We’ve had no mail in now for a long time and the fortnightly despatch seems to be in full swing. I believe there is a mail hovering about somewhere, but no one seems to know when it will actually arrive.
Ink again you will notice, for we have come back some 30 miles or so and are in comparative civilisation again, though to all intents and purposes we are just as far away from things as we were up at Ramadi. But here we are at least on the railway. Baghdad is within 4 hours by cattle truck, so we are indeed in the haunts of semi-civilisation once more. I have got heaps of ink tablets, and have rigged up an ink-pot and am using my fountain pen as a dipper, as it has long ceased to carry out its fountain duties.
We had a comfortable and uneventful journey down. We took 5 days over it, 3 days marching and 2 halting, not by any means strenuous. I met 2 old King’s school boys on the way, and there are two of us in the 39th so we had quite an old boys’ meeting. I wrote to the “Cantuarian”, and I can imagine the excitement the letter will cause!
The roads and weather were perfect for marching. They have done a lot of improving to the roads, mending them etc, and they use a lovely pink sort of stone, which they get from the sand dunes close by, to do the metalling with. A most gorgeous colour, it must have absorbed the sunsets of a thousand years to get like that. Of course it soon loses its colour when beaten and trodden into the road, but lying in heaps by the side of the road ready for use it looks lovely. The recent rains too have helped to bind the sand, and then traffic over the roads has made them hard and white and shiny. But I expect they will cut up in the summer and deteriorate into mere tracks once more, inches deep in sand.
It was cold and clear most of the time, except one night when rain fell in torrents from 6 to 11, and we had a damp cold dinner, huddled in a tent, & all went to bed about 8, there being no where else to go and it being the only dry warm place. Next day the roads were a wee bit muddy in parts, but the wind soon dried them and we got into our new camp quite dry.
Our new camp is out in a dusty bare place, the edge of the desert. All right now, in fact very cold with the N.W. wind whisking across sands, but it will be a warm spot in the hot weather I’m afraid. Not a tree or any shade of any kind; two miles from the river, and a dusty road running straight in front. And there is a railway line running within 20 yards of our tents, a novelty now, not having seen a train for 6 months (and we all stare at the train as it goes by daily!) but I expect we shall get sufficiently bored with it before we see the last of it. Still it’s a blessing to be on the rail again. One is’nt quite so cut off from the outer world, and you feel nearer home somehow.
We have been busy since we got in getting the camp in order and generally settling down. I have retrieved all my kit now, all the stuff (little enough, but still, all I had) which we left in Baghdad when we left for the Ramadi show last September. This paper is some of the spoils. It was a bit damp, but otherwise no harm done, as I had put it all in a tin suit case- does’nt it sound common! – but it’s the only thing to have in these outlandish places.
Lyell joined us yesterday. Poor man, he is very hard hit, but it must be a blessing to him to be employed. So I am no longer 2nd in command now, & though my brevet saves me from dropping to captain’s rank, it does’nt save me from dropping to captain’s pay, as of course a brevet only confirms the rank without the pay.
I have met Orton several times, you will remember he is on our Divn staff, & they are here at present.
It’s still very cold at nights, but I have plenty of blankets now, though I still have to wear a woolly in bed, & spread my British warm over me. I hear the leave rules are out, but I have not seen them yet. I am told they are on the liberal side. I wonder if I shall be able to get home this year. It seems absurdly near now, & if I do manage it I ought to be home in about 3 months’ time. By the way, in case I do, you’d better write all letters to Cox & Co Bombay “to wait till called for”, as if I don’t come home I can wire them to forward them: & if I do I can pick them up there. So you’d better start doing so now.
I am very fit & well. Best love to all
yr loving son
Probable position – halfway between Falluja & Abu Ghraib
King’s Roll of Honour
Named Old King’s boys –
Lt G D’O Maclear
Cpt (later Lt Col) G C Strahan (9th picture down)
Medals of Col CWG Walker
Major W H Wardell
A P Methuen
CHC Gore, retired a Colonel in 1947