The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Through the Ægean Sea
Through the Ægean Sea.
On April 10, our first ships got away—the “Achaia,” “Katuna,” and “Itonus.” The headquarters transport “Lutzow” sailed on the evening of the 12th, while the “Goslar,” the lame duck of the fleet, after many vexatious troubles with her internal fittings, her messing, and her crew, finally cleared Alexandria at sunset on April 17, with the New Zealand Infantry Brigade Headquarters on board.
During the three days of the voyage the troops had many experiences. Every day fire and boat drill was practised. This required a good deal of ingenuity, because on none of the transports was there much deck room. On some of the ships there were lifeboats to hold only about 20 per cent. of the troops, to say nothing of the crews. One ship had not enough lifebelts to go round. So an order was given that any man drawing a seat in a boat could not have a lifebelt as well! Yet some Germans insist that we, not they, prepared unceasingly for war!
The journey was through a sea full of islands of classic interest. Some of the islands set in the clear Ægean blue were startlingly beautiful. Passing Patmos, the old monastery on the top of the rocky height stood out, clear cut, white and gleaming in the morning light. The padres were quite interested, for it was here, tradition says, that the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelations. Past island after island rich in mythological lore, the smoking transports laboured; now and then British and French destroyers mysteriously appeared from behind a barren islet; and interesting beyond measure, page 67 we saw a good example of maritime camouflage—a townclass cruiser painted grey and black and white to resemble a storm-tossed sea. Ceaseless vigilance was imperative, as Turkish torpedo boats were wont to issue from harbours in the Asiatic coast and threaten the safety of transports. The “Manitou,” carrying British troops, lost a good many killed and drowned in the confusion ensuing on the sudden appearance of a Turkish destroyer.
Parading by echelon, boat and fire drill, slinging of horses and waggons—all things tending to ensure a rapid disembarkation in the face of the enemy—were assiduously practised on the voyage. Past the fertile island of Nikaria the transports picked their way and anchored one by one in the spacious outer harbour of Mudros.