Thursday, December 9, 2010

France, 21st May 1916

Dear Mother,
We are now in the trenches and as the weather is fine are not having such a bad time. Except when there is a bit of shelling going on here things are reasonably quiet. There is a cuckoo that flies over our trenches night and morning giving its peculiar cry and in a hole next to our gun and dugout a cat with three kittens has taken up its abode. It lives on the mice and rats that are so plentiful here.
Tomorrow we go out for an eight day spell into a fairly large town that is close by. There we get hot baths and clean clothing. I have not come across Gordon since leaving Egypt. His brigade left from Port Said and although they are somewhere near us we do not know exactly where.
We have an orchard just behind us and the gooseberries and currants are just ripening. With you of course the fruit season will now be over. I hope you have done well.
I do not know whether this will pass the censor or not, but will close now with best regards to all from your affectionate son,

Friday, December 3, 2010

France, 6/5/16

Dear Bob,
Many thanks for the camera and films which arrived today. Unfortunately we are not allowed to keep cameras under penalty of court martial so I am returning it by this mail. The films we are not allowed to post. We are lucky to have arrived here just at this time of the year as the weather is now becoming warmer and the mud of which we heard so much should now be drying up.
My address is now 2nd Coy. N.Z. Machine Gun Corps. It is useless for me to tell you here of our exact position or probable movements as such information does no pass the censor and at any rate the papers will no doubt keep you informed as to our movements.
We are getting leave to visit England. About four or five go from our Coy. each weekend and I am looking forward to the time when my turn comes around which should be in about six weeks time.
Well I trust you are all in good health.
Kind regards to all.
Yours sincerely,

Friday, November 5, 2010

France, 22/4/16

Dear Dad,
Just a line to let you know that I am still going strong. You will probably know our whereabouts before you receive this [censored] and are now billeted out in farmhouses, in barns with plenty of straw, and are very comfortable despite the weather. When we left Egypt a midday temperature of 110 in the shade was not uncommon so that you can understand us shivering a little when we landed in [censored] with the glass at about 45. We have had a drizzly rain ever since arriving up here but the weather should improve now and I dare say we will become used to a little mud. This appears to be a wonderfully rich country and except for the absence of men the effects of the war are not very apparent to us. In case you did not receive my last letter my address is now 6/1917 2nd Company N.Z. Machine Gun Corps N.Z.E.F. We are only just within sound of the firing here but will no doubt be into it soon.
Best regards to all at home,
Your affectionate son,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Egypt, 31/3/16

Dear Gwen,
I am enclosing half a dozen prints of photos which I was able to take when in Cairo at the beginning of the month. Please note that my address is now 6/1917, D.R. McLean, 2nd Company, N.Z. Machine Gun Corps, N.Z.E.F. in future it will be well to address everything thus as I am now quite apart from the Cant. Inf. Batn.
We made an early start this morning at at four o'clock and came back again at one this afternoon this finishes us for the day.
Egypt is now becoming very hot and the flies are troublesome but we are living in hopes of going to France soon.
I trust that you are all in good health. Love to all, your affectionate brother,

Dear Elsie,
I received you letter of 6th July yesterday and was glad to learn that you were all in good health.
The heat and the flies are becoming a bit trying here in Egypt and we are in the hopes that we will be sent to France shortly. My new address in future will be No. 2 Coy, N.Z. Machine Gun Corps, N.Z.E.F. Letters addressed to Canty Inf. Batn are likely to be considerable delayed so please use my new address. It is really not much use sending any parcels as they very often go astray and in any case if we go into action again it will probably be in a place not many miles distant from of the world's biggest cities and where we will be supplied with all the things that have hitherto been luxuries.
Gordon McDonald is here looking well I see him occasionally. I ran across Stand Green when up in Cairo he has a base job at Kasr-el Nil Barracks. Well I will close now.
Love to all, your affectionate brother, Rawei

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

School of Instruction, Zeitoun, 21/3/16

Dear Dad,
I have been down here for about three weeks at the School of Instruction going through a course on the Machine Gun. We return to our units at Ismailia tomorrow. I have managed to get through the examinations here with an average of 95% this gives me an instructors certificate and I will probably have the opportunity of stopping as an instructor if I feel so inclined. It would be a soft job 3 weeks work and the one week's holiday but I don't think I will take it on as it would mean leaving my unit a thing I would not care to do after being with it for so long.
While I have been here I have been able to go out to the Pyramids and look around generally. We have had no N.Z. mail for over six weeks but there should be some letters for us in camp when we return.
I ran across Stanley Green in Cairo the other day. He was hit in the August advance and now has a job at the base here. Gordon when I saw him last was looking in great form.
Well, I trust this finds you all in good health, with love to all,
Your affectionate son,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zeitoun, 14th March 1916

Dear Dad,
I came down here a week ago to the school of instruction to go through a three weeks course on the machine gun. There are about a couple of dozen New Zealanders here at the school and seven or eight hundred men from other divisions. Scotch and English Regts., Australians, Canadians, Sth Africans, and even a West Indian Brigade have all got their representatives here. We have about seven and a half hours a day of instructional work, mostly lectures which have to be written up at night so that we fairly busy.
I am in good form again and feel just about as fit as when I left N.Z. I weigh 13 st 1 lb.
We do not think we will be in Egypt much longer but have not much idea where we will go.
The letters you wrote on your arrival at Wellington reached me alright but I have not recieved any later mail. This trip down here gives me an opportunity to have a look at the pyramids the Sphinx and the other wonders of the place.
Trusting that everything is going satisfactorily and that you are all in good health.
With love to all, Rawei

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Belgium, 12/3/16

My Dear,
Just a line to let you know that I am still carrying on. We have had a good bit of snow and ice during the past few months but the weather seems to be turning warmer now and it should not be long before it clears up for the summer.
I trust things are going well with you in the central NZ. Rabbit seems to have a god market we see a lot of it over here in the canteens and shops, tinned. If you will understand what I mean by "Stopping at a farm".
Although we still have a few late frosts here Spring has arrived and we can now look forward to warmer weather and I suppose a month or so of mud. However, we are well enough provided for and neither the cold nor the mud causes us much inconvenience. I have not acome accross Gordon McDonald for some time but he is no doubt still going strong. Gwen is lucky to be able to stop at home for another year or so. Hope she did well with her exams.
It seems a lot of rot that they should be talking of strikes in NZ just now. They should send them out here, or send a few of us back with a gun to fix them.
A lot of the gift parcels have just arrived and for the past week we have been living on plum pudding, cakes and chocolate all of which were nonetheless acceptable for being a couple of months late.
Well I trust this finds you all in good health and spirits.
Love to all, your affectionate son, Rawei

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ismailia 28/2/16

Dear Mother
I received your letters and was glad to learn that you were all enjoying yourselves in Wellington. The photos that Bob sent were very good. I enclose here a couple of snaps that we took when we were in isolation they are not very good I have some better ones which I will send later. In a few days I a going to Zeitoun along with others of the Machine Gun Section to the School of Instruction there for three weeks instruction on the machine gun. That will make a change from the eternal tramping on the sand here. I see Gordon McDonald often he is looking very fit as also are Linus and Cecil Walker.
Well there is not much I can say I will write again soon. We have plenty of work plenty to eat and are all very fit.
Love to all, Rawei

Note: There is some more information about WWI machine gunners here.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Moasca Camp, Ismailia, 14 Feby 1916

Dear Mother,
I have been having a fairly easy time for the past week one of our chaps caught the mumps and the rest of the tent, six of us, have been in isolation for seven days. We have nothing to do in the way of parades and put in the day reading and writing.
Last time I was isolated was at Lemnos when about forty of us were put in isolation and inoculated against diphtheria. There doesn't seem to have been anything discovered as a preventative against mumps so that we have been spared an inoculation this time.
Under separate cover I am sending a scarf. It is suppposed to be Egyptian crochet work and of silk. I am a poor judge of such things and do not know if it is worth much. There is not much opportunity to buy anything here.
My address is now,
Machine Gun Section
Canty. Inf. Batn.
and letters so addressed will reach me quicker than those addressed 2nd Coy although they all get here ultimately.
Well I trust you are all in good health best regards to all your affectionate son,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ismailia, Egypt 15/1/16

Dear Mother,
I sent a cable last week to say I was all serene. We are camped about two miles out in the desert on the bank of a fresh water canal which runs back from the town and eventually meets the Nile somewhere about Cairo.
I received your parcel of underclothing all right. It arrived at a most opportune time as we had brought no clothing off the Peninsula with us. Since then we have had a lot of gift stuff given to us and now we have a plentiful supply of socks writing paper chocolate etc.
The Sevenths and some of the Eighths arrived last week. Gordon seems to be in good trim. I saw Will Schaumann and Thomson the other day too, they seemed to be fit. The old hands are getting a few days leave in Port Said five percent at a time. I hope to be able to go soon. I am buying a vest pocket camera and intend to carry it with me in future I often wished I had one on the peninsula. The weather here is fairly warm at present but the heat is not yet oppressive though it is becoming warmer daily.
Love to all, your affectionate son, Rawei
[From Rawei's photo album, labeled "Catholic Church, Ismailia".]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Egypt, 4/1/16 (No. 2)

Dear Dad,
I wrote you in a separate letter today. Things have been happening during the last fortnight.
Three weeks ago today we were in the trenches wondering if there was anything in the evacuation rumours. By 3 a.m. on Monday the 20th every man was off the Peninsula.
Our Gun Section left on the last night one gun was amongst the last party to leave. Everything went off without a hitch. Someone will no doubt be decorated for engineering the movement. To withdraw about forty thousand men from about a twelve mile front was a ticklish job and it was nothing short of a miracle that allowed us to get away without Jacko suspecting anything. We learnt on arrival at Lemnos that preparation had been made there to receive from ten to fifteen thousand wounded. Our casualties on the last night were three wounded- it took five nights to effect the evacuation nothing can be done on the beach during the day. When we first learnt that the evacuation was a certainty we were at first incredulous and afterwards a bit downhearted most of the older hands would rather have gone through another advance it seemed hard to withdraw after all that had been done there. However we soon came to understand that it must be for the best and everybody entered into the spirit of the thing and put in their spare time preparing surprises for Jacko when he came over. Devices, some worked by candles some by drips of water were rigged up to fire old and broken rifles hours after the last man had left the trenches. Bombs which explode on a spring being released are in all sorts of odd places. Altogether the first party of Turks that came over were due to have a few casualties. About the second day of the evacuation our men on Walkers Ridge stopped firing for about three hours. Jacko became curious and sent over some armed parties to see what was wrong. They all got wiped out. On another occasion we stopped fire on the whole front for 48 hours. This seemed to puzzle the Turk and we were sorely tempted to let fly when Jacko's curiosity bid him to show his head and shoulders over his trench. We were then in hopes that he  would attack but he was not to be drawn.
On our arrival at Lemnos we recieved a big mail and all hands ate a good deal more cake than was good for them. We made up for this on our trip to Alexandria however when we lived on Bully & Biscuits and had to wear lifebelts night and day as they feared submarines. We are now in Egypt and are soon to be joined by the sevenths and eighths so that I should see Gorden in a day or two. I have receieved a good many parcels so far all in good condition the parcel of clothing arrived today.
Love to all
Your affectionate son,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Canty Machine Gun Section, Canty Infty Batn, Egypt 4/1/16 (No. 1)

Dear Father,
I enclose a letter which I wrote from Gallipoli after our advance in August. It came back to me again in Lemnos about 24th Dec having been missorted in Alexandria. How many more letters have gone astray I don't know but I have often thought that I all that I have written did not reach you.
With regard my leave from the Bank I applied in October for an extension from 6th Jan to 6th July and have a note to apply for a further six months before July.
I am writing at greater length by the same mail as this.
Trusting that all is well with you at Alexandra.
With love to all,
Your affectionate son,

In future I will No my letters this is No. 1.

[Note: The brochure shown below was included in with Grandad's letters, and accompanied  parcels from New Zealand for the Christmas of 1915. If you are having trouble reading the writing, it says "One of these was enclosed with each of the parcels we received from the people of Canterbury".]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cheshire Ridge, Anzac, Gallipoli, 9/12/15

Dear Bob,
We have been back here from Lemnos now for about five weeks and expect any day to find ourselves in the middle of winter. We had a fall of snow a week ago which made things very disagreable for a day or two and which sent a good number away frostbitten.
I recieved your parcel of butterscotch a week ago it was very welcome and did not last long I can tell you. I noticed that although it was posted in Wellington it bore an address in Mother's writing so presume she has been paying you another visit.
The weather just now is quite mild again and it is hard to imagine that only a week ago we were stamping round in an attempt to keep the ciruculation going. Waterproof capes have been provided for those men actually in the trenches and we are promised gumboots so that the next fall of snow should not inconvenience us a great deal.
Our tunnels for which we are digging for winter quarters and as protection from high explosives will soon be finished so that we will be fairly comfortable by Xmas at the latest. To get underground is the only real refuge from the cold winds that we sometimes have here.
There is a big mail in and we are all eagerly waiting for it to be sorted.
I trust you are all in good health again and that Neil and Marjory are quite recovered. Tell Elsie that I received a parcel that other day that had broken open in the post. All that reached me was a big woollen scarf and one mitten tied up with a bit of string with a label attached. The label bore a Maori Hill postmark so that I presume the parcel was from the McNicols. The scarf was very handy on the cold nights we had.
The position we are in now is about the softest one we have been in yet although it is at the same time one of the most interesting. The Turks are about 300 yards away. There is a steep scrub covered gully inbetween and we have to keep a sharp lookout. We have a fine view of all the country from Anafarta to the Salt Lake and behind us to Imbros and Samothrace, our trench being about 500 feet from the top of '971' or Chanuk Bahr [sic] so it is variously called (the maps in the papers mark it '974').
Well I must not say to much or I will offend the censor.
I will close with best Regards to Elsie and yourself, Marjory and Neil.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cheshire Ridge, Anzac, Gallipoli 8/12/15

Dear Dad,
We have now been back from Lemnos about five weeks and thanks mainly to the cold weather we are as fit as ever yet. Last week a couple of inches of snow fell and we had our first  taste of a Gallipoli winter. If it was a fair sample we are in for a rough time. The cold wind which came after the snow and blew it about was the worst part of it and the only really warm spots were underground in the tunnels we are digging for winter quarters and for protection against high explosives. The trenches soon got muddy and things became wet and afterwards froze hard so that it is not surprising that a number went away frost bitten. We have since had waterproof capes issued and hope to all have gumboots soon so that we will not dread the next fall so much. Just now the weather is mild again and the nights warm and except for the few nights the snow was on the ground we have not had any frosts although we are 600 to 900 feet above the sea. The Salt Lake which was dry all summer is now full of water and the flat land around it must be very wet so that although we do have a few cold winds up here our position on the hill tops is the more comfortable one of the two.
There is a big mail in for us and we are all waiting for it to be sorted. So far I have received two Witnesses and am waiting for some letters to come to light.
The post we are on now is a fairly interesting one we are about 300 yds away from "Jacko's" nearest trench and the Gully in between is covered with thick scrub. We have patrols out every night and have to keep a fairly sharp look out but on the whole it is the softest job we have had as yet.
From what I gather  from your letters it would seem that some of my letters have never reached you, whether they have gone down or have not been passed by the sensor will I suppose always be a mystery. We have a good view of anything that is going on from our position here. Some of the shellings our warships and batteries give the Turks are terrific.
The Turks use their field guns (75s, etc) with some effect but do not seem to have the quantity of high explosives that we have.
Well there is not much that I can write so I will close with Best Regards to all.
Your affectionate son, Rawei

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cheshire Ridge, Gallipoli, 22/11/15

Dear Mother,
It is now dark about six o'clock and I am writing this in our bivouac by the light of a lamp we have rigged up out of a two ounce tobacco tin, a bit of string and some bacon fat. It is not a bad light though hardly one candle power.
The weather is turning cold here now and we get a sprinkling of rain sometimes. We are fairly comfortable where we are now and are busy tunnelling into the hill digging our winter quarters which will be in galleries well undergound. Orders are that everyman is to be fifiteen feet undergound before the cold weather sets in we ought to be warm enough down that far.
We are being fed fairly well now. The Machine Gun Section has a cook of its own. Our Bill of Fare runs something like this.
Breakfast: Bacon, tea, bread or biscuits
Dinner: Tea, rice and a tin of bully beef if you feel like it.
Tea: Tea and stew (bully beef, rice, dried vegetables).
Sometimes we get fresh meat our supply of this depends on the weather. Often it is too rough to land stores, then we go short of fresh meat and bread. Besides this we have sugar, jam, milk issued daily and at present we have any amount of raisins. We are only waiting for an issue of flour to try our hands at a plumduff.
We are back here in much the same position as that we left when we went away for our spell and as far as I can see are likely to be here for the winter.
I received your letter in which you asked me to wire about the warm clothing. Cabling from here means writing to someone in Alexandria and enclosing the money and asking them to send it. For the present I am fairly well off for clothing and if it becomes very cold one can always put on his change of clothing besides what he wears ordinarily. That would mean a little more time spent in the daily hunt for lice and fleas. The trenches and bivouacs are all infested with these vermin and all one can do is try and keep their numbers down.
Both an outgoing and incoming mail were sunk last week; but taking it all through we do not lose much mail in that way.
I hope this finds you all in good health. I am at present in good health and spirits and now that the flies and dust have gone should be able to keep fit.
With love to all,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gallipoli, 14/11/15

Dear Dad,
Here we are back into it again feeling much fitter after our spell. Winter is coming on us here and we are having fairly cold nights with winds but little rain. Except when we are in the trenches at night the cold will not trouble us much as we have very comfortable dugouts to live in and are well supplied as to food and clothing for the winter.
From our gun posse we have a fine fiew of the country towards Suvla Bay from Anafarta on the right to the island of Samothrace which lies out at sea benind us. The gun I am on at present is only mounted at night otherwise the Turks would spot us and shell us out of it, so that I have time to do a bit of writing in the day time.
I don't know whether you have ever received a letter that was written under fire before. This one was, at any rate the first part of it. I am sitting down on the bottom of the gun pit Jacko is putting over shrapnell and bursting it round about us we get the smoke blown down to us. It has a peculiar resiny smell. If I ever get through this the smell of burning resin will always recall the bombs and shells of Gallipoli to me.
I am finishing this in our bivy. There is not much I can write of. From here too we get a great view, we look towards the sea and have all the country towards Suvla Bay at our feet. The hill we are on is variously known as [censored] we are about 3/4 way to the top our top trench is known as the Apex we are a little to the left on "Cheshire Ridge" and have a good view of the shipping the beach etc.
With best regards to all,
Your affectionate son,

[The postcard below is annotated "ANZAC Cove Gallipoli" on the front, and it's blank on the other side. It's in the pile of Grandad's letters, but I'm not sure where it fits in- that is, whether it was Grandad's or whether it was obtained later from somewhere else.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mudros, Lemnos, 6/11/15

Dear Dad,
We are still at Lemnos our months spell has dragged out to two months and the sixths who have now been with us for five weeks or so are becoming impatient. Even the old hands for whom the Peninsula has no great attractions are growing tired of the inaction and don't care how soon they get back into it.
As for myself, I am beginning to grow fat here. We are fed fairly well we are issued with bread and fresh meat daily and have cooks to prepare our meals for us. Sometimes they open their hearts and issue a pint of beer or stout per man. I have joined the machine gun section here and find the work very interesting- a machine gun man is supposed to know all about rangefinding, field sketching, etc, and to have a working knowledge of signalling besides the actual working of his gun. Some fifty percents of us are new hands so that you will see we have had any amount to do in our spare time here.
We hear very little of events outside our own corner and we look to the papers we receive from NZ for our information. The Witnesses you send reach me alright and are very welcome. Mother in her letter asks if it is any use sending clothing. Thanks to the efforts of the good people in NZ we have socks shirts etc. to burn and are in this respect very well off. An occasional pair of socks or handkerchief does not go amiss however and anything in the way of eatables is welcome particularly on the peninsula where such things are not procurable.
The old town seems to be going ahead fast and I am looking forward to the time when we return which we should be able to do in another year though Gen. Godly gives us three years before it will be all fixed up.
Trusting you are all in good health with love to all, your affectionate son,

Note. The words beer and stout really were underlined in his letter. Now there's a man after my own heart.

Below are some photos from Grandad's photo album. First, the photo of the machine gunners and the caption as he wrote it.
Then, the same photo after it was cropped, enlarged, and sharpened. I still can't tell which one is him.
The photo below had no caption, so I don't know where it was taken. However, it was on the same page as the photo I showed earlier, with the soldiers in the cattle car heading to Cairo. I'm guessing it must be either Egypt or Lemnos, as photos of the active positions were so rare (and completely forbidden).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gallipoli, 22 August, 1915

Dear Father,
Just a line to let you know that I am still going strong. Ere you receive this you will know all about the last fourteen days or so here. I have come through without a scratch so far. The doctor tells me I have jaundice but we are down for a few days spell and I hope to have got over that before we move again. We had a bit of hard luck with our last mail a barge overturned and dropped it. I have had no letters for over a month. Stanley as to whose fate I have been some doubt was killed here in an advance on the 2nd May so Stan Green informs me.
We get very little news here and NZ papers are rushed when a mail arrives.
I trust you are all well up there and that things on the "farm" are prospering.
There is a great deal here to write about but little that one can say that would pass the censor.
With best regards to all,
Your affectionate son,

6/1917 Pvt. D.R. McLean
2nd Sth Canty Coy.
Canty Infty. Batn.
NZ Expedy Force

Censored O.V. Stead Lieut

PS. The Lieutenant who censored this has since died as a result of his experiences in August. He was the only the 2nd Coy Officer not wounded.

Note. There are some details about the censor, O.V. Stead, including his photo, here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dardanelles, 29 June 1915 (Gallipoli)

2nd Canty Regt
Canty Infantry Batallion
NZ Expedy Force
29th June 1915

Dear Father,
I suppose there is not much that I can write that will pass the censor's hands but I have been lucky enough to acquire a piece of paper and envelope and might as well use them.
We are now down in what is known as "Rest Gully" and we are supposed to be having a spell after eight days in the trenches. In reality we look forward to going back to the trenches for a spell as we are no sooner down here than they have us on some fatigue work or another, at present it is road making.
However, our officers do all they can for us and with it all we are not badly treated. The land we occupy here consists for the most part of deep narrow gulleys whose shingly and almost precipitous sides are covered for the most part with a prickly shrub not unlike a small holly. We live here in bivys (bivouacs) dug into the side of the hill: two or three men to each bivy. The enemy have been paying a little too much attention to our gully lately and a good bit of spare time has been put in deepening bivys. We thought it wise to vacate the one we were in altogether and have just finished digging another in what we hope will prove a more secluded spot.
We are fairly wise in the ways of bullets and shrapnel and have a rough idea when we are safe from them but bombs have an uncanny way of dropping in apparently from nowhere. The correct thing to do is to throw an overcoat over them and then lie down or get round a corner somewhere if there is time. Last Wednesday when we were in the [censored] a bomb landed between the chap on my left and myself. I dived for the corner but was not quite quick enough and got a piece in the back of my head. It pulled up against the bone and inflicted only a slight wound which does not prevent me from carrying on. There is some consolation in having a thick head after all.
Your letter of the 4th May arrrived last week it is the first I have recieved since leaving NZ. I saw the photos of the Otago teachers in the witness and noticed that you did not have flannels on like the rest. It is a good thing your influenza did not prove serious.
In common with the other N.C.O's of the Fourth's I revert to the ranks as from the date we joined the main force.
Trusting you are all in good health. With kindest regards to all, your affectionate son,

C. Cribb.**

*Do you ever wonder what censoring actually looks like? Surprisingly low-tech. The offending parts were scribbled out with a black pencil (see below- click the photo to enlarge).

** There is a page on about C. Cribb, the person who censored this letter, here. There are also some details about his fate in the The Auckland Weekly News, August, 1915. The relevant parts are as follows:

CRIBB, Major C W E, who has been wounded, was second in command of the 13th North Canterbury and Westland, Company. When Major David Grant was killed in action on April 25 Captain Cribb was promoted to the rank of major and given that officer’s command, the 2nd South Canterbury Infantry Co. Major Cribb served in the South African war, for which he holds the Queen’s Medal with four clasps and the King’s Medal with two clasps. At the time of the outbreak of the war he was in the Postal Dept at Greymouth. [AWN 19.08.1915] P.21

CRIBB, Major C W E, Canterbury Infantry, who has died of wounds, was a Greymouth resident and left exactly 12 months ago in command of the first West Coast contingent, which he helped to mobilize. He had seen service in the Boer war and had spent his lifetime in the defence forces and held two long service medals. Altogether he was over 25 years in the NZ forces. He was a senior mail clerk at Greymouth, and was a native of Blenheim. He was 44 yrs of age. [AWN 19.08.1915] P.21

[Although Max didn't go into his activities over the past few weeks, there is some information about what the New Zealand Infantry and Canterbury Regiment were up to here.]

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lemos [sic], 2/6/15

[Note- what a nice coincidence- This blog post is written 96 years to the day after the original letter was written. I love it when things like that happen]

Dear Father,
We have been lying here since yesterday morning and expect to leave for the front tomorrow afternoon. We made a two days trip from Alexandria and had fine weather all the way. As far as we know we made the trip without escort, but early in the voyage we mounted a submarine guard of armed men. This seems to be a pleasant little island, fertile and with a good climate. In the harbour there are up to a hundred vessels of all kinds. Warships, transports, hospital ships for the most part. We had a great reception from the Jack tars as we steamed in yesterday. We brought a few Frenchmen out from Alexandria with us but we dropped them tonight as we did also the Engineers who transhipped into a smaller ship and left for the Dardanelles under cover of the dark. It is likely that we will depart in the same boat tomorrow night. It is only a five hours run. These boats are painted grey and carry a few light guns. They leave here just before sunset and run their cargo of men accross, effect a landing, and are back for more next morning. They bear the marks of shrapnell and rifle fire but usually go through without much loss. The 'Mauretania' is in harbour here as was also the 'Carmania' (the boat the sunk the 'Cape Trafalgar')- she sailed out today. Two fresh troopships came in today, one with a lot of Indian trips the other with a lot of Scotchmen from home.

Lemos [sic] 3/6/15

There is a mail going ahsore, this is porbably the last opportunity that we will have before we go forward. We will have a chance of doing a bit soon, some of us will come out of it all right, we will all do our best.
Love to all, Rawei

Thursday, May 27, 2010

[Pause for photos]

At this point I will pause from writing out Grandad's letters to show you some photos. These two photos are from Grandad's (D.R. McLean's) photo album. I've enlarged, sharpened, and cropped both of them to make the subjects more easy to see, as the old photos are very small, and are faded after all this time. Neither of the photos have dates, but they have captions that give some context.

In the photo album, the photo below is captioned in Grandad's neat handwriting, "Off to Cairo", so I assume this was either when they disembarked from their troopship, or when they left Zeitoun after their brief training camp. I must say I find the sight of soldiers sitting in cattle cars very poignant, it certainly gives a clearer mental picture of what Grandad meant when he wrote "We went by train".
The one below was captioned, 'A Native Funeral - Zeitoun'. At this point in proceedings, before any real fighting, this whole escapade must have felt like the big OE for these young men. This photo reminds me of that, his fascination for a different culture- it almost feels like a holiday snapshot.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Zeitoun, 26/5/15

[Continued from last letter]

I am continuing this somewhat disjointed epistle from camp. We dropped anchor at Suez about eight o'clock on Tuesday morning but our Company did not disembark until about 6 pm. 'B' Coy had gone on by an earlier train. We left at about 6.40 and arrived at Cairo at 1 o'clock and here at 2.30 am. The Country at the Suez end is desert, but as we came higher up canals and water races became thicker and the ground cultivated. Our camp here at Zeitoun is right on the edge of the desert, nothing but sand. The heat is intense- the Red Sea was nothing to it. The parade timetable has been modified to suit the climate now that the summer is coming on. Reveille blows at 5 am, morning coffee at 5.30, parade 6 to 9, breakfast 9.15, indoor parade 10.30 to 1, then dinner and parade 4.30 to 6 pm, lights out 10.15.
We will not be here long about 10 days we think when we will go on to the Dardenelles to join the Main Force. The New Zealanders who are working in with the Australians have lost heavily but have been doing great work. We hear some great tales of their doings there. It is likely that when we go forward we will join our various regiments in that case my address will be 2nd Canty Infantry Regt but I will advise you further as to that. We have not quite found our feet yet here but the natives appear for the most part to be a dirty lot. Well, I will post this now.
Best love to all,

29th May, Saturday

We have now been here four days and the heat has been terrific, 118* in the shade on Thursday, the local papers are commenting on the heat. The evenings and mornings are cool however and one lies low for the few hours at midday.
I have not been able to see much of the country yet and as we will be leaving earlier than was expected (tomorrow morning at 6 am) it is not likely hat I will see a great deal yet awhile.
We have done a little drill here on the desert the dust is fearfull.

[* 118 F is 47.8 degrees Celsius]

Note: There is some interesting information about the camp at Zeitoun, and some photos at the Digger History website, here:

Here is a map of the Zeitoun camps, just for interest.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Red Sea, Sunday, 23/5/15

Dear Mother,

Here we are halfway through the Red Sea passing the Something or other Archipellago and having a fairly enjoyable time of it, notwithstanding the heat. We left Aden on Friday afternoon, we did not actually enter the port but stood off about three miles from the town which is built on a spur of land that juts out into the sea and appears to consist largely of red roofed barracks. Behind the town the hills rise up precipitously to a great height just like they do in the gorge below Alexandra except that the hills are more rugged, higher, and if possible more barren looking than those you have there. Thre rock formation looks to be similar. The sailors tell us that at Aden they condesnse their water from the sea and one can quite believe it as what level country there is, is white sand.
The number of ships we have passed since leaving Aden has been an eye opener to most of us. About nine tenths of them are British and carry no name just a number but yesterday a Dutch boat passed with its name painted in big letters right along the side.
Yesterday we passed the Twelve Apostles, a group of small islands absolutely devoid of vegetation but with three big lighthouses on them. Long before we sighted land when we were approaching Africa from the Indian Ocean we noticed dead locusts floating on the water, later on a fair number flew aboard, big yellow fellows as long as one's finger. Here in the Red Sea the water was for a couple of days covered with a thin coating of dust even when we were out of sight of land, the result of a dust storm the sailors say. As far as the heat goes it is not anything alarming, one is in a constant state of perspiration and its not wise to stop in the sun but we have had some sort of a breeze with us all the time and at night it is cool eough to sleep comfortably. My advice to anyone coming out is bring their woollen underclothing and to bring pyjamas. The thick singlets and shirts are no good here. I had one thin singlet and have been able to buy one on board. We wear nothing but a thick shirt or undershirt and our denim trousers and more often than not we discard one or other of them when not on parade. Orders are out that boots are to be worn between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily and that all buttons are to be kept clean so that it is highly likely that we will disembark at Suez and go by rail to Cairo. We have been picking up scraps of war news and are rather anxious to know what losses there are amongst our main body, that is, if they were in the fighting the other day. One message we got said that there were 10,000 casualties amongst colonials at the Dardenelles.
The oustsanding feature of our voyage so far has been the been the weather except for about two days we have had absolutely perfect weather and today the sea is as calm as it could well be and there is just enough breeze to counteract the effects of the sun which is pretty hot if one stands out in it.

Monday. Land on both sides tonight, expect to reach Suez tonight and will probably disembark tomorrow and proceed straight to Cairo by train. Nothing definite is known yet and we would just as soon go through the canal to Alexandria while we are about it. The land on both sides is very mountainous and on the African side at any rate is quite bare and very rough.

(To be continued)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

S. S. Willochra, Thursday, 20/5/15

Dear Father,
We are now in the Gulf of Aden after a three weeks trip from Albany. My platoon along with 'b' Company is on fatigue and as they have not found a job for me I am taking the opportunity to scribble a line. The mail for N.Z. closes at 11.30 am.
It will be three weeks tomorrow since we left Albany and until yesterday we had seen sight of neither land nor ship during that time. Yesterday morning we found land on our port side very indistinct owing to the haze but as far as could be seen bare and mountainous, the N.E. corner of Africa just at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden. During the day we passed over a dozen vessels. Passenger boats, what appeared to be marine dhows with one big white sail, and two warships. From one of other of these we got our first war news for three weeks, satisfactory most of it except for the sinking of the Lusitania.
The trip from Australia has been very uneventful, drill every day. We had the usual ceremony when crossing the line when every body from the O.C. down that Neptune could lay hands on paid tribute in the time honored manner.
The only cause for complaint we have had so far has been the meat. It was fairly bad until the doctor stepped in and made them dump a ton or so of it. That however does not affect me so much now as from the first of the month I rank as sergeant and we have a separate mess, put in 2/6 a week and have a good many extras for it. The promotion means another 1/- a day and no more work for it than I have been used to doing.
Flying fish have been plentiful here, little fellows for the most part that fly out of the water and drop back with a splash after fifity yards or so. The length of their flight surprises me, the bigger ones that we have run into during the last two days skim along for a good hundred yards. Whales and the dolphins that jump up after the flying fish we have seen in fair numbers. We only want a few water spouts now and we will think we have seen the whole box of tricks.
It is expected that we will be in Aden at midday but we do not expect to stop longer than to drop off a mail and pick up orders.
The weather as is only natural has been very warm one is in a constant state of perspiration though it has not yet been as hot as we expect to get it.
At Albany we were ashore for a route march on the Thursday morning and in the afternoon we were allowed ashore for couple of hours. It is a very sleepy little town but would not be a bad place to put in a couple of months.
It is now about mail time so I will finish this off and will send a card from Aden if we are ashore at all.
With love to all,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

S. S. Willochra, Sunday, 25/4/15

Dear Father,
I wrote a note to mother the other day in the hopes that it would go ashore at Hobart. However, no mail was allowed to go ashore there- we were only in port for half an hour-1.45 AM until 2.15 AM- so that you will recieve this about the same time.
We are now on our way to Albany which port we expect to reach about next Wednesday. About nine o'clock on Thursday last we raised a lighthouse- our first land since leaving New Zealand- and by about five on Friday afternoon we had lost sight of the last bit of Tasmania. So that you will see that our visit to Tasmanian waters was of the shortest.
The Knight Templar picked us up again on Friday morning and we have been travelling in company ever since. About then we ran into some rain, the first we had yet struck, and have had it fairly cold ever since. We have seen nothing of the Waitomo since leaving Cook Strait and as we are now doing about 12 knots don't expect to see her until we reach Albany.


We have had a fairly heavy swell for the past few days and our boat has been living up to her reputation as a roller. The motion of the shop has not upset me however, and except that I roll about in bunk at night I don't mind it.
It is thought likely that we will reach Albany at four o'clock tomorrow morning and as the mail closes an hour after reaching port I will have to post this tonight. Our orders for parade tomorrow are for putties and boots so that is likely we will go ashore for a route march. The usual dress for the five hours drill a day we put in is denims and bare feet and and pretty cold we find it sometimes.
They vaccinated our Company today so that by this time next week we can expect to be having some fun. It is generally understood here that  our destination is Egypt and that the next lot to leave N.Z. will be another Main Body. About six of our officers go back from here to join it. Well I must close for the present.
With love to all,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

H.M.N.Z. Troopship No. 21, Thursday 22nd April, (19)15

Dear Mother,
You would no doubt be surprised to find we had gone when you looked out on Sunday morning. I certainly was to see that were half through the straits when I woke up at Reveille. The weather was then perfect and has been so ever since. I started work early being put on guard at 10 a.m. on Sunday. I soon became sea-sick, however, so my spell of guard duty to not last long and I got some one to relieve me at 6 that night.
The Waitomo left us before we were out of the straits and we have not come across her again. We believe she called in at Nelson for fodder, and as she is a slow old tub we don’t expect to see her until our next port of call.
We have not been told anything about our next port of call and a guard is placed over all communications but until last night it was popularly believed we that we were heading for Albany. About 11, however, they called for volunteers for the stokehold and we increased our nine or ten miles an hour to about fifteen. When we came out deck this morning, we found that we were travelling alone, the Knight Templar being far behind where a black smudge showed on the horizon.
Rumor gives several reasons for the alteration. The most feasible seems to be that one of the men managed to break and swallow his false teeth and that nothing but a serious operation will save him, hence the increased speed and the alteration to the nearest port of call.
It has just been announced that that there will be a New Zealand mail tomorrow, so I must write a few letters. Hobart, I suppose. The weather could not have been better if we had ordered it. Our ship rolls a bit to the swell, but the Knight Templar which has been all along about a mile behind us appears to roll much more. She is not very deep in the water while we are well over the water line. On Tuesday she drew up with us and signaled three cases of measles and we have seen several horses dropped overboard.
My berth is in the saloon smoking room up on the promenade deck. We have easily the best quarters on board. I have two big ports just at my head. I am not a very good sailor, though I think I have found my feet at last. Yesterday was the first day I was not sick at all and today again I feel all right. The food we have here is better than that we had in camp and so far I have missed only the one meal. Well, I will post this now and may write again if we are long enough in port.
With best love to all

Monday, May 3, 2010

Postcard of D.R. McLean's Company

Dear Gwen, This is a group we had taken the other day. Perhaps you can recognise your brother in it. We are having fine weather and think that we may have a trip to Wellington to see the 3rds off this week. Love to all, Rawei

Notes: My mum (Max's youngest daughter, Jennifer) thinks that he is the tall one in the middle of the back row, 7th from the right (he was 6 feet tall). You can click the photo to enlarge it on your screen.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Waimate, 12 August, 1914

Dear Father,
I have enlisted for Service in the Expeditionary Force, but do not know as yet whether I have been accepted. I go to Timaru on Friday for medical examination and will wire you if I am accepted and write full particulars. I will probably know by the time you receive this. There are some sixty enlisting from Waimate. Major Wain has been appointed second in command of the Sth Canterbury forces.
Until Friday. Best Regards to all.
Your affectionate son,

Notes: Max was working as a banker in Waimate. England officially declared war against Germany on 3 August, 1914, so he enlisted as soon as enlistments began. He was 22 years old at the time.