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Albert's Diary - December 1917

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Sunday 2nd

After two weeks in a rest camp at Kalm, we started on a 150 miles track over the roughest kind of country that can well be imagined. We passed Jaffa and halted before a hill, which is said to be the Mount of Olives. We are not far from Jerusalem now. One day's march would bring us there. This Sunday is the 5th day of our second advance, and we are to go into action after dinner. We are having a lot of trouble with our machines now, and also the battery wagons. The ground is too rugged for anything. Yesterday our left track stretched and held us up in a very narrow but exceedingly busy motor road. One lorry passed us at very fast speed knocking down two fitters. One, Corporal Williamson, was badly shaken and detained in the dressing station. It was a terrible day all through, and I was quite relieved when we at last got to bed.

Wednesday 5th

LATRON: We have been more or less stationary for the past 3 days. Nothing to do except fetch fresh water, petrol and oil and clean our machines, organise a washday and general work around camp. The is usually what is meant by the term 'Rest' camp! We had an addition to the company. This morning some 'Johnny' brought in an ass, when the Lieutenant asked how many his crew was composed of the kid said "Four".

Sunday 9th

Went back to junction of railway to Ration dump. Had lots of bad luck. Arrive in camp 12:30am.

Monday 10th

Pulling lorries and fords out of a ditch into which about 20 had skidded in the thick mud. The road is very narrow, they easily slip off it. Has a ride in a car with the A.D.M.S. officer.

Tuesday 11th

Tracked as far as Enab arriving their about 3am.

Wednesday 12th

Proceeded on our way to Jerusalem, which we reached about 9pm.

Thursday 13th

Saw General Allenby drive through the town. All tractors were ordered to stop their engines until his car had passed. We are in the new part of Jerusalem now. I think we shall require a pass to go into the ancient part of Jerusalem. Our first camp here is a brickwork's and small engineering shop. There is also a stable with four or five Kine, which provide milk for us gratis. There are several (German) motor lorries which have fallen into our hands, of course these engines were damaged, but we shall use the lorries instead of bullock wagons.

Friday 14th

In garage parked all day. Had radiator tubes out and soldered as they had nearly all been leaking.

Saturday 15th

Ordered to go back to Latron for oil, petrol (order later cancelled).

Sunday 16th

Helping 964 con to place guns for the 10th Heavy Battery. We proceeded through Jerusalem in state, like a Lord Mayor's show and everyone was glad to see us. I was informed by an English speaking inhabitant that they had waited long for the coming of the English - many weary months and now it was quite apparent their delight knows no bounds, they nearly worship us as we walk around. One incident pleased me immensely, as we went through the Russian quarter of the town. One venerable looking old man with a long grey beard (who might have passed as an astrologer or a rabbi) on seeing our caterpillar on the street he very gravely respectively raised his white helmet to us. Just like poor Mr Blakeney might have done! We thereupon gave him a right royal salute! Many elderly ladies curtsied us in a most pleasing manner - and of course we saluted them also. The young ladies were glad to see us. The pleasure of course was mutual - especially as we had not seen a lady except a Beduin for four months. The poor people here are almost starving having been robbed of all their sustenance by the lawless Turks and the unspeakable Germans.

NOTE: On Friday night last just to prove that 'stone walls do not a prison make' we slept in a prison cell with barred windows and locks and bolts outside the door. We sang until late in the night (like Paul and the apostles did) and in the morning the staff fetched us out. We rather enjoyed this experience but we preferred being in an open space.

Monday 17th

We are now billeted in an English schoolroom, fine large rooms they are with fancy tiles on the floor in excellent imitation of mosaic work. There are plenty of window and doors - and cupboards but no fireplaces. School hours being in the warm part of the day, fires are not needed. We miss the fires as the nights are very cold. The thermometer reaches freezing point in the night, the sun burns us at midday. It is a good job that we have samples of all climates in England, and so can endure any in one season.

Undated

I had a good view of the Holy City Sunday last from the gun position on the northern side of the town. The time was sunset and the scene simply baffles description. I was mute with wonder with admiration no wonder men call it 'Jerusalem the Golden'.

Undated

There is very little of the old town left and that is walled around, 'but a city set on a hill cannot be hid' - our Lord's words occurred to me as I watched the ever changing panorama as the sun sank lower and lower and I saw Gethsemane with still a few trees and in the mind's eye saw him bearing his cross from St Stephen's Gate and realised as never before how great was his task, physically as well as mentally. It would tire anyone to carry a cross over that rough ground. Surely we ought to be thankful for his wonderful love.

Friday 21st

Doing a few odd carpentry jobs for the cookhouse. Made a couple of tables, rigged up a marquee, paved floor with stones as the rainy season is now on and the mud is ankle deep.

A poor Arabic woman (who had evidently seen better days) came around begging potato peelings. She told us her man had been killed by the Turks I think, and said she had four 'kinder' (children) and that one was an infant in arms - showing us in a most original way - no false modesty. The boys behaved splendidly - not one man laughed - which pleased me immensely.

According to the latest humor, we are to remain here until March - when the rainy season will be over. The Quartermaster has gone on a three day journey to get us a few things for Christmas. We are just getting comfy in this billet.


November 1917 - 1918 January


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