TASMANIAN RECRUITING - TASMANIAN VOLUNTEERS. 1
The following men entered Claremont camp yesterday [Thursday, 2nd Nov 1916] as volunteers for the A.l.F.:—
Byers, T. E., farm laborer, Oatlands.
At the time of his enlistment at Claremont Camp on 1 November 1916, Thomas was courting Hilda O'Brien sister-in-law of Angus George and Irene (Renie) Scott nee O'Brien. The following are transcriptions of a series of letters written during his time in the 40th Battalion, 7th Reinforcements, AIF.
Claremont Camp, Tasmania, Sunday November 19th 1916.
I can't find anything else to put in the time at so thought I would scratch you a few lines to put the time in. I want you to let me know when Colebrook races are, if you will. Some say they are next Saturday, if they are I am going up to them if I have to break leave. Friday night is leave night and I won't come home from Town that night but go up to Colebrook on Saturday morning. If I can find out in time I will apply for special leave, but I mean to go whether I get it or not, if I can get past the guards. We are having a bonza time down here yet, don't know how long it is going to last. They vaccinated us the day after we lobbed here, so they must mean to get us fixed up as quickly as possible. “It didn't hurt much either George”, it's only a “rumour” I can hardly lift my arm to night, I'll be up to the doctor in the morning with it. Will make out it's twice as bad as it is, and I might get a spell, if I tell a lie, I don't like telling lies but I think I can manage to squeeze one out, in a case of trotting or races of any description. Remember me to them at home & tell them we are both well, I think Bill is writing home now, he's writing to someone, but I don't know who to, it might be a girl. 'Naughty Boy'.
I'll bet they are giving that old white jug something at Tunnack today, wished I could get a swig at her now am as dry as a chip. We've had Friday night and all yesterday afternoon's leave, so there's no wonder I'm dry. Barber is down here now, he was with us in Town both days & has gone again today. By Trist, he thinks he will soon go home, he doesn't like it yet. Charlie Campbell's Bill is here too, Syd Palmer is coming on Monday or Tuesday so we still keep getting more mates. They bumped Alex's Billy out of it, I saw him in town last night but wasn't talking to him. By hell I slept the first night I came back & slept nearly all the way down in the train, was dog tired. Billy Duck was overjoyed to see us back, I think they are applying for a weekend leave next Saturday to go home, but I'll have mine at Colebrook “right or wrong”. Remember me to Rene, tell her we had our photos taken yesterday & I will send her one as soon as I get them which won't be for another week or more, I don't suppose. Give my love to Boss & Jerry & answer Ruby when she calls Woody to lunch for me. Remember me to Rant, Has he kicked the dog since since, I reckon he'll soon want his hair cutting again. Must close, they have started a sermon just behind us & They are bawling a treat & thumping the old organ. They made me go to church this morning George, it isn't fair is it, I'd rather go to sleep than to church.
So Good night From your old Pal Byers. xxxxxxx
Claremont Camp, Tasmania, Jan. 9th 1917.
(Merciful God) (How is rant getting on)
I am just scribbling you a few lines to let you know I am still alive and well. We got fined 15/- for our misconduct at Xmas time, but that won't hurt us much as we get paid all through the holidays. We are thinking very seriously about coming up to Oatlands for the races on Saturday, if we can get off for the day. I am pretty near sure we can get a week-end from Sat - 2 o'clock but that is no damn good for the races we want to go up on the express on Sat morning and if I can get a mate & get out on Friday night it is more than likely that is what I will do. If I have to come straight back on Sat night. We have been down on the range at Sandy Bay nearly every day since we came back & have only just got home from there now. After we finished shooting today, they picked out about 15 men to act as picket, to go round the town & raid the pubs in search of deserters & what a glorious ...
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I didn't get another smack from old Nag (it's only a rumour) They are very nice people she told me to call and see (I wonder) I think I've lost their address)
… time we had. We never found any deserters …... found a hell of a lot of beer. Billy Duck) & Billy … myself were the only ones picked from our mob. (“See what it is to be big & strong”) & nice looking) I'll bet you are sticking it on to those weeds these hot days, it is just the thing for them. I suppose you have finished putting spuds in now, & have got old Dinah going well in the scarifier by this. I hope they have got those bridges done up by this, so that if we get home, we can easy get back to time again, not like we were last time. By what some of these fellows told them, they will take some doing up. I don't know exactly when we will be going away, but I heard for a cert it is before the end of the month. If they don't soon get me away, I don't think I'll go, I'm getting sick of it (Ha Ha) I'll give them a weeks notice. There is no horses to ride down here & it's a brute too after being used to them. If I only had old “Rosey Girl” She'd do me) Well George I will ring off now old sport & don't be surprised to see or hear tell of me being at Oatlands races, that's if any of them have guts enough to follow me. Remember me to Boss & tell him I'll write to him next week.
Tu Ru from your old Pal Byers. xxx Don't forget to write.
Undated letter – written on board the Seang Bee enroute to England, possibly written some time between 10th February and 2nd May 1917, possibly just prior to arrival in Capetown, South Africa.
There are three things I like now, and that is a glass of good beer & a smoke of crosscut, a ride on Rosey Girl and a jolly good love. I could love pretty hard now Cock.) You can't get a decent smoke at all here only Medium Capstan) and that's no good to me. I got a good supply of cigarettes in Melbourne, but they soon all went. We have a piano on board, a phonograph, & all all sorts of music, besides all sorts of games & amusements you could mention so were not badly off, only for the heat, it is hot night & day alike. We are supposed to call at a certain port next week, so I'll get this posted there. I don't know whether we can get ashore there or not. But I hope to God we can, I'd like to get my foot on land again. We had a bonza trip to Adelaide from Melbourne by train, we were in it for 8 hrs or more & we also had a good time in Adelaide, I nearly got a girl there George, only I had to leave on the Saturday I was right. (a bonza too.) What Ho.) (an Adelaide tart) Well George old man there is not much news to tell you yet I will tell you more when I get to …
… England & a damn sight more when I get back, even if it is lies) Remember me to Rene & all my friends. Must close with best wishes from your old Pal Byers. How is Prynee getting on. Be sure to write.)
No 3017 Pte. T.E.Byers 7th Rein. 40th Batt. AIF abroad.
When did you cut Rants hair last ?) Merciful God)
I reckon old Bob will soon want a truck of spuds carting, but that only means about a day or two at the most. Remember me to him when you see him & tell him I'll drop him a line someday. Bill wishes to be remembered to you Rene. T. B. xxx
Sunday June 17 1917
Lark Hill Camp England
I received your letter the other night and was as much surprized as I was pleased to get it. I'm glad you receive the parcel I sent you from Colombo, I also sent a letter from there too but you wouldn't have received it when you wrote or you would have known my address. Well Bertha, we had a good trip over, but I can't stand the water at all, although it never makes me sick, but I reckon It is too long for a fellow to be on the water. We were over three months getting here. It was pretty warm too, most of the time. One night about a week before we got to Devonport, we were on submarine guard and it came on to rain & thunder & lightning. I was asleep on the deck & when I woke up the water had me washed nearly overboard. Forty men out of our company was picked out for submarine guard & we had to watch for two hours at a stretch and then have six off for about 12 days. I was glad when we got
ashore out of it. It was the biggest wonder in the world that we were not sunk. There were 28 ships sunk right on our track in two days before. They had a try for us, but we had too many escorts the last two days sailing. I saw a bit of a fight against a submarine one night. It was right on our track too, but the little cruisers who were escorting us saw it and fired on it. It dived, but not until it had sunk a trawler boat not far from us. I did feel frightened (I don't think). I enjoyed the fun. Norman Roberts was on the Ballarat when she was torpedoed, I was talking to him afterwards & he would make you laugh telling you about it. I think he has gone to France since. He was in the AMC & was in a camp 6 miles from here. I haven't seen him since the first week we got here. I heard from one of his mates that he had gone to France. We haven't had our leave yet Bertha. Nearly all the other boys that came with us have had theirs, but we have been isolated ever since we got here, through chaps getting the measles. I don't know what they want to get them for & have all in the hut isolated. We only got out of it yesterday & expected to go on our leave tomorrow or Tuesday, but I'm expecting some coote to get them and stop us. The weather is bonza here now, only it is a bit too hot today. I don't like this camp half as well as Claremont, they make you work too hard & don't give you enough leave. Just fancy being stuck on a boat for three months and then take to a camp
and put in isolation for nearly seven weeks, (a fellow ought to burst out crying.) Never mind, they give us four days leave & if I take 4 more I ought to have a good time. I've been frightened to play up for fear I wouldn't get any leave at all, for they are strict here to what they were at Claremont. We haven't been hardly anywhere since we came here, only to drill. We were down at Amesbury on piquet duty one night last week & we slipped in and got out photos taken. I am putting one in here for you, you will know Syd & Bill & me, and the other two chaps are Lewis W Mazey from Moonah and Horace T Lockley from Bruny two of our cobbers. Lockley is on Syd's right hand & Mazey on his left. They are too bonza blokes. We fell in with them at Claremont & whenever you seem one of us five, the other four are not far away. Lewis Palmer was ill on the boat but he is alright again now. All the other boys are well & having a good time when they can. How are the dances going now Bertha, let me know when the next dance is at Woodsdale & I will come out (I wonder.) I'd like a dance now. (I reckon I get one shortly don't you !) Ha Ha
There are aeroplanes here by the score flying over us all day. That about all there is to see bar a lot of German prisoners, there are plenty of them here. If I thought they are going to out me too quick in France, I'd stab a couple of these German cows here before I left, so that I could tell old Peter at the gate, that I had done some good in the world. I reckon that will be my only chance of getting to heaven, for a fellow is often tempted to say a little swear now and again, especially when a fresh case of measles breaks out in our hut. I hear Ern Kingston is in the hospital at London. I had a letter from him not long ago & he was alright then but I don't know whether he is wounded or not ill. Jack and Archie are still here, but the Crawfords have gone. Jimmy Daniels is here too, he has been here a long time. I think he has been ill . Well Bertha old kid, I think I will ring off now & go & get some tea. I have to go out and see my girl after tea, (I don't think). I haven't hardly seen a girl since I left Tassy. I'm getting used to it now. Remember me to all at home & give them my best respects. Tell Archie if he sees is old Paddy Duggan, to have half an hour teasing him for me (I would like to have him or Lakey Fisher to torment for a while now. I suppose Jessie & Ray are married before this. Don't forget to write to me again Bertha & let me know how things are getting on. Must close
From your loving cousin
How is ... getting married I suppose
Lark Hill Camp, England, June 24th 1917.
Dear old George,
I received your letter yesterday and was so pleased to get it that I set to work to answer it straight away. Well George, We only got back from London on Friday night at 12 o'clock, we had 4 days leave. We left here on Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock and we didn't get dismissed in London until after 12 o'clock so the first day of the four soon went. The next day we hired brakes, about 20 of us in a brake & we went round the places of interest in London. I went up & saw Georges stables. He has got some bonza horses there & the stables he keeps them in are better than any hotel you could find in Tassy. The harness is all gold mounted & that sets them off properly. We went through all the old towers & cathedrals, & other places of interest, we had guides with us to show us around, (some swells eh ?) I reckon you say old ...
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(Does old Boxer still switch his tail when you sing out to him)
(I got the programe of Tunnack races from Bill, & he was disappointed when I didn't see where S B. had won a race) (T.B.)
… Byers is coming out a bit, but by what I can hear of these trenches, a fellow wants to have a good time while he is here. I went out to Woolwich hospital on the 3rd day to see Ernie Kingston. He got two bonza little taps, one on the head & the other on the left arm, just above the elbow, but he is alright again now, or pretty near it tho he is not out of the hospital yet. We had a couple of hours together, he got out of the hospital & came down the street with me, & we had a pretty good time you bet. He reckons he would like to have old Paddy to torment for an hour or two, so he can't feel too bad. Archie & Jack Kingston are leaving for France on Tuesday, I saw them both tonight. I don't know when we are going but I don't reckon it will be a great while now. I suppose you will have heard that Ron & Peter & Jack Palmer are all wounded, but I don't think any of them are serious, Ron's arm is broken I think he is the worst of the lot of them. I think Diver is missing & Ern Cornish wounded, so the 40th must have been doing a bit for their king & country. I didn't see George, when I was going through his stables. He couldn't have known I was coming or he would have been there to meet me, (I wonder) The tell me …
… Harold has enlisted, I think he is too young to stand it, but I reckon he will hold his own with the most of them, I wish he had been with us. He will be alright if he strikes a good cobber or two, but he will find it awkward if he doesn't. Bill has got a pretty bad cold otherwise we are all well & in best of health. Lewis Palmer is right again now and back with us.
Well George, I got this far the other night when they started playing larks, & of course I had to join in the fun, & I haven't had a chance to finish it. It has been raining today, so we have had it a bit easier. (We didn't go for a shot tho',) I suppose you often have a shot at the rabbits now. I reckon there are plenty about, (they will miss me if nothing else does,) I am sorry you had such bad weather for your last harvest George, but I couldn't help it really. I'll bet it wasn't as bad as last year ...
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(Is the old horny ram still alive. Throw a couple of stones at him for me and tell Mit to help “Toby” suck the eggs till I get back)
… I heard last night that poor old Fred Clayton was knocked out, & his brother Charlie too. A chap named “Knights” from down … (?) over had a letter from his brother who was in the 40th too, & he told him that both Fred & Charlie was outed) I reckon Mrs Scott will take it hard, but we must expect it. Any time after you get this you can be on the look out for my name in the roll of honour. (I wonder) By Hell, I'm going to make things willing while I last. I don't expect to last long, & I'll touch them up a bit while I last. But a fellow never knows, he may have the luck to get through, but I don't think I am lucky enough for that. I broke a looking glass last night (that's 7 years bad luck.) Bill broke one a fortnight ago, & we laughed at him when when he told us that it meant bad luck, but sure enough, he had it, for he lost his pocket book with 13 pound notes in it, & never heard a word about it. The best of the fun was, he was dodging parade on Sunday morning & sneaked off to have a (sham shit) & left it in the WC. He had it saved up to go on leave, But Syd & me fixed him up & we had plenty & to spare. That is where good mates come in.) I would like to see old Jess & Rosey Girl's foals now, I reckon they are beauties,) Remember it is my first ride on young Milford, if I get back before he is broken in. remember me to all the girls, tell Dippy and Vera I am going to write to them when I get time.
With best love to yourself & Renie, I remain your old cobber Byers. xxxx
Somewhere in France
October 29th 1917
I received your letter this morning & was pleased to hear you were all well at time of writing. I had not received any letters for a long time, but got two this morning. The Sergeant came round with a bundle of them, and I thought half of them at the least were for me but I only got two, one from you & one from Daisy. I suppose you have heard all about Lewis Palmer being wounded & Boatie Hyland killed. I never saw poor old Boatie, I wasn't in the battle in which he was killed. I thought I was unlucky not to get away with the Palmer boys, but my luck was in, if I had known it. I have seen Jimmy Hyland & Fred Clayton and a good few more boys I know here. I am in a different Company to the Palmers now, I thought they would be sure to be in C Company on account of
Mr. Findlay & Grubb being there. They are the two officers that came over with us, but they went into D Company. Did you get the photo I sent you of 5 in a group. Poor Mazey is killed & Lockley is missing. Dave Palmer got his finger blown off, he is back in England now having a good time. Syd had a letter from him last week. The weather is pretty cold over here now & they reckon it is going to get worse. I don't think it can get much colder than it is at times here. You can I expect me home anytime after Xmas. I'm going to put a stop to this war (Ha Ha). I'll very likely be home for Baden dance on New Years night, I reckon I've forgot how to dance by this. Well Bertha, I'm not going to write much this time, as I haven't time, and I have to write another letter, I received your card in September & I sent you a Christmas card a few days ago. It isn't much but it is the best I could get here, Bill & me are both well. Remember us both to all. Wishing you a merry Xmas and a happy New Year.
I remain your loving cousin Bayers.
Remember me to the boys & all the rest of the family. TB