Topic: Gillanders WD - WWI letter 1917 July 24

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Transcript of a letter written by William Duncan Gillanders in 1917 in which he describes the discovery of what they thought to be the tomb of St George.

July 24th 17
Dear Lal & Frank,
Thanks for your tin of butter which I got just over a week ago nearly three months after you sent it, but it was in first class order & very acceptable as butter is a great luxury here. The first tin you sent was the first butter I had tasted since leaving Australia but since then I have bought a tin now & again in the canteen, when I was feeling rich they charge three shillings a pound for it & not much at that. The mails are very irregular now & it seems ages since I had a letter. The last I had was saying that Alec had passed the doctor & I have been wondering whether he got extension of time or not but the mail might come in soon. I have an idea that most of our mail goes to England both ways, I know it did for a bit I don't know if it still does or not.

I am going on leave on Thursday the day after tomorrow what do you think of that alright eh! I will have about a week away at any rate. It is over ten months since I came on the desert so it will seem a bit strange to see shops & streets again, won't it. We have been going eyes out for the last three weeks doing outpost patrols & etc. We always go out where the mounteds go, if just a regiment is out on patrol one cart has to go with it I was out for a week with one of the regiments. They call us out all hours of the day & night for instance three days ago we were in our bivys at nine o'clock in the morning when we got the order to lead out in half an hour. That meant we had to harness up our horses get our horse feeds & our own rations for a day & stick them in the cart & be away within half an hour. Well we were out all day & got back to camp at half past ten, unharnessed our horses & put them on the lines had a drink of tea & were just thinking of having a good night's sleep when the order came to get yoked up again & ready to move out at half past twelve, so what could we do but growl & carry out the orders. At half past twelve another order came that we were not going out till three so we have to take our horses out again get about two hours sleep & up & away & not get back till eight o'clock next night. It is the funniest thing out to see us as soon as we pull up for ten minutes or so every man flops down besides his horses & goes sound asleep. It is the only way to do as sometimes you might be out for two or perhaps three nights running & want all the sleep you can get.

Well there are lots of things I have been trying to store up in my memory to say when I write, but I can't think of anything at all when I get the old pencil in my hand. I am making a collections of photos from other peoples films, it is far the best way so I will be sending them home one of these days. I went to a lecture last night by an Australian Padre. I think I told you about him before, Maitland Woods, he is a great man for making discoveries I expect he will be the authority on this country after the war. They have discovered an old temple at Sheilah across the wadi Guzzi & this padre translated an inscription something about George so they dug underneath & discovered the bones of a man which they have almost proved to be St George of England who came over here & formed a society of fighting monks even although the bones were practically dust seeing they had been there for I think he said a thousand years the doctors could tell he was a very strong man & that his arm had been broken & set again, so by putting every thing together compared with dates etc they came to the conclusion that the Anzacs have discovered the remains of St George.

Another thing right along side where we are camped is a high hill Tel il Fara which I always thought was natural but the Padre told us that away back near the time of King David it was built so that the people here could keep watch & see when their enemies were coming you can see about fifteen miles from the top of it & it rises straight up from the level of the wadi bank & can be seen from as far as you can see from it but I will get a photo of it to send someday, as I seem to be getting a bit mixed in my description. Well I did not get time to finish this letter the day before yesterday nor yesterday as I was out all day from five till eight at night, but this afternoon I am getting on the old train for Cairo. I only wish it was the main trunk to Te Kuiti but maybe soon I will, what do you think?

Are the prices of tilings going up much there they are here in the canteens a tin of fruit costs 9 1/2 Piastre that is 1/11 (one shilling and eleven pence) & a tin of milk is 6 piastres 1/3 the only thing they don't put up the price of is tobacco & matches. Of course we might not notice the prices of other things so much if they were not so cheap before.

Another start I have only got another hour before I go on leave. I managed to get togged out a hat from one man a pair of spurs from another a tunic from another & a pair of braces from another that is four different men. They say it must be a poor outfit if it can't fit out four men for a week. Excuse the dirty paper as it is sweat & dust the sweat is just running off me. When you are writing you can miss out the regiment & just put W.D. Gillanders art N.Z. Mtd Amb,
G.P.O. Well.

I must stop now with best love to all & Waiteti & Owaka, & Auckland, & the never never country where Rua lives, from ever your

Loving Bro Bill

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