[Editor: A short story published in Aussie: The Australian Soldiers’ Magazine, no. 2, 16 February 1918.]
The Hump on the Dump.
The sizzling sound of snowflakes sliding down the stove pipe reminded one vividly of far away eggs and bacon days. Through the sandbag wall came the familiar liquid gurgle of the melted snow trickling over the edge of the stove-heated oil sheet. Sweet, silvery music indeed, and seemingly a silvery note of hope in the Hell’s own orchestra that filled the world outside with a rolling rumble like ten-thousand concentrated Queensland thunderstorms, morse coded, plus the roar of a million whirling machines competing for top note, with a like number of Toowoomba foundries in full blast. “Aussie and the Girl” was the burden of my meditation, and I had started to live over again for the umpteenth time that moon-witnessed parting at the old sliprails, when in blew Bill. Tripping over an empty petrol tin, he recovered and jerked himself on to his trotters with a hoarse-throated, “Thank Gord, at last!” Mud-encased to his middle, snow-powdered from there up, right mit sling supported, tin hat at a steep angle over his right eyebrow, gaspirator “at the “alert” — it was hard to recognise in him the race-day “Dag” who, in pre-war days, used to swing the bag on country courses back South in the Land o’ Sun.
The joy-juice jar had got bogged or mislaid somewhere back in the wagon lines, and Bill’s customary cheerfulness had evaporated with the loss of prospects of improvement in his interior economy. The fire-pot’s thawing warmth, together with a dixie of “Comforts” cocoa, soon, however, restored his equanimity and volubility; but it was plain that before he could get back to, his wonted amiability something had to come off his chest, and here’s what he coughed up:—
“I’m fair fed up of working on this ruddy dump, compree? This job’s no blanky good to me! We gets up in the mornin’ at four-o-blanky-clock, an’ we takes our shells up to the blanky line, an’ we gets back about mid-day for our blanky breakfast. An’ wot is there? Blanky pork an’ beans — an’ why? Becos the babblin’ brook’s a blanky fool! He an’ the other poisoners play euchre for the rations, an’ he never wins a blanky game!
“There’s Scotty an’ that blanky fool Ginger cookin’ for the Left Section, an’ Fat O’Brien for the Right Section. Scotty thinks he’s a guy, wise an’ fly, when he takes a double-tailed penny to toss for the bacon, an’ instead o’ givin’ Fatty the penny to spin and callin’ “tails,” ’e tosses the brown ’an Fatty calls “tails” an’ we go hungry! I tell yer, I felt like stackin’ me drapery an’ ’oppin’ ’im out.
“Back in the wagon lines we get butter, rooty, rice, an’ flybog, but, ’ere on the dump, if yer get butter yer don’t get ftybog, an’ if yer get flybog yer don’t get butter, an’ if the cook don’t win a game, well, yer go dead stiff for a feed!
I takes shells up to the batteries, an’ when I come back two kilos fer another load I sees a Tommy, an’ when Fritz stands a five-nine on the road in front of ’im he dumps his blanky ammunition! I ses to ’im: “Yer blanky cow, wot are yer doin’ that fer?” “Well, it’s orders choom,” ses ’e.
Talk about narrow escapes! I tell yer I’ve ’ad a few of them. In fact I enlisted two years too soon. I didn’t think it was so rough, an’ ’ere I am with a piece of H.E. in me mud’ook — an’ I come of a peaceful family!
The Skipper ’e camps in a dug-out in the ramparts, an’ after Fritz bombs ’ell out of us at night, over ’e comes in the mornin’ and ses: “We are gettin’ it worse than you fellahs, the ’un is always strafin’ the town.” Eye-wash, pure blanky eye-wash!
An’ the corduroy roads! Beautiful, aint they? G.S. wagons, pill-boxes, dead men an’ donks, an’ dud shells as big as butchers’ blocks. On top o’ that lot they puts muck, and then logs, an’ that’s whot they call a corduroy track! You’ve been out west in the drought. Well yer know ’ow yer see all the dead sheep in the billabongs and gilgai ’oles? Well it’s jest the same up the line ’ere. There’s dead men in every shell ’ole, an’ yer go up the line, an’ yer see a man in the mud on the side of the road an’ ’e’s dead; yer comes back again, an’ ’e’s still there, an ’e’s still dead; an’ so on for four or five days, only by that time ’e’s more dead, an’ nobody gives a goddam! An’ wot about the stiff Fritzes? They use them for making corduroy roads. I tell yer it’s the dinkum straight wire, compree?”
The Donks’ Mess Orderly.
Aussie: The Australian Soldiers’ Magazine, no. 2, 16 February 1918, pages 6-7
babbling brook = (rhyming slang) cook
compree = comprehend, understand; commonly used in the sense of “Do you compree?” (“Do you understand?”); from the French word “compris”, meaning “understand”
See: 1) Laura K. Lawless, Learn French In A Hurry: Grasp the Basics of Francais Tout de Suite, Avon (Massachusetts), 2007, page 82
2) Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, From the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day (first trade paperback edition) Lanham? (Maryland), 1992, pages 217 [“no compree”] and 321 [“twiggez-vous”]
3) Ernest Weekley, An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, London: John Murray, 1921, page 341
dixie = an oval-shaped metal cooking pot with lid and carrying-handle for cooking; the lid could be used for baking and the pot was used to brew tea, heat porridge, cook stew or rice, etc.
donk = donkey; “donk” was used as disparaging term for a horse
dud = something which does not work properly or does not work at all; in a military context, “dud” commonly refers to an artillery shell, a bomb, or similar, which does not explode
eye-wash = nonsense, hogwash
five-nine = a 5.9 inch (150mm) artillery shell, such as fired from a German 5.9 inch field howitzer during World War One [see: “15 cm sFH 13”, Wikipedia (accessed 5 March 2014)]
Fritz = Germans (“Fritz” could be used in a singular sense to refer to an individual German, as well as in a collective sense to refer to the German military or to Germans in general) (similar to the usage of “Hun”)
’un = Hun, i.e. Germans (“Hun” could be used in a singular sense to refer to an individual German, as well as in a collective sense to refer to the German military or to Germans in general) (similar to the usage of “Fritz”)
[Editor: Corrected “umteenth” to “umpteenth”.]