Postcards illustrate sights from far-off land

When Digger Charlie Halkyard arrived in Egypt in late 1915, he was quick to let his wife Elsie know he was safe.

On December 12 he sent her a postcard that featured a photo of a railway station at Suez, on which he had wished her a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

On the back of the card he went into some detail about his journey so far.

"We arrived here at the camp at 2am this morning and by Jove it was jolly cold marching from the station to the camp," he wrote.

"We arrived at Port Suez on Wednesday last but did not get off the boat till yesterday afternoon as there was no room for us at the wharf. There is a good crowd here at this camp - they come from all over the place."

The sights and sounds of Egypt clearly had an impact and he told his wife that the local men "dress just the same as the women, just like big dressing gowns".

The card is among a number in the collection of his grandson William Wright, of Dumbleyung, and illustrates wonderfully the feelings expressed by the Diggers and their anxious families.

On December 17 he wrote Elsie another card, which featured ships moored at Suez in 1915, and made sure she knew where his vessel had passed. The photograph on the front of the card was marked with a small arrow, and he explained further on the back of the card.

"This postcard is a view of the bay of Suez. It was in this bay that we anchored for three days," he wrote. "The point of the arrow indicates the position where we were." With Christmas approaching, he also explained that there would be a present of a silk scarf on the way after he was paid.

Another card, undated, featured an intricate cloth image of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces badge.

It was apparently addressed to a son, "Master C Halkyard".

"Dear Charlie. Be a good little boy till Dad comes back . . . and don't forget to look after mamma for Dad."

Elsie wrote her own cards to her husband. One showed a photo of a Digger, a woman and a child above a poem:

_"Love holds you in my memory _

_"Is what this comes to say, _

_"And wish God gives you back to me for ever and for aye." _

On the back she wrote to her "Darling Charlie" that she was "pleased to say little Charlie all at home and myself are all well . . . are all anxiously waiting for this big battle to end". Fortunately for the family, the war's end did come and Halkyard survived.

The electrical engineer had enlisted in August 1915, joined reinforcements for the 3rd Field Company Engineers and headed overseas in November.

He was wounded twice while on duty in France, receiving a gunshot wound to a thigh in August 1916 and to his right hand in January 1918.

It was not until June 1919 that he was able to sail for home.

Mr Wright said that after the war his grandfather had returned to Bunbury to work for an electrical engineering company.

The West Australian

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