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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Ahmed: Interpreter

Ahmed: Interpreter.

He arrived whilst we were living in the rustic neighbourhood of Serapeum. He was at once the pride and despair of Brigade Headquarters. About five feet five, thin, with a complexion the exact shade of a decayed apple, he arrived dressed in the very shabbiest of old clothes and carrying a small bundle done up in a large red handkerchief. He might have been Dick Whittington on his way to London by the look of him and his rig-out. He was to be the interpreter. Ahmed was very civil, in fact, he was too civil, almost servile. He was not an eight hour enthusiast, but was a Bahi. Exactly what a Bahi is I have never really been able to say. When he had been with us a week or so we found that he could not ride anything greater than a donk. As the authorities did not in those days provide donkeys we had to teach him to ride a real live horse. He had a great admiration for the horses, and wanted, right or wrong, to have a ride on one of the General's nags. We persuaded him that the old roachbacked mare was the best horse in the lines, and so he wanted her. We saddled up the mare and sang out for Ahmed to get a move on. He came along in all the glory of a pair of old breeches that someone had discarded, with a big patch on the seat. We got him mounted somehow or other, and when he had gathered the reins we let the mare have her head. Ahmed, thinking of his old donkey riding days, was not content to leave well alone, but had to give her a resounding whack with a waddy. You can imagine what happened. He did not go for a ride for a few days.

His next trip on a neddy was out from the canal where he had gone in for a swim or something. I think it was not a swim, as he was decidedly shy of any liquid used for such an ignoble purpose as. washing. He had gone in on the train and one of the fellows had to bring a spare horse back a matter of five miles. He persuaded Ahmed that he should ride out and get a little practice, as he might have to go out on a stunt. Ahmed agreed. It took an hour and a half to make the journey, and Ahmed straightway went into hospital for a week. He had a new understanding when he was discharged. The only thing left for him to do was to exercise the goat. The goat was the property of the O.C., and had to be exercised daily. Ahmed got the job, and the first day out sombody went and had a yarn with him whilst a pal pinched the goat. There was more trouble for all of us, and I took care that Ahmed got his share of it.

Ahmed all this time was gradually rising in his own opinion; decked out in a swell suit, he seemed to have the idea that he was one of the most important items on the Brigade. He then began to find fault with the tucker; it was pretty good grub, as the Army knows it, and Ahmed had no cause to complain; but he did, and naturally the men got up against him. The nasty remarks they used to address to him!

When the Brigade moved out for the Romani picnic, Ahmed moved out too. At every stop he would be off his old crock and burying his head in the sand like the ostrich, so much, like the ostrich, in fact, that he got the sack. I lately saw him at a station somewhere along the Canal. He was boss of a gang of Labor Corpa wallads.