We left Turton exactly at 4 p.m. on Wednesday September 9th 1914 in a
heavy storm. We arrived at Southampton at 7 o clock in the morning of
the following day. It was pouring down when we arrived but cleaner .........
We had a hearty send off from Turton although spectators were kept to
the background and all along .......line to Bolton and on through Bury,
Heywood, Rochdale, Littleborough and Todmorden, people clustered .........
and cheered. Even well into Yorkshire we passed ......... groups, especially
children waving banners and ..... shouting. Never, I should say was the
uniform so popular. So we journeyed until darkness set in. We were then
nearing Sheffield and after satisfying the inner man with bread and jam
swilled down with liquid from our water bottles we got down to it. There
were six of us in the carriage but by turning over the seats and lying
crosswise , we snatched a few hours rest. Sept ....... It seems rather
appropriate but the majority of us woke at Woking about 5 a.m. Passing
on through Farnborough (Flying sheds reminiscence of Alders? Camp last
year) Basingstoke and Winchester, we reached Southampton about 7 o clock.
All along the line, for the last 40 miles, were sentries at frequent intervals;
some reliefs were sleeping on stations, others in tents within three yards
of the line itself. At Southampton we lined up on the platform and each
Company was divided into messes varying in size from 8 to 18 men under
a Corporal. The second train bringing the 4 Companies of the left half
battalion had arrived before we embarked. On board with us are about 500
Yeomanry from Hertfordshire and several R.A.M.C. and Artillery from East
Lancashire total about 2500. It took the whole day to load up, Ammunition,
Artillery Guns and Baggage. The horses all being loaded on a different
vessel. There were several vessels in close proximity amongst ... being
the "Newralia" and the "Corsican". Our boat was the
"Ionian". We were second to move. It would be 8.30 pm when by
the aid of two tugs we passed slowly down to the channel. Although there
was nothing to see, for it was dark - the occasion was impressive. On
the first movement, the men aboard began to sing "Homeland"
to begin with, followed by "Auld Lang Syne", "Rule Britannia"
and "God Save the King". Had there been any crowd on the landing
stage, the moment would have been touching. As it was the response came
from one of the other vessels which was to follow us on. It was followed
by cheers and counter cheers. These soon died away and within half an
hour nearly all were below, tasting the delights or otherwise of sleeping
in hammocks, slung from the low ceiling of the 2nd and 3rd decks below,
in an atmosphere enough to sicken one even if he felt quite well above.
However we soon settled and after performing balancing feats in order
to get into the hammocks, found them very comfortable.
September .... We arose next morning about 6 a.m. and were still just
in sight of land and in the vicinity were four Cruisers. About 10.30 we
came across about 6 other vessels and anchored with them. At various intervals,
other boats arrived and anchored with us until about 7 o clock p.m. when
I suppose the Brigade was complete, we moved off. By this time it was
very misty and drizzling rain had set in. The conditions were anything
but pleasant; up above on had to crush for shelter, down below one little
cared to venture till the necessary time came. Many, especially the Yeomanry
are sleeping out under the shelter of an upper deck, half of which is
reserved for officers, the other side for us. Many of them scarcely ever
venture from here. Their comrades may be seen every morning brining up
bread and butter with marmalade if it is issued.
The Yeomanry seem to be a superior sort of follows, many of very good
education. Their manners are much better than ours and in physique there
is no comparison. They consist of farmers and gentlemen's sons from Herts
and are to a certain extent "Cockneyfied". I believe there are
amongst them chaps who own their own big houses and carriages. One has
his own coachman Corporal above him. So goes the tale. They do not associate
very much with the Bury men but have to rough it just the same. They seem
however to obtain greater liberties, probably they do not abuse them.
To return to the narrative - The Sergeants have bunks, four in a cabin.
There are not sufficient to go round so they are divided between ours
and the other Regiments. The Senior Sergeants got the preference and most
of them obtained bunks. They also obtained something else - rats. The
remainder of the Sergeants have hammocks. I wouldn't have a bunk given
to me except perhaps for a little privacy during the day. You see the
Sergeants are in the stern part of the boat, so also are the Stores of
Food. This accounts for the presence of the rodents. These bunks will
probably be 3rd Class to Canada. More forward come the Officers' Cabins.
State Rooms etc. Whilst we have the front part of the vessel. The Officers
portion is very elaborate and corresponds to 1st Class. They are having
a very cushy time, with lunch and late dinner. Am sure the cruise must
be a splendid holiday to them, after the period of sickness has passed.
September 12th Saturday
And now to the sickness. We arose about the usual time 6 a.m. after a
fair sleep, awakened only at frequent intervals by someone moving along
under ones hammock and catching his head in the middle of ones back, or
by the sudden crash as enamel plates, tin cups and roast tins slide smoothly
along the tables and on to the floor. This happened I should say about
four times an hour. However, we were glad to get on deck. The mist was
still with us, varied by long periods of drizzling rain. Added to this
was the rocking of the vessel and rolling from side to side due to a cross
wind. We were fairly in the Bay of Biscay and I should say under not very
In my case, it began with a tired "want to keep quite" sort
of feeling and ended in the usual way. There was porridge for breakfast.
The best thing possible, of course no milk. I didn't feel hungry, but
made an effort to go downstairs. Had porridge and then returned in a very
big hurry. Same procedure at dinner. Same big hurry. Did not feel inclined
for tea, so remained above and tried to snooze. At 7.30 p.m. made another
effort to get below to hammock. The atmosphere was heavy and in hooking
up the hammock and getting in, I had to do three more big rushes. This
is the story of how at 8 p.m. my weight was much less than at 8 a.m.
September 13th Sunday
Had good sleep, upset only occasionally by the procedures of the previous
night. The morning was fine and clearer, but still not of the best. We
sat on deck till 11 o clock parade and then heard good news of war by
wireless. About 11.30 the Band made a 1st effort to play. At the sametime
the sun began to show its face and sickness had practically departed.
Had good dinner and passed remainder of day reading on upper deck. This
was divided by a rope and we (the majority being Yeomanry) were supposed
to keep on one side of it. This was ridiculous as we have little enough
room as it is. Of course the follows crept under and sat down. Shortly
one of the Police (an artilleryman from East Lancs) came along and caused
much amusement especially to the Yeomen by calling out "Now then
chaps "T'other side ut rope plaze!". It seemed to become a war
cry for a day or so. The rope has since been removed and this side of
the upper deck is now free to all. At 4 p.m. today we had done 300 miles
from our "rendezvous" where we all started from last Friday,
and were just over half way across the Bay. Since starting, we have only
moved at the rate of 6 - 8 knots per hour. Practically a crawl. At this
rate we shall not reach Gibraltar till towards Friday. The slow speed
is due to the fact that there is a slow boat with us carrying thousands
of tons of ammunition and she sets the pace. All orders are taken from
one of the Cruisers "H.M.S. Ocean" which passed quite close
to us yesterday. It is a splendid sight, although we have not seen land
for some days. The slow boat and a cruiser lead; the rest follow in line
thus:- ............. (14)
There are about so many of us while another cruiser seems to move about
amongst us to the rear. The band played again in the afternoon and the
day passed well. Much amusement is occasionally caused below in getting
in and out of hammocks. If one is not very careful after getting one leg
in the thing does a shoot away, especially if the boat happens to roll
at the same time. The hammocks are rolled up each morning and stowed away
in a compartment for each mess of men. This enables one to sit down to
meals without rubbing heads with the beds (poetry accidental).
September 14th Monday
A beautifully fine morning. The sea, as calm as a lake, has altered to
a lovely rich blue unseen to me before. Parade after breakfast in bare
feet for physical drill. Heard good news of war again. The Band played
about 11.30 and everybody felt better. Have heard that music is to continue
daily. It is much appreciated. All signs of sickness have now departed
and time is passed between writing, reading and watching the companion
ships. Of course we parade twice a day. Inspection each morning of all
except 2 mess orderlies who remain below and side up, wash up and scrub.
They in turn are inspected about 11 o clock when nobody else has to be
below. It is a thankless job and we have decided to pay them.
This afternoon about 5 o clock all glasses were turned East. It was land.
At least so we surmised. Probably Cape Finisterre in the North West of
Spain about 70 miles away. It seems a good distance but we have taken
an outward course all the way, whilst the sky is very clear. Hills at
this distance should therefore be visible. I got a map from a tourist
office in Bolton before leaving. It shows all the Mediterranean to Egypt
and also France and Spain. From this, at the resent slow rate of progress,
it would seem that we might reach Gib on Friday. Afterwards we shall most
likely increase speed as it is said the slow boat will stop at Gibraltar.
We rather fancy that the rolling in the Bay would have been lessened had
we come at a quicker rate.
Today, for the first time, we felt the effect of the Southern Sun. It
was very hot on deck, almost cooler below. The crew have been erecting
canvas funnel arrangements to cause a draft through the hatchways and
so ventilate the lower decks and at times when the sun is out it seems
cooler below though the air is not so fresh. We are becoming quite used
to hammocks, but if the heat continues blankets will be unnecessary. We
now go down to bed. At Turton we rested on the ground floor, whilst at
home of course we move upwards. Occasionally we hear remarks about Turton
such as "You're wanted at the gate." It makes one feel tied
15th September Tuesday
At least I am up to date with the chain of events. I am writing this
down below just waiting for tea, occasionally stopping to collect thoughts,
but really to have a bite of jam and bread. This morning everybody,
except the two orderlies to each mess had to parade in bare feet. I
have been in bare feet all day. Slippers would be very handy now. Practically
half the men have them, the others either move about bare footed or
wear their heavy shoes, which seem out of place. After dinner, that
is about 2 p.m. we paraded to wash socks. The sun is scorching this
last few days whilst the sea is beautifully calm. There is very little
breeze and it is a strange sight to see the smoke from the funnels moving
in the same direction as the ship itself. Of course we are only moving
8 knots an hour. Have just finished tea and had a salt water dip in
a canvas bath on deck. Out company had the use of it from 5.30 to 6
p.m. and it made one feel grand. It will be about 8 yards by 3' and
2 ft 6in deep and we went in about 6 or 8 at a time afterwards on deck
we noticed the port holes on the land side of the ship being closed
and blinds drawn. The reason for this one could only surmise. Probably
we were fairly close to land and did not wish to be seen. As a matter
of fact we were, but it was not visible. We could however see the regular
flashes of light from what we thought was a lighthouse. A rumour was
current that 2 German cruisers and an armed Merchant Ship were moving
about the Atlantic. So said one of the hands who was closing the port
holes. Of course we heard many rumours at Tu7rton and also at Bury.
We should have had a concert tonight but could not find the Band, so
went down to bed early.
16th September Wednesday
We are becoming quite used to hammock sleeping and are finding them
quite cosy. Certainly it feels very fresh to get up on deck each morning
but the bed draws to a great extent. It is so very much softer you see
than Turton Bottoms. Have just come up above. It is a beautiful morning,
just nice now, but promising us a scorching day. Land just visible to
the East not very clear, as there is a very bright sun reflecting in
our eyes. It is evidently going to be a hot day as the deck hands are
erecting a canvas screen above the uncovered portions of the boat as
We have on board two canteens, one for us, the other for the remaining
regiments. They open at certain periods of the day for about 1 hour
at a time. During these periods the men wishing to be served have to
line up and wait sometimes 15 minutes for their turn. The supply is
limited and has to be replenished after each opening, from the stores.
Thus occasionally you can walk right up to the place and be served at
once. Of course you must only ask them for what they have e.g. soap,
shoe laces etc. At other times, by waiting, you may get a bottle or
cake and sometimes even lime drops. If you cannot, well you make up
for it at the next meal. Last night somebody had squared the baker and
come down below with a large bagful of fresh warm scones. Result, pocket
money for the baker, profit for the somebody, satisfaction to the men.
I can assure you that it is very pleasant to lie in a hammock on board,
within 50 miles of Portugal and on a smooth water, calmly chewing warm
scones. It sends one to sleep. At least it did me. Will finish now before
breakfast and have a walk round. We paraded this morning barefooted,
and in shirt sleeves, for physical drill. There is not much room, but
we made the best of it. Afterwards we sat and read until dinner, in
the scorching sun. The dark smoked glasses are becoming a daily need
and proving most useful for reading. This afternoon we have had a drill
with cork like belts. The men lined up all over the ship and the belts
were passed along up the steps and to the far end of the boat. Each
man then placed one round his neck and tied it round his chest.
The land we could just discern this morning on arising became quite
clean about 9 o clock. It proved to be Cape St Vincent on the South
West corner of Portugal about 7 miles away. We had passed this promontory
in a few hours and our course was soon changed from practically South
to a S.S.E. direction. We are evidently now straight for Gib. It seems
the light seen last night was just off Lisbon at the mouth of the Tagus.
Am just told we shall reach Gibraltar very early tomorrow. It is simply
scorching down below here. Everybody is hastily getting letters etc.
ready for home. They have to be posted tonight.
Thursday 17th September
We returned last night with the full intention of rising early to see
the "Rock" lest we should steams past and not call. It was
5.30 a.m. and a choppy sea. Nothing could be seen on deck for mist.
This cleared later and about 6.30 we saw Morocco, Africa for the first
time. The hill tops could be seen above the mist. Further on the sun
made an effort to break through and shortly afterwards the South of
Spain came into view. The sun's effect on the steep slopes of the hills
was splendid, while at the foot were light coloured buildings seemingly
the town of Tarifa. We ran into mist again and the next thing we saw
was the Rock. The Rock of Gibraltar. We were moving slowly into the
bay and soon anchored (after turning round) about 800 yards from the
landing stage. The other boats came in and performed the same operation.
It was then about 10 a.m. and the sea had gone quite calm again, whilst
the sun was also getting on the job. There we remained till 5.15 in
the afternoon when we encircled the Rock and moved eastwards into the
Mediterranean. I cannot describe to you in words the view of the Rock.
It may be likened somewhat to Great Orme's Head. We approached it as
if sailing from Rhos to Llandudno. The town and the Spanish side for
short way is flat and inhabited just like Llandudno and Deganury? The
mountains of Spain rise up beyond and continue round the bay and westwards.
The rock itself rises up suddenly from the town and seems to culminate
in two prominent p0eaks. Its size is not to be compared to Gt. Orme,
but its height is out of all proportion. There appears to be no top
as it were; just a long ridge with the two points mentioned. The eastern
side juts straight almost perpendicularly in places to the sea. The
southern side drops suddenly to about halfway and then like the western
slopes more gradually down to the shore. On this latter side (they bay
side is the landing stage and as far as we could see white and yellow
sandy looking buildings. They may be houses, they may be barracks or
some of them forts. I understand however the chief fortifications are
on the East (where buildings are impossible) and also on the Southern
edge of the peninsular, which itself is called the Rock. In places one
could see a gun or two, here and there a concrete wall built into the
cliff but of the main strength we could see nothing. We were too far
For the first time today, we had a parade before breakfast. Physical
drill 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Shirt sleeves and bare feet. After breakfast
the usual parade followed by inspection throughout the ship at 10.30.
By 11.30 we were free for the day. Afternoon parade being off as we
had it before breakfast. This is to be continued. We had not been anchored
long this morning when rowing boats approached across the bay from the
direction of Algeciras. We guessed what they contained. Fruit! Yes.
Grapes, Apples, Peaches and Tomatoes. On reaching our boat they threw
up rotes and by mans of baskets we wound up the dainties. There was
a rush and the men - Spaniards - coined money. At first several of our
men joined and let down a few shillings for a basket full. Experience
teaches. We finished by lowering our hats or baskets for sixpennyworth
ata time. The result was better value for money and by refusing to wind
up and complaining of the few placed in the hat, they would place another
handful of grapes in. How these natives can be bartered down and it
didn't take long to find this out. One chap lowered a shilling, but
the supply was finished. The men motioned they were fetching more from
across the bay, a matter of some miles. Whether he obtained anything
, I am still wondering. The next time the men came, the fruit was forbidden.
The sale was stopped by command. We have been told to be temperate in
its use. Expect we shall be inundated with it before long. Today it
didn't pan out very cheaply that is in comparison with the huge supply
there must be. The grapes (green) were very nice, so were the apples,
but the peaches were scarcely ripe. Am keeping them.
Stripes have been issued to the newly promoted today. I have pulled
the old one off and been stitching the two new ones on this afternoon.
In a scorching sun it kept me awake. Black thread on Khaki and what
is more it doesn't show. Just fancy. Expects declare it a work of art
and they know. It took me long enough so it should be. Of course occasionally
I stitched it through to the other side of the sleeve, but this was
a detail. As one fellow said today "There are more mistakes in
the world than beafsteaks."
With the afternoon fast going, we have moved out of the bay into the
Mediterranean. The slow boat is now left behind and we are proceeding
much faster. With interest waning as the Rock gradually disappeared
in the distance. I came below and have managed to pen the last few pages.
As I write, barefooted without coat or vest many already slinging their
hammocks and getting to bed. It is 8.30 and the buns have arrived.
With Gibraltar behind us interest seems to have waned somewhat. We are
in for open sea, though today land appeared to the South East (Algeria)
for an hour or two. Parade as usual this morning but afterwards we (some
of the company) were inoculated against Enteric Typhoid Fever. The process
is to inject a quantity of this germ into the body by a syringe with
a point like a darning needle. The Doctor is not very particular how
far it goes into the arm, in most cases about 1 inch. Before and after
the injection the spot is painted with I think is iodine. Afterwards
we are sup0posed to be in a mild state of fever for about 36 hours.
We are also supposed to have a fever diet. Supposition in the latter
case is very unreal. During the afternoon, the arm began to feel stiff
and sore. Towards night the temperature rose and the majority spent
a hot and restless night. Am told we have only had a portion of the
does and that a further quantity will be administered on our arrival
when we can obtain proper rest. All the same, many or our company (and
also other companies) jibbed. What with vaccination and the tales heard
of inoculation, they were having none. Some have not yet recovered from
vaccination. During the day we stopped, for a short time and then changed
our course from an Easterly to a North Easterly direction. Probably
a precaution. Apart from this and the operation mentioned, the day passed
much as usual.
Saturday 19th September
No parade today for inoculated, but we had to rouse at 6 am (5.20am
Eng). It was a very reluctant awakening and headaches were most prevalent.
Nearly all were sore, with a slight fever still on them. The weather
was still good, with the usual calm sea. We spent the day resting on
deck. Music was off today, "In inoculation." This is the byword
at present. With nothing much doing, and feeling out of sorts, we return
early 6.30 (5.50 Eng) pm. Tonight for the first time, we decided in
view of the warmth to squat on deck. Extra blankets are easily obtainable
in the heat below. One is enough and two too much for anybody there.
So with about 3 each we were soon settled above.
Sunday 20th September
We arose and took up our beds this Sunday morning at 4.45 am (3.40 Eng)
and went below. It was through no fault of our own; the sailors were
on us with the hose pipes, swilling the decks. Just fancy this time
in England on a Sunday morning "Early to bed etc" but all
the same I got another hour on the floor below. The sea which has been
as smooth as a lake for days had become choppy again this morning .
It was the only rough day, since we crossed Biscay and had its effect
on several chaps. They did the usual hurried rushes to the side and
returned amid expressions of sympathy and irony. Chiefly irony. This
passed off. At 10 o clock there was Church Parade, 3 hymns and "God
Save the King." This finished for the day. Time here is beginning
to drag and for the firsttime today, I heard several expressing the
wish to land somewhere or end the voyage. You see the canteen is not
worth the name and if the food is not up to scratch, the men have nothing
to fall back on. (The Officers, by the way, are on a picnic 1st class
lunch and late dinner). Even cigarettes and matches are becoming scarce.
Matches (the 1d a dozen safety kind)) have sold at 2d a box whilst the
crew (knowing a thing or two) have been selling "Woodbines"
2d a packet. Oranges or apples if you can get any are 2d each and these
are smuggles round by the crew. Even the buns, the nightly buns have
deteriorated (had to pause for this) from first class scones to plain
dough without currants. About the size of a tea cake, they are crossed
with the knife, Each quarter 1d. Have chalked them off. The last thing
we do get at times is music by the band. Twice or thrice a day. It bucks
things up wonderfully and judging by the applause is much more appreciated
by the Yeomanry than by our own men. Speaking of the Yeomanry, some
must feel the roughness of the voyage more than we do. There seems to
be wealth amongst them. One name I heard is Hon. De Villiers a private.
There are others.
There is a rumour, this afternoon that a man fell through a hatchway
on one of the other boats and has been killed and buried at sea. No
confirmation however can be obtained officially, though the boats are
in touch at times by Semaphore signalling. Have obtained official list
of boats comprising the Convoy from Southampton. It is:-
HMS Ocean - Escort
HMS Minerva - Escort
The Minerva turned round when we met the Convoy from India later and
we had in her place HMS Weymouth.
H.T. Descado H.T. Atlantian
H.T. Avon H.T. Caledonia
H.T. Aragon H.T. Messaba
H.T. Corsican H.T. Neuialia
H.T. Ionian H.T. Saturnia
H.T. Indian H.T. Norseman
H.T. Californian H.T. Grantully Castle
The H.J. Chevington (Left Gib. supposed to carry ammunition).
Since leaving Gibraltar we have been doing about 13 knots an hour. About
5 p.m. today (3.40 Eng.) we passed to the north of small very rocky
islands. There were above 6. Some mere rocks jutting out of the sea.
They were probably GalitaIsles, and were in sight about an hour. About
6 p.m. the sun was getting low and soon was gone. It is surprising how
short the twilight is here. Immediately the sun disappears, darkness
is upon us. So about 6.30 we went below and partly prepared for bed.
No more rude awakenings by the hosepipe.
It would be about 5 o clock in England. We finally retired when the
people at home would be getting ready for church. Think of it. Even
supposing there were no difference in the time, it is preposterous.
The hours kept since we came aboard, have been beyond reproach.
21st September Monday
Our two days since inoculation are up and parades begin again today.
There is still a slight choppiness in the sea, while the sun never fails
us. All the uncovered decks have now been shaded with sheeting. On deck
this morning, our first sight to the S.E. was Pantellania Island between
Sicily and Tunis. As we approached buildings could easily be discerned.
Passing this early in the morning it would seem we should reach Malta
tonight. There is no notice of a post as yet. Probably we may not call.
The band gave us some very interesting popular music this morning and
but for this it would be a drag. Did not intend mentioning food again,
but we have had sausages for dinner twice since we came aboard. We had
them today. Plenty of them. Half went back. They seem on the sour side.
This afternoon included in the programme of the band was the tune "When
we are married, we'll have sausages for tea" Whether it was purely
accidental or whether it was not, has to be guessed. About tea. Land
have in sight to the North East. Firstly a small island (Gozo) and just
further on the island of Malta. We were evidently not to call, as the
town Valetta is on the north side of the island. It took us several
hours of darkness to get clear and often during the time a searchlight
played upon us. Firstly one from the Western end of the isle and later
another at the Eastern extremity. Thought we must have been miles away,
the searchlights were exceptionally brilliant and to anyone close at
hand must have been blinding. One still flashed across us at times.
After 9 o clock (7.25 Eng.) I slept on deck tonight in overcoat as per
Bury Drill Hall, but in a different atmosphere am continuing to do so.
Will perhaps say why at another time.
22nd September Tuesday
Last night soon after passing Malta, it is said we passed some of the
French Fleet. Did not see them. Routine as usual today. It is surprising
how each day passes, but all will be glad to land. Nobody could believe
without seeing what a beautiful colour the Mediterranean is, pure"Reckitts"
Blue. I shall never again think that some of the p0oster one sees are
outrageous. The colouring of the sky, together with the beautiful calm
blue sea is superb. It is strange, but for the first time since the
Channel we had slight rain, but not for long. It was over in five minutes,
but the sky has been cloudy all day. We have had the usual discourse
of popular music. Headquarters are actually beginning to see things.
Some of the men have must awful arms with vaccination or neglect. We
have had an inspection today and these men are excused parades for the
remainder of the journey. They have, however, to be inspected daily.
On leaving Malta behind it was thought there would be nothing of interest
till we arrived at Egypt, but this afternoon we had a good surprise.
It would be about 3.30 pm (1.45 pm Eng.) when vessels could just be
seen ahead. We heard at once that they were conveying troop0s from India.
As they approached we numbered them to 22 including the Escort. All
stopped for about half an hour and then passed, a good distance away.
During the stoppage, the Cruisers were seen to be in communication and
when we moved off, it was in charge of the Cruiser that had escorted
them. They had one from us, and soon passed from view. It was a grand
sight to witness and will probably never occur again. Most certainly
it will never be forgotten. Think of it about 40 vessels in the radius
of a few miles. What a haul for the Germans. The Cruiser now with us
has 4 funnels. The one which left us had only 2. This seems a superior
type and I should think it can fairly cut through the water. We continued
for the rest of the day without further incident beyond a medical inspection
which is now nothing out of the ordinary. It was not out of place. I
slept on deck again, that is till the hosepipe came.
23rd September Wednesday
Another day to the rest, shall be glad when we arrive. Much as usual
during the morning. Had physical exercise again, then the usual inspection
at 10am. (now) 8 am Eng. So we are evidently nearing Egypt). Every day
now seems to be washing day to some of the men. Our kit bags are stowed
away below and we only have our haversacks. Few have retained a change
of clothing, hence washing singlet one day, shirt the next.
It is amusing to see how rubbish is disposed of on board. I feel sure
that some of us will be so use to the "porthole system" that
we shall be putting things through the windows when we disembark. The
band played again this morning. While listening I was sent for to help
at the Orderly Room. Expect it is just for the time being while the
strain is on. Everything is upset due to the constant changing of arrangements
since we mobilised. You see I have handed over the pay sheet business
to the new colour sergeant but don't particularly want any other clerical
During the afternoon we came across land again to the South. This time
it was the mainland (Barca) the sight of which we should retain to our
24th September Thursday
We rose this morning to find nothing but open sea again. Had had a preliminary
rise at 4.15 and some tea from the crew. Evidently things were in preparation
for arrival, as we drew our kit bags this morning. At 10 o clock we
paraded for the usual inspection and at the same time all stood at attention
with hat off. There was a funeral from one of the boats. That was all
we heard. In the afternoon there was a boxing competition on board for
various weights. It was scorching and one round was enough to finish
everybody. Thus the day passed quickly until 5.30 when we paraded again
to show all our kit. During the voyage. Many things have lost or strayed,
there was much hunting around to show all. We retired for the night
fairly early (again on deck) believing that on the morrow we should
Friday 25th September
We were not far wrong, as land was in sight before 6 a.m. straight ahead
with a lighthouse quite plain. It is the custom on board, I think I
have mentioned - to swill the decks with a hosepipe. This morning a
few of us, on arising, got in front of it and had a grand swill. On
first sight of land, the sea was still a beautiful blue, but nearer
and nearer we got and greener and greener it became until as we entered
one of the harbours, via a breakwater, and looked behind, in the distance
was the blue and close at hand the cloudy green. Just before entering
the harbour we passed some old fortifications of the town on a promontory.
They are now in ruins. About the same time, or just before a small launch
came up to us and we took on board our Pilot. With his guidance and
the help of two tugs, we slowly glided towards one of the quays. It
would then be about just before 9 a.m. (6.50 Eng). The first thing to
attract our attention was a large white building in the distance. Huge
pillars and a flat roof. Nearly all seem to have flat tops. Believe
the building in question is a Government House. Probably Customs. The
harbour was full of various types of boats from merchant ships to small
smacks. No doubt other harbours were similar. It is a tremendous sized
port. The accommodation, if required, could be made to equal or improve
upon Liverpool. The sea seems all around the place.
Well! We have arrived and all has been bustle and excitement. There
has been a general hunt round to find belongings. False ........ which
at times have been worn abroad with a certain amount of risk have now
been replaced. Everybody looks forward to better conditions than those
of the past 16 days. It has taken all day to unload and get us entrained
from Alexandria here to Cairo. There has been a tremendous amount of
baggage etc. in the hold of the boat, including as well as all our own,
that of the Yeomanry and the guns of the Artillery. To deal with our
own: The first train carrying half of us left about 5 pm . Whilst awaiting
this, much amusement was caused by the natives to those not on duty
unloading. These blacks or browns (the scum to look at) soon found a
vessel had arrived and crept under the waiting trains on the quay. They
tried to trade in many things with the men on board. Such articles as
matches, cigarettes, minerals being passed. At times they were driven
away by a policeman or two and without much ceremony. If they did not
go at once, the police did not hesitate to smack their face and rap
them on the back with a stick. Still they would come sneaking again
when the policeman turned his back. Evidently they have to be kept under.
Give them an inch and they take a yard. Even after being treated as
above they would run to a porthole a short distance away under the very
eyes of the 'bobby'. Unless careful they will do a stranger at all ends
especially if he does not quite understand the coinage. They were charging
various prices and giving no change unless pressed for it. As for talking
and "bargaining" they are worse than the drunken squabbles
in England on a Saturday night. Two of them had quite a tussle about
something and for quite an hour afterwards we could see them some distance
away having it out with their friends. Our company left the boat for
the first train, there was not room for all so about 50 of us remained.
We returned to the vessel covered with coal dust. For all it is so hot
here there is a certain amount of warm breeze. Some short distance away
natives were loading boats after the style of canal boats with coal.
It was pretty loose stuff and created clouds of dust. Many of our helmets
were black with finger marks. Our faces covered with perspiration and
a layer of soot may be imagined. As for the natives they must have been
choked. They carried the coal in sacks on their backs about 200 yards
and then tipped it in the boats. I can now understand what sweated labour
is; they were at it all day until dusk and hurried both ways, never
stopping to admire the scenery as often is done at home but often breaking
into a run. To a limit they certainly deserved all they get. Evidently
it is piece work. Another item of interest was the arrival into harbour
of a huge American Battleship. I have never seen onebigger and it caused
much comment. It anchored and remained when we left. We remained on
board till 10.30 pm. No rations being issued beyond the usual day's
amount of bread and "bully" beef for dinner. It was stated
that the boat was to move forward to India for other troops when we
had cleared out. As previously stated we left Alexandria at 11 p.m.
It was a pity to travel during the night as we missed any sights on
the way. The distance will be perhaps about 160 miles and it took us
until 6 a.m. on the following day. At times we passed a kind of small
station and though in the night there were many natives about them.
Sleep on the way was almost out of the question. The carriages, that
is the class in which we travelled hold about 40. They are not divided
into compartments and the seats are arranged after the style of the
Electric Trains from Bury to Holcombe Brook. Of course they are not
upholstered just plain wood with low backs. Later we came across a better
class but on the same style. Under these circumstances we were glad
to complete the journey and be received by the watching natives with
a certain amount of curiosity. We detrained within sight of the Barracks
about 2 and a half miles North West of Cairo. There is little sign of
any city about, but numerous barracks built in regular symmetrical style.
We have at last arrived. The map which I got for nothing at a Bolton
Tourist Agency has been most useful. It has been all over the vessel
and shows many signs of wear and tear. Even the Captain has had it on
the Bridge. I hope to keep it as a memento. This ends the story of the
journey here. May the remainder of the tale of travel end no worse.
My last account dealt with our journey of 16 days from Turton to Cairo,
I hope now to speak of our stay here. We had already been divided up
whilst on the way, so that on arrival after little delay we were able
to go straight to the Barrack's rooms. The Company on leaving home were
equal to one eighth of a battalion in strength. Two Companies have joined
together now making four to the battalion. Under this scheme A &
B become A Co, C and D become B Co. And so on. Thus our old D Co. together
with the other Heywood Company C merge and we are now B Co. This new
Company is about 240 strong and is divided into 4 parts named "Platoons."
Each Platoon is allotted to a Barrack room, thus there are just under
30 men in each room. For drill purposes each Platoon is again divided
into four sections. The rooms contain low iron bedsteads and are supposed
to hold 24. Being rather over crowded, about 3 in each room have to
sleep on the floor. Each man is provided with two blankets, two sheets
and a pillow. He should also have 3 square mattresses called "biscuits"
The majority have 2 and some only one. The Barracks wherein we dwell
is fairly new and up to date and appears to be about the best in the
district. It is situated about 3 miles out of Cairo to the N.N.E. in
a district named Abbassia. The name of the Barracks is Abbas Heilmi.
It is just under ten minutes walk to the Electric Cars which connect
with all parts of the city. The buildings are of a military type after
the following plan. They are made of stone like material composed of
sand and cement. In fact all the more recent buildings here are made
of the same stuff. There are three storeys in each block with an open
veranda about 3 yards wide along each side. This give s shade to the
windows which are almost always open. The sun never gets into the room
and with a breeze from the outside we are nice and cool. In the open
everything is flat and sandy. Marching is hard except on the roads which
are good asphalt. The rule of the road here, as on the Continent, is
different to that at home. All vehicles keep to the right of the road.
This needs some breaking into.
We spent the day of our arrival in getting somewhat into shape, receiving
blankets, biscuits sheets etc. Those men who have a bedstead have also
a cupboard quite modern, which can be locked up. This is a great advantage.
The bugle for dinner went about one o clock amid cheers as the men had
had no real meal since dinner the previous day. For the first time since
leaving England I altered my watch. It varied as much as half an hour
late up to Gibraltar and is now about 2 hours earlier than English time.
During the first day we were kept continually on the run and by dusk,
the men were glad to obtain rest. It was warm enough with sheets alone
and blankets underneath, but during the night nearly all the battalion
was awake, many shaking blankets. A few slept on during the turmoil.
Conditions improved after the first night and we managed very nicely
now. In the early hours we heard the clatter of horses etc, troops were
moving for the seat of War. For a night or two after this the same thing
happened. They were chiefly dragoons, the infantry having departed previously.
Our battalion has taken the place occupied by the Devon Regiment.
We awoke next morning to find the Rochdale Battalion just arrived. Almost
the first words we heard were "Can we see land".It was a humorist
who spoke. Being Sunday and things unsettled we had a fairly easy day.
I was kept busy it just happened to be my turn for the duty of Battalion
Orderly Corporal. The day soon passed, many taking the opportunity to
rest during the heat of the day. The sun rises here at present about
6.30 am and exerts its power till 6 pm at night. There is scarcely 10
minutes twilight either in the morning or afternoon. The sky is generally
of one colour, blue. Clouds are the exception and not the rule. We began
with reveille at 5 am. Gun fire tea(just a drink) at 5.30, Parade 6
to 11 with 1 hour for breakfast. Parade again 4 pm to 6 pm. Total 6
hours. First post goes at 9.30pm, last post 10pm and lights out 10.15pm.
Latterly we have been rising a quarter of an hour earlier. There is
excellent lavatory accommodation in the Barracks, each room having its
own and also a shower bath. These showers were very popular every morning
at first, but since, perhaps because the bed pulls, they are mostly
used during the day.
Apart from the dry and wet canteens and the stores to each Barracks
there is also within about 10 minutes walk a Church Institute and close
to it a Soldiers' Home. There are papers from England but at present
they contain all the old news we read before leaving. Food may also
be obtained but the accommodation with so many troops about is somewhat
limited. It was evidently intended for Regulars and not Territorial's
many of whom seem to be continually spending. To obtain anything one
often has to line up in a queue, in fact always at night . Amongst the
things obtainable may be mentioned, Steak, Eggs, Steak and Onions ,
Blanc Manage and Prunes, Rice Pudding, Ice Cream, Tea, Minerals, Cakes
Etc. There is a similar place, but larger in Cairo and it is needed,
as one does not know at present where to go in the city for anything
to ear. That is to say and know what one is having. Certainly Cafe's
abound almost at every street corner and nightly they are filled chiefly
by Egyptians of the middle class look, with here and there a European
or one dressed as such. Except in the modern portion of the town, the
shops or bazaars , or cafes have no windows. The door is the width of
the shop which is to all purposes simply a bay, like the small penny
bazaars one sees at home, the goods being displayed all round. As regards
the cafe, small chairs and tables abound, even the footpath is covered
right to the edge of the kerbstone. It seems also to have been the plan
to build the first story out and over the footpath in the older times.
This gives a certain amount of shelter and covering that is if it ever
does rain. The storey mentioned is supported by thick pillars, which
would prove a nuisance were it not for the fact that one has to walk
in the road when passing a cafe on account of the tables and chairs.
It is a fact worth noting but the few times we have been to Cairo and
pass scores of these cafes, one has seen all men at the tables, the
majority wearing the familiar red plant pot hat usually with a black
tassel. This is mainly in the evening they can be seen, some sipping
various kinds of unknown liquids and eating various concoctions and
cakes some reading, some playing a game with a dice after the style
of draughts, others smoking no doubt opium through a long thick tube
or pipe attached to an arrangement after the style of a soda water siphon.
They seem to sit at ease and almost dose, without causing the visible
smoke which results from tobacco.
I think I mentioned we received helmets immediately on arrival, but
several days elapsed before clothing was issued to us. When we did get
it there were no buttons. The new thin Khaki Drill clothing is washable,
for which purpose the buttons are detached. These buttons are not stitched
to the cloth, but fastened by split rings through holes in the coat
left for this purpose. The buttons arrived a few days later, a few hours
after which there was a rush down Cairo.
Saturday ---- October
Now for our first impressions of the place:
After covering the short distance to the cars, we were just fortunate
in catching one and trying to converse with the Motorman before starting.
Many times he was asked how long it would take us to the city, but every
time he would grin and jabber to the conductor. At the same time he
seemed to have a slight knowledge of French. The cars are after the
style of Blackpool to Fleetwood trams in two portions coupled in the
middle . Frequently there is a part reserved for ladies and marked "Dames".
The conductor has to collect fares by moving along the side footboard
and holding by the rail as in the seaside cars above mentioned. The
distance to Cairo is from two to three miles and took us the best part
of twenty five minutes. The fare for an ordinary passenger is half a
piastre that is 5 milliemes each equal to a quarter pence. For a soldier
in uniform it is half fare and so we travel for 2 milliemes (half a
penny) just under half. Thus for 1 piastre which is about 2 and a half
pence five of us can go down. If there is only one man it is advisable
to obtain change before and hand the conductor the exact fare of 2 milliemes,
otherwise say you give 1 piastre or half a piaster he will put it in
his bag. He will not be able to understand your language if you ask
for change. Of course he will hand it over in his takings probably.
Often he has no small change, as these coins are in constant demand
and the number in circulation seems inadequate.
Well! To return to the starting of the car. This was the first incident.
Unlike customs at home , the Conductor has a small horn about 7 inches
in length and with this gives the driver the signal. We had heard this
several times before turning round and finding its origin. Not far had
we journey before a native youth jumped on the foot board at the side,
selling chocolate. Strange to say one never sees Fry's or Cadbury's.
Generally it is Nestles Toblerone or a Continental make. Further on,
others boarded the car offering cones, we have since noticed brushes,
paste etc and other hardware and also flowers, these usually at the
weekend. A bunch of roses arranged as a bouquet and costing at least
6 d in England could be had for 1d. Eventually we arrived in the City
or what we thought the City. Our journey had been shortened somewhat
by the interest on the road and by the sounds played by the motorman
on his gong. And having arrived we were lost, venturing for this occasion
only within measurable distance of the car. We have since found that
like most ancient towns, Cairo has its modern portions and districts.
These districts contain first class shops quite up to date, but more
anon. For the present we had only touched the fringe of the modern city.
The journey from the Barracks lies through much of the native quarters,
shops and cafes.
Close to where we detrammed is a Park, right in the midst of the buildings.
It will be about the size of the whole of Bullough Moor Recreation Ground
and as far as we have seen so far without entering it contains trees
of tremendous height and girth and very close together. Another day
for details. Out next visit was to the Chemist. We found a nice looking
place and entered. It proved to be an Italian proprietor and the assistants
amongst them could speak several languages including fair English. We
were attended by one at first, but by the time our shopping was finished,
all of them were round. They spoke to each other in French and we had
much fun in trying the language "mais tries Centement" Our
bill was reckoned up and then we were informed there was a discount
of 5% to "les militaries" Change was readily given out of
English gold. Notknowing where to go for tea. We returned to the Soldiers
Sunday is the easiest day of the week. We paraded 9.50 for church parade
and marched down the road headed by the band. Service is held every
hour during the morning, two Battalions at each. We were followed by
another lot at 11.30. It was a fine parade and showed a great improvement
in the marching of the men. On the return most of the men were free
for the day, except about 120 of our company who had to fall in at 4pm
for another inoculation against Enteric.
After tea, a drummer in my section sent across complaining of pains.
He had been unwell all day and I had to get the Doctor to him. He was
admitted to hospital the following day with Pleurisy, but is quite well
again now (16th October). During his detention, his personal property
was handed to me and then on to the Captain.
Monday should have been a day of rest for the inoculated, but it seems
to be a business here to find something for those who are doing nothing.
We had 4 parades during the day, just simply to see we were present,
that was all it could be as the lot only took about half an hour. We
heard today that Cairo and Heliopolis were to be placed out of bounds
after today except to those having a pass. It was reported to be due
to the misconduct of some of the men. We therefore thought it advisable
to go down while there was the chance. Whilst there I bought a cane
for one of the men. The street seller asked 10 piastres for it 2/1d.
I got it 3 minutes later for 10d (4pt). These natives of the lower type
are the biggest rogues on earth. They always ask exorbitant prices but
are easily bantered down. Am sure tourists new to the place must be
fleeced. On returning by car, a native got on the footboard selling
a small stone mummy. He asked 1/- (5p) but sold it for 1d. Thus you
see their tricks.
Kit inspection this morning of everything. Did Orderly Corporal for
H Partington tonight, he being on all week, but not very well today
due to inoculation.
Company fell in today for alteration of clothing. One by one we passed
the chief tailor and our quartermaster. By a few marks made by the former
with a piece of chalk, our new drill clothing was passed for alteration
or signalled as quite correct. It was a fine show, some with sleeves
covering the hands, or collar an inch or so to wide. There was hardly
one but whose trousers were not too long, some had them turned up almost
to the knee.
Thursday 8th October
Parades continue as usual. Our platoon No.7 for picquet tonight. That
is to say fall in 6 o clock for about quarter of an hour, then dismissed
until 9.15 pm. March to canteen and stand there until they file out
as steadily as possible at 9.30. In case of fire or other disturbance,
we are expected to fall in at once on the parade ground. This prevents
us leaving Barracks.
Friday 9th October
Paraffin issued for purpose of washing iron bedsteads, particularly
crevices. Flies are our only enemy at present (That is during the day).
Pay parade today at 4pm. General hurry to get out on pass. Those without
pass generally visit the canteen where supper can be obtained.
Saturday 10th October
For our parades now we are beginning to march a mile or two away from
the Barracks on to the desert and do company drill there. This we did
this morning and afterwards having a free afternoon went down Cairo
about 3.30. Before this, however, we had to get out thin clothing from
the tailorsshop. It had been sent there in bundles from each platoon
and was supposed to have been kept so. When our bundle returned, the
jackets were minus. After a long hunt round the tailor's shop, we went
to the part where the old B Co is and found piles of clothing and amongst
them was ours. The helmets issued to us, have now been wrapped round
with thin muslin called "Puggarees". The wrapping is about
7 yards in length and 1 foot wide. The tailors here (who by the way
have been exceptionally busy) are experts at putting the Puggaree on
and do it very neatly. The helmets must be worn between Reveille and
Retreat (Sunset) at other times the old peak cap is supposed to be worn.
After the usual polishing and smartening up, we went to Cairo and had
a good look round as far as we had time. After roaming about until about
7 pm we thought a little tea would not be amiss and were on the look
out for a good English or French place. Eventually we saw the name St.
James and after looking twice at the name, entered. We thought it English,
it proved to be German. Nevertheless the spread was first class and
thoroughly enjoyed, but we cannot go again. Later we found the name
amongst a list of places in Cairo, which have been placed out of bounds
to us, this last few days. These Restaurants, Bars etc. are chiefly
of German and Austrian nationality. Hence no doubt the order. We now
look for a French or English place. We return without further incident
beyond the usual hawkers boarding the car footboard.
Sunday October 1914
The Battalion went on Church Parade as usual today. Our company (one
fourth), however had to parade at 6.30 am with the old Khaki clothing.
We marched to a movable fumigator at the end of the Barracks, and here
left the things to be stoved, fetching them back a few hours later.
The stoving did little good, not only so, but many of the things are
burnt. You can imagine what it was like getting your own things afterwards,
when you are one of about 200 and your clothing is mixed up in one heap,
creased and covered with sand. The majority of the men, who have got
their clothing back, have washed it. Some can get it on with a stretch,
while some favour overgrown boys.
At 8.30 we took our bedding out and laid it on the sand for some hours
and whilst it was out, I had my bed to pieces and washed with paraffin.
During the morning we had the pleasure of seeing a few Battalions marched
off to Church, each headed by its own band. One of our room is somewhat
of a hairdresser so he was on the job in the centre of the room, whilst
others were playing football on the veranda with a glass marble. I had
my haircut (a very good turn). His usual charge is half a piaster and
he did fair business. There is a good clean barber's shop attached to
the Barracks and managed by natives, but we have begun to support home
The afternoon we had decided to spend in our first visit to the Pyramids
which if not the sight are certainly the chief wonder of Egypt. They
lie six or more miles from Cairo higher up to the west of the Nile.
From the Barracks they will be close on ten miles and two of them easily
visible. I believe there are nine of them but only three of exceptional
size. It seemed on this afternoon that all the troops in Cairo were
making there and we had difficulty in boarding a car in the City, which
took us all the way for 1 piastre (2 d and half) in all 3d from the
It took us over 1 hour from Cairo and the road, after crossing what
seemed to be two branches of the Nile by excellent swing bridges of
modern construction - followed the course of the river for some miles.
It was the usual hot afternoon and we noticed at times young lads bathing
in the river close to the edge. The colour of the water was enough it
looked as much like stone coloured paint as anything. There were a few
sailing vessels moored to the side, probably cargo boats. We noticed
"Thos. Cook & Son" on one. At the same time, there were
many small boats with long bent masts and exceptionally tall sails which
you may have seen pictures of. There was scarcely any traffic due to
perhaps to the seeming low nature of the water. Onward we travelled
past fields of immature cotton just bursting from the green pods, long
sugar canes which were being cut and also fields of tall Indian Maize
some 10 feet in height. We now know what the sticks about 1ft long which
we see being chewed in Cairo. The natives were stripping the canes here
for export or for sale in the city.
Occasionally passed a native carrying on his head a tray 4ft sq. And
piled up with light dried clods of some kind probably fuel. It seems
the custom here to balance things on ones cranium. Perhaps it has a
hardening effect, it certainly provides shelter from the sun. Here and
there is a nursery for sugar canes irrigated by narrow canals of water.
We even passed trees of green bananas, but these were in the gardens
of private houses. Perhaps as well! Just after leaving the city we passed
the Zoological Gardens and shortly afterwards came to Gizah (half-way)
where sometimes one has to change cards. Ours went through. Here, where
the road crosses the railway lines for Khartoum, we were pestered by
Guides offering to show us round the Pyramids.
The Government has introduced a system whereby these Guides are registered
and each (if bona fide) carries a certificate with photo of himself
which is renewed annually. A certain charge is fixed as guide to ordinary
holiday tourists 20 piastries each. I believe for the whole round. With
us however they make their own bargain. Some have paid as much as 5
piastries each. Ours took us round for 1 pt. Each (piaster not pint).
Perhaps the fact that it was late in the afternoon and we did not get
all round before dark had its influence on him .However we struck a
bargain with him at Gizah and he came with us. After leaving here we
had the usual chaps boarding the side rail - "Cotton". Give
me half piastrie (or 5 piastries if they thought they could get it).
One chap stuck on for some time and eventually the conductor used a
stick to him. He jumped off while the car was travelling full speed
and rolled over. These chaps must be hard as nails for he was barefooted.
Nearer the Pyramids, which had seemed quite close to us for miles, we
passed fields of water on each side of the road. It may be and probably
is the remains of the periodical flood from the Nile.
It would be after 4pm when we arrived and our guide immediately set
off at a terrible rate uphill through soft sand. He said it was a short
cut past the Pyramids to the Sphinx. Whereas he took long raking strides
we straggled on behind. The Pyramids may well be termed one of the wonders
of the world. The two which we saw and which are the largest of the
group are composed of huge boulders of stone and it is most remarkable
how the men of old managed to place them in position, Such a feat would
do credit to our Engineers of the present day with the advantage of
modern developments. We were told that the taller one was about 450
feet high, the smaller one being slightly lower. The latter cannot be
climbed as the top is pointed and the sides are smooth for some distance
down. They were both smooth like this when finished, but time has wrought
its changes. The majority of the stones composing them have been brought
from a rock near the Citadel in Cairo (and old fort). They measure over
a yard in length and many are a yard deep. How those at the summit were
placed in position is a mystery. We moved on round the Sphinx, about
100 yards beyond. The statue if it may be so called lies in a hollow
of sand which looks out on to a plain towards the City. Our guide informed
us that the face was at one time buried with sand and that its beauty
was spoiled by one of Napoleons cannons. One can quite understand that
and also the periodical removals of sand after a storm. We proceeded
and went into the tomb of the Sphinx. I cannot speak of the history
we were told and the stories we heard. They went in at one ear and out
at the other. How King so and so was buried here and somebody else there.
How this was the place where they used to watch the sun rise and that
the dried up well which they used to use for something else. The dried
up well by the way was full of big beetles. One thing however which
I did remember was a huge block of beautiful red granite at the roof
of one of the tombs. It was 16 feet in length and at least 6 feet wide.
Its depth we could not tell. On our exit from this mysterious place
we were hailed by youngsters - "Alabaster, 1 piastre, give it.
They were chippings of marble said to come from the tombs of the Sphinx.
We were also offered coins of unknown origin said to be from the time
of Moses, the Romans, Alexander etc. They asked anything up to 5 piastres.
I heard of somebody getting 5 coins for 1 piastre but it was late in
the day. These natives here are the biggeet6 rogues imaginable. They
will fleece4 you under your very nose and as for telling a lie, that
is impossible. It was beginning to get dusk and we decided to get back
to the car so we got a camel or rather a dromedary. It seems the former
has two humps and the latter, which is rather bigger has one. Of course
there was the usual bargaining as to price. They took us about 400 yards
for one and a half piastres and half way the drivers wanted "Backsheesh".
We were unable to understand this at first, but found it was a tip.
They also wanted to tell our fortunes by making a ring in the sand and
letting us put 1 piastre in. You will probably be wondering how the
camels are mounted . Well, there is no step ladder at the side. It sits
on the floor, when mounting is simple. The owners then tells you to
lean well back, it is as well he does, for you are nearly pitched over
its neck in any case. There were four of us and three camels. J.B. and
I happened to be on one together. Whether it is comfortable or not riding
alone, we were certainly glad to dismount when the leaning back process
is repeated. You can imagine the strain of being on a camel which is
kneeling on its front legs only. We arrived at the cars in darkness.
It had taken about 3 times longer than if we had walked all the way.
Why we took the camels I don't know but then curiosity needs much satisfying
even in fellows. After rushing about all the afternoon we had to sit
in the car for 40 minutes before starting . There were 3 cars full,
but you see they only run at fixed times. The usual nippers boa5rded
the car, one a boot black. They will even sit on the foot board and
polish your boots. It would be very convenient for these Manchester
train chaps every morning. There are also shops (or rather bays) where
one can sit and have one's boots polished. Similarly there are numerous
hairdressing salons, very clean looking, but open to view from the street.
I saw one chap the other day having his hair cut in front of a pub in
the centre of the city, at the same time he was reading a newspaper.
Monday 12th October
Parades as usual. At early morning drill, we have now begun to practice
doubling. We did a little back from the plain before breakfast. You
would be amused to see it. You would be still more amused to see us
dine. We have not the full run of this Barracks which should hold and
has previously held a little more than one Battalion. Being first to
arrive, we obtained the sleeping accommodation. There are places on
the ground floor to dine, but the 6th Battalion from Rochdale occupy
these and all sleep there. We therefore have a table in the Barracks
Room and dine there or on our beds. Our acco9mmodation is certainly
superior to the 6th who have only about one fourth of the bedsteads
we have. The Sergeants have a mess to themselves, but sleep in a small
room, one adjacent to each barrack room.
As regards food we do quite as well as the Sergeants who allot a small
portion of their pay to the Mess. You see whereas when the regulars
were here, there would be about 30 single Sergeants, (the married having
their own quarters) there are now with the 5th and 6th Battalions over
100 Sergeants. The accommodation is therefore inadequate4. They have
much tinned food and jam etc. for teas. For dinner, am told it is "potato
ash"nearly every day.
Now to give you a sample of our diet. We have just a sip of tea and
a biscuit every morning at 6 am before parade. For breakfast we have
had in turn one of the following 1and a half pounds of butter or 3 and
a half pounds of jam or porridge or 2 eggs each or cheese and onions
or dripping. There are 27 men in our room and it is the pleasant duty
of two of us, another Corporal and myself to allocate to each man his
pro0po9rtionate share. Each one by the way is allowed half a loaf per
day. We find it advisable to cut the lo9avesd ourselves. The quality
of the bread varies, but it is generally as well to hold it up to the
light. The butter is good so is some of the jam or marmalade. Eggs which
we now seem to get alternate days are rather larger than a pigeon egg,
but very good. The porridge is also beyond reproach while the cooked
cheese and onion which we have had once (last Sunday) was voted a huge
success and there were many "Oliver Twists". The dripping
which has been tried once lasted a few meals, but it was really more
the thoughts of it than the taste.
For tea, we have the usual 1 and half pounds of butter for the 27 or
jam. Occasionally we have managed tinned herring one tin between four.
Of course there is the canteen and no objection is made to anyone bringing
anything in. Two of us generally join and we can with safety recommend
their tinned peaches and skipper sardines. Many are the comments if
the food does not suit and it is most amusing to listen. I think the
dripping had the biggest share in the caustic remarks, but onions which
we had alone the other day didnot fall much short. On this latter occasion
we performed the skilful operation of dividing 8 onions of varying size,
equally between 27 men. The operation was performed with cr4dit to all.
The dinner however is the time of all, the men place their tins or plates
on the table, potatoes and vegetables come together and meat of various
kinds in another tin. It has to be served up so that everybody gets
an equal proportion of fat and lean. We have had various tastes in meat.
We can recognise the beef: the other is said to be goat. It has been
named Camel beef and one day, had an exceptionally strong flavour. The
ribs were exceptionally long and exceptionally thin. The remarks for
the next day were as strong as the flavour. One very good thing here,
is the way the refuse is shifted. After every meal, natives come round
with large biscuit tins. Many of them lads with beautiful teeth. We
obtained the information that they clean them after every meal with
their finger and water. As regards the refuse, cannot say what they
do wi9th it, if they eat it, they are to be pitied. The squad is known
by the band round their arm marked "Refuse". On the whole,
we cannot grumble about the food, but it is amusing sometimes to hear
the "humorist's remarks about the dainties he had brought to Turton.
How the Magnesia had got mixed up with the teacake, while the cardboard
was amongst the custard - but he ate it. He came in the other day and
said he had been punished for some small offence - his punishment was
"to sweep the desert" Before closing with the food topic I
might mention that there were loud cheers in the Rochdale lines a few
nights ago. On enquiry, they were having jam for tea.
Tuesday 13th October
We are now beginning to move away from the Barracks more, thus leaving
the shade and encountering the broiling sum. This morning we doubled
a few hundred yards back to the Barracks. This I am told is to be increased
gradually until we can do 1000 yards with our equipment filled with
ammunition. It is to be hoped this will take place when the sun has
gone to rest. Today a few of the men received letters from home. They
are not yet coming through bearing the correct address. Have had a go
at washing the old fumigated clothing this afternoon. Did it, but not
with ease and grace. Still consider it good business. The drying is
the easiest part of the job here. Speaking of washing, we pay 3d per
week which is stopped from our pay for this purpose. The clothes from
each room are collected each week generally on Sunday. Of course they
are marked. We are allowed to shirt, flannel, socks, towel, pants etc.
each time, but few of us have more than 3 things to send. It is wise
not to part with small articles. The washing is done by a native contractor
who has a small building a few yards off. Whilst on this topic, I might
mention that on the way to Cairo we pass certain shops where one can
see natives ironing clothes with an energy unthought-of .
Wednesday 14th October 1914
Wednesday is half holiday in Cairo. It is becoming somewhat of an afternoon
off with us. Of course it is give and take - we generally have to do
a day's work before dinner which is then about 2 pm. Today we rushed
things and having in our possession a pass, set out about 2 pm without
dinner for a second visit to the Pyramids. We had not moved 50 yards
from the Barracks before there was a guide pestering us, but we had
been before. We missed one car in Cairo. It was full up. Our arrival
was therefore delayed until after 4 pm. We made arrangements at the
terminus to have ourphoto's taken in a group at the Sphinx. The man
came with us. An offer was also made by a native, that for 2/- (10 piastres)
each we should be allowed to ride to the Sphinx and back and also pose
for the snapshot on the back of a Camel. What a pleasure, but we budged
and moved on. We were seven, but at the Sphinx we met three of our Sergeants
and they joined the group. Here they would allow us the loan of a camel
to pose for the photo for 5 piastres each. As soon as they heard of
us, we were surrounded by about a dozen camels and their owners. The
former kneeling down. We were hemmed in and nearly asphyxiated by the
odour. Eventually the price was reduced to 1 and a half piastres each.
When however (each having made his own bargain) it appeared later that
a Sergeant had paid 5 piastres and obtained two very valuable ancient
coins in change, much amusement was caused and he was the butt of the
small talk for the rest of the day.
We returned to the Soldiers Home, Cairo and had a late Supper Tea about
7.30 pm. For about half an hour after we had a brief survey of some
of the streets round about. It is a district of bars and low class places.
Whatever their names before our arrival they now include such as:- The
Territorial Bar, The Soldier's Rest, East Lanc's Bar, Elephant and Castle,
Fusiliers Bar, Malitiaman's Bar and Garrison Bar. Whatever the names
sound like, the places (which are the usual shop style with open front)
are far from inviting to any decent minded person. A better description
could be given verbally . We caught a car shortly after 8.30 and having
to be in by 9.30, had a landau and pair (7 of us) from the Abbassia
terminus to the Barracks. There will be about at least6 a dozen of these
light carriages and Arab steeds doing the journey for 1 piastre each
unless they can get more. It is as well to pay at the e4nd of the journey
or the "Jehu" may drop you half way and not budge except upon
further payment. Another mode of locomotion is by donkey, but being
on time, we reserved this treat and its description for a future period.
Thursday 15th October 1914
Today we are informed we begin our winter programme. It begins 6.15
am to 7.15 am, then breakfast, afterwards 8.30 to 12.30 or later and
one hour 2.30 to 3.30. We are supposed to do 6 hours and we are doing
this and more. One has scarcely a moment to oneself and as for writing
I have to snatch brief periods when humour and freshness prevail. This
afternoon I rushed down to Cairo immediately after dinner in order to
visit the Anglo-Egyptian Bank, Hurried back and then went with the Company
on night operations shortly after 6 pm. We were on just over 2 hours
and the routine included: Loading rifles at distance away, striking
match, laughing and talking, looking for approach of men in different
uniforms then counting paces away, similarly men creeping up, fixing
bayonets silent marching on sand and brushing without knowing against
wires to which were attached tins etc. to give the alarm. After this
we returned to find the mail had arrived bringing its gladness and regrets.
Those with, were elated while those without, were depressed. Such is
the value of a letter and the Bugle call for letters is as popular as
any even including the "Cookhouse" call.
Friday 16th October 1914
Winter has commenced or rather the duties have and with a vengeance.
We marched out on the desert for about 3 miles today our furthest stage
so far over soft rough sand and in a broiling sun. Our Company then
practised attacking a position advancing by short hurried rushes and
then dropping quickly down. If it has not been previously mentioned,
we are parading in shirt sleeves (rolled up) and on the course rough
sand, the hurried dropping is not very comfortable to the elbows. We
returned at 12.30 tired out. Beyond parading in the afternoon for pay,
we finished after dinner.
A concert had been arranged for the night at the Surtees Hall, a Church
of E. Hall quite close to the Soldiers Home at Albassia here. The concert,
arranged by Lt. B. Lowe and assistants on behalf of the 5th Battalion
was a huge success. The charge for admission was 1 piastre and over
500 were present. Have sent you a programme on Proceeds to charities
to be decided upon. It is to be followed each Friday evening by others
arranged by the 6th, 7th, and 8th Battalion in turn. You see Friday
Saturday 17th October 1914
We came off parade early this morning on account of and in order to
prepare for an inspection of Barrack rooms and kit by the Colonel at
12 o clock. This over had intended going to Heliopolis but having no
pass had to remain, so made the best of it and began to write letters.
Sunday 18th October 1914
Just fancy going to church parade at 7.50 am. This we did this morning
, service beginning 8.30 am. For 1 hour. It was followed by other services
at 9.30, 10.30 and 11.30. Church Parade in the opinion of many is the
nicest of the week. You see it is the only one on which we have the
band. Everybody makes a special clean up for it and generally looks
smart or tries to. Viewed from our balconies, comments are made about
the other Battalions and Yeomanry as they proceed to the various services.
Of course they are not quite so smart as we are.
O this afternoon we have been to Heliopolis a modern town of extremely
rapid growth. In 1907 there was nothing on the site, but just the bare
desert. Now there are beautiful buildings, first class shops and hotels
and a racecourse.
On the racecourse there are encamped a part of the East Lancashire Brigade
of Infantry. It seems to be a residential district and frequented by
tourists. The cars connect with Cairo by two separate routes: one via
Abbassia, the other a through run more after the style of an electrical
train. The carriages on both routes are of a better type to the usual
cars. We boarded the car at Abbassia, Heliopolis being situated and
other two miles further east in the direction of Suez. The fare (for
us) is as to Cairo - 2 milliemes 1/2d 2nd class or 4 milliemes (1d)
1st Class. For nearly a mile on the southern side of the line, we passed
various Cavalry Barracks and also Native Barracks. There are few other
buildings until Heliopolis is reached. It as Sunday afternoon and all
seemed terribly quiet. After a look round we came to Luna Park, an enclosure
after the style of South Shore Pleasure Beach. Amongst the attractions
are: Scenic Rly, Watershoot, Hoop-la, various side shows an also a Skating
Rink. The place was open at a charge of 1 piastre to us with admission
to 1 attraction. To private persons it is 1/- with admission to 9 attractions.
When we entered, things were quiet but they were becoming busier towards
5 o clock. We left about this and went for tea to the Amphytreyon a
place which I w3ill endeavour to describe.
It is a large corner Restaurant with windows and opening on three sides.
Outside is a covered veranda with small tables, while at the rear is
a large open space where people may sit at small tables and watch the
cinematograph. It was light when we entered, but after tea the bioscope
began and the chairs rapidly filled. As we went out into the street
again a short time later it was quite busy, whilst across the road was
another bioscope of a similar nature, with families at rest spending
a pleasant evening. I returned and had to prepare for Main Guard at
the Gate entrance tomorrow.
Monday 19th October 1914
We fall in - a Sergeant myself and six men at 7.30 am and marched own
to the gate to take over duty at 8 am. Perhaps I have not mentioned
that the various barracks here are enclosed on the side of the road
and the city by iron railings. On the other side is the desert.
Anyone entering or leaving any of the barracks in order5 to proceed
to the city, has therefore to pass through these gates. Whilst on guard
there, our meals were brought to us, a matter of 10 minutes walk. It
is the duty of the corporal to change the sentries every 2 hours, in
the interval there was nothing to do beyond keeping the flies off. Never
have I seen them so numerous around one. They were in greater number
than at the Barracks and yet the Guards House is quite new, being built
only last year. Our barracks which I have described, was built in 1910
as the foundation stone shows. Occasionally the guard had to turn out
and present arms to an armed party or perhaps to the Officer of the
day. After 6 pm a sentry had to be posted inside a larger supply stores
opposite while after 11 pm the sentry on the front gate extended his
beat, stopped all carriages and allowed only authorised persons to enter
the gates. A native policeman was also stationed here during the night.
He told us he was paid 10 piastres for the 8 hours (2/1). It was very
cold during the night especially about 2 am but we were alright at 6
am when we sent up for some tea, at which the policeman smacked his
Tuesday 20th October
We were relieved at 8 am and rested from parades that day until the
afternoon. The day soon passed. Now able to visit Cairo etc. without
Wednesday 21st October
Usual parade across desert. Out till 12.45. Afternoon our Platoon No.
7 played Lt. Horridge's and drew 1 - 1. After tea, letter bugle went
amid loud cheers and expectations. One chap who received some "Woodbines"
was immediately surrounded. It was rather singular as cigarettes can
be easily bought here. We then had firewood issued to us to cook dinners
on the morrow and then the "Humorist" stepped in. He began
by saying they were eating firewood in the next room and continued by
drilling 4 men with brushes and mops. It was something like this:- Fall
in there - hurry up get on parade - put that cig out - what do you think
you're here for? - a Picnic? - Show. For inspection port arms - Examine
arms (passes No. 1) (stopped at No. 2). Dirty rifle (as he looked down
the mop handle). When did you pull this through - Sergeant, just look
at it. - Show hold your head up - Cover off - Squad - Number - Form
fours - Right - Quick march - Double - Halt - About turn - Right about
you fool - Just then the mop head came off. The remark was "Hello
what's this then. Take it to Riley and get it mended. He continued.
Stand at ease - easy - I will now give you 1 min. rest - Shon (Almost
immediately) - Quick march. Halt. He then dismissed for bed and after
being there about ½ hour said he would have to get out to turn
Thursday 22nd October
Paraded in marching order without greatcoats but in shirt sleeves. Took
potatoes and firewood and skirmished on desert. Cart met us at a certain
place with meat and we then cooked dinners in the open. We arrived back
just before 4 pm and were then told that our company would fall in at
6 pm. For night operations and that we should have tomorrow afternoon
off. We could have dropped after having been nearly baked ourselves
on the plain. The men's arms are becoming brown as berries and some
terribly sore and blistered. Faces are slightly tinged, being well protected
by the helmets. We did night operations for 2 hours and did not require
rocking after. As the talkative young lad who sleeps next to me said
"We can do it; you can do it; we can all do it. In all we have
done over 10 hours today.
Friday 23rd October 1914
The first, in fact the only thing to relate about today uis that we
had dropping to bread for breakfast. Parade as usual over desert, where
Sergeant C........... had a fainting attack in the heat and was brought
back. He is now well again. The afternoon holiday, which we were supposed
to have was spent as follows:-
2.30 Inspection of arms, neck and feet by Doctor. 4p0m Parade for pay.
This is a military holiday .
Saturday 24th October 1914
This morning we took up a defensive position on a hilly part of the
desert here (3 Co's of us) and were attacked by Capt. Wrigley's A Co.
The Brigadier and his staff looked on. Returned 12.45 lazy afternoon.
Received large photos of ourselves from Pyramids. Went down Cairo after
tea and sent parcel of them home to be delivered out to various owners.
Sunday 25th October 1914
We were free this morning until 10.45 when we fell in for Church Parade.
We happened to be last this week, visiting the 11.30 service. The Band
performed the "Goose Step" before moving off, for about 50
yards. It is to be contained every Sunday. Many men spent the remainder
of the day in rest. We have now been here just a month and the coolest
day so far has been as hot, if not hotter than any day in an English
Summer. Thus you will imagine what one feels like after dinner.
Monday 26th October 1914
Our Company began firing on the range today:- 5 rounds Grouping at 100
yards. Snap shooting 5 sec. A shot at 200 yards. The men and recruits
not firing, paraded under C/Sergt Instr. Lewis. He caused much fun by
putting them through it and also by his sarcastic comments about the
trained men in the Company. At night we went on picquet a duty I have
Tuesday 27th October 1914
Firing again. Load and fire 8 rounds in 1 minute at 200 yards. 5 rounds
slow at 500.
Wednesday 28th October 1914
As per yesterday but began Regular's course. 5 round grouping at 100
yards. 5 rounds (4 secs a shot) - 200 - (Target was a figure head and
shoulders at the end of a pole). 5 slow at 500.
No. 7 played No. 8 Platoon at football 4 pm (2-3). Went down Cairo after
tea. Found nice place for refreshments. Left watch for repairs, he said
it would be 15 piastres. Told him it was new. Said he would do it6 for
10 pt. Gave conductor of car 1 piastre for 4 of us on return; of course
he had no change and was unable to get any. Very convenient. We hurried
from car in a landau 1 pt each. Mail arrived, letter handed out.
Thursday 29th October 1914
The letters received late last night which we read in a hurry before
lights out we again looked through this morning. Afterwards went firing
5 rounds at 300 yards kneeling behind cover. 15 rounds at 300 yards
lying. 5 rounds in rifle remaining 10 in pouches. To be loaded and fired
in 1 minute. Grand sight to see the flag being waved signalling misses
and to see the sand being raised in various places. 5 rounds lying at
Before retiring we heard being sung various portions of Hymn 61.
Friday 30th October 1914
Christmas day. Today we are told is the natives' Christmas Day and the
festivities continue for four days, during which period we are confined
to Barracks, lest during our travels we upset their services. So the
saying goes. However to business. Another days firing on the range.
Every day this week, we have been scorched and the General of the Division
came today and said it was too hot and hazy to fire. He even turned
the 6th Battalion back to the shade of the Barracks. However we completed
the course doing: 5 rounds at6 500 yards. Load and fire in 30 seconds.
5 600 slow. We return to tea and afterwards made special preparations
in the way of cleaning and polishing up for the route march through
Cairo tomorrow. It seemed father close for Christmas.
Saturday 31st October 1914
Today was to be an important even of our stay here. It will certainly
rank in our
minds long after - I may as well say for ever. The column which was
about 4 miles long and took 11/4 hours to pass a given point included
all arms. The front left Abbassia at 9.10 am. The order being:- Yeomanry:-
1 Duke of Lancaster. 2. Herts 3. Westminster Dragoons; Filed Artillery
- 1st and 3rd East Lancs. Brigades 6 Batteries; Infantry 5th, 6th, 7th
and 8th Lancashire Fusiliers 9th and 10thManchesters 4th and 5th East
Lancs. East Lanc s. Div. Royal Engineers, East Lancs. Fire and Ambulance;
London Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance. Sgnal Units -Cyclist of the
East Lancs. Division and East Lancs. Division Army Service Corps. We
took a new way (turns) to the city away from the car route passing at
first a few small mud or wood dwellings, on to first class residences
of wealthy natives and reach the shopping part of the city near the
station. We also passed an American College for Girls and a French place
Pension du SacreCoeiu. There were crowds on the balconies. Further on
the crowds lined the streets with increasing intensity. We passed through
a wide open square near the Station. It was a grand sight to look from
the middle of the column to the fore, with band at the head of each
battalion and a passage through the spectators wider that any Heywood
Street. It must have been a still greater spectacle to the crowd. In
fact it is said Cairo has never seen the like before. All the city seemed
out on holiday. The column moved on towards the centre and approaching
the 1st Class Shepherd's Hotel received the applause of the Tourists
and Visitors on the open air front at very frequent intervals. The clapping
seemed to buck the men up and I say, without any exaggeration, they
marched here as well as any Regulars would have done. At the first wide
street on the right past here was stationed Sir John Maxwell, Governo9r
General in Egypt and he received the salute as we passed. By this time
perspiration was beginning to show through the men's tunics. Some were
absolutely soaked at the back. You will scarcely believe that it would
have been easier to count the patches of dry than the patches of wet.
When we arrived back at barracks there were chaps with not a patch of
dry cloth at the back of their coat6. They will have to be washed as
the stains from the leather work has marked them. We proceeded past
the fine Continental Hotel (with more tourists and bioscope operators)
and in ten minutes were moving through streets as narrow as would only
permit a cart to move through. The contrast was great: it was an eye
opener. You cannot conceive the squalor, dirt and attendant misery.
What was behind this front it is perhaps as well we did not see. Occasionally
we caught a glimpse and that was enough. We were passing native shops
the whole time; one selling coal fuel, one fancy clothes, one slippers,
one cakes etc. Others meat covered with cloths and flies, grain, vegetables,
in fact all things jumbled up. The places were far from odourless and
not knowing our whereabouts we were glad to come out suddenly into the
car route to Abbassia. The only benefit apart from the experience e
we had was the welcome shade obtained in these narrow thoroughfares.
All along this old part, the natives were squatted round the shop front
and in all conceivable places and positions. One felt sorry for some
of the men in such a tremendous procession who were in agony and unable
to fall out to perform the daily necessaries. I saw one placed in a
landau later on and sent back to barracks. We arrived back about 12.40
having had 1 brief rest just12 pm. And a short stop about 10 am while
all the time, a good pace was maintained. In spite of the discomforts
there was a certain pleasure in sticking it and after a good rub and
change, our clothes dried in the sun in quick time. Being confined to
Barracks was little felt as the majority were content to draw out their
beds and covering their faces from the flies, settle down.
At 5.30 am I took over duty of Company Orderly Corporal for the week.
Busi8ness is:- 5.30 am Reveille - Arise; 5.40 Parade Orderlys of Company
for Gun Fire Tea. Afterwards, take names of sick and parade them before
Doctor at 7 am 7.30 breakfast parade orderlies at Cook house, 8.15 supposed
to go on morning parade until 12.30 (I said supposed) 1 pm Parade orderlies
for dinner; 2 pm Parade with Company. Orderly Sergeant at orderly room
for Commanding Officer's orders. The C.O, here deals with any defaulters
etc. 4 pm Parade Orderlies of Co for bread forfollowing day ½
loaf per man. 5pm Same procedure for Tea. After tea help Orderly Sergeant
in warning men for duty on the morrow etc. and take biscuits round for
Gun Fore tea for morning (1 per man). 9.45 with orderly Sgt. Visit each
room of company. Ascertain any absentees. Parade before Guard Room 10
pm (Last Post) and report all present o9r otherwise. 1015. Lights switched
off. Quietness should reign. 10.20 pm Peace at last. In addition the
Orderly Corporal has to receive the letters of his Company when the
mails arrive and distribute them. It is no small job. He is also supposed
to parade the sick men each day at 12.15 pm in front of the wet canteen
so that the Sergeant on duty there may scan their faces and prevent
them being served during their period of sickness. Any other company
business cropping up falls on either the Orderly Corporal or Sergeant
, who are not to leave barracks during their period of duty. The Company
went this afternoon to dig trenches. We hear of Egypt being placed under
Martial Law and of many Germans and Austrians being taken prisoners.
Tuesday 3rd November
Martial Law confirmed. Further Trench digging. Certainly it is not for
pleasure; some scheme on. They are orders. The usual parade to Church.
Also customary be permanent. Still confirmed to barracks. Hear of one
officer asking permission to go out from the Brigadier. Reply:- Yes
you may if you take your platoon with you. A few men were marched round
Cairo this morning by an officer so perhaps it may be true.
Wednesday 4th November
The parades at present are arranged 6.15 am. To 7.15 and 8.30 to 12.30
and 2.30 to 3.30. Confinement to barracks relaxed. Decide to o down
Cairo. Now have to walk out with side arms. For the first time a guard
has been placed today on the Abbatoirs and Stores etc. in Cairo. This
is an old dilapidated building. It was formerly a slave market and surrounded
by a moat, the trace of which remains. It lies on the car route amid
the city. At one corner we pass the ruins of a scaffold while the while
the scarlet streak down the wall now grimy with age, tells it own story.
There are no windows; only the sockets. It is also roofless. Maybe there
are smaller covered building within the walls, for it is a large enclosure.
Here is stored the meat, potatoes, bread etc to supply the troops around
Cairo. It is here where the bread is baked and this tells its own is
a story. It seems no yeast is used. There may be a substitute; there
may not. The flour is mixed and then allowed to rest until it is baked.
By persuading another to act as Orderly Corporal during absence I was
able to make up a party of three to get out. Here we noticed two sentries
in front of the stores just mentioned; beyond this the City appeared
as usual in spite of Martial Law. Scarcely had we passed than it was
our fortune to witness a native funeral. It was 6.30 and quite dark.
The hearse was preceded by four couriers dressed in white, each carrying
a long stout pole. They were running . The4 horses of which there were
four in the hearse - wore light coverings. Afterwards followed several
carriages containing flowers. The whole quickly passed so there was
no time for further examination.
Thursday 5th November
After breakfast on the big parade, the Company today took out their5
dinner and cooked it on the desert. It consisted of potatoes and meat
carried in the mess tin. Firewood was taken in haversacks, whilst of
course water bottles were filled. You must imagine how they fared.
During their absence, our first real batch of letters arrived. The replies
were just beginning to come to hand. You never saw such bagsful. I had
nine (I mean letters not bags) as you can guess how many there were
for the Battalion. I should think needs a special vessel to bring for
the whole Division. When the men returned and the bugle sounded "Letters#"
there were loud cheers. Many of the letters were wrongly or badly addressed
and caused endless trouble. The reduction of the number of companies
from 8 to 4 and the consequent re-lettering has upset things. They have
not yet righted themselves. About 8 pm we witnessed a crowd of Herts
Yeomanry fellows singing and marching along the road in front, carrying
an effigy of the Kaiser. It was laughable to see them brush past the
Guard who had turned out to see the cause of the row. Whether the dummy
was singed or not we cannot say. We saw bonfires.
Friday 6th November
Up to now, the recruits who joined us at Turton have been drilling apart
under several Regular permanent instructors. They joined their respective
companies today for the first time. So did the instructors who now come
out with us. Many more letters were handed out to us today. The Company
went out at 5 pm and remained out on the desert all night. They were
only about 1 mile away and returned at 7.15 am.
Saturday 7th November
The Company came in in good humour. They had been doing outpost duty.
Those not on sentry dug small trenches and huddled together for warmth.
Though it would not appear cold weather in England, the contrast here
between night and day is most marked especially when one is equipped
with thin clothing. We have also noticed during the last few weeks a
gradual moderation in the heat. It is now very like an English summer
during the day, while the early morning is rather chilly. Newspapers
from the last mail are only just coming round to us. Stray letters continue
to dribble in.
Sunday 8th November
Church parade at 8.30 am. Our Company provided guard of 22 men for Citadel,
as a temporary relief to the platoon there. They mount at 5 pm for 24
hours. Sad news to hand this morning that J. Williamson of our Company
had died in hospital. He had a sort of faint whilst on night operati9ons
a few weeks ago and after a few days went into hospital at Cairo. The
funeral should have taken place this afternoon and a fitting party of
about 25 was arranged and went down to the city, but through some slight
hitch in the arrangements, the ceremony had to be postponed for a day.
It was the 7thand 8th Battalions turn to be out, so our men had to remain
in Barracks. After a busy week I easextremely glad at 10 pm to hand
over the duties of Orderly Corporal to another
Monday 9th November
We took a new direction on our morning's out today, more towards the
Citadel in Cairo and practised Advance and Rear Guards. On the march
we were followed by a nigger with a thin basket of green oranges. At
first halt he began to do business, but after a time he was sent away
or rather an effort was made to send him away but he would persist in
creeping up and even pushing past under the sergeants nose. One thing
settled it; a Regular Sergeant Instructor went up to him and with a
rousing kick went through the basket and upset the fruit. His foot stuck
in the basket but a second plunge shifted the lot. The nigger calmly
collected his wares and would I believe have continued to sell, had
we not moved on. We could not when we first came here have understand
that these green things were oranges. They looked so peculiar, but now
they show signs of yellow and are not at all bad eating. Amongst other
fruit which can be obtained at a hut close by the Barracks are dates,
figs and small apples. For ½ piaster (11/4d) one can get either
3 oranges or 3 apples or close on a dozen dates or figs. Those which
are not peeled we are advised to wash and I would certainly recommend
anybody in England to wash such fruit before eating. If you saw the
flies here you would open your eyes; if you felt the flies you might
shut them again, but not for peace. Many of the Officers, especially
those mounted, carry fly flickers - short sticks with a hairy tassel
at the end. Whilst on this subject I might mention that we often see
young children with clusters of flies round their eyes. No effort is
made either by the youngsters or their guardians to move them. You can
even get hold of the flies with your fingers, they are so lazy. The
carts one sees in the street are a sight - a large heap of dates which
can scarcely be seen for these insects. The fruit in the shops looks
very tempting. Green water melons are very prominent. When cut at this
stage, the insides are of a pinkish colour. In fact, we see the majority
of fruit in its unripe state, but for having to carry things so far
back to Barracks one might be tempted to sample such things.
To return to business - After practising Advance and Rear Guards, we
began an attack on a certain position. This is becoming the chief feature
on our big morning parades. Doubling in short sharp rushes is a speciality.
After each rush we drop and prepare to rush again. On the desert6 we
come across many and various insects etc. Lizards, varying from 4 to
8 inches in length from head to tip of tail. Locus, insects about 3
or 4 inches long with thin long wings and beetles of all sorts and sizes,
varieties to suit anybody. We also meet other varieties in other places.
On our return to Barracks today, we passed a hill composed of soft sandstone.
The colour of the layers was splendid, varying from rich dark crimson,
red and pink to yellow and brown, white. The range is remarkable and
yet all in one hill. It soon crumbles, while the red acts like dye when
We have only one suit of thin drill clothing as yet, so being rather
soiled, I took mine to the washhouse at 1 pm today and changed into
the old cloth. At6 a charge of 1 piastre they will wash and iron 1 pair
of trousers or 1 tunic. He said it would be ready by 5 pm, but it happened
to be rather dullthis afternoon so it as scarcely dry. In fact we had
an attempt at rain this afternoon, just about sufficient to cover a
Much regret being unable to get out - laundry missing. Fatigue dress
without arms before breakfast - physical drill and doubling. Extra long
march after, practised the usual attack. Returned 1.15 . Went on horse
guard at 6.45 pm. Was accompanied by three of the transport men who
took duty in turns, two hours at a stretch. We slept outside the stables
on sacks of straw while a few natives live here in a small anti-room,
sleeping on the floor. It is surprising. Had a troublesome chilly night.
Wednesday 11th November
Dismounted Guard at 6 am having been on Guard, did not go on parade
with the Battalion who went out at 9 am. It was rather peculiar. They
were going a few miles away and remaining away until Friday morning,
thus spending two nights out. Meat, potatoes etc. were issued individually.
Bread, firewood, jam, butter etc. and water were carried pannier style
on camels, each company separately. The whole went out with one full
days ration and the loading up0 of the camels was most interesting.
They knelt in the usual way, two fore legs first, then hind legs. The
water was carried in copper cased tanks one on each side of the camel.
I believe it was beautifully cool when required.
The men remaining behind included the Turton recruits and various duty
men and in all numbered about 80. These being spread out in various
rooms, required dividing up into two messes for dinner. It was a great
trouble finding their correct number. They kept cropping up one at a
time. There were only 3 or us N.C.O.'s left behind in our company one
had just come off guard, and one was on Guard. By 10 pm I was fed up.
What with the duties of Orderly Sergeant , Orderly Corporal , Company
Quartermaster, serving out the meals to 40 mean it amounts to general
Thursday 12th November
The camels after unloading yesterday returned. They go again this morning
with another days rations. Have another knockabouts job loading up for
our company. Potatoes, butter, jam, meat etc. Not only this but the
men behind had to take their dinner out with them, meet the Battalion
and manoeuvre with them, but return in the afternoon. It was a terrible
rush. Parade was 8 am. Meat did not arrive until 7 and had to be cut
up. Potatoes, butter and jam had to be fetched from the stores which
opened at 7.30 am. All these had to be divided into three. Part for
those on the desert, part for a few still in barracks and the remainder
to be divided between the men now going out with their dinners. We just
managed it amongst us and with butcher's hands c cooked on with smiles
at the departing troops. There were two in our room for dinner out of
a total of 27, a sick man and myself. Peace at last.
The sick man by the way is one of many who have done practically nothing
since we left Turton. His arm has not yet healed from vaccination. If
you could have seen some of the sores which chaps have had you would
be surprised. On board ship they were awful, there still remains about
a dozen and yet we were all vaccinated late in August or early September.
Parade as Orderly Sergeant at 7.30 pm for orders. Warned for Guard 7.30
am tomorrow. Began to polish up. Answered for all present at 10 pm last
Friday 13th November
Mounted guard 8 am Sergeant and men coming from D Company. Uneventful
day. No prisoners in detention room. Had to turn out several times to
the Brigadier, presenting arms. At this stage I might mention the chief
method of punishing defaulters. When a person is brought up for some
crime or disobedience, the Officer trying the case may give him so many
days confinement to Barracks (C.B.). The bugler on Guard blows the defaulters
call every half hour commencing at 5.15 am and finishing 9.45 pm unless
there is a parade on. The call is well known by now and just matches
these words "you may be a defaulter as long as you like, so long
as you answer your name."It must be a rare pleasure to go down
and report and then look forward to the next c all ½ hour hence.
We heard many rumours during the day - The usual kind. I might mention
one - it wasstated that a telegram had been received at the Sergeant's
Mess to the effect that the Salvation Army had mobilised. The chief
duty of the corporal on Guard is to change the sentries every two hours.
Night and day they do 2 on and 4 off. There is plenty of leisure but
not much sleep, equipment being kept on all the time. It is certainly
not very pleasant to waken at 12,2,4, 6 am and march round relieving
the sentries. Between 4 and 4.30 am two of us acted the knockers up
going round the barracks wakening grooms, cooks, pioneers etc. - e.g.
A block, room No.3 4th bed on left hand side from the top. The rooms
are all dark at this time; if you get to the right bed, you rouse the
right person; if you get to the wrong bed - well! You rouse somebody
else. Perhaps he rouses the room.
Saturday 14th November
We were relieved by the new guard after a certain amount of ceremony
at 8 am. Yester5day was the coolest and dullest day we have had during
our stay. At one time during the afternoon the wind raised the sand
like must on the plains.
Saturday has begun to be regarded as a fairly easy day, that is compared
to the rest. We generally finish parade early and have to tidy up0 the
Barrack rooms, beds, lockers etc. which are inspected by the Colonel
at 12 o clock. The Barrack rooms and veranda's by the way are mopped
e very day by orderlies; so are the steps. Rain threatened again about
4pm - the usual deluge, 1 speck every 5 yards.
Sunday 15th November
Church Parade 7.40 am returned 9.45 am. I might mention unless it has
been noted before, that the band played "A Military Church Parade"
and then do the Goose Step every Sunday before we move off. It is certainly
a pleasing feature and nice to witness. Another feature which is exceptionally
pleasing is the neat and short sermon at the service.
On our return, a few of us (wasting no valuable time) set out for the
Zoo which is situated at Guiza halfway between Cairo and The Pyramids.
It is a large well kept natural enclosure and studded with trees and
vegetation after the style of a park. In places, the paths are beautiful
in design - Mosque style except that the pieces, instead of being cemented
in smooth at the surface, are round pebbles stuck in. I suppose the
remainder is like most Zoos, but many of the animals etc. are of native
origin and come from the regions of the Upper Nile. One item of note
- we saw two fine ostriches, the feathers of which would have made any
suffragette scratch. We retire to Cairo and had dinner-tea at 3 pm.
Afterwards visiting Esbekiah Gardens close by in the centre of the city.
Territorial Bands play here on Sundays, usually 4 - 6 pm. It was our
band this week. The park is a large enclosure which I believe I have
previously described. In an open air rink, skating was in full swing.
At dusk, it was illuminated by powerful arc lamps. The band stand is
an isolated enclosure encircled by a circular path of gravel, perhaps
16 yards wide. Then begin the seats. These were well patronised by a
very mixed populace. It gave one the impression of a resting place,
while the youngsters of the family consisting of all sizes and garbs
played "tig" or the like on the gravel.
We retired with the band, at 6 pm. Time seems to fly here. About 8.30
we were stood in a group preparatory to boarding a car. The tempting
odours of roasted chestnuts reached us from a cart close by . We have
noticed these since the cooler nights came on. Up came a chap with his
landau. He pushed it and in fun we asked how much. We were by now 7.
He would take the lot all the way to the Barracks for 1 ½ piastres
each. (it usually costs 1 each from the car terminus to the Barracks.
We accepted, but more out of curiosity than thoughts of comfort. With
the driver, temporary drive r and 7 of us, it was full. How we survived
the journey of 30 mins I cannot say. It must have been the jokes and
laughter which made the time fly. The temporary driver drove assisted
at times by one of our men on the box. The real driver varied the trip
by alternately standing on the step or running at the side. Whilst doing
the latter he manipulated the whip. If he stopped talking once during
the whole journey, it was to light a cigarette, which he artfully begged
off one of our number. Not satisfied with this, one for the temporary
driver. Questions elicited that he was 19 only, somebody had seen to
his education, for he could speak English and had learn it at school.
Now he was poor, he would see us again and sell us his English Grammar.
He told us of Christianity and his visits to church on Sunday - American
Mission Church. Continuing:- "I lend you my carriage because you
are my brothers." "All Christians are brethren." You
ride when you like. Sing me a song. Let us be happy (Here his cigarette
runs out). My cigar
ette finished. A cigarette please etc. etc. He dropped the other and
began to drive himself at the car terminus Albassia. Still continuing
his talk and on one occasion running us off the road into the sand outside.
We soon reached Abbas Heilmi and paid him up. He was profuse in his
thanks. We noted his number and hope before long to have an afternoon
round the city with him. He will take four of us for 10/- and include
in the itinerary the Citadel and as far out as the Pyramids.
On arrival at barracks we found one of the men had picked up a scull
in the Dead City part of Cairo. He had washed it and was giving an exhibition
of its charms on the veranda by way of a lighted candle placed inside.
We heard most awful weird tales of the Dead City but have yet to visit
Battalion Drill continues before breakfast we regularly now, double
about 1000 yards back to Barracks. After breakfast the usual 11/2 hours
tramjp0 out over the plain followed by manoeuvring.
Tuesday November 17th
Battalion Orderly Corporal for the day. Began at Reveille Routine:-
Attend illus of all meals at Cook House and also issue of bread which
is drawn at 4pm daily for tea and following breakfast. Parade all sick
of Battalion at 7 am. March men with bad arms (through vaccination)and
also men for detention hospital to the latter place. There were about
16 requiring arm dressings. They are gradually dwindling down. At 1
pm go round with Orderly Officer to see if any complaints re dinner.
Usual Staff Parade at 10pm
Wednesday November 18th
The usual before breakfast. After, we tramped for nearly 2 hours with
one half carrying full equipment, minus greatcoats, to a place termed
Virgins Breast. The contour suggest the name. It is becoming a daily
rendezvous and so well known that its mention brings forth groans. We
stuck here all day cooking our dinners and each section digging a trench
on their own. We formed up about 6 pm it was getting dusk. From there
we did a night march over Signal Fall making almost a beeline back to
Barracks. This portion of the desert is inclined to be hilly and rough.
In places we came across very rough stones and in the dark, the chaps
were often down, but we finally arrived about 9 pm without any accidents,
but choked with dust. Lights out seemed to sound almost immediately
after tea but perhaps not too soon.
Thursday November 19th
The usual daily routine including the doubling. Afterwards the well
known march across the flat. However, we had a comparatively easy day
with no afternoon parade. Unable to go out as our platoon and No 6 were
Friday November 20th
Pay days mail from England. Therefore everybody satisfied for once.
Had troublesome night. Put it down to 1 sardine at tea yesterday. Tea
tonight pickles, tomatoes and beet. Tomatoes by the way are 1lb to 11/2
lbs for 1 piastre. To Cairo after tea, it seems to be a custom on Friday.
Just happened to see Fire Brigade turn out. Few minutes later, a fireman
passed in a landau. This is no reflection on the Brigade, which appears
Have I mentioned that it is becoming cooler and much more pleasant here?
Particularly tonight one notices a haze in the atmosphere together with
just that little feeling of nip which foretells the departure of summer.
The days are quite warm and I only mention the change as it seems strange
to us to see the natives now beginning to wear jackets and overcoats
above their usual costumes. Another thing - we begin to see small carts
selling roasted chestnuts at the street corners. They have a very tempting
odour; it must be punishment to any poor penniless chap who passes them.
These street hawkers abound, some of them will hang on to you for yards.
They offer an article at a price, which you always refuse and walk away,
knowing they will run on asking you how much you will give. Amongst
the articles to be seen, postcards and cigarettes take priority; we
also see all kinds of canes and walking sticks, hardware stalls, red
pot hats, beads, highly coloured sweets and cakes, nuts, various sweet
concoctions in basins and many unknown things which it would be hard
to define. To describe a few - perhaps we come across a native with
a very big tray on his head and piled up with muffins. These are a pale
spotted brown colour and hollow inside. Some however are said to contain
dates. Another variety takes the form of rings, some a few inches, some
almost a foot diameter, some sugared others without, but all peculiar
and suited only to a place like Cairo. We also visit during the day,
chaps carrying a kind of large round drinking arrangement. In a hole
at the mouth protrudes a large piece of ice shaped like a carrot, while
glasses fit in a tray at the front. What the liquid is, we are unable
to say. On the outskirts of the city however, we come across young lads
with wooden vases. They even board the cars and offe4r the4 water at
a price probably of 1 para (1/4 of a penny) At other times, in fact
every morning at the Barracks one or two natives sprinkle water, to
lay the sand for about 2 or 3 yards just round the building. They carry
it by means of large whole skins of animals slung across their backs,
the neck acting as the mouth of the bottle. When filled these are extremely
Saturday November 21st
Received this morning another suit of khaki drill. Went and had it marked
and then sent to wash to be shrunk. No parade after breakfast but still
no time to ourselves. After the clothing business, we waited long over
an hour outside with various articles of equipment waiting our turn
for inspection as to their fitness. After this there was the Barracks
room inspection at 1pm. An hour late this week. Not our turn out today.
Saw one spending his evening mending socks, which were kept by an inverted
pop bottle placed inside. The wool used by the way was unravelled from
another old sock. It made quite a lot.
The mention of pop bottle reminds me that attached to one end of the
married quarters of the Barracks is a room fitted up with a modern machine
for making mineral water and washing bottles.
Sunday November 22nd
Church Parade 10.40 am for 11.30 service. In afternoon went over to
Egyptian horse barracks. There are one or two of our Officer's horses
stabled here. Short of accommodation elsewhere. The Egyptian soldiers
are big well built fellows and many of them look very smart. They were
in their fatigue dress and very laughable to watch. One of the sergeants
was very much struck by a camera we had and persistently grinned at
the lens at the same time moving up to it until nearly touching with
his eye. Am told they are paid as follows:- Sergeant 3 piastries, Corporals
2 piastres and Private 1 piastre (21/2d) per day and they seem satisfied.
Nor is there much trouble with the drill. If a private happens to be
a bit slack or stupid he may look out for a kick or smack with the butt
end of a rifle.
Whilst on the car5 to the city this afternoon a young nipper jumped
on the footboard with the usual tray of eatables. Scarcely had he done
so than a passing tram caught the edge of his tray and upset the lot
- money and all. It is surprising accidents do not occur more frequently
as these hawkers continually stick to the handrail on the side of cars
passing in the other direction.
I might mention that last Thursday a number of men arrived from Ceylon.
They are the Ceylon Plantation Rifle Corps (about 250) composed of young
men with a certain amount of training who have offered their services.
They are Englishmen and seem of very poor education.
Monday November 23rd
Another new rule - we are now to be permitted out for 3 days and stay
in every fourth. For some reason or other we had ceremonial drill early
this morning. Why this, when we are supposed to be kept so busy in training?
We guessed one reason; it may perhaps come off some time, if Turkey
The new thin clothing returned from wash and we paraded to tailor for
fitting. Possibly he may just run a tuck up the side if it is slack
or turn up the sleeved a little. It is marvellous what a sewing machine
can do in 3 minutes.
I heard a story the other day and believe it, two Egyptians boarded
a car to Cairo. They lit cigarettes(this is a craze here). Shortly afterwards,
one pulled a paper from his pocket and began to read. It was the Bury
Tuesday November 24th
No early parade, but fall in at 7.45 am in full kit, without greatcoats.
Marched for about an hour across plain and took up position south of
the road to Suez beyond Heliopolis. We were supposed to be protecting
the left flank of a convoy which was proceeding in the direction of
Cairo from Suez. About 1 mile from the road, we lined several hills
which overlooked another level plain stretching perhaps 1000 yards.
We were attached by the 8th Battalion who advanced in extended order
across the plain. Our duty was to protect the movement of the convoy
by hindering the enemy's advanced. At the same time, we had gradually
The proceedings were watched by the Brigadier and staff. He afterwards
lectured and criticised the Officers and N.C.O.'s. I learnt more in
this ten minutes than I have done previously in weeks. Why don't they
exp0lain to us every morning before going out what the day's scheme
is. It would give more interest to the work. We returned just before
2 and heard that beyond rifle inspection was glad to rest in peace.
Wednesday November 25th
Ceremonial drill again at 6.15 am. At the second parade we were enlightened
for the first time of the day's programme. This time we were to act
as a convoy along the Suez Road protecting the transport. After about
2 miles our company was sent out about 1200 yards to the right as a
flank guard. We were attacked by an enemy represented by some of our
men with pole targets. Criticism followed. It seems peculiar but B.
Co. (Heywood) comes in for everything and appears unable to do anything
After dinner today some of the men were throwing potatoes, meat etc.
from the veranda to large hawk like birds which soared daily about this
time. They swoop down and catch the pieces very cleverly, like sea lions
jump from the water. Today we had a little variety. One chap tied some
meat at the end of a piece of cotton; at the other end he tied a piece
of paper. The bird caught the meat and flew around followed by the flapping
paper like the tail of a kite. Had no afternoon parade, so had a small
washing day - handkerchiefs and socks.
Thursday November 26th
Once a week we cook dinners out. We did so again today. These dinners
so made are very good, but the tin afterwards remains a horrible mess.
It is a bigger mess still if the lid becomes soldered on during process.
For such reasons we decided to take a tin of salmon and bread. The bread
we took right enough, but after about 10 minutes march, enquiries between
the three of us as to the salmon elicited that we had each left it behind.
On this morning we did a forced march. Over soft sand and with but 1
halt of 5 minutes we covered 6 miles in under two hours in full kit
without greatcoats. Barefooted natives with oranges followed us all
the way. After about 20 mins rest, the battalion divided up and attacked
towards the direction of Virgins Breast. The pole targets altered their
position and making an incline, retired towards some hills nearer the
barracks. At the close, dinners were cooked in a small vale between
two hills. The three of us had visions of salmon and made up with a
few extras, which we had brought. Rain threatens during the afternoon.
We arrived back just prior to 5 pm.
We returned last might with visions of the morrow. We rose this morning
in a dream. Reveille went at 2.30 am. Gun Fire tea 3 am and we moved
off at 3.30. Direction I believe was kept by the compass and we made
for Coombe Hall. After about half an hour rain began to fall, quite
a heavy shower. It was the first real rain we have had since arrival
and why it should begin on this morning when we just happened to be
out so early, is just the irony of fate. It rained going and again on
our return, thus completing the soaking. The thin clothing soon takes
the wet and we looked a lovely picture coming in for breakfast. Beyond
inspection of rifles at 12 o clock we had finished for the day, but
all morning was taken in cleaning up etc. The barrack room was crossed
with puttees tied together acting as clothes lines. Yet on a day like
this, a certain officer went round whilst we were out, seeing if water
bottles were filled. He had several men up for having them empty and
gave them 1 hours extra drill. This is one way of treating the men.
I spent the afternoon mending socks - second attempt since arrival.
Our platoon for fire piquet fell in 6 pm.
Friday November 26th
Another easy day just 1 hour from 6.15 returning about 1000 yards at
the4 double. At 9.45 the Doctor came round inspecting feet, chest and
arms. Why was there such a rush to wash feet. This over it was a free
day, the freest we have yet had and such opport6unities are not to be
We saw (or rather heard first) in Cairo this afternoon about 8 persons
playing instruments. They came very near to being a band. They would
have been but for the din made. Following them were two open carriages
full of natives, chiefly women wearing the customary black costumes.
Of course there was the usual crowd and we thought it might be a wedding
but were told not. It is time I said that the natives, the real poor
natives have no footwear. The better class are becoming modernised and
dress in European fashion except for the plant pot hat. The intermediaries
seem to wear slippers. Thedse4 are without back to the heel which is
flattened in. It is surprising how they stick to their feet.
We had dinner rather late outside the Restaurant du Nil to the strains
of t6wo violins playing English popular songs. Scarcely a moment passed
but what some hawker came round, one with fancy beads one with post
cards and many with cigarettes. They were bundled away by the waiters.
One youngster begged pitifully for a lump of bread. Later on we came
across a chap selling large local views at 1 piastre each. After selecting
10 and a little bargaining he let us have them for 4 piastres (1d each).
At the car stop Abbassia another was selling green oranges at 6 for
half a piaster. They carry these oranges inside their blouse round the
waist. His blouse was of sack cloth and in getting them out 2 at a timehe
would persist in giving a little one and a big one. We continued each
time in putting the small one back until we had a good size 6. It is
the only way to deal with them and is worth the trouble if only for
the fun. We returned to the sound of crickets. It is much colder since
the rain and very cold at night.
Sunday November 29th
Church Parade at 9.50 am. Our day to stay in barracks. This occurs now
every fourth day. Men busy writing letters to catch the mail at 4 pm.
Clothing lies in a heap ready for wash. There is a smell of burning.
It proves to come from the heap, probably due to a cigarette end. Underneath
we find a few shirts and towels spoiled. They had been smouldering for
over an hour.
Monday November 30th
Brigade training begins today. We have now finished Company and Battalion
work. So after half an hour physical drill at 6.15 we move off at 8.30
a bit nearer. Here we did close order drill etc. as a Brigade, that
is 5th, 6th, 7th and 8thLancs Fusiliers all working together under the
Brigadier Col. Frith. This lasted until about 12.30. The 4th Battalions
are to go out again at 6.15 pm. For similar 2 hours night work.
This afternoon I have on very good authority that we are to move from
here about December 8th, not home, but to a place rather further away,
probably to Ismailia on the Suez Canal. If so we shall go under canvas.
The new has not yet leaked out, so am awaiting further developments.
The Government seem to be drafting large numbers of troop here. Thousands
are expected. Many from Australia. We hear they are to go under canvas
close by the Pyramids. Of course one hears many tales, but we have seen
.. being made and carted
away from Abbassia here. This seems to suggest a camp somewhere.
Tuesday December 1st
The beginning of another month - how the days and weeks do fly. Its
seems but a week or so since we first made the acquaintance of the place.
Yet it will be 11 weeks on Saturday next since the first sighted these
We moved off at 8.30 as a Brigade and proceeded to an attack in the
direction of an isolated Electric Car shed beyond Hoeliopoli returning
about 1.30. The coming of December brought us a reminder that Christmas
was approaching so after tea, we did a little shopping home. What a
quest it is, but we managed a few things.
Wednesday December 2nd
The Brigade (5th 6th 7th and 8th) moved out of the main gate past the
Guard and proceeded along the main road towards Hoeliopoli. On our right
were various Egyptian Barracks. To the left was flat open ground on
which we formed up until the scheme was explained to the Officers. We
were assisted today by Artillery. Whilst stopped here the Guard of the
Egyptian Cavalry across the way was relieved. It was just 8 am. Hereabouts
also is a prison and we noticed convicts in reddish yellow garb doing
various work, chiefly in the gardens close by. In these gardens we found
the eucalyptus tree. The leaves of the tree when crumpled up have a
very strong smell of the oil. They were in great demand by the men.
The business today was to attack Coom Hill right across the plain. B.Co
were in reserve at first but were sent later to clear the left flank.
The enemy consisted of the Ceylon Plantation Rifle Corps. Some of the
men attacking had slips of paper given to them to act as casualties.
There was much demand for these, as they had to fall out, while the
attack proceeds. A late return for Dinner. At 4.30 this afternoon Sir
John Maxwell, the Governor, opened a "Soldiers Café"
and reading room inside the Esbekiah Gardens in Cairo. We intended being
there, but after busy morning and a lat4e return, the afternoon appears
to fly. So we missed, but paid a visit there at night. There is a nice
reading room with a plentiful supply of English Newspapers and Illustrated
Weeklies and also a well stocked bookcase, but who has the time. Certainly
with so many more troo9ps here than formerly something of the sort was
needed. Strange to say one lady in charge there is an English refugee
from Turkey. She prefers here to going back to England. We spent the
remainder of the evening looking round, chiefly buying postcards. Another
mail has come in tonight. We returned from car to Barracks each on a
donkey. A certain amount of difficulty was felt in sticking on, especially
when the native with the4 stick gave the animal a smack or two just
as one was rounding a corner. If you tried to tell him your foot had
lost the stirrup perhaps he would reply "Yes yes very good donkey"
and give an extra lash or two which made things worse. What a time!
Of course on dismounting he wanted the usual "Backsheesh"
in addition to payment. Part of the mail which had just arrived was
brought round to us about 10 o clock and there was one just time for
reading, before the lights went out.
Thursday 3rd December
I have worn continuously, day in and day out, the same pair of boots
since we were mobilized. They were soled at Turton and naturally by
now, want it again. So today, by obtaining a note from the Company 2nd
Master Sgt. I was able to have them repaired and charged to the Public
Funds. This means a day off the desert. If a big day is on the carpet
there generally is a large number of boots for repair. It is very poor
leather that has been used up to now, but of course it is free.A new
pair of boots is costing the men 10 shillings. The quality of these
also is poorer than in England. The men went out this morning at 7.30
am. On return our company took their Helmets to the Taylor to have our
badge stitched over the Puggaree on the left side. You will probably
see the badge on photographs. It is red with white marking and looks
Today we had pleasure in sending to Heywood a sum of £2.8.10d
for the Belgian Refugees Fund. Some time ago Mr Hayde of the "Golden
Pan" Heywood sent a wristlet watch over. It has been raffled off
between the men of the Heywood Detachment and won by Pte A Jeffries
of the 8th Platoon. Each share was 1 piastre and together with contributions
by a few officers a sum of 238 piastres was realized. At 97 and a half
- £1 this equals the above amount and we hope it will prove useful.
Friday December 4th
All yesterday and today, troops have been arriving from Australia and
New Zealand. I hear 30,000 from N.Z. and more than these from Australia.
The majority of them are encamped on the Pyramid side of Cairo, the
remainder being at Heliopolis also in Camp. I don't think they have
tents, but they seem rough outdoor chaps and fit for anything.
There was Rouse Parade at 6 am this morning. There is just a roll call
toget all up as there was no parade until 9 am. Then there was 1 hour
of variety work on the Barracks front. Today we had steak pie to dinner.
It was a huge success, so much so that the Co. 2nd Master Sgt. and the
Co. Sgt. Major had it with us in preference to the Sgt.'s Mess. The
pie came in a large tin 2 and a half x 2 and a half and 5" deep.
One such to each room of about 27 men. It is said we may have it about
every 8 days as the ovens are used alternately by the 5th and the 6th
Speaking of food I might say that it is now very much better than when
we first arrived. One thing however with the large number of troops
now in Cairo, the Government Contractors (who run our canteen) Messrs
Dickenson will probably be unable to supply certain food stuffs for
a week or two because they also run certain canteens at other barracks.
The battalion had not much to do this morning as at 2.30 pm they were
to go out with tea and a night ration and stay out for the night.
Saturday 5th December
It was exceptionally cold and slightly showery in the early morning.
The wind had risen. This and the rain seem to make it much cooler. There
has certainly been a great change here in the last few weeks. This morning
before the sun began to smile, there was much resemblance to Blackpool
on a cool breezy morning. The Brigade returned about 8.30 am. After
breakfast there was a general scurrying to prepare for Barrack Room
inspection by the Brigadier at 10.30 am. He looked at about 2 rooms
and never came any further. At 11.30 all rifles had to be clean for
inspection all this, after the majority of the men had been out all
night digging trenches in relays. I believe they were glad to do this
in the moonlight in order to keep warm.I was fortunate in staying in
to help in getting the pay ready.
During the afternoon the Adjutant of the 6th Battalion (Rochdale) Capt.
Shafford was married at the Garrison Church here. The ceremony was performed
by Rev. Dennis Fletcher of Rochdale who came out with them as chaplain.
I hear it was a flash affair, the Brigadier and many officers being
present. The Officers of the 6th formed an archway to the Church door
with cross swords. The bride, I believe came out here a few days ago
at the same time as Mrs Col. Isherwood, Mrs Capt. Hartley has been here
a few weeks. Our band was at Shepherds Hotel and later at the Continental
Hotel where I believe a reception was held. Rather a change to the bridegroom
who only a few hours previously was seen coming off the desert starved
through. Our platoon was for Inlying Picquet tonight so we were practically
tied to Barracks.
Sunday December 6th
A few of us went down to the Church this morning to Holy Communion at
6.30 am. We made a hasty return and after a hurried breakfast and brush
up fell in again at 8am for Church Parade. In the nicest of the week.
More letters were handed round on our return. Took a photo of our room
plus casual "hedges on". One of these we thought appropriate
viz a real live monkey. It was our day in Barracks. Perhaps one did
not regret it as we often feel too tired to stir. We had a rather unusual
incident after lights out. Somebody came into the room and after talking
etc. dropped three beds; rather exciting when you have got nice and
snug. One chap lay as dropped on the floor until morning. The other
two begin to straighten up as well as possible in the dark. The bedsteads
(I forget if I have previously described them) are made of iron. They
are about 8 ft long when extended and 3 feet in width. The middle is
disjointed and the foot half partition pushes under making it then about
4ft long. It is just at the joint where the bed is dropped by pulling
further out over the catch. It is a very good method of getting chaps
up in a morning. We have two square mattresses instead of spring mattresses
and are also provided with a pillow, two brown army blankets and two
sheets. When we first arrived one sheet was a sufficient covering in
the night. Gradually a blanket became necessary, while of late we have
required both and some of the men greatcoats as well. So you see the
change in the weather.
Monday 7th December
We continue for another week, the Brigade Training. Whilst this is on,
our short parade before breakfast is off. We have an early meal about
6.30 or 7 am and move off about 1 hour later. It was 7.30 when we moved
off today and of course there was the usual hour's march across the
sand towards the helicopter car shedbefore we began to attack the C.P.R.Cs.
It is boring to keep relating the same old stuff. Suffice to say we
returned at 2.30 and after dinner had to appear as a witness against
the bed drop of the previous night.
Tuesday 8th December
Somewhat similar to yesterday, but also one of the stiffest we have
yet had. The Brigade was assisted by C.P.R.Cs, Artillery and Yeomanry.
We were choked with sand on our return. During the afternoon we had
issued free to us one Army grey flannel shirt each. How and whence they
came, we cannot say but the majority bore papers stitched inside on
which appeared different names, perhaps the names of the people who
had made them. Yet they were all one pattern. It just comes in handy
as one of mine disappeared in the wash. We hear other articles of clothing
where on their way out here. About 8.30 pm we had heavy rain which lasted
perhaps half an hour and made the atmosphere feel very much colder.
There was quite a number of spectators viewing it from the verandas.
Wednesday 9th December
For a change after the stiff days of late a reinvented day to Company
drill and fell in at 8.30. Of course there was a Rouse Parade at 6.30
to get us up. Most of the recruits went on the range to fire, the remainder
of us practised extended order drill returning to Barracks at 12. We
did not get far away. This afternoon a free programme had been arranged
at a picture show in Cairo. Probably however the rain which came heavily
again interfered with the projector as few men ventured out before tea.
We hear of an incident which occurred while some of our men were on
Main Guard at the gate. They were rung up on the telephone and told
to look round the corner and send a "Buggy" up to one of the
Barracks. A "Buggy" is a carriage. Now when the chap at the
phone looked round the corner he saw a bucket which he thought was intended
so he sent it up. Cross talk followed over the wires about ½
hour later. I went to the city after, the roads were in places like
puddles with pools of water at intervals. I expect the rain is so scarce
that no proper system of drainage is necessary. This must be so, as
the buildings here have flat roofs. The Australians and New Zealand
men seem to have taken the place by storm, One met them at every turn.
In many places they seemed more numerous than civilians. They are (in
the main) big well built fellows the typical looking bush rangers type;
they wear thick dark khaki clothing and a slouch hat. We hear they are
paid 5/- per day (3/- at home and 2/- now) Certainly they are flush,
but then money is saved whilst on board ship. The behaviour of some
of them, I am sorry to say is not of the best. I thought our own were
a bit reckless at times, but these do carry things to excess. Their
discipline is very bad for the army and will create a very good impression
to a stranger. Maybe it will improve as they have been penned aboard
ship for weeks. Whilst expecting to land in England they were dumped
here and don't seem to like it. It was one of their escorts (The Sydney)
that brought the Emden to book. There was also9 a Japanese Cruiser with
them and altogether it seems to have been an exciting journey. German
prisoners (p0robabloy from the Emden) were brought along with them.
Thursday 10th December
Breakfast 6.30. Moved off in new direction at 7.30 past Garrison Farm-
a collection of wood buildings about ¼ mile from the Barracks
and situated on a hill. It is here we are told that many of our supplies
come from. A little further on we passed a sand stone quarry. Here natives
were stood on a ledge or two at the edge of the stone, chipping and
loosening the very rock on which they stood. Their only safeguard was
a rope which was held by hand. We completed the usual attack and returned
to Barracks about 1.30 pm. I prepared for Horse Guard with 3 other men
at 6.45 pm tonight. At about a quarter of a mile from the barn in what
was the Barracks of a Camel Corps a few months ago we prepared to settle
for the night. These Barracks are at present occupied by a few regulars
remaining here such as Army Pay Corps, Army Service Corp0s and Mounted
Military Police (Red Caps) and various small Territorial Corps of Signal
Service and R.A.M.C. The stables are used by our Battalion. We brought
out horses for transport purposes, but the cl8imate does not seem to
suit many6 of them. Some have died and a stock of mules is replacing
them. Just as we got to our post we heard the bugle at the Barracks
Friday 11th December
We slept last night outside the stable door in a corner on some sacks
of corn. In spite of the blankets we had each taken with us and also
our greatcoats, it felt rather chilly during the night. No doubt the
heavy dew had its effect. We finished soon after 6 am when the transport
men arrived and on returning to the Barracks found a few letters for
us. This was where we had the laugh. Today was to be the last day of
Brigade Training. They all went on at 8 am with rations for dinner and
tea, part in have4rsacks, the remainder on Camels in the rear. One of
the two cooks per company was with them. We as Guard remained behind.
The morning was remarkably quiet for writing, the afternoon suggested
a sleep. We waited patiently for the Battalion to return and eventually
they arrived about 10 pm. Cocoa and biscuits were served to our company
and the canteen remained open till 10.45. Like most big days there had
been much lingering about and it was said that there has been many harder
days. I think they had dinner rather late - about 4 pm. It was not a
la carte4 but a little underdone. Tea I believe was later still - but
not much. The General had spoken to the m whilst out, complimenting
them on the hard and strenuous training done during the time we have
been here. They had done well. Brigade training had now finished and
he left it to theColonel as to the amount we were to do next week. One
of the staff sergeant's with us had said that the work done during the
2 1/2 months we have been here is equivalent to what a regular in ordinary
times would do here in 5 years. Still much has to be done and 9 out
of our room who have been out today go on Quarter Guard at 7.30 am tomorrow.
Saturday 12th December
The mornings work for the battalion is to march across the plain and
fill the trenches dug some time ago. This however took until 1 pm and
afterwards the men were paid. At 3.30 there was a quite useless inspection
of boots by Co. Commanders. Our band provided music on the front of
Shepherds Hotel from 4 to 6 and afterward at the Continental from 8
to 10. I should say it is much the best band in the Division out here.
It is quite a sight at the week end to see the cars from the city to
Abbassia about 9 pm. They are one mass of uniform and there is generally
a rush up from Abbassia to the barracks at the last minute in "buggy's"
and also on donkeys. There is a continental stream of these light carriage
and pairs just before 10 pm. The poor horses here must catch it, they
never seem to be out of harness. The owners (largely augmented since
our arrival) are doing fine business perhaps at a cheaper rate than
formerly but certainly they will miss us whenever we move. I returned
from Cairo tonight on a crowded car occupied by a musical throng. All
the way one had the pleasure or rather opportunity of listening to a
wide and varied selection of non Egyptian songs. At the barracks there
was quite a muster, just in time to have their names crossed off the
absentee report before this is handed in by the Orderly Sergeant of
each Company at Tattoo Staff Parade at 10 pm. After 10 pm late comers
have to report to the Sergeant of the Guard or they will be taken to
be absent all night. Being late (in the case of a private) may mean
a day or two on defaulters which as I have previously said means answering
the bugle every half hour.
Sunday 13th December
Parade at 11.30 am this morning. Camel's Hump for dinner - Phew! We
seem to get it every Sunday. It is said to be goat but the other name
best describes it. During the afternoon I took a few photos in the city.
One or two of the street natives as soon as they saw what was happening
would gather in front and later ask for "Backsheesh" for posing.
It is amusing. They move away if one shouts "Yallah" or "Imshi"
at them. This is the pronunciation of the words; the spelling I cannot
vouch for. Another very common word used by our men is "Saida"
(pronounced Syda). This means "Good Day" and is thrown out
everywhere, morning, noon and night. We had to return early. Our Platoon
was for Fire Picquet at 5.30 pm.
Monday 14th December
We have done welland worked very hard so we are told and therefore are
to have a rest. This is how the rest begins. Rouse parade and run at
6.30 am (40 minutes). Return to tidy room for inspection after breakfast
at6 8.45. One hour's company drill at 9 am. Inspection of small personal
kit at 10 am. Judging distance at 11 am. Dinner 1 pm inspection of old
service clothes at 2.30 pm. After this restful day, our company endeavours
to pick a team from two football sides to play A Company who have thrown
out a challenge. On the ground a native sells oranges. He offers 3 for
½ piastre. We bargain and get 4. After tea two of us rode by
car to Helispolis. It was only my second visit and yet we see it daily
from the barracks about 1 1/2 miles across the sand. Beyond the troops
mostly New Zealanders it was very quiet, most of the shops being closed.
Luna Park except for the skating rink was also closed. On the rink however
was a crowd of uniform and four civilians. We returned early to pay
another visit some weekend.
Tuesday 15th December
Yesterday the Rochdale Battalion (6th) moved from here to the Citadel
and exchanged with the East Lancs there for a fortnight. The East Lancs
came from this period to train on the desert. They are welcome to it,
though from what we hear there is a beautiful hill at the Citadel which
has to be climbed every day to enable them to get out to their training
ground. It has come to be known as "Chinstrap Brow". They
hang on their chin straps when mounting. A similar "Swop"
took place between the 7th who have been at an older barracks nearer
Abbassia. They have gone to Kusrc el Nil Barracks the 9th Manchester's
have come here. They also are welcome to the desert.
It came on very foggy about 7.30 t
his am but cleared very soon. About 40 men from C Company went today
by train for an indefinite period to guard a Wireless Station. They
are to relieve another party who have been there for some time from
This morning 100 men were selected from the Battalion and paraded later
in the day. I am fortunate enough to be one. The Adjutant said that
the 5th Battalion out of all the infantry now here had been asked to
provide 100 men as a Guard of Honour, sometime, somewhere, probably
on Thursday. We were to clean our equipment and have everything smart
and neat ready for the event. Each of us has sent a drill suit to be
washed and afterwards they have to be ironed and pressed by the Tailor.
We have had two practice drills today, strict attention being paid to
There is to be a huge Sports for all the Territorials on Saturday the
26th December. Each unit is to be allowed a certain number of entries
and it is therefore necessary to run off heats. This took place today.
This afternoon I received a new khaki service suit which was issued
to those requiring it. The old, which has gone through a varied life
was handed in. The new is nice cloth of better quality than we Territorials
used to receive. The trousers are regular pattern, having no red stripe
down the side. A few of our men go to Ismailia tonight as telephone
operators at a Wireless Station there.
Wednesday 16th December
Rouse parade and run at 6.30 am. Soon over for which many thanks. Battalion
do Platoon etc drill in vicinity of Barracks. The Guard of Honour parade
at 8.45 am 11 am and 2.15 pm for practice. At 11 am we were inspected
by the Brigadier General Frith. We have sized as for all Ceremonial
Parades i.e. tallest at each end and a gradual slope to the centre.
Such things as starting and halting altogether, dressing, fixing and
unfixing bayonets and presenting arms for the Royal Salute were gone
I have mentioned the Dead City before but have not yet been. So this
afternoon a few of us decided to pay a visit. The place lies between
here and the Citadel. It can be walked in ½ hour without touching
Cairo. There is no real road to it. We passed an iron works and many
branch railway lines which are quite open. Leaving these we came upon
it all at once. Can you stretch your imagination and picture a long
plateau of sand, before a quarry has been started. Now go further and
imagine that this has been a cemetery year ago not a cemetery as in
England but one where small tombs and rooms have been made underground
and plastered round. If you can do this I may be able to describe it.
Now suppose that years after this was a burial ground it came to be
opened as a sand quarry and you have a picture of what came to our own
eyes. It is a gruesome place, a foot here, legs there, a little further
on beside a mound a scull with teeth still in. In one or two places
we came across sculls with hair on, some grey some brown. This is but
an impression of the place. Where the quarry had been sliced down, at
the far extremity we could see the small rooms or tombs cut right in
two, one part shattered at the foot, the other still intact in the firm
sand. It is said there was at one time a plague here and the bodies
were buried in hundreds. However, we moved on to the dwellings of the
present inhabitants some ¼ mile beyond. After crossing a branch
railway line a flat stretch of sand opened to view and beyond this a
large hill which hid from our view the Citadel and a large part of Cairo.
It would be about
.pm and many natives seemed to be hurrying in
groups to their abodes or hovels (call them what you will). They were
objects of much interest to us and no doubt we were of greater interest
to them. Infact by the jabbering's and looks we certainly caused much
comment between them. But we moved on and after a stiff and steep climb
reached the top of the hill just mentioned. It was worth all the energy
and more. I have never seen a finer panorama. Buildings stretched all
round us in a circle except for 1/8th of the circumference. With our
backs to the barracks we looked west. In the far distance (perhaps 10
miles away) lay the two huge pyramids looming up against the horizon
like tremendous cones. The fast falling sun in a setting for which Egypt
is renowned showed up to perfection. Nearer us and almost to our very
feet lay Cairo itself. Buildings huts of all colours, shapes and sizes
clustered and crowded and almost on top of each other. No wonder disease
spreads among such prevailing conditions. To our left on some of the
highest parts of the flat city, loomed the Citadel with its two lofty
thin spires and magnificent dome. It really commands the entire district
and if needs be, a few guns in position here could shatter the whole
city. In front and to our right the Nile moved slowly and in broken
streams towards the sea, while further round still stretched the canal
to Ismailia. Thelatter in surroundings of green fields and groves. It
did us good to see the green again. We slowly descended towards the
Dead City on our left. From our high position it seemed deserted, but
almost immediately we entered the narrow streets we became the object
of all eyes. Women and children, the former cloaked chiefly in black
except for little more than their eyes - all peeped behind half open
doors and windows. They seemed afraid and often we would see a woman
creep closer to the wall with her back towards us, peeping from the
corner of her eye, until we had passed. Further on we came across one
or two natives in the street at a kind of spinning wheel. They stretched
out the tough thick thread in rows from poles perhaps 50 yards apart
and then worked gradually along taking off the roughness from the threads
by means of a bobbin and I think a rub of resin. Later we entered from
one of these innumerable narrow alleys, a small kind of square on one
side of which was a Mosque. This seemed to be the shopping centre for
in a narrow way leading into it sat natives with numerous cooked dainties.It
was just about time for tea. But we were not tempted though one of them
did point us his tray. Never have I seen such stuffed little brown cakes
frizzed something else, all being cooked in front of the open hovel
shops on low buckets of fire. Amidst these besides, orange hawk and
sugar cane stalls, was a barber's hovel where a young child of about
4 had just undergone a close crop, almost a shave except for a ring
a fraction of an inch longer round the forehead. It surprised us to
see a pair of hair clippers in such a vicinity.
Hereabouts we became the object of many youngsters who gradually developed
into a crowd all laughing and shouting a short distance behind. They
soon fell to the rear and shortly afterwards we became mixed in a network
of clustered dwellings, more like mud and plaster stables or cotes than
dwellings. Here in the fading light sat families, some with legs crossed,
others lying in sleeping posture on the floor. We graduallyemerged from
all this and returned about 5.45 pm to cold tea and syrup treacle; but
the few hours had served to emphasize further in our minds that "One
half knows little how the other half lives."
Thursday 17th December
It was again misty at 6.30 am this morning when we had our house parade
and run. The Battalion paraded later in the day as usual. The 100 Guard
of Honour fell in at 8 am and marched down through Cairo to Kasr el
Nil Barracks, which is situated beyond the English Quarter on the right
bank of the river. At a good steady pace it took us 800 minutes without
half and it was quite a pleasure by way of a change. In fact, taking
particular notice. I had only to alter my step once during the whole
time. This speaks for the marching of the men. Arriving Kasr el Nil
we were shortly joined by 100, picked from the Native Egyptian Army
headed by their band. They looked exceptionally fine in their rather
showy uniform and long glittering bayonets. We all formed up in line,
the Egyptians on the right, their band in the rear. Our Brigadier was
present and we practised the Royal Salute several times. The command
was given to the natives in their own tongue by their own officers.
Our officer, Capt. Wike had to endeavour to give us our command at the
same time. This was rather awkward especially as the natives do different
movements to us. Each time on our presenting arms their band played
Khedivial Hymn. We returned with one halt arriving 12.15 pm. The afternoon
was spent in resting to the various melodies emanating from a concertina
recently arrived in the next room.
Friday 18th December
Rouse and run. 6,30. It was misty again later with a smart nip in the
air. A very easy day for all. As Guard of Honour we paraded at 9 and
11 am. Our Tug of War team who have been well selected and trained,
beat t6he team from the 7th Battalion today. A very good concert provided
by the 5th took place at the Surtees Hall Abbassia tonight.
Saturday 19th December
R and M 6.30 am. No parade after for the Battalion Guard of Honour just
had practice at 8.45 am. A general smarten up for Barrack Room inspection
by Col. Isherwood at 11 am. A large mail to hand, letters are in teens.
Ceremony talked of to take place tomorrow. Yesterday's papers contained
proclamation re the placing of Egypt under Great Britain as a Protectorate.
Much brightening and polishing up by the "swank" Guard.
Sunday 20th December
It appears that after all our Battalion will not be represented in full
today. They go on Church Parade as usual. The East Lancs and Yeomanry
left here about 7 am to line various streets on the route. The Ceremony
has been rumoured a few days is the replacing of the old Khedive by
a new Sultan- an Egyptian. The Guard of Honour fe4ll in, quite smart,
clean and polished at 7.45 am. We were each issued with 20 rounds of
ammunition and moved off through the Cavalry Barracks and to Pt de Kouble
Station beyond the car route to Heliopolis. This station is on the Electric
Railway which I think I have previously mentioned. The cars are first
class, somewhat similar to the service from Bury to Holcombe. We left
here about 8.40 and detrained close to Cairo Station where the car runs
into the city by ordinary thoroughfares. After forming up we marched
along the streets at first much as usual except for numerous flags and
bunting and later becoming more crowded until at Opera Square we cut
into the main route and continued between lines of Australian and Ceylon
Tea Planters. Abdin Square where lies the Khedives Palace was a spectacle.
It is a large open place, part of which was crowded the other half being
roped off. All at windows, on the tops of buildings and up trees were
spectators. Occasionally perhaps a dry branch would give way and down
would come a native much to the merriment of the natives below. A large
stand decorated with carpets chiefly red in colour had been erected
to the right as one faced the Palace. We marched straight through the
Square to this stand and doing a left wheel brought us facing the Palace
door about 30 yards in front. Shortly afterwards the 100 Egyptians preceded
by their band and looking very striking in light blue uniform and white
spats - arrived formed on our right. The band was in rear and behind
stood a line of native lancers mounted. It would be a little before
ten o clock when the cheering began and almost immediately the new Sultan
arrived in a kind of bright Stage Coach and four. This was accompanied
by barefoot native runners in light flimsy costumes, two on each side
and each carrying a thin long cane. Immediately he stepped out the Royal
Salute was given and the band p0layed the Khedinial Hymn. Simultaneously
the flag went up. The new flag is a red background bearing three white
crescents with a star in each. The Sultan was preceded and followed
by a body guard from the Kent's Yeomanry. After the coach came to open
carriages, the first containing two or three statesmen. The second containing
Sir John Maxwell (Governor General) and an Admiral from Alexandria.
Various Officers and Staff Officers representing the varied units now
in Egypt then entered the building. The ceremony seemed to last about
15 mins. The Royal Salute being repeated when the Sultan came out and
again and again after each of three cheers from the stand and the native
Guards of Honour. After the ceremony we moved off to Kasr el Nil Barracks,
there to while away time until the late afternoon. It was here we had
dinner of a kind and also tea. Our own knives had been bundled up and
sent down together with rations and one of our own cooks did his best
under the circumstances. It was a kind of wooden Pavilion and Recreation
room where we dined . The structure jutted right to the edge of the
Nile across which was a glorious view of palm trees on the far bank.
Shortly after noon we had quite a heavy shower of rain. Quite sufficient
to percolate through the roof to rafters of which ran crosswise instead
of downwards. Our own band joined us at tea and about 5.15 we moved
off to their music to a large house in grounds about a quarter of a
mile away. I must mention there was a guard on at the gate. Here we
line the pathway to the satisfaction of Sir John Maxwell who presently
arrived. Close on 6 pm the new Sultan drove up the drive, accompanied
by a bodyguard of about 20 native cavalry. He was greeted by the Royal
Salute. Our band playing the Khedivial Hymn. This was repeated on his
departure about 20 minutes later and after being thanked by General
Maxwell, we marched back to Barracks via the bright and busy streets
of the city. Shepherds the Continental Hotel we finely decorated and
our band made quite a stir about here. It is strange how these natives
gather round any noise or unusual occurrences. A band quite attracts
them. Many followed us for quite a long way. A final cheer greeted us
at the Barracks when we arrived about 8 pm.
Monday 21st December 1914
Guard of Honour have a holiday. The rest of the Battalion have had a
route march this morning through quite a nice district between Abbassia
and the Ismalia Canal, past gardens of orange trees. Having a holiday
I spent much of the middle of the day round the English quarter of the
city. It turned out that the large house we visited last night was the
British Agency? Former house of Lord Kitchener and situated right on
the banks of the Nile. Returned to tea after taking a few photos. We
took a few natives and immediately after they asked for "Backsheesh".
Our platoon for Fire Picquet tonight.
Tuesday 22nd December 1914
Fall in 7 am for Physical Drill. Some of our Platoon had a run across
the desert to the Heliopolis Palace Hotel (a good 1 1/2 miles). Too
much rather for a start on rough sand. Company drill, bayonet fighting
distance judging etc. from 9 till 12. Each man received a pair of new
boots this afternoon and each size seemed to be a different make. Some
were soft black leather some pulpy papery brown stuff others good tough
service boots. Some had nails in like round headed screws and some scarcely
any at all. To these we were given a pair of mohair laces. Certainly
it seemed rather a mix up, but I think mine will be alright after a
rub with a raw potato to blacken them. Our tug of war teams are now
in strict training, beat the 6th Battalion this afternoon. They now
represent the Lancashire Fusiliers Brigade at the sports on Boxing Day.
Wednesday 23rd December 1914
Similar routine as per yesterday. For about 5 weeks the men in our room
have paid 1p a week towards a few delicacies for Xmas. Tonight a few
of u went into the city on a shopping expedition. We entered a splendid
large grocery and I never knew until then what splendid samplers of
biscuits some of our men were. They eventually decided on certain varieties
which together with many other things are to be sent to us tomorrow.
Thursday 24th December 1914
Physical drill at 7 am and run as per yesterday by a few of us. Afterwards
told that all parades except pay parade are off for the day. This latter
took place just before noon. Early on I heard that it would be my pleasant
duty to go on quarter guard at 8 am tomorrow therefore a clean up so
that I might be able to get out tonight. It certainly seems very little
like Christmas. It is the first time I have missed seeing Holly etc.
Just family Christmas cards of snowy scenes whilst all the time one
may bask in the sun like on an English summer's day. It certainly does
get cold at night and nippy in the early morning, but thye4 wet and
muggy weather is all lacking. This afternoon we took a car to the Citadel
and rode to the terminus beyond. Though a new district to us we had
to get back for tea and so returned by the same car, to pay a visit
there at the first opportunity. Returningby the same car was a batch
of native soldiers and they caused much amusement to us and we to them
for efforts to make ourselves understood. They spotted the camera and
immediately wanted a snap, but the word "Finish" satisfied
them. Cairo was quite busy tonight. There were signs all over that certain
folks intended to keep Christmas. Decorations in places, prevalent while
shops chiefly grocery were doing good business. The terrace at Shepherds
was well patronised and so were the cafes. On all sides one met troops,
most numerous of all Australians. They are as I think I have stated
exceptionally well paid and are flinging their loose cash about in all
directions and by the way there are a few characters amongst them. All
kinds, farmers, drivers, clerks and men from all walks of life. They
had a route march through the city yesterday. The procession was of
tremendous length. The salute being taken by Sir John Maxwell at the
We stared in amazement this afternoon at a dirty chap shaving another
with an old razor in the main street close to Esbekieh Gardens. There
was much jollification in Barracks tonight. Few seemed inclined to sleep.
We sung the usual hymns, song etc. long after lights out, while cheering
and shouting could be heard from the Cavalry Barracks across the road.
When I thought things were quiet (but it really must have been some
time after). Our band struck up Hymn 61 just under our room. They continued
at intervals gradually moving further away.
Christmas Day 1914
I cannot credit that it is Christmas. It is the first time I have ever
missed seeing holly, mistletoe and shop fronts hung with turkeys and
other fowl at this season. There is no snow, frost or even rain. I wonder
if ever a pair of skates were in Egypt or even if such a word exists
in their language. Certainly there was a nip in the misty air as we
fell in at 7.30 am this morning for Quarter Guard. There were nine of
us on this Guard (Sgt. Cpl. a Bugler and6 men) three other men joined
at 5.30 pm. I feel sure the old guard felt glad to be relieved. The
Battalion went to Church at 10.00 am. It is necessary when such numbers
pass the Guard Room to turn out the guard and present arms. We did so
several times this morning. The guard also turns out to the Colonel
once by day. When he passed this morning he wished us a Merry Christmas.
Perhaps he did not mean to rub it in but it seemed very suspicious.
One naturally expected to find a few prisoners in the detention room
on such an occasion but there were none. A certain person did however
come talking so we locked him up for about 10 minutes to keep him quiet.
We had a poor "stew" dinner but the post brought me a very
nice parcel. The Sergeants had cheese and bread - fancy cheese and bread
on Christmas Day - but they were to have a spread at 5 pm. C and D Companies
had turkey about 4 pm. A Company had theirs at the Continental last
night. We are to have ours on New Years Eve. There were signs of much
revelry across the Yeomanry Barracks - continual cheering and singing.
Their dinner was cooked at the Officer's Mess and we saw them carrying
it across in sections. A numberof their rooms were splendidly decorated
and transformed. They had spent much time and money and one or two would
put in the shade many of the Café's and Bazaars we used to see
at home. When they changed guard about 2 pm it was most amusing. The
new lot had dined etc. well but not wisely and how they got in position
I don't know but when the Commander of the new guard told his men to
dismiss it caused roars to the gathering crowd. Eventually they completed
the ceremony and the sentry toddled on his beat sometimes sloping arms
on the wrong shoulder (I mean the right) and generally trying to run
anybody in who came near him. I am afraid if it had been our Battalion
all the guard would have been run in. Such is the difference. The well
known defaulters call rang out with us every half hour. Fancy having
to report yourself so often on such a day. Not only so, but there are
still a good number of men who have to report daily at 4 and 7 pm. Because
they refuse to be inoculated. I spent nearly all the day writing. Practically
the last dozen pages were written today. Quarter Guard (not horse guard)
enables one to get straight, it is so much quieter than the barracks
room. Our room had the small spread which we shopped for the other night.
Mine and two others being sent down to the Guard Room. We had a very
quiet night. Perhaps the fact that two companies were feasting, tended
to keep men in Barracks. One or two late scholars came in after 10 pm
and will be up for orders later. We even got a prisoner. He was helpless
and had lost his cap and bayonet. (The later will cost him £1).
Singing continued to a late hour in various rooms, but I eventually
got down to it only to rise 2 hours to change sentries. Thus I spent
Christmas Day 1914 - for once at least quite warm and sunny.
Saturday December 1914
We dismounted at 8 am. Now most N.C.O.'s and a certain number of men
were allowed passes tonight until 1am. This was something unusual and
not to be missed. It was also the day the big Territorial Sports to
take place at the splendid grounds of the Khedivial Sporting Club. I
enclose a programme of events. You will see they were timed to begin
at 9.15 am. I eventually reached there about noon. Special cars were
run from various parts of the city and were well patronised. On arrival
we heard that our tug of war t4eam in spite of the special soup they
had last night and strict coaching undergone, had just been pulled over
by the Royal Engineers who eventually won the final. The prizes were
presented by Mrs Milne Cheetham in the presence of many wealthy residents
and a goodly show of military officers including Sir John Maxwell on
the stand. We went6 into Cairo and had an amusing journey on the Special
Car. The conductor wanted to charge4 half a piastre thinking we wished
to go through to Abbassia. The majority were for the City and tendered
2 milliemes. The native conductor unable to speak English became excited
whereupon the men became more teasing. It was laughable with a string
of loaded cars all stopped by one until the inspector arrived. We paid
our first visit to a Picture Show. Many military and topical pictures
were shown both of training in England and also on the Continent. The
wording was chiefly in French but the orchestra served up most popular
English music including "Tipperary."
Sunday December 1914
After a hearty breakfast we paraded for church at 8 am. It had been
nicely decorated by someone. Afterwards rest and attempt to sleep to
make up for last day or two. Much writing home for mail tomorrow.
Monday December 1914
Rouse parade 6.30 am. At 8.30 all the Battalion fell in for a route
march of 14 miles in full equipment. We had the band with us and went
through the City and crossed the Nile at Kasr-el-Nil Bridge, on past
the grounds where the sports were held last Saturday. Hereabouts on
the bank of the river which is very low at present, are some extremely
well laid out gardens. Palms - date palms and other seem to give added
effects. We re-crossed the Ni8le at a bridge4 (Boulac Bridge) lower
down - a new bridge opened about 18 months ago, pictures of which you
may have seen. It does not swing round to open, but a section moves
in a ve4rtical manner on two large hinges. Electric cars to the Pyramids
cross this bridge. We returned to Barracks via the Station arriving
about 1 pm. A few had sore feet due to many cases to the new boots they
were trying to break in. Many of us had jam and bread for dinner and
made a complaint about the greasy bony high flavoured goat or camel
which we seem4d to get about every 5 or 6 days. The potatoes here are
very poor. We always get them with jackets on. They are always hard
and many of them turning black. On the whole though we do fairly well
I think - under the circumstances.
Tuesday December 1914
Physical drill this morning at 6.30 am after having a sip of Gunfire
tea. A few of the Platoon had the run across the sand as per last week.
From 9 am to 1 pm we did various work in the vicinity of the Barracks
including company drill, distance judging, musketry and bayonet fighting.
The latter amounted to running at bags of straw tied to a clothes line
- with a bayonet. I don't mean that the bags were tied to the line by
a bayonet. Four hours of such appeared to me very tedious. However we
had finished after dinner but half the Battalion had their turn to stay
in Barracks. It made little difference as one scarcely feels inclined
for going out much. One of our room - a very old soldier was up for
orders today. He went out on Sunday am and was not seen again until
9 pm last night. In the meantime he had been having a high time with
some Australians. The result is confinement to Barracks for 7 days (answering
half hourly) and a forfeit of 2 days pay. How these Colonials and their
money do attract. We shall be having many chaps attempting to go to
Australia after this business.
Wednesday December 1914
We hear a tale from some of our men who came off guard (forage guard)
at 8 am this morning. One of them has a set of false teeth. Yesterday
he showed them to a native. By pulling one ear he caused the top set
to drop and by p0ulling the other they regai8ned position. The native
was dumbfounded and made vain efforts to do the same with his.
There was early breakfast at 6.15 am this morning and the Battalion
fell in (marching order) at 7.30. They were to act as enemy to the East
Lancs Brigade who had to attack in the vicinity of Virgin's Breast.
The Brigade made a poor attempt and had to attack again. Hence our men
were out until 4 pm though their time was chiefly employed in resting
until the East Lancs arrived. Dinner 4 Tea 6 Picquet 5.30 and then 9.15
to march to Canteen until they all turned out.
Thursday December 1914
Roused 6.30 and wakened by a short run. Battalion drill (close order)
in full pack from 9 till 12. Quite close to Barracks but very tedious.
It was decided to pay our company immediately after. Now, I have something
to tell you. You know we were to have our Xmas lunch today. Part was
paid by the officers and part came out of our daily ration money. At
3 pm we managed (our Co.) by sticking to each others hands to get by
car to Cairo and there to the Continental Hotel. I should think 240
sat down at 4 pm to some Beef, Turkey (fowl), plum pudding and coffee.
It was a good spread, well and neatly served. The black waiters looked
quite neat in their red tarbooshand white stiff collars. The Colonel
and the officers of B Companywere present in mess attire and made the
customary speeches after operations. One item worth mentioning was the
pudding. Quite a commotion was caused when a line of waiters ushered
in with the flaming plates. I think all were satisfied and quite full
when at 6 pm retired again by sticking to each others hands to the Kursakl,
a variety show where 240 seats had been bought. There was a not very
good audience but we fitted it up and added considerably to the noise.
It was a fair show but the singing and talking being in French was scarcely
appreciated as English would have better. A short look round Cairo after
8 and we then returned by packed car to Barracks just arriving before
10 pm. Nearly half our company were out and we were now told that it
was all right for B. Company until midnight, but what use to hear so
late. Things were very quiet for so late in the old year. The usual
revelry on such an occasion was lacking. With lights switched off shortly
before 10.30, then men gradually quietened off. This the close of the
year 1914 - a year which will go down to history as one of the most
remarkable that ever was.
Friday 1st January 1915
Compliments and best wishes to all for the year before us.
We opened the Year well with a rouse parade at 6.30. There was no run
today, neither was there a holiday. The trained men fire 10 rounds field
practice at figures and plates on the open ground. All the Turton recruits
except those of previous training were formed today into one whole company
under Capt. Webb and other officers for the purpose of doing a little
company training on their own. I happen to be one of the Corporals attached
for the time being. We all remain just as usual with our own Company
except fordrill purposes. Whilst the trained men were firing we did
section and platoon drill until 12.30. It is a wonder we don't dream
about it. This afternoon I went with one of the R.A.M.C. to the Citadel.
Now the Citadel is situated near old Cairo on high ground close by the
Mokattam hills. One can see in these hills the ruins of the old forts
built in the days of Napoleon. The Citadel itself is really the remains
of the palace of a former Khedrive. It has been much added to and altered
and now is one of the chief stations for the Army of Occupation. The
6th L.F.'s are at present there. One of the chief rooms of the palace
(a very large one) is now a hospital for the sick. This fine airy room
full of beds has a beautiful tastefully coloured and well worked ceiling.
It is really a work of art and must have taken such a time to complete
as only these eastern people expend on this work. From a balcony outside
here which is high up amongst the buildings about, we enjoyed a view
of Cairo which excelled even the view from the hill close by the Dead
City. As however it was close on 5pm the distance was becoming somewhat
enveloped in haze. We returned through the well fitted medical department
to the Mosque close by. This, the Mosque of Mohammed Ali has a fine
large dome on the N and S sides of which are the two narrow lofty spires
which can be seen from almost all parts of the city. I cannot give you
the history of the place. If you think it sufficiently interesting any
book of the district described it. This however is how we saw it. The
charge to enter is 1 pt. We paid at the gate and a native tide a pair
of large slippers over our boots. The guide immediately started his
rabble. In crossing the large tiled square, he first showed us a clock
and tower given by some Frenchmen to Mohammed Ali (I might have mentioned
here that the Mohammedan noon 7 pm by our time.)In the midst of this
square is a big font with many taps all round about 1 foot from the
ground. It is here where the folks wash themselves before entering the
Mosque for prayer. A few yards away is a covered well. It was from this
that water was formerly pumped, but since Cairo has now an organised
water supply the well is no longer used. Our guide shouted down a small
keyhole in the top and we could hear the echo for about 20 second. It
must be a great depth. We came now to the Mosque itself and on entering
were first struck by the rich covering of thick red carpets on the floor.
On our rightwere squatted two Indians, legs crosswise. They were offering
prayers and at times and at intervals would bend forward until foreheads
almost touching the ground. We have even seen cabbies doing this close
by the barracks. The Mosque itself is composed of Alabaster, except
for the sturdy pillars which support the two tall spires. These are
imitation as alabaster is of a brittle nature. It is somewhat like amber,
as our guide showed by the glare of a lighted match through it. The
huge dome has on the four sides semi-domes merging into it. The whole
is magnificent, a real network of artistic work. On the eastern side
is a representation of rays of sunshine; on the west - sunset whilst
a special entrance on the North is for the Khedine only. Again, in the
eastern wall is a small bay to enable any blind to locate this direction.
Altogether it is a splendid structure and quite worth a visit. We settled
with the guide and on return to Barracks later I heard I was for Ordnance
Saturday January 2nd 1915
Did a terrible rush from 6.30 to 7.30, shower?brush and polish up tackle
and get it together and at the same time have breakfast. Many things
are done at the double in the Army. Ordinance Guard was a new one to
me. Our duty lay round an Ammunition Store at the Gymnasium Barracks
where the Army Service Corps are stationed. It proved to be a very lazy
guard and we were not troubled by any visits from anyone. Sleeping was
not very feathery. We rested on iron bedsteads in our overcoats
Sunday January 3rd 1915
Dismounted 8.10 am and marched to our own Barracks. Dismissed 8.30.
Battalion at Church Parade. I had an early dinner of bread and jam.
Perhaps it was better than what was served later. They seem to have
deteriorated somewhat recently though occasionally a good one comes
along. For 2 piastres each, three Sgts and myself went in a buggy from
Abbassia to Cairo Station and left there at 1.30 for Barrage du Nil,
which lies a good ten miles down the river in the direction of Alexandria.
On Cairo and intervening stations, we were pestered by hawkers of all
commodities, tangerine oranges, 3 or 4 for half a piastre. A native
in the carriage said we ought to get 7. It is a question of barter as
they begin by offering 2. At Choubbiahthese orange sellers remained
on the train long after we started. Barefooted with basket on head.
I saw one alight on rough loose stones whilst the train travelled 20
miles per hour. It would have been quite a feat with shoes on. The line
traversed flat green fields with natives busy at work. Alongside us
for many miles stretched the road, about 4 yards wide composed of trodden
earth. Occasionally we passed a loaded donkey ridden also by his owner.
At intervals a native squatted on the ground, or hurrying along with
his bulky load. At Baviage Station we had the choice of donkeys or a
bogey from which to view the district. We decided on the former. I don't
know why. Following the lines past mud huts, market stalls etc selling
various commodities we came across beautiful laid out gardens enclosed
by trees and palms. Further on were signs of great engineering activities
in the way of bridges, locks etc. over the river an acting as a kind
of base from which the great irrigation scheme radiates over the Nile
delta. I previously had an impression that very little of Egypt was
productive. This view was squashed. It is a marvellous scheme which
provides water from the river to enable the land to be cultivated and
here about for miles as far as the eye could see, stretched fields of
green. By this time after crossing at least 2 branches of the Nile,
we pulled the animals round. A native wanted to make us eat some of
his oatcakes and greens, but we were satisfied to give it to the donkey
boy. This youth from start to finish was continually asking for "backsheesh".
On the return w stopped at a Museum of Models situated in well-kept
gardens. These models of the various engineering feats connected with
the Nile were splendid and remarkable in their thoroughness. Saddle
sore we arrived at the station and the native wanted us to pay again.
They have enough face for a dozen. The train seemed to be conveying
many of the daily workers in the fields back into Cairo with their produce.
On a platform we saw many of the large clay vases which are so common
about here. They seemed to have just been baked. A travelling conjuror
tacked on to us before the train started. Surrounded by a crowd (which
so soon assembles here) he performed the usual crop of tricks.
Sunday 4th January
Rouse and run 6.30. The whole company went on the range afterwards to
fire field practice. This consists of figuresand plates stuck in the
ground from 500 yards upwards. We advancedon them by short rushes, firing
at each rest with ball ammunition. Towards the close, one chap was rather
late in getting up to rush, he had not raised his safety catch and the
rifle went off. It was a miracle nobody was hurt, the bullet just grazed
one chaps leg, but it served to impress everybody the necessity for
care. We were out until 3 pm. Had dinner at 4 and tea 5.30. It is out
today that we go TO Alexandria on the 18th inst and the men there are
to come here. It is further rumoured that the Battalion may be split
up and one or two Companies go to Cyprus.
Tuesday 5th January
Gun fire, tea at 6 am. Inspection later to see if we all had two pairs
of service boots. The Company, except the N.C.O.'s does field firing
again. I went out with the markers to count the hits after each practice.
Hope to have mo9re to say about this sometime else. Suffice to say that
in a trench behind a hill we had an idea of what the firing line is
like. The lead whistled and flew a few yards overhead and buried itself
in the sand. To us it was unique; to one from the front it would be
nothing. Back about 2 pm. During the afternoon the privates of the company
had issued to them a duck suit of white for fatigue wear. You never
saw such trousers. One chap of 5ft 3in got a pair that reached from
the ground almost to his neck, with a waist big enough for an Alderman.
A Councillor would never have filled them.
Wednesday 6th January
Gun fire, tea 5.45 am. After which a great rush to get into marching
order from 6.15. This early tea tends to get chaps up as if one is not
there the bucket is soon emptied. It pans out about half a tea cup each.
We finish field firing this morning and were back at 9 for breakfast.
In this period, we witnessed a glorious sunrise. One could almost see
it rise from the horizon so quickly was it clear. At the same time the
western sky was black as jet. We fell in at 11 am in cloth service dress
for rifle inspection and a little more drill. It is said there is a
big day tomorrow and service dress will be worn. I hope not, as the
sun seems to be gathering strength again.
We have had issued to us tonight a quarter of a loaf per man and two
boiled eggs to be carried in our haversacks tomorrow.
Thursday 7th January 1915
Breakfast at 6. Marched on markers in full pack at 7.30 for a big day
of Divisional Training. The 5th Battalion acted as the advance guard
until we reached the Car bridge beyond Heliopolis. This was to be the
base. The enemy were supposed to be about 8 miles off, and at about
4 miles away, we were supposed to meet them. It would be just after
11 when we reached the vicinity and extended into various lines perhaps
a mile from the few flags representing the enemy. During the march a
cold rough wind had been blowing and it now began to bring sand. We
lined a ridge about noon and here we were stuck for two hours unable
to continue unable scarcely to open our eyes for the blinding sand.
When we did attempt to see, all was like mist. The Artillery occasionally
fired a few "blanks" but about 2 pm, after having tried to
advance a little further, the bugles sounded "no parade" and
we formed up for the return by Companies. Clearly all the time we had
been out of sight of all habitation. A start back was made at 2. In
the first two hours march the only things we passed were two towers
on our right and an old building on our left. All of them ruins. Later
came the car shed, bridge and afterward Heliopolis, all on our right.
Another 40 mins across the sand saw us in barracks. It was 5.20 pm and
except for two halts of 8 mins each at 3 pm and 4pm we had been on the
tramp since 2 o clock. However, there was a good dinner ready after
a rifle and foot inspection at 7 pm. The majority were on their beds.
It had touched nearly everybody s eyes and nobody wants to encounter
another. It would be a good 20 miles altogether.
Friday 8th January
Rouse 6.30 am A & B Companies had a route march of about 12 miles
via Heliopolis and back through Abbassia. C & D Companies did field
firing on the range as we did earlier in the week. In the afternoon
we took some of our equipment for repairsand also most of our water
bottles were sent to the shoe maker to be re-covered with matting. Figs
and custard for tea. How it does sound. Floating figs would be a better
term. Occasionally we did come across a lump in the mixture which I
suppose was custard. It appears fairly certain that we shall go to Alexandria
on or about the 18th inst. There is also a rumour that the 6th and 7th
are to go to Khartoum. I think it is only another rumour.
Saturday 9th January
Rouse and physical drill at 7 am. No further parade but a general clean
up of barrack rooms, lockers and equipment for inspection at 11 am.
The Commanding Officer did not inspect as usual but Major Whitehead
(as Co Officer) came round about 12.30. The white duck suits or overalls
have no0w to be worn for all fatigues in the vicinity of the barracks.
I had quite a pleasant change this afternoon, in the way of a cycle
trip on a "byke" used for the post office. At Heliopolis after
taking a few photos. I was pestered by a native orange seller for backsheesh,
simply because he had submitted his figure to the Camera. Later on,
two donkey men wanted a cigarette each for the same operation. Hereabouts,
beyond Heliopolis is the N.Z.R. Camp at Zeitoun. It is a very big affair,
piles upon piles of boxes of food for the men and fodder for the horses.
They have brought much from home. A little further on I crossed the
railway line to Suez . Hereabouts was much foli8age and trees verging
from houses to cultivated land. Neath the trees I followed a wide foot
way for some distance. On the right were houses on the left a deep narrow
cutting showing traces of a water supply. What remained was of a greenish
colour. Occasionally at intervals on the side of the stream came a stump
about which swung (in a vertical plane) a plank thus enabling a bucket
to be lowered into the water. I scarcely knew where I was, but suddenly
came across two New Zealanders. One had a dry "loofah". The
other had a wet new one. These "loofahs" grow about here and
hang from trees after the style of cucumbers. The outer green peeling
is removed and the seeds are taken out. After a few washings in water
the article begins to resemble the loofah which is sold at home. I gradually
got to Abbassia and returned by the main gate to Barracks in time for
a cold tea which happened to have been boiled onions. Being Saturday
nearly everybody was making out. Just a few defaulters remained, one
of whom as wisely spending his half hour Intervals in washing socks.
Sunday 10th January
We had a long sleep this morning, breakfast being at 8. Our Parade for
Church did not take place until 11. Hence we had the laugh of Roman
Catholics at 6.15 amWesleyans at 8.15. There were a good number of Church
of England men this morning by the way. In view of our pending departure
from here it was thought that today would be an opportune moment to
pay another visit to the Pyramids. Hence about 2 pm after a good dinner
for once including rice pudding, we first made our way into the city.
Now there are two routes by car towards the Pyramids. They connect together
atGizah about halfway . The car we happened to take this afternoon followed
the right bank of the Nile towards old Cairo for some distance before
crossing. The line higher up the river lay quite close to the bank which
was thick with trees chiefly the huge "Banyan" tree with its
sturdy branches spreading down to the ground and forming fresh root.
This gave beautiful shadeto the natives either for purposes of sleep
or the more likely chance of vending their mysterious eatables. Our
car which had an extra attachment (thus making three) was packed and
we had to stand all the journey of 1 hour. On the way we met car after
car filled with Australians who were coming from Mena Camp at the Pyramids
to spend the afternoon and evening in Cairo. They were even more packed
than we were, crowds on footboards and the sides and the roofs covered.
One especially was a picture.
I think I have said that the cars are of the Blackpool, Fleetwood type
but on a very much lighter scale - still open at each side. Well there
were four such attached, filled with Australians covering the roofs
and the footboards. Such a sight was never seen in Cairo before. We
crossed the main Nile (which provided in places the questionable pleasure
of bathing for the young native lads and were now on Roda Island - an
island formed by the river dividing up and afterwards re-joining some
considerable distance downstream. Of course this is a feature of the
Nile and a salvation to the growing quality of the Delta. On this Island
of Roda can be seen the spot where it is said Moses was found in the
bulrushes. We left the island by another bridge and joined our previous
route to the Pyramids at Gizah, the halfway house. Hereabouts is a tobacco
factory and shortly afterwards we crossed the railway line up river
and came to the flat irrigated land which produces cotton, sugar cane,
maize etc. It was a curious type of traffic we met. The motor after
motor which flashed rapidly past filled with Australians paying a visit
to the city, contrasted in strange mannerto the slowly moving camels
or asses all loaded in quite different fashion with the produce of the
fields. Thus it was a few miles ahead to the Pyramids which loomed out
against the horizon. The terminus is approached by large trees on either
side of the road, these meet overhead forming a beautiful shady avenue.
Shortly before this, one small incident occurred. There was a guard
by the roadside stopping all vehicles going in either direction. Any
Australian troupes thereon had to show their pass as at present they
are all confined to camp. The scene at the terminus was show their pass,
as at present they are all confined to camp. The scene at the terminus
was in intensity almost like a crowd leaving a football match. Apart
from the troops mostly moving one way, it seemed as if much of Cairo
had come to have a look at the huge camp or camps this afternoon. Still
all civilians had to show a pass before they could enter the camp and
there were guards all over the place. The car line has been extended
into the camp over the soft sand in order to facilitate the transport
of rations both for the men and horses. Daily one can see tram loads
of beef, mutton sacks of bread etc moving from Cairo to this huge city
of sand. We could only have but a glimpse of it a time was getting on.
From a hill close by we took a photograph, but only of a section and
the moved on to the Pyramids and Sphinx. I was intended to climb the
large Pyramid, but it was too near dusk, so we decided to examine the
interior instead. The entrance, a square aperture4 with sides about
4 ft is about 15 to 20 yards from the base and is led up to by an oblique
path finishing with a few ugly steep steps. After removing our boots,
an item which was soon proved to us to be most necessary, we were taken
through by a guide. It was necessary on account of the small opening
to enter, feet foremost especially so as the passage went downwards
at a fairly steep incline. Both sides roof and base were of solid granite
and it was impossible to stand upright. Hence progress was slow and
we had to get along as best we could aided to a certain extent by notches
cut about every two feet into the floor. These however by continued
friction had been worn as smooth and slippery as glass. In our heavy
boots we should have slid quickly to the bottom. We eventually did arrive
thee and after a climb of about 3 yards round a rugged rock after the
manner of a circular stairway. We continued up a similar inclined passage
of granite crawling as best we could often on hands and knees. Perhaps
20 yards up we came to the Queens Chamber which is a quarter way up
the Pyramid. This is a fair sized room with sides of huge blocksof granite.
Our guide, who had shown the way so far by candle light, here lit a
piece of Magnesium ribbon. He showed us a small ventilation shaft but
still the heat was terrific due no doubt to the foul atmosphere. We
left here and continued upwards in similar manner for quite a long distance.
Perspiration was great, but eventually we came to a short passage and
we were able to stand upright. A few yards on with bent backs and we
came to the King's Chamber. This, which is similar to the Queen's but
rather larger is just half way up the Pyramid and exactly in the centre.
In this room is a portion of a huge granite coffin the former contents
of which are, I believe, now in the British Museum, London. The heat
or rather atmosphere in this room was more oppressive than ever,in spite
of an air shaft of recent date provided by an American named Covington.
His name is roughly cut into the granite just outside the room. Here
where we could stand erect was a kind of chimney. Our guide told us
it was possible for an expert climber to ascend further to a kind of
vault, from which the coffin, just mentioned had been brought. He mentioned
also one peculiarity: in the heat of summer it was cooler in these rooms
than outside yet in the winter (which is somewhat like an English Summer)
it is warmer inside than out. We slid down and down and then crawled
up. It was a pleasure to feel the fresh air again. It was quite dusk
by now and after a little tea at one of the Australian canteens close
by the village we returned by car to the City.
Monday11th January 1915
Rouse Parade 6.30. We had a route march today, moving off at 9 am. It
was full pack of course with haversack full of anything to give bulk
or rather weight. We went out by the Main Guard, through Abbassia and
after following the car route to Cairofor some distance, branched to
the left to the Dead City. About ½ mile further on where a few
hundred natives each with a bag after the style of a joiners tool bag.
They were energetically levelling up a piece of land by shifting a small
hill under the strict supervision of a "boomer" with a whip.I
don't think there are any trade unions here. We continued through the
Dead City via the main road to the Citadel passing a portion of the
6th Battalion from there who were proceeding to the desert for field
The Citadel is situated on a hill, immediately overlooking a large open
square which is tastefully laid out in small gardens. Until a few years
ago this space was covered by the miserable low squalid dwellings one
comes across in the old parts of Cairo. Kitchener recently cleared these
away thus making a wonderful improvement. It must have given an added
dignity to the Citadel and Mosque and also to the Sultan Hassan Mosque
across the way. Still one can step immediately off this site and into
the narrow, crowded, evil smelling alleys. We continued through these
on our return. Passing varieties of hovels in some of which was being
cooked doubtful delicacies, others showed signs of industry on a primitive
scale but in almost all there would be somebody who found time to squat
at ease with legs crosswise either smoking a long pipe or sipping a
liquid which had the look of coffee. The familiar brown hollow muffins
were quite common. These are quite tough and the natives will tear off
a portion and place in the hollow such things as dates, greens and sometimes
griddled meat. We were again glad to get out of these stuffy quarters
and reach the car route for Abbassia. In a march of about 3 hours 15
mins we had two halts of 8 mins each and on arrival at Barracks there
was foot washing and afterwards inspection. Later in the day a few of
us enjoyed the hospitality of a Birmingham gentleman who has been connected
with Cairo here for about 25 years. He made us most welcome at his house
Tuesday 12th January
Physical drill 7 am for 1 hour except for the Recruits Company who did
Platoon drill in close order. The usual hurried breakfast after which
this Company did a very hard morning's work - first and second stages
of the attackand it is no easy task making short rushes over a matter
of 1000 yards on loose sand, in full equipment and under a broiling
sun. The other N.C.O.'s and men had lectures during the morning. It
became known about noon that the first company arriving at the cookhouse
for dinner would have roasts. It was essential there4fore to get there
early, but when the roast proved to be goat or "hump" as it
is called, there was sorrow in the camp. At Retreat (5 p.m.) our Bugle
Band played the call and then marched round the Barracks. Usually the
bugler of the Guard sounds the call alone hence the change to9day was
quite enjoyable as it is in the annual camp when Retreat as a rule sounds
at 7 pm.
Wednesday 13th January 1914
Routine as per yesterday only we did all three stages of the attack,
finishing just before 1 pm and feeling like the average person feels
after a full day's stroll on Good Friday. We intended visiting the Egyptian
Museum but found on arriving about 4.30 that it was just closing so
we spent our money on a Table d'hote dinner. During the evening I was
asked 9 piastres for a packet of postcard which formerly we obtained
for 6 piastres. The advent of so many troops especially the well paid
Australians has caused a huge demand for postcards and writing materials.
Hence as the economists say the law of demand and supply comes into
operation. I hear of one dealer who has gone specially to Italy to push
forward the printing of Egyptian views. Last Thursday's big day being
a failure on account of the sand storm, it has to be repeated tomorrow.
Hence much soaping of the socks tonight in preparation.
Thursday 14th January
Last night's orders included the following: "Officers commanding
companies will see that their men carry a good haversack ration as operations
may be prolonged." I don't know whether any officers knew but our
company took as a good haversack ration two rounds dry biscuits and
two of the exceptionally large pigeon looking eggs which we get here.
The latter being hard boiled. There was a fair amount of room left in
the haversack for anything else of our own we might deem sufficiently
necessary to take. Anyhow with this good haversack ration ( Idon't know
whether the "good" refers to the haversack or the rations)
we move off at 8 am. We continue with the usual 8 min. halt per hour
until 11 am. Here A & B Company's halted in a small vale and strange
to say we remained there until 2.30 pm. This gave us sufficient time
to masticate our good haversack rations and also allow it comfortably
to digest. The peace was broken only once when A Company had suddenly
to rise up and fire at an aeroplane which was said to be overhead. One
of our commanders sent word to the General that we had brought the aeroplane
don but almost before the message had gone, hereceived word that the
machine had gone off in an easterly direction. We moved on to our last
week's halt before beginning the return journey. Evidently we must have
been in reserve today. In a march of 2 hours and three quarters on the
way home we had one halt of 8 mins. There was dinner at 6 pm and tea
at 8 pm whilst crushed in between was a foot inspection. With dinner
we had a portion of Plum Pudding each, which had been sent out from
England, the cost being borne by some newspaper fund. Officially we
have done over 20 miles today with similar day in prospect tomorrow.
The majority of us were soon very quiet but not before enjoying letters
from home just arrived.
Friday 15th January
A certain signaller of our Co who leaves part of his pay home and received
himself only 6d per day, has a peculiarity of remarking at different
periods of the day on the amount he has earned up to that time (6d =
2 and a half piastres). Hence in a march of 20 miles he allows 2 and
a half for the 1st 10 1 and a quarter for the attack or defence 2 and
a half for the march home. Thus when a mile or two from barracks on
our return today he was heard to say that his earnings up to then would
be about 5 and a half pence. We had a similar out as yesterday with
a similar good haversack ration. This time we were supposed to be retreating
towards Cairo and the Mokhattan hills and drawing the enemy on. The
6th Battalion from the Citadel and 9th Manchester's from Kasr Nil Barracks
have been sleeping out up at Abbassiahere for the last two nights in
order to be ready in the early morning for the day's work. On our outward
route this morning we met scores and scores of men (chiefly of the latter
battalion) falling out of the line for some reason or other. They were
nearly all greeted with the chorus "Old Solders never die".
An Officer with one pocket book was endeavouring to take their names.
I expect he would have another pocket book in reserve. We halted as
usual at 11 am and then began the retreat to the right over hill and
dale yet all sandy. After a march of a mile or so we halted again perhaps
for about 1 hour until the enemy represented chiefly by Yeomanry wearing
helmets and carrying a few flags -have in sight. During this period
we were again troubled by the blowing sand whilst in the absence of
the sun it became quite chilly and cold. We were therefore glad to move
on, but it was not for long as our lot were ordered to man some trenches
whilst the other battalions and artillery continued to retreat. The
sand here was worse than ever; it was almost impossible to open ones
eyes. We were therefore glad when cross fire wentand we continued home
arriving about 6 pm. A tale got round today of a man with one eye who
had joined "Kitcheners Army" but it seemed most appropriate
when the "joker" asked if it was not enough to have filled
sand. We had the usual foot inspection at 7 pm powder being issued afterwards
the men were paid. To finish the day in proper fashion our platoon was
for inlying picquet so we fell in again at 7.15 pm to turn the Canteen
out. Later I heard that I was one of the advance party for Alexandria
pm Monday next the 18th inst.
Saturday 16th January
Rouse 6.30 am. Very cold this morning. We should have had a long route
march this morning but were not sorry when it was declared off. Still
there was the usual weekly inspection of barrack rooms and equipment
and this entails nearly all morning in preparation. In view of our pending
departure from Cairo we had arranged to meet our new Birmingham friend
and pay a visit to the Citadel district. Within the Citadel walls apart
from the Mosque Mohammed Ali, there is also a well (Joseph's Well).
It is a tremendous depth, though I fancy it is now dry. I believe I
mentioned the glorious panorama of Cairo and The Nile and the beautiful
sunset behind the Pyramids - all to be seen from the Citadel walls.
Here may be seen the old cannons of previous days, whilst from this
part, Napoleon's artillery fired into the city. Marks of the cannon
ball may be seen in the walls of the old Sultan Hassan Mosque a few
hundred yards away. There is also a time gun which sounds daily at 12
noon and is repeated at various other barracks in Cairo.Evidently a
hospital train had just arrived at the city, as we saw waggons of sick
Indians being brought in. They were said to be from the Suez. We had
another look through the Citadel Mosque (finished in 1857). I think
the guide we picked up was a farce, as all he could say was that this
was a Mosque a very fine Mosque, these were carpets, this was the tomb
of Mohammed Ali etc. etc. We remembered more from our previous visit.
However our friend who by the way was not allowed beyond the Citadel
Gates by the Guard except by permit - now took us through the Sultan
Hassan Mosque. This is much older than the former, being completed in
1356. It is not so flash and gaudy and perhaps for this reason, considered
a finer work.Certainly the outside does not compare with the Citadel
Mosque, but once inside the fine carved and inlaid stone work in different
colours is a treat. It appears this Mosque is free to citizens, but
like many places, restaurants etc. in Cairo there are special prices
for soldiers. The charge is 1 piastre plus guide fee. We learnt more
from our friend. He extended the invitation to his house, wished us
every success in the future and hoped we would meet again. It was quite
pleasing o meet and converse with an English civilian and one feels
sorry to be leaving Cairo after such a short acquaintance.
Sunday 17th January
Nothing to do until breakfast at 7.30 am. R.C.'s church parade 6.15
am, Wesleyans 8.15 am, C of E 10 am. Poor dinner. Much letter writing,
hence quietness in the room. Packed or tried to pack contents of large
lockers including two suits, shoes and underclothing into my small kit
bag. Failed dismally in the attempt. In the evening we paid a last long
look at Cairo finishing just before 9 pm at the Café de la Paise.
Here an incident occurred which quite appealed to us. The orchestra
struck up our National Anthem and later the Marseillaise and it was
noteworthy to see both young and old Egyptians rise to their feet along
with the numbers of Australians and Territorials present. We returned
to my kit bag and packing to save time on the morrow.
Monday 18th January 1915
It was all hurry until 8 am when we fell in under the charge of Lt Hartley
and C/D Instr. Smith. There were 16 of us comprising 2 Sgts 1 Cpl and
13 Privates. Qtr Master, Major Cremen had gone on to Alexandria previously.
Our baggage and rations were loaded on a cart and this we followed to
Cairo station - a good hours tramp in the warm sun. Being few of us
we were expecting a little better travellingthan we had last September
but we eventually found ourselves (together with the advance party of
the 8th Lancashire Fusiliers) in a similar old truck to what we came
in. We left at 9.30 and being a quick train the journey took 3 hours.
There were about 4 stops at intermediate stations, whilst all along
the route were signs of active cultivation on the flat land irrigated
from a branch of the Nile, or from a small canal connecting with the
river. At these halts we seemed to be the object of attention from the
peering natives, many hawking oranges, cakes etc. Close by the platform
of one station were a few tall bell tents together with a guard of Egyptian
Infantry. At Kap el Zayat I saw a cotton mill, the only one I have yet
seen in Eygpt. It was a cotton mill because it said so on the walls
outside. We detrained at Sidi Gaber which is the nearest station to
Mustapha Barracks. Outside were two small native carts about 4 ft x
16 ft awaiting us and it was amusing to see the native get hold of the
rear of the cart and lift I square with the pavement instead of manoeuvring
with the horse as a carter would do at home. The Barracks - an old place
about 5 minutes off is situated immediately on the coast about 3 miles
east of Alexandria. The main building I chiefly used as a depot and
store by the A.S.C. though part of it was used as married quarters by
the Regulars. This has been occupied by half of the 6th Manchester's
the remainder who dined in wooden structures having been camped in small
marques outside. A little further on and verging almost to the sea are
hutments which have housed the 5th Manchester's. Close by these are
small marquees for half of the 7th Manchester's 4 and a half of the
8thManchester's , the other half of the 8th have been at Cyprus and
the remaining 7th at Khartoum. These troops have in turn provided detachments
of about a Company to Kom de Dik Fort and the Internment Camp at Ras
el Tin. From the latter place alien enemies have periodically been transported
to Malta etc.
We were dumped in a small marquee amongst the 6th Manchester's. It was
just sufficiently large enough for us and our baggage whilst having
an old soldier with us who was wise enough to draw each of us blankets
(married size) we were quite comfortable for the night. The 6th were
a nice lot of fellows and thoughtfully asked us to have tea with them.
There was little for us to do until they left in the morning so we were
able to have a look at Alexandria in the evening. The chaps here have
had excellent sea bathing and have taken full advantage of it. On guard
tonight out of about 12 men there were 3 Bank Clerks. I also came across
one at tea who used to attend Banking classes at Manchester Tech a few
Tuesday 19th January
We were startled at Reveille by a drum and bugle band parading round
the camp about 5.30 am. Our own had recently done this at Abbassia once
or twice on the days they began playing together at Retreat. Of course
they go their blessing each time. This morning however we could turn
over and dream until 7 am. The 6th left in two detachments, first at
8 am and second at 10 am. Many of them brought to our tent small lamps
and bottles of lamp oil etc. until we had a collection we hardly knew
what to do with. After drawing rations for dinner and telling two off
to cook it some went through the rooms of the barracks, taking over.
In the afternoon some of us went for a dip in the sea close by. It was
fine and as one remarked "Never before had he bathed in the sea
in January. We had a hasty meal and then had to do a hasty flit from
our tent, it being the Orderly Room for the 8th Lancashire Fusiliers
who began to arrive about 2.30 pm. A small suitable place was found
in barracks and we then went through blankets and mattresses ready for
our men tomorrow. Another visit to the town was managed after tea. The
majority of the cars are after the type of those at home with covered
tops. They run in couples, one in front, first class, the rear one second
class. The half price fare to soldiers from Sidi Gaber is 1st class
1 piastre, 2nd class half a piastre (1 ¼d) The journey takes
about 15 minutes and is within easy distance of the shore all the way.
On first impression we thought Alexandria a much cleaner place than
Cairo. It favours more of a holiday place and the few streets we traversed
were much more homelike in appearance. The shops also had a more European
look. We came across a good Soldiers and Sailors Institute with an excellent
reading room, billiards and refreshments an also a Scotch Schoolroom
which has been opened nightly for social purposes, light refreshments
being provided at a reasonable price. There is also a Gymnasium attached.
In our travels we walked into a large square - the Mohammed Ali square,
on one side of which is the Bowise. Beyond this seemed to be the business
portion of the port. The Square contains a large monument but it is
difficult to describe from one look in the darkness.
Wednesday 30th January
Our sleep last night reminded me of the week we spent in Bury Drill
Hall in August last. It was rather hard to the hips. The morning opened
very misty and cold, much different to yesterday. Before dinner, amongst
other things we drew 760 new brown blankets and counted out into rows.
492 loaves the bread was much nicer looking than what we had had at
Cairo but as regards taste it is not so good being extremely sour. Half
the Battalion (A and B Co's) arrived
about 2.30 pm and in due course were allotted to the Married Quarters
previously occupied by ½ of the 6th Manchester's. An hour later
B and C Co's arrived and were placed in the Marquees nearer the shore.
They will both clear out tomorrow, still blankets and bread had to be
issued. This was done,and tea served in the dark or by the aid of candles.
Almost immediately they were glad to settle for the night.
Thursday 21st January
Hurried early shave by lamplight, a bolted breakfast, after which I
accompanied our Company Qr. Master to Alexandria by car and then up
to Kom el Dik Fort (about 10 minutes). Here we proceeded to take over
from the 5th Manchester's, a business which took until afternoon and
in the end showed us that there was a mop short in one room another
brush over in another. One thing was certain there was a great shortage
of lamps and glasses. By the time the Company had arrived or rather
the fort detachment, those remaining being chiefly specialists e.g.
Signallers, Machine Gunners etc. A similar detachment of C. Companygoes
to Ras el Tin today to guard the compound there. Am told it is a decent
barracks up there. It is also said that these two places will be worked
by us and the 8th L.F.'s each a fortnight in turn. Kom el Dik is a very
old fort, situated on a sudden sharp hill in the centre of the town.
It can only be approached from the front by a gradual incline. In former
days it must have been a great stronghold. It's present use beyond providing
various guards, I cannot say, unless it is to have a number of men in
the town in case of emergency. The guards we furnish are Main - at a
Government Building in one of the busiest streets. Prison - a strong
guard at a native prison some ½ hour away. (Visiting day is a
treat here I believe). Cable - where the telegraphic Cable enters the
sea. Marconi - a guard over a wireless station which has since been
disbanded. In addition to these there is a guard at the port, one sentry
being on the top. The fort which overlooks a small Mosque set amid old
tombs struck me as being unhealthy. It would appear to have got into
a bad state, though recentlyefforts have been made to improve it. There
are three storeys connected by a flight of narrow stone steps. The upper
rooms are small and low and with so many men they are inclined to be
crowded. There are six of us in a small room at the top. Some have a
bedstead, while each is given an old sack filled with straw to serve
as a mattress. There is a good cookhouse, a small canteen and stores,
a small fire engine and a little hut close by serves as the Sergeant's
Mess. The barman at the wet canteen is a "nipper" whose head
just about reaches the counter top. "Bully Beef" and bread,
our meals today. Rations are supplied from Mustapha Barracks daily.
Friday 22nd January
Had a weary night. Stuffy room, not without odour. Opened windows. Sore
throat and otherwise unwell. Rouse Parade 6.30. They had not sent us
enough bread from Mustapha. Hence short for breakfast. Did not have
any for other rations. Guards for the various places fell in for inspection
at 8.30 and marched off just before 9 am. The relieved men returned
at varying periods. At present it works out that the men will be on
guard on alternate days. The men were paid about 6.30 pm much to their
relief as they again sent down short rations from Mustapha. Amid all
however there was a certain amusement in seeing one in authority with
a loaf and a knife, saying have you had any bread No we left a piece
for you. I had a walk out later. My recent new army boots of rough brown
leather were being polished in town for ½ piastre. They had been
worn for some time and never been cleaned at all. These boot cleaning
shops are fairly prevalent, and the men will put polish on any kind
Saturday 23rd January
Poor night, still feeling "Crooked" as the Australian say.
About 6 pm was warned for Fort Guard at 8.30 am tomorrow not do much
polishing up etc. We have extra N.C.O.'s from Mustapha and are now making
three reliefs for all the Guards thus enabling us to have one day one
and two days off.
Sunday 24th January
With an effort managed to mount guard but had to be relieved shortly
afterwards. Went to bed in R.A.M.C. man's room. It happened that the
Doctor had come up to Kom el Dik to inspect the place, as he visited
me. The R.A.M.C. chap had to give me nothing to eat and thing would
probably be right by tomorrow. This Doctor who is attached to us has
made a very bad name for himself. I have known men (whilst we were in
Cairo) who would continue being sick rather than parade before him.
During the day I had a cup or to of Swiss milk and water.
Monday 25th January
Being no better I was sent to the Detention Ward at Mustapha Barracks.
The Ras el Tin Hospital van was waiting for cases, but two of us were
detain here at Mustapha for another day. It was here I saw and tasted
milk - real milk, since leaving England.
Tuesday 26th January
The Kaisers birthday I believe. Was sent this morning to Ras el Tin
Hospital. The journey was made by the jolting old fashioned Hospital
Van and took close on an hour much of the way being close to the shore.
Glad to complete the trip. I was seen by a Medical Officer, questioned
as to feed etc. and then handed over to an orde4rly from No.2 Ward which
is aMedical Ward. For a time atleast the continuous narrative must now
cease, but a few impressions of life in a Military Hospital may not
be out of place. As a rule when a chap enters Hospital his kit is sent
with him and deposited in the pack store. l but not expecting a stay
of any length I left mine under care at Kom el Dik, just bringing a
few small items including Greatcoat. After receiving explicit instructions
from the Sister in charge of the Ward, the orderly obtained my Hospital
requisites from the store and I afterwards had a bath and changed into
my new uniform. I had no difficulty getting into the pants in fact excluding
older men they would have fitted about two other persons in all Heywood.
The coat reached about to the top of them. Both are of a blue material
with a white lining and incidentally white buttons. l Rank is denoted
by red stripes tied round the arm. To set off the white shirt we are4
provided with a red tie which being half a handkerchief cut diagonally,
needs a certain amount of manipulation. The whole forms a stout ensemble
which would add dignity to any Sunday morning parade on the North Pier.
The tie also serves the purpose of keeping ones clothes in a bundle
which the Sister makes everybody neatly fold up and place in a locker
close to the bed. In addition to the above I also drew various bedding,
table utensils, towels (one kind marked W.R. Lee 1907) a label denoting
Religious belief, a pair of heal less slippers and a fly whisk etc.etc.
The fly whisk I afterwards found most useful.
One gets a new uniform every week as the suits and the linen etc are
changed every Friday, but it is advisable to retain a suit if it should
by any chance happen to fit. It appears that the Hospital washing is
done by the inmates of the native prison here. No doubt they are kept
After receiving a little warm water in which had been washed an empty
Oxo bottle. I was ordered to bed. The ward contained about 20 beds of
which perhaps 12 were occupied. One or two beds were outside under the
shelter of a veranda, these being occupied by Consumptives etc. In addition
to this Medical Ward there is the Surgical (No.1) Dysentery (No.3) Convalescent
(No 4) and non-sister ward (No.6). The Officers have a ward of their
own into which one of the sisters seems especially fond of taking flowers.
They also have special meals so the R.A.M.C. orderlies say. Beyond a
huge doe of Castor Oil on the first day and daily medicine afterwards
I had a milk diet. On the second day this degenerated to milk and water,
the water predominating. This state of things existed for over a fortnight
when gradually I was hardened to more solid food, the sister raising
hopes hours in advance of what I might look forward to - perhaps I used
to think I should never fill the "pants" up at this rate of
progress. After about two days I was carried, bed and all into the Dysentery
Ward. There was only 1 patient in - he one of the R.A.M.C. recovering
from Enteric. Here I was treated with Protargoland also Emetine injections
into the arm on alternative days. After a few days here preparations
were made for the arrival of the 2nd Australian Contingent and we soon
had several cases of Enteric brought in. This had been contracted on
board. They were mostly convalescent, but one only came to himself about
a week later. My starvation existence continued. It made things worse
to see somebody in the next bed having say minced chicken or perhaps
custard. On the other hand whilst on milk and water I was given a little
piece of chocolate twice daily. On entering hospital one is supposed
to hand over all money to the office for a receipt. I managed to retain
mine though there is no canteen for us in the hospital there are always
ways and means etc. Little therefore did the sister know when giving
half a bar of chocolate that hidden smugly in ones locker lay perhaps
½ lb of chocolate. Still there was nothing to pass on the time.
When our supply of reading matter became for a time exhausted, ones
hungry thoughts turned naturally to the only satisfaction. Beyond this
our only other relaxation was killing flies with a fly whisk. Of the
reading, out of a vast amount gone through, I think the most soothing
and appropriately satisfying was one article in "Life" (an
Australian Monthly). The title was "How I was forcibly Fed"
by Miss S. Pankhurst. Still we gradually progressed in our diet to minced
chicken or meat and perhaps an egg or so for breakfast. I should think
there was good reason for mincing some of the "chicken" at
least it struck me so later when I tackled a hole one. The eggs also
like some of the chickens aresmall and of doubtful age though undoubted
strength. After some of these, I shall never in future be so particular
as to enquire of the nationality of any egg. Later on we weregiven the
inevitable jam, no doubt as a step towards the reintroduction to camp
My first day up was a revelation. It was for 1 hour in the sun during
the afternoon. I was not allowed to walk and doubt very much whether
I could have done. I certainly felt pretty "groggy" about
the legs when walking exercise did begin. The difficulty after all this
will be to get fit again, I am afraid all previous training will have
lost it's effect.
In each of the wards there are two or three R.A.M.C. orderlies according
to the number of patients. The day orderlies one on duty from 6.30 am
until 8 am in reliefs; at this time the night orderly and sister come
on. Their weekly duties in addition to attention to patients includes
scrubbing the floor one day, lockers another, chairs another and generally
keeping the ward clean and tidy. All up patients that is patients who
are up from 6.30 am until lights are lowered at 9 pm are supposed to
assist in some of these duties if required. On one occasion the sister
in our ward magnificently rewarded a chap with half a bar of chocolate
about the thickness of one finger after he had assisted with the floor
scrubbing. This sister by the way is a staunch believer in Castor Oil.
It is a fine thing she says in Egypt. She refers to medicines as "little
doses". In addition to the above, the up patients also do the washing
up as in most cases meals are had in the ward, though some who are about
to be discharged are sent to the Dining Hall.
The orderlies see to the patents being washed and also take temperatures
twice daily in necessary cases. These temperatures are traced on a chart.
It used to be rather annoying at one period to be awakened between 4.30
and 5.30 in the morning by the night orderly tapping you on the lips
with a thermometer. Often a few minutes later I have been in a dream
and it is a wonder I have not swallowed the thing. After this he would
bring water for a wash which made one completely awake before 5 am.
This is one of the few things I have to criticise. You will agree, it
might be left until later in the day, especially so as up patients are
not subject to this routine.
The Medical Officer pays his daily visit usually between the hours of
9.30 and 11 am. Prior to this the scene in the ward is one of bustle.
The sisters (most of them) are very particular. There must not be a
wrinkle in the bed clothes. Everything is sacrificed to primness. On
Saturday there is also a weekly inspection by the Colonel in charge
of the Hospital. In addition to this during my stay the Hospital was
alsovisited and inspected by Surgeon General W. Babtre VC, Surgeon General
Ford, Generals Douglas and Brigadier General Frith. Each had his following
of A.D.C.'setc. Of course ,everything had to be spic and span for the
moment. This is the feature of all inspections which would be far more
useful if made unofficially. Am told that Surgeon General Babtre earned
his V.C. by rescuing Lt Roberts at Colenso. The Hospital is situated
at the end of a long promontory. Its position is ideal, as bounding
on the North side is the Mediterranean, to the South or town side is
a large almost circular harbour. A breakwater divides harbour from open
sea on the western side. Thus we are almost surrounded by water and
many of us are in beds within perhaps a dozen yards of the water and
at a similar height above it. The Hospital Buildings take the form of
a square of which the wards take up two sides. Officers' quarters, office
etc, comprise the remainder. Inside the squareis an open space perhaps
60 yards by 40 yards. A covered veranda encloses an ornamental garden
well laid out with small trees, shrubs and flowering plants. This provides
an adequate supply of flowers at all times of the year. In the centre
of the garden is the cookhouse an patients' baths. A few cows kept specially
for the purpose some short distance away, ensure a daily supply of really
excellent milk, which in Egypt is a not a very plentiful commodity.
The hospital is built almost on the site of an old fort which was reduced
as I am told at the bombardment of 1882. Amid the ruins, which reach
to the waters edge s a lighthouse and also a tempting hard tennis court
which is used by the Officers whilst at the extreme point of the promontory
is built a small fumigator.When not reading, it was about these ruins
that we spent most of our convalescence, watching the hipping in harbour
or the small boat repairing close by. The harbour is full of idle vessels,
no doubt prizes of war. Whilst during the latter few weeks of my stay
troop transportation continued to arrive daily. I should think at least
80 lie at present in the Harbour (March 30) and there has been movement
both in and out for the last few days. We have also noticed a hospital
hip or two, often bringing wounded Indians from France. I hear many
places arebeing turned into wards in various parts of Alexandria. There
is a special hospital for the Indians at San Stefano. However, to return
to the ruins of the fort. There has also been at one time B.C. an old
temple close by. The foundations are still discernible at low water.
From here to the docks, the harbour will be a few miles across.Natives
in small boats sometimes make the journey and sell eatables fruit etc.
to patients. In consequence of this and also because some patients have
dodged into town by this route, this part of the grounds is placed out
of bounds. Still during the latter period of convalescence, we managed
a few extras for supper from the cookhouse. The cooks have permission
to make up anything left over and sell to the R.A.M.C. orderlies therefore
why not to the patients. We were sorry to hear that HMS Ocean one of
ourescorts last September - had been sunk by a floating mine in the
Dardanelles. The American warships "Tennessee" and "North
Carolina" have frequently moved in and out of the harbour sometimes
bringing refugees from Syria. In consequence of the numbers of troops
arriving late in March the hospital has been somewhat taxed for room.
Many sick and accident caseshave come in and even the reading room has
today (April) been utilised as a Ward. I hear many buildings in the
town are being equipped as hospitals. Adjacent to our reading room is
a small room in which a service is held on alternative Sunday mornings.
Half of the room which can be screened off serves as a Dining Hall.
At the Church Service on March 21 conducted by the curate from St Marks
Church in town there was a congregation of 27, composed of the Matron,
1 Sister (who played the organ) 12 R.A.M.C. orderlies and 13 patients.
6 stayed on to communion which was held afterwards. A rigger here continually
hearing the rumours, has started the phrase "Soon we go home"
which seems to have caught on. Still on March 19th the two Lancashire
Fusiliers Battalions here (ours and the 8th) received sudden orders
to pack up and proceed to Cairo. They were all on parade about 8 am
when the order came. They left the same night, our Battalion at 8 pm
and 9 pm and arrived at Heliopolis a suburb of Cairo about 4 am. Saturday
morning. They are encamped on the racecourse in small Egyptian bell
tents. Kom el Dik was closer and only the detachment of our company
at Ras el Tin remains in Alexandria. The whole division seems to be
concentrating at Cairo an I heard they are doing staff divisional training
in the direction of the well-known towers on the caravan rout to Suez.
When they left, my kit was sent up to me and then placed in the Hospital
Among various incidents during my stay was the fire drill, which usually
occurs weekly. The alarm is given by the continued ringing of a hand
bell. All R.A.M.C. men not on duty all of fit patients are supposed
to fall in near the station. The former fixed up the hose and bring
on the engine. The high pressure of water is obtained by pumping - about
7 men on each side of the engine alternately working two horizontal
attachments up and down. The drill serves as an excuse for watering
the garden which no doubt accounts for its frequent occurrence. Another
relaxation played by the orderlies is "Macnoon Golf". The
course is a 4 hole one laid in and out amongst the ruins of the fort
and about the lighthouse. The requisites are thin hockey sticks and
a tennis ball. At one awkward hole it is necessary to playover the Tennis
Court. Hence to be victorious, it seemed a greater asset to watch your
opponent and carefully count his strokes and foot taps, than to be able
to hit the ball. A sideshow, was the recovery of the balls after an
exceptionally good hit into the sea.
In all, I have been in Hospital 9 weeks and 2 days. If the government
still charge 7d a day for hospital treatment the bill will be 37s11d
deducted from my pay. Still one spends little whilst confined so there
should be a little balance to my credit by now. An Australian (Englishman
who has gone out) is also discharged today. They sailed from Melbourne
just before Christmas. He contracted Enteric aboard and was brought
here on arrival. He is a private in the Infantry (the minimum pay in
the whole army) and yet he gets 6 shillings a day. Stating that nothing
would be stopped for Hospital, he estimated between £25 and £30
would be due to him. The English Infantry private gets 1 shilling a
day less stoppages for washing, insuranceand now to take the bun 2 ½da
month is being stopped for hair cutting.
However, it is April 1st today - the day I am discharged. I hope there
is no connection. Tomorrowis Good Friday and in joining the detachment
at Ras el Tin. I shall just be in time for Easter. The time has passed
quickly. I have had good treatment and nobody as a patient can find
cause for complaint here. This is more than can be said of the Medical
man attached to our Battalion. He seems to think everybody is playing
"the old soldier." The Medical Officer has warned me to be
careful in choice of food and against slight chills for some time to
come. The relapse I had he attributes to an un-noticeable chill. I go
out on light duties for seven days and am pleased it is Alexandria and
not Cairo with the majorityof the Battalion.
Thursday 1st April 1915
After such a long confinement within a range of a fewhundred yards,
it seems like beginning life again. I easily cast aside the easy fitting
blue suit and donned khaki again. Of course all the Hospital Kit had
to be handed into the store, but this was a detail. I had drawn my own
kit from the store yesterday and made an effort to tidy the jumble together.
In the end, it appeared that a pair of khaki pants had "gone west"
an I remembered having left them with the washerman (or Dauby as he
is called) at Kom el Dik in January. Therefore there is no need to worry
further about them. I came out today with the last of the Australian
Enteric cases. As he was proceeding to Cairo he left for the station
at 8 am in the smooth running Hospital Wagon. A week or so ago 7 new
Motor Ambulances were attached to the R.A.M.C. Field Ambulance which
is stationed here. These may facilitate the comforts of travelling patients.
I had not to leave until 2 pm as it was only a matter of 10 minutes
journey to where our men were stationed. I think I mentioned that a
few weeks ago there were two Battalions of our Division in Alexander
and that they both received hurried orders to move. They went to Cairo
and are no under canvas at Heliopolis in small emergency tents used
by the Egyptian Army. Kom el Dik was closed but has since accommodated
French troops and a few of Kitchener's Army. The detachment at Ras el
Tin which happened to be part of our Company was left behind. The Main
Guard in town is now worked alone by a few of our Battalion stationed
there. The Cable Guard has been taken over by our men since Kom el Dik
was shut down. Some men left at Mustapha as rear guard to hand over
and side up have re joined us at Ras el Tin while some of another Company
are doing police duty at a Rest Camp at Gebravy. This is a temporary
station for troops prior to embarking or after dis-embarking from the
boats. Thus are we split up. Practically the whole division s at Cairo,
there just remains a detachment of 7th Manchester's at Khartoum and
our men and the hospital staff here. Since this hurried move, Mustapha
Barracks though formerly an A.S.C. Depot is now entirely used for this
purpose. The kit bags of Australians who have left by boat are stored
there. It is to be their base.
Good Friday April 2nd 1915
A few words as to the Barracks in which we are now quartered may be
of interest. It faces the sea and overlooks a wide roadway or promenade
of seemingly recent construction. As at sea resorts at home there is
a railing at the sea edge of the Prom. Nearer to town a small wall is
substituted instead of a railing. The position is ideal and there are
excellent facilities for bathing. A daily parade is held for this purpose
at noon and a small boat is in attendance. The Barracks is of the usual
type, enclosing a square for drill purposes, though there are never
many at liberty for drill as all the duties here are guards. Adjacent
to but quite distinct from our quarters is the Egyptian Barracks. This
is somewhat similar in style only two storied. A few hundred yards to
our rear lie the harbour and close by, the Sultan's Palace when he happens
to be in Alexandria. At present it is being overhauled preparatory to
his visit in May. It is an imposing structure of white and bears the
usual dome so prevalent out here. It was this building which first took
our eye as we entered the harbour on our arrival last September. A representation
of it appears on the 3 millime stamps.
Today was a holiday (more or less) for those not on Guard. The usual
daily routine is Physical Drill before breakfast for those not going
on Guard. Drill after for those going on Guard on the morrow. Those
coming off Guard have a rest day except for picket at 6 pm. They are
confined to Barracks. At present I am on light duty an so do not get
the above routine. There are 3 large Barrack rooms to one of which I
am attached for rations but for other accommodation I am in a room with
Sgt F Bowden of the 8th LF's. In civil life he is a Police Sergeant
in Manchester. Here for the last 3 or more months he has been Provost
Sgt etc at the Compound for Civilian Prisoners situated between here
and the Hospital. There is a Regular Captain in charge and both seem
to be settled there for the period of the war. Well we have a good room,
entered from the square and with a window overlookingthe sea. We each
have a bedstead, biscuits and locker and it reminds one of the old days
at Abbassia. I ought to mention that on the space between Barracks and
Promenade. There are some very artistic badges and crests of the various
Regiments which have from time to time been stationed here. Some perhaps
6 yards by 10 yards are done in Asphalt and small white stones others
with cement an colouring. On e very large one has worked amongst it
a green creeper which at the present time bears numbers of small red
flowers. This sets it off well just now. In fact these crests effect
a wonderful improvement to the whole front.
This afternoon I joined a party of 4 who were going for sail round the
harbour in a yacht. A boatman ha a written permit to take out any men.
He is always hanging round the Barracks. We passed the Hospital and
Lighthouse and to the open sea through a narrow gap in the breakwater.
This we followed westwards to its end on which is situated a small lighthouse.
Here between the Light and another breakwater which runs out from shore
near Gebarvey is the entrance to the tremendous harbour. Just as we
made the turn in, a troopship "Verdala" Glasgow was arriving
from England. It seems but a short time since we arrived at this point
last September and I distinctly remember a chap waving to us from this
breakwater close to the Lighthouse.
On the side of the harbour nearing the breakwater we passed cores of
small old sailing hips at anchor. They are mainly Turkish boats which
formerly plied between various Syrian Ports and Constantinople etc chiefly
carrying fruit. Across on the land side of the harbour are interned
enemy steamers lined up in rows. Some of these have been or are being
made into troopships and often re-named. A little further on lay a French
Hospital Ship and then the U.S.A. Battleship the Tennessee. Owing to
the glowing words of some of the crew, this boat is spoken of a belonging
to the only navy of its kind in America. We now reached the main part
of the harbour and the docks, passing scores of transports and cargo
boats many out at anchor awaiting room at the dockside in order to load
or unload. Amongst these were two British Hospital boats which stood
out prominently owing to their painting of white and green band broken
by two red crosses on each side. We also passed the wharf in mid harbour
where the niggers are loading coal as if for their very life.
Saturday April 3rd
Heard today that there was trouble in Cairo last night. Some Australians
(Who seem to stop at nothing) took out furniture from the "mag"
and set fire to a pile in one of the narrow alleys. The fire brigade
turned otand alsothe "Red Caps" (or Mounted Military Police).
I don't know whether the hose was turned on the Colonials or not, but
they slit the pipe. The trouble was so serious that the Red Caps fired
on some men and 4 were killed and others injured. They were chiefly
colonials, but a few East Lancs were there and of course unable to get
out of it. Cairo is now out of bounds to troops in the vicini9ty. Only
a carefully guarded report of the occurrence has appeared in the press
and this was apparently inspired from official quarters. It is a pity
that some of these Australians should be so reckless and wild. They
get the whole a bad name, even though amongst them are some really fine
fellows. There were many arrests and an enquiry is to be held.
Sir Ian Hamilton recently arrived here to take charge of Allied Military
Operations at the Dardanelles. A few days ago he inspected both Australians
and East Lancs Division. Our orders today contained a glowing report
(somewhat soft soapy) of the fine bearing fitness of the Division. Both
Sir IanHamilton and Sir John Maxwell will have the greatest pleasure
in reporting to the Minister for War on the smartness of the men and
the great strides they have made during their stay here. Included in
the remarks were the words from Sir Ian Hamilton "That they are
fully fit to take their place with any Regular Battalions in the field."
Sunday April 4th
Two of us went this morning th Easter Communion at St Marks Church in
town at 8 am. This service was non coral. It is a fine Parish Church
overlooking Mohamed Ali Square. Both inside and out are many panels
and stones in memory of th9ose who have fallen during the various campaigns
in the Country. Amid a fairly good congregation which included many
officers and men recently arrived in Egypt as well as a large number
of residents, we were before we had got to a somewhat flabbergasted
when scarcely before we had got to a pew one of the parsons came to
us and asked if we would mind collecting. We were obliged or rather
had to be. these rather had to be, though in a new role and in a strange
church. However all ended well.
During the afternoon we had a look round the docks. A man in uniform
here seems to have unlimited right. Nobody seems to question him and
we could traverse the docks from end to end whereas a native or a civilian
would not be permitted or except on business. Whilst on coming off the
docks these people are formally searched by the coastguard. In fact
owing to smuggling the whole coast is patrolled by coastguards who are
chiefly Sudanese men. Today on the docks were piles of Kit Bags belonging
to Australians. The men were abroad - One boat being the "Derflinger"
a German Prize which has been turned into a troopship. These kit Bags
are being stored at Mustapha which is now made into an Australian Base.
The majority of the Australians are leaving Cairo an are to sail from
here in due course. We saw two in Alexandria this morning. They ha dodged
out of the far side of the train and had come to have a look round the
town; many came rolling up to the docks this afternoon in twos and threes.
Whilst these were embarking. Amid a fairly good congregation which included
many officers and men recently arrived in Egypt as well as a large number
of residents, we were somewhat flabbergasted when scarcely before we
had go9t to a pew, one of the parsons came to us and asked if we would