War and History Fiction posted April 17, 2015

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Reg replies to Julia. Things are harder on the front.

PART 3: It Helps to Think of You

by mfowler

Dear Julia,
      I hope you don't mind me calling you, Julia, Miss Bligh. I feel you are such a close friend now that false politeness seems a waste of time.
      Your letter lifted me from a dark mood. I hope you don't mind, but I shared it with me mates in the dugout. They're struggling with this war as much as me. I thought that something as nice as your letters might cheer them up and take their mind off the shelling for a little while. Dave Colbert says you must be a bonza sheila. I told him to call you a lady and they all said I was sweet on you. I reckon they might be right. As you said, there's no point being timid in what we say. I could be dead before this letter gets to you.
      I went red as a beetroot when I saw those nice things you said about me. No-one's ever called me sweet or brave before. My Mum and Dad always say you shouldn't sugar coat the truth, but all that meant was blunt talk.
      If you could see us, Julia. We are the sorriest looking blokes you ever saw. Fair dinkum, I share a small space with the dirtiest bunch. It's not their fault really. Water rations are short and there's little left for cleanliness. We lost two more mates up at Lone Pine a week back. I think I'm becoming hard because there's no tears left to cry.
      There's a bloke here called Simpson, a medical orderly. He's the bravest, dumbest man about. He has this donkey, see, which he takes out onto the open places and fetches the injured and the dead. He pulled Marty's body back to base so we could at least say a few prayers and give him a decent Christian burial. He doesn't seem to care if he lives or dies. I reckon he's the bravest man I've ever seen.
      I'm sorry again. I shouldn't be filling these letters with stories of hell. Thank you for praying for Sergeant Blake and his family. That's so decent. I reckon Mrs Blake would love to hear from you. I can't promise I'll ever see Australia again. She lives at 26 Beckanham St, Fitzroy, Melbourne. It was on one of the sarge's letters. If you can see her, I think it might help even more. Woman to woman seems to be right to me.
       Your new socks came just in time. The first pair rotted after two nights on guard in the rain. They were wonderful just like these. The ANZAC vest gets me a bit of a rollicking from me mates, but I have a warm chest, so they can't affect me. Humour is important in this place. The biscuits were very tasty. After bully beef and weevil infested gruel, they were like a Christmas treat.
      There is no end in sight for us. The Turks have the upper hand completely. Your affections and conversation are the only ray of sunshine in my life for now. It continues to help my spirits daily, to think of you. I hope one day that I might meet you and hold you close. This is my dream.
                                                              With love,


Yesterday, I published a letter from Julia Bligh to Private Reg Hobbs. Reg is caught up in a campaign on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey (1915) where an ill fated invasion by Australian and New Zealand troops are dug in on the cliffs of the unforgiving place. They are under heavy fire from Turkish troops on the high ground. The campaign has gone horribly wrong and the seige of the strip of land has gone on relentlessly for many months.

It was at Gallipoli that Australia and New Zealand troops won great affection for their tenacity and courage. The term ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) stuck and became the symbol of the young nation's self-identity.

This is the centenary year of the campaign.
John Simpson became famous for his work as a stretcher-bearer at Gallipoli. Using one of the donkeys brought in for carrying water, he transported wounded men day and night from the fighting in Monash Valley to the beach on Anzac Cove. He was killed by machine-gun fire while carrying two wounded men and was buried on the beach at Hell Spit. He is a much revered hero of Australian folklore.
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