Generations of Genes Copyright © Phyllis Jeans 2000
All rights reserved ISBN 0 473 03868 4
PEMM Publishing Cambridge, New Zealand
[p6] [The Jeans Line]
Dear Sweetheart’ this postcard expressed Jim’s sympathy for his loved one so far away. Dorrie’s stepmother Jeanie had died leaving three small daughters. He wrote, ‘I wish I could have been there to see you. You all must have had a hard time, but cheer up Dorrie and hope for better times but I wonder how things are at present?’ He expressed concern Dorrie was not receiving many letters from him, saying he wrote every two weeks. Jim and Dorrie were one of thousands of couples separated by war. The days of their youth, that should have been happy and carefree, were overlaid with anxiety and foreboding. Another postcard (undated) with the same loving greetings and sentimental verse, began ‘My Darling Dorrie’. Jim was in Cairo at the school of instruction facing an examination the following day ‘so I hope I don’t make a mess of it’. Jim’s service record shows a Hotchkiss Gun qualification in September 1917, and later he progressed from temporary Corporal (1 August 1918) to Corporal (24 December 1918) to temporary Sergeant (1 January 1919) to Sergeant (4 January 1919).
On 13 July 1918 the Waikato Independent printed a letter Jim wrote, either in late April or early May. He was in the Jordon Valley ‘in the old camp in the neighbourhood of Jericho’. There had been criticism. ‘New arrivals tell us that they call us the cold-footed mounteds in New Zealand. I would like some of them to be here for awhile. If some of them had half an hour here of the five days we had over at Amman it would wake them up a bit. We had it pretty hot and it nearly proved a disaster for us’. The New Zealanders had tried another attack across the Jordon ‘but the Turks proved too strong’. The enemy brought up reinforcements ‘and after about a weeks go at them we had to fall back again and we are now looking at each other across the flat’. Although they could not shift the Turks, Jim wrote they had ‘made it awkward. We captured and blew up some of their motor transport and twenty-eight brand new machine-guns in boxes which had never been used’.
Left. A postcard from Egypt.
Right. Jim mounted for action.
After the end of the war Jim remained overseas as part of the peace-keeping force. In December 1918, from Richon, Jim wrote a long letter to Runa Hulse of Whitehall. He had seen Gilbert (Runa’s brother) several nights previously. Meeting up with old friends would have been welcomed moments with the opportunity of swapping news from home and reminiscing of happier days. Jim continued ‘Things get pretty monotonous enough but we have plenty of arguments as you can imagine. Debating is one of the amusements at the YMCA of an evening. There are also some good concert parties. . . some of the performers take the part of the fair sex very well. . . Strange to say our Brigade can never get up a decent show. One thing very noticeable here is if you visit a Tommy Concert all the crowd join in the choruses to the fullest extent but have the same concert in our lines and you can’t get a word out of them. Colonials can’t sing at all compared to the Tommies. I suppose they go in for more musical evenings at home than we [in] N.Z do’. He did not know how long they would stay at Richon but considered they were likely to move to the canal at anytime. In the meantime the climate was good for the time of year and although it had rained hard, they were on good ground, in a good camp. He also wrote, ‘I shall save all the news of the last stunt till I get home or I won’t have anything to say. I expect you will believe that judging by what people say about other returned soldiers’.
There are a few other snippets to tell something of his experiences. Later in life Jim was to recall the time he caught a fleeting glimpse of the fabled Lawrence of Arabia. He saw a flurry of dust, and twenty men in flowing Arab costumes surrounding a central figure on a white camel. Jim thought it was just another small desert force until told differently a few days later. Jim’s good friend, Gilbert Hulse, recounted a little tale that Jim had told him. Jim was in the Nile Delta area of Egypt where some forces were stationed to keep law and order among the civilian population. The horse lines were laid out. A message was received from the Convent nearby in which the words ‘flowers’, at least, was understood.