I had a parcel of socks sent to me from a girl friend I knew at Hamilton they were on the road over six months & just came in nice time as the cold weather is coming in fast, they are hand knitted & nice & long. I have written to Mr. Ashworth to send me a pair of strong leather gloves as it is bitterly cold on the hands here in Winter. Well dearest I do hope this lot finishes this year. I am like a caged bird with clipped wings. I am just longing to see you again. I had a dream about you once. I don’t know if I told you before. I dreamt I was back home again and walking down your street when I saw a covered in vehicle coming along & you looked out if it & stared at me but as soon as you recognized me you turned your head the other way & left me staring after you. They say dreams go by opposites anyway I hope so in this case. Another time I dreamt I had returned home and went to your place. You took me to a big room & two other girls were there. I thought you then left me with these two girls & told me to tell them all my experiences but I was too shy to talk to them and when you came back you called me all sorts of names for not speaking. Well the next time I dream of home I hope to wake up & find I am there. Goodbye dearest for the present. Yours ever Ozzie.
Kind regards to all.
Prisoner of War Kriegsgefangen
Although I have nothing to talk about I am not going to miss the chance of writing to you. I got such a nice long letter from Hilda about a week ago; the second since in Germany. I was very pleased to get it as I thought I she had forgotten me altogether. She says little Oz is getting on fine & will soon be called up for military service. She is sending me his photo. I would just love to see him. I won’t be able to make it out when I get home and have someone call me Uncle Oz. I hope he will have an Auntie Myrtle also.
Fancy I have been fourteen months in this country now I only wish to goodness this lot would finish I am terribly tired of it all. I am just longing for the day to come when I can get back to you dear. The only thing is to try to forget & then how happy I will be when the day does come. It is no use worrying as it does(nt) make things any brighter so please take my advice to yourself & don’t worry. Hilda said in her letter that she thought a certain person was worrying at times. All will come right in time & then think of the gay times we will have together. I often think on try to imagine the day when I land on the old Port Melbourne pier. I think I will go mad that day so be ready with a big cage in case I do. Well dearest you will be getting tired of prattle of mine, so I will say au revoir with fondest love from yours ever Ozzie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Kind regards to all at home.
Received your letter dated 5th Saturday evening. In your last letter you mention not receiving one of my letters & how you felt a wee bit disappointed. Well dearest it is not any fault of mine as I have written regularly. I am not working at present we finished picking currants last Thursday & don’t expect to start on sultanas till next Monday. On Saturday we went fishing & shooting. Mr. Appleby took us in the car through the Red cliffs land, which is being opened up. It is nine or ten miles from here & is considered very fine land. Most people think it is the best land in the district. The river is very pretty about there & the cliffs are very high. We had a very enjoyable day & caught light fish I caught three; 2 brim & 1 perch. We took Bruce’s camera with us & took some snaps. I only hope they come out alright. I am sending them in today to be developed & printed, so may possibly be able to send them to you by the next post. I really don’t know how long it will be before they open up Red Cliffs for settlements but I was reading in the age the other day that it would not be ready for about 3 years. Of course they have to make the channels for irrigation & they are talking of locking the river. The people here don’t think it will be nearly that long. If it was 3 years before we came into possession it would mean another four years before we got any kind of return from the vines. When I come down I intend to have a real talk with Mr. Cattanach.
So Harold is coming down, I am very sorry I shall miss him, if he had only waited a little longer; I would have been able to come down. You ask me what Gordos are; well they are the raisin fruit.
I am sending you a photo of the house,we printed it yesterday. I sleep on the verandah on the opposite side, it is very nice and netted in with fine wire to keep the mosquitos out; otherwise they would eat you to death. I am writing to Hilda & if I feel like it will drop a line to Aunt so please excuse me now dearest. Give my love to Mother & accept best same yourself.
From Yours ever Ozzie xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Kind regards to your father & all the family.
* An excerpt from a letter written by Oz from the trenches
"Dear Myrtle, I received your letter the day I was leaving Egypt for the front & must say I never enjoyed reading a letter so much before. It was so nice of you to write so soon dear especially as you did not know my address. It is a week ago today since we landed, & seems like a month. I suppose you are wondering how I am getting on. Well I am (A.I). Before we landed here I was wondering what kind of country we would be fighting in, I knew it was pretty hilly, but never imagined it half as rough as it is. I am in the trenches now trying to get Mr Turk to give me a shot at him, but he is pretty cunning and does not show himself too often. We are only about 200 yds from their trenches....."
Red Cliffs, Sunday
I am sitting out in front of the hut writing in the moonlight. I went over to the Nursery camp & got your two letters of the 7th & 10th. Your letters mean so much to me darl, not the writing itself but all the goodness of heart that prompts you to write. I would have liked to be as regular with my letters to you but at present it is impossible. I don’t think there is a day passes that I don’t think of you & oh I am just longing to have my arms around you & forget all the cares & worries of this life. I have been very optimistic about everything up till now but I am gradually being converted into not a pessimist but rather a fatalist.
The fill keeps breaking & the water just seems to keep out of our grasp. The chap I had with me has gone back to Swan Hill so I am on my own. You will be wondering if I had a quarrel. No. he went of his own accord & I am very pleased as I have given up batching & am now boarding with Mrs Jones. I am up to my eyes in work & I felt too tired to bother cooking anyway it is impossible here in the Summer. It has been frightfully hot for over a week now & the mosquitoes are bad at night. I have hundreds of bites while I have been writing. I have about two days before I finish pegging out. The head ditch I made is all filled again. The wind blows clouds of sand from off the block & consequently all holes & ditches get filled in. It was too blessed hot to work today. I generally cut pegs at night. I have used about 5000 & I still need about 2000.
Did I forget to mention about your cakes darl. What an ungrateful fool you will think I am; they were very nice darl. I won’t tell a lie & say they come up to Lil’s but with a few lessons (from me) you will be an A1 cook in fact I would like you to commence your job of cook on this ranch as soon as you like. I want to write a lot more. Tonight I seem to feel that you are near me & that you are thinking of me but the blessed mosquitoes are eating me alive so goodnight my beloved. Give my love to your mother & kindest regards to your dad & a heart full of love from Yours ever, Oz.
(This is an undated letter from Oz to Myrtle that we found in the suitcase - most likely written toward the end of 1921)
Your dear old letter arrived yesterday it was a lovely old letter full of cheer. Just the kind of tonic I was in need of. You are just the dearest & sweetest girl in the world sharing my worries & troubles. I also wish with all my heart that you were here with me, then all the big worries would be as nothing compared with the joy of having you always near to comfort me.
This batching life is rotten to say the least of it. I often dream of our future home with all its comforts and you darl.
Just the biggest part of all. Its horrible to have to break my thoughts & look round in an 8 x 10 tent with flies buzzing round & everything untidy “ugh”. [xxx] is still away. I have hired a house for a few days to finish the sledging off. A man named Walsh is coming next Monday to do the plowing. I will be glad when everything is ready for planting. There are still a lot of channels to be made. I don’t think we will get water till somewhere the end of next month. Some of the fellows are planting after the recent heavy rains. They say there is enough moisture in the ground to carry them until they get the water. [xxx] has gone to Crouch’s for chaff it costs about 12/ a week to feed a horse. Well enough about my affairs, how are all the folks down your way.
You are ardently determined on challenging me to a singles being that you have such a flash racquet. I am glad you got such a good one & so cheaply, as you say it must have been in good order if it belonged to a [xxx] . I am going to research a piece of ground for a tennis court & later on might concrete it. You are like me darl. I paid a subscription 30% to the tennis club here & haven’t played there much. How is Lil. I hope she is better again. Yesterday evening I rode into the township for some groceries. I saw Alan Crouch, he & his wife want me to come over one evening. Mrs Crouch’s father & mother are coming up so they said they would like me to meet them. It is getting Summery here now I cannot say I am sorry although the Winter is beautiful up these parts. My next door neighbor has started to build a two room house which will be like [xxx] over in the Summer. With my very best I am about dry for rest so will say goodbye for a little while. Give my love to your mother. Accept heaps for yourself. From yours ever. Oz.
Kind regards to your Dad.
Dearest Old Girl,
I am lying under a tree trying to keep cool. I received your dear old letter yesterday & feel a real culprit at not being able to write before but I know you will understand. Last Sunday Allan & I rode in before tea to post our letters thinking we would be able to get back before it was dark but misfortune overtook us , I got two punctures in my bike & had to mend them consequently we had to ride back in the dark. While we were in there Allan bought a new billy also a dozen eggs which we packed carefully in the billy after my slow riding and a few spills we managed to reach the hometown & we were priding ourselves on our ability as night riders when all of a sudden I crashed into a big pine tree & came right over the handles of the bike, luckily I did not hurt myself very much. Allan came back & took the billy of eggs from me & we started off again. He had not gone more than fifty yards when he shot clean over his bike. When we got home we pulled the lid off the billy & alas there were only two sound eggs, the other were all mixed up in the bottom of the billy so we had scrambled eggs for tea. Eggs are very scarce up here & we were looking forward to a luxurious tea. Proverb never count your chickens before they are hatched.
Friday evening I rode in to send the wires. I also wired Ben. I hope things are fixed up alright. So far things are going alright, the only thing is when you come home tired at night you have to turn round & cook meals but nevertheless the food is good & that alone compensates us for our bother. Allan washes up & does handy jobs. We are troubled very much with flies & ants & if you don’t cover up everything they simply swarm it, not the little ants you get down there but great big ones. We are both priding ourselves on being able to stick the heavy work even big chaps who have been used to hard graft all their lives find it very hard at first in fact dozens cannot stick it longer than a few days. So we are not on contract work dear; those on contract work have to provide all their own implements. The other day we struck a very big mallee. Which took us the rest of the best part of two days to get out, we broke three cables & in the end had to dig it out & chop the roots from underneath; In trying to mend the cable a chap hit me on the back of my hand with an axe. It is very stiff & sore & a lot of proud flesh is forming on the surface. Today I bathed it with water as hot as I could bear & put [xx] powder on & bound it up. So you see dear I am writing under difficulties. Any flesh wound does not heal too well. I will have to be careful or it will turn into septic poisoning.
Yesterday afternoon Allan and I went to the river fishing, we caught nothing but snags. We enjoyed ourselves nevertheless & had a real good swim. It was simply beautiful in the water. We got home about nine at night. This morning we did not get up till about 10am, had breakfast & I put on the dinner a roast of beef, baked potatoes & onions. I cooked it in a camp oven & it turned out beautiful. Allan thinks I am a bit of a wonder at cooking he doesn’t know how to cook a potato. If at any time you think of some nice little recipes within our reach don’t forget to send them along. I have not come across that fellow the Blairs are enquiring about but if I do I will let you know.
This is all up to the present sweetheartmine. I hope you can understand the scrawl. Give my love to your mother & accept the love of the one who is always thinking & longing for you. Yours ever. Kind regards to your dad and family.
Letters shared here were written by Private Ozbert Edwards of the 21st Australian Infantry Battalion to Miss Myrtle McCoughtry his future wife. They were written before, during and then after WWI while establishing his settler block at Red Cliffs VIC. Myrtle remained in Melbourne until their house was built. Letters shared here are part of a larger private collection generously shared with permission by Pam Shugg (granddaughter of Oz and Myrtle) and her family.