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The Maoris in the Great War

The Departure for France

The Departure for France.

On April 5th, the long-expected orders were received for the exodus from Egypt to the great theatre of war, and the succeeding two days were spent in preparing for the move. The evening of the 6th, was a lively time in the big camp. All the canteens were raided and burned by the troops. As soon as the disturbance was reported Major King paraded the whole of the Battalion and had the roll called. No one was missing, so that the Pioneers stood clear of any share in the row. On April 7th, the Battalion was on the move on the first stage of the journey to France. Tents were struck, the camp cleared up and all hands, except the baggage guard, went down for a last bathe in Lake Timseh. That night the Battalion, in two train loads, numbering altogether 28 officers and 948 other ranks, travelled to Port Said, where they embarked early next morning on the transport “Canada.” This troopship also took the Second Canterbury Battalion of infantry, under Lieut.-Col. H. Stewart, who was O.C. on the ship.

At five o'clock in the morning of April 9th, the “Canada,” steamed out of the harbour bound for Marseilles.

For the voyage up the Mediterannean, the usual danger-zone precautions were taken. All hands were told off to boat stations, and were practiced in standing to the boats. All the Lewis machine-guns were mounted in commanding positions and gun crews were told off in 4-hour reliefs by day and 2-hour reliefs by night. Look-out men (50) were told off to watch for submarines and were arranged in reliefs under Captain Twisleton. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the 11th, an enemy submarine was sighted, about 800 yards away, on the port side. The ship's course was altered and the steaming rate increased, and nothing more was seen of the raider. The “Canada” carried enough boats to accommodate all on board, but in most cases they were three deep on the davits and there would have been very small chance of launching them all in case of emergency.

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Malta was passed at 5 a.m. on April 12th, and next day the coast of Sardinia was in sight. This day gas helmets and pockets were issued to all ranks, two per man, one to be carried in the satchel, and one in the pocket sewn in the skirt of the jacket.