Archive for November, 2014


Posted: November 28, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

The Red Sea is keeping up it’s reputation we are having it very hot.  Your remember how Kipling in “Plain tales from the hills” describes an Indian town at night.  The moon is shining, and it is very still and hot, and coolies are sleeping by the road and in the streets.  Some are groaning in their sleep, others muttering, some prowling around like dogs.  This describes our decks every night.

Last night it was very cold, and quite rough.  I went to bed early with a couple of blankets and an overcoat over me.  During the night my coat blew off, I leaned over my bunk and another man below me had apparently rolled himself up in my coat, so I tugged until I recovered it, later on I got up and found my coat on the deck, I had robbed the poor fellow of his own coat, and it was so cold.

I am going to sleep below tonight, for the first time since sighting Western Australia.


Current location:

ColoniesMap1914 19141128


Fire on board

Posted: November 27, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

This morning at 5 0’clock we heaved our anchor and sailed out.  The barren rocks of Aden showing up black against the skyline – the rugged tips just tipped with gold by the rising sun.  The rest of the fleet came up in the night and are now off for Port Said.

We have been taking stores from a large refrigerator room, and putting it in a smaller one.  We were handling pieces of beef as large as a piano, and carcases of sheep as big as myself.  They are all frozen stiff with ice, and snow all over them.  When handling turnips, if we dropped one it would bounce on the deck with a wooden sound.

We have a fire on board now.  One of our coal bunkers is burning.  It is not generally known, but all the hoses are being used down below, the decks were not swabbed this morning.


Travelling from Aden to Port Said is done via the Suez Canal.

Current location:

ColoniesMap1914 19141127


Posted: November 26, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

Just before reveille yesterday we sighted a huge rock, or series of rocks.  It was a gigantic affair, rising hundreds of feet out of the sea.  A little later in a big bay we sighted Aden.  I hardly know how to describe it all to you.  It would take a poet to be able to give you any idea of what it is like.  The town was on our starboard bow.  On either side were piled up masses of rock all rugged and peaked.  It looked fine to see these peaks rising one above the other almost perpendicularly.  There is just a little bit of shore on which the town is built.  At the back of the town there are five peaks all in a row.  On two of these tops are signal stations.  As we proceeded to the anchorage we passed in succession the Signal Station, with wireless apparatus, light houses, a prison enclosed in high walls, a grim, long, low looking place.  Then a couple of very strong looking forts, barracks, houses and church.  The place is full of boats.

The town is much prettier than I expected, but it is very barren.  The natives are most interesting and amusing.  They came to the ship in boats.  They throw a line aboard and tie a basket to it, in the middle of the rope.  They keep one end and you the other.  The baskets and ropes are made of plaited grass.  They sell all sorts of things, they invariably ask exorbitant prices, you have to barter with them and put your money in the basket, and they will put the goods in the basket, and you haul your purchase up.  In the morning they were charging 2/6 for one hundred cigarettes, later in the afternoon they were going at 6d.

Some of the boys are quite handsome, but the men are absolutely hideous.  There are African Negroes, Arabs and Coolies, all working together.  The Negroes look the best, the Arabs all have their heads shaved, or else they can’t grow any hair.

We took in coal all day and in consequence everything is very dirty.  The method of coaling is to bring a barge alongside full of coal done up in little bags, and the natives pass them along from hand to hand until they are finally tipped into a big port-hole in the side of the boat.  As they work they are chattering and fighting like monkeys  – some chant songs.  The serangs look fine in their white burnises, yellow turbans, and sometimes red loin cloths.  I had a chance of seeing these fellows at close quarters as I was picked for a crew to row the Colonel about.  We visited the “Orvieto”, “Omrah” and “Argylshire”.  The “Orvieto” had the captain of the “Emden” and the Prince and about 45 German prisoners aboard, the “Omrah” has three officers and 40 men on her.  We were told that the prisoners had hundreds of English sovereigns on them, and were being treated as well as our own troops.

There was an argument between an old native and some boys as to whether he should pay 11/2 or 2d. to be rowed ashore, he seemed very cantankerous so we offered the boys 2/- to throw him overboard, they were very much inclined to accept it.  The old chap became very alarmed.

The harbor looked very fine at night, all the boats were brilliantly lit up, and the lights on shore were fairly plentiful, the war ships were playing their search lights all around.  Bands were playing on every boat, and the natives were singing at their coaling – all blended into an enchanting scene.


Current location:

ColoniesMap1914 19141126

Tuesday morning

Posted: November 24, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

The dawn is just showing up in big crimson streaks in the east, in fact I can hardly see to write yet.  The sea is like glass, at all other points of the compass it is hard to tell where the sea ends, and the sky begins, and all the boats stand in relief.

Several porpoises have been playing around, they looked fine in the calm water, also I saw a couple of jumping sharks, they were about four feet long, they jump right out of the water, turn and dive back again.

The sun has just poked his nose over the horizon, and is sending a bar of gold over ripples to the boat, it looks firm enough to walk upon. We must be in the Gulf of Aden now, I think.



Current location:

ColoniesMap1914 19141124

A collision at sea

Posted: November 21, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

Saturday morning

Crash! Full speed astern!!  All men below and get life belts!!!!

These were sounds that greeted my ears on waking early this morning, combined with sounds of grinding steel, and smashing timbers.  We had run down the boat in front of us.  The impact threw us back, and we crashed into her again, and then slithered off finally becoming locked together by our sterns; the bows swung out, and we gradually drifted away.  For a few moments a fellow or two were a little panic-stricken, but the majority kept quite cool and collected.  The alarm bell was rung and everyone went below quietly and put on their life belts.  As soon as I heard the crash, I jumped on the bulwark and saw the other boat slide past just a few feet away from us.  She was a fine big boat, the “Shropshire” A 9.

When I went below everyone was there with their belts on, some were playing draughts, others reading, and everyone quite unconcerned.  Then we were marched out onto the boat deck and lines up three deep.  I didn’t feel at all frightened, it didn’t strike me that here was any immediate danger – everything was so quiet, and even if there were not enough boats, steamers were all round us, and the sea was fairly smooth.  My chief thought was for my glasses and my kit.  It didn’t appeal to me as a catastrophe, but more as an interesting sight, which I wanted to see as much of as I could.  It was an impressive sight, men lines up on all decks; the crew getting the boats ready for use, and all round us we could just see the dim lights of other boats.  From all directions lights were blinking out.  Morse code asking what was wrong.

Away on the horizon we could just see the armoured Cruiser, H.M.S.”Hampshire” steaming up at 23 knots, with all search lights full on.  After a while it was ascertained that there was no immediate danger, we were not injured below the water line, and we were dismissed.

The cause of the collision was, a man fell overboard from the “Shropshire”, and she stopped and lowered a boat and then we crashed into her, and in panic another man jumped overboard.  Two of our life bouys were thrown over, and another “Shropshire’s: life boats were lowered.  When the Hampshire arrived it was just breaking into daylight, and as there was no danger for us she cruised around astern, with her search lights playing on the water trying to find the men in the water.  I think she found them.  As we got going again she steamed up to within a hundred yards of us, and her skipper asked if we had anyone overboard, and then said “ You can congratulate your officer of the watch, in 30 years’ experience I have never known a boat to run into the boat ahead”.  I thought it was horribly sarcastic.  I had a look at our damage this morning, all the railing and stanchions on the fore-deck were buckled up, the paint was peeled off the yards, and a big dent in the iron plates, in parts shearing portions of the plates as with a knife.  Our number on the side has been completely erased.  Below this is a big rent about 20 feet long and eight inches wide.  Bolts, steel-bars, and plates have been snapped like matchwood.  Big pieces of paint curled off, and all the shape knocked out of the boat.  Our aft port boat was smashed to pieces, and the davits all bent.

I tried washing clothes in hot salt water this morning, it is a heart breaking job.  We are not allowed to use fresh  water, as we haven’t too much on board. Several tons of potatoes have been stored just under our troop, and lately they have been letting us know they are there.

The most putrid smells have been coming up.. On inspection bag after bag were found to be rotten, and had to be thrown overboard.  Some of them had great feelers on them a foot long.

One of our Corporals wrote the following lines :-
I see wild waves that break, and breaking run
And the wild sea birds winding round the ships,
But at the dawn – the coming of the sun
I see your red, red lips.

I see the cold moon rise now with fresh delight
And the new stars rise, and yet arise,
But in the night, the blackness of the night
I see your sad, sad eyes.

I hear the engines throbbing as we ride
And the men’s songs – I hear great throats rejoice
But in the stillness, when all the songs have died
I hear your soft, soft voice.


The official report on the crash is here:

Lance mentions details that were not included in the official report.

Current location (approx):

ColoniesMap1914 19141119

A sunset

Posted: November 20, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

I have just been watching one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen, it is quite different to Australian sunsets, and I thought I must tell you about it before it had passed from my mind. If I can get you to understand an infinitesimal portion of the beauty I will be satisfied.

Taking the moon as my apex and working down.  It is a new moon in a mass of slate coloured clouds, then a blank of dark blue sky, shading down to a beautiful azure tone; in this sea of colour, dark powdery clouds are floating about, below the blue belt it gradually tones down to a gold – pure molten gold, I have never seen it before.

Artists have tried to paint this tone in Egyptian scenes, but they do not succeed in getting exactly natures tint. All over this fleecy, bluey shaded clouds are dotted about.  If one looks at a pond or pool at dusk, with reeds and sedges dotted all over it, the effect is right.  Then again below this molten pool is a darker belt of clouds all fretted into fantastic shapes, very like pictures I have seen of the Norwegian Fiords. Away to the left the picture changes to scenes nearer home.  It is a true map of the Port River opening into the sea, in silver backed by dark slatey clouds.  This is a poor attempt to describe the scene, but really it is too great to be described with any degree of accuracy.


Current location (approx):

ColoniesMap1914 19141119


Posted: November 20, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

Our Port Cylinder has gone wrong, and we have had to pull out of the line for repairs, the whole fleet had passed us before it was right again.  We soon regained our position though, when we set off at full speed (about fourteen knots).

My arm is just about well, a little swollen and sore when I get a knock on it.  I have been very lucky with it.  I generally go to bed from 6.30 to 9 o’clock.  9 is very late.  I picture you all at home as I am lying in my hammock.  I know just about what each one of you are doing.  If I were to go to bed at home as early as this you would all be sending for Dr. Brummitt.

At present I am writing this while I am sitting on a big boom about 10 ft. above deck.  I can just see the sun rising with the other boats showing up against the sky-line.

I will tell you a bit more about the Cingalese divers.  They are not big men, rather small and fairly thin, their skin is a brown colour, but the bottoms of  their feet and the palms of their hands are quite white.  I believe they polish them with a certain sort of brick. They spend hours a day cleaning up.  As they dive you can see their feet shining up through the water.  They squat on their canoe and wave their arms for money, jabbering all the time, it is alright that you hear most of all, they fire “alright” in rapid time at you in various cadences.


Current location (approx):

ColoniesMap1914 19141119