1st Nov 1941
Dear Mother & dad
I’m a day ahead of schedule with my letter this week – with the dawn this morning came the roll of thunder and out to sea the white horses heralded the storm. We finished breakfast and decided to wait awhile before starting the struggle buggies and moving out to the section of road we’ve been working. We hadn’t long to wait and as I write nature is giving us the works in a big way.
We’ve been in the hills a week now. The day after I wrote you last week we got the good news that we would be joining a rifle company engaged in road building. The company we’re with are a great crowd and their cooks are the best in the battalion. The things they can do with bully beef and rice are amazing. The rules of the camp are that beer is barred during the week but if available there’s an open slather on Saturday night and Sunday is a day of rest. It’s a great spot up here about sixteen hundred feet above sea level with a wonderful view of snow covered mountains, some good sized towns and villages and the wide stretch of the Mediterranean.
The parcels I sent for your birthday Mother and for Youngster’s must have been unlucky because the parcels you got were posted about three weeks after the others. Your birthday present was a shell inlaid box with scarves and odds and ends that I thought you would like, and a similar thing for Youngster. They were rather nice boxes so I must try and get you another one later. I sent May and Anne a parcel at the same time and have sent Anne several little dresses since, so some of them must make the grade.
I’m sorry to hear that Bill has been having a bad trot and hope he’s better now . It must have been a cold winter for the three of them to get rheumatism so badly. Peter and Tim got over theirs alright I hope.
That horse that Edeline got a win with – was that the one Young gave her when it was a foal? Talking of horses I suppose the war and politics are completely overshadowed by the Melbourne Cup now. I don’t suppose half a dozen of the blokes here know what’s running.
Curtin’s certainly going in big for a start – a hundred million loan – that’ll take some getting – if he can do some good within it , it won’t be so bad but they waste such a hell of a lot that you see very little for the money. Everyone at home is more concerned with getting the sugar than with winning the war. Every newspaper we pick up from home is full of empty speeches and social news. It’s quite amusing to think of the so called society strutting their stuff whilst a country like England with real society submerges everything in the war effort.
Youngster says Ken is getting along well now and is able to get about on crutches so I suppose he’ll be home soon. I don’t remember that Butterworth chap but of course I wasn’t with the anti tanks long. Jim McDonnell had a bit of bad luck the other day. He was cranking one of the struggle buggies and the starting handle kicked back and gave him a nasty smack on the thumb and sprained his wrist so I don’t suppose he’ll be up here for a while.
The papers you and Youngster are sending are arriving regularly. I got a Bulletin 10th September the other day so that’s pretty good for surface mail – I notice in one of the Mercury’s that came in that young Les Lowenstein has started his military career well by marrying a Major’s daughter – that’s good strategy.
To see the places we’re building roads would be an education for some of the local engineers. It was tough for a few days but now that our hands have hardened up it’s not bad, in fact I never saw the fellows work with such enthusiasm. Everyone was so pleased to get away from barracks.
Time is certainly marching on. It’ll be eighteen months next Thursday since we sailed and on present indications it’s likely to be another eighteen before it’s finished. But it takes a long time to muddle through.
I’m afraid there isn’t anything else to write about. My letters must make poor reading these days – when we’re on the move or things are happening it’s easy to write but when things are at a standstill it’s different so cheerio for the present – regards to the boys.
We’ve been in the hills for a week now
AWM 021186: Jebel Tourbel topography : the nature of the terrain meant that donkeys were often the best means of transporting goods. No wonder they brought in the carriers to help with road building!
From The Footsoldiers : Storm clouds and snow in the mountains above B company picketing the Tourbel diggings. There is no indication of whether the troops in the mountains were sleeping in ‘dugouts’, tents or huts…AWM photos indicate that other groups were constructing ‘winter quarters’ such as these:
AWM 021945 :
Members of the 2/14th Battalion erecting tin huts for winter quarters at Madjlaya, a tiny village on the mountain road above Tripoli
Engaged in road building
According to The Footsoldiers (and as far as I can tell from the Battalion Diary – AWM item 8/3/33/5), B company remained in the hills ‘to piquet the diggings and equipment’ when the rest of the battalion returned to the barracks. The diary does not specifically mention the carrier platoon. However Dad is very clear that they were building roads, with a rifle company from the battalion – so this must have been B company.
AWM 008813 This shows troops working on the reconstruction of the coast road- the extra challenges in the mountains must surely have been enormous!
Curtin’s going in big for a start – a hundred million loan
See previous post (18 October) – war loans poster and Curtin addressing a public meeting.