Railhead – 9 May 1916

Posted: May 23, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

Another change you see, we never seem to stay longer than a month or so in any place. We moved out here yesterday. Only the right half of the brigade came out. The battalion marched out – it is only six miles. I was detailed for baggage again. Had to see all the lines were cleared and load all the gear on the train. I was only allowed two small trunks too. However, we arranged to get all the important stuff aboard. I has a pretty warm ride out on the radiator of the motor engine. Before I had half loaded up, the train was rushed by a crowd of “never sweats” who planted themselves all over it for a ride up here. I had to “emshi” the whole lot, which caused a deal of growling.

Saturday night being our last night in our camp practically, we took the opportunity of having an initiation ceremony. There were about eleven of us to go through. I was one of the mugs. After mess we had to retire to our tents and in turn were waited on by stretcher bearers who carried us into the most august presence of the Master of ceremonies, of course we were blindfolded first. Here we were laid on our backs on the floor, and asked in the usual sepulchral tones our names and business. If a victim happened to answer incorrectly he was bumped a certain number of times, according to the heinousness of his crime. I managed to catch four bumps. After we had to drink a glass of sour milk. The next proceeding was to twirl the unfortunate round several times and then make him walk down a line of beer bottles, asparagus tins, lobster tins, lemonade bottles etc.

The mess secretary stood handy and wrote out a chit for every bottle or tin that was knocked over, of course all this was to the accompaniment of groans, weird noises, and squeals on the violin. Afterwards he was placed on the operating table, paper burnt under his nose, and made to chew a piece of soap. Then the “Lords of Inquisition” gathered round and picked up the table and rocked it violently; at the same time chanting
“And when I die don’t bury me at all just pickle my bones in alcohol. A bottle of booze at my head and feet, And then I know my bones will keep.”
Afterwards what was left of the victim was “slid to hell”.
This was done by pulling him off the table by his feet to the accompaniment of screeches, squeals, yells, groans, and howls. Here we had to sign the roll of membership (which was the chit for damages done to the mystic avenue) then unbandaged and introduced to the Mess President. Then followed a convivial evening.

There is quite a college rivalry here. There are seven Saints and four Princes. The Princes are Doc Jeffries, Bill Hoggarth, Murray Fowler and yours truly.

We all find it much better out here. We are fitted up with a very decent camp. The sand is much coarser, which, of course, does away with dust. It is much fresher too. The only thing we miss is the canal, but we get much more fresh water to counteract that.

We are out here to stop an attack the Turks are thinking of making on the 12th. There are 7000 of them about 20 miles out. We are supports to the front line. I believe it is the first time we have been ready for anything. We have casualty clearing hospitals, and a cemetery ready as well, quite up to date in fact. I was only thinking today what a responsibility we have. I have to lead 56 men into action, and it doesn’t matter how frightened I may be, I must not show any fear, and any mistake I may make may send them all to their doom. However, we will wait till the time comes.

I believe there are very heavy casualties in France in the 1st Division. The 3rd Battalion were told to take two lines of trenches – they took five, and got cut up by our artillery. It was very foolish of them. The Australians are always doing that – bad discipline.


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