Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. Text enclosed by equal signs was in bold face in the original (bold).
A RECORD OF WAR SERVICE WITH THE AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE, 1915-1919
EGYPT, GALLIPOLI, LEMNOS ISLAND, SINAI PENINSULA
COLONEL H. B. COLLETT, C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D. First C.O. of the Battalion
With Foreword by the Archbishop of Perth, Chaplain-General to the Forces
Published by the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum, and Art Gallery of Western Australia
[Copyright] by Authority: Fred. Wm. Simpson, Government Printer, Perth.
Blocks Supplied by Read & Mckinley, Art Engravers, Perth.
FOREWORD: By The Most Rev. C. O. L. Riley, O.B.E., D.D., LL.D., V.D., Archbishop of Perth, Chaplain-General to the Forces. IX.
W.A. in the South African War—The outbreak in 1914—Karrakatta and Blackboy Hill—The first units to embark—Scheme for raising new brigades—The 28th Battalion authorised—Enrolment of personnel— Selection and appointment of Officers and N.C.Os.—Specialists wanted—Equipping—Hard training—An accident—Hours off duty—Visit from H.E. the Governor—Medical precautions—The March through Perth —Final preparations for departure for the Front. Page 1.
Embarkation 9th June, 1915—The crowds along the route and at Fremantle—Farewell to Australia—The "Ascanius"—Quarters and messing—Other troops on board—Statistics—Training at Sea— Lectures—Stowaways—Competitions in tidiness—Entering the Tropics—Amusements—The Canteen—The Master—The East African Coast—The Red Sea—Strange rumours—Arrival at Suez—First contact with the Egyptians. Page 15.
FIRST STAY IN EGYPT.
Disembarkation and train journey to Abbasia—The Land of Goshen —Description of the Camp—Early difficulties—Institutes—The newsvendors—Tidings from Gallipoli—Unrest in Egypt—The local command and garrison—Inspection by Sir John Maxwell—Mobilisation of the 7th Brigade—Training in the Desert—Night marches—The Zeitun School—Formation of the 2nd Australian Division—Difficulties in feeding the troops—Clothing for the Tropics—In quarantine—Sickness —Pay and currency—Mails and the Censor—Amusements—Riots—The military Police—Chaplains. Page 28.
FIRST STAY IN EGYPT (continued).
Distractions—A march through Cairo—Leave—In the bazaars—Gharri and donkey rides—Esbekieh Gardens—The Kursaal and the Casino—Shepheard's Hotel—Guides—Sightseeing—The Pyramids and Sphinx—Memphis—Sakkara— The Tombs of the Sacred Bulls—The Cairo Museum—The Citadel and other Saracenic remains—Some beautiful mosques—Old Cairo—The Nile—The Egyptian aristocracy—Garrisoning Saladin's Citadel—A nephew of the Senussi—The trials of a soldier—Souvenir hunting—Visitors from Home —News of the August advance—Warned to proceed overseas—Entraining. Page 45.
Some account of the Gallipoli Peninsula—The naval and military operations—Anzac Day—Arrival at Alexandria—Embarking on the "Ivernia"—Prejudices—Through the Grecian Archipelago—The "Southland"—In Mudros Bay—Closing the mail—In touch with the "Aragon"—Transhipping to the "Sarnia"—The last stage—The first glimpse of battle—Impressions—Landing in the "beetles"—Waterfall Gully—The first casualty—Contact with the 4th Brigade—Move to the Apex—Description of the position—Holding the salient—Condition of the trenches—Artillery support—Telephones—Dugouts—The New Zealanders —Attitude of the enemy—Sniping with field guns—Bombs, mortars, and catapults—Broomstick bombs. Page 58.
First night in the trenches—Cleaning up—Shell fire—Generals Birdwood and Godley—No Man's Land—View from the Apex—Casualties—Pick and shovel—Sleep—Turkish demonstration—Divine service—Visit of Sir Ian Hamilton—Private Owen's escape—Company reliefs—Mining and tunnelling —Salvage—Patrols—Our guns—Propaganda—Espionage. Page 77.
Poison gas—Targets for the guns—A general—A false alarm—"The one shall be taken—"—Relieved by the 25th Battalion—The fly pest— Sickness—Bully beef and biscuits—Rum—Scarcity of water—Cooking— Gathering fuel—Supply and transport—"Dunks." Page 90.
Lower Cheshire Ridge—Description of new position—A break in the weather—Trenches—Tunnels—Timber and iron—Sniping—Ruses—The Mohammedan festival—Arrival of reinforcements—Promotion from the ranks—Formation of bombing section—Change in command of Brigade —Canteen stores—Pay—A miss—Aeroplanes—Relieved by the 4th Brigade—Taylor's Hollow—Beach fatigues—Soldiers as sailors—News —Mails from Australia—Diversions—The naturalist—The beauties of land, sea, and sky. Page 102.
Move to Happy Valley—Visit of Lord Kitchener—Unsettled weather —Humanity—A proposed stunt—The "close season for Turkey"—The blizzard and its dire consequences—Increased enemy gun fire—The arrival of the German heavies—Russell's Top—Three tiers of tunnels —Death of the three majors—News of the evacuation—The main body leaves the Peninsula—The Die-hards—Work of the Machine Gun Section —The last man. Page 120.
Landing in the Bay—A sick battalion—Sarpi camp—The arrival of the beer—Resting, recuperating, and refitting—Z Valley camp—Members selected for distinction—Touring Lemnos—General description of the island—The inhabitants—Kastro—Primitive agriculture—Mt. Therma— Crowded shipping—The arrival of the billies—Christmas Day—A conspiracy—The concert—The New Year—Leaving for Egypt. Page 137.
BACK TO EGYPT.
Alexandria—Arrival at Tel-el-Kebir—The transport rejoins—A deal in tents—Kitchen trouble—A camp for two divisions—The battle of 1882—Short rations—Inspection by Sir Archibald Murray—Leave to Cairo—The postal service—Training for savage warfare—Reinforcements —General Paton—Transfers to the Camel Corps—Rumours of a Turkish advance—Move to the Sinai Peninsula—The desert—Road and pipe line —Camels—Ferry Post—The defences of the Suez Canal—Passing shipping —Lumping and navvying—Secret service agents—Dangers to shipping in the Canal—Ismailia—Gambling—Cerebro-spinal meningitis—A visit from the High Commissioner in Egypt. Page 148.
PREPARING FOR FRANCE.
Three new divisions—Another 60,000 Australians—Transfers to new units—Changes in establishments—Promotions—Talk of the Western Front—Undesirables—Unfits—The khamsin—Assembling at Moascar— Final preparations—Train to Alexandria—The "Themistocles"—The menace of submarines—Through the Mediterranean—Malta—Approaching Marseilles—Entering the harbour—The end of the first phase. Page 162.
Page. A. List of Units raised and recruited by Western Australia 171
B. Roll of Honour 172
C. Casualties whilst with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force 174
D. Roll of Original Officers of the Battalion 175
E. Roll of Officers promoted from the Ranks between the 9th June, 1915, and 21st March, 1916 177
F. Roll of Reinforcement Officers who joined the Battalion between 9th June, 1915, and 21st March, 1916 178
G. Civil Occupations of Original Members of the Battalion who embarked as Officers or were subsequently promoted to Commissioned Rank 178
H. Nominal Roll of Original Members of the Battalion who embarked at Fremantle on H.M.A.T. "A11" ("Ascanius"), 9th June, 1915, and on "Boonah," 12th July, 1915 180
I. Nominal Roll of Members of Reinforcements who joined the Battalion in the Field prior to the 21st March, 1916 201
J. Honours conferred on Original Members of the Battalion 218
LIST OF MAPS AND PLANS.
Cairo and Environs Facing page 52
The Great Pyramid Page 48
Portion of Gallipoli Peninsula, showing Allied Lines " 59
The Trenches at "The Apex" " 69
The Front Line on Cheshire Ridge " 103
Lemnos, Imbros, Tenedos, and Samothrace " 117
The Trenches on Russell's Top " 127
The Country adjacent to Tel-el-Kebir Facing page 148
The Australian Position in Defence of the Suez Canal, 1916 Page 155
The Australian Lines on Gallipoli Facing page 170
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
On the Square within the Walls of Saladin's Citadel frontispiece.
Blackboy Hill Camp Page 3
Some of the Original Officers " 5
The Regimental Signallers " 9
The Machine Gun Section " 9
The March through Perth " 11
The March through Perth: the Crowd in St. George's Terrace " 12
The Farewell at Fremantle " 17
H.M's. Australian Transport "A11" " 21
Two very young Soldiers " 25
Abbasia Camp " 31
The Adjutant and "Tim" " 31
Brigadier-General J. Burston, V.D. " 35
Lieut.-Colonel C. R. Davies, O.B.E. " 35
Major J. Kenny, A.A.M.C. " 39
Captain J. J. S. Scouler " 39
The Wall of the Citadel " 47
View of Cairo from the Citadel Walls " 51
The Moqattam Hills " 51
The Citadel " 55
Chunuk Bair " 63
Williams' Pier, where the 28th landed " 66
The Apex " 71
At the Apex: using the periscope rifle " 74
"The Farm" " 74
In the Front Line at the Apex " 78
Excavating a "Bivvy" in the support trenches " 79
View from Baby 700 " 83
Major J. A. Campbell Wilson " 91
Captain J. Gettingby: The Quartermaster " 92
Sergeant C. R. Field " 96
Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant R. G. Sexty " 97
The Chailak Dere " 106
View of the Aghyl Dere " 107
"A" Company getting ready to move from the Reserve Position at Cheshire Ridge " 111
The Q.M.'s Store of "A" Company at Cheshire Ridge " 112
The Sari Bair Ridge " 121
Headquarters of "C" Company, Happy Valley " 125
The Great Traffic Trench " 125
A Conference on Walker's Ridge, December, 1915 " 129
The view from Russell's Top looking into Malone Gully " 131
Captain G. D. Shaw, M.C. " 135
Captain T. O. Nicholls, M.C. " 135
The Camp at Sarpi, Lemnos Island " 141
The Shipping in Mudros Bay, 1915 " 141
On the Battlefield of Tel-el-Kebir, January, 1916 " 151
Ferry Post, showing the Suez Canal " 158
Ferry Post: the landing place on the East bank " 158
The Camp of the 28th at Ferry Post " 160
The Suez Canal: a liner in the fairway " 160
Private H. A. Franco, M.M. " 164
The Pioneer-Sergeant at work " 165
The 2nd Division crossing the Canal en route to Europe " 169
The "Themistocles" at Alexandria " 169
By The Most Rev. C. O. L. Riley, O.B.E., D.D., LL.D., V.D., Archbishop of Perth, Chaplain-General to the Forces.
I have been asked to write a short Foreword to the History of the 28th Battalion. I do so with very great pleasure, for two reasons—Firstly, because I have known Colonel Collett for many years, and, secondly, because I approve of the History.
The present volume is the first of several that will attempt to record the doings of those bodies of magnificent volunteers who went from Western Australia and of whose achievements the country is so justly proud. The Trustees of the Public Library, Museum, and Art Gallery of Western Australia, as the custodians of the archives of the State, have thought that those archives would be greatly lacking were a history of our part in the World War not included. With that object in view, the Commonwealth and State Governments have been approached and, largely through the assistance of the Premier, the Hon. Sir James Mitchell, K.C.M.G., and of the Minister for Education, the Hon. H. P. Colebatch, M.L.C., a practical commencement is now made with the narrative which concerns the 28th Battalion.
In the following pages we are not treated to long dissertations on military tactics, nor to clear proofs of how the writer could have concluded the war in half the time it really did take, if only the High Command had carried out suggestions made by one who knew all about it. You will find nothing like that in this book. Colonel Collett evidently asked himself: "What do the friends of the men of the Battalion want to know?" They want to know what the men did and what the Battalion did. What was the daily life of the man in the training camp; on the transports; in the war areas, and in the trenches. Of those who fell, they want to know, if possible, how and when they fell and where they were buried. Of those who were wounded, they want to know what they were doing when they "stopped a bullet," and how they were afterwards treated in hospital or in "Blighty." The public want a brief outline of the great doings of the Battalion, and all these things are plainly and proudly told by the writer.
I have often been in camp with Colonel Collett and know how thoroughly he did his work there. I am sure that all the men of the Battalion, their friends, and the public generally, will thank him for the loving care and labour he has devoted to a task which must have been to him a glorious record, and yet, at times, one full of sadness as he recalled to mind the "passing out" of friend after friend.
C. O. L., PERTH, Chaplain-General A.I.F., C. of E.
In the pages which follow an attempt has been made to give some account of how a Western Australian battalion was raised, organised, trained, and lived. How and where it travelled, some of the things it did and saw, and the nature of its environment. That is a large area to cover, and I am only too conscious that the result achieved is far from perfect.
This volume is confined to the period which terminated with the arrival of the 28th Battalion at Marseilles. That first phase of the unit's history was not so unimportant as might be thought. Although the following years were marked by a series of great events, in which the Battalion took a glorious part, yet there was a sameness in the surroundings and a monotony of routine which was conspicuously absent amongst the changing scenes and varied incidents of the earlier months of service. In those beginnings was moulded the high character for which the unit was ever afterwards esteemed. The trial by battle, hardship, and disease had not found its members lacking, and a fine spirit of comradeship had rapidly developed. With a high morale it arrived on the historic battlefields of Europe.
The few opinions offered in the course of the narrative are my own. They have not been formed lightly. Any individual charged with the care and direction of a body of his fellows must, of necessity—if he be worth his salt—study causes and effects.
Certain names have been mentioned in the text. Doubtless there are others equally worthy, but with the material I have had at my disposal it has been impossible to do due justice to all. There does exist a wealth of incident and anecdote which should be exploited but which, for obvious reasons, has not been available to me, and although I have made a general appeal to all ex-members to contribute to this record, a perfectly natural diffidence has held the hands of the great majority. For sins of omission and commission I beg the forgiveness of those with whom I had the great honour of serving and for whom, as comrades, men, and soldiers, I have the greatest respect and admiration.
The sources of information upon which I have had to mainly depend have been:—A very imperfect Official War Diary; my own letters; my memory; and a few contributions from former comrades. These last have been received from Major E. G. Glyde, Captains A. M. P. Montgomery, A. S. Isaac, N. W. Sundercombe, G. D. Shaw, T. O. Nicholls, and C. C. Flower. But more particularly am I indebted to Lieut. J. T. Blair, who placed at my disposal a considerable quantity of material which he had been at great pains to collect whilst in London.
As regards photographs and maps: Valuable prints and drafts have been supplied by the Trustees of the Australian War Museum. Mr. C. E. W. Bean, the Australian War Correspondent and Official Historian, has very kindly lent me photographs from his private collection. Mr. E. L. Mitchell and Mr. W. Owen, both of Perth, have generously given unrestricted permission to reproduce from their negatives, and certain members, and relatives of members, have also contributed interesting specimens. For the map of the Australian Corps' Front on Gallipoli, and the plans and diagrams referring to Cairo, Tel-el-Kebir, and the Pyramid, I have especially to thank Captain E. A. E. Andrewartha of the Australian Staff Corps.
The publication of the Nominal Rolls of Members of the Battalion has been made possible largely through the assistance of Major J. M. Lean, M.B.E., the Officer in Charge of Base Records, Melbourne.
For historical data, descriptive matter, and a few other essentials, I have also consulted the following works:—Barrett and Deane ("The A.A.M.C. in Egypt"); Callwell ("The Dardanelles Campaign and its Lessons"); Ellis ("Story of the 5th Division"); Hamilton ("Gallipoli Diary"); Masefield ("Gallipoli"); "Military History of the Campaign of 1882 in Egypt" (official); Nevinson ("The Dardanelles Campaign"); Schuler ("Australia in Arms"); Sladen ("Oriental Cairo"); Woods ("Washed by Four Seas"), and several others the names of which I cannot now recall. I am also under a great obligation to J. S. Battye, Litt.D., B.A., LL.B., the General Secretary of the Public Library, whose invaluable advice has guided me through a pleasing but arduous task.
HERBT. B. COLLETT. Public Library, Perth, W.A., June, 1922.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE 28th BATTALION, A.I.F.
August 4.—Declaration of War.
April 1.—Formation of the 7th Infantry Brigade approved and Establishments issued. 16.—Orders issued in Western Australia for formation of 28th Battalion of Infantry at Blackboy Hill. Necessary action taken the same day. 23.—Lieut.-Colonel H. B. Collett appointed to command.
May 12.} "A" and "B" Companies proceeded to Rockingham for advanced 13.} training. Returned 22nd May. 27.—Visit and inspection by His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia, Major-General Sir Harry Barron, K.C.M.G., C.V.O.
June 3.—The King's Birthday. March through Perth, fully horsed and equipped, with 1st Reinforcements. 6.—First Reinforcements embarked on H.M.A.T. "Geelong" at Fremantle. Sailed next day. 7.—Visit and inspection by O.G. 7th Infantry Brigade—Colonel J. Burston, V.D. 9.—The Battalion, less Transport details, embarked at Fremantle on H.M.A.T. "Ascanius" (A11). Ship steamed out the same evening. 24.—East coast of Africa sighted—south of Ras Jard-Hafun. 26.—Entered Red Sea. 29.—Suez sighted. 30.—Advance party landed and proceeded to Cairo.
July 2.—Battalion disembarked and proceeded by train to camp at Abbasia. 5.—Inspection by Lieut. General Sir John Maxwell, General Officer Commanding in Egypt. 12.—Sergeant Faulkner and Transport details embark at Fremantle on H.M.A.T. "Boonah." Ordered that horses remain in Australia.
August 4.—Formation of 2nd Australian Division in Egypt. 8.—Transport details rejoin the Battalion. 17.—March to and occupation of Citadel of Cairo. First draft of reinforcements arrived and was taken on strength. 30.—Evacuation of Citadel and march to Aerodrome Camp, Heliopolis.
September 1.—Embarkation orders received. Transport to remain in Egypt. 3.—Entrained at Qubba Station. 4.—Arrived at Alexandria. Embarked on H.M.T. "Ivernia." Left harbour. 8.—Arrived off Lemnos Island. 9.—Entered Mudros Bay.
10.—Transhipped to S.S. "Sarnia" and proceeded in direction of Gallipoli Peninsula. That night landed at Williams' Pier and bivouaced in Waterfall Gully. Attached to New Zealand and Australian Division. 11.—First casualty. Private F. T. Mitchell wounded. Moved up Chailak Dere and bivouaced between Bauchop's Hill and Little Table Top—Rose Hill. 12.—"Apex" salient taken over from New Zealanders. First casualty in action. Lieut. F. E. Jensen dangerously wounded. He died a few hours later. 13.—First visit by Corps and Divisional Commanders.
October 4.} Relieved by 25th Battalion. Moved to Lower Cheshire 5.} Ridge. 30.—"B" Company relieved by "A" Company 26th Battalion.
November 1.—"C" Company moved to Taylor's Hollow. 2.—"D" Company moved to Taylor's Hollow. 3.—13th Battalion took over sector. 28th Battalion concentrated in Taylor's Hollow as Divisional Reserve. For next five weeks main body engaged on works and Beach fatigues. 12.—Moved to Happy Valley as support to 26th Battalion. Thus rejoined 2nd Division. 13.—Visit of Lord Kitchener. 24.} Period of silence. Australians withhold their fire. 27.} 27.} Peninsula visited by a blizzard. Heavy snow and extreme 29.} cold.
December 4.—"A" Company went into line on Russell's Top. 6.—"D" Company went into line on Russell's Top. 7.—Headquarters and "B" Company proceeded to Russell's Top. 8.—"C" Company joins Battalion. 11.—Received orders to embark on day following. 12.—Relieved by 20th Battalion. Embarked, less M.G. Section, on "Osmanich" after dark. 13.—Landed on Lemnos Island and marched to camp at Sarpi. 15.—Marched to Z Valley, South Camp. 20.—Lieut. G. D. Shaw and Machine Gun Section left Gallipoli Peninsula with last of troops, 3.30 a.m. Rejoined Battalion same day. 31.—Advance Party left for Egypt.
January 6.—Embarked on H.M.T. "Ansonia." 7.—Left Mudros Bay at 7.30 a.m. 9.—Entered Alexandria Harbour. 10.—Disembarked and proceeded by train to camp at Tel-el-Kebir. Transport rejoined Battalion. 15.—Inspected by General Sir Archibald Murray, Commanding in Chief in Egypt.
February 3.—Moved by train to Moascar. Thence marched to Staging Camp—east bank of Suez Canal and opposite Ismailia. 7th Brigade in Divisional Reserve. 6.—Moved back to Ferry Post to garrison Inner Defences of Canal. Relieved 30th Battalion. 28.—Major C. R. Davies proceeded to Tel-el-Kebir to command 58th Battalion. Major A. W. Leane became 2nd-in-Command of 28th Battalion.
March 8.—Relieved by the New Zealanders. Crossed Suez Canal to Moascar Camp. 13.—Transport details and horses entrained for Alexandria. Embarked on H.M.T. "Minneapolis" next day. 15.—Battalion entrained for Alexandria. 16.—Arrived at Alexandria at 6.30 a.m. Embarked on H.M.T. "Themistocles." Left harbour same evening. 19.—Arrived off Valetta, Malta. Received orders as to route. 21.—Arrived in Marseilles Harbour.
A Record of War Service,
The outbreak of the South African War in 1899 brought to the surface, in the people of Australia, that innate love of the Old Country which so marks the British race in whatever part of the world its members may happen to reside. Each Colony made an offer of men who were anxious to serve side by side with their kinsmen of the Regular Army. These offers were accepted—not because the men were needed at that time, but for the reason that statesmen recognised the existence of an era in the development of the dominions overseas that demanded the admission of their inhabitants to a share in the responsibilities attached to the maintenance and promotion of the welfare of the Empire. The reverses to the British arms which occurred during the opening months of the campaign roused in Australia a spirit of intense loyalty and patriotism, which was exemplified by renewed offers of assistance to the Government in London. These offers received an early response, with the result that across the Indian Ocean was maintained a steady stream of troops during the whole two and a half years of operations.
Western Australia readily took up a share of the burden and played her small, though not unimportant, part. Her contribution in troops consisted of 64 officers and 1,167 other ranks, together with 1,179 horses. On a population basis this effort was greater than that of any of the other Australian States. In casualties the various units (one infantry and nine mounted infantry) suffered a loss of 40 by death and 86 by wounds. That the services rendered were valuable, worthy of the State, and highly creditable to the individuals, may be gathered from the fact that the following honours were awarded: 1 V.C., 2 C.B.'s, 7 D.S.O.'s, 8 D.C.M.'s, and 3 additional Mentions in Despatches.
When Europe burst into the flame and smoke of war in August, 1914, Australia was unified in Government and a nation in sentiment—but still a British nation. Her offers of assistance had been expected and were graciously and gratefully accepted. The Western Australians once more responded and, this time, in their thousands. Again the quota was exceeded—reinforcements being supplied even for Eastern States' units—and in all some 32,028 soldiers and nurses enlisted for service overseas during the period of 1914-1918.[A] Over 6,000 of these laid down their lives for Australia and the Empire, and many thousands more were wounded and maimed.
The 28th Battalion was one of three battalions wholly recruited and organised in Western Australia. It did not take the field in time to participate in the earlier days on Gallipoli, but showed its mettle in many a subsequent hard fight. Its deeds, and those of the other units which left these western shores, gained the unstinted admiration of the remainder of the Australian Imperial Force and constitute no mean record.
The contingents for South Africa were trained on the military reserve at Karrakatta. There there was a rifle range and sufficient space for the exercise of small bodies of troops. When, in 1914, it became obvious that larger numbers would be involved, a search was made for a greater and better camp site and training area. Eventually this was found at Blackboy Hill, which is situated about a mile east of Bellevue and quite close to the Eastern Railway. This area had been used by the Citizen Forces during the annual training of that year and found very suitable for dismounted work. The camp site is a rounded knoll of some few acres in extent, possessing the advantages of good natural drainage, a liberal number of shady trees, and firm soil underfoot. The surrounding country is broken by the foothills of the Darling Range and intersected by roads, fences, and—here and there—small watercourses. However, sufficient level ground is available to suit ordinary purposes and, altogether, the locality lends itself admirably to the training of infantry in platoons.
Here, then, when the first attested men were called up, were pitched the tents and marquees to shelter the troops. At the outset conditions of life were rough. The limited trained staff available, and the absence of many of the services recognised as essential in order to make military administration efficient, harassed the newcomers and caused a waste of time, together with considerable dislocation in the training. Later on, under successive camp commandants, conditions much improved. Efficient services were installed and competent men were trained to work them. Eventually Blackboy Camp came to be known throughout Australia as one of the most complete and comfortable.
The camp was rapidly filled and, as units moved out, filled again. Before the end of February, 1915, there had proceeded overseas the 10th Regiment of Light Horse, the 8th Battery of Field Artillery, the 11th Battalion, the major portion of the 16th Battalion, and one company of the 12th Battalion; together with various technical and administrative units and detachments.
Recruits continued to pour in, and the men forthcoming were more than sufficient to supply the reinforcing drafts which were sent forward monthly. During February the Australian Government decided to raise further Light Horse Regiments and the 5th and 6th Brigades of Infantry. The 5th Brigade was to be furnished by New South Wales with one battalion (20th) from Queensland. Victoria was to supply the 6th Brigade, with two companies each from South and Western Australia to form the 24th Battalion.
The two companies ("C" and "D") of the 24th Battalion were immediately formed from the depot units in camp and commenced to equip and train.
Hardly had this been done when Headquarters announced the raising of even another brigade of infantry—the 7th. On the 1st April the establishments for this were issued. One and a half battalions (25th and 26th) were to be supplied by Queensland; half a battalion (26th) by Tasmania; and one battalion each by South Australia (27th) and Western Australia (28th). Added to this was a brigade staff of five officers and 21 other ranks to be raised from all districts. This new proposal necessitated some re-arrangement in respect to the 5th and 6th Brigades. The responsibility for the 20th Battalion reverted to New South Wales. Victoria likewise undertook to provide sufficient men for the 24th Battalion.
The Commandant of Western Australia, therefore, found himself called upon to raise and equip a complete new unit consisting of 32 officers, 994 other ranks, and 63 horses, together with two machine guns, nine bicycles, and 13 transport vehicles.[B]
On the 16th April definite instructions were issued to the Officer Commanding at Blackboy Camp to organise the new battalion from the troops then under canvas. Action was immediately taken, and what were formerly "C" and "D" Companies of the 24th Battalion became "A" and "B" Companies of the 28th. Two new companies were formed from the depot units, and the whole four were then moved to separate lines and placed under the temporary command of Captain L. B. Welch, who had 2nd Lieut. C. H. Lamb to assist him as Adjutant. Other officers from the depot helped in the organisation and administration.
On the 23rd April Lieutenant-Colonel H. B. Collett was appointed to the command. This officer had formerly commanded the 11th Australian Infantry Regiment and the 88th Infantry Battalion (both of the Citizen Forces) in Perth, and had had considerable experience in military training, administration, and organisation. His first consideration was the selection and appointment of officers and non-commissioned officers, and the formation of the specialist detachments which were to be an integral and important part of the Battalion.
In the selection of officers little discretionary power was allowed the Commanding Officer. A Selection Board, appointed by the Minister for Defence, and sitting at Perth, recommended appointments. Very often this was done without a full knowledge of the candidate or of his qualifications. Under such circumstances some friction was bound to occur between the Board and the Commanding Officer. Eventually, however, it was possible, by means of compromise and adjustment, to gather together a reasonably sound team of officers. Major C. R. Davies, an officer of the 84th (Goldfields) Infantry, and a barrister of Boulder, became Second-in-Command. Captains A. W. Leane, L. B. Welch, and J. A. C. Wilson were promoted to the rank of Major and appointed to companies. A fifth major—F. R. Jeffrey—was transferred from Victoria and took "B" Company. This last-named officer, like the Second-in-Command, had seen service in South Africa, and had recently returned from England, whither he had conducted a draft of Imperial Reservists. A number of junior officers were found from the N.C.Os. attending a school of instruction for candidates for commissions. In the following years most of these men did exceedingly well. One of them commanded the Battalion during the major portion of 1917.
The selection and appointment of non-commissioned officers was a process of a different kind. With a large body of men unused to military formations and methods, the urgent need was to find other men who had had some slight experience and could teach the raw material routine and system and show it its place in the ranks. It did not, however, follow, that the same men, with their slight experience, were so equipped mentally and physically as to render them efficient leaders and commanders in the field. Another factor to be borne in mind was that from the ranks of the N.C.Os. would, in the future, be drawn the men to fill the gaps caused by casualties in the commissioned ranks. The qualities expected of an officer were personality, moral as well as physical courage, education, health, and a sporting disposition. The education sought was not necessarily academic, but such as indicated a capacity for rapid thought and for expression in speech and writing, together with a knowledge of men and their ways.[C] A high standard was thus set, and this being considered, all wearers of stripes were deemed to hold their rank temporarily—confirmation being dependent on their acquiring efficiency and displaying the desired qualifications. This method of appointment held good until after the Battalion's arrival in Egypt, and resulted in the collection of a most admirable body of subordinate leaders. Many of these same N.C.Os.—as officers—afterwards earned great distinction for themselves and for the unit. They were indeed the "backbone of the army."
The formation of the specialist detachments was rendered comparatively easy by the presence in the ranks of much excellent material. The Signallers were taken in hand by 2nd Lieut. J. J. S. Scouler, formerly attached to the Australian Intelligence Corps, who had passed through a signalling course in Victoria. He quickly gathered round him a body of enthusiastic young men whose efficiency subsequently became the envy of the other battalions and the admiration of the Division. The team for the two Maxim guns was organised and partly trained by Captain H. B. Menz. About the middle of May, however, 2nd Lieut. G. D. Shaw was appointed to the Section, and later commanded it most efficiently until the date it was absorbed into the 7th Machine Gun Company at Ferry Post, about the beginning of March, 1916. From the personnel of the original unit quite a large number of officers for the Machine Gun Corps was afterwards drawn. 2nd Lieut. T. D. Graham was appointed Transport Officer, and had little trouble in getting suitable men to look after and drive his horses and vehicles. He was fortunate in having to assist him Sergeant F. L. Faulkner, who had served with transport in India.
Captain John Kenny was attached as Regimental Medical Officer. On him devolved the responsibility for selecting and organising the Army Medical Corps details and the Stretcher Bearers. Both detachments were extremely useful. The Pioneers were chosen, and an excellent body of tradesmen secured. Numbering ten, they were placed under the immediate control of Sergeant J. W. Anderson—a Scotsman who afterwards became one of the best known members of the Battalion.
The warrant ranks were filled by the appointment of Sergeant J. Gettingby as Regimental Sergeant-Major; Sergeant R. G. Sexty as Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant; Sergeants B. A. Bell, P. T. C. Bell, W. S. Appleyard, and H. M. Cousins, as Company Sergeants-Major; and Sergeants S. Jones, N. Graham, J. R. Gunn, and C. J. Piper as Company Quartermaster-Sergeants. With two exceptions, all these warrant officers subsequently attained commissioned rank.
2nd Lieut. C. H. Lamb was confirmed in the appointment of Adjutant and eventually received promotion to the rank of Captain. Upon him devolved a mass of detail work. This he handled with energy, skill, and success, and had very willing help from the Orderly Room Clerks—Sergeants E. C. Francisco[D] and S. S. Thompson.
A few other special appointments were made: Armourer-Sergeant L. C. Lewis to do minor repairs to the arms; Sergeant-Drummer W. T. Hocking to train the buglers and drummers; and Sergeant-Cook T. R. Graham to supervise and instruct in the kitchens. Shortly after embarkation Sergeant-Shoemaker F. Cox was allotted the work of looking after the footwear.
No chaplains were appointed to the Battalion, but four were gazetted to the Brigade. One of these, the Very Rev. Dean D. A. Brennan, of the Roman Catholic Denomination, and lately stationed at Narrogin, reported at Blackboy Camp. For many months he was attached to the 28th and shared its life in Egypt, Gallipoli, France, and Belgium.
The process of selection for the various appointments and duties took time. In the meanwhile the work of organising the platoons and companies continued, and much care was devoted to the training and equipping. For the first fortnight or so equipment came along very slowly. The Ordnance Stores were practically empty. Fresh supplies had to be obtained from the Eastern States, or collected from the Citizen Force units. It was not until within a few days of embarkation that all demands were met. This condition of affairs was bound to have an adverse effect on training, but, on the whole, much progress was made, and the unit soon began to take form and become easier to administer and handle. The number of officers available gradually increased, and two warrant or non-commissioned officers of the Instructional Staff were attached to each company in order to assist. The latter did exceedingly valuable work. A special class was formed for the purpose of instructing in their duties those men who aspired to wear stripes. In the training of sections and platoons, emphasis was laid on the necessity for obtaining a condition of physical fitness, and acquiring a thorough knowledge of the use of the rifle, the bayonet, and the spade. Physical exercises were followed by short marches of one or two hours' duration. After passing the elementary tests, companies, in turn, proceeded to Osborne Rifle Range and fired the recruits' course of musketry. A satisfactory figure of merit was obtained. For the more advanced training it was intended to move the Battalion to a camp at Rockingham. During the second week in May two companies proceeded there and the camp was established under the command of Major Davies. However, on account of the rumoured early embarkation, these companies had to be recalled, and the whole unit was once more concentrated at Blackboy Hill. Training proceeded energetically, with the result that officers, and other ranks within the companies, quickly settled down—daily becoming more and more accustomed to their tasks.
The health of the members was good. Very few cases of infectious disease, and fewer cases of serious illness, were reported. The situation of the camp, together with the insistence on the cleanliness of the lines and person, had a beneficial effect in this direction. Unfortunately one death occurred. Private F. W. Hopkins fell into an unprotected clayhole and was drowned. A few of these excavations existed on the western edge of the training area, and were a menace to those taking a short cut from the railway station at night time. All ranks submitted to vaccination and inoculation. This was unpleasant, but the medical history of the war has since demonstrated the value of the measures.
Discipline was fairly satisfactory from the outset and rapidly improved. At the commencement every member was given to understand that a high sense of duty and a strong esprit-de-corps were essentials for success. Both these traits were later very fully developed, and the regard that 28th men always had for their battalion was a subject of frequent comment in the A.I.F.
In all the preliminary work of organisation and training, the Commanding Officer had the great advantage of the sympathy, practical support, and advice of the District Commandant—Colonel J. H. Bruche. This help was invaluable, and resulted in the establishment of sound methods and the promotion of happy relations with mutual confidence between all ranks.
Although training and other duties absorbed long hours, leave was given daily after the tea hour and until near midnight. Half-holidays were also observed on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Leave from Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening was granted, too, on a liberal scale. Before embarkation every man was entitled to four days' leave in order to give him a final opportunity of attending to his private affairs. This was taken by many. In the camp itself efforts were made to amuse those who stayed in during the evening. In this respect the Y.M.C.A. did most by providing a large marquee wherein concerts and other forms of entertainment were given almost nightly. A post office and writing room—with free stationery—were also established by these voluntary helpers. Surrounding the camp were numbers of booths and shops where necessaries could be purchased and harmless refreshments obtained. Friends and relations frequently visited the camp during the idle hours.
His Excellency the Governor, Major-General Sir Harry Barron, K.C.M.G., C.V.O., showed great interest in the unit, and on the 27th May attended at the camp and addressed the members in an informal manner after the evening meal. He told them of his own experiences in the army, and, in a way that was greatly appreciated, tendered much wholesome advice.
Towards the end of May it was known that the day of embarkation was closely approaching. Efforts were made to complete the final issues of kit and clothing, and furnish the seemingly endless number of documentary records required by the Defence Department. A final and close inspection of the personnel was carried out. All men in the Battalion had been pronounced "fit." Vaccinations and inoculations had been duly performed. Yet there still remained in the ranks a number of men who, for various reasons, were unfit to go abroad as soldiers. Others there were whose family affairs were causing them anxiety and necessitated delay in their departure. Again, others—a few only—felt their ardour waning as the days of their stay at Blackboy grew fewer. In all these instances the men concerned were either discharged or transferred back to the depot units. The Battalion was the better for the changes.
June 3rd was the anniversary of the Birthday of His Majesty the King. The 28th, together with certain other troops from the training camps, was to march through Perth and, in doing so, be inspected by the Governor and the District Commandant. In preparation, the riding horses and wheeled transport went to Perth the previous night and parked at the Drill Hall. The Battalion itself proceeded to the city by train, and by 10.30 on the morning of the 3rd had formed up in James Street. It then marched by Beaufort, Barrack, Hay, and Bennett Streets; thence along St. George's Terrace, returning to the Railway Station by Milligan, Hay, and Barrack Streets, and re-entraining for Blackboy Hill. The Governor took the salute from a point opposite Government House. The Battalion presented a fine spectacle, and received a magnificent reception from the enormous crowds that thronged the thoroughfares. The newspapers, in subsequently describing the proceedings, referred to an unprecedented muster of the public and an extraordinary display of enthusiasm. The people were evidently proud of their new unit, and the men had pride in themselves.
During the first week in June, definite information was received as to the transports allotted and the dates of embarkation. By the 6th June everything was ready. On that day the 1st Reinforcements, consisting of 99 rank and file under the command of Lieut. J. F. Quilty, went on board the transport "Geelong," which had arrived in Fremantle the day before and carrying the 27th Battalion. Dean Brennan also embarked, having been ordered for duty with the South Australians during the remainder of their voyage. Sergt. F. L. Faulkner, together with the 11 drivers and 53 horses of the Regimental Transport, was to follow by a boat the date of sailing of which had not then been fixed.
At this time orders were received to detach Major F. R. Jeffrey temporarily to act as Second-in-Command of the South Australian unit. He duly reported and another officer, Lieut. P. E. Jackson, was sent on shore in exchange. In consequence of this alteration, Captain W. G. Stroud was given the temporary command of "B" Company.
On the afternoon of the 7th June, the Brigadier of the 7th Brigade, Colonel J. Burston, V.D., accompanied by his Staff Captain, Captain M. J. G. Colyer, visited the camp and made the acquaintance of this portion of his command. The Brigadier, who had been personally known to the C.O. for some years, expressed his pleasure at what he saw of the unit and of its promise for usefulness and efficiency.
[A] See Appendix A.
[B] This establishment was maintained until early in 1916, when modifications were made during the Battalion's stay at Ferry Post. Further material changes took place from time to time in the two years and eight months of the unit's campaign in France and Belgium.
[C] See Appendix G.
[D] Afterwards Captain (temporary Major) E. C. Francisco, 50th Battn.
The riding horses, transport wagons, and heavy baggage, having been sent to Fremantle the previous day, shortly after noon on the 9th June the Battalion proceeded in two trains to the port. Although officially the date and hour of departure had not been disclosed, certain indications had conveyed that information to the public. The consequence was a series of demonstrations along the route. The engines in the railway yards made loud and prolonged noises in imitation of barnyard inhabitants, flags and handkerchiefs were waved, and many cheers given to speed the Battalion on its way. On Victoria Quay was a large concourse of people for the purpose of bidding farewell to relatives and friends. This somewhat interfered with the embarkation, but by 4.30 p.m. the last man and horse and the last piece of impedimenta were on board. The District Commandant personally superintended the operation. He was accompanied by the Chaplain-General, the Most Rev. Dr. Riley, Archbishop of Perth, whose kindly and encouraging words gave great heart to those setting out on so serious a task. In a letter to the Commanding Officer he had written—"Will you tell your officers and men how proud I have been of their conduct in camp and how we all trust the honour and reputation of W.A. in their hands with the utmost confidence. Good-bye to you all, a safe journey, valiant work, and a speedy return crowned with victory."
About 5.30 p.m. the transport left the quay and moved towards Gage Roads. Although the evening meal had been arranged for on the troop decks, very few attended. Nearly all desired to wave a last good-bye to those they were leaving behind and to catch a parting glimpse of the land they might never see again. Gage Roads was reached and darkness coming down shut out the last view of Australia. Here final matters in connection with the records and pay of the troops were arranged, the embarkation and pay staffs left the ship, the engine bells rang, and the long voyage began.
The transport was the S.S. "Ascanius," known officially as the "A11," a steel twin-screw vessel of the Blue Funnel Line, built in 1910, and with a registered tonnage of 10,048. She had a length and breadth of 493 feet and 60 feet, respectively, and was fitted with three decks. The two lower decks were divided into areas and a certain number of tables and forms were placed in each area. Each table accommodated a mess of a number varying from 12 to 22 men. Before leaving Blackboy Hill the troops had been divided into messes corresponding to the ship's equivalent space. Consequently, on arriving at the top of the gangway when embarking, each party was met by a guide and taken direct to its quarters. Hammocks, blankets, and eating utensils were issued forthwith and they were shown where to stack their rifles and kits. Also, instruction was given as to the measures necessary to prevent fire or an outbreak of disease. Later on, when the decks were cleared, boat stations were pointed out, boats' crews detailed, and collision-fire measures practised. The promenade and boat decks were kept free for recreation and instructional work. The after well-deck held the horse shelters and an auxiliary kitchen. Under the fo'c'sle head was the main kitchen. Situated on the poop deck was a small isolation hospital. A separate mess and quarters received the warrant officers and sergeants; whilst the officers were allotted what had once been the accommodation for passengers.
The ship had commenced its journey at Brisbane, and on arrival at Fremantle already carried the two Queensland companies of the 26th Battalion (Majors F. M. O'Donnell and P. Currie), the 17th Company A.A.S.C. (Captain A. E. Harte), and a portion of the 7th Field Ambulance (Lt.-Col. R. B. Huxtable, V.D.). At the W.A. port the Brigade Commander and the Staff-Captain embarked. Altogether, with the western unit, some 1,750 of all ranks were now leaving Australia.
Here it may not be out of place to mention that certain statistics concerning the 28th Battalion, collected during the voyage, showed that approximately 50 per cent. of the officers and other ranks were Australian born. The other moiety was composed almost wholly of natives of the British Isles. A Russian, a Maltese, a Scandinavian or two, and a few others, were the only exceptions. The average age was in the vicinity of 24 years and only 143 married men could be counted. The recruiting area had been extensive and those enlisted included the professional and business man, the artisan, clerk, shop assistant, and labourer from the metropolis; the shearer, drover, and pearler from the north-west and far north; the farmer from the eastern and south-western districts; the timber worker; and the miner and prospector from the goldfields. In all some 150 civil occupations were represented, the principal ones being as follows:—Labourers 199, farmers and farm hands 109, miners and prospectors 70, timber workers 64, clerks 60, carpenters and joiners 27, horse drivers 18, pearlers 17, grocers 16, engineers 13, and butchers 13.
For the first two or three days of the voyage the rather choppy sea and consequent motion of the boat caused some sickness. This prevented close supervision and the adoption of strict routine at the outset and laid much extra work and worry on those who had good sea legs. However, about the third day out very few were absent from meals, the ship was becoming known, and it was found possible to put into execution plans for training, exercise, and amusement. The deck space was so used that each unit had definite periods and places on it. Sufficient room to work all the troops at the one time was not available, but by the methods adopted every man got at least three hours' active training daily. The utmost use had to be made of the opportunities afforded. For the purposes of training, the time spent at Blackboy Hill had been all too short. So much still remained to be taught and to be learned; also, the period for acquiring knowledge that would be allowed at the other end could only be conjectured—in any event it was likely to be of short duration. Stress, therefore, was laid, firstly, on keeping the physical exercises going and, secondly, on continuing the instruction in musketry, and getting the soldier more and more used to the rifle as his main weapon of offence and defence. Theoretical instruction was given on half a hundred subjects ranging from the hygiene of the person to the role supposed to be played by the cavalry and artillery in a general action. All ranks were quick at assimilating knowledge. Perhaps the best results were obtained during the informal talks which took place between officers and men in the "sit easy" periods. The specialists were given opportunities for paying greater attention to their own peculiar work, and in this, in particular, the signallers made great strides. Machine gunners had facilities for practice at floating targets, which targets were also used for revolver firing.
The Warrant and Non-Commissioned Officers had longer hours. After parades were dismissed they were often required to attend lectures dealing with the functions of subordinate leaders. Officers, as a rule, had a very full day. The personal attention demanded from them in respect to all matters affecting the welfare of their platoons or companies, the supervision of the duties necessary for the effective working of the ship's services and routine, and the study of the subjects for the following day's instruction, left them little leisure. Their own education was not neglected. Twice daily lectures were given in the saloon—usually in the presence of the Brigadier. Lecturers were detailed in turn and the subjects were varied. On the whole the lectures were good. A few fell short of what was required, but usually the discussion which followed such effort made up for any defect in the lecture itself. Occasional flashes of unconscious humour often saved the indifferent performer from boring his audience.
Duties absorbed a platoon or more daily. Guards had to be found to provide sentries to give the alarm in case of fire, accident, or collision. Police were detailed to see that the orders designed to prevent outbreaks of fire or disease were observed. Sweepers and swabbers cleaned down the decks twice in every 24 hours. Stable picquets looked after the horse deck. Mess orderlies saw to the drawing of rations, serving of meals, and cleansing of mess utensils. On entering the tropics the ship's captain asked for volunteers for work in the coal bunkers. His crew was hard pressed. These volunteers were forthcoming and for their services received extra pay.
Within a few hours of leaving Fremantle no less than seven stowaways were found. The first discovered was a small lad, dressed in the uniform of the military cadets, who said his age was 17 years. He gave his name and address as Herbert Hamilton, of Midland Junction, and, when brought before the C.O., manfully expressed his desire to serve in the army. By means of the wireless telegraph his parents were communicated with and their consent to his enlistment obtained. As the Battalion was already at full strength, Hamilton was taken on the roll of the Queensland infantry. For a time the Brigadier took him under his personal care, but after Gallipoli he joined his unit and did good service with it throughout the remainder of the war. The balance of the stowaways were men from Blackboy Camp. One or two had been discharged from service there and merely wanted to "get away." They were given work in the ship. The others were anxious to serve and, after examination, were also taken on by the 26th Battalion. In addition to stowaways four men had been taken on board who belonged to the 27th Battalion and had failed to re-embark on the departure of the "Geelong" from Fremantle.
After the first few days the routine of the ship went very smoothly. Eight N.C.Os., appointed Troop Deck Sergeants, were responsible for the cleanliness and order of their respective quarters. Satisfactory results were thus obtained. Competition in regard to the best kept mess was keen. Utensils were polished like silver and arranged in designs that often displayed much originality on the part of the mess orderlies. "A" Company gained especial credit in this respect.
Discipline remained good, the only offences being minor ones. The food provided was, now and then, a cause for complaint. In the first place the scale laid down by the Imperial authorities was inadequate to satisfy the appetites of a meat-eating race like the Australians. Secondly, the method of cooking showed lack of knowledge on the part of the ship's staff and was not economical. Add to these two factors the want of experience on the part of the mess orderlies in equally dividing up the food supplied them—then the occurrence of the complaints can be easily understood.
The living quarters in the ship were well ventilated—additional draughts of air being ensured by the free use of wind-sails and chutes. This, and the regular exercise daily, together with the anticipation of the life and work ahead, kept all ranks in good health and spirits. Measles and influenza appeared a few days after the commencement of the voyage and claimed 40 or 50 victims, but no serious results ensued. One bugler contracted pneumonia, but was well on the way towards convalescence before Suez was reached. A single mental case came under notice, necessitating the placing of the subject under close observation until he could be handed over to the care of the authorities at the port of disembarkation. All ranks were inoculated against smallpox and typhoid. Many of them developed "arms" and temperatures as a result and were decidedly unwell for a few days.
In the tropics 50 per cent. of the troops were provided with deck accommodation for sleeping purposes. The heat when nearing Aden, and during the passage of the Red Sea, was intense, but all ranks bore it well. As far as was possible the dress was adapted to the climatic conditions—special precautions being taken to guard against sunstroke. Unfortunately, one of the ship's crew succumbed. He was buried at sea, the ship laying-to whilst the burial service was read by the chaplain. A collection afterwards taken up on behalf of the widow was generously contributed to and realised over L50.
One chaplain only had been allotted to the troops on the transport. This was the Rev. J. H. Neild, of the Methodist denomination. He conducted service twice daily on Sundays and spent many hours on the decks at other times. He was particularly earnest in his endeavours to help, and his efforts were universally appreciated. Very great regret was expressed by all who had come in contact with him when, shortly after reaching Egypt, his health became so impaired as to necessitate his return to Australia.
On so crowded a transport it was difficult to arrange satisfactorily for amusements. However, the best possible was done under the circumstances. Sports meetings were held once or twice a week. In most of the competitions the Western Australians showed up well. The keenest interest was displayed in the inter-unit tug-of-war, the final of which was won, after an exciting struggle, by the team from "D" Company. In boxing, the honours went to the Queenslanders of the 17th A.A.S.C., who produced several very good performers of medium and heavy weights. Much laughter was engendered when, after the tea hour, the tyros donned the gloves with one another. Several concerts were arranged and held on or near the well-decks. Perhaps the most popular singer was the youthful stowaway. The regimental band, conducted by Sergt. W. T. Hocking, assisted at these functions. Endeavours had been made to form this before leaving Blackboy Hill, but time permitted of little being done beyond collecting a certain number of instruments. Once on the ship all men who could play were invited to attend practice. Thus a nucleus was formed. By the time that Suez was reached good progress had been made and the band was in a promising condition. In Egypt, however, and later in France, bands were not encouraged—having to be more or less shelved. In 1917 their true value began to be understood, and every facility was given to form and maintain such organisations.
For the individual of certain tastes other diversions existed beyond attendance at concerts and athletic competitions. Card games were played—"bridge" being the first favourite, but "poker" also having a large following. Gambling was forbidden by the regulations. Nevertheless, the usual veteran of other wars was found on board who was prepared to initiate all who were tempted into some of the mysteries of "banker" or "crown and anchor." This individual, however, met discouragement from the ship's police who, whenever opportunity offered, seized and confiscated his plant. "Two-up" and "House" were not then so popular as they became a few months later.
For mascots, the friends of the Battalion had sent on board two or three of the ring-necked parakeets, generally known as "Twenty-eights." These were made pets of during the voyage, but had either died or escaped before its end.
An Australian Imperial Force Canteen was established on board. This supplied pipes, tobacco, cigarettes, sweets, non-alcoholic drinks, and a variety of other odds and ends, which could be purchased. The ship was "dry"—that is, no spirits, wines, or beer were supposed to be available to other than the ship's crew. This arrangement was in accordance with the policy of the Australian Government and obtained on all sea transports. Whilst the usual stimulant was thus missed by many who were accustomed to it, on the whole the system in force did more good than harm and was a considerable aid to the preservation of order and comfort. So far as could be observed, the rule was strictly adhered to on the "Ascanius"; nevertheless, the Commanding Officer, during his morning inspections of the ship, was more than once heard to comment on the absorbent capacity of the crew, as evidenced by the number of empty ale and stout bottles cleared from their quarters.
In all that was done for the comfort and welfare of the troops, great assistance was rendered by the Master of the ship and his officers. Perhaps the Chief Officer was more concerned in protecting the interests of his owners than of giving much latitude to the men who were in transit. At times in early morn, and again late at night, his voice could be heard in altercation with some unfortunate Australian, who had surreptitiously made his bed in a forbidden area, or had violated some other rule of the ship. He and his myrmidons were suspected of undue zeal in impounding and placing in the ship's store any hammock, blanket, or mess utensil, whose owner had momentarily left them unguarded on deck or in some other open space. Later on, the articles so impounded were shown as shortages in the ship's stores returned by the troops and had to be paid for from the Battalion's funds. That Chief Officer was not popular, but he was a good manager of his crew and kept the ship in excellent condition.
The Master, Captain F. Chrimes, was a Lancashire man, of rather striking personality and appearance. Some writer, who had travelled on the ship as a passenger, has already portrayed him in one of his published books. Captain Chrimes admired the men and, although in his official and daily inspections he assumed an air almost of indifference to what he saw, he was really closely observant and suggested much—and did more—to make the conditions of life on board less uncomfortable. In quiet hours he chatted deferentially with the Brigadier, played chess with the doctors, or gently "pulled the legs" of the young officers. Of stories, he had a fund. These ranged from stirring personal experiences with lions in the East African jungles to a pathetic incident connected with the death of his family's favourite cat. As a mark of affection, the corpse of this cat was buried in the garden at the foot of an old grape vine. In the first subsequent crop of fruit—so the Captain related—each grape appeared with a slight coat of fur!
On the whole the voyage was pleasant enough and almost without unusual incident, bar an accident or two to individuals. Perfect good feeling existed amongst the different units during the whole of the journey. Many friendships were made, and these early associations proved of great value later on during the stress of work in the field. For the first few days out wireless communication was kept up with the S.S. "Geelong." The equator was crossed on about the twelfth day but, at the expressed wish of the Brigadier, King Neptune held no court.
Early on the 24th June the African coast, just south of Ras-Jard-Hafun, was sighted. Near here was observed the first ship seen since leaving Australia. A few dhows were visible close in shore, and in the bay sharks and rays could be discerned in motion. For a few hours attention was centred on this first glimpse of a foreign land. "The doctor has left off vaccinating us to go and admire the scenery," said one man in a letter home. The foreshore, cliffs, and mountains of Somaliland were searched with glasses for signs of habitations. So desolate, however, appeared the country, and so few the signs of life, that, as a diversion, the men cheered whenever an occasional school of porpoises or a solitary albatross came more closely under view. Cape Guardafui was passed soon after lunch, and the following evening the ship stopped her engines for half an hour in order to exchange messages with Aden, which was dimly visible through the thick bluish haze of stifling heat.
The 26th June witnessed the entrance to the Red Sea. The Master for the previous few days had seemed apprehensive in regard to possible enemy action. Consequently certain additional sentries had been posted and the machine guns mounted in positions that would give them effective arcs of fire. From now on the African coast was hugged, but little scenery was evident after passing Perim Island. Away to the north-east a momentary glimpse was obtained of Jebel Musa (Mt. Sinai). About this time the Southern Cross disappeared below the horizon.
The destination of the transport was still unknown, notwithstanding that gossip had mentioned Suez, Port Said, Alexandria, and even England. Nevertheless, preparations had to be made either for disembarkation at the first-named port or for the passage through the Canal. These were put in hand at once. About this time arose the first crop of rumours, or "furphies," which ever afterwards seemed to be an inseparable feature of military life. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary was to the effect that news had come on board of great anxiety existing in Western Australia over a supposed disaster to the ship and its living freight. As no such news had come on board the source of the rumour could not be traced. Subsequently, in letters received from the homeland, it was ascertained that such a rumour was actually current there coincident with its first being mentioned on the transport. Possibly its origin may be remotely connected with the fact that, simultaneously with the arrival of the "Ascanius" in the Gulf of Suez, a sister ship struck a mine at the entrance to the Bitter Lakes and had to be beached. The hull was visible to passengers on the Suez-Cairo railway.
On the evening of June 29th the lights of Suez came into view. Shortly before midnight the transport dropped anchor some distance from the town. Next morning a rather unattractive panorama was unveiled to view. On the west were the bare heights of Jebel Attaka; to the north Suez lay with its rambling and squalid-looking houses; to the north-east was Port Tewfik, and beyond that—running down east and south-east—were the desert sands of Sinai. The waters of the Gulf were calm, but every revolution of the screws stirred up filth and polluted the air. Some distance away lay another ship obviously also carrying troops. Greetings were exchanged at long range. Eventually it was learned that the transport was the "Ballarat" with a load of invalids for Australia. Amongst them evidently dwelt a pessimist, for in reply to the new arrivals' stentorian and unanimous "NO!" to the question "Are we downhearted?" a disconsolate voice sounded across the water, "Well, you —— soon will be."
As rather exaggerated accounts had been received in Australia as to the dangers of communicating with the native inhabitants of Egypt, special precautions were taken to prevent bumboat men from coming on board or too closely approaching the sides. Two boats' crews patrolled round about and sentries armed with loaded rifles stood at the tops of the gangways. This resulted in an amusing incident when a dhow, manned by a very fat Arab fisherman and a small native boy, came too close to the troopship. No heed being taken of signals to keep further away, the sentry on duty was instructed to fire a rifle shot across the bow of the small craft. This proved most effective, and everyone roared with laughter when the stout fisherman hastily dived below the gunwale out of sight and forced the terrified small boy to take the helm and steer away out of danger. In spite of this, however, preliminary bargaining went on with other boats' crews and first impressions were gained of the ways and manners of the gentle Egyptian. All that day the ship lay at anchor and little communication took place with the shore. Nevertheless it was learned from the port authorities, that as soon as another ship, then at the wharf, had cleared, the troops were to disembark and journey by train to a camp near Cairo. In preparation a small advance party of three officers and 40 other ranks was put ashore with instructions to proceed to the named area in order to get the camp in readiness for the troops.
At 7 a.m. on the 2nd July the "Ascanius" moved in and berthed. Here the voices of Egypt were heard in concert. A motley crowd of natives was grouped about—evidently watched and herded by dapper little policemen, armed with canes which they seemed to delight in using with or without provocation. In one place a small gang of labourers, to the music of its own voices, was building a ramp. In another, seemingly fierce argument was going on as to the moving of a heavy gangway into position. Still more men and boys were gazing up at the ship and calling loudly for "bakshish." "Bakshish" was forthcoming first of all in the shape of copper coins, later on in scraps of food, and again in raw potatoes. All these were wildly scrambled for, and even the party operating the gangway forsook duty in the pursuit of gain. The aim with the potatoes became rather accurate, and after the head serang had been temporarily incapacitated by a direct hit in the region of the belt, the fusilade had to be stopped in order that the work of disembarkation might proceed.
Getting the troops off the ship was a matter of comparative ease, but the landing of sick, issue of rations, handing over of ship's stores, and the unloading of horses, wagons, and over 1,250,000 rounds of ammunition, entailed much organisation and a great deal of hard labour. Notwithstanding this, the O.C. Troops was able to leave the ship before 5 p.m., having left behind a small party to finally adjust matters with the ship and disembarkation authorities. This rear party rejoined the unit three days later.
As the Battalion commenced to disembark the transport "Geelong" came to anchor off the town.
FIRST STAY IN EGYPT.
Four trains, running at intervals of two hours, were used to convey the troops from the ship's side to the neighbourhood of Cairo. For part of the journey the railway ran parallel with and in sight of the Canal. Near Ismailia it turned west and led across the northern part of the Arabian Desert (once the Land of Goshen) to Zagazig, where it took another turn, to the south-west, and entered the capital. Though almost entirely desert, the country was not without interest to the new arrivals. Sand was not unknown in Western Australia, but had never been seen over such tremendous tracts and giving off such colours which, probably due to atmospheric influences, had very distinctive beauty. Here and there the oases, and the irrigation areas, were marked by palm trees or by crops of a vivid green hue. There was also seen much that at once directed attention to the fact that the land was one famed in biblical history. The costumes of the natives; the flat-roofed mud-coloured dwellings; the old fashioned wells, the hooded and veiled women bearing pitchers on their heads, the humble donkey, and the more dignified camel, instantly carried minds back to the pictures that were popular in childhood's days.
By midnight the last of the troops, detrained at a military siding near by, had reached the camp and taken shelter for the time being in a number of open-sided wooden huts.
The camp site, called Abbasia—after the adjacent quarter of Cairo, was in the desert just north of the Suez Road and about five miles from the centre of the city. The ground here was quite flat, and had been extensively used at different times for military reviews. It was also near the scene of a battle in 1517, when the Turkish conqueror, the Sultan Selim, overthrew the Egyptians. A second battle took place here in 1800, on which occasion General Kleber with 10,000 French defeated six times that number of Turks. On the west side were situated the cavalry and infantry barracks, at that time occupied by the 2nd Mounted Division (Yeomanry). To the north lay the quarters and hospital of the Egyptian Army units doing guard and escort duty for the new Sultan. North-east, a little over a mile away, the new city of Heliopolis, with its splendid buildings, was in full view. In other directions only the desert was to be seen, marked here and there with low hills—the highest being Jebel Ahmar, an outpost of the Moqattam Range.
The first day in the new camp was one of discomfort and worry. No brigade or divisional staffs were present to assist and advise as to the new conditions. The source of supplies had to be ascertained, kitchens constructed, baggage sorted, and the lines, which were indescribably dirty, cleaned up. All ranks were tired with the previous day's long hours and badly needed a hot meal which, at first, could not be satisfactorily supplied. A few men strayed away to Heliopolis, where they found members of the 5th and 6th Brigades, whose local knowledge they availed themselves of in their search for creature comforts. Fortunately other friends were near in the 13th Light Horse Regiment, which was temporarily occupying part of Abbasia Camp. The members assisted greatly in the settling down process and, in consequence, by the night of the third day tents were pitched, cooking arranged for, and the comfort of the individual much improved. Very shortly after, further advantages were provided in the shape of a regimental institute where fruit, groceries, and liquor could be procured. This scheme was subsequently extended in the direction of establishing a restaurant, a fruit and ice cream tent, a newsvendor's stall, and a barber's shop. This institute was valuable for several reasons. It afforded a means of supplementing the indifferent ration; prevented the infliction of exorbitant prices; guaranteed fair quality; reduced straying; ensured the profits coming back to the battalion; and did away with the necessity for admitting to the lines the clamorous and often filthy multitude of hawkers. After this no Egyptian or foreigner was permitted to approach the tents without a pass. Most of the local vendors had methods peculiarly their own. The agents for the "Egyptian Times" or "Egyptian Gazette" described their sheets in language which suggested guilelessness and earlier association with the 1st Australian Division. The orange, chocolate, and "eggs-a-cook" (small hard-boiled eggs) sellers seemed to possess the faculty of rising from the earth or dropping from the blue, for whenever bodies of troops, exercising in the desert, halted for rest, some half-dozen of these people—not previously in view—would suddenly appear, and, dragging their wares from somewhere between their not over clean garments and less clean skin, would offer them to the soldiers at "two fer a arf" (piastre).
Of course news of the progress of our troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula was eagerly sought. At first information was difficult to obtain. The only sources from which it could be gathered were the wounded and sick in the neighbouring No. 1 Australian General Hospital housed at the Heliopolis Palace Hotel, and the adjoining Luna Park. These men related their own experiences and impressions. Their auditors were able to appreciate the stupendous task of the landing parties and the heroism with which they had held on to the ground gained under devastating enemy fire and the ravages of disease. Of the relative positions of the opposing forces little of a definite nature was known, nor could anything be ascertained as to the plans for the future. The fact that so many troops were collecting in Egypt did, however, point to probable further developments, and gave the Battalion great hopes of being allowed to participate. The achievements of the Western Australian units already at the front had been proved more than worthy of emulation, and the 28th was determined not to be found lacking.
The situation in Egypt at this time was not without cause for anxiety. Some months earlier the Khedive Abbas Hilmi, an intriguer against Great Britain, had been replaced by Prince Kamil Hussein, who was proclaimed Sultan under a British protectorate. Sir Arthur Henry McMahon was High Commissioner, but the country was virtually under martial law administered by the G.O.C. in Egypt—Lieut.-General Sir John Maxwell. There was more than a little unrest amongst the civil population caused by the efforts of the Turkish and German propagandists. On the eastern frontier precautions had to be taken to meet a repetition of the raid of February made by Djemal Pasha on the Suez Canal. Towards the west the attitude of the Senussi, a great religious sheik, indicated pretentions to temporal power which must inevitably bring about a conflict. To meet this situation there were a few brigades of the Indian Army on the Canal,[E] whilst for the remainder dependence seemed to be placed on the units and reinforcements passing through to the Dardanelles. Maxwell made the most of these, and greatly impressed the populace by displays of force. These displays consisted of marching brigades of Yeomanry and Australians through the city and thickly populated suburbs. The 28th Battalion frequently took part—the marches mostly being carried out at night and forming part of the training in march discipline. The natives looked on sullenly, but there was little in the way of openly hostile display.
The organisation of the forces in Egypt brought the Australians under the supreme command of Sir John Maxwell, but they, and the New Zealanders, were grouped under the immediate command of Major-General J. Spens and known as the Australian and New Zealand Training Depot. For self-contained organised units this arrangement was fairly satisfactory, but with regard to reinforcement drafts their management was the subject of much adverse criticism. Discipline was very weak and actual training not, apparently, a primary consideration. These defects continued for many months. They were not due to the men themselves, but to the absence of a policy in regard to the command and administration of training battalions generally. In later years the Australians managed these things for themselves, and with such good results that the British Service found it profitable to copy some of their methods.
General Spens visited the Battalion's camp early in the morning following its arrival. He questioned the Commanding Officer as to the unit, and after being assured that the material was excellent, though far from being perfectly trained, contented himself by saying "Ah well, give 'em plenty of shootin'."
On the 5th July the Battalion was drawn up to receive Sir John Maxwell. Sir John arrived with a considerable staff, including young Prince Leopold of Battenberg. The General closely inspected the unit, both he and his staff commenting most favourably on what they described as a "magnificent regiment." Sir John afterwards made a short address, referring to the work of the first four brigades and the hopes for the future. Doubtless having in mind the recent disturbances in Cairo, he also pointed out that Egypt was now a British Protectorate and that the Egyptians were, equally with the Australians, British subjects. He expressed a wish, therefore, that there would be no "knockin' 'em about."
At the date of the 28th's arrival in Egypt, one or two battalions of the 5th Brigade, and the whole of the 6th Brigade, were already in Aerodrome Camp, just without and on the north-east side of Heliopolis. The 4th Light Horse Brigade, minus the 13th Regiment, was also camped near by. The complement from the "Ascanius" was the nucleus of the 7th Brigade. The 27th Battalion, after landing, went first to Aerodrome Camp, but moved to Abbasia within a fortnight. The 25th Battalion, the second half of the 26th Battalion, and the remainder of the 5th Brigade troops did not arrive until about a month later. About the same time, Sergt. Faulkner and his drivers reported to their unit (8th August). They had been detained at Blackboy Hill a month after the departure of the "Ascanius," finally embarking on the "Boonah" on the 12th July. Observing instructions received, their horses had been left behind in Western Australia and fresh teams had now to be drawn from the local Remount Depot, in which there existed a surplus.
From the foregoing it will be seen that August had arrived before the 7th Brigade and its staff was actually mobilised and complete.[F] In the meantime the 4th Light Horse Brigade had, for the most part, been broken up in order to provide reinforcements for the three horseless brigades then fighting on Gallipoli. The 13th Light Horse moved to its own camp but retained its entity, and as such afterwards served through the war.
After reaching Abbasia the all-important consideration was training. This was pressed on vigorously. At the commencement the routine provided for reveille at 4.30 a.m. and parades to be held from 6 to 9 a.m. and 4.30 to 7 p.m. Indoor (i.e., in huts) instruction was carried out between 10.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. These hours were fixed in order to meet climatic conditions, but they rendered satisfactory arrangements for meals difficult. Three hours' work on an empty stomach in the early morning did not induce enthusiasm or vigour in practising attack formations and movements. Nor was the long interval between 1 o'clock dinner and 7 o'clock tea conducive to contentment with other work of an exhausting nature. A little was done to meet the situation by providing an early morning cup of coffee and biscuit, but the poor quality of the rations and the limited regimental funds prevented an entirely effective solution. Nevertheless the discomforts were submitted to cheerfully and the presence of the other battalions of the Brigade gradually gave rise to a spirit of emulation, resulting in keenness and genuine progress.
The training was continued on from the stage reached at Blackboy Camp and practical application was given to the principles inculcated in some of the lectures of the voyage over. Bayonet fighting was assiduously practised and knowledge obtained of recent changes born of the experience of the war. Early in August a musketry course was fired by the whole unit. Attention was then given to the more advanced forms of exercise in attack and defence, combined with the construction and use of earthworks. Here began that intimate knowledge of the shovel and pick which, during the war, was acquired by every infantryman. All fighting soldiers loathed these implements, but, at the same time, recognised their utility and appreciated the protection they made it possible to provide. Occasionally the Brigadier assembled the four battalions and, after a little close-order work, would lead them on a five to ten mile night march. Apart from the purpose already referred to, these night marches had great value as steadying influences. Battalions vied with each other in displaying good form. To see them marching to attention with no sound audible but the tramp of thousands of feet, or, again, to hear units, when "at ease," singing some stirring song with 800 full-throated voices as one, was indeed inspiring to the bystander.
Now and then night work took the form of occupying and entrenching a position, or of moving over unknown desert guided only by compass. There were times when the dust nearly choked one, or when the lights and shadows made it impossible to ascertain whether one was likely to fall down a slope or stumble on to the side of a hill. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the 28th never once lost its way or failed to reach its objective to time. On one occasion a move was made for some miles along the Suez Road and a bivouac, protected by outposts, established in the Wadi-esh-Shem. The remainder of the Brigade represented a hostile force based on Cairo. During the night an attempt was made to penetrate the 28th outpost line. The attempt was unsuccessful. Early the following morning, the West Australians advanced westwards in attack formation and succeeded in driving one of the opposing units off a line of hills commanding the road to Cairo. This was the most elaborate setpiece during the training period and, whilst the execution was defective in several respects, the general form shown placed the "Gropers" an easy first in the Brigade in point of efficiency. Nor had the specialists been neglected. In addition to the original Machine Gun Section, a first reserve section was trained and a commencement made with the second. These gunners acquired a highly technical knowledge and were subsequently utilised for the examination and repair of the armament of the other sections of the Brigade. The formation of trained reserves for the Signallers was also undertaken and due attention paid to other requirements.
All training was supervised by the Brigadier and his Staff, but the latter had not that experience likely to be of assistance either to its chief or to commanding officers. General Spens lent one or two officers and non-commissioned officers who had served in the first campaign in France and whose experience should have been of value to the new troops. The N.C.Os., genuine "Contemptibles," were really useful and of a fine stamp—able to impress the young Australian and communicate many useful lessons. On the other hand, the officers were not, apparently, selected with any regard to their capacity as instructors but merely for the sake of giving them something to do. They lectured frequently in a didactic manner—playing fast and loose with the training manuals, and advocating experiments for which they could give no sound reason. When pressed on these matters it seemed to them sufficient to say that they "thought they were good ideas." This engendered much vexation amongst the Australian officers, more especially as the Brigadier very often did not see his way clear to withstand the innovations. The immediate result was to humbug officers and men and negative many of the sound lessons already taught.
A further drawback in training was the large number of men which had to be supplied for duties outside the Brigade. At times these amounted to over 200 on the one day and comprised town picquets, guards on hospitals, etc. The absence of these men broke up platoons and also disrupted the continuity of instruction. There was no way out, but it was thought that the "dizzy limit" had been reached when a request was received for church orderlies, billiard markers and barmen—all for a British formation. The Brigadier ventured a protest, but for his pains was treated to a severe official snub.
One factor, however, which was a distinct aid to acquiring a knowledge of warfare, was a School of Instruction held at Zeitun and commanded by a distinguished officer of the Guards. A considerable number of the junior officers and N.C.Os. attended, together with a proportion of the machine gunners and signallers. Each course lasted three weeks. At the examination held at the termination of the course the 28th men did exceedingly well—the officers averaging 89 per cent. of marks and the N.C.Os. 92 per cent., in their respective classes. The Commandant of the School subsequently despatched the following note to Colonel Collett—"The results of the four classes attending this School from your Battalion, viz., officers, N.C.Os., signallers and machine gunners, are most satisfactory. I would especially draw your attention to the roll of gunners; there is not a second class gunner among the whole section, which is most gratifying to myself and the instructors." A feature of this School was an officer of its staff who was not favourably disposed towards Dominion troops. He was known to commence one of his lectures somehow like this—"Discipline is a subject of which the Australians know nothing." It is understood that subsequent events, together with an interview with Sir John Maxwell, caused him, if not to change his view, at least to modify his tone.
An important development, which had a beneficial effect on the unit, was the constitution, early in August, of the 2nd Australian Division. The three new brigades of infantry which had recently arrived in Egypt led General Birdwood, with the approval of the Australian Government, to group them in a major formation. The command he allotted to Major-General J. G. Legge, C.M.G., who had succeeded the late Sir William Bridges with the 1st Division. By the 4th August General Legge had arrived at Heliopolis, where he established his headquarters, and on that date the troops passed from the immediate control of General Spens. The divisional commander brought with him a staff of experienced officers, and these immediately set about the higher organisation of the brigades and the formation of the divisional troops. The 13th Light Horse became the divisional mounted force, but the signallers and engineers had to be completed by the transfer of suitable men from the infantry. Many good men were in this way lost to the Battalion.
Mention has already been made of the poor quality of the rations in Egypt. The system provided for a daily issue, by the Army Service Corps, of meat and bread; in addition there was an allowance of 8-1/2d. per man for the purpose of purchasing groceries and extras. On paper the scheme looked excellent but in practice was execrable. In the first place the A.S.C. procured their supplies from the local Supply Depot. Although the meat was passable, the bread—heavy, sodden, and often mildewy—was a source of daily and indignant protest. Complaint after complaint was lodged with the Supply people but improvement was almost despaired of, especially after verbal intimation had been received through semi-official channels that if the West Australians wanted better bread they would have to pay for it. Eventually, however, a change took place and the article became more palatable. The groceries were purchased from the Army canteens, which at this time were farmed out to contractors. Here the trouble was in the rising price of staple articles, the want of variety, and the scarcity of supplies. Tea and coffee were ample, but the sugar ration was hardly sufficient for these let alone any surplus being available for puddings, etc. Of the side-lines, such as tinned fish, rice, prunes, oatmeal, etc., what there was of these did not go far to appease the appetites of men used to better fare and having now to undergo hard training. The 8-1/2d. could not work miracles, and try as they would—and did—those responsible for the welfare of the men found themselves hard pressed in ensuring that their charges were even decently fed. Nor was the procuring of suitable and adequate rations the only trouble. Cooking them also presented many difficulties. Travelling kitchens had not then been supplied to the new units, and the only cooking vessels available were the camp kettles or dixies. Consequently such food as had to be cooked could only be boiled or stewed, and even then the results were not always satisfactory. The cooks themselves were untrained and often had to be changed. They lacked the knowledge and experience necessary to secure the best results and avoid waste. They were also handicapped for want of proper fuel and plant. The fuel was wood. What kind of wood it was, or where it came from, nobody knew. It had the appearance and endurance of that stray log which sometimes arrives in loads from Australian woodyards and which the self-respecting householder absolutely declines to tackle except in the last extremity. It played havoc with the temper of the cooks' fatigues and also with their tools.