Topic: Gillanders WD - WWI letter 1916 c April to August

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Transcript of a letter written by William Duncan Gillanders while at the Featherston Military Training Camp. In it he describes some of the training that Mounted Rifles underwent.

No 1 Troop 16 MR.

Featherstone Tuesday

William Gillanders sitting Portrait 15-037Dear Lil,

Here I am again in picket. I happened to strike the same shift as I did last time 10 - 2 You see we dip in a hat and draw for shifts and stables, we are not always on our own stable, it all depends how many are on out of our hut. We are now well into the third week of the horses, only three more to go and it is getting every day we had more jumping yesterday afternoon, although the rail we were jumping would not be three foot high still the horses could not get over without jumping first we went over with reins and stirrups then we went over dropping the reins when we reached the jump men the jump was put a bit higher. We went over without stirrups then with stirrups and folded arms. Then in sections of four with stirrups and reins then we started to go over in half sections with arms folded but one of the first couple lost his balance somehow & fell off catching his foot in the end of the reins, one of the horses trod on him breaking a rib & one of his fingers, but he was put in a passing car & driven to the hospital.

It was very silly jumping these horses without reins,( before that another horse stumbled & fell right over but did not hurt the rider) specially as they are not like home military horses who have been properly trained to it and jump just as well with or without the reins. AH the morning we had a lot of galloping about and dismounting for action, mostly number three would stay on his horse and as soon as the rest had got off their horses & handed over the reins, each no three would turn his four horses right or left as the case might be & gallop off with them to one side of the supposed firing line & then when the signal went gallop back as hard as ever he could go. I was a no three all the time. Other times we would tie the horses all close up to each other within a foot from head to head in one straight line & one man at each end stayed to look after them. We always tie them up in one line at dinner time when we feed them. Perhaps I did not tell you that every day we go out to a paddock six mile from here for drill & up to now they sent our dinner out in an A.S.C. Waggon but today we made our lunch at breakfast & were issued tea & sugar & had to make fires for ourselves & boil our own. We use mess tins like they used to have in the Lovat Scouts.

Well I got the coat & Balaclavas tonight. The coat I have on tonight also the Bala rolled up into a skull cap. If you sent the putteen I must have dropped them as I opened the parcel before I quite reached inside the hut but no matter I am always asking for something. Did any body ever find my spurs if not could you send the longest you have of that kind & immediately I received them I will send back the pair I have now which are too light & today I got a bit jammed when we went galloping about & one of the spurs doubled up but it was easily straightened out again, they are good spurs & will be just as good for ordinary use as these others. I sold the pair I had home last time as I saw one the same kind break with a little bit of a bump, they were only cast iron nickled, if you could send me these for first convenience I would be very much indebted to you, or, ha ha don't you know. Just come back from a prowl round the horses, one got away but, I did not have any trouble to get him again.

I suppose I will hardly know the old place when I go back with all the fences fixed up specially if they are all battened, you are not using the horses at all just now are you! The bhoys will soon be looking round for axes again. How is the grass in the new clearing getting on. I hope it has come again alright not many turnips I suppose - too late, Kath will be counting the days now till she gets home. It is no good me counting the days for I don't know the exact date & never know when that uncertain date will be altered; anyhow we are well into the third week of the horses - we are supposed to have only three more, some of the mtds got seventeen days leave & we are intending to get the same.

They always give four days grace for to get back from leave you are fined your wages for each of the four days you are away so seventeen days & four days is quite a long holiday but you never know your luck in the city. It is now five to one & I hope & trust you are all sound asleep in bed dreaming dreams. I never dream at all now always sleep when I get the chance. Some of us got a snap taken out side the hut last Sunday. I am sending you one, but you can hardly recognise me I must have been looking straight at the sun or else being on picket die night before, I went to sleep while waiting to be snapped. Hard luck about the warships getting sunk. A pity they would come out & fight & get it over & men the war might have a chance to come to a finish. One of the boys was saying the other day he hoped it would end when it was his night to go on picket & save him going on but it must end sometime. Well goodnight & don't forget my spurs.

With bestest love to all from Will.


William Gillanders Panoramic photo of Featherston Camp 15-034

Panorama of Featherston Camp taken most likely by William D Gillanders

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