Petit Kangourou

by Sylvain Halgand. Translation by Aisling Achoun

Version française

Dear friends,

From this issue of your favourite weekly, I invite you to learn about Arthur Clifford Stribling. I will tell you about the 645 days from when he first joined the army in Adelaïde and his death in Blangy-Tronville.  For that, every week I will send a copy of a letter he has never written. It is not an autobiography, but a fiction.

In preparation for the April commemoration, and in particular for the preparation of Tristan Robert's illustrated album, we did research on Cliff (the diminutive he used).
Thanks to his military record, we have a fairly clear idea of what he has done during this year, these 9 months and these 6 days. Thanks to his family members, we also know a little more about his private life.

His letters will evoke real facts, mixed with inventions from your Little Kangaroo. Each letter will be accompanied by historical comments.
The exercise will be difficult, but exciting. To date, nothing is written in advance, so not sure it will last until April. This is a new project, which I hope will interest you.

I remind you that “Little Kangaroo” is a reporter, he is neither a historian nor a geographer, please forgive him if he makes some mistakes.

Les documents illustrant les lettres sont issus de divers sites australiens, dont celui de l'Australian War Memorial.


First part "Adelaïde" 

19 july 1916
26 july 1916
30 july 1916
9 august 1916
14 august 1916
20 august 1916
15 september 1916

Second part "at sea"

23 october 1916
26 october 1916
2 november 1916
7 november 1916
14 november 1916
2 december 1916

Third part "in England"

28 december 1916
16 february 1917
Spring 1917
24 june 1917
15 july 1917
9 march 1918
24 april 1918 (unfinished)


carte 1

Adelaïde, 19 july 1916 (minute n°40, 10 december 2017)

Dear Parents,

I am proud and you will be too, no doubt. Today, I enlisted to go fight in Europe. I now have a number! I am the private # 2731. This number will be mine throughout my engagement.


Gare de Tarlee

This morning, I took the train, very early, to the station of our village. I was a little worried, but you know how much it is close to my heart.


Trumet callsBoys

Since the evacuation of Gallipoli, last December, I see posters calling the volunteers to take over from those who have fallen there. It's my turn to go there. I hope not to fail and show myself worthy of you and Australia.

Gare d'Adelaïde


Adelaide is a big city, and the train station is very different to the one in Tarlee. I had trouble finding the enrolment desk.

I was asked a lot of questions about me, you, my life. I was asked my job, I answered proudly "Farmer". An officer asked me if I understood all the questions that were put to me. It's not because we are farmers in the Outback that we do not understand! I had to sign papers and swear I would serve the King in the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) until the end of the war. These papers are the beginning of my military record.

Dossier Militaire  Dossier Militaire


Doctors also examined me to see if I was fit for service. They measured me. For the army, I'm 5 feet and 8 and a half inches (1.74 m). I weigh 160 lbs (72.50 kg). They noticed that my eyes are blue, my hair brown. Even my vaccines are noted on the record.
The dentist put me in class B, but I do not know what that means. I am hyperopic astigmatic, but that does not have to be important since I have been recognized as good for the service. I also told them that I am a Baptist.


Dossier Militaire

Now I'm going to train at Mitcham camp until we leave for Europe.


Do not forget me in your prayers. I love you all.


Visite médicaleThe facts:

During the First World War, the standards for age, minimum height and minimum chest measurement for enrollment in the IAF were changed.
The requirements in August 1914 were 19-38 years old, height of 5ft 6in and measurement of chest 34 inches. In June 1915, the minimum age and height requirements were changed to 18-45 years and 5 feet 2 inches, the minimum height being lowered to 5 feet in April 1917. In the first year of the war, approximately 33 % of the volunteers were rejected.  However, with the relaxation of physical age and height standards, as well as dental and ophthalmic fitness, previously ineligible men were now eligible for enrolment.
At enrolment, recruits were screened for "BC" or "D" tattooed on their skin. They were tattoos of the British army. BC represented the bad character and D the deserter.


Camp Mitcham, 26 July 1916 (minute n°41, 17 december 2017)

Dear Parents, dear brothers and sisters,

I arrived at Mitcham camp, it's huge, and it even seems like it's the second largest city in South Australia. I am with the company E. (E Coy)
The wet winter makes the camp muddy.
Fortunately, gutters drain water and prevent it from entering the tents. I share mine with 7 other recruits. They are nice. There is a guy from Stockport. All are very enthusiastic.

The news we have read in the newspapers about the Somme offensive makes us impatient.




Soon, all the tents will have disappeared and we will be able to sleep in new metal sheet shelters. We will be many more (42), but better sheltered. For the moment when it is raining too much, the water enters the tent, we will take refuge in the YMCA tent, but it is sure that the 4000 men of the camp cannot all shelter there. The YMCA building has just been rebuilt, because the storm of 17 July destroyed it. New buildings are also built, including a hospital, real showers, toilets.

I love you all.



The facts :

Until April 1915, Morphettville Camp (south-west Adelaide) was used for training recruits, but faced with the enthusiasm of committing volunteers it turned out to be too small. The army acquires new land further to the east in order to establish a much larger camp there.
Quickly on the homestead of the family Mortlock appear hundreds of tents sheltering new recruits. 4,000 soldiers, for 12 weeks, followed a preparation training: bayonet fight, pomegranate throwing, shooting, walking, patrol etc ...
Light cavalry also occupied parts of the camp.


The headquarters of the camp was initially installed in the former farm Barn. In 1916, Mitcham Camp resembles a large mining town with rows of galvanized iron huts, a hospital, a camp headquarters, a large YMCA-operated recreation building, a post office, a bank branch, barbers and religious facilities. Inland roads were named after the main streets of Adelaide.

Some camp activities are not very popular with neighbouring residents. On 14 February 1916, The Advertiser reported that residents of the surrounding suburbs were surprised by loud explosions as soldiers engaged in shelling during training.
In early 1918, training on the national territory ceased and troops were sent to Egypt or England as soon as a ship was available.

At the end of their training, the recruits were sent to Outer Harbour to embark on boats bound for Egypt or Europe.


En route

Projet Mitcham
Plan of the area before the camp was built and aerial view of the area today.
(Google maps)

Camp Mitcham, 30 July 1916 (N°42, 24 December 2017)

Camp MitchamDear Parents,

We left the tents for the new more secure building. They are equipped with a roof, but are not closed on all sides, to allow good ventilation. Being protected from the rain is the main reason, because many recruits suffer from the rain and are often sick.

Our days are very organized. We are awake at 6 in the morning, we have half an hour to put away our berths. At 6:30 we can have tea or coffee. After the 6:45 morning parade, we have at least 30 minutes of physical exercise.

Camp Mitcham

The real breakfast is served at 8:00. The rest of the morning is spent training.

In the afternoon we train from 2 to 5 with a break of fifteen minutes. Tea is at 5:30. The evening parade takes place at 7 pm, but not every night. Lights are turned off at 10 pm

The meeting

Attente du Repas
Waiting for the meal

Distribution du repas
Distribution of the meal

On Saturday, training ends at noon, and there is none on Sunday.

In the evening, we can leave the camp between 5 and 7.30 if we are not on duty, but we cannot go more than a mile (1600 meters).

I think of you and pray God that you will be in good health when I see you again.


The facts :

The daily ration of an Australian soldier in training is:

Per day
Bread 1 ¼ lbs.
Meat 1 ½ lbs.
Potatoes or onions 1 lb.
Vegetable ½ lb. Ou 2 oz. de fromage
Per week  
Curry powder  

Recruits appear to be generally satisfied with the quality and quantity, to the point of making a little song..

There is a Soldiers’Camp
Down Mitcham way
Where we get bread and jam
Three times a day

Camp Mitcham, 9 August, 1916 (minute n°43, 31 december 2017)

Dear Lindsay, my brother,

I know you're very interested in photography, but in Tarlee there is no photographer who can satisfy your curiosity. Here in Adelaide, the newspapers are full of little ads suggesting that soldiers get their photo taken before leaving for the western front.

Publicité Photographe

With another soldier, Edward Lawrence Bemi, who was an apprentice printer before committing himself, we decided to go.  The photo will be a gift for our parents. We chose Frühling Studios, which is 62 Rundle Street. It's a bit far from the camp, but the best photographers in the city are almost all in this street.


We can have the photos stuck on small cardboard cards, we call this "Cabinet".

Photo Cabinet

Sample Frühling Studio Cabinet Card


Lawrence Bemi is a keen photographer. He even bought his own camera. It is very small, a Kodak. It is called “Vest Pocket” because once folded, it really fits in a pocket. Bemi hopes to bring back some pictures of the war. I'm sure you would like such a camera.

I think of you, my brother,

See you soon









Kodak Vest-PocketPublicité Kodak

The facts :

Private Edward Lawrence Bemi (registration number 6589) was 19 years and 3 months old when he signed his appointment in May 1916 in Brisbane. He had been an apprentice printer for 2 years, in Ipswich (Queensland) in the family business.
He was enrolled in the 21st reinforcement of the 15th infantry battalion. He embarked for Europe on 21 October 1916, at the same time as A.C. Stribling, but on a different boat, the Boonah. It is possible that both people were in the same camp at the same time, it is unlikely however that they met.
After passing through Great Britain, he arrived in France, via Etaples. Very often sick, he was in hospital a few times, before being sent back to Australia, in February 1918. He arrived in Sydney at the end of March where he was released for medical reasons. He had trench fever. This infectious disease caused by bacteria, transmitted by body lice. The poor hygienic conditions in the trenches made it an ideal place for the proliferation of this disease. The infection could have cardiac consequences.
Here you can see his discharge notice, where the cardiac problems are mentioned: rapid pulse, but also anaemia, great fatigue diarrhoea etc.


The Queenslander

Regional newspapers regularly announce the return of wounded or sick soldiers.

The Queenslander of 6 April 1918 lists 291 soldiers, including E.L. Bemi.















Although he returned from the war, unfortunately Edward did not live long. He died in October 1925. It is very possible that he died from the consequences of the war, and yet he is not considered a war victim.


Camp Mitcham, 14 August, 1916 (minute n°44, 7 janvier 2018)

My dear parents,

Yesterday Sunday, we were hoping to leave the camp to see a footy match, but unfortunately the match was cancelled because too many players answered the call and are training or fighting.

An appeal from the Dardanelles: will they never come?

This morning we received our complete package. We will finally be fully dressed as soldiers.
Our equipment includes:
The jacket service dress is worn with Khaki trousers.
A grey flannel shirt, collarless.
Boxer shorts
Woollen bands
A pair of leather ankle boots
A pair of wool or cotton socks.
A wool coat.
A felt hat.
A cap
The coat has pretty buttons with the map of our country.

May God bless Australia and Freedom.


The facts :

At the UK entered the war, Australia had a small conscription army, authorized only to intervene on its own territory. The status of this army of citizens forbids any external intervention, and therefore it is necessary to quickly recruit and equip an army of volunteers (AIF), to send to the Middle East and Europe. It has no equipment adapted to the war in Europe. The first contingents therefore train with disparate clothes, partly civil, partly from the small interior army.
In a short time, it was essential to create a complete uniform. To save time, some existing elements within the home army were used, such as the hat, the panties and the patches.
Footy is the nickname of Australian football. This sport, very specific (for example, the field is oval), is the number one sport in Australia. At the time of the first war, matches are very popular and large crowds attend.  1916 is a terrible year for this sport (as for others) because a good number of teams are unable to align enough players, which often led to their disappearance.

Some Australian sports teams, when competing in France, come to commemorate at Villers-Bretonneux in memory of the heavy tribute paid by sportsmen during the first war.


Camp Mitcham, Sunday, 20 August, 1916 (minute n°45, 14 janvier 2018)

Dear Parents,

As it is Sunday, I have a little more time to write to you. I have been tired these past few days, with a little fever. Fortunately, I can seek comfort in the tents and barracks of the Y.M.C.A.
The big tent of the organization measures 40 x 13 meters. It can hold 1000 people. There is an electric light. It is enormous. There is nothing so big in Tarlee, not even the train station. There are cold or hot drinks, treats, they are not very expensive because the YMCA makes very little profit, any profit they do make is reinvested for our good. It's very well organized, and there are even isolated corners where you can read the Bible quietly or write. Chaplains are always ready to help us in understanding the scriptures. 

You can also play in the big tent, but without betting money.

The letter you are reading is written on paper sold by the Y.M.C.A. On the envelope, there is a photo showing the big tent, but we do not see other small barracks of the organization. We heard that the YMCA was also on the western front, closer to the soldiers, to bring them comfort. The people of Adelaide can be proud of the local branch of the YMCA. It is a very beautiful example of Christian charity.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour 'YMCA australia funds 1916 ads'
Do not forget me in your prayers. I love you all.



The facts:

YMCA signifie Young Men’s Christian Association. Ce n’est pas seulement une chanson interprétée par un officier de marine, un indien, un soldat, un cow-boy, un ouvrier du bâtiment et un motard. C’est d’abord le nom d’une ONG protestante, fondée en Grande-Bretagne, en 1844. Elle existe toujours et son siège se trouve à Genève. Le but initial était de venir en aide matérielle et spirituelle aux jeunes travailleurs dans l’Angleterre de la révolution industrielle. Très vite, le YMCA se répandit dans le monde anglophone. Le Volley-Ball, le Basket-Ball et le futsal ont été inventés par des animateurs du YMCA.

The badge of the YMCA is a triangle, symbolizing the essential balance between body, mind and spirit.
During the first war, the Y.M.C.A provided support to men in the English, American, Australian, and Canadian armies through the installation of multi-service "homes" to improve the welfare of soldiers. These homes were moving closer to the front. The cost of running, sending volunteers had a huge cost. The Y.M.C.A organized regular and successful calls for donations.

The poster below encourages families of soldiers to send them pictures of their home, family, etc.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour 'Australia YMCA WWI'      
Inauguration des salles de lecture YMCA du camp Mitcham, le 18 mars 1916

Camp Mitcham, 15 september, 1916 (minute n°46, 21 janvier 2018)


Dear Parents,

I finally got out of the hospital where I had been since 24th August. I had measles, called German measles, then a P.U.O (Pyrexia of Unknown Origin fever of unknown origin).
The measles epidemic seems important, even if it is nothing compared to the epidemic of meningitis that hit the camp last year. During my hospitalization, I received various vaccinations.

I will soon be able to resume training at the camp.

I heard that in South Australia, an anti-German sentiment was developing and that there was even a petition calling for the closure of German schools, that German officials should be excluded, and that the names of German-sounding localities are being renamed.

We also learned at Y.M.C.A. that the South Australian Cricket would not organize the games scheduled for next summer. Anyway, I'll be gone already.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour 'Chameau'Despite the war, a new expedition will be exploring the centre of our country, probably on camels, like most of the previous ones. It's strange that we are going to war in Europe, when we do not know everything about our own country.

Lots of love,


The facts:

Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS)

AANSMore than 3,000 Australian civilian nurses volunteered for active service during the First World War. While allowing direct participation in the war effort, nursing also offered opportunities for independence and travel, sometimes in the hope of being closer to those serving abroad.


The Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) was set up in July 1903 as part of the Australian Army Medical Corps. During the war, more than 2,000 of its members served overseas alongside Australian nurses working with other organizations, such as Queen Alexandra's Imperial Nursing Service (QAIMNS), the Red Cross or private institutions.

Women worked in hospitals, on hospital ships and trains, or in aid stations located closer to the front line. They served in places ranging from Britain to India, including France and Belgium, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  Many of them were rewarded, eight were awarded the Military Medal for their bravery. Twenty-five died during their service.

Four of the five brothers and sisters of the Malcolm family served during the First World War. This portrait was taken after they returned home. (NDPT: I love this picture)

The status of Australians of German origin

The war has created a division in Australian society. People of German origin were more numerous in South Australia than in any other Australian state. The 1911 census showed that 26,281 South Australians - nearly 7% of the population - were Lutheran. Of the foreign-born residents, 4977 were born in Germany. Following an order from the British government of 1914, the Australian government demanded that states intern people of German or "enemy" origin. In South Australia (the 4th Military District), an internment camp was established on Torrens Island, near the Port River at Port Adelaide.

Despite decades of peaceful interaction between South Australians of German and non-German descent, the promotion of every aspect of German culture was banned during the war. The German newspaper Süd Australische Zeitung, published continuously since 1850 was banned. The 52 schools in South Australia using German as the main language of instruction were closed. The 1917 Nomenclature Act amended 69 German place names and prohibited the use of an old German place name in a residential address or legal document.


Reproduction du texte non autorisée sans autorisation préalable