Posted 29 February 2012 - 02:39 pm
Last letter of the period in the Western Desert. Letter from Capt J.F.M.Robinson to his cousin and future wife.
Gharak South 14 April 1916
We have been busy, we have had a time of "Khamsene" or sand storm. I have been transferred to another squadron for duty .
First of all about two weeks ago we got information that Arabs here in Fayoumn were sending food etc out to the Senussi so forthwith we prowled about the desert in a large ring about 10 miles out, at night we used to go out after dark try & find our appointed places then I used to trek up & down the line to visit posts, of course that week there was no moon so we went out by the stars & compass & stumbled over rocks & sandhills sometimes after to climb up the latter on foot & drag ones horse after one. I only got to bed 11 to 4am one night out of 5 but it was very good fun in spite of our catching nothing or even finding any tracks at daylight. I believe the blighters got word & did not go there.
I had to do one really nice trip though, about 23 miles out from us is a real desert oasis with a well. So I was ordered there @ 8pm one night with 50 men luckily we had sent camels with a field telephone wire laid on the sand to that place some days before, so we went by that until we got to some awful sand dunes about 3am over which my horse fell with others on top of us. soft falling, so lay down until dawn & arrived about 7am, nothing there of course. For 15 miles we had crossed the sand & rocks no vegetation, all the time going down a long wide valley with big cliffs either side, then when it was light we came to patches of a sort of shrub called camel brush, & saw in the distance 2 date palms with a spring bubbling up underneath one, the water coming up was about as quick as one fills a bath, running over the sand for 20 yards & then disappearing again in the sand, we dug a pool to bathe in & water our horses, the water was salty but good, had breakfast & slept in the shade, we stayed all night keeping a good look out & came back in daylight the next day.
Possibly there is another similar sort of show on soon when we hope better results.
Now is the sand storm season, they are rotten a hot wind driving sand & one can only see a few yards some of our tents were blown down & the fires all swamped with sand which was perhaps lucky, the horses had a rotten time but did not seem to mind much especially as all the flies were blown away, we have an awfully lot of digging in the sand to do to entrench our camp, very hard work as everything has to be sandbagged up & then the sand storms come & shift the whole bag of tricks. We have given up hunting as there are a lot of cubs about we have 1/2 dozen among the men as pets, I hope they have to let them loose soon as we cannot keep them all. Besides I am frightened of anyone getting bitten with rabies to follow. Charles Lyon (Mrs Peter Ormerod's brother) who was Capt. of B squadron has gone home to make munitions & as their Major is not very good & the squadron has always been the worst in some ways, we "A" were the best (of cousrse) for various reasons & had the best Lieut's, so I have been pushed on to here to try & buck things up, I am told by the Col. it is a complement but I do not know. We had just previously sent one of our sergt's to be squad Sergt Major so I expect to get on alright as they are good fellows mostly clerks from Hull whereas "A" sqn were mostly country men & farmers. I think I can tell you why Nick is ???? but it is possibly a state secret, altho everyone knows we are entrenching all along the East bank of the Suez canal a distance out in the desert & the General's here are mad on telephones nowadays so I expect he is up to his neck in it. We found telephone laying a rotten job in the sun as one has to bed down so much. It knocked out one or two of our men for a bit.
Did you come in for any 2 ep's or not when at Harlow you do not say. This mess has a gramophone of sorts which gives us a little music of sorts. I liked "The man who stayed at home" when I saw it & everyone raves about the other piece according to the papers. If you go south again go to "tonights the night" @ the Gaiety it is only musical comedy but 2 or 3 very good songs. I loved it.
More chit chat.
I must go to bed now as we always have to rise with the lark these days when it nice & not to hot. (sic)
P.S. This "B" squadron is also on outpost is facing south instead of west about 5 miles from "A" but a very nice camp on a sort of old clover field which is pleasanter & less glaring to look at than the desert.