Edward Meldrum writes about the fall of Damascus

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THE following letter was received by Mrs Meldrum, of Somerville, from her son Edward, on active service in Damascus:

I have not had much time for letter writing lately. I don’t think anyone had an idea of what this stunt was going to be like.

All thought we would strike some stiff fighting. We started off one night and got within a few miles of the front line, unsaddled for the night and were let into the know of what was going to be done in the morning.

We were all awake waiting for the guns to open up, which they did a while before daylight.

The bombardment was terrific while it lasted. The next thing we heard was cheers from the infantry, when they charged and broke through the Turkish line.

We then waited till we got orders to be ready to move in quarter of an hour.

We were set off at a fast pace which lasted well into the night. The only Turks we saw were prisoners.

After a few hours spell were off, and travelled until midday the next day, arriving at a place just too late to see a charge made by the Indian Cavalry Brigade, which resulted in the capture of over a thousand prisoners.

We stayed at this place for a few hours to feed the horses and ourselves, and then received our marching orders which were to travel twelve miles over very rough country, and capture the general Headquarters of the Turks.

The distance was covered in an hour and ten minutes, a resulted in the capture of eight thousand prisoners by a thousand of our boys, with only about half a dozen wounded men on our side.

This gave me some idea of what the morale of the enemy was like. In one place I saw four men capture over seven hundred Turks and Germans. It seemed queer to see them give in with very little resistance, just like a flock of sheep.

The next few days found us still travelling, and collecting prisoners.

One night we rode through Nazareth and on to the Sea of Gallilee, and had a borzer time giving the horses and ourselves a much needed wash, after which we moved off again, and were held up for a few hours at the Jordon, as the Turks had blown up the bridges and wore holding the opposite side pretty strong with machine guns, which made crossing rather difficult.

Our artillery, in the meantime, had drawn into position and opened up at a target even the gunners could see, so you may imagine what work they did.

About dark our regiment forded the river, and cleared the opposite bank of what enemy was left.

We all moved on again and up a high hill, covered with big boulders and not even a goat track, and as dark as pitch we reached the top after a few hours climb.

At day break we halted till midday and by this time most were rather saddle weary and took advantage to lie at full length on the ground, or rather rock and thistles of which there were plenty.

At four o’clock we unsaddled and had tea, when word came to move on six miles.

We had a days rest there and were off again to Damascus.

That night we were held up by the Germans, with a lot of machine guns.

They had a beautiful position and hard to locate, so it took some time to clear the road. With all their commanding position, all the damage done to us was five horses killed.

We captured the Germans and their machine guns also two field guns. By this time it was daylight and fast moving was the order of the day.

During the afternoon we came in sight of the outer forts of Damascus.

This brigade had nothing to do with them so we worked round their flank.

It was here that I saw the charge by our Australian boys and resulted in the capture of the forts.

It was a great sight to see and they had few casualties.

We were now within sight of the city and our brigade was playing havoc with the retreating enemy.

We camped that night in the hills and I got more thistle pricks than I could count, but all the same I slept until the next morning.

We moved on to the place where our machine guns had been at work. I never wish to see again such a dreadful sight, the roads were simply blocked up with waggons, horses and men wounded and dead; it was too awful for words.

We then had the honour of being the first troops through Damascus, which is a beautiful city, but as we only rode through we didn’t have much chance of seeing things.

We received a great welcome by the inhabitants, who lined the streets and cheered all the time.

Some standing on the balconies threw scent over the boys, and grapes, figs and tomatoes were handed to us as we rode by, but like most of good things here they came to a finish.

We left the city and came on to about 3 thousand more enemy, who took a day and a half to collect.

We then came back through the city at night We are resting at present a few miles out of Damascus, waiting to see if Turkey has had enough.

***

OWING to the price of chaff having risen, members of the Southern Suburban Master Carriers Association have decided to increase the price of sand from Monday Frankston sand will be 3d a load extra, and pit sand 6d a load extra.

The incidence of the increase is based on chaff at £5 a ton. For every rise of 30s in the price of chaff, the price of Frankston sand will be increased by 3d, and pit sand by 6d a load.

The present price of chaff is £6 10s a ton. The difference in the charges of the two kinds of sand is accounted for by the fact that Frankston sand is carried by rail close to the place of delivery whilst pit sand has to be carted a considerable distance.

***

MESSRS T. R. B. Morton and Son report having sold, through J L. Parkes, one of their auctioneers, acres at the Tyabb railway station (cleaned and fenced) on account of Mr A. S. Krerouse, at a satisfactory price.

***

STATE schools will close for the Christmas vacation on 20th December and will resume on 3rd February.

Head teachers of high schools have been advised that they may use their discretion in the closing of schools after 13th December.

The Education department has been notified by the Railway department that tickets at holiday excursion fares will be on issue from 11th December to 2nd January inclusive, available for return until 4th February.

***

JUST after lunch hour, on Thursday, as the Frankston and Hastings council was about to resume its sitting, Cr Longmuir received word that his son, George, had died in the Tenth General Hospital, England, from influenza and bronchial pneumonia.

General regret was expressed at the council table.

The President said the council deeply sympathised with Cr and Mrs Longmuir in their affliction, and though dead, the deeds of their son, would live for ever.

He moved that the council adjourn for a quarter of an hour, as a mark of respect to Cr Longmuir.

Cr Oates said that not only the council but the whole community would deeply sympathise with Cr. Longmuir.

The motion was carried in silence, the members standing.

After being rejected twice the deceased was accepted the third time, and has seen some stirring times.

He was on the Ballarat when it was torpedoed, and about twelve months ago was badly gassed.

The last news his father had from him was that he was better, and expected to be at the front again shortly.

The flags in Somerville were flown half mast during the afternoon in token of sympathy.

***

From the pages of the Mornington Standard, 7 December 1918

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 4 December 2018

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