Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

Writing about William’s illness has proved difficult as I haven’t been able to ascertain exactly what was wrong with him.  His diary entries are brief one-liners, leaving me to read and invent between the lines.  If I took his words at face value, there would be no reason for concern.

Aug 20 “Off colour – had to lie down after lunch.”

Aug 21  “Pay day….Lt. Land paid Sqdn.  Really sick.  M.O. said he’d send me to hospital”

He has mentioned headaches throughout his diary, so one could assume his illness was related to migraines.  A few weeks after he was admitted to hospital, he wrote that he had ‘malaria again’, making me think that was his initial problem. When I first referred to his official medical records I discovered he was admitted to the 26th Stationary Hospital in Ismailia with pyrexia, which is a very high fever. That still confirmed my ‘malaria’ theory.  However, as I sieved through the records, a more accurate picture come to light.

William was admitted to the 14th Australian General Hospital in Cairo on 25th August with Gastritis and debility.  When I found his medical statement, I was shocked at the poor state of his health.

WMJL Medical Statement 001

There were many contributing factors to Williams poor health.  Migraines, poor sanitation, poor food, malaria carrying mosquitoes and war weariness, to name a few.  It was a miracle if one could survive at all.

So, join me behind the cupboard doors, and watch William’s current situation plays out at the 14th AGH in Cairo.

 

 

 

 

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William is Hospitalised

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.

Ward Ismailia

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.

“Malaria.”

Tom nodded.

“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.

Anzac Day 2019

This morning I was honoured, once again, to deliver an address at the Anzac Day ceremony in my hometown, Giru, North Queensland.  I will share it with you below.

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‘AND SOME THERE BE, WHICH HAVE NO MEMORIAL;  WHO ARE PERISHED, AS THOUGH THEY HAD NEVER BEEN; AND ARE BECOME AS THOUGH THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN BORN; AND THEIR CHILDREN AFTER THEM.

BUT THESE WERE MERCIFUL MEN, WHOSE RIGHTEOUSNESS HATH NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN.  THEIR BODIES ARE BURIED IN PEACE, BUT THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE.  THE PEOPLE WILL TELL YOU OF THEIR WISDOM, AND THE CONGREGATION WILL SHEW FORTH THEIR PRAISES.’

MORE THAN 60000 AUSTRALIAN MEN NEVER RETURNED FROM THE GREAT WAR.  BARELY A FAMILY OR COMMUNITY WAS LEFT UNTOUCHED.  EVERYBODY HAD LOST SOMEBODY, AND NOT NECESSARILY A FAMILY MEMBER.  IN MANY CASES, OF COURSE IT WAS A FAMILY MEMBER – SOMETIMES, MORE THAN ONE BROTHER OR COUSINS.  IN OTHER CASES, IT WAS YOUR NEIGHBOUR, YOUR KIDS’ SCHOOL TEACHER OR GROCER’S SON WHO WERE KILLED.  EVERYONE KNEW SOMEONE WHO HAD LOST SOMEONE.  SOMEONE WAS MISSING FROM YOUR TOWN.

THE COUNTRY WAS GRIPPED BY GRIEF, BUT THERE WERE NO GRAVES.  THERE WAS NOWHERE TO GRIEVE. MEN WERE BURIED IN FARAWAY LANDS – OFTEN WHERE THEY FELL.

THE FIRST MEMORIALS BEGAN TO APPEAR SHORTLY AFTER THE GALLIPOLI LANDINGS.  THERE WERE MEMORIALS TO INDIVIDUALS, WHERE PEOPLE BOUGHT GATES OR A WINDOW IN THEIR CHURCH.  IT WAS NOT UNTIL AFTER THE CONCLUSION OF THE WAR, THAT COMMUNITIES SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED MEMORIALS FOR THEIR TOWNS.

THERE ARE 1500 MEMORIALS ACROSS AUSTRALIA, INCLUDING OUR OWN – SO MANY THAT AUSTRALIA HAS BEEN CALLED A “NATION OF SMALL-TOWN MEMORIALS”.  THERE WAS NO GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE.  EACH COMMUNITY FUND-RAISED FOR THE BUILDING OF THEIR OWN MEMORIAL.

EACH TOWN’S MEMORIAL REPRESENTED A SURROGATE GRAVE FOR EACH OF THOSE MEN LISTED BELOW THE YEARS 1914 TO 1918.  THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES WERE DEEPLY SCARRED BY LOSS.  PEOPLE NEEDED A PLACE TO VISIT, TO PLACE FLOWERS, TO HELP THEM GRIEVE.

OUR MEMORIALS HAVE NOW BECOME PLACES OF REMEMBRANCE FOR THOSE LOST DURING ALL WARS.

TODAY AS WE ARE GATHERED AROUND OUR OWN CENOTAPH, LET US REMEMBER THE MEN WHO WENT MISSING FROM OUR TOWN AS A RESULT OF BOTH WORLD WARS.

1914 – 1918

ROBERT LUXTON

1939 – 1945

TIMOTHY HAYES

JOHN BIRD

DOLAN O’NEILL

ERNEST BOLAM

FRANCIS HOCKING

FINDLAY MCLENNAN

WILLIAM DOUGLAS

JOHN HOOD

CHARLES GILBERT

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LEST WE FORGET.

Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

Good Morning

I must apologise for my leave of absence, albeit unintended.  Sometimes, life gets in the way.

With Anzac Day looming, my mind is being drawn back to the job at hand.  It has a way of stirring up stories that have been remained hidden for year  One such story shook me out of my ‘writer’s block’ recently with a jolt.  It came in the form of a film called “Testament of Youth”, based on the autobiography by British writer, Vera Brittain.

Testament of Youth

From the moment war was declared in 1914, the lives of Vera, her brother Edward and his friends Roland Leighton, Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow, went from carefree to dire in a very short period.  Their studies at Oxford were curtailed as they all followed a path of bloody futility.

The boys enlisted in Officers’ School and were sent to France.  Vera opted out of her studies to volunteer as a nurse at a hospital in England.  When Roland Leighton returned home on leave, he and Vera became engaged and were to be married when he was next on leave.  Whilst waiting at the Town Hall in her wedding dress, Christmas 1915, she receives a phone call from Roland’s distraught mother who tells Vera he was killed in Italy.  She then volunteers for active service, to be close to her brother.

Whilst abroad, she nursed Edward back from the brink of death.  Meanwhile, her mother suffers a nervous breakdown and Vera is summoned home.  Shortly thereafter, news arrives of her brother’s death.  His friend Victor is then shot through the head and blinded.  Vera nurses him in England, only for him to suddenly succumb to his injuries.  By the end of the war Geoffrey Thurlow is also dead.

Following armistice,  Vera returns to her studies at Oxford, but her experiences greatly affect her ability to continue.  She suffers nightmares and visions of death.  She is also overwhelmed by guilt:  she had pleaded with her father to allow Edward to enlist.  Subsequently, she has a breakdown.

Watching the movie, it was very easy to be drawn into the story.  It had all the ingredients of great story telling:  romance, plenty of tension and an endless run of obstacles that hamper the heroine’s happiness.  The most harrowing aspect is that the characters were real people as were the events.  One questions ‘how much grief can one family, let alone one person bear?’

The collective grief of a nation was monumental.  Multiply that by the number of nations involved in a war, on both sides, and it is unfathomable.  It has been said that the Great War cost the world an entire generation.  Even those who survived were robbed of their youth, and that includes the nurses, doctors and ambulance bearers who battled under horrific conditions to save lives.  Sometimes, I think they were the forgotten soldiers.  They witnessed the results of the war.  How could they not be affected?

In the coming episodes of William’s story, I will be introducing you to my own family’s war nurse, Emily Deane, who served in Egypt from 1917 to 1918.  So, keep the cupboard doors open.

BACK FROM WADI GHUZZE

Moascar Camp near IsmailiaA

Camp at Moascar

A Week Later

William sat at his desk, calculating the squadron’s payroll. He meticulously pencilled in the resulting figures beside each name on the ruled journal page. That afternoon, he would have to draw the cash and distribute to his men. That also meant a trip out to the Isolation Camp, where Tom returned following the trip to the Wadi.

He stared out at the white sand, bleached from the mid-morning sun. Sounds of men training echoed in the distance. Normally, he felt at home, surrounded by the familiar sounds and order of the camp. That morning, however, he felt out of sorts.

Perhaps I’m missing home, he thought, following the disappointment of receiving no mail. He yearned for something familiar and safe. Cis’ letters were always so long and newsy. Often, he received a bundle of envelopes at one time. Usually there were three or four from Cis, along with several from other family members. His Mother and sisters, Lil and Tottie, were also prolific letter writers.

William wished he could write Cis about his trip to the Wadi, but due to censorship, he could only write a skeletal account, omitting most of the details. He had already updated his diary with brief notes. ‘If anyone reads it in the future, they’d have a jolly hard time reading between the lines,’ he mused.

The return journey from Wadi Ghuzze was somewhat more sombre than the outward ride. Tom had forewarned him, so it came as no surprise. The lack of conversation made for a very long trip. For much of the journey, he silently considered the happenings of the prior ten days. He felt really fatigued, more so than usual.

He expected that once he stepped back into his normal routine: sleep and better food, he would feel ship-shape. That was not the case. Two days after his return, he met up with Tom for 4 o’clock tea at the NZ Officers Club in Ismailia.

“How’s life back at Moascar?” Tom enquired, stirring sugar into his tea.

“I wish I could say everything is bonzer,” William replied.

Tom looked up, his face frowning with concern. “What do you mean You wish?”

“I feel off.”

“Too much excitement out there, was it?” Tom grinned.

“Perhaps.” William sipped from his teacup, struggling to hold his usual rod-straight posture.

Tom looked at his friend. The William Lyons he knew wouldn’t think like that. It was out of character.

“You ok Cap? Another bad head?”

“No, I haven’t had a headache since before we visited the Wadi. I’m just tired.”

William tried to put on a good front. He hadn’t had time to digest everything that transpired out at the Wadi. There was so much to think about: the conditions, the appalling food and the insects. There was a war within a war. Then of course, there was the reconnaissance to Sufi.

“We were fortunate there were no casualties at Sufi.” His thoughts trailed off to that night. “I’m getting too old for this, Tom.”

Tom stared at William without saying a word. He then changed the subject to the Isolation Camp where he had been since returning from the Wadi.

Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

This morning I wish to share some of my newfound information on how to preserve valuable photographs and document in times of disaster.

I am sure many of you are aware of the recent events here in Townsville.  Thousands of residents suffered the effects of raging floodwaters coursing through their homes.  Often, I have asked myself “What would I most want to save?” in such circumstances. Of course, my answer is always “my photographs and family history documents”.

Prior to cyclone “Yasi” I placed all of my photo albums, scrapbooks and bundles of old photographs in a large plastic bin with a lid.  My thinking was that if I lost my roof, at least they would be relatively safe from rainwater.  I have continued to store my old photo albums in that plastic bin, in the event of another cyclone.  Recently, I was talking to a friend who works in archives at Jezzine Barracks.  She shared with me some hints on better ways to keep those precious items safe.

The best way to preserve a book or photo album is to wrap them in cling wrap and then place them in a zip lock bag that is safe for food.  Then place the wrapped item in the freezer.  I asked, “What if the power is cut and everything in the freezed thaws?”  She replied, “They are sealed in their wrapping, so should be safe.”

For a start, freezers, in the event of flooding, float.  You could add another precaution by tying the freezer to a door or heavy object to prevent it from being pushed out of the house.  Whilst the freezer door/lid is closed, the contents are sealed.

It is also worth knowing that freezers are effective in treating photos that have been immersed in floodwater.  Many photos, depending on the laboratory developing methods, can be saved.  If photographs are stuck together in bundles, place them in a bucket of water to separate.  Pat dry and then place between sheets of baking paper in the freezer.  The dry, cool air will prevent the growth of mould.  This does not work for all photos as it does depend on the chemicals used for development.  However, a friend used this method following the recent floods and managed to save a large percentage of family photos.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure.  So, I would also suggest to scan any old documents and photographs and store them on Cloud or a separate external hard drive.  That way, if the originals are lost, you have the next best thing.

Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

During William’s stay at Wadi Ghuzze during July/August 1917, he visited an ancient archaeological sight at a place called Tel el Farar.  In his diary on 31 July 1917, he wrote:

“Had a look at Tel el Farar.  Built by the Romans, like the old forts in Ireland.”

I haven’t written it into his story as I didn’t want to detract from the horrible reality of life at the Wadi.  However, my research has revealed an interesting character in the Army chaplain who took a very keen interest in the site.  Ion Idriess  mentioned him in ‘The Desert Column’:

“Chaplain Maitland- Woods is a decent old sort.  He is quite mad, though; mad on old buried cities, and ancient peoples.  Whenever the padre gets a chance, he climbs one of these big old mounds and a crowd congregates, Aussies and En Zeds, Tommies and Cameliers and Artillerists and heaven knows what not, while he holds forth and tells us that the Bedouins were the cut-throat Amalakites who harried David and were just as dirty a crowd thousands of years ago as they are today.  Then the padre points up this very wadi and tells us of the queer old armies that struggled along it, tough old chaps who tended their flocks and annexed those of their neighbours; who skinned one another alive at times; who built cities that other people razed to the ground.  Quaint people who lived and loved and fought and died and vanished within the very dust upon which we lie night after night.” (1)

According to Idriess, the padre got many of the men interested in archaeology; they spent their spare time digging for relics of the past.  If William hadn’t already met the Padre, I am sure he would have made himself known to the man, and welcomed a personal tour of the site in question.  There was also a real possibility that they had met previously.

William_Maitland_Woods_with_the_inscription_from_the_Shellac_Mosaic,_circa_April_1917

Photo: Australian War Memorial – William Maitland Woods in front of a Byzantine mosaic that is now on display at the Australian War Memorial.

William Maitland Woods, born on 4 January 1864 in London, England, graduated B.A. in 1889 from St. Mary Hall, Oxford.  Upon being made deacon that same year, he travelled to Australia, to be curate of St. James Protestant Cathedral in  Townsville, North Queensland.  In 1890, he was made curate-in-charge on Thursday Island and was ordained priest on 11 April 1892.  He married Ina Alice Mary Games on 3 January 1893 in the island’s registry office.  As the first rector of Thursday Island, he displayed ‘a strong sense of missionary vocation’ and saw the Quetta Memorial Church built before he moved in 1897 to Cairns.  He then worked in parishes at Dalby (1899-1903), Kangaroo Point, Brisbane (1903-13) and Ariah Park, New South Wales (1913-15).  (2)

The padre was appointed chaplain in the Queensland Land Forces in 1893.  Having continued to serve in the military, he transferred to the Australian Imperial Forces on 9th August 1915.  He was sent to Gallipoli two months later where he served until the evacuation in December.  He was made senior chaplain on 31 July 1916 and was then appointed to the staff of Major General Harry Chauvel’s Anzac Mounted Division in September.  During the advance through Sinai and Palestine, he spent his long periods of inaction, lecturing on the Holy Land. (3)

With the real possibility that the Padre William Maitland Woods personally showed William the site at Tel-el-Farar, I wish I could go back to that time and listen to their conversations.  Possessing a keen archaeological ear myself, I’d find the scene intriguing. Perhaps I need to include the padre in William’s story.  He seems to be an interesting relic himself.

References:

  1. The Desert Column, Chapter XXXIX, Page 289/290
  2. Australian Dictionary of Biography – Woods, William Maitland (1864-1927)
  3. Australian Dictionary of Biography – Woods, William Maitland (1864-1927)

Sufi

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This was William’s first reconnaissance in months and an entirely different experience to that he was accustomed to.  He soon realised the difficulties of riding at night from the Wadi.  Even at a walking pace, 1500 sets of hooves soon churned the powdery ground into a choking storm.  Any amount of moonlight could not have penetrated, with any clarity, the suffocating film that hung in the air.

No one spoke.  Attempts at conversation were curtailed by coughing fits.  William covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief before leaving camp.  Dust in his mouth and airways made him thirsty and he needed to conserve his water.  He knew they wouldn’t reach the well at Sufi for another five hours.  That was, of course, if everything went according to plan. Military plans, however, had a way of steering off course.

As the hours passed, the coughing settled.  The horses, however, continued to snort, blowing dust from their nostrils.  To the rhythm of muffled hooves and the thump of rifle-butts against leggings (2), the invisible column of troopers settled into the long ride.

William noticed the trooper in front of him, leaning forward in the saddle. His head nodded with the slow rhythm of his horse.  The monotony of riding blind in such conditions was hypnotic.  Often, men fell asleep and their horses continued to carry them through the night.

At midnight, the brigade reached a place called Taweil-el-Haberi.  They halted while the fifth light horse regiment moved in an eastward direction until they reached a small wadi on the main Beersheba Road.  From thereon, they navigated by compass. Even when visibility was okay, the existing maps were printed prior to the war.  Many of the roads and tracks marked on the maps had been changed by the various military operations across the country.

‘On approaching Sufi, ‘C’ Squadron and two troops of machine guns moved northward up the wadi on Sufi, while ‘A’ Squadron and one troop of machine guns moved half a mile on the right flank of ‘C’ Squadron to protect it from any attack which might come from Beersheba defences. The remainder of the Regiment moved 400 yards in rear of and in support of ‘C’ Squadron.’ (3) (The History of the 5th Light Horse Regiment)

By the time they approach the Sufi well, William’s training had automatically kicked in.  Eight months away from the front had not dulled his senses as he listened for signs of the enemy’s presence: the shuffle of hooves, voices or the glow of a cigarette. He clung to the hope that their own horses would not alert the enemy of their presence.

Cautiously, the squadron of 50 men grouped at the edge of the well.  The smell of animals hung in the air. William dismounted from his horse and inspected the ground.  Others followed suit.  There were signs of recent disturbance with fresh animal tracks stamped in the soil. Fresh dung dotted the area.

“Sheep dung,” William said, not much louder than a whisper, cupping a lit match in his hands.

“Looks like a large flock has watered here earlier today, or yesterday,” Lieutenant Boyd, commander of ‘C’ Squadron advised, crouching down on his haunches beside William.

Further inspection of the well revealed no existing signs of Bedouin presence.  Lieutenant Boyd phoned headquarters on the telephone line that the regiment dropped from where they left the Brigade at Taweil-el-Haberi.  Reporting their finds, he was ordered to send two troops of the squadron to patrol the railway in search of the enemy.

William joined the patrol that moved north-east toward the railway.  Gripped by that strange feeling that was once so familiar, he held the reins in one hand and the other rested on this rifle.  His knees involuntarily gripped the horse’s girth.  Even his horse began to tense.  Then, as if by his own volition, it came.  A thunderous crack of rifle fire shattered the silence.

Men and horses tensed, breaking into a canter, then a gallop.  William felt the whoosh of bullets as he made his getaway.

References:

  1. 5th LH Regimental Diary
  2. The Desert Column – Pg 294
  3. History of the 5th Light Horse Regiment

 

 

 

 

Monday Musings From The Writer s Desk

Vintage letter

This morning I would like to share another newspaper clipping I found in Great Grandfather’s collection of ephemera.

The Islanders Clipping 001

Upon some research, I discovered that the poem was first printed in a newspaper in February 1902.  Mr Kipling’s push for conscription caused some controversy at the time.  Perhaps his opinion does have some merit.  However, upon reading the article in the clipping above, I do agree with his argument for the use of commonsense on the battlefield.

Given that this poem was published just after Great Grandfather returned from the Boer War, I am curious what he thought.  I am sure he had an opinion on the matter – why else did he save the clipping, behind the cupboard doors, for the rest of his life?  I’m not sure which stance he would have taken, being a career soldier.  Although I think he would find merit in the opinion of Rev. Hugh Price Hughes.

 

Patrol to Sufi

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Photo album donated to the Red Cliffs Military Museum, Victoria.  Photo

August 3 was no different to the previous days William spent at the Wadi.  Once the quiet of early morning was broken by the first round of fighting, any semblance of serenity was decimated.  William tried his best to carry on, regardless of the environment.

He spent part of the morning in the orderly room of the 6th Light Horse Regiment.  After some deliberation, it was decided that Pte Farquhar was, for the time being, able to perform his duties.  His condition, however, was to be monitored.  William wrote his report and spent the remainder of the day resting.  Later in the afternoon, he attended a briefing for the exercise to Sufi.

Sufi sat about two miles in front of the Turkish position at Beersheba and was significant because of its well.  A patrol had reported that a Bedouin battalion of approximately 300 men were camped there. The objective of the reconnaissance was to capture or destroy that battalion, and to get back out of range of the Turkish guns at Beersheba before dawn.  The latter was imperative, as the Turks had numerous guns placed between Beersheba and Sufi.

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The dying sun blurred the mix of smoke and dust into a dark menacing sky.  For the safety of the brigade, high command chose to work at night. Dust was a huge problem at the Wadi.  A large column of horses moving across the plain was, by all accounts, an indescribable sight.  They were also easily detected by the Turks.

At 19.00, men were busy saddling up their horses, packing ammunition and other supplies required for the night ride.

“There was a time when this was my favourite time of day,” Tom commented as he and William packed their horses.  “It meant our work was done.”

 “On the farm, it meant mosquitoes, lots of them,” William laughed. He recalled sitting on his front verandah at the end of the day, pulling off his boots, as the sun disappeared behind Mount Elliott. Smoke rose from the charred paddock of cane that had been reduced to blackened sticks from the night’s burn.  The air was heavy with that sweet smoky smell of burned sugar, and thick with a wall of mosquitoes.

“We had to burn drums of cow dung to keep them away from the house and stables.”

Feeling the tension in the air, the thought of annoying mosquitoes seemed so trivial. Some men went through the motions without speaking.  Others exhibited an air of nervous excitement.  He guessed they were new recruits.  William mounted his horse and formed up with the ‘C’ Squadron who were riding advance guard.  At 19.30, orders came down the column for the brigade of more than 1500 men to move out of camp.