Volume 1: Letters written on active service, A-L, 1914-1919 - Page 23

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[Page 23]

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Patrolling the Desert

We left our camp in Egypt one hot day 'tween 9 and 10,
With 48 hours' rations for horses and for men,
Loaded up with ammunition and goodness knows what not,
As much as horse could carry, a rough and ready lot.
We knew no destination or what might come about,
But guessed "There's something doin'," by the way we hustled out.
We headed for Kantara and pushed on all that day,
Till 9 p.m., while halting, tucked some bully-beef away.

We rode across the Suez by the Pontoon bridge that night,
And kept on making eastward till dark gave way to light,
And late that night, still riding, we learnt what was our mission,
Wounded men in Red Cross Cars, explained the whole position.
We questioned as we passed them, 'What's up, Abdul scooped the pot?'
Their answer, coming wearily, "Aye chum, we've 'ad it pretty 'ot"

At dawn we came to water and wet our tired old nags,
The order came "Off saddle" and feed up from the bags,
We camped for some three hours, and were thankful to relax,
For guns and ammunition weighed heavy on our backs,
We slept for those three hours like sodden drunken men,
Breakfasted on bully-beef, then hit the trail again.

We'd brought spare horses with us, they now must stay behind,
For we're getting near the enemy, don't want 'em on our mind,
A few must stop back with them to picket and to feed,
A Sergeant, told off for the job, picked out the men he'd need.
He picked on one, Bill So-and-so, a good old mate of mine.
And told him off to stay behind with him and the spare horse line.

Bill cursed his luck and grumbled, wished all spare horses dead,
Dead stiff to have to stop there with a chance of scrap ahead.
So we left them there and started in search of Jack the Turk,
The "Screen" extended well ahead, and each man fit for work,
Though we'd all done "time" in trenches, this guerrilla game was new,
And those of us who didn't get warmed up and keen, were few.

At noon we stopped for lunch and spell, had just opened up a tin,
When mounted on a sweating horse, old Bill came riding in,
We were mighty glad to see him and asked, "What brings you here?"
Then he told us how he'd pinched his "marching orders" from the rear.
"See, the Sergeant went for water, and as he rode away,
Said – 'Fill those nosebags So-and-So, with feed for middle day."

I looked at the heap of nosebags and scratched my old fat head,
Thought, this job's no good to me, sooner be picked up dead.
Well here's my chance, the Sergeant's gone, though, may be, I'll cause a noise.
I'll beat it now and take my chance of catching up the boys.
So ran my eye all down the line and picked the best horse there,
Grabbed a saddle and flung it on, then got inside my gear,
Hopped across him and started out, headed the way you'd gone,
And here I am as dry as a bone, have you got the billy on?"

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