Monday, November 24, 2014

Military Monday - More Treasures from Aunty Glad's Suitcase

Aunty Glad's Suitcase
This blog continues on with the story of Malcolm Micheal Shepherd's journey with the 30th and 34th Battalion on the ship Hororata, from Sydney to England, told through they eyes of Corporal Crossingham and illustrated with pictures and postcards from Aunty Glad's Suitcase.

Corporal Crossingham continues with his dry humour, describing visiting the different ports, the joys of being able to buy fresh fruit, along with tales of some very dubious meals on board the ship. As his story continues, you begin to feel a little of their sense of uneasiness of what lies in the future for them, their relief at not being based in the dessert and the impact of their first sight of Gilbralta.

Continuing Corporal Crossingham's Story:

"May 24 –Arrived at Colombo and here we were allowed to go ashore.  Had a route march, and were taken out to the Garrison Barracks where we could purchase any amount of fruit at reasonable prices.  Pineapples only cost 3d a piece, coconuts 3 for 6d, bananas, 1 /- per bunch of anything from 50 t up to 100.  The Y.M.C.A. had a refreshment stall there where one could get cakes 1d each, soft drinks 2d, tea, coffee or cocoa 1d per pot, cold boiled eggs 1d each, and sandwiches 2d. 

 We were allowed to have one beer there, and to make sure we go no more we were issued with tickets which cost 3d without which we were not supposed to get a drink at all, but the boys soon found out that “where there’s a will there’s a way”, with the result that we all had a merry time.  It was very interesting to watch the coolies at work.  They will do almost anything for money.  They are very good workers, and especially when there is a rope end handy.  It was very laughable to watch them having their meals, which consisted of boiled rice with liquid curry poured over it, served out to them on palm leaves, cut into small squares about 12 inches by 12 inches.  Once a day they get a banana as an extra.
Malcolm Shepherd (LHS) and fellow soldiers

May 26 – Left Colombo, when the coolies became very excited, and shouted “good-bye” till they were quite hoarse.

June 1 – Great excitement caused by the announcement that there was a plum duff for dinner  But the shock when it came, I am quite satisfied all our boys do not suffer with a weak heart.  A man dare not show his head above the edge of the table for fear he would draw the fire on himself and when the pieces began to fly they rattled on the ship’s side like bottles breaking on a brick wall.  Someone suggested praying for it, but he was ruled out of order, as we decided it was past redemption

June 3 – Sunday morning. Attended church parade.  Sighted land at noon.  Passed the Bay of Aden on the Arabian Coast on the starboard side and the African Coast on the port. Great interest was shown by the boys watching thousands of porpoises playing about Aden.

June 4 – Sighted a small town called Monkka, which, I was told, was famous for coffee making.

June 5 – passed the Twelve Apostles which is a group of 12 rocks rising up out of the sea.

June 8 – Caught our first glimpse of the much talked of Egypt at 8 a.m.

June 9 – Anchored in Port Suez. At 2 p.m. weighed anchor and entered Suez Canal.  I am told that all troops that came over before us were allowed ashore to strength their legs, but for some reason or other we were not allowed to do so.  It was very interesting going through the Canal.  It is well guarded day and night.  Here and there in isolated spots one can see a small patch of grass struggling for life, or else a few reeds growing on the edge of the canal.  With that exception all one could see was one long strength of sand, white and glistening with camps of troops dotted here and there over the desert.  No one was more pleased that I when we were told that we had to proceed to Alexandria.  The sight of that vast stretch of sand and the temperature was quite sufficient for me.  All the boys who had the bad luck to be stationed there have the sympathy of every one on board our boat.  The Canal is reckoned to be 34 miles long and takes 16 hours to do a trip through, as boats are not allowed to travel any faster than 5 miles per hour on account of the was doing damage to the banks.  Leaving the Canal we came along to Port Said, arriving there about 7.30 am. Port Said presents a very busy scene by what one can see from the boat.  It is a hurry and scurry, small pleasure boats rowing about everywhere.

June 11 – Leaving Port Said we went on to Alexandria.  As soon as we left Port we were ordered to don life belts and were never without them till we arrived at Plymouth.  They were worn all day, and even slept in them.  It was a very queer sensation to wake up the first morning and find a life belt hanging to one’s neck by a piece of tape.  It made one feel as if one had been having a night out, and did not remember what had taken place before retiring.

June 12 – Arrived in Alexandria, which looks similar to Port Said, the only difference being that the buildings do not seem to be so close together, and it is cleaner in appearances.  We were now formed up and marched off the Hororata and around to the Aragon, which had been waiting for us for some days.  There were already about 700 troops on board from Egypt.  When on board the Hororata we were praying for a change of boats.  But what a change it was when we did get it.  We simply wished we were back on board the old home once more.  For we were out of the frying pan into the fire.  We were packed like sardines in a tine and no room for all at that.  It was a good job for us that we did not have a very long time to put in before getting to our journey’s end.  It was very seldom that we got bread that was not sour, and not too much of it either.  The Aragon is a fine boat in appearance, but for tucker and accommodation it has a lot to pull up.  We left Alexandria on the 13th.

June 14 – Passed the Island of Crete at 2 a.m when we were picked up by a new escort.

June 15 – Passed along the coast of Greece following in the wake of our escort.

June 17 – Arrived at the great fortified rock, Gibraltar.  One has only to glance at with its guns bristling from every nook and crevice, and it will be realized what an impregnable barrier it really forms.  Coming in from the sea all one can see is a great bare rock rising up out of the sea with a few guns mounted here and there.  But when the boat comes around the Rock to the entrance and one gets a rear view it downs on one that there is danger behind that great rugged rock." *

Post Card from Aunty Glad's suitcase - Gibraltar

This must have been a formidable sight to the young Malcolm Michael Shepherd, the young "carrier" from the small country town of Braidwood.  You can only imagine the feeling of the unknown and foreboding these young soldiers were experiencing.  

 *1916 'BOYS OF THE 34th.', The Maitland Weekly Mercury(NSW : 1894 - 1931), 30 December, p. 10, viewed 16 November, 2014,

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