When the chaplain left New Zealand on a troopship he discovered for the first time one of the most difficult aspects of Army life— enforced idleness. Not the idleness of doing nothing, but that of having little or no opportunity of doing his own work. Later on he learned to accept this philosophically, and could spend hours and days with a clear conscience, jogging across the desert in a truck, sitting in a train or crouching in a slit-trench, cut off from all pastoral work. At this stage the chaplain was on fire to justify his existence, but there was little scope for his work on a troopship. with five or six men in every cabin, no privacy, every inch of the deck occupied, and seldom any public place for an evening meeting. The ships were crowded to capacity and resembled anthills with swarms of men on the move from morning till night. The chaplain searched in vain for a full-time occupation in days that were filled with boat-drill, periods of exercise, and training. It is a pity that some authoritative statement was not sent back to New Zealand warning chaplains that they would have few opportunities for work at sea, and advising them to concentrate on their Sunday and weekday services, visiting the ship's hospital, and the pursuit of casual conversations. On the other hand, several chaplains found a most fruitful field for work on troopships.
At the different ports of call where troops had shore leave, problems of behaviour began to appear and the chaplains found opportunities in their services for talks on'Wine, women, and song although in the early days this subject was dealt with too frequently, or at least without sufficient finesse. The discomforts of the voyage, the tropical climate, and the constant danger of submarine attack had their inevitable effect on the men. New Zealand began to seem a distant country, and the most light-hearted soldier found himself thinking more seriously of family ties and discovering a new comfort in Church services and the rather unofficial outlook of the chaplain. It was pleasant to lean over the rails of the ship and talk to the padre about home, to pull out the paybook, show him photographs, and discuss plans for the distant, post-war days.page 10
Many things of interest happened on these voyages, but, taken by and large, life on a troopship was nothing like a pleasure cruise and every soldier and chaplain was delighted when he stepped ashore in Egypt.