William soldiered on for the next few days, trying to stick to his routine. Fighting against constant fatigue, he pushed himself to work through his daily tasks. At the end of each day, he felt totally spent. Despite his exhaustion, he strolled into Ismailia with some fellow officers on the evening of August 16. Plans were made the week before, to see a film at the Italian Cinema. During the showing, however, he kept nodding to sleep. Disappointed, he excused himself at half-time and returned to camp.
On August 20, he awoke to the familiar sounding of the reveille. Normally, he jumped out of bed and readied himself for the day. That morning, however, the bugle unleashed its notes like blows of an angry hammer pounding on his head. Determined not to cave in to his desire to stay in bed, he hoped that food and a good strong cup of tea might remedy his condition.
Urging himself into a sitting position, he felt strange. He wasn’t sure whether he felt nauseous or hungry. Over the preceding days, he had lost his appetite. He struggled to gather the energy to stand and get dressed. Sitting on the edge of his cot for a minute or two, he listened to the muffled sounds of the awakening camp. He felt oddly out of step with the increasing momentum of voices and boots shuffling by. Gripping his bedding, he levered himself onto his feet. His hand reached for the tent pole to steady his balance. Taking a deep breath, he began to pull on his uniform, without his customary fastidiousness.
The smell of food in the mess tent made him feel ill. He could only swallow a small amount of bread for breakfast. By mid-morning he had to retreat to his tent, where he spent most of the day. That night he kept tossing and turning in bed. One minute he felt burning hot and drenched in sweat, pushing his bed covers aside. The next, he was freezing and shivering uncontrollably, despite curling up like a snail beneath his blankets. The following morning, he was too sick to work. He arranged for Lt. Land to pay the squadron and despite feeling very dizzy, staggered to the Medical Officer’s Tent.
The M.O. frowned with concern as William entered and slumped into a chair.
After an examination, he conceded, “Captain, it’s hospital for you.”
“Can’t you give me something?” William retorted.
The M.O. shook his head. “I’m not positive, but it looks like malaria.”
William hadn’t thought of malaria, although it was very common among the troops, particularly those who spent time in Palestine and Syria. When he thought about the timing, it made perfect sense. He felt ill not long after his return from Wadi Ghuzze.
“Where are you sending me?” William asked.
“The 26th Stationary Hospital in Ismailia for now. I’ll arrange for an ambulance transport. You can’t walk in your condition.”
William felt too weak to argue.
Hospital Ward, Ismailia WW1 Photo: South Australia State Library
That morning, Tom Fargher rode in from the Isolation Camp and learned of William’s affliction. He walked into Ismailia later that afternoon and visited William at the 26th Stationary Hospital.
“Cap,” he announced as he cast his eyes on William in the far corner of a room that was crowded with occupied beds. He was shocked by William’s appearance; how thin and frail he looked.
William opened his eyes at the sound of Tom’s voice. “Word travels fast.”
“So, what’s the verdict?” Tom enquired, perching himself on the end of the bed. The beds were so close that there wasn’t enough room to stand between them.
“That’s what they think, anyway,” William added.
“You and several thousand others,” Tom spoke as he surveyed the other patients in the room. “The hospitals are flat out, trying to cope.”
“So, Tom, what brings you to Moascar?”
“I’m returning to the regiment tomorrow.’
“With more recruits?” William asked.
“Yes, men need to take leave.”
William thought for a moment then suggested, “Why don’t you take young Pt Cooper with you?”
Tom frowned, “Your batman? But you……”
“No, take him,” William cut Tom off. “They’re sending me to the 14th AGH in Cairo.”
“Oh, I see. I could use an assistant.”
“He won’t be too happy about it.” William smiled.
“I’ll break the news, gently, shall I?”
Both men laughed.