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[Page 212]

[Printed copy of a letter written by Clem Ranford.]
[Handwritten in the left-hand margin:]
Don. Saunders. Dec/18

Written by Lance-Corporal Clem Ranford of the Australian Light Horse in the field, Palestine, 14th October 1917. He was killed in action in Palestine 17 days afterwards. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Ranford, of Paxton Street, Semaphore, S.A., he was 16 when he enlisted and was 19 when he was killed, after over 2 years' service in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine. His elder brothers, Marmion and Gordon, also served in the Australian Light Horse. Marmion was killed in August 1916, and Gordon still serves as a Corporal, and is now, December 1917, in hospital at Cairo.

I was glad you received our cable all right. I may send home for a few pounds later on, for a friend of mine and I are fighting hard for a trip to Luxor, and if we get it it will cost a few pounds, but it would be money well spent, for it will be out of my reach once I get back to Australia, and now I can do it for about twenty pounds and have a good time at the same time, and in peace time and as a civilian it would cost nothing less than eighty pounds. Of course, some people who know nothing about these things, say, "What do you want to go there for? There are only broken down walls there." Well, I say these broken down walls have a charm for me, and I want to know more about them; more about the great ancient city of Thebes, and the wonderful hall of Karnak and temples. Why! The modern architecture is nothing alongside the huge and magnificent structures of those ancient ages. We had a lecture here by the Rev. Colonel Doctor Maitland Woods on Palestine, more of its ancient history, and mother, dear, he was the most wonderful and interesting speaker I have ever heard. He had us – dumb – spell-bound, and he had me worked up to such a pitch that my head pained and I felt as though I had done a hard day's ride. Wonderful: he touched on the old Bible stories, the old Testament, then of the ancient Greeks and their great reign in Palestine and Egypt, and of the beautiful cities and churches they built, and he said they used to put in lovely floors in their churches; all kinds of designs done in mosaic work, and every design has a meaning. We, the Anzacs, have found several of these old floors among ruins buried, but now they are removed to Cairo until our people can make the English Government decide that we can have them, and send them to dear old Australia to show our people some of the ancient and beautiful work of that wonderful, but now decayed race of the Greeks. Then he touched on the Romans; clever people, but not the class of people the Greeks were in those days.

He said they over-ran the Greeks and their country, but they never conquered them, and the consequence was that they took up the way of living of the Greeks and tried to build and construct buildings the same as them. They certainly built lovely structures, but not nearly as good as the Greek, for we have proof of it here, because the Greek ruins are in a far better state of preservation than the Roman buildings are to-day. Well, dear, he has made this wilderness 100 per cent more interesting than it was to me, for we are seeing things now that have been barred from the white European race for 1,400 years, and we, the Anzacs, are the first to see this wonderful old historic wilderness.

Mother, dear. he said what a wonderful and yet strange thing it is that the Australians, the youngest democracy in the world, going through, clearing and opening up the ancient trade route of the oldest autocracy known, that has been closed to everybody, except the Bedouin or the Amalekites, as the old Testament calls them. There are here to-day the biggest murderers, thieves, and lowest animals in the world. They have at times killed our wounded, robbed our dead as they did in David's time. It makes my blood boil to think of them; the uncivilized dogs they are. When you pass them in a body they look at you and grin, and show their beautiful, but devilish-looking teeth, and if you were on your own they would have a go at killing you for your clothes, the dogs, and yet we are not allowed to shoot them, but protect the devils.

I have sent photos of them home to you some time back. We are certainly opening the old route up to Gaza on our very own, and have laid the railway with the assistance of the Egyptian Labor Corps that existed in Moses' time.

The chaplain said he reckoned he was born 100 years too soon, for it won't be only a Cape to Cairo railway, but Cape to Vladivostock railway, and he said that where Kantarah (which means bridge) is now will be a large city of vast importance. There will be a large swing bridge there, and that is where they intend to put the "Anzac" memorial in honour of our dear brave boys who have given their precious lives that this Holy Land may be free from the awful Turk and all our dear ones may live in peace for many years to come.

We are not fighting for land or money, but just peace and home, which we long for, and our leader lives in mansions not built by man. The Light Horse, that such a lot of people wonder about and think they are not doing much are wrong, for they are doing the most glorious work they could, and in history their name will shine like diamonds.

Well, dear, I could go for a week about this "bonzer" lecture, but father Time is in the road, so I can only give you an idea what the lecture was about, so come back to the present day.

Well, we have had two or three concerts here lately and Gordon has taken the main part in them. He is in our Brigade Pierrots, and he has made a great hit here among Tommies and all. They reckon he has a splendid voice, and we enjoy it I tell you.

We are very quiet here at present. Nothing doing and both of us are doing well and going strong, so fond love to all.

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