A letter from the front

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba and to mark the anniversary of the battle the Tribune is revisiting a letter from a soldier who fought in the battle that was published in the newspaper in 1917.

The letter was written by Walter Frick, who used to work for the Kaden family, on September 4, 1917, when he was in Palestine serving in World War I.

Little did he know, he would be injured in the Battle of Beersheba on October 31.

By the time the letter was printed in December, he was in hospital in Cairo fighting for his life.

He was cesevaced from Beersheba on a camel ambulance – a system of having a litter slung on both sides of a camel and troopers were loaded up and moved. It was either that or a rickety wooden wheeled ambulance cart.

Part of the letter published in the Tribune in 1917.

Part of the letter published in the Tribune in 1917.

Private Frick’s granddaughter, Julie Frick of Port Pirie, will travel to Turkey and Israel this month to commemorate the event.

Ms Frick will join a tour group that will travel to Gallipoli and attend the re-enactment of the Beersheba charge.

“Beersheba was my grandpa’s last battle as a Light Horseman, before he got injured,” Ms Frick said.

“I’m heading over there to honour my grandpa.”

Private Walter Frick

Private Walter Frick

Ms Frick said her grandpa did not talk about his service much.

“He would share funny little things and anecdotes with us,” she said.

“He was in that generation that was just told to go home and forget about their service.

“My father once told me a story of when some of their sheep had died and they had to pick up the carcasses and put them on a truck.

“My grandpa just said, ‘I’ve done this before with my mates on the battlefield’, it was a pretty dark thing for to him to be reminded of.”

Private Frick was a part of the Third Australian Light Horse Regiment, which charged Tel el Saba to take the heavily fortified hill and rid it of enemy weapons so the other regiments would not come under fire when they charged on the town.

The charge worked, with only 33 troopers losing their life in Beersheba.

If Private Frick’s regiment had not taken Tel el Saba, the attack may not have succeeded.

“My grandpa didn’t think he was a hero but he was my dad’s hero and he’s definitely a hero to me,” Ms Frick said.

Ms Frick will also spend Remembrance Day in Germany.

Private Walter Frick’s letter in the Eyre Peninsula Tribune, published December 1917:

Don’t be surprised or think anything is wrong with me, because there isn’t, only I have nothing to do and can’t sleep so I will try and write a few lines to let you see that I am still alive and kicking.

Our lot is at present by the sea-side, sort of recuperating.

The different Brigades take turn at the front and then come back to the sea to pick up a bit of lost sleep and flesh, and there are generally a good many horses that either have sore backs or need a spell.

A month or five weeks off duty puts them pretty right again. 

I had the misfortune to get knocked last April, but am alright again, and have been back with the Regiment since June the 29th.

I was very ‘stiff’ getting knocked like I did. 

In fact, anyone is who gets it from a ‘blanky’ aeroplane.

We had a very stiff fight on the 19th April, and got out during the night and the next morning over comes Jacko’s Taube and gets the whole blooming brigade in a bunch.

Bet your life he didn’t stick the bombs into us, and I got in the way of a bit.

Anyway, I had five lovely weeks in the A.G.H. at Cairo, with nothing at all to do but eat, drink and sleep, and by ‘jingo’ I done it fairly well as we had been humbugging around for six days and nights with very little sleep, so I reckon I was lucky to get a knock, and get away.

I have been talking to Watty (Horace Watson) tonight.

He is doing alright, but I don’t see him very often now as he is attached to brigade transport.

He comes up at times generally after mails days to see if there is any news from the old spot, but now that the others have left there, I don’t get any from your way at all, so you can guess that little news from there would be welcome to me.

‘Watty’ often gets the Cowell paper and gleans a little news from it.

I dare say that things are fairly quiet out your way these times.

There can’t be many lads about now, in fact I suppose you must find it pretty hard to get farm labourers, and by what I see of it there will be less before this murdering game is ended.

Even though we have the upper hand at present, it must not be forgotten that it will take time to beat such well organised nations as the Central Powers.

This is a very different class of country to Egypt, seem as though the border line was drawn right along the edge of the desert.

When we came off the desert to Palestine, it was like coming into the garden of Eden.

In January last, we were straying in barley about six inches high, and three months later when we came past the same place the crops were simply lovely, barley was all out in ear and about two foot high.

You can bet the horses had a good fill for a while, as we were allowed to graze them.

However, druring April I went away, and when I returned in June there was hardly a green blade to be seen.

What was not eaten was broken up by the constant traffic and the number of mounted troops moving about.

No one, without seeing it, would hardly realise that such a difference could take place in the time, and now the straw is breaking up and blowing away things are some dusty when on the march.

Sometimes it is impossible to see anything more than the man in front.

‘Gee whiz,’ when a fellow is out for two or three day he is some dirty, but I suppose one mustn’t grumble about dust, as the boys in France has enough mud for themselves and us too, according to all accounts.

We will have our share when it does rain.

We are told that it only rains twice a year, and that the average rainfall is 18 inches, so I expect it will be wet with a capital W, don’t you.

Anyway, it will be a change. Harry Barbary is here, I expect you will remember him working for George Sims.

‘Barb’ is recognised as one of the gamest in the regiment, but he is not ‘silly game.’

Plenty of poor beggars are enough, in fact, too much that way, and seem to have no value for their lives, consequently, ten to one they will soon get ‘potted.’

At present, I am with a machine gun team, but have not used it against the enemy yet, my turn for that comes when we next get busy.

Well, I don’t know of much else to write about that would interest you so I will close now.