Officer in Waiting
4 May - 12 June
The Somme Again
13 June - 24 August
Dompiere & Mont St. Quentin
25 August - 6 September
7 September - 10 November
11 November - 28 Feb 1919
The WWI diary of Percy Smythe was transcribed by his daughter Betty Smythe.
Friday, 22nd. Didn't get much sleep down in the train, which was pretty crowded with troops, nurses, and married officers with their families. We were in a carriage with an open corridor along the centre. Dorrie began to get a bit excited when we reached Taunton and Exeter. A little farther on we came to the coast, just as daylight was breaking, and passed some pretty little seaside spots. We went through several small tunnels with sweet little bays in between, and rocky headlands jutting into the sea. Then the line left the sea coast and ran inland, passing many places known to Dorothy. The scenery now became beautiful, with deep valleys between wide round hills covered with numberless fields of brown earth and green verdure. These fields were of all sorts of irregular shapes, and divided by hedges, the hedges for which Devon is famous. The whole made a very pleasing arrangement of form and colour, and would have been an excellent subject for a painting.
We arrived at Plymouth about half-past seven. Progress through Devonport was slow, and then the train was held up outside the docks until half-past nine. Arriving on the wharf there was another long delay until the "Anchises", a blue-funnel ship, was towed in alongside. Before going on board I wrote a cable home, "Smythe Kogarah Anchises Percy Smythe", and gave it with ten shillings to the Embarkation Officer to send for me. Upon embarking, we found to our disgust and disappointment that we are in different cabins, Dorrie being with three other girls in a four-berth cabin, and the four husbands being in the next-door cabin. They are former two-berth cabins fitted up with extra bunks to provide increased accommodation. Then we learned that the "Anchises" is a troop-ship, and not, as we had supposed, a family ship. A number of married officers and their families are only taken to fill up the 1st. class accommodation.
Saturday, 23rd. Two years ago today since I first met Dorothy at the railway station at Ludgershall. How completely has been fulfilled the wish I wrote in this book a year ago! God has indeed been good to us, and we have much to thank Him for.
At half-past ten this morning the ship got under way, being towed slowly down the harbour. Cheers rose from the men on the wharf as we moved away. There were many battleships and cruisers at anchor in the harbour, the crews of which lined up and gave three cheers as we passed, our men cheering in return. Going down the harbour, we passed many places that were known to Dorothy, she having lived at Devonport for a good number of years. There was the Plymouth Hoe with its recreation grounds and places of amusement, the base of the old Eddystone lighthouse, and Drake's monument beyond.
We came to anchor for a little while in the outer part of the harbour just behind the breakwater. Dorrie was feeling rather unwell, and went to bed for a while. Then the ship got under way again, moved out of the harbour, and headed straight out for the open sea. The shore receded, and fell into the distance. We passed the Eddystone lighthouse, standing proudly on a heap of rocks out in the sea, with the round base of a former lighthouse close beside it. The tall grey tower dropped away astern, and ---- England was left behind.
The weather was fine and the sea calm, and the old vessel sailed smoothly along, without any rolling or pitching. Dorothy got up for lunch, but was rather unwell off and on during the afternoon. she went to bed, and did not get up to dinner. I had expected to be seasick directly we left the harbour, but beyond an uncomfortable "squeamish" feeling at dinner time, have felt no effects so far.
Most of the officers have been allotted to troop decks for parades and discipline. I am attached to "C" deck, and am in charge of two mess tables, that being equivalent to about a platoon.
Sunday, 24th. There was a church service in the aft well-deck this morning. The weather keeps beautiful, with a nice breeze blowing. At the library this afternoon I got a book called "Dracula". It is a very weird hair-raising sort of yarn, and extremely interesting. This evening there was a "song service" in the aft well-deck, after which we enjoyed a pleasant walk round and round the boat deck in the lovely cool evening breeze.
Saturday, 30th. A week of the voyage gone, and so far the weather has kept beautiful and fine, though extremely warm. On Tuesday I finished reading "Dracula". It is the most weird and uncanny story I have ever read. It is similar in style to "The Beetle", but much more gruesome and horrible.
From Tuesday the weather became very hot and sultry, and the men took to sleeping out on the boat deck. Yesterday was the hottest day I've known for years, and today was pretty near as warm. A thunderstorm came up this evening, with attendant rain. The boat deck became wet and miserable, making sleeping out impossible. A poor little swallow has accompanied the ship from England, and tonight it took shelter under the hatchways of the hospital room. No doubt it will stay with us now until we come in sight of land again.
Dorothy has been unwell off and on during the week, but is standing the water well so far for a first long sea voyage. We have taken to looking after "Billy" Scales, a bonny little 18-year-old boy, for a little while after lunch every day, so that his mother and father may have lunch together at the second sitting. The saloon has not sufficient accommodation for all the passengers at one sitting.
Sunday, 31st. This morning we passed a couple of great shoals of porpoises. Some of them frequently leapt clean out of the water. The sea is much rougher today, and the ship pitching a fair amount, but not rolling at all. Dorrie has been very ill, and kept to her bunk all day. Got the doctor to come to her, and he put her on (a) diet and told her to have breakfast in bed every morning, and not to get up until one hour after. I stayed with her most of the day, and till near bedtime.
Saturday, 6th. Dorothy continued rather un-well for several days, but has got much better towards the end of the week.
We crossed the Equator late Tuesday night, and since then the weather has been constantly growing cooler, until today it was quite cold. Sleeping on deck has come to an end.
On Thursday the C.O. called the officers together and gave us a lecture on discipline, the shortage of water, etc. It appears there has been some disgraceful conduct on the part of the troops on the "Sardinia", especially at Capetown, and it is hoped that we of the Anchises will, by our exemplary conduct, return to some extent the lost esteem of the Capetown people for the Australians. The consumption of water has been greater than has been provided for, and we are threatened with a serious shortage of water before reaching Capetown.
Saturday, 13th. On Tuesday we had a fancy dress dinner in the saloon, and there was a dance in the music-room afterwards. It was a great success, and the variety and excellence of the costumes, most of them improvised, were remarkable. Dorothy looked charmingly sweet as Little Miss Muffet, with a huge black spider which I had made for her fastened at the back of her shoulder. Mrs. Murrell looked very fine as an Indian squaw. Ned Kelly and Chidley were cleverly represented, and a nurse dressed up as a Glaxo Baby was one of the best. After the dinner there was a Grand Parade around the ship, starting from the boat deck and finishing up at the music room. It was very cold on the boat deck, and many of the costumes were flimsy enough. Dorrie's was among these, and she caught a severe chill in consequence, and had to keep to her bed all day Wednesday. The first prizes for the ladies were awarded to the Glaxo Baby, for the most original costume, and to the Indian Squaw (Mrs. Murrell) for the best fancy dress. The men's were given to a man got up as a pelican, and to Captain Hamilton as an Eastern Type.
On Thursday afternoon we came in sight of land about half-past two. It was a long way off, but the breakers could be seen dashing over the rocks and sending high jets of spray into the air. We passed a distant lighthouse standing on a small island just off the shore, and the water breaking on the rocks there sent up great clouds of white spray. A "General Assembly" was called a little later, and orders issued regarding Cape Town. It was not known then whether we were to stay at Capetown for coaling and provisions, or go on to Durban.
After we came up from dinner, the lights of Capetown were in sight a few miles ahead. One of the men told me there was a big fish charging the bow of the ship, so Dorrie and I went forward on the fo'c'stle, half doubting the man's sincerity. On arriving at the prow, however, we witnessed an extraordinary sight. A number of large luminous fish, probably sharks, were swimming, just below the water's surface, only a few feet ahead of the ship, as though conducting her into port. Their lithe nimble bodies glowed white through the sombre waters. They may have been anything from six to ten feet in length, and were making a fair pace, for the ship was doing about twelve or thirteen miles an hour. Sometimes they would fall back almost out of sight under the prow, then they would shoot forward again. Sometimes there were three or four swimming abreast and once I saw as many as six together. Some would leave the escort and swim away, and then others would come circling in and take their place. One fellow appeared some distance ahead, and came heading straight to meet the ship. It looked as if he must surely be dashed to pieces against the iron prow, but with marvellous agility he swung round just in time and took his place in the escort. It was a fascinating spectacle, and brought to mind stories of "Pelorus Jack" the famous New Zealand conducting fish. I wondered what it might be in the creatures minds that caused them to follow this course of action. Possibly they were actuated by the same impulse that animates the breast of the small boy who takes a gleeful pride in running before a steamroller or a traction engine.
We were now nearing the harbour, and the crew began to prepare for lowering the anchors, so we had to quit the forecastle deck. An arc of many twinkling lights cast long glittering reflections in the water ahead, and the great black mass of Table Mountain loomed up through the darkness behind the town. Information had got about that we were only staying at Capetown to put off the South African troops and unload a few tons of cargo, after which we would proceed to Durban for coaling and provisioning. I wrote a telegram to Harry Todd, at Pietermaritzburg, saying we would arrive at Durban about Sunday, and gave it to the South African chaplain to send for me when he went ashore.
Came to anchor in the bay, but later on the ship moved out to sea again, and anchored there. It was a pleasant change without any motion of the ship or throbbing of the engines.
Upon arising on Friday morning, I found that the ship had already moved in and berthed at a wharf. The capital of South Africa lay spread before us, with the great flat-topped mountain of solid rock, crowned with heavy mist, rising up beyond the town. The front face of the mountain was in the form of a concave arc. Its sides sloped fairly steeply from the low land to about half its height, and then rose up in a sheer precipice to the extensive flat top, on which rested continually the cover of dense white mist. A little to the left stood a solitary detached mountain, and on the right a lone pointed peak, only the top part visible behind a wide green height grown over with grass and small shrubs.
After breakfast we learned that we were remaining at Capetown until two o'clock this afternoon, and then everybody began to get ready in case leave ashore might be granted. A "General Assembly" was called, and leave granted up to one o'clock.
It was a pleasure to be on terra firma once again. A lot of cabs driven by niggers in shabby clothes came down to the wharf. Each cab bore a name neatly painted on the side of it, a rather unique feature. We walked up into the town and went to the Post Office thinking there might be a letter from Harry Todd, but there was none.
Coming along the street, I caught sight of a face which looked familiar. I overtook the owner, and found my surprise to be correct. It was Alf Chapman, an old acquaintance of my school days, whom I had not seen for the last six or seven years. He is an R.S.M. in the Australian Flying Corps, and has been on the "Anchises" all the time from England. It was a surprise to me to see him. I knew he was at the war, but thought he had gone home long ago.
Dorrie and I, with Fred and Mrs. Scales, took a tram to Camps Bay, going through some beautiful scenery on the way. There were pretty glimpses of the sea, with the surf breaking over the rocks. The tall spike-topped peak which was partly visible from the ship now towered up just over on our left. The "Lion's Head" it is called. It is unique in appearance. A great bullet-shaped rock with precipitous sides stands on the top of a steep round mountain. The tramline lay over the foothills, rocky and sparsely covered with scrub. Rugged precipitous mountains loomed up ahead, and the landscape became very beautiful. There were two pretty bays, one beyond the other, with the surf dashing over the rocks, and rolling up the small sandy beaches between. The water was green and blue, broken by long curved lines of white foam where the breakers came rolling in. In the background the desolate-looking mountains came down to the sea in steep rocky promontories, one beyond the other.
The farthest bay of the two was Camps Bay, and there Dorrie and I left the tram to have a look around. The township here was small and scattered. There was a nice sandy beach, and a line of rocks running out into the sea. We walked out along these rocks to near where the surf came dashing up in angry masses of foam and spray. The day was nice and warm, and it was like the old times to be able to stand by the seaside and gaze upon the ever-moving surf. Returning across the beach of creamy white sand, we went into a small cafe for lunch. The food was plentiful, and nice and fresh, making a pleasant change after the rather stale victuals supplied on board.
We had to hurry to catch the tram, which came while we were still at lunch. The return journey was by a different route going over the Kloof Nek, a low saddle or neck connecting the Lion's Head with Table Mountain. The line followed a winding course up a long slope, passing fairly close to the precipitous bluff heights on the right. They stood up bold and sombre, a line of rugged cliffs with great gaping fissures between them. Dense black mists hung in the fissures and about the heads of the cliffs. We went through a rough wilderness covered with small scrubby trees and shrubs. Some of the shrubs bore an abundance of flowers of purple, yellow, blue, and heliotrope tints. The Lion's Head rose up magnificently before us, with its crown of bare rock. Gray silver-leaf trees grew upon the upper slopes, and dark green trees on the lower slopes, and in the ravines.
Passing over the Kloof Nek, we descended a thickly wooded slope, which afforded some pretty views of the city below, spread out along the foot of Table Mountain. Arriving back in town, we procured a few postcards (of which the shops did not have a very choice selection), and some fruit, and went down to the wharf, getting aboard about half-past one.
The men were coming back to the ship in driblets, many of them the worse for drink. Some were paralytic, others very talkative. Some came with broken and bloody faces, others were eagerly looking for fight. They did not show much inclination to come aboard, and some of them had to be forcibly carried up the gangway. It was nearly three before the ship was ready to go, and other stragglers kept arriving every few minutes, some asleep in cabs, some unsteadily on foot. A cab-ful, and then a motor-ful of soldiers, some of them in a disgraceful condition, arrived at the last moment. At last the gangway was cast off, and the boat began to move. Another cab hailed in sight, bearing a sleeping "digger". The men on board lowered a rope ladder over the side for him. He had with him a large paper parcel of fruit, which he would not come without. It was so large and awkward that, in the man's drunken state, he could not climb the ladder with it. Men on the wharf pushed him up the ladder, and the parcel gave way, letting the contents fall out on the wharf. They continued to push him up the ladder, and threw the fruit up in fragments on to the deck. Yet another Aussie arrived on the scene, and clambered on to the ladder behind the former. The ship meanwhile was moving slowly out along the wharf, the rope ladder with the two men on it dangling over the side. Eventually they were hauled safely on board.
Before long we were out in the open sea again. We had some fine views of Capetown with the mountains behind, and then of the Lion's Head with the houses spread out at its foot along the seaside. Camps Bay could be seen, behind it rising the line of dark rugged precipices.
A bitterly cold wind was blowing, and a rough sea made the vessel roll and pitch uncomfortably. Dorothy became seasick, and went to bed. I felt very ill-disposed while awaiting dinner, but had a good meal never-the-less, and felt better for it afterwards. The rolling and pitching last night became considerable, and one frequently heard objects banging about, and the jingle of breaking glassware.
The sea was still rough today. There was a check roll-call this morning, and many men to be found missing. This afternoon the C.O. called an Officers' Parade and reviewed the situation. He said that the discipline would have to be tightened, and that there would be more duties than leave at Durban.
The cause of the disgraceful scenes at Capetown is reckoned to have been due to the alleged fact that the beer-vendors make free use of dopes and drugs in order to rob their victims. There were altogether thirty-eight men left behind at Capetown.
Sunday, 14th. Raining this morning, and the weather still continues rough. It is expected that we arrive at Durban some time tomorrow morning.
Monday, 15th. The ship arrived at Durban early this morning, and was berthed at a wharf long before we were up. Dorothy's seasickness was gone when she got up, and she was O.K. again.
Leave was granted to 75% of the troops, various town piquets and patrols having to be found out of that number. I did not get any duties for today, and Dorrie and I got ashore about ten o'clock. I had to march a party of the leave men up to the Town Hall, so arranged to meet Dorothy there. A number of rickshaws came down to the wharf in anticipation of prospective fares. This was the first time I ever saw a rickshaw. The black "boys" who drew them were strangely picturesque in their quaint garb, of which the head-dress was the chief feature. It consisted in most cases of a large pair of horns fastened securely on the head, with several wooden balls, painted or carved, fastened at the base of each horn. The rest of the head was covered with feathers, or pieces of coloured cloth, or bundles of fluffy grasses dyed different colours, or a mixture of the lot. In some cases bundles of turkey feathers were fastened on the head, shoulders and back. Their garments consisted chiefly of a long clean tunic with short sleeves, and a pair of very short knickers, exposing their muscular, athletic limbs. The tunics were often adorned with coloured patches or streamers. In many cases the feet and part of the lower legs were painted white. I liked to watch them cantering steadily along the streets with their long graceful strides, and drawing their heavy loads after them with apparent ease. While waiting by the roadside for fares, they would make all sorts of queer noises and go through various antics to attract attention.
Arriving at the Town Hall, I met Dorothy with Mrs. Wellington, who had to find a cousin at an address in Florida Road. Dorrie had had an address of Harry Todd's sister, a Mrs. Campbell, who lives at Durban, but she has mislaid it. We saw Mrs. Wellington on to a tram to Florida Road, and then had a look about the main part of the town. The most distinctive building is the Town Hall, which is a handsome square-fronted edifice with an elevated dome. In front of it is a pretty garden square with palm trees and shaded seats. Just across the road stands the next building in importance, the Post Office, the tall clock-tower of which gives it a quite distinctive appearance. Durban is a nice clean-looking town. A pleasing feature were the cool balconies which were a characteristic of the tea-rooms and cafes. Dotted among the trees over the surrounding hillsides were many houses and residences.
We spent the rest of the morning shopping, or trying to. The articles of clothing were exceptionally dear, but fruit and food were very cheap after England. We lunched at the Model Dairy, on fruit, cream, etc. and then took a tram out to the zoo. It was not a large zoo, but was placed in pleasant well-kept grounds. There were a fair number of Australian parrots, and some of the animals were extremely interesting, especially a polar bear diving for bread, a seal swimming restlessly around his small pond, some pretty little marmosets, and the inevitable monkeys.
Leaving the zoo, we hired a rickshaw to take us back to town for our first ride in one of these quaint conveyances. Our "boy" was a fine-looking specimen, with large horns and many feathers secured in a upright position all over the top of his head, besides a generous supply of dyed grasses, bundles of turkey feathers on his shoulders, and coloured patches on his tunic. The rickshaw had pneumatic tyres, and ran very smoothly. It was a novel sensation (to) feel one's self whirling along in that strange conveyance.
Arriving back in town, we went through the Museum, which is situated on the first floor of an extension of the Town Hall. It contained some fine specimens of stuffed animals, mostly African, but what took our fancy most were some wonderful collections of birds' eggs and butterflies. Many of the eggs were similar in colour to those of Australian birds, but some were quite different. These included eggs of a deep even maroon shade, and others dark brown, almost black. There were some very gaudy colours among the butterflies. They ranged in size from smaller than a bee to nearly as big as a tomtit. Most remarkable of the butterflies was one the under sides of whose wings resembled perfectly a couple of leaves with stalk at one end and dark vein running along the centre to a point at the other end. The wings were so set on the body that the leaf appeared to go out at an angle, thus, when the insect rested on a stalk with his wings closed together above him, the stalk of the "leaf" rested against the twig he was resting on, and the "leaf" appeared to stick out at an angle like other leaves on the same twig. In one case there was a stalk with five leaves and two of these butterflies and it was difficult without close inspection to distinguish between the leaves and the insects.
The Museum closed at five, before we had time to look through it completely. We went back to the ship for dinner. She was now across at the coaling place at the Bluff, a long wooded hill bounding the harbour on its southern side. After dinner, we came across again to the Ocean Beach. A fine Promenade ran along the seaside here, and was provided with a great number of deck chairs, most of which were already occupied. It was high tide, and the surf dashed right up to the breakwater which formed the side of the Promenade. Finding a couple of unoccupied chairs, we adopted them and made ourselves comfortable, and stayed there enjoying the pleasant seaside air until it was time to return to the ship.
Tuesday, 16th. We were told this morning that the ship was due to sail at six o'clock tomorrow morning. I had to take a town piquet till 4.p.m., but happily there was but little to do in connection with it. I simply took the piquet over to the town and arranged for them to report to me at the Police Station at one o'clock, and again at four, when I dismissed them.
We spent the morning shopping, and after lunch we took the round trip by tram through Berea and around by the zoo. The line lay along pretty hillsides overlooking the town and harbour, the Bluff forming a dark background. Most of the houses we passed had verandas and sweet little tropical gardens, palms, tree-ferns, cactuses, etc. Dorothy found the verandas rather a novelty after England.
Going to the Town Hall, we went through the Art Galleries, which are on the floor above the Museum. There were some very fine pictures there, the most remarkable being "The Pursuit of Pleasure". Every figure in the picture was a finished portrait, and the most minute details were rendered accurately. The general effect was beautiful and striking. Another fine painting, full of character and expression, was "The Broken Idol", showing a Christian slave arraigned before his Pagan mistress for having destroyed a small idol. A number of landscape paintings were very beautiful.
Leaving the Art Gallery, we finished our interrupted tour of the Museum. An interesting item was an egg of a huge extinct bird of the moa species, but much larger. In a glass case were to be seen various fossils of leaves, which had been enclosed in solid pieces of rock. These rocks were split through the centre to expose the fossilized leaves. A microscope adjusted to a revolving disc enabled one to see clearly a number of specimens of minute sea life.
Having dismissed the piquet at four o'clock, we went down to the Ocean Beach and had our photo taken in a rickshaw with an elaborately dressed "boy". Arranged for them to be sent on to Sydney if we are not here to get them tomorrow. After that we strolled along the beach, where lots of children were enjoying themselves playing in the sand.
Back to the ship for dinner, after which we climbed up the Bluff to the lighthouse on top. It was a dark night, and the track ascended steeply between dense scrub and trees which covered the hillsides. From the top we had a charming view of the town, with its many twinkling lights reflected in the harbour.
Wednesday, 17th. The ship does not leave till tomorrow morning, but leave ashore today was delayed by the C.O. because a few of the men did not return to the ship last night. We had intended going to Amanzintoti with Mr. and Mrs. Wellington, to see the native kraals, but were unable to get to the station in time to catch the eleven o'clock train, and there was not another until quarter to three.
While having lunch at the Model Dairy, a young lady came along and enquired if we were Mr. and Mrs. Smythe. It proved to be Harry Todd's younger sister, a Miss Todd, and she brought Mrs. Campbell along a few minutes later. They had been trying to find us at the ship yesterday, but of course were unable to do so, as we were away. They were engaged for the afternoon, but asked us to come to dinner, arranging to meet us at five o'clock.
After lunch we went out to the Botanical Gardens, where we stayed for some time, and then went down to the Ocean Beach and got the photos we had taken yesterday. They turned out very well.
Mrs. Campbell's husband met us at the place arranged and took us up in his motor, stopping on the way to look over a new house he had bought. It is a grand spacious residence with fine large rooms, and a promenade roof which afforded lovely views over the town and harbour, and the distant inland hills in the opposite direction. Going on, we came to their present residence, which is very nicely situated, though at a lower altitude. It is a smaller place too, but comfortably furnished, and possessed a fine large veranda overlooking the town.
We spent a very pleasant homely evening there. Three of the "All-black" footballers, Lt. McNought and Sjts. O'Brien and Nalor, were among the guests. They have been playing a number of matches in South Africa, and are now returning to New Zealand by the Anchises. The dinner was quite a sumptuous meal, and our host and hostess were most congenial.
Later in the evening we all went up to Mr. Campbell's brother's place and stayed there some time. The drawing room there was very large, and exquisitely furnished. After having supper, we came back to the other place, and a little while afterwards returned to the ship, after having heartily enjoyed the pleasure of such sociable company. Harry Todd had rung up from Pietermaritzburg during the evening to have a chat with Dorothy. We had missed a special treat yesterday, for Mrs. Campbell had intended driving us up to Pietermaritzburg in the car to see Harry, and we should have passed through some wild and beautiful country, including the Valley of the Thousand Hills.
Shortly after arriving on board I was put on duty at the top of the gangway, with several N.C.O's., taking a check roll of the officers and men who returned late. Had to stay up on that job till half-past twelve.
Thursday, 18th. The Anchises sailed early this morning, before I was up. Went up on deck before breakfast, and Durban could be seen several miles away. A man on the boat deck was flashing a mirror, and occasional answering flashes came from different places on the shore.
Dorothy has not been too well today, and has kept to her bed most of the time. This is her birthday, she having now arrived at the responsible and mature age of twenty. I had tried to find a nice birthday present for her at Durban, but could not get anything suitable. So I gave her some money to buy herself a nice present when we arrive home.
Practically all of the Capetown absentees arrived back yesterday, having come overland to Durban at their own expense.
We are taking the southern route to Australia, Adelaide first stop. That means that we are sure to strike some pretty cold and rough weather. Have not felt too well today, and slept most of the afternoon.
Friday, 19th. The sea was much calmer today. It has been a nice pleasant day, warm and sunny and cheerful.
Saturday, 20th. The weather still keeps nice and warm.
Saturday, 27th. We have passed an almost eventless week, save for the weather, which was wet for the first part of the week, and then gradually became rougher till it culminated in a heavy gale last night. Yesterday afternoon the sea had become very rough, and the ship rolled so much that our cabin trunks kept sliding across the floor, and the continual banging about of objects all over the ship was punctuated by the frequent crashing of glassware and crockery. Great foam-crested waves billowed heavily over the sea's surface between deep wide troughs. A strong cold wind cut sharply over the ocean, chopping clouds of spray off the wave-tops and whisking them playfully along. A flock of albatrosses and storm petrels followed the vessel, now diving into the troughs, now skimming over the foamy crests, or circling up into the air.
Last night after dinner Dorrie and I ventured out on the boat deck well over-coated. It was bitterly cold, and a fierce wind whistled and howled mournfully through the rigging and around the funnel. The ship was rolling and pitching so much that it was difficult to walk. We did not stay long on deck, as it was too cold.
The rolling continued all night, and woke me up a number of times. Dorrie got hardly any sleep on account of it, and I heard several other passengers make the same complaint.
This morning we found that the gale during the night had caused some serious damage. A heavy sea broke over the starboard promenade deck and burst through the wall of the Serjeants' Mess, flooding them out. The mess wall was built of timber, which had given way before the force of the water.
The weather continued very cold all today. By noon we had travelled about half way from Durban to Adelaide.
Tuesday, 30th. The weather has grown considerably calmer since last week. Yesterday I was on a Court of Enquiry dealing with claims for losses caused by the sea breaking into the Serjeants' Mess on Saturday morning. We are nearing Australia now, and today our position indicated on the chart map at noon was almost opposite the western extremity of Western Australia. Piquet commanders have been appointed for duty at Adelaide, therefore it would appear that we are to be granted leave there. The ship is expected to arrive at Adelaide on Sunday.
Saturday, 4th. Nothing of special interest occurred previous to today since last entry, except a concert in the saloon on Thursday night. Some of the items were very good, notably "Our Farm" (from "Our Miss Gibbs"), "The Rajah of Bhong", an amusing action song splendidly rendered by Captain Hamilton dressed up as a dignified Rajah and one of the ladies as his wife, and a beautiful tableau song, "When I hear that Home Sweet Home". In the latter the map of Australia was depicted by boxes placed together with lights in them. Behind was the tableau, a "digger" just arriving home, met by his mother and his grey-headed old father, the latter holding a little child in his arms. It was very touching, and brought a choking pain into one's throat and a dimness to one's eyes. Another feature of the entertainment was a charade consisting of an amusing little play in two acts, the first act in three scenes, introducing the syllables of the word "carpenter".
The sea has been calming down beautifully, and the old ship sailing smoothly with scarcely a sign of motion except the throbbing of the engines. This morning our spirits were high in anticipation of seeing dear old Australia tomorrow, but this afternoon an air of sadness and disappointment reigned. Rumours chased each other round the ship. Passengers spoke together in awed groups, and everybody questioned everybody else as to whether the ugly Rumour might be true, and the annoying consequences that must follow if it were. At last it became evident that the unpleasant news was true. The doctors had come to the conclusion that a certain man under observation was suffering from smallpox, which means quarantine for all on board, should the medical inspector at Adelaide confirm the doctors' opinion. The misfortune has damped the spirits of hundreds of hearts that were burning with the confident hope of meeting their loved ones within a few days.
Later in the afternoon the "General Assembly" call was blown, and the South Australians and Western Australians were given instructions about disembarkation tomorrow. All were notified about the suspected case of smallpox, and the grave possibility of being placed under quarantine.
Wrote a letter to Mum and Dad to post at Adelaide. It seems glorious and wonderful to think that in the morning we shall look out and see Australia, being due to arrive at Adelaide about four or five o'clock. It is now a couple of minutes before midnight, and I am sitting up in bed writing. Only a few more hours, and I shall see again my native land, after a four year absence.
Sunday, 5th. About quarter to eight this morning I came up from the cabin and saw the shores of the dear old homeland, Australia. Some time later we dropped anchor in an open bay and a small tug came alongside with the quarantine inspectors. At first little hope was entertained by the passengers for their freedom. Then as the time went on and the doctors had not come to any decision hope revived a little. A weight of suspense seemed to hang like a mysterious presence over the ship. Everybody was eagerly awaiting the verdict. At last the doctors came up from the hospital and the news soon spread that no decision had been arrived at, and the tug went away to fetch another doctor.
It was some time later when he arrived. Feeling everywhere became very tense, in anticipation of the dreaded and hoped-for decision of the medical expert. About half-past twelve, hearty cheers rose from all the decks, and the good news flew through the ship that there would be no quarantine. The man under observation was found to be suffering with some skin disease. It was a happy relief, and the awed silence that had held the ship since yesterday morning suddenly disappeared, and a babble of insouciant conversation took its place. Lunch was a very cheery meal compared to breakfast and dinner last night. Everybody's spirits had risen high again.
Early in the afternoon the ship weighed anchor and moved around into a harbour and berthed at a wharf outside which crowds of people were waiting to welcome their loved ones. Their cheers were heartily returned from the men on board.
While the South Australian and Western Australian troops were disembarking, the boundary fence enclosing the wharf gave way, and the crowds flocked in on to the wharf. Just then the "General Assembly" call was sounded, and we had to go down on the troop decks. General leave was granted, with free trains to Adelaide.
It was just on four o'clock this afternoon when I again set foot on Australian soil, after my long absence across the seas. It was a nice fine afternoon, and going along in the train we passed some gum trees, whose gnarled knotted trunks and twisted branches brought back old memories of boyhood's days. There seems to be some inexplicable charm about a gum tree which one does not find in other trees. Perhaps it is only on account of old associations, but to me there certainly seems to be some mysterious beauty in them.
We arrived in Adelaide about five o'clock. It is rather a pretty town, but considerably smaller than I had expected. It is nicely situated at the foot of a high range of hills. We stayed to have some tea and enjoyed immensely the nice fresh food after the somewhat stale ship's fare.
We had intended to take a trip out to Waterfall Gully or Morialta Gorge, but it was now too late, so we got in a tramcar going out to Walkerville. There were lots of pretty parks and gardens along the route. We passed Torrens Lake, which appears to be really only a large pond, though extremely pretty. Walkerville is a small residential suburb on top of a low hill. Its homes are mostly cosy little cottages and bungalows, with roses or asparagus creepers adorning the verandas.
Leaving the train we went for a walk in the pleasant evening air. There was something about the place that seemed like home. The cape-seeds on the ground, the trees, the cottages, the fences, and even the atmosphere, were those that I had known from earliest childhood, and they seemed to carry me back into the days of the past. It was like living part of one's boyhood over again. The night was bright with moonlight, which made our walk a very pleasant and enjoyable one. Got a stamp at a Chemist's shop and posted the letter I had written to Mum and Dad.
Returning to town we went to a Tea Room for supper, and then took the train back to the Outer Harbour, and came aboard.
Monday, 6th. Leave ashore was granted for the morning. Motor trips were provided by the Cheer-up Hut, and Dorrie and I went on one of these through the Mt. Lofty ranges, which are grand and beautiful. There were fine steep mountains, deep gorges and gullies, forests, and rocky slopes. The smell of eucalyptus and sweet brier perfumed the cool fresh morning air. It was a lovely ride, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Arriving back in town, we spent the rest of the morning shopping, and then returned to the ship.
And then the blow came, sudden and unexpected, shattering all the happiness of the home-coming, and bringing a load of sorrow and despair. There were letters from Mum and Clytie and the children at home, bearing the terrible news that Dad has been taken Home. There were no details about the death, they seemed to think I already knew. The shock was terrible, coming especially now just as we are nearly home. But God knows what is best, and who are we to question His wisdom? Still it seems unbearably hard that dear old Dad could not have been spared a little longer to us, after these long years of warfare and absence. It is hard to say "Thy Will be done". First Bert was taken, and now Dad. After I had recovered somewhat from the shock, the thought that persisted most in my mind was that Bert and Dad are now together. That thought brought a little peace to me. Dad had had a good deal of illness with dyspepsia and constipation during the last twelve months, but still I thought he would have lived for many years yet. The joy and excitement of the home-coming will be marred. Still we must learn to bow in patience before the Will of God, Who in His inestimable Wisdom and Mercy works all things together for Good.
Swift to its close ebbs out Life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
Oh Thou Who changest not, abide with me.
There will be great changes in the home from when I left. Our loved ones pass on, and the time will soon slip around for us to follow. A little span of life here, and then, please God, we shall all meet together again in the Great Beyond.
Tuesday, 7th. Cold rainy day. It is expected that we shall arrive at Melbourne early in the morning. Am hoping to meet Clytie and Viv there, as Clytie had said in her letter that they expected to be in Melbourne when the "Anchises" arrived. Wrote a letter to Mum tonight to post at Melbourne tomorrow.
Wednesday, 8th. We arrived at Melbourne early. A letter came for me from Viola, containing an account of Dad's death. He was fatally injured in an accident, having been run over by a motor ambulance just after leaving a tram car, in Newtown. That was on August 1st. He lingered on for several days, became conscious and was able to recognise the others. Then he took a turn for the worse, meningitis set in, and he passed away peacefully on August 6th. It seems harder to reconcile one's self to a death by accident. Death from sickness comes so natural, especially to anyone advanced in years, but accidents are so shocking, and they always seem so unnecessary. At first I was more resigned to Fate, thinking Dad had died a natural death, but now my mind rebels against the cruelty and the needlessness of it all. This life is full of sorrows and disappointments. We go on hoping for happier times; joys may come, but sorrows follow swiftly after. Perhaps it is well that that is so. Anyway we must try to be cheerful, and look forward to brighter days in store.
Leave was granted up till eleven tomorrow night. Soon after leaving the boat we met Cliff Ellis and his wife, and a little later Viv and Clytie. We went in to Melbourne, but it was a dusty windy day, making everybody feel miserable. I met a number of old acquaintances of the battalion, including Joe Scales and George McIlroy. In the afternoon we went through the Botanical Gardens, which are beautiful, and also out to St. Kilda, where Viv and Clytie are staying at the George Hotel. Returned at night to the ship, which had moved up to Victoria Docks.
Thursday, 9th. Today has been windy and showery. We met Viv and Clytie and went through the Museum, Art Gallery, and Technological Museum. There are many very fine pictures in the Gallery. It is one of the best I've seen (in my opinion). In the evening we dined at Sargents' in Elizabeth St., being the guests of Mr. and Mrs. McIlroy, the other guests being Viv and Clytie, Cliff Ellis and his wife, and Bill Ellwood. It was a cheery, pleasant repast. After the meal, it was decided to go to a "Buzz-buzz". I did not enjoy that very much, though it was somewhat amusing. Have felt too miserable and blue all day to enjoy anything.
Friday, 10th. The ship was to have sailed today but was delayed by the wharf labourers refusing to work overtime unloading the cargo. After lunch Dorrie and I went up to town and whiled away the afternoon at a cinema. After tea we met "Duke" and Mrs. Wellington and we four went out to St. Kilda, found Viv and Clytie, and we all went for a walk out on the pier. It was a pleasant evening, and we all seemed much jollier tonight. Just as we were returning, I met Tonto Ball on the station. It was good to see his cheery smiling face again.
Saturday, 11th. The ship sailed early this morning. We came out through the heads about half-past eleven, and now we are on the last stage of our long journey.
Sunday, 12th. Spent the day packing up our things and getting ready for disembarkation tomorrow. At last we are nearing home. Early tomorrow morning we arrive at Sydney. Somehow there does not seem to be much excitement about it. I seem to have lost all enthusiasm now. For years I've been waiting for the time when I should arrive home and meet my loved ones once again, but now the cloud of sorrow that overshadows us seems to have taken away all the pleasure of the homecoming. Perhaps tomorrow when I see their dear faces again I shall lose this lethargy and hopelessness, and become more cheerful. Anyway we must try to be patient and cheerful in our sorrow, and God will surely help us.
Back row L to R: Vi, ?, Dorrie, Percy, Annie, ?
Front L to R: Eric, Gordon