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,

Monday, November 17, 2014

Military Monday - Treasures from Aunty Glad's Suitcase

Among the wonderful collection of pictures and postcards in Aunty Glad's suitcases, are a number of post cards from Malcolm Shepherd and Angus Shepherd, sent to family on their way to and during their service time in WWI.

Malcolm Michael Shepherd was the first of the two brothers, from the small NSW town of Braidwood to enlist and head to Europe. He enlisted on  31st January 1916 at Casula as a member of the 7th Reinforcement of the 30th Battalion  and on the 2 May 1916, left Sydney on the troop ship Honorata with other members of the 30th and 34th Battalion. In this post I would like to share two post cards sent to his family as he started his journey.

To find out a little more about his journey I thought I would search TROVE to see if there was any information on the ship Hororata and the 30th Battalion.  I was lucky enough to come across a number of letters from members of the 34th Battalion who were also travelling on the Honorata. One of the letters from Corporal Crossingham written to his mother in West Maitland, from Lark Hill Camp, Salisbury Plain in England gives a detailed and sometimes amusing account of the journey from Sydney, to Western Australia, across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal to Alexandria then passed Gilbraltar and up to England. Reading his letter home, has really added context to the post cards sent by Malcolm Shepherd and really gives you a sense of the trip these young inexperienced men made to the other side of the world and certainly brings me closer to my grandfathers experiences. 

Corporal Crossingham, writes:*

"May 2. Steamed out of Woolloomooloo Bay at 4 p.m. on board troopship Honorata.  After pulling out from the wharf we anchored in mid-stream.  From then on till we left we put in time saying our last goodbyes to all those who we are leaving behind.  Although all the boys kept the good old Australian smile on their faces, I am sure there were plenty of our chaps who had a tough job to keep a straight face.

After the anchor was weighed and we began to move we had more to occupy our minds.  The first feed that we had on board will long be remembered by the boys of the 34th.  It consisted of frozen zeps (sausages) and dry bread, and the zeps were promptly counted out, and tea was served in the shape of half cooked stew and the proverbial pieces of dry bread.  Between dinner time and tea we were given our hammocks and blankets.  The hammocks had to be folded up with the blankets inside and placed in tins build for that purpose.  All hammocks to be in tins by 7 a.m. every morning.  The sleeping decks had also to be washed out every morning.  The majority of the boys slept on the under-deck hammock hanging over the dinner tables.  Frequently during the first couple of nights one could hear some chaps rising colonial lingo after falling out of bunk, but they quickly became used to them.  As regards to myself, I generally slept up on the deck, rolled in a blanket and waterproof sheet.

Picture of Malcolm Shepherd 

May 4 – We experienced a bi of rough weather, just enough to make some of the boys feel queer in their “little Mary”. 

May 6 – Today we were introduced to boat parade.  A crew of our boys were told off to man the boats in case of emergency, to fall in the respective places allotted to them.  The remainder to fall in below decks and put on life belts.  This parade general lasted about half an hour.

May 7 – There was a medical inspection of all troops on board.  From the sixth to the ninth everyone was very busy writing letters so as to get them posted when we arrived at Albany.

May 9  - Arrived at Albany, were our first mail was posted since leaving he bay.  The mail boat Katoomba came into harbour while were there and left before we did.

May 11 – Weighed anchor and left Albany, passing the troopship Marathon when leaving we were not allowed to land at Albany.  Some of the officers went ashore however.  All port holes were left open, with the result that when a bigger sea than usual came long all kit bags, clothes, etc that were anywhere, within range were treated to a salt water both  The tucker now is a trifle better than at first, although it has plenty of room for improvement.  We get a little butter and jam.  We do not get tea for dinner but are given beef tea instead.  Every third day they issue pea soup that is passable – any rate we get rid of it.  From now on we are to have sports at different intervals for the rest of the trip.

The first to be carried out was a boxing tournament between a number of the boys, on the 13th, which was finally won by Sox McKinnon.  Capt. Spot Spowart throwing the towel in.  Capt. Wheeler was referee, Lieut. Col Lamb and Capt Winn acted as judges.  From the first Sunday out for the reminder of the voyage we had church parade."

(This piece I found particularly interesting because of the post card below, which was sent by Malcolm to his brother Angus.  The post card shows him on the left hand side of the picture in a boxing competition on the ship.)  

Card from Malcolm Shepherd to his brother Angus 

The letter continues with some very vivid descriptions of the food on board the ship!

"May 12 – Crossed into the Indian Ocean.  The food now became very bad owing to the tropical weather.  Sausages were again condemned by the doctor, and beef treated in the same manner, and the steak was absolutely rotten, and refused by the men who at once formed a procession and marched it to the doctor who pronounced life extinct, and a the last post was sounded it was committed to the deep, amid much pomp and ceremony, but it was not finished with even then, for the sharks and albatrosses went on strike, and absolutely refused to follow the boat.  I suppose it was on account of the poor quality of the tucker that was thrown overboard.

May 18 – We passed Cocos Island, but not close enough to see anything of it.

May 22 – We crossed the “Line” and as Farther Neptune did not depart from his usual custom we had him on board, and the fun began.  A canvas tub was fixed up about 10 ft by 10 ft by 3 ft deep, and slung at the four corners from awning spars.  A party of chaps too charge and every man that passed that way received a dip, regardless of what clothes he had on.  Only a few of the boys escaped it.  The only two officers who fell into the trap were Lieut. Bennett and Major Foxall, but they took it all in good part.  At any rate, it was “Hobson’s choice.”

I don't know about you, but I think this letter really brings to life the journey that my grandfather and his fellow troops had embarked on and I look forward to sharing more of this story with pictures from Aunty Glad's suitcase in my next post.  
*1916 'BOYS OF THE 34th.', The Maitland Weekly Mercury(NSW : 1894 - 1931), 30 December, p. 10, viewed 16 November, 2014,

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - Treasures from Aunty Glad's Suitcase

Treasures from Anty Glad's Suitcase

Earlier this year I was delighted to meet some of my cousins at the "Back to Braidwood 175 Year" Celebration, and to swap and share family photos and stories.  I am sure all family researchers will be familiar with that "thrill" you get when you come across a previously unknown collection of pictures, artifacts, letters or a diary that are related to your family history.  This meeting in Braidwood was certainly "up there" in my family tree discoveries experiences.

My cousin, Stephen, bought with him a collection of family pictures, photos, post cards and artifacts from "Aunty Glad's suitcase" which had been sitting under the spare bed for quite some time.  It put it lightly, I was "gobsmacked" at the bundle of documents that my cousin had to show me. They included a collection of postcards from his grandfather and my grandfather, Angus and Malcolm Shepherd while they in Europe fighting in WW1, family photos from the Braidwood and Nelligen district, maps and artifacts from WWI.

My cousin kindly sent me some photos of Aunty Glad's suitcase, and small black handbag, overflowing with family memorabilia. Another Wow!!!  It is obvious that my great Aunty Gladys treasured family memories, and her collection includes photos, postcards, letters, telegrams, tram tickets, photos and magazines that are cover a time span of more than 100 years.  

Great Aunty Glad, was married to Angus Shepherd, my grandfather Malcolm Michael Shephered's older brother. After consulting with my cousin I thought if it was ok with his family, I would share some of the wonderful documents from Aunty Glad's suitcase with a little of their related history. So watch this space for "Treasures from Aunty Glad's Suitcase".