Private John Duncan McRae of Newtown enlisted in the A.I.F. at the age of 22 and left Sydney on the "Suevic" in November 1916. He disembarked at Devonport, England, on 30 January 1917. The first letter (with the first page missing) is to his mother and father during his training at Rollestone Camp in Wiltshire. He describes his training, guard duties and, in particular, an officer's funeral in which he was one of the firing party. He lists the music played by the brass band and some of the songs sung by the men as they marched back to camp. There is a photograph sent from France of a group of those soldiers with him, listing their names. The third letter, written from France in September 1917, is from Chaplain W.K. Douglas, 12th Battalion, A.I.F., who was with Private McRae when he died, after being wounded in action, on 19 September 1917 and who conducted the burial service at Dickebusch near Ypres.]
20 Mar. 1917
to-day (Monday) has not seen a spot of rain & so I expect the shower has passed over for the present at least.
Then, again, we are finding our drill more interesting because we are daily feeling more 'fit' in ourselves. My feet are improving every day, and every soldier knows only too well that his feet are his greatest enemy, or his greatest friend, according to their weakness or otherwise. We have now had two lectures on 'the care of the feet' and by following out the instructions given there, most of us have greatly benefitted. And further, it has been a great surprise to me to see how quickly & how wonderfully the human organism adapts itself to its environment. As a result of this adaptation, we can now stand cold & wetness in a way impossible before. One's diet helps in this a good deal. For instance you would be surprised to see me devouring with a vengeance fat bacon & fat mutton, etc. etc. etc. We don't pick & choose at meal time but simply start at one side of the plate & stop when we get to the other side.
But even apart from these things, our drill in