Select a section below to find out about the Henderson / Blunt / Woodhouse / Surgey family tree ...

Introduction Explore the Family Tree Return to Library Index View the Resources Used

As well as viewing the evidence, images can be saved by right clicking and selecting the save option, and text can be highlighted and copied. If available, there are links to open the evidence in other formats such as pdf or Word. The links at the top and bottom of the page can be used to go back to the library index or to move to another section of the site.

Gallipoli Diaries compiled by Dr Margaret Henderson

(5,500 words)   Open pdf version in a new window.   Open Word version in a new window.

« Foreword   Section 3 »
First World War Letters and Records of Rupert & Alan Henderson
Their first camp was at Broadmeadows, a Northern suburb of Melbourne. It was a rigorous routine. Alan wrote−

Dear Mum (August 1914)
Arrived alright last night and rolled in about 12.30, roused out 5.30, caught a train at 7.30 and was in the trenches marking at Williamstown [Footnote: A rifle range] all day. Then Mess was late as we didn't get back till 6.30 and the Brigadier rushes us over to a blessed lecture to which I couldn't attend for the life of me as I was so sleepy.
          Our bed valises have arrived and I intend to draw a kit bag and my clothes tomorrow afternoon... The Governor General is inspecting us tomorrow afternoon... Going away on Saturday is out of the question−it may be next week and some even say the 24th. The ships are allotted but we have not learnt ours yet, so you can please yourselves as to which day, one day seems as good as another... I just learn that no Field Glasses will be issued as they cannot be got-get Rupert to hussle round and get me a good pair, marking my name on them. I can claim £5.9/ - on them.
Must go now Mum,
Your affectionate son

Later from Broadmeadows 25.8.14−

Dear Mum,
Just a hurried line to tell you I've got leave from 6pm Saturday night... The Duntroon fellow-Heighway-who lives in Auburn wants me to ride with him-to borrow horses here-and to ride back leaving midnight Sunday, but I don't think I could get a horse and it would be pleasanter by train. The horse would be a nuisance. Would Ken get me a flask like Rupert's and have it for me. Everything well, Mum, plenty of hard work and not much time to spare... Must go now for mails. Goodnight Mother, plenty of love to all.
Your loving son

Just got my pass signed by CO 5pm Saturday-6am Monday. Hooray!

photo      photo

A list of clothing with prices includes Cartridges for 15/ - and mouth organ and whistle 1 7/6.

Dear Mum
Landed here at 11pm last night and heard that as we were the picquet we must sleep ready dressed in our clothes, also that Reveille would be at 5.30 which means that the picquet rouses out at 5am, so I put in the night till 1.30am yarning with our new Colour-Sergeant, who has been right through the Sudan and Boer wars and certain rebellions, a very fine soldier. He was a Sergeant in the Northumberland Fusiliers, famously known as the "Fighting Fifth". You can guess I'm pretty tired as we've had the hardest day's work we've ever done, having marched about 15 miles and working hard over the country all day. I said goodbye to Sharl, Olive, Dorothy and Ken MacDougall this afternoon. There is an epidemic of matrimony in the regiment, three of our officers having married since camp started. We celebrated the Adjutant tonight with a dinner at which the Brigadier was present. The lecture just over was the funniest up to date. I don't suppose that there were half-a-dozen out of about 30 awake, altho' the lecture was a very good one.
          I resume after putting the Senior Sub to bed. I think the dinner was a bit too much for him. He spouted Mark Twain's speech on his 80th birthday all the time...
          I must close now as I've got to inspect the feet of the Coy. in the next 20 minutes.
Goodnight Mum.
Your affectionate Son

The 7th Battalion was to sail on the TSS "Hororata" in a large convoy which was to include New Zealand troops as well. On September 14th two heavy cruisers of the German Pacific Fleet, the (Scharnhorst' and the "Gneisenau", were detected in the southwest Pacific. The departure of the convoy was thus delayed, the "Hororata" leaving Melbourne on 18th October to join other Australia and New Zealand transports at Albany. Rupert describes the initial impact.

TS "Hororata"
9.30 18/10/14

Dear Old Mum,
Just a line or two in a bit of a hurry to say goodbye once more.
          Our embarkation was carried out most successfully. The men were quiet and went through a rather difficult and new performance very well.
          We are very comfortable, we have a good saloon and a fair amount of deck space. The lounge is small but we use the saloon for writing etc. My companions are very good. The Cabin is small but will suit all right.
          We leave here, off Williamstown, at 5am tomorrow morning and make for Portsea, and it is quite on the cards that we go straight away from there tomorrow. Tell Dad to write at once and let me know the state of my finances, bank account, etc. He might catch us before we leave, but it does not really matter. Alan would like to know his also. He has been appointed Co-librarian with a very nice fellow named Palmer who Dad may remember as a tenant of ours. We have quite a good library, so also have the men.
          The men are very packed in their hammocks and I am afraid that in the tropics we will have some trouble in making them comfortable.
          I took a few snaps today of the troops on the wharf but did not get one of the sight as we left the pier. The cheering men all over the ship made a very impressive sight, then in silence the Band played 'God Save the King' and we drew away from our berth. There is not much news yet Mum, and I have not finished my work yet.
          I must say goodbye once more, Mum and same old messages and all the love that my heart can feel for yourself, Dad, Peg, Babe and Ken and keep up your cheerful spirits and keep your interest in your same old works till we come back.
From your ever-loving and thankful son,

Both Rupert and Alan write on 24th October to catch the mail in Albany, West Australia.

From Rupert−

SS "Hororata"
24.10.14 11.50am

Dear old Mum,
Everything is all right. We are having a splendid trip, days of sunshine and water perfectly smooth. Yesterday afternoon it came on to blow for a while and rained very hard but cleared up during the night.

S.S. Hororata

          We are both of us very well and have three very fine meals every day with early morning coffee and afternoon tea thrown in.
          I have three very fine cabin mates, Capt Mason (Judge Hood's associate), Capt McKenna (director of Hicks Atkinson), Capt Hunter of Bendigo, a dentist and rather wild sort of chap, all of our battalion.
          Our days are always full and we are tired at night, there is really not much time to read or write.
          We start work at 6am, issue rations at 6.30. Breakfast at 7am for men, clean and scrub troop deck at 8am. Officers' Breakfast at 9am, parade at 10am or 2pm, issue Beer at 11am, men's dinner 12 noon, officers' dinner 1.30pm, issue rations at 4pm. Men's tea 5pm, issue hammocks 6pm. Officers' dinner 7pm, lights out for men 9pm, Lights Out in saloon 11pm.
          We can only actually drill the men (physical drill only of course) for 35 minutes per day for each company. This is worked down to its finest point. We are terribly overcrowded here as far as the men are concerned, there is actually not room for them on the troop deck without sleeping on the arm chests, hatchways, tables, seats etc. and slung between the NCOs' bunks and in all the gangways.
          The deck space is inadequate and above all, the cooks galley and bake-house are barely able to do the cooking required for such a large number of men.
          The contract of the ship was to give our men three hot meals per day but the galley is not able to cope with this, so the men are now having bread, butter, jam and tea only for the evening meal. This will relieve the pressure on the cooks to a great extent and is I think sufficient for the men.
          Latrine accommodation is also barely adequate.
          Reports have bee sent in on the state of affairs by all company commanders and it is probable that half of our battalion may be moved off when we get to Albany. We are also likely to lose our sword instructor who may go as quartermaster on the "Orvieto". I think wireless messages have been sent and received but we have no idea as to their purport.
          I have been Battalion Orderly Officer once and Field (or Ship's) officer once also since we left. Both duties are very heavy and last for 24 hours.
          As ship's officer you are responsible for everything connected with the ship, duties, cleaning, fatigues, etc, etc.
          I have taken a few snaps of the embarkation and the men on board and will send the films back from Albany for you to develop and use the pictures for yourself. Please take great care of them, get Dad to have them developed pretty soon as they don't keep for a very long time.
          Nearly every man on board was ill on Wednesday night, we have been trying to discover the cause and can only put it down either to spite on the part of the ship's cooks who' may have 'doped' the tucker, or to a bad carcase tainting all the meat utensils. Some of the men suffered agony but it very quickly passed away.
          On the first two days that we were on board the bread ration was very short, and after a great deal of enquiry it was discovered that the cooks were issuing short rations to the men and afterwards selling them sandwiches made from the bread that should have been issued.
          Needless to say this has ceased and the men get good food and plenty of it.
          Our officers are a much better crowd than the 6th officers; they are a light-headed and rather heavy drinking lot and their lack of discipline is shown in the men also. We are really a much finer Battalion than they are.
          Well Mum, Alan and I are both in perfect health and strength and are getting along very well indeed.
          I am not going to finish this letter off now but will wait until tonight for more news.
          Tonight has come bringing with it the news that tomorrow's mail will close at 7 am. This of course means that we will come into port during the night. We are already sighting several ships going in the same direction as ourselves and believe them to be fellow transports.
          We will be anchored out in the bay so do not expect to get any shore leave. In any case I expect it will be my turn to have command of the ship's guard one day while we are in port.
          Inoculation against typhoid begins very soon, so I expect we will have a good deal of sickness in a short time.
          I will write to Dad by the last mail before leaving Albany and tell him any more news. We will be sending you two or three films to have developed.
          Well Mum goodbye for the present and heaps of love and kisses for yourself, Dad and Peg and Baby and Prof.
from your affectionate son,

Alan writes more briefly and personally, less conscious of his responsibilities; more sanguine in outlook as befits his family nickname, "Fat"−

SS "Hororata"
Saturday evening 24.10.14

Dearest Mother,
I'm sending you a fairly detailed diary which you ought to receive, as it's free from anything a censor might object to. It at any rate gives you most of the news and shows you what a splendid trip we are having. The weather has been absolutely beautiful, scarcely a man on board seasick. Everyone is happy and contented−a number of young men usually strike some way of amusing themselves. Most of us are writing tonight, 'tho there are a few singing at the piano. They are a real good crowd of fellows.
          It is peculiar how this sort of thing brings out a fellow's weaknesses−nearly every man in our line of cubicles has a photo of his mother or girl, or both, tacked up over his bed, and one often hears them comparing, in confidential tones, notes on the subject, especially of the girls, of course a fellow doesn't usually talk about his mother. It is about the best part of war. Well, Mum, we are not being overworked by any means, of course study starts now in earnest and with boxing every day I hope to keep fit and well. Rupert of course is writing you tonight, but lest his letters are censored I may as well say he is very well and doing alright. He has very good cabin mates.
          We are learning how to make the most of space now and are settling down comfortably into what promised to be a terribly crowded ship. It certainly is crowded but is nothing like as bad as it looked at first. All the men can be in the air at a time. They are made to keep everything spotless. Their tables and floors and all eating utensils are scrubbed and polished every day, till they shine. The whole ship is inspected by the Captain of the ship and the Colonels every day. In addition to their fatigues and duty work the men get 35 minutes Physical Drill per diem, just enough to keep them healthy. The horses are all walked round their part of the ship every day for half an hour, which will make a tremendous difference to them as compared to having none at all, which looked like their lot at first. Our meals are very good and one has to be careful not to eat too much. However I'm not drinking or smoking at all just yet, as one does not need to. We play draughts a good deal, the Colonel is a crack, he is just the same as in tactics, can grasp a position in a second and trick you into losing about half your men at one go, and he does it in a second. My expenses are very small, my first and only to date being a dozen of soft drinks for wearing white shoes between breakfast and dinner. The fellows fined me as they had just been fined a drink all round, most of them for going to sleep in a lecture. It was most effective, no-one went to sleep today. Tell Dad I made my Will in my paybook yesterday and got it witnessed by Jimmy Johnson, Lieut. The saloon is full of fellows tonight all writing as hard as they can lick. I may send my first film. I daresay they will be failures and I have missed two spaces out of the ten by twisting it too quickly.
          A boat is just passing us and has signalled "Goodbye Good luck". We have seen two or three other lights on the horizon tonight. Well Mum I can't think of anything more at present. Tell the little girls I'm still thinking of them and wish them all the happiness they can have. Give Dad and Ken my love and tell them to write to me regularly. With heaps of love and kisses to yourself, Dear Mum. Goodbye.
Your very affectionate son, Alan.

Alan had already started on his diary which, in his cramped writing on the pages of a tiny pocket notebook, would chronicle day-ta-day activities until they reached Egypt. But there was still time to catch the post from Albany.

In Port
Monday evening 27.10.14

Dearest Mother,
Rupert is not writing tonight as he is in bed, prior to going on Guard from 2 to 6am. Ship's Guard Company is strenuous work−the watches are four hours each and you have to be climbing all over the ship all the time. Things are getting quite business-like−at night our sentries have ball ammunition and are ordered to fire if any boat approaches which has been forbidden to approach and warned to keep away. I cannot tell you where we are. All our further doings you will see in my Diary I am sending you of the last two days. We may be sending two films tomorrow if they are allowed but I think most of mine are failures. Well Mum it is no good my repeating my diary which I write as much like a letter as possible and keep up-to-date so that I can pop it into an envelope at any moment.
          We received all your letters today and it certainly does one a lot of good to hear from home as one gets rather stale in a way without the surroundings and blessings of home. I am glad you and Dad take the pleasure, or shall I say pride in our going. That alone makes it worth the while. I will not write separately to you all... read this letter to the nippers and give them plenty of hugs and kisses.

Wednesday 28.10.14

Dear Mum,
We are now lying at the pier having come in for stores etc. last evening. I am sending you another small piece of my diary.
          Everything is going splendidly but my company is at present grieving over the loss overboard of our Colour Sgt O'Meara. Of course he is only announced as missing up to date so don't show everyone the page of diary I am sending. The particulars must be kept private. He was a good man and I suppose he was sitting on the rail and perhaps fell asleep and slipt. He could not have lived two minutes.
          Rupert is writing you and I think we can get off a letter or two before we sail again.
          Another ship drew up on the other side of the pier after us last night. The troops come from another State, the chiacking was tremendous. It resolved into an effort to swear or shout one another down. This morning only friendly conversations are taking place. We would not be surprised if the Brigadier paid us a visit this morning and inspected the ship.
          The weather is beautiful again this morning but we are not allowed on shore. The ship gets very close when not on the move, I'm afraid it will be awfully warm with a following wind in the Red Sea...
          We have all been inoculated with typhoid on the left forearm. It puffs up the arm and is a little sore but nothing serious. There is no more news at present and I must knock off now. Give my love to all.
Your very affectionate son

He sends a postcard of the SS "Hororata" and on the 29th a card−

All well
Alan Henderson
In a hurry Goodbye

Rupert writes before leaving port−

SS "Hororata"
At Albany Pier
Wednesday 28.10.14

Dear old Mum,
Since writing last a good many things have occurred.
          On Saturday last the "Shropshire" who is anchored some considerable distance down the harbour signalled that she had mail for us. It was blowing very hard and a slight sea running but letters are letters and we wanted them so Major Mac got permission from the Captain to take a boat out and he called for a crew from the officers and we started off.
          We got to the ship easily, collected a mail of one parcel, two letters, one telegram and a small organ and started home again. It took us a long time of very hard rowing to get back, sometimes we were making no way at all and it was very doubtful if we would be able to get back. This meant either trying to make one of the steamers we had to pass on the way home or run for the beach. We were in a magnificent boat and were not shipping a single drop of water.
          We decided to have a shot to get back and after over two hours of very hard plugging we reached the ship. Then came the difficulty of getting to her side, hooking on the davit ropes and hauling her up while we were rising and falling a height of about six feet on each wave. We did it but it was very hard.
          It was one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had. We arrived in the middle of a sacred concert: every man left to come to the side and cheer us. Our Parson who was holding the show is the most long-winded and modest and retiring (I don't think) man or parson I have ever met. In short he is a nuisance. He has five of his own photos stuck up in the saloon and you would think he is the CO of the ship.
          Colonel Semmens has been ill ever since we left and will not be about again for two or three weeks, he is suffering from neuritis.
          On Monday night B Coy was "Guard Company". The Guard Company furnishes all guards and sentries over the guns, kitchens etc over the ship. There are between 20 and 30 sentry posts.
          The three officers divide the watch into four hour "watches" and during your watch you have to visit the sentries every half-hour and spend the rest of the time on the Bridge with the Ship's officer of the watch.
          During Conder's watch from 10pm to 2am and at about 11.30pm when he was right for'ard and inspecting the sentries one of our officers came on deck to latrines and thought he heard a man call faintly for help three times. It was blowing a very hard gale at the time (of course we were at anchor out in the harbour). He, apparently frightened of appearing ridiculous by raising a false alarm, went along and questioned two other sentrys if they had heard the calls. The sentry right astern had heard what he thought was a man being sick and another had heard the call. These men of course waited for the officer to take action. Instead of doing so before all this preliminary enquiry which took several minutes, the latter went and woke up several other officers, two of them came along and woke up the Captain of the Day and happened to wake me as I was sleeping in the same cabin. I booted one out at once on to the Bridge to tell the Officer of the Watch.
          By this time it was too late of course to do anything. No one thought of immediately throwing one of those flares, Buoys or answering the supposed calls. Everyone then turned in again and waited for morning to see if anyone was missing.
          On Tuesday morning (yesterday) the Colour Sgt of Fat's Company was missing and has not yet appeared. There is no doubt that he was the caller for help. It is possible that he had been sitting on the rail, fallen asleep and been blown off. There are other theories with just as much weight as this. However a Court of Enquiry is now sitting on the whole matter.
          I am afraid I may lose one of my best Sergeants also. At Camp he hurt his knee and this is now giving him trouble. I am afraid that it is the same trouble as I had though our Doctor at Camp said it was not. However there is a great doubt now as to whether he will be fit for active service. His name is Russell and he has seen a lot of service in India. He is only young and a very cheerful chap and a hard worker, very straight and liked by all his men. If I lose him it will be a great loss.
          Our old Colour Sergeant is improving and will yet turn out a good man. He is beginning to realise that he must obey orders.
          Yesterday we underwent the first half of our inoculations against typhoid, and I have a left arm this morning that is very sore indeed. The other arm has to be inoculated in about seven days' time. The men will all be done when we leave for sea. No shore leave is granted to any ranks so Fat and I did not get our day on shore.
          Last night we came into the Pier for fresh water and are leaving this morning some time early for our anchorage...
Both all well Mum and everything going all right. Heaps of love and kisses to self, Dad, Peg, Baby and Ken.
Your affectionate son, Rupert.

We received Dad's and yours and Peg's letters yesterday. We may be leaving here about Friday or Saturday.

SS "Hororata"
Albany 30.10.14

Dear Mum,
Last time I wrote to you we were just about to be inoculated. We were done the next morning and the men were ordered to be done also. One of my Lance Corporals, a very fine chap, refused to be done (either vaccinated or inoculated) as some time ago he nearly lost his life when vaccinated.
          This caused a good deal of trouble, several men refusing to be done. The CO gave the L-Cpl 24 hours to reconsider his decision and all were put in Guard Room to be later charged with disobedience of orders if they persisted. Another Corporal who is a real bad egg and a relation of the Lance Corporal's induced the men and another Corporal to support the Lance Corporal. The men with one exception have now been inoculated but the three NCOs are now in detention, soon to be dealt with by General Court Martial.
          My sergeant, Russell, who has been laid up with bad knee was sent in to the Hospital in Albany yesterday to be discharged as there is little chance of his being fit again for duty. The other three NCOs I expect to lose also, of course they have been immediately reduced to the ranks. This means that I will have to find four or five men to fill their positions. This I can do from men who were absent without leave when we left Melbourne and have been sent on to join us here. Some of these men may yet have to be returned again to Melbourne.
          This morning we went for another trip. The skipper wanted a crew to take him into the Bank in Albany and another crew was raised from the officers. Alan and I were again chosen. We had a very good sail in, spent no end of money on tins of biscuits, pickles, notebooks, hats for hot weather, khaki slacks and any number of odds and ends.
          We behaved generally like a lot of schoolboys let loose. A whaler, which they have chartered to carry stores from the town to the ships, gave us a tug all the way home, a distance of about five or six miles. We got soaking wet as a stiff wind was blowing when we started for home and as it would have taken us perhaps four or five hours to row home we were very thankful for the tug. We earned it by helping to load the whaler with stores for our own ship.
          Needless to say we are all very tired and sleepy tonight and I can scarcely think what I am writing.
          We cannot give you overmuch news now, as all our letters must be left open to be read by censor and all information as to movements etc must be rigorously excluded.
          They are moving two companies of the 6th Battn over to two other ships, this will ease the overcrowding a little but not enough.
          Anyhow we are both in perfect health and spirits and are really getting along exceptionally well. I forgot to mention that we met Permezel in Albany today. He is on the "Miltiades" and is looking very well indeed...

Dear Mum,
I just want to say that for my part I accept the great trust of the two girls which you place upon us and pray that God may grant us the power to carry out that trust in full.
God bless you all from

From here on the tale is taken up by Alan's diary which he started on embarkation. No attempt has been made to edit the text and there may be some errors in the transcription of proper names. It is written on loose pages from a pocket diary 7.5 x 13cms, in a very cramped hand, chiefly in black ink but some red, when he ran out of black.

Diary of Lieutenant Alan Dudley Henderson
7th Battalion 2nd Brigade 1st AIF

from 18th October to 29th November 1914

Covering embarkation on SS "Hororata" and life on the troopship to Alexandria in Egypt−

Sunday 18.10.14. After 8 weeks training at Broadmeadows we embarked this morning on the SS "Hororata". Uncle Frank was on the wharf and said goodbye. The men were quiet and orderly. We marched on about 11am. I took 2 photos of my ½ Coy 'F' on the wharf with my new camera. Dinner was served about 2pm to the men. We left the wharf about 4pm and went out a couple of miles. There was a tremendous crowd on the shore all the way to St Kilda. The Band played patriotic tunes from the boat deck. The whole scene was very inspiring.
          All the men can get on deck and in the open quite easily tho' there is very little extra space for games. After tea hammocks were drawn by the men unknown to the Coy officers. Not knowing how to hang them they were all 'ski-wif'.
          The 6th have made a bit of a muddle. The man who is ship's q.m. seems quite inexperienced and nothing appears to have been previously organised, meals or anything else. However things are fairly straight and the men very happy. Like a lot of children having a new war experience.

Monday 19.10.14
Rose 5.25 and had a hot sea bath and freshwater shower. Attended men at Reveille−they rolled up hammocks in a very clumsy style and were slow about it. They were still happy and all went on deck. I got everything well cleaned up. They had breakfast and there was another 'welter', the two regiments clashing−arrangements for rations again being very poor, and there not being enough. I raised some more tho' and had to do the same each meal. Work was very hard-supervising and pushing things all the time. We left our anchorage about 8am, passed the Rip about 12.30 and Cape Otway 6.30. Only a gentle swell and a few sick. Men slung hammocks well tonight but are very crowded and close. Was appointed as librarian with Palmer last night. Have been indexing all this afternoon and tonight. Feeling well.
          Things generally were much better today. The cooks are getting sober and organisation being made. Canteen starting. Am in a little cubicle with Grills−not overmuch room but sufficient. Well ventilated and more comfortable than the four- berth cabin Rupert is with. All of us subs have a line of cubicles to ourselves. I think we'll make things lively in a few days.

Tuesday 10pm. Rose at Reveille−couldn't make out why it was so late and forgot about having to put my watch back 20 minutes. Meals improving but short of bread. It seems there has been a miscalculation somewhere. Today we had a firestation parade−our coy's is in our lines. Routine is getting more like routine and the men are getting to know their jobs. Spent two hours this morning and one this evening indexing and cataloguing books. Our Coy has just come on Guard−my relief is 2-6am so I think I'd better lie down now for a few hours. Foolery has already started. Watt of the Sixth has a pair of hair-clippers and they are catching everyone and taking a few streaks of hair off each. They even did me and Rupert. It means we all have to have it completed. The weather is still splendid and very calm−only a long swell. It is breaking everyone in gradually.

diary page      diary page

Wednesday 21.10.14
Rose at 1.45am and went on watch till 6am when Weddell relieved. Tiring game, inspecting sentries once every hour−30 posts which take nearly an hour to do. Examined troop decks crawling from hatch to hatch on hands and knees in the pitch dark to look for cigarettes alight−we were running due West and from the poop got a beautiful sunrise, the sky first being a lovely golden then as the sun touches the horizon it sparkles very brightly. The weather was perfect all day−a number of large sharks could be seen this morning−also a few whales not far off, spouting.
          At Breakfast we looked curious after last night's foolery. We had all had to have another hair-cut, including myself, and looked very bald. Jimmy Johnson has shaved the top of his head−it shines like a rising sun. During the morning packed away all the clothes and uniforms I don't want in the baggage room with the help of my batman Forbes. Went on watch at 2am−found all the posts had been increased and had to chase round for more men. Had a good quiet afternoon visiting sentries.
          We have a good party at table. The Marconi operator is our president and we have Loyd Johnson and Mason and Hopkinson among us. The latter is a great talker and quick with his tongue and keeps us going. They're a grand lot of fellows all round. Am going to bed now to make up for last night. There's also a bit of shaving moustaches. Every man has shaved his off and they all intend starting off scratch and growing again.

Thursday 22.10.14
Rose this morning more restful. Not Orderly Sub today. Grills and I take three days each and share Sundays and I've been at it since I came inboard. Started on Physical Drill at 8am. Colonel said I had a good chest expansion−boxed Grills but I was out of practice and he was a bit too quick. Physical drill for 30 minutes with the Coy. That is all the exercise we can give the men daily. At 4pm started sword exercises with Ricketts, our QMS. It's very difficult holding a sword properly and your wrist nearly breaks. It certainly aches after a couple of minutes with the weight of the sword. We will be practising with single stick very soon. Went to bed early.

Friday 23.10.14
Lectures started today. 10.30-11 map-reading with Major MacNicoll and 11.30 to 12 Tactics, Lt Finlayson starting at the beginning of Field Service Regs. Both good men and good lectures. Took the Coy for 35 minutes PD [Footnote: Physical Drill] this afternoon−they enjoy it. At the end it started to rain. The first we have had yet, the weather has been so perfect. Did about 11/2 hours study at Map Rdg [Footnote: Map Reading] problems and FS Regs. [Footnote: Field Service Regulations] Boxed the Doc this morning. He's 6'2" with a very long reach−hit him once or twice when I sailed into him at first but after that his length and reach told and he cracked me once or twice in the forehead. I'll go for his body in future and I think I can tackle him with a little practice. Will go to bed now and read in bed. Our cubicle is very comfortable and we are all very happy. The men are settling down and making the most of the little room they have. It certainly is not as bad as promised.

Saturday 24.10.14
Will not write much tonight as I must write letters by the score. Mail closes at 7am tomorrow, Sunday. Had lectures again this morning. They are very good. All our map-reading work is going to be done on big detailed maps of Belgium and France so that we will be as familiar as possible with the country. Sword work again this afternoon and an instructional spar with Captain Hunter who was champion sprinter at the Melbourne University and also a crack boxer. A few lessons from him and I'll feel much more comfortable. I might start sparring with Captain Mason in the morning. I believe we might sight land tomorrow for the first time since we left Victoria. Will send this lump home tonight. Keep it for me carefully. Made out my will in Dad's favour. Of course being a minor it reverts automatically to him but having a will like that would save a lot of trouble and expense and it would be handy for the office now to communicate with home.
          Dad will be sorry to hear that Colonel Simmons has been ill and confined to his cabin since he came aboard. His trouble is Eurasthenia and he is far from well although latest reports say he is improving.

Sunday 26.10.14
Church Parade conducted by Chaplain Captain Miles, Baptist, from the Bridge Deck to troops massed in the Shelter and Boat Decks. He is a big easy-going fat chap about 45 and is getting longer-winded every day. He is by no means a good preacher as he rambles on and on and all over the country as he does in his prayers, from the King and Queen to safe embarkation. We are in port (name deleted) now. A beautiful harbour, rocky granite hills all round us while there are ships everywhere. A beautiful sight on a sunny day. The "Omrak" is swinging about a ship's length ahead of us and about five ships behind us, all about ¼ mile behind one another. (More deletions). Had our first experience this afternoon. The "Shropshire" signalled they had mail for us so that the Major asked for a crew to go for them. Twelve of us went, eleven of the 7th officers and Borwick of the 6th with McNicholl as skipper. We had to climb down the side on a rope ladder and as it was pretty rough it was a great job getting in. All the men were over the side cheering. The "Shropshire" is over two miles away and with a fast sea running and a strong wind we got to her in about 15 minutes. It took us three hours to get back. Jove, it was a pull. The wind freshened and the sea got rougher and those ships' boats are heavy. We pulled from ship to ship, tying on and having a rest at each. They didn't expect us to get back without help and sent the launch that goes round for us, but we got back without them in the dark at 8pm. Then it was a job, we had to get on from the starboard windward side in the dark. One chap was knocked out by the block−a great heavy lump of wood with a big iron ring in it. Eventually we managed to hook on and were hauled up on the davits. The cheers we got from our boat on arrival were tremendous, in fact it was the same at each boat as they could all se us fighting our way to them. Of course there was not any danger but it was a very tough pull.
          Started this in the middle instead of the beginning. Woken up early with a talk of land and got up and looked out. We were about 400 or 500 yards from shore, creeping close in the channel. It was just near the entrance where the shore consists of big, rounded granite about 150 feet high. It is very pretty. We took up our moorings in line with three or four other boats only about ½ mile from land. (Deleted) came on board later and made us move to a slightly different mooring. The "Doura" came in later in the afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the hills show up all round. The banks seem to drop straight down to the water and I would think the harbour was very deep.

A day of hope and anticipation. Rupert and I were in the list for leave. Some of the fellows went ashore yesterday and say the surroundings of the town are very pretty. They took cars and motored out to tea gardens about 15 miles out. We intended doing the same and hung over the side all the morning awaiting a launch. They appeared to go to every boat except ours and when one did arrive it brought an officer from the "Orvieto" saying there was to be no more leave. The "Orvieto" only arrived this morning (more deletions). However the launch also brought the mails. Then things got busy−all sorting mails in the dining room. It's about the greatest treat of all, everyone is terribly anxious and excited and it is quite amusing handing the letters out to the men. We got them from Dad and Mum, Ken and Peg with messages from Baby written on the Monday we left and also some on the Tuesday. Didn't expect my bank account was so big. Spent most of the afternoon writing up this diary and obliterating the parts that the censor might block. I hope it is alright now.

Tuesday 27.10.14
Not a good day for the Coy. Last night about 11.30 two sentries thought they heard a man cry for help. They were not sure it was not a man being sick and wasted time looking overboard instead of calling out straight away and then came and told us in our cabins. They apparently lost their heads. Well, by the time the officers were told nearly ten minutes had gone and there was still some doubt as to whether there was a man overboard. A gale was blowing with a very fast tide and rough sea. The boat could never have got back to the ship. When we came to see who was missing next morning my Colour Sergeant could not be found. He was a good fellow and a great favourite.
          We took a boat's crew over to the shore to see if we could find him but of course there was no trace. He would never have lived in the sea tho' he was a strong swimmer. We came into the pier last night between lines of ships to the inner harbour about 7pm. The town is very pretty and I think I will take some views.
          Am sending you four by this mail. All still well and happy.

Wednesday 28.10.14
Moved out from the pier this morning to our anchorage again about 11am. Took a film full of photos of the Warship "Minotaur" and two other smaller ones. Two more came in while a Japanese boat lay anchored out in the harbour. I hope that the film will come out but am afraid of some not being properly focused. A big NZ Troopship No 3 arrived with them. The other nine stayed out in a line. A Japanese launch ran past us, which we cheered. They answered with Banzais. The NZ also cheered vigorously as did the Queenslanders we left at the pier. It is a great sight in the harbour, three long lines of ships. The warships ran out tonight. I suppose they will let us sleep sound tonight. The "Minotaur" I believe is a big boat of 14 000 tons and armed with 9.2in guns. The sight of the three boats only about 100 yards away makes one feel intensely British. I read out Pearce's message and Lord Kitchener's order to the Coy last night. They cheered and clapped their mess tins heartily.
          This is a very historic time for Albany. The NZ troopship was the big "Maunganui". The men are in a very smart undress holland and came to attention and cheered us all together.
          This is to be an historic day. Thirty-eight boats, not counting four warships in the harbour. All practically in sight. It is a glorious and most impressive sight. Orders are out tonight against private letters but I think ours left the pier alright this morning. We gave them to a lady, or rather Rupert did, but this ends sending my diary home or even my love, for the printed postcards are to be sent. The time of suspense also starts now for the brave hearts at home. No news has yet been heard of poor O'Meara. According to today's orders all letters posted before 12th November from home will reach us en route. I am told FS Regs contains a sample postcard−must look it up.
          Our new Col Sergt Kennedy is shaping up well. He was such a remarkably quiet old bird before, but very observant. He shook up the NCOs a treat today and I spoke to them myself. Also the men were getting lax. I also went through them and rung in a few extra fatigues. It was necessary. Am also getting things done more in the clockwork system now, having things done sharp to time. Visited my two sick men in hospital again this afternoon-gave one fellow a singlet yesterday. He had not got any decent underclothes and had a bad throat and cough. Forbes is his name and Grills and I share him as our batman. He is a good smart Scotch boy. Also had a yarn to Lieut Spargo of the 6th who has had pneumonia since he came on. He is a very decent fellow. Another of their men is only just out of hospital after a spell of the same thing. The 6th have had bad luck. Col Simmons, Lt Spargo and Ryan all came straight onto the ship and went to bed.
          Am feeling sleepy today with the inoculation. It is treating me very well tho'. Some fellows are quite rotten with it.

Thursday 29th. A quiet routine day on board ship.

Friday 30th
Another boating excursion. We sailed into the town with Captain Cameron intending to pull back but while we were in town the wind freshened and the sea got rougher so we got the tug to tow us. It was a great run with the water splashing all round and over us but we drew up to the ship's side soaking wet and happy. We had a quick round in town buying clothes and soap etc, and having lunch in an hour. They were like a crowd of schoolboys let loose. Fortunately no-one knew we were officers in our jerseys. At the leading hotel we struck a big dinner and cleared out but I'm afraid the brigadier saw them and another major who had gone into lunch there. There are a number of little whalers about−terribly rusty little steamers. They go out with a big mother steamer and carry harpoon guns in their bows. They say the fleet account for about 2000 a year.

Saturday 31st
Wrote letters home. One to Mother to go thro' the censor, the other not, but to go by the Doctor. However as we might have sailed tonight he did not go out but gave his letters to a man on the launch, which means it will go thro' the censors. I hope that is as far as it will get. We had to row the Doctor in today. The sea and wind dropped and instead of sailing we had to pull to the mouth of the inner harbour, there we got a tow. Tried to Semaphore the "Orana" and send Borwick and his Coy luck. I doubt whether they got it. We rowed and sailed back and got hoisted on board, the Colonel and the Captain assisting. Hear on arrival that we may have to be ready by 5am to sail at 13 knots full speed. There is talk of West Africa. Captain Mason is fearfully disgusted and all of us will be disappointed. He says there will be no fun for infantry in such a country of distances. He says it is like Queensland. However, let's leave everything to fortune.

(In red ink) Sunday 1.11.14
A red letter day in truth. I haven't got any black ink but I think this day deserves red. We left Albany about 8.30 this morning. It was a glorious morning, sunny and calm. The "Orvieto" was the first to go, followed by all the others about 300 yards in the rear. We were in the rear of the Australians with the NZ following. I snapped the shore as we passed the lighthouse. Then we deployed into three long lines about a mile apart with 800 yards distance between ships. It was a beautiful sight. We steamed along the shore till about 6pm when we turned NW. This is I think the last of Australia. God bless all while we are away. Church parade was held up for about ½ an hour this morning by a wireless message.

We don't know where we are going or what port. It may be Colombo, it may be round or to the Cape of Good Hope. It was nearly Cape Horn. Let's hope it means Colombo and Europe. Plans have apparently been altered the last 24 hours. Whether it means German cruisers it is hard to say but we have a fairly strong escort of about six warships. One can see the "Minotaur" right ahead with the "Melbourne" and "Sydney" on our port and starboard. We will soon begin to travel without lights. There are three other warships somewhere. They ought to catch the "Emden". A chart has been put up in the lounge on which our position will be marked every evening. For the next few days it will be interesting.

(In pencil) Monday 2.11.14
Much rougher this morning. Ship rolling considerably and a few men sick. I felt a bit off colour myself and hope to come thro' alright. Exercised a bit this afternoon up and down the boat deck. Had a war game this evening on Lilydale maps. Rupert in command of one force−got badly beaten. Am starting NCO's classes tomorrow. We are heading NNW and passed Lewin last night. Hear today that Great Britain has declared war on Turkey. Will it affect us? Perhaps bring in Italy and Greece and the Balkan states.

Tuesday 3.11.14
Nothing out of the way. Went on guard 6-10. Got a good sleep. Rough again−not feeling too good. Heighway down with measles. Hope it does not spread.

Wednesday 4.11.14
Quiet. On guard this morning. Feeling better−don't think anything is wrong with me. Boxed Conder two rounds. Got up a good sweat but rather weak (two lines illegible). Second inoculation this evening. It does not make me worse. Doc had to announce inoculation but got a very warm reception when he got up at mess. Loud hoots, cries of brute and butcher and a shower of orange peel.

Thursday 5.11.14
A beautiful day. There was another fight arranged between Carey and Ike Smith. Bet Bert 5/- Carey would win on the strength of his last fight. It was a good go for eight rounds but Smith was winning all the time. While the fight was on the "Osterley" caught us up−very few 1st class but a large number of 2nd and 3rd. She looked beautiful. Spent a good while up on the bridge and came down later. Found my bed all upsidedown.

Friday 6.11.14
Nothing eventful but an alarm practice for attack. All portholes closed, boots off, life belts on, perfect silence etc.
          The magazine is for'ard and so two Coys per gun had to form a chain to pass ammunition. Kersley our 4th was ordered to pass it and only passed projectiles with no cartridges. The Captain was quite annoyed but the poor bugger has never seen a shell before, so he told me afterwards.
          Had some interesting practice this morning on the Gun. It is very fascinating keeping the sight on the ship and is hard work with the shoulders to keep the sights on the marks as the boat rolls. Have just been tricked into going upstairs for nothing−apparently Rogers wants to upset my bed again. Came down again and advised him to leave it alone. I'm afraid there may be a row if he did do it. I'll have to get back on him to square things and for my reputation. So here goes. Not touched, but on entering the lounge to hear that the (illegible) about 11.45 was assaulted and had a great tussle for about five minutes. Had a bath after.

Had a night attack practice. All lights out for about ten minutes. The men behaved very well and kept very silent. It is getting very hot now.

Very hot day. Found we had one man too many in the Coy. Colonel a little annoyed, but did not have to attend Church Parade. Our Padre is terribly long-winded and most easy-going. He talks too much and does not keep up on a pedestal enough to do any good. He makes himself too cheap and tries to be funny. He was an English officer before the 'call' came.

The first issue of the Expeditionary was issued this afternoon. Am keeping it complete-it is a very good start. Connelly is the Editor. Lights are being obscured now from tonight on and the fleet bunches up at night and the warships close in. I wonder if they have heard anything.

Monday and Tuesday 9th and 10th
A Great Day. Interest grew about 10.30 this morning when it was noticed that the whole fleet steamed as hard as they could over to the East−the Jap going at a tremendous bat. Also the NZ suddenly closing right up.
          We heard late this afternoon that the "Sydney" engaged the "Emden" off Cocoses this morning at seven following on a message we received from there by wireless. The news has come through in scraps so I'll put it as clear as possible.
          At 9am the "Sydney" sighted the "Emden" which had already cut one cable, but it is thought the second and third are intact. They destroyed the wireless, but the operators had buried one instrument which is now working. Much credit is due to them. After twenty minutes steaming the "Sydney" came within range, and after a brisk engagement the "Emden" had to beach herself to save herself from sinking. The "Sydney" has her casualties being treated in hospital at Direction Island and when she has taken on board the German captives and wounded will proceed direct to Ceylon.
          After disabling the "Emden", she steamed after and captured the collier, took off her crew and sank her, then returned to the "Emden"−who surrendered.
          The "Sydney" started for Cocos at 7, sighted enemy 9.30, within range within 20 minutes and signaled that chase was speeding north, at 10.30. She was engaging the enemy briskly and at 11. 10 the "Emden" beached−three funnels and mast gone, but flag flying. The "Sydney" went after collier etc.
          The "Emden" was apparently doing the damage when she was caught in the act. Great excitement and enthusiasm on board ship, everyone following and arguing at once. The favourite topic is as to whether the Commander was a brave man, or whether he has been a pirate. However, he has done his dash and perhaps gone, so let him rest. Unconfirmed reports say the "Sydney" has lost three killed and thirteen wounded. It's a great thing, about the best that could have happened to us.
          It was such good luck for she did not know we were about and is reckoned to have passed within 20 miles ahead of us on Sunday night. There must be great excitement at home and Darby's brother on board too. It was peculiar that he once had a brother on the island. Had to write in Grills' autograph book, so wrote as follows: "In these distracted times when each man dreads/the bloody stratagems of busy heads".
          Tonight (Tuesday) we drank the toast of the "Emden". Finlayson spoke well, and Mason magnificently. He spoke of Australia's first naval victory, the great good fortune of the Expeditionary force, of our now being "blooded", of how it would effect us at home, in their eyes in England, the relief to our people−to the fact that there were English officers on board who had taught our navy their job as well as our army, and how anxious and proud we should be to get to Europe to fight side by side with them in their famous regiments as old as history. He spoke broadly and hit the right key and we all clapped and congratulated him. He is a man who distinguished himself in the Boer War and was on Methuen's staff for some time and has had broad Imperialism rubbed into him.
More excitement about 2.30. Woke up and could not see any fleet anywhere! The continual clang of the signal woke me as I was sleeping on the Bridge Deck and then I noticed the propellers were being worked separately−the steering gear had gone bung. We zigzagged all the pm and all night and fixed up our gear. It was a funny feeling without the fleet and only their lights on the horizon. However, it went wrong again and we are steering from the stern and keeping a little out of the line for safety.

Wednesday 11.11.14
Fixed up the steering gear and took up our position in the line again. Instead of drilling the men we allowed them to sit down and lectured and questioned them on "Attack!". They asked questions and seemed to have a very intelligent idea of the work-even better than I thought. Had our usual two lectures: Laws and Customs of War, Mason; Camps and Bivouacs, Finlayson.
          Got into my togs this afternoon and boxed three rounds with Swift. His nose bled and we had to stop. So I ran round and round the deck and did some physical culture. Had a grand shower in the men's showers on the troop deck then got dressed in my whites. Very cool. The weather is getting very hot. Slept on deck but ran into heavy tropical showers and had to return to cabin. We had spent the evening yarning upon the boat deck−Frank Hooke and Spargo both reciting.

Thursday 12.11.14
Very hot−dressed in whites. Attended usual morning PC and Semaphore officers' parade.
          Mason announced at Breakfast that the ceremony of crossing the line would take place this evening−we cross about 10am tomorrow. Officers of course are having one of their own. He asked if all were agreeable as no resistance or horseplay was desired. All agreed except one or two who may have been joking. Woke early this morning and told that Jap Boat "Abouki" and "Melbourne" were close in.
          A beautiful calm morning. A small launch was travelling between the two and the "Orvieto" was just leaving them, apparently a conference. I believe the NZers and the "Orvieto" go ahead today to Colombo to save time.

Friday 13.11.14
About 5pm the "Empress of Asia", and the "Empress of Russia" about 8pm. Both are auxiliary cruisers taken over from the CPR by the Navy. They may be going to Cocos to fetch the Geman wounded and prisoners. The "Melbourne" left us today and the "Minotaur" yesterday. I wonder if they are off to Valparaiso.
          This evening we had a great trial. Tubb, our little Transfer Officer, accused Conder, the T05 of the 6th, of pinching his two white pairs of pants. Mason was Tubby's counsel, Connelly for the accused. The case for Tubbs: at 8.45 he left for a bath and when he returned at 9 his pants had disappeared. He thought he saw one of them running away with them in company with the other. The Vet said that his attention was attracted to them also by the horse he was attending to looking towards them. However, evidence showed that the Vet was on the other side of the boat at the time, while strong medical evidence proved Tubb to be insane. Major Bennett summed up. The jury after a short discussion tossed up as they were thirsty and gave 'guilty'. The Judge gave an order for return of trousers, fined the accused drinks all round, Tubb to pay the costs. So the accused supplied Drinks and Tubb paid for them. It was a splendid trial and the cross-examination was splendid.
          Wrote about 20 postcards and letters. Started on a letter to Mother. Crossed the line about 12 noon and carried out the ceremony at 2.30 in conjunction with the sergeants. All the officers wore a pair of nicks and sandshoes. They painted weird faces and animals all over one another's chest and back. Then marched up to the deck in single file. Got tried separately by Father Neptune who had a strong bodyguard and was attended by his wife, and sentenced to lathering and dunking. We were well lathered with paste with a big paint brush then tossed into a big canvas bath and ducked the required number of times. Then we all got in together and made things willing, ducking all and everyone and finishing up with Father Neptune and his staff. It lasted about an hour−was very amusing and very pleasant. We are to get certificates of initiation.
          Went to the shower and got cleaned, then went on as Reg Ord Sub at 6. Very hot again but getting used to it.

Hot again but a beautiful morning, calm and clear. Started on post cards and wrote about 20 all told including Oxlade and Wilson. Fire station parade at p.m. A great fight this afternoon−a ten round go between Ike Smith of the 7th and Darcy of the 6th. It ended in a draw. They both punished one another severely. Conder is a splendid referee. Wrote still more letters and post cards−am sending this diary by enclosed letter which means it will be delayed for a couple of weeks. The mail closes tomorrow morning at 11 am. We reach Colombo tomorrow evening and leave on Monday night.
          I believe we are timed to arrive in London just before Christmas. We stop at Aden or Port Said−so it is rumoured. I hear that the "Sydney" catches us up about 5 tomorrow morning. She has two killed and about 30 wounded. By Jove it's interesting to think she was fighting 50 miles from us. I hope she passes close enough to see the marks. There are to be no demonstrations owing to her wounded. It will interest you to know that the little nipper Jimmy Johnston had out at camp, who used to turn her nose up at the Kaiser, has her father on the "Sydney" as an engineer. He is Jimmy's brother-in-law.

Sunday morning 15. 11. 14
Land in sight−very hilly and mountainous. Very hot. The Sydney with the auxiliary cruiser "Empress of Asia" passed this morning at 3.45 and apologised for not passing in the daytime. We arrive in Colombo about midday. Church Parade 8.30am. It was too dark to see if the Sydney was much knocked about.
Alan D Henderson
Lieut 7th Battalion
SS "Hororata"

« Foreword   Section 3 »
Introduction Explore the Family Tree Return to Library Index View the Resources Used