THE West Australian boys disembarked, and happy lads they were. Next morning the ship was under way again, bound for Adelaide. Just a few more days and Horrie for the first time would put his little feet upon Australian soil; his eyes after many days would again see the open daylight.
We were very anxious. We never left Horrie an instant and kept that door well and truly locked. The tragedy of Hobo weighed heavy upon our minds.
During those few hours in Fremantle by circuitous means we had tried in vain to hear news of Imshi. Evidently her ship had not yet called in.
On that last night aboard, the Rebels with Sergeant Poppa crowded into the signallers' cabin to make plans for bringing our long laid schemes to a happy ending. Horrie was so excited he nearly wagged his tail off.
"Horrie is quite confident," laughed Feathers.
"He's a cert!" grinned Gordie. "He'll make history in Australia yet."
"A dinkum emigrant," smiled Fitz.
"He'll pull his weight," growled Poppa. "What's country without a dog anyway."
We all agreed.
"Now then, you nit-wits," said Poppa, "there's to be kit-inspection on the ship tomorrow morning. So you can hardly make a mess of it at the last moment. However, there may possibly be an inspection on the wharf. I doubt it; the Army is too excited at setting foot on Australian shores again. Now, just in case of an inspection on the wharf, what is the plan?"
"The fainting plan," I said.
The Rebels and sigs were confident this would succeed although I would probably be chucked into an ambulance. This would not matter. I felt certain I would be able to hop out with Horrie. The Gogg gave me the address of his people in Adelaide. "If anything happens and we become separated," he said, "take him straight there. He will be safe as a bank with my people until you can claim him. If you like, you can leave him there for good."
Good old Gogg. But it was my secret hope to leave him with the old folk in Melbourne.
"Well now," said Feathers seriously, "you know how we all feel about Horrie, Jim! But he is more your dog than anyone else's; at least, the little Wog-dog has adopted you a shade more than anyone else. We can't all have him. He's yours. There's no need to ask do you want him for keeps."
"I do," I said, "but I'll make you all a promise. First of all, I promise he'll have the best home in the world. Secondly, I feel confident that some day he may take upon himself a bride and I only hope she will be Imshi. In either event, I promise you each a puppy."
Loud cheers. "I'll call my little bloke 'Horrie's son'," declared Don. Each of the Rebels quickly thought of a name. But when the signallers claimed a pup each I felt the least bit doubtful. I knew Horrie had the heart of a lion but whether he could manage a harem - well!
Next morning we anchored at Port Adelaide. Big Jim was the officer at the last cabin inspection. Never had cabin been so spick and span, nor so quickly inspected.
Horrie was as quiet as a mouse in his pack.
"Good show," said Big Jim approvingly, and disappeared to inspect the next cabin. Then lining up in single file, Rebels and signallers before and behind me we shuffled-our way along the passageways until we gained the gang, way. Horrie was in the pack upon my back. Never did smuggler's heart glow as mine, even though he carried a: fortune in diamonds upon his person. All I carried was a little dog.
When I reached the gangway I laughed in noiseless mirth. I wanted to shout for sheer joy. There was no inspection - the troops were filing across the wharf and on to a waiting train.
Almost in a dream I scrambled into a carriage. Rebels and signallers had grabbed a window seat for me. Very; soon, from within the pack bag Horrie was gazing at Australia through a crisscross of string.
Happily we enjoyed the tea and cakes given by a Women's Welfare League. Then we were moving towards Adelaide. Few knew of our coming in those terribly anxious days and we were wildly cheered by all who saw us.
At Adelaide, we were marched to temporary billets at the Adelaide Oval. The Rebels came across to Don and me and quietly shepherded us away behind a grandstand to allow Horrie a few precious minutes' freedom. Horrie stepped out of the pack, stood quite still a few moments gazing up at the wonderful sky, his feet upon Aussie land, his little nose sniffing the sweetest air upon earth. Then with a delighted yelp he raced away to investigate his first dinkum Australian gum-tree.
Horrie was acclimatised.
Horrie was whisked back into the pack as special trains came to take us to Burnside Camp.
A pleasant Australian woman holding a bunch of papers approached Don and me.
"Billets for two," she smiled. "Come along."
With a "Good luck!" from the Rebels we followed her. She took us to a pretty little house. We waited inside the gate until she knocked at the door.
"What if they don't like dogs!" whispered Don.
'We must chance it," I whispered, "but I think everyone likes a dog."
"Would you come in, please," called our escort. "This is Private Gill and this is Private Moody," she said to a decidedly pretty young woman. "Mrs Trezona."
We smiled our best and were shown into a clean little room.
"I hope you will be quite at home here," she said anxiously.
"It's great," said Don, "it will do me."
"Me too," I murmured.
"Unpack your things and then join me in a cup of tea," she smiled.
As the door closed behind her Don said quietly, "She seems a real good sort."
"Yes," I answered, but we won't produce Horrie until we're sure."
Presently, she called us to the kitchen.
"I hope you don't mind having tea with me here," she said.
We assuredly did not mind. It was a very pleasant little kitchen. We got along so famously that at last I said with an anxious grin, "Are you fond of dogs?"
"I adore them."
"Excuse us!" said Don and I as we jumped up together and foolishly collided in the doorway. I can still see the surprised look on her face. More so when we reappeared wreathed in grins carrying a weather-stained pack bag.
I quickly opened the flap and a little white, inquiring head poked out; two large brown eyes gazed hopefully up at our hostess.
"The dear little war-dog!" she exclaimed and we knew Horrie had captured yet another heart.
When Mr Trezona came home that evening we told them some of Horrie's adventures. The party that sat down to the evening meal was Ted and Mary, Don and Jim and Horrie.
The little Wog-dog was going to love Australia and Australians were going to love him.
Next day, when Don and I met the Rebels on the parade ground, our broad grins told them the news.
"He's right as the bank," I added. "Taken possession of the place. I managed to get a wire home to Dad in Melbourne too. Horrie and I arrived in Australia."'
The next few days were joyful ones for the troops so long on foreign soil. The Adelaide folk did all they could for us, while we were so happy to be in Australia again that the hours just melted by. Our unit was to be entertained at the Burnside Town Hall and Mary suggested we invite the Rebels home afterwards for a surprise party.
This was just the very thing; in delight we arranged the surprise we had promised Big Jim.
After that very merry dance, the Rebels gathered at the Trezona home and filled the place with noise and laughter. Here we were, with the exception of good old Murchie, all united again in an Australian home.
The laughter and chatter were interrupted by Fitz standing up and calling.
"Attention everyone please! The prime object of our happy meeting tonight is to present to you all - and especially to Big Jim - the world's greatest magician!" and he bowed to me. I solemnly reciprocated. "Also," proceeded Fitz, "introducing to you the magician's famous assistant. Dot and Dash," and he waved towards Don and me. Solemnly we acknowledged the hand-claps.
"The trick you are about to witness," proceeded Fitz, "has never been performed before and never will be again. To achieve the phenomenon about to be witnessed Dot and Dash have blended the elusive magic of the mysterious East with the skill of the cultivated West, backed up by the initiative and determination of our own Sunny South. Time is passing, the Moving Finger writes on, the curtain rises upon the Past to bring to the Present the magic you now will see." And Fitz sat down amid thunderous clapping.
Don and I rose to again take the bow. I held up my hand.
"Ladies and gentlemen, particularly our guest Big Jim, in whose honour this miracle is about to be performed, I first ask you in all seriousness to swear you will not say one word of what you are about to witness - not until at least forty-eight hours from now. Do you all swear?"
They swore unanimously.
"Very well. Silence!"
Don vanished. In a now expectant silence he reappeared reverently carrying an object covered with a white sheet. Carefully placing it in the centre of the carpet he made a few passes over it then stood silently.
I bent over the sheet and made mystic passes murmuring "Antibrecazzar! Antibrecazzar!" then in a sepulchral voice said, "I now ask our friendly-enemy officer, Big Jim, to step forward and remove the covering. Then to open that which waits underneath."
Big Jim was laughingly thrust forward; somewhat doubtfully he gazed down at the sheet.
"I'll be the goat " he laughed. "I'll get even with you on parade afterwards.
Slowly he pulled off the sheet, a pack bag was underneath. With a puzzled smile he undid the flap, opened it__
For a second he stared, then - "Horrie!" he shouted. "Well, I'm blessed!" and Horrie was barking up at him in a frenzy of tail-wagging.
As Big Jim lifted up the excited pup, the girls crowded around to pet him - the pup, I mean. Big Jim would have appreciated it much more; Horrie passed me a scornful look. "Trying to make me a sissy," he seemed to say.
When Big Jim called for silence he simply said: "Friends, words cannot convey what I mean when I say this has been one of the very pleasant surprises of my life. you could only understand had you been over there and known how this game little Wog-dog entered into all our lives. To thus meet him again on dear Australian soil, well__"
Next day the Rebels got a whisper about Imshi. The rumour made us feel unhappy. She was discovered, so the rumour said, only one day before the boat reached Fremantle. She disappeared.
That same day I was en route for Melbourne. In the quick movement of troops to their home towns, and in the soon-to-be quick movements to the danger now hammering at our very own North, troops lost touch with one another, and to this day we are not really certain as to Imshi's fate. It was the hardest of luck that her friends should get her to within one day's sail of Australia and then be forced to destroy her. But we still believe she may be happily in Australia, her friends when she was discovered may have "worked a ready" and got her ashore after all. Anyway, if Imshi's owner reads these lines and if Imshi is in Australia he will now know there is a little Wog-dog called Horrie very anxious to meet his lady love again.
Let us bring them together again, for the sake of the old romance.
There is not much more to tell. I got Horrie safely home to Melbourne where he is very happy with the old Dad, a better man than I. We, the Rebels and the signallers and the battalion in our wanderings since have missed his cheery company very much. But we all look forward to the reunion, the great reunion when the Wog-dog and Murchie and we all meet again after the war.
Until then the little Wog-dog sends greetings and wishes for a safe return to his very many friends. The little out-cast of the Desert, Corporal Horrie of Egypt, Greece, Crete, Palestine, Syria, is a dinkum little Aussie-dog.
April 1944. Much water has flowed under the bridge since our great party. Since those fearful days we and our great Allies have driven back the enemy from Australian shores and our dear country breathes again. There is much, alas, very much more to do yet, but how immeasurably stronger we are to do it than we were in those fateful days when the Wog-dog first set foot upon Australia.
Since then, we have been through the hell of New Guinea. But what I am in a hurry to tell you all is this. Only a few days ago, Don and I, back from New Guinea on leave in Melbourne, heard a shout across the street. He was one of the boys; he had just been landed after a long period of guerrilla fighting in the East Indies. He dare tell us but very little as you can readily understand. But he told us this great news. Murchie is still boxing on. Murchie is safe, fighting as we knew he would, to the last. He is away up in the mountains and chief of half a dozen villages. He has his own little commando, he is still waging his private war against the Jap. He will hold out, will Murchie. Soon we will meet Murchie again.
|Well, Horrie, little fellow, your reward was death. You who deserved a nation's plaudits, sleep in peace. Among Australia's war heroes, we shall remember you.|
Under Quarantine Regulations, Horrie was destroyed on 12 March 1945.