When he was offered the position of “Transport Officer”, William accepted it without hesitation.
“You will be going to Serapeum to assess the situation.” William’s commanding officer told him.
“Yes, Sir.” William’s tanned face broke into a grin. At last he felt that sense of purpose that had eluded him since the light horse were dismounted. There were times during the last few months when he had questioned his decision to enlist. More than once he thought his chances of surviving Gallipoli were slim, if at all. But survive he did, and he was now eager to be useful.
Re-uniting with his regiment at Maadi was steeped in nervous expectation. Whilst on one hand he looked forward to reacquainting with old faces, he was nervous about revisiting old memories he would rather keep buried. Re-joining his regiment, in some ways, was like starting over. So many new reinforcements had arrived, to take the places of those who were lost. Searching the camp for familiar faces filled William with feelings of emptiness that he could only equate to losing a limb. Everyone had become so reliant upon each other in the trenches in order to survive.
William, however, had little time to dwell upon the misgivings of the past, as he pulled on the boots and spurs he left behind in Cairo in 1915. Being back in the saddle, he soon morphed into the man he had spent 20 years training to be. He embraced the intense weeks of training for desert fighting with enthusiasm.
By the time the bugle announced the Revielle at 5.00 each morning, William was already awake, thinking about the day ahead. His mind was churning with horseback manoeuvres and the sharp explosive sounds of bullets hitting targets on the shooting range. Over and over, he mentally fine- tuned his skills before the day’s training began. He knew he had to be mentally and physically prepared for the time that they would be called to fight in a real situation. Shortages of equipment such as saddlery and horses were also a cause for frustration. Due to the excess of men, training had to be conducted dismounted. The second Light Horse Training Regiment was formed from the excess men, and it was with this regiment that William was appointed his new position of Transport Officer.
By the middle of February he heard rumblings of discontentment among the new reinforcements. Many had enlisted during a flurry of excitement, generated by the recruitment drives, only to find themselves spending long days performing seemingly purposeless desert patrols, repetitious training and tending to their horses. Old hands like William listened with amusement to the comments that filtered through the various gatherings of men.
“When are we going to see action?” was a common question asked by those who were young and frustrated with the repetitious nature of training and tired of battling the Egyptian heat and dust. On the odd occasions when he was privy to such conversations, William commented, “Just be patient chaps and enjoy this time while it lasts. The time will come soon enough.”
He never saw the need to elaborate, despite being aware of the planning that was underway for the Regiment’s next move. Transporting an army of men and their supplies out into the desert was fraught with problems. The desert was about to push everyone to their human limits.