Regimental History of New Zealand Cyclist Corps in The Great War 1914-1918
Chapter II. — On the Seas—Egypt
On the Seas—Egypt.
After leaving New Zealand the weather was fine for the first few days and allowed all hands to settle down comfortably in their new surroundings. Many of the men on board had never been on the ocean before, which accounted for that squirmy feeling in the region of the waistcoat. The trip across the Tasman Sea was uneventful except that a stoker who was evidently tired of life went overboard, but his desire was frustrated in a very smart and able manner by the ship's boat under Chief Officer Cordy.
The convoy (Mokoia and Navua) passed through Bass Straits on the sixth day out, and after a very rough passage across the Australian Bight, arrived at our first port of call, Albany, on the 18th May, 1916.
The sight of land and the knowledge that once more our feet would be on terra firma cheered all those who had been suffering from the motion of the sea, and the prospect of a square meal hitherto denied them by Father Neptune also made the heart glad.
There were numerous things to be done; stores to replenish, water to be taken aboard, etc., and while this was being done leave was granted and nearly everyone went to the town. The townspeople treated our men most hospitably and in true Australian style made all welcome. Our departure took place on the forenoon of the 20th May, and our course shaped westward to Cape Leeuwin. After passing this Cape we ran into a heavy S.W. swell and the indifferent sailors again paid tribute to Neptune. Nearing the line the weather was finer and the temperature gradually increased. We crossed on the 31st May, and the usual ceremony of a visit from Father Neptune and his myrmidons was celebrated, the ship's crew providing the "staff." All page 18the novices were shaved and christened, the C.O. being the first. The whole ceremony was well carried out under the watchful eye of the Master, Captain J. L. Brown, who prevented any horseplay or roughness. The weather being fine and the sea smooth, sports were frequently held, and the orchestra, under the leadership of Lieut. Carter (J. Coy., 12th Reinforcements) rendered music for our numerous concerts.
The Island of Ceylon hove in sight and we anchored in Columbo Harbour towards evening on the 4th June. Coaling was at once commenced, and it was a quaint sight to see the coolies in swarms, with next to no clothing, hard at work. Great care had to be taken of one's personal property in these ports, as these natives have a habit of claiming ownership to any detachable article they see lying about. Next day nearly all the troops were taken ashore in barges for a route march through the town, and at the Barracks were treated to "beer," such substance unknown on N.Z. Transports. Fruit was purchased cheaply, also canteen stores. We left Columbo at 6 p.m. on the 6th June, and on clearing the harbour ran into a S.W. monsoon, and for ten days steamed through storm after storm.
Land sighted again; the east coast of Africa showed our progress, and finer weather prevailed for the rest of the voyage. Our course now took us direct for Perim Island, at the entrance to the Red Sea. The heat was now terrific, and most men discarded their clothes to the utmost limits of decency (two nurses on ship). Six days were spent travelling north in the Red Sea and our Padre gave some very interesting talks on the histories of various places passed en route. We arrived at Suez on the 21st June, 1916, and entered the basin the following morning, so ending our voyage. We were forty-six days travelling from Wellington, and it was said to be the record long "voyage"
Our impressions of Suez, representing our first introduction to Egypt, were not pleasant. The excessive heat, the dust, the dirt of evertyhing, the filthy niggers, etc., made one disinclined to linger in the uninviting spot Of the train journey little need be said. It was mostly over desert, with occasional verdant patches where irrigation was possible. After a very hot and dusty journey we arrived at the detraining station near Tel el Kebir Camp, and were met by the Camp Staff, who conducted the Unit to Camp, where everything was in readiness.
We stayed there a fortnight, drilling in the early mornings and late at night, it being too hot to do anything by day.
Our unit was soon under orders for France. The Company was fully equipped and ready to move at short notice. 2nd Lieut. C. G. Johnston was appointed Acting Q.M. and he supervised the drawing and issue of the numerous articles of equipment required by the soldier. Leave to visit Cairo was granted, and every member of the Company visited that quaint, wonderful and very dirty city. On 10th July orders were issued to entrain that night for Alexandria; the Company paraded and was inspected by the G.O.C Camp Area, and at 9 p.m. marched to the station and entrained, arriving at Alexandria at 5 a.m. Our transport (S.S. Tunisian) a well known Allen Liner on the Liverpool-Quebec trade (13,000 tons) was to take us across the Mediterrean Sea together with 800 11th Division details, some Australians, making altogether a total of 1,900. Our horses had been issued in Egypt and were sent to France a week earlier.
We sailed at 6 p.m. on our trip to Marseilles. Outside the harbour a small destroyer, H.M.S. "Wallflower," was waiting as our escort, and day and night page 20throughout our trip she kept watch for submarines. The voyage was smooth and uneventful, and on Sunday evening, the 17th of July, we arrived in harbour of Marseilles. Arrangements for disembarkation and entraining were made, and next morning at 10 a.m. everything being aboard our train, we steamed northward to Somewhere in France.page break page break