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Australian Light Horse in Egypt : Letter from Trooper Crane

Argus - Saturday 10th April, 1915

Mr. William Pearse of Plashett, Jerry's Plains, has received an interesting letter from a grandson named Malcolm Crane, who, with his brothers William Crane, went to Egypt in the Light Horse with the second Australian Contingent. Extracts from the letter are appended - `After leaving Sydney, he says, we picked up fifteen more ships at Albany and the sixteen then travelled in three lines about a mile apart. They had a good trip on fourteen days to Colombo but their ship, and two others, had to go to Aden for coal. He describes Aden as a beautiful town. After coaling they started out and joined the other vessels and had a grand trip through the Red Sea. Got to Suez in about eight days.

Next day we started through the canal, the banks of which-were lined with troops, mostly Indians. The camps were barricaded in a wonderful manner: a great amount of sand was erected and big guns mounted behind, with loopholes to allow the men-to shoot through, and protected with barbed wire to stop a cavalry charge. They gave us a great reception going through the canal. In the afternoon on the Turkish hills, they could see clouds of dust and knew the Turks were coming down to the Canal. They passed a Regiment of the 75th.Punjabis going to meet the Turks. The Indians looked like hungry animals going for their food. They heard afterwards the Indians surrounded the Turks, who hoisted the white flag and when the Commander went forward to parley, the Turks riddled him with bullets.

There was only another white man amongst the Punjabis, but they turned the machine guns on and left 2000 Turks on the ground, only four of them getting away. Though you will not see anything of this in the papers, it is true nevertheless. They then went into Port and landed the horses, took train to Cairo and camped on the Pyramids in sight, of the water tanks Napoleon erected 100 years ago. Cairo is a beautifully built city with two hotels, far ahead of the `Australia'. The well-bred Egyptians are in the best society and chum up with the white people. The lower classes are rotten and have to be treated like dogs to get any good out of them. They are a murderous crowd and no one is safe at night in any of the side streets.

One night they picked up a New Zealand Trooper with his throat cut, which might be a lesson to our fellows to keep away from the native quarters. When the wounded were brought in from the front we were standing guard at the Railway Station and our chaps carried the wounded to the ambulances and he noticed the mark of a Ghoorka's knife (Kuhri) on a Turk, and it made him feel sick ever since. The nurses (Australian) were waiting at the station and as soon as the train drew up they went straight to work. The ambulances are what the Melbourne people presented and are beautifully fitted up. Our troops are camped eight miles out of Cairo and they get leave once a week, which is quite enough for such a rotten place. Some whisky, which a Trooper got, was analysed and was found to contain vinegar and metho only. There are about 30,000 Australian troops and 3,000 English in Cairo. The first contingent got to the front this week-and they themselves are booked for the front soon.