months, which means this letter was written on approximately the 5th or 6th of February.

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