The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, October 1918
Letter to Spike from Reg. V. Kay
My dear President,—
You may know better than I whether I have written to you or no since I left New Zealand, for I have completely forgotten and can call up no clear recollection on the subject. I wonder whom the meeting elected this year to pilot the Association through another period of office; I wish him luck and hope his period of office will be successful, and that he will be able to look back on some pleasant memories. The meeting may possibly be in process on this very day. I wonder if it is? It's just after Easter.
Well, I have seen much since the "Athenic" took us from New Zealand, over three months ago now, and it seems a very long time ago too. You will all know before this our route; we have seen the wonders of the Panama Canal, have passed Haital Islands, and have called at the ports of Newport, New York, land Halifax, disembarking finally at Glasgow on the "Bonnie Banks of the Clyde." We were fortunate in having some excellent weather throughout the whole trip, save about one week in the Atlantic, which few will forget. The Atlantic is famed for its storms, and it was our fortune (very nearly bad) to run into one of the worst our skipper has experienced in his career on the sea. A copy of the Magazine of the 33rds is being posted to you, so you may see there what we did and how we enjoyed what we did do.
Exactly eight weeks after sailing we anchored at Greenock, at the mouth of the Clyde, in the Firth of Clyde, and steamed up the river the following morning. There was a clear sky, and we would all have seen as much of the Clyde as of the Canal had it not been for packing, handing in equipment, etc. It was a gorgeous sight, and where there was not green vegetation there were the ship building yards. Scores of ships-mostly fairly small-were in various stages of completion, and thousands of workers, both male and female, lined the banks and cheered us; they ran from their tasks to join in welcoming the new khaki.
In the afternoon we disembarked and at once entrained for our destination in the south of England. The train took us through Carlisle, Crew, Preston, Birmingham, Oxford, and other places I lost in sleep, to Amesbury, a little station near Salisbury. Then we marched a few miles to our camp in Larkhill, where we lived till a week ago; we were in isolation there through measles having broken out on board a short time before landing.
Though we had experienced ice and a temperature just over and mostly below zero from Newport till after leaving Halifax, and a chilly atmosphere all the way to England, we felt the cold at Larkhill very much. I cannot say I am in love with an English foggy day!
All of us were treated lightly at first, for the authorities learned that it was of no use over-working a draft as soon as it landed; but soon the drill came "thick and fast." Most of us were getting our land legs back again, and into good form, when that medical staff took its sweet way and innoculated us for bronchial pneumonia. The result was that the percentage of those sent to hospital (including measles as the other cause) rose to nearly 50 per cent.! Fortunately there were no deaths here, though I hear that of those who went to Brocton Camp to join the Rifle Brigade two or three died.
We N.C.O.'s all dropped to a rank below that which we held in New Zealand, and went through a class and an exam. to keep or lose that rank. I was fortunate enough to remain a corporal.
You may like to hear of some of the old Collegians whom I have seen over here. Henry Williams is a corporal in the Wellington Battalion at Sling here; I met him unexpectedly one day, and found him the same as ever. Eric Clere was with us in our class, as he missed part of the 32nd class having had measles. F. L. G. West is a Major here, I saw him in the distance, he is still far form well I hear. H. Lawson is a Battalion Gas Officer, and put us through our taste of the real gas. L.J. Short (whom I do not know) I find is a Lt-Col., and is O.C. of this Wellington Battalion here. Bert Tucker is a corporal in the Wellington Battalion, and was orderly room clerk to our company in Larkhill. Ken Adams I saw in the 32nd Reinforcements before he left for France on 20th March. J. Ryan left on he same date. K. Archer is a sergeant in the Battalion orderly room of the Wellington Battal page 21 ion here. C. Robertson is still in the same company and hut with myself; we shared the same cabin with another sergeant on the "Athenic." N. Robertson went to Brocton Camp to join the Rifle Brigade.
We all expect to have our leave very shortly now, and when that is done, we shall be going across the France to see how this "bit push" is going. The Germans are making unpleasantly good headway now; but I hope we do not lose our leave through it!
Please give all my friends at V.U.C. my kindest regards and best wishes.
I cannot name them all in detail. I wish you and your committee the best of luck for the ensuing year and hope you will enjoy it. Please don't forget a "Spike," if I may be so bold as to ask for a copy.
With best wishes to the Association, yours very sincerely,
Reg. V. Kay.