Imagine if you were unable to contact loved ones by telephone, email or via any other communication strategy now available in today’s digital age. No longer is it possible to hop in your car and drive down the road to visit friends and family. Instead, you have sailed for at least 4 weeks aboard a troopship to a foreign land. And there is no indication as to when, or if, you will see loved ones again.
In January 1915, an oft-repeated subject in the letters and diaries of Australian soldiers who had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and were based at Mena Camp in Egypt, was the receipt of letters from back home. A new phenomenon, referred to by Apcar Leslie DeVine on 13 January 1915 as “letter call”, had introduced itself in the training camp. DeVine goes on to mention that this new event literally brought men running to get their letters. The following observation was also made by George McCrae on 9 January 1915 about occasions such as these:
When word is passed around that a mail has arrived the whole camp buzzes with supressed excitement, they are the days to which we look forward but alas they are very irregular, and far between.