Saturday, 7 February 2015

'Tell them I have not kicked the bucket yet!'

Jim Swasbrick:
desperate to get
to the fighting
Continuing from my previous post, here are some more letters written by Jim Swasbrick, the WW1 Aussie soldier who was desperate to join the fighting but, to his frustration, was stuck in the relative calm of Egypt for much of 1915 and 1916. When he wrote to his sister in October 1915, he was full of disappointment having just been pulled out of a draft that was about to leave Alexandria for Gallipoli. The reason? Jim's experience with horses was too badly needed where he was - he served as a driver with the 1st Light Horse Brigade, AIF. As if this wasn't enough, his mood was darkened further by the miserable army food rations, lack of money, and biscuits so hard they had broken his teeth...

17 October 1915

Dear Maggie
I am sending you some Xmas cards today. They are the only thing that l can afford to buy at present and l hope you receive them safely. Well Maggie l am very sorry to say l have not received the tobacco that you and Mary sent to me, it is the hardest thing in the war to get what is sent to you. The heads don't seem to care about complaints made through the papers every day but we can't get anything done for us, we can't even get butter or jam to eat now, we are on starvation rations, so l don’t know how they are going to keep us fit for fighting if they won't give us enough food to eat in this rotten hole.

Things are very quiet over hear [sic] now, nothing doing at all. It broke me up when l got stopped at Alexandera [sic] so l don’t care what becomes of me now. I thought l was right for the Dardenelles but a wire was sent to stop me there, so l have give up now, l don’t care if l never get there now. I toled [sic] the general he could  send me back home if he liked but he would not do that. I have been fourteen month in the army and l haven’t a mark on my crime sheet yet. But it won't be my fault if l haven’t got it full of crimes before another twelve month is over my head, while a man has got a good carictor [sic] he will never get away from hear. So l will see if l can get away by [making] a dam fool of myself.

I have not been too well lately but l am on the mend again. It is coming on winter again and their [sic] is sort of sickness going about especily Mederterrian [sic] Fever, it is very bad, l have missed it so far. I hope you won't delay in sending me some money for Xmas Maggie or l will have a starvation day. I had a good dinner last year but l had plenty of money then.
With fondest love to you all. Wishing you a merry Xmas and a happy New Year.

28 January 1916

Dear Maggie
Just a few lines to let you no [sic] l am still alive and going strong. l wish l was on my way home instead of this letter, we are having a good time hear [sic] now as there is not much doing except the carting of fodder for the horse and that only takes half a day. There was a sports meeting ... today but l did not go down, l am getting too lazy to lace my boots up now, l will be too lazy to work any more after this [is] over. And l don’t think it will be very long, this spring will see the finish of it or l am a bad judge of war, [the] fighting is all in our favour.

Well Maggie l have got to ask you to send me another £10 if you will by cable as l have broken four of my teeth off eating those dam [sic] hard biscuits, false teeth is no good for them. I tried to get them from the milatry [sic] but they have that many to do since they [fellow Anzac troops] came back from Garlopoli [sic] that it would be months before l could get them, but they told me if l got them done privatly [sic] they would refund the money.

I hope you got the cusion [sic] cover l sent to you, I sent one for each of you [his sisters]. They were not much but l will take some nice pieces when going back, it is not worth chancing with dear stuff as it might go the same way as your parcel went. Well dear Sister l will close for this time, hoping it find you in as good a health as it leaves me. Remember me to all around home, tell them l have not kicked the bucket yet.

Jim couldn't wait to join his
fellow Anzacs at Gallipoli

NEXT POST: Jim's finally off to the Western Front

(Copyright © 2015 Jacqueline Wadsworth / Richard Crispin)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Pauleen - cd you re-send your comment? I'm afraid I deleted it accidentally before I had time to read it!