Archive for September, 2015

Just arrived

Posted: September 28, 2015 by tripmanic in 1915

Have just arrived, the trip taking exactly 21/2 days. I have been on a 24 hours ship’s guard last night and today. Today we had some sports etc. I was pulling in a sergeant’s team. Out of several entries New Zealand beat Australia, England, officers and sergeants being wiped out. Some of the sack races, cock fights, and obstacle races, were very funny. We had a splendid run through, today has been exceptionally fine. I am not sure whether we are going a shore, or straight to Lemnos. I hope to get ashore I want to buy a luminous watch and electric torch for trench purposes.


A fast vessel

Posted: September 28, 2015 by tripmanic in 1915

We are still going strong, this is a fast vessel, we are doing 14 knots at present. We have had several life boat parades. Every precaution is being taken against submarines. We have guards posted all over the ship with rifles and ammunition, and we travel with doused lights at night. We expect to arrive in Alexandria sometime tomorrow and disembark on Thursday. No doubt we will be sent to our respective bases. There is every regiment on the Peninsular represented on board I think.

On the move again

Posted: September 26, 2015 by tripmanic in 1915

I am on the move again at last. Friday morning four of us in our tent were warned not to leave the camp as we were due to leave Ghain Tuffieha at any moment. We hung about all Friday and Saturday, and yesterday morning we were moved. Sunday morning we had to turn out at 6am., and parade. Then followed a nice long march to Citta Veccha, the railway station. I fell right in the rear of the party, and as we were leaving the camp signalled to a “garouche” driver to follow us. When out of sight of the camp we climbed aboard and saved a nice four mile walk.

By driving we arrived at Citta Veccha a long time ahead of those walking, so I had a brief glance through the place. The houses are rather pretty, some having pretty little gardens in front of them. The whole place is very clean. The place was once the capital of Malta, and is of course fortified.

There is one fort – it is more like a town within a town. There is a moat all round it and big battlements. The only entrance to it is over a narrow bridge and then through big gates. Inside everything is on a very small scale. The houses are small, the streets are narrow, but everything is scrupulously clean. In the middle of the town is a fine Cathedral. Inside it is very much like St Johns. There are lovely paintings on the walls, and ceilings and beautiful carvings etc. The floor is picked out in Mosaic tiles with monograms, coats of arms, and all manner of badges and designs.

I presume that they were badges of men who were buried below the floor. Of course there were the usual number of candlesticks. At the time I looked in there was a service going on. The choir was chanting, and I can tell you it sounded very weird and mysterious in the Maltese language, or it may have been Latin, I couldn’t hear the words. The voices echoing in the big domed place too made it sound peculiar. Away from the fort there was very little to see. It appears to be more of a residential quarter than commercial.

We picked up our party again and trained it to Valletta. We were marched down to the Naval Pier by the Customs House, and taken off to this boat. She is a very fine ship, one of the British India line, and is practically new. There are about 750 on board, most of the “tween” deck space is for horses. We sailed this morning at 6am. It was a fine sight steaming down the Grand Harbour, on one side were forts frowning at us, and on the other high battlements, with the town behind. In a couple of hours we were clear of land, and had struck a fairly heavy sea. The boat is rolling and pitching all ways. I fancy she must be a bad rolling boat though, as I don’t think we should bounce as much as we do for the sea that is running. Quite a number have succumbed to the deadly affects of sea-sickness all ready.

I believe we are going to Alexandria. I hope we stay there a few days, I want to make some purchases before I go back to Anzac.

The postal system at Malta is very rotten. It takes letters anything from one week to three to go from one hospital to another. I posted Coffey three letters, telling him to ring me up, and at the end of a week I hadn’t had any answer. The means of travelling is just as bad too. There is only one railway and one tramway. They both run parallel to each other and if you can’t afford to hire a cab you have to walk.

I have had some pretty good luck with my photos, I am sending films in one envelope, and prints in another. I have considered sending the camera home several times, but I think I had better keep it. I always seem to strike new snaps every time I hit civilization.

I met an interesting man the other evening in one of the Canteens. He was a man about 45, and was a sergeant in charge of thee engineers of the 13th Battalion (West Aust.). He is a South Australian and went to Whinham College. He told me he was an assayer and geologist. He made a pile at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie about 1890. Bought a station in N.S. Wales and lost it. While he was prosperous he made a trip to England and toured Italy pretty thoroughly. He was very interesting to listen to. His name is W.N. Wells.

Marked for Active Service

Posted: September 22, 2015 by tripmanic in 1915

Tuesday night several of us went for a walk to St Paul’s Bay. It is about 21/2 miles from here. It is here that St Paul landed, or rather was shipwrecked. There is a statue of him in the main street. The town, or village, is called Melita. There is only one street of any note, shops and houses are on either side for about a mile. The harbour is rather pretty. The Landing stages are out of solid rock, with stone steps leading down to the water’s edge.

There is a very pretty little church – the church of the Virgin Mary. Inside is a big figure of Mary with Jesus in her arms, in silver. Candles are burning in big candlesticks, and there are quite a number of good paintings on the walls.

It was a lovely moonlight walk, and by the time we reached camp again we had done about seven miles. I can tell you I was pretty tired. My legs are fairly weak yet.

On either side of the road are stone walls. In one place it is very pretty. The wall rose to a height of about 20 ft., and was built on the “arch and pillar” system. The moon threw shadow across the road and with a few trees it formed a delightful picture.

I have been marked for Active Service, and am waiting to be sent to one of the Forts around the Grand Harbour.

St Peters Camp, Ghain Tuffieha

Posted: September 20, 2015 by tripmanic in 1915

I am going to make an attempt to get through this letter with ink, but I am afraid I am too much out of practice with a pen – I am on my third nib now.

Life has been moving along slowly the last few days. I finished off my diary last Thursday and posted it under registered post on Saturday, I hope you will receive it.

Our usual days program is to make up our beds and have breakfast. The doctor makes a tour of inspection every morning, we all hang about, generally lying on the beds reading till he has gone.

Dinner is usually the next consideration, and then the afternoon is passed with a lot of lying about, a little reading and a little writing as the case may be.

After tea we have a swim. The beach is only about half a mile’s walk from the tent. The rest of the evening is generally spent in the mess or in the Y.M.C.A. tent.

We have a sergeants mess going now. We pay 3d a day for extras, and there is a bar, the profits of which are spent on the table.

Friday was pay day here. The usual rate of pay is – Sergeants 1 pound, Corporals 15/-, the Privates 10/-. By a bit of luck I managed to hit the captains up for 2 pounds. Of course with 2 pounds in my pocket I couldn’t spend the week end in camp. Six of us set off early Saturday morning for Valletta. I am in with a fine lot of chaps, they are all Territorial men. I think most of them have seen from twelve to sixteen years service, some of them as regulars. There was a regimental sergeant-major of the Herefordshires, a company sergeant-major of a Sussex regiment, a quartermaster sergeant of the Royal Engineers, and another imperial sergeant, beside two Australians. I was the only one of the party who hadn’t served before the war. They are all fellows who were in business, or had businesses before the war broke out.

Ghain Tuffieha is eleven miles from Valleta. The railway runs out to a place seven miles out – the rest of the way is done in cabs. The fare from here to the station is from three to four shillings, and by the time we were ready to go there was only one cab left. The driver of it wanted 10/- to drive us in, which we refused, we started to walk and got about a mile on our way when we met a cab coming out. It was a nerve wracking ride. The road was very hilly, and the old vehicle creaked and swayed along, but we ultimately reached our destination.

The first thing that happened to us, was the Stationmaster tried to sell us lemonade in the booking office – rather an usual proceeding on our railways, eh!

The train is a narrow gauge toy affair. As we neared Valletta that stations became very pretty. They have well looked after gardens. The last mile of the journey, from Floriana to Valletta, is all underground, just one big tunnel cut out of the rock, about every 200 yards an air vent is cut. The station is quite 50 ft. below the level of the main street. After we had all dined we separated on various expeditions. I spent most of my time ( and money) buying little things that I needed. I bought tobacco, films, books, note books, stationery, tooth paste, mirror, cigarettes, cigars, pipe, and various other small items.

I got those films developed and printed that I exposed at the Dardanelles, they are very good.

The hotels at Valletta are very different to the Egyptian, there is nothing of the size and magnificence about them. They are poky, dirty, little places. There is a law forbidding the sale of liquor to any troops. As all hotels and restaurants sell it, it is very hard to get a decent meal, as they won’t serve you with food even.

As the last train for home left about 7pm, we decided it was better to stay the night, and catch a train back in the morning. In the evening we went to a picture show combined with a few musical items – it wasn’t half bad.

We put up at the Soldiers and Sailors Institute. A place where cheap beds (very!) and meals are obtainable.

During my rambles I visited the chief cathedral “ St Johns”. It is a beautiful church, not much to look at outside, but a very fine and costly inside. The floor is all worked in mosaic tiles into patterns and designs of the crests of the Knights of St.John of Jerusalem, all the knights were buried under this floor. On some of the tombs are the skull and cross bones, others pieces of armour. The ceiling is most beautifully painted. It is one big dome-shaped ceiling. The candle sticks on the Altar, about a dozen of them, five feet high, are of solid silver.

On the left of the Altar is the King’s chair, and on the right is the Bishop of Malta’s. All round the sides, in alcoves, are altars of various Saints and Nations. There are wonderful sculptural tombs over celebrated men etc. Paintings by Michael Angelo, and other famous men. Silverware is very plentiful. There are the famous silver gates, which Napoleon tried to steal, they are of solid silver, and they stand about five feet high, and are about fifteen to twenty feet wide. It was rather dark when I went in, so I couldn’t see things properly I mean to go again next time I am in. It is a wonderful place and must be worth a fabulous price. It dates back to about 1300.

The next morning we were up early and had a wander round the town. I took a few photos. One part of the town is on the edge of a cliff and it is a sheer drop of 100 ft. to the water’s edge of the Grand Harbour. To get up this cliff there is a lift. We walked around the quay, and then up a winding path through gardens to the city level again, without taking the lift. This bit of garden and path is in a big fissure of rock, on the one side was the lift and on the other a steep precipice. The various rock formations are most peculiar – at times I think it must have been a volcanic island.

Quarantine Harbor

Posted: September 7, 2015 by tripmanic in 1915

Yesterday morning we arrived in Malta and went into Quarantine Harbor. Malta is just one mass of rock, barracks, forts and churches. It is all hills, and the town, in fact the place appears to be one big town, is built right on the side of the hills. The streets are so steep that they are cut out in steps. At sunset we were taken off in barges and placed in this hospital. It is a pretty big place, there are about 1400 beds in marquees – 14 men to a tent. We are being treated pretty right, but are paid two shillings only per week. I could have stayed on the boat and gone on to England if I had liked. The Sister asked me several times if I wouldn’t rather go on – she could easily have fixed it up with a Doctor. I weighed up my letters and friends, and having to stay on the boat perhaps for another fortnight, and I decided I would go off. Suppose I will be sorry later. Yesterday I had a look around a little, first I went to one of the Convalescent Hospitals at a place called Pembroke to see if I could find Stan Coffey, but didn’t succeed. After I walked down into a town or suburb of Valletta called Selima. Like the rest of the island, it is all hill – in some places the streets are cut in steps. Malta was at one time just a barren rock I believe, all the loose stones have been piled into walls, and the spaces in between, forming terraces have been filled with earth brought from Sicilly. At present the only vegetation about is a kind of dwarfed carib tree and some prickly pears. Barracks are everywhere, and the place is crowded with soldiers. The same clatter and noise goes on as in Cairo, although the place is far cleaner, and not half so crowded. Selima is built in the sea front, and all round the smaller of the two harbours – Quarantine Harbor. I had only a brief look round, but found I had quite enough when I got back to camp.

From what I can learn very few dysentery cases are being sent back to the Peninsular – quite a number are being sent to England. I saw one of the Maltese watering carts yesterday, it is a barrel on a frame work with wheels on it, drawn by a horse or donkey. A horse runs from the back of it with a big sprayer attached, a man walks behind the cart and swings the sprayer from side to side by means of a rope, it is a very primitive method.

When we entered the harbor, there were bumboats all round us selling all the usual articles, and small boys crying for pennies to be thrown in the water for them to dive for. Ever since I recovered that note book of mine on the Peninsular I have been keeping a diary in it, and as I have just about finished it I will continue writing my letters on the last few pages, and post the lot on to you.

Have been playing patience all day, to pass the time away – it takes some passing too, at times. The regular soldier can generally lie on his bed all day long – he doesn’t read, doesn’t walk about and see things, but just stagnates – I suppose it is barrack life that gets them into those habits. I’m afraid it would drive me mad.

Well I will finish this up and continue in the other book. Lot of love and best wishes (especially that you may never be sick in a Military Hospital)

Yours ever, Lance.

Another landing

Posted: September 5, 2015 by tripmanic in 1915

The Tommies have made another landing at Suvla Bay, and had a pretty hot time, also at the same time our left swung round a little. We were very lucky, we were the first battalion that didn’t move, all left of us advanced as far as they could, which wasn’t far. The Turks are putting up a marvellous fight of it. There is none of that bolting helter-skelter from an attack. They are well up in all the little tricks of the game too. The trouble with our men is that they have been there too long. They are all getting sick, and not one of them are still in it. The men are played out absolutely. That hard training we did at Mena has counted a lot for us. None of the reinforcements had it of course and they no sooner set foot on the Peninsular than they go away again sick. Dysentery seems to be the prevailing trouble. The Doctors have pronounced us, as a body, not fit for duty, but still they don’t relive them.

We are very short-handed too. We should number 56 in the platoon, and we have only 30 odd, it comes very hard on the few who are left, especially if they aren’t fit to do the work.