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Ayesha of Ballah.
Ayesha of Ballah. 

Western Mail, Thursday 12 January 1933, page 2

Ayesha of Ballah.

(By 147,344, R.A., Forest Grove).

Ballah is a navigation station on the Suez Canal. It boasts, in addition to the Canal station, a cement works where they make a beautiful white cement that sets like marble, a railway station and a row of railwaymen's houses. Ayesha lived in one of those houses, so was of some social standing. She was, also, unquestionably beautiful, judged by desert standards.

She came into our lines one day, with her boy friend, Achmed, and stood for a while wistfully watching me cleaning my bit and stirrup irons. Then with a coy little smile she seated herself on the sand in front of me, took one of the stirrup irons, and, gripping it firmly between her little brown toes, rubbed it with sand as she had seen me do until she had it gleaming like a heliograph.

Thereafter, she came daily, and, much to her escort's disgust and the mob's amusement, as regularly helped me clean my appointments. When we had finished I would regale her with sweetmeats - half emptied jam tins and toffee brought from the "Anzac" at Kantarra. But she preferred the jam.

Spare tins of bully beef and jam I used to give her to take home. In return she would bring me a few eggs, still warm from the nest.

But Ayesha had one foible (or forte!). She could, when displeased, out-swear any sergeant-major or riding master that ever I met, and she would clench her little fists, grit her faultlessly even teeth, and draw herself up to the full of her diminutive height to add emphasis. Achmed would grin his admiration, and prompt her if she got stuck.

Her blasphemous tirades, however, were not frequent. She was by nature a cheerful, warm-hearted little soul, and my sojorn was infinitely the brighter for her companionship.

Once or twice her sister, Fat'ma, accompanied her, but Fat'ma had neither the industry nor the pristine charm of Ayesha. To offer her a piece of harness to clean was an unpardonable affront.

But then, Fat'ma was growing old. She must have been quite thirteen, whereas Ayesha was but five. Achmed, the young rascal, was seven!

Those in the story:

Ayesha = 5 year old girl

Achmed = 7 year old boy

Fat'ma = 13 year old girl

Narrator = 147344 Gunner Charles M Coote, Royal Field Artillery

Ballah, Egypt

"Anzac" at Kantarra = Mrs Alice Isabel Chisholm's Canteen, Kantara became a cherished institution in the Middle East. Soldiers flocked there in their spare time or when on leave. For a small price they found care, comfort, food, and the luxury of showers. Most of all they were provided with a small touch of home.