Gillanders WD - WWI letter 1916 Oct 16
I got your letter written on Sept 4th a couple of days ago. It was the only letter T got but I may get some more if they have not got lost. Yesterday I got two Auckland Weekly's & may get a stray letter within a day or two they might have got mixed up seeing we are on the move. Peter was expecting some he did not get Well for a start I think you had better address my letters differently now seeing I have changed my corps. I am in the A.S.C. & not medical corps as I thought only attached to the red cross 16294
Driver W.D. _
Is I think my future address they respect the red cross more in this part of the world than they do on the continong & would not fire on you intentionally. One of the enemy aeroplanes dropped a note one day asking them to mark out there hospitals more plainly as they could hardly distinguish them from the rest of the camps.
I am about fifteen miles behind the firing line attached to the isolation hospital, that is about a third of the red cross men who are left here there are only four A.S.C. men left here & Peter & I are two of them the rest are all out at the front line. We just have seven mules to look after & that is all we do so you see we are not over worked.
We have been on the move ever since Sunday. We have not come very far only we have had to shift camp three times & nearly had to shift it a fourth time but the O.C. of the Mounted Field Ambulance managed to get the order repealed as we had just started to get settled down & had nearly all the marquis pitched etc the last order we got to shift came before we had unpacked everything but I think we are fairly settled this trip.
I am getting quite expert at mule driving. The first day we reached N.F.A. camp I got a job to take a sick man into the station a distance of about four miles across the trackless desert & at night we were just getting ready for tea when we got an order to take a case of harness to the station so Peter & I hooked four mules into a half limber. A half limber is like a half waggon with the pole fixed in & away we went pitch dark when we reached the station, & we had to find our way back by the stars & we got there alright. I think it is easier to find your way by night than day as everything is the same through the day one hill is just like an other one & there is no high hills where you can have a look around. There is sand every where & little bunches of scrub bushes like that scrubby ti tree scattered every here & there. They tell me that it is fertile country after we get to El Arish it will be a decided change for the eyes.
There was a "Taub" aeroplane hovering over yesterday but he did not drop any visiting cards. There is one of our own buzzing overhead just now but he is quite low when the Turk comes you can just see a speck away up like a hawk but we can hear the buzz plain enough. The little glass I bought is very good for distinguishing the different machines when they are high up. Our machines have red white & blue in rings on the bottom of the plane & the enemy have a kind of maltese cross on there's. This is a great place fore camels we would not be able to go very far without them. They cart all the fresh water from the railway & shift the camps about. You often use a train of camels stretching right across the desert from a mile to a mile & a half long all one behind the other. They can cany six to seven hundred quite easily though I don't think as a rule they put more than four on. There are lots of wells around here it is good enough for horses to drink but it is too salty for humans except of course at a pinch but we get freshwater by water pipe from the Nile but it is not a very big pipe & we can't afford to waste any. They have started putting down a larger pipe. I don't know if I am supposed to tell you anything like that but nothing like chancing it.
It's funny how you run up against people here. Last night I discovered that I was related to the two brothers that live in the same tent as Peter & I. Whittle is there name of course they are really no relation but their sister is married to Hugh Mc. Donald Rosemount & they knew Ken Scardroy & Tom Mac. Lennan ever since they came out from Home. One of them has been working with Ken mustering & that & when Tom came out first he used to take him round & show him the country. Have you ever heard if Ken went into camp & what lot he went with 'course if he is in the mtds I will most likely run across him sometime or other. I have not been with the Brigade yet except one night & then I did not have time to go & look for anybody.
Hammond Berry is still there in the 4th & I might know some more when I have a look around. There is a Y.M.CA. just over from us they have a canteen & sell stuff as cheaply as possible much cheaper than the other canteens. Every day here is just like the next & yesterday we did not know it was Sunday until at night we went over to the Y.M.C.A. & saw all the hymn books laid out so we waited for the service & of course that settled the question of the day.
I expect all the cows have been in for some time now & I am glad to hear that they were milking well when you wrote & that the grass & neeps were holding out well in the cliff paddock., how are you getting on with the turnips you should just about be putting "em" in by the time this reaches you. I hope you are getting suitable weather. Is the bush finished yet? It must be about if not have you still got all of last years calves or did you sell some of them prices seem to be pretty good. That was hard luck Smith losing his mare. I expect he would miss her a bit for his work unless he got another one to take her place.
How did our horses work this season? I will most likely be riding one & leading the other when I go for a drive in the old buggy or go harrowing. I think I will fetch back some mules with me a team of four would work all day and pull more than two heavy draughts they are very hardy & strong. How are all the valley folk getting on, thanks very much for all the news about the stock & cows etc. I am taking it all in although I might not mention everything about the particular subject you write about. Do you get the Auckland regularly now. I got the two you sent Aug 31 & Sept 7 they give us all the new about N.Z. I hope they are not going to call either of you up. I see by the paper that they are going to let farmers stay on their farms as long as possible. I am glad to see you are getting my allotment alright. Next time you get it if you don't happen to want the cash you can send me the five pounds. The money I draw is quite sufficient for all I require more than enough but I can't save anything & I would like to have some as a reserve in case I get leave or that as they often do here.
There are rest camps here where you can go & have a holiday. Of course if we are out here long I might not draw any pay & have plenty when I want it, but I like to have some as a reserve. When you send it you had better tell me in another letter besides the one you send it in so that I will know to expect it. I don't know if you can just pay it into the Bank there & draw it here or not but Dad will know any how I expect in a letter would be the simplest way. Well Dear folk I don't know that there is much more that I can say except of course to wish you all the compliments of me season & many happy