Trooper McRae Archibald Cameron

Trooper McRae Archibald Cameron
5th Light Horse Regiment 1898 – 1997

These extracts are taken from Trooper McRae Archibald Cameron’s diary, written while at the battlefront in the Middle East in 1917 and a photograph album he kept at the time.

McRae Archibald Cameron, who enlisted in the Australian Light Horse at Glen Innes in July 1916 at the age of 18, was at the time of his death, one of the only two surviving World War 1 Light Horse veterans residing in Queensland.
Although a New South Welshman, he joined the 20th Reinforcements of a Queensland Regiment, the 5th, and served until he was wounded in action on November 10, 1917.
He settled in Queensland after the war, where he worked with the Forestry Department at Yarraman until his retirement.
His son, Lynn Cameron of “Glenferrie” Ilfracombe, moved to Central Queensland in 1955 and settled at Ilfracombe after his marriage to Sheila  Johnston in 1962.
The Gympie Re-Enactment Troop gave Mac Cameron a Light Horse funeral at Albany Creek in Brisbane.
The following are extracts taken from a diary kept by Trooper Mac Cameron, serial number 2891, in 1917.
The accounts give accurate detail about the feelings of the men on the spot at the time, recording the story as it happened.
Mr Cameron received the diary on Thursday, January 18, 1917 (it was posted in early November 1916) and commenced writing immediately.

January 19: Out on observation post again today, was on the gun last night.
Beautiful day today, remarkably clear. Can see three columns of mounted men moving out past Katra. Also various camps away miles behind us.
Heard that Beersheba had been bombed by our planes. Wish I knew the Bible off by heart as knowing the history of these old towns in Palestine will likely soon be very useful.
January 21: Marvellous how time flies. It is five weeks the day after tomorrow since we arrived here and four weeks since Christmas Day.
Another mail is due in shortly and we are to be paid in a day or so, which means more canteen stuff. Horribly windy today, nearly smothered if we went outside the posee-sand everywhere. Had to put up more bags over the door to block the sand whirlwind.
January 22: Out on observation again today. Terrible day – cold, wind and nothing but shifting sand. Breathing sand, eating it. In our nose, mouth, eyes. It fills your pockets and gets against your skin and irritates.
Up on the gun tonight, so expect to have a gay time. Just been experimenting on the razor back (sand hill) and find that it shifts two inches and builds up in 15 minutes, this shows what the wind is like.
January 24: On stables today. Seems a come down to be doing ordinary drivers jobs. On the gun tonight. Warned this afternoon to be prepared to move off in a couple of days.
Plenty of typhoid about. Old Smithy outed with it; I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t missed the inoculation.
January 25: Getting ready today; will probably move off on Saturday. Busy sorting out necessities – the other things will have to be left. We don’t like leaving the old home in a way, but variety is the sauce of life they say and no one except the chap who goes through it knows the monotony of soldiering.
January 26: Mess orderly today, having a big loaf lately now that outpost is cut out. Nothing new today; the Squadron is moving in on Monday so we may wait also. The boss received very short notice today to get beyond, he isn’t back yet so don’t know what we’ll be doing. A rumour that Verdun has fallen.
January 27: The old mare had to get twisted up onto the line this morning great to-do, saw tracks everywhere this morning. Had a bit of an excursion but could see nothing.
January 28: No word of moving came through till about dinner time; we got all the best bagging from the possee’s, packed up as the camels will take them in for us.
Saw the last of Mageibra about 2pm. Passed the Stafford’s en route and they made marked comparison to us; everything spic and span; some nice horses but a great many poor riders. Arrived at Hassaninya at about 4pm; all the 6th here as well as the 7th and ourselves.
January 29: Tucker is very poor here. Got all our gear together and built a new possee. Got 15 letters, half a dozen papers and one parcel last night – not a bad reception.
The red tape and discipline in here is sickening; very cold tonight we have no blankets; they come in tomorrow by camel.
January 30: Out on the gun again tonight, it seems a farce having it like that here. Out exercising this morning, another cursed day can hardly see the sun for the sand and dust.
Escorted some mail into Khirba this afternoon, so got a great heap of canteen stuff.
February 1: Decent weather, slept out of my boots and trousers last night for the first time since we left Batan.
February 2: Set out at about 7am leading Rodgers mad horse. Had a lot of my tucker in a feed bag on it. The dope started rooting and scattered my tucker everywhere. Had a terrible time with the rotten animal. Passed over undulating desert. Saw a dead Jacko (Turk) lying as he died; all decomposed and rotten.
February 3: Pushed on from Musafig; there was only a well (bin) there. Struck an old caravan track, a number of dead camels all along it.
Came onto some great salt pans; hard, sandy clay as level as a billiard table. Got onto the railway again, passed a division of Pommies on their way to France. Arrived at Mazarre at midday. There are ancient ruins here.
February 4: The bricks in the ruins are very big and a sort of pudding stone made out of sea shells. There is broken earthenware everywhere. Also there is a lot of red granite, the same as the pyramids are made of. No sooner were we at the camp that we got orders to pack up everything at the shortest notice. We moved outside in case of airplane attack.
There’s word around that some of us will patrol around here. Also heard that USA had declared war on Germany.
February 16: 18 Japanese warships passed through the canal a day or so ago, so watch out for developments in the Mediterranean.
February 17: Football match (2nd brigade versus New Zealanders) this afternoon. Went over to see it. N.Z’s win 6 nil.
February 23: On picket last night, had one hours sleep. Turned out at 11.30pm and saddled up. Going out on a stunt, we don’t know where to. Passed through some village; cultivation and Bedouins mud huts everywhere. Arrived at our destination at about day break. New Zealander’s on right flank, 2nd Brigade attacking. We’re out on the right artillery going cleared the village. We are waiting for the German Cavalry to make a flank attack, they didn’t. Retreated about 10 am, no breakfast, no dinner. On the mare till 4pm. Shift camps and set off again. In the saddle for 36 hours, rather tired and sleepy.
February 26: The rail head is out here surprised to see today; it was six miles back the other day. We will have to push the Jacko’s back soon to make way for it.
March 11: Hear Baghdad has fallen; the Jacko’s have evacuated El Shellal and the Germans are retreating in the west.
There are heaps of old coins on the ground here and ruins of Roman times, heaps of pottery and bones.
March 20: General Chatswood has been severely chatting us because of our rag time ways. Cast a slur on us and we are offended. It will cause a lot of trouble if anything is enforced. He has made himself anything but popular. Discontent is rife.
March 25: Left camp at 2am and traveled all night. Pommies were moving out with us, also artillery. We are going to camp at Dier El Bulah (7 miles from Gaza). We are attacking in the morning. I think about 40,000 Turks are entrenched between Gaza and Beersheba.
March 26: Left at midnight and made a way around the flank, ran into cavalry on flanks and captured; but two Tambes (enemy aircraft) came and turned their machine guns on us, a complete surprise, they had no bombs luckily.
They started to shell us from Gaza. Shells all around us but we were fortunate. It put the fear of God into a man. There were Pommies and New Zealanders as well as us. We got right round the back of the place and they are cut off. We are attacking from the rear and Pommies from the front. The artillery is giving them hell..
March 27: Had three hours sleep in three days and nights, so want a spell tonight. We have had no water since the day before yesterday. Thank heavens the water arrived about dinner time.
Poor old Walter Tink was killed yesterday. He came over with me with the 20th. The artillery has been firing all day and we hear large numbers of Turks have come in again. Orders came in at 4pm to saddle up and get away in half an hour. Live on about a biscuit a day or less.
March 28: Only went a mile or so more and camped there for the night. The 2nd Brigade are in support of the others who are attacking Turkish reinforcements. We shifted down near the beach again. In for a surf with the horses, the most glorious thing imaginable after the dirt and dust. Had a decent pot of tea and turned into a beautiful bed.
March 30: There is talk of gas helmets for the horses and men and some great rumours about tanks at Gaza. I think the fighting will start again. The Turks were very strongly backed up by the Austrians.
March 31: There is talk of moving out again in the morning and attacking again tomorrow. Some long range guns opened up near here this afternoon. This place will soon be a young France, with its trenches and artillery, etc.
April 1: Scored a heifer coming back. Had a job to run her down in the muddy lake, got her with a lot of trouble; scored a fine big horse.
April 4: Spare gear came up this afternoon and we’re jolly glad to have it too. It’s leaking out that the Pommies had a couple of thousand casualties and a big defeat here.
April 5: Went down to see the tanks, there are 84 males and four females. The former have three hatches and 26 pounders. They ought to shake things up when they get going. There is a battery of eight inches to cover them. There are 120,000 Turks opposing us now; we heard today that Belgium is evacuated and Austria is after a separate peace.
April 17: Rode all night. Arrived at Shellal at dawn. The bombardment of Gaza commenced at sunrise and there was the continual role of thunder. There is big mob of us here, we are the reserve.
A Tambe bombed us here, killing six men and 20 horses. The Turks are shelling us here from Beersheba way.
April 19: We rode inland of Gaza with the sixth till 4pm, when we went away on the right flank with the Fifth. They shelled us here then cavalry attacked. We had to get up to a shallow trench. We soon turned them back but the shelling came again.
April 21: We came in about five miles and took from 5pm to midnight to do it; wandered round everywhere. Absolutely sick of the fooling about. Got camped at last and had a few hours sleep.
April 25: Second anniversary of ANZAC Day. We left on a stunt at 6am this morning. We are with the screen. This time they have a trap waiting for us and we get things pretty hot; the guns pick us out and we get all the shells they can rake up; some very close shaves. We got off all right but the cavalry follows us with two guns and we had to keep going. It was a cruel heat today with dust.
April 26: Another awful day. We’re forced to spell owing to the nags. Just at dinner time we are warned to pack up and move out. We are in the screen again in exactly the same stunt.
May 2: They are taking our votes today on the election. The Yeomanry are digging trenches all along. It will be a very strong position when finished.
May 6: Had tea at the Red Cross. A super feed. Jam and cheese, fresh bread; got two blankets and camped in a tent. Had all clothes including britches off and it was heavenly. No 3.30am stand-to. Had steak, jam, cheese and more fresh bread for breakfast. Caught a car about 11.30. 18 of our planes were out bombing last night.
May 22: We are going 25 miles or so to the right (west) of Beersheba. There is an old railway line running from there to Khalassa. The Turks are using these rails for another line so we are to go out and blow them to bits. The Imperial Mounted are going too.
May 24: The Jacko’s didn’t like our exploits of yesterday and a Tambe was over this morning bombing us; some very narrow squeaks. Four “C ” Troop men wounded. A new chap who had been out two days is in a serious condition; vagaries of fortune.
June 11: Artillery and rifle fire broke out very severely tonight; there was a terrific din for about an hour – the heaviest I have heard. The machine guns and rifles are like hailstones on a roof. There is a big rumour round that Gaza fell today after being gassed for 14 hours.
June 12: Last night’s affair was an attack on a Turkish position in the sand hills. It was taken without a casualty. The previous heavy shelling caused the taking of 900 prisoners in an advance of 800 yards.
June 30: We drew for leave today and I came third, so I will be off to Cairo in about three weeks.
July 4: We had orders that we are to keep in constant contact with the enemy to endeavour to keep him in a constant state of fright during a period of forced inactivity. New Divisions have landed from Salonica also some Gurkhas.
July 7: Had another row with HQ today and intend to try and get into transport. We have no officer now so all the dirty work is put on to us. Various small items but they all add up. The horse feed is scandalous.
July 9: Had to go and meet the reinforcements today. Allenby is supposed to have said he can move the Turks in 12 days and once shifted won’t stop until Damascus. I think there will be a big stouch on soon and the man who sees it through will be lucky.
July 21: It is 52 weeks to the day that I left Australia. Took a photo of all the blokes that are left in the Squadron – only eight.
August 4: Riding all night in a south-east direction. We were about 100 yards behind the screen when about 2am they ran into a Turkish redoubt covering the railway we were trying to get to. We retired and went straight back, just got out of range as dawn broke. Got within three miles of Beersheba.
August 6: On guard this afternoon and didn’t have time to clean my rifle as Flash Wiveson, he had narked all day, got me spiked; put me under arrest, up before the bloke in the morning. Spiteful sod.
August 7: Up before the all terrible Cane and Wiveson this morning. Got three days, so will slip on leave now. I expect anyway a man can get his own back someday on the upstarts and prigs.
August 9: Caught the train to Cairo at 9.15am, very hot. Old barbed wire came as far as Mascar with us; a mob of Jackos too. Landed in Cairo about 2pm and went straight to the National. Bought a camera. Can see the pyramids from my window.
August 16: Left about 2am on a stunt, we are reserve for a reconnaissance behind Beersheba. The 7th are going out to put a bomb under the railway line.
August 27: Down as a lifesaver today (beach picket the militariat call it ). It was a very rough day with a dangerous undertow. 50th chaps had narrow escapes. All the afternoon a shark was cruising up and down about 30 yards away.
September 4: They had us down shooting this afternoon. Last night a sergeant from the 5th shot himself. Must have been mad the poor bugger.
September 12: Chauvel, the impervious Queenslander, is coming round inspecting us tomorrow, so we have been shining all day.
September 29: I was marking this afternoon and only had a very narrow trench to lie in. The bullets cracked very viciously over my head. There is talk of the big stunt coming off before Christmas, but I can hardly see it possible.
October 6: The sports are coming off today, starting at 9.30am. There is to be beer there so things will be lively. I went along in the afternoon to have a look, things were very rough. There was no ring, heaps of drunks.
October 11: A New Zealander caught a spy today and got 200 pounds, lucky beggar. I wish a spy would turn up my way. The big stunt seems to have been postponed indefinitely.
October 20: Fell in today for orders and were told we would be moving out tomorrow. The big push at last. We are to stay in the front and will have 16 machine guns in front of us, so things will be hot. Our own and our horses rations will be very short and we are to use all the Turkish supplies we can get, fight for our tucker.
We have a big thing in front of us, but with God’s help it will be a brilliant victory.
October 29: The stunt has been postponed one day. The 7th are going to take Arara by bayonet, we are then moving on to Sakaty, three miles behind Beersheba on the railway, then onto Beersheba itself from the rear.
The Sheik of Mecca came in by car today, his troops are in the hills on the right, 20,000 they say.
October 31: Got a good start last night, found Arara had been evacuated. Struck nothing till daylight when a small post was pushed in.
Our planes are doing a good job, no Tambes in sight. The infantry are pushing in front of Beersheba. Ran into some fairly hot stuff around 9.30am. It was the queerest fight I’ve seen, no Tambes.
November 1: Past the night alright. Two Tambes flying around at sunrise. Bombed 1st Brigade and machine gunned us, a chap near me got knocked.
Beersheba fell last night with 1,000 prisoners and nine big guns. They blew in the wells: tucker is a scarce commodity, none for two days.
November 3: Managed to get a bit of water in a hole after some rain, which saved our lives. The Jackos have a very strong position and will take some shifting out of the hills. We had to go down six miles to get rations, no sooner did we get down there than we had to come back again.
November 5: This morning just as we were having breakfast a shell came over, bursting about 50 yards away. The nose cap came whizzing towards me and nearly got me in the head. Soon they came over in quick time, bursting just over heads. Five horses were knocked. They stopped after giving us about 30 shells.
November 10: The Yeomanry made a terrible mess of things and retired in disorder, bringing shells after. A HE lobbed fair in our lines, killing two men and 26 mares and wounding three of us.
The bomb landed behind me spraying shrapnel into my legs and killing my horse.
November 11: I was taken back to the Brigade Clearing Station, had most of my wounds cleaned, after a while I got into terrible agony. I got about 20 pellets, mostly very small.
November 12: They dressed me again today and pulled a hunk out of my head. They are expecting the cars up at any time; all the while a man is lying here in agony. Some poor beggars are awful, others are dying.
November 13: The cars finally arrived at 4pm. Traveled all night, about 2am landed at Gaza, then on again to Belah, about 45 miles altogether. Was awfully glad when we stopped, got a wash, a good bed and pyjamas.
November 14: They put me under gas after dinner and got at all pieces in me; the gas failed at times and I had awful pain. Once he pulled me almost out and the Doctor started probing again, thought I would go mad. Dopey doctor lost all but two pieces of shell; put three tubes in me, left ankle, right thigh and back. Put us on the train for Kantara tonight.
November 16: Got to Cairo about 4pm, went to the 14th on cars and landed their about 4:15pm. Very crook in the stomach. They are going to feed me on egg water and brandy.
November 23: Big mob got kicked out of here today; had a splendid night. Custard and Junket for dinner and the same for tea. Wounds are getting on splendid, two of the tubes were taken out today. Had a relapse of dysentery tonight and had to have another cursed injection.
November 28: Had a good night last night, best for a long while. Last night one of the sisters nearly killed me with the news that I was almost certain of a trip home. Feeling great today, that new medicine is making all the difference in the world.
December 5: The matron said I could have an egg and soup with bread, so I had a great feed today. One egg isn’t much but it’s great.
December 8: Four weeks today since I got wounded. Can eat a few lollies and chewing gum. Sisters very decent. Cable from home asking for name of hospital and nature of wounds.
December 10: Have good nights, 7 days in a row now, getting on fine. Got a letter from the bank saying they wanted me to fix up about some money.
December 15: They are voting on the conscription referendum today; found out that all members of the AIF can vote irrespective of age, so that gives me a say.
December 16: Took bandages off today; the scars are closing up.
December 19: Got off milk diet finally today. Had chicken for dinner and fish for tea – it was glorious.
Mac missed two hospital boats back to Australia, regressing to a poor condition before the final boat of the year on December 28.
He spent almost a year in military hospitals before returning to Australia in 1918. Lynn Cameron said his father had wanted to be a jackeroo, but his injuries prevented it.

Regimental number 2891
Religion Presbyterian
Occupation Station
Address The Manse, Glen Innes, New South Wales
Marital status Single
Age at embarkation 18
Next of kin Mother, Mrs Mary Cameron, same address
Enlistment date 15 March 1916
Rank on enlistment Private
Unit name 7th Light Horse Regiment, 20th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number 10/12/4
Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board RMS Malwa on 22 July 1916
Rank from Nominal Roll Private
Unit from Nominal Roll 2nd Machine Gun Squadron
  Returned to Australia 17 July 1919