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November 23, 1915.
TO HIS MOTHER.
I strained a muscle in my leg at football yesterday and consequently can’t put my foot to the ground at all to-day. It is a great nuisance as I’m afraid it will prevent my going on our little trek into the desert, which will probably come off next Monday.
The news of the fight at Suliman Pak came through yesterday morning and we had a holiday on spec, and a salute of twenty-one guns was ordered to be fired. The first effort at 8 a.m. was a ludicrous fiasco. The Volunteer Artillery, having no ‘blank,’ loaded the guns with charges of plain cordite. The result was that as each round was fired it made about as much noise as a shot-gun, and the packet of cordite would hop out of the barrel and burn peacefully on the ground ten yards away, like a Bengal match. Gorringe arrived in the middle in a fine rage, and stopped the show. I took a snapshot of him doing so which I hope will come out. He then ordered the salute to be fired at noon with live shell. This was quite entertaining. They ranged on the flood-land where we go after the geese, 3,700 yards: and it took the shells about ten seconds to get there. There were some Arab shepherds with their flocks between us and the water, and they didn’t appear to enjoy it. They “scorned the sandy Libyan plain as one who wants to catch a train.”
Thursday. As luck would have it, orders came round at 1 p.m. yesterday for half the Battalion (including A. Coy.) to move up-stream at once: and after an afternoon and evening of many flusters and changes of plan, they have just gone off this morning. My wretched leg prevents my going with them: but it is much better to-day and I hope to be able to go by the next boat. Destination is unknown but it can only be Kut or Baghdad: and I infer the latter from the facts (1) that Headquarters (C.O., Adjt. Q.M. etc.) have gone, which means that the other half Battalion is likely to follow shortly: and (2) that they won’t want a whole Battalion at Kut. The scale of garrison out here is about as follows. Towns under 5,000 one Coy. or nothing, 5,000-10,000 two Coys. Over 10,000 a (nominal) Battalion: bar Basra where there are only three men and one boy. Baghdad being about 150,000 may reasonably require two Brigades or a Division. We haven’t heard yet whether we’ve got Baghdad. They may even have more fighting to do, though most people don’t think so.
I will try to cable before I go up.
The M.O. says I have slightly overstretched my calf-muscles. I jumped rather high at a bouncing ball while I was running: and I came down somehow with my left leg stuck out in such a way that the knee was bent the wrong way: and so overstretched the muscles at the back of the calf. But I can already walk with two sticks, and hope to be able to get on a boat in two or three days time. A week on the boat will give it a further rest.