The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Chapter II. The Voyage to Egypt
Chapter II. The Voyage to Egypt.
While confined to the narrow waters of Cook Strait, the fleet preserved its line ahead formation, but after passing Cape Farewell the two divisions of five ships each steamed in parallel lines eight cable lengths apart. Miles ahead raced the “Minotaur,” a speck on the horizon; the “Philomel” was four miles astern; while on either beam, six miles away, were the other two cruisers—the “Ibuki” to starboard and the “Psyche” to port.
The weather was typical of the Tasman Sea, and both men and horses suffered a good deal from seasickness. Where there were many horses, particularly on ships like the “Orari,” those who were well enough had plenty to do cleaning the horse decks and setting unsteady animals on their feet. That only four horses died out of the 3815 on board speaks volumes for the care taken in selection and the solicitude of the seasick troopers and drivers.
A Great Welcome at Hobart.
After six weary days at sea no one was sorry to see Wednesday morning break with the rugged coast of Tasmania ahead; little wonder that the prospect of a three hours' route march on the morrow was received with jubilation. Next morning it seemed that all Hobart was astir. With packs up the infantry cut a fine figure. All along the route women and children showered flowers on the troops. Whereever a halt was made the people brought out bunches of beautiful roses, which the soldiers carried back to grace their none too ornamental quarters. Thousands of the famous Tasmanian apples were pressed upon the men. Some enthusiasts presented the artillery with a garland on a pole, which the proud gunners carried before them as a colour. Back again at the wharf, the sellers of apples and crayfish did brisk business, and many were the commissions handed over by the sportsmen aboard to be dealt with by the celebrated Hobart house of Tattersall. When the gangways were up the people thronged the wharves, handing up parcels of cakes, sweets and apples. The regimental bands struck up “It's a long way to Tipperary,” and the ships pulled out to the accompaniment of tumultuous cheering.
It was three o'clock that afternoon when the ships again put to sea. The “Psyche” returned to New Zealand, and her place was taken by the “Pyramus.” The long rolling swell common to the Great Australian Bight again made things very uncomfortable for the horses; to make matters worse, a thick fog descended, speed was reduced, and every few minutes the ear was assailed by the blasts of the “Minotaur” syren and the answering shrieks from the vessels of the fleet.
Gradually the weather moderated and the men became steadier on their legs. Musketry practice at floating targets was initiated; where there was room on the crowded decks physical training was carried on, while the mounted men had their horses with the never-ending stables—it being recognized that the habit of absolute cleanliness in regard to both the men's and the horses' quarters should become second nature before the really hot weather was encountered.page 16
A private of the New Zealand Medical Corps died on Sunday, October 26, and next day a most impressive burial service was conducted on the “Ruapehu.” At three o'clock she steamed out of her line and took station in the centre of the parallel divisions. At half-past three, when colours were hoisted and lowered to half-mast, the troops in each transport paraded with their bands. The flagship having made the signal to “Stop engines,” the troops on all ships stood to attention, whereupon the “Dead March” was played, followed by a short funeral service; the body of the first soldier of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to die overseas was reverently committed to the deep. The firing party having fired its three volleys, the solemn notes of the “Last Post” floated over the sunlit waters, the flagship signalled “11 knots,” and the convoy proceeded on its way.
Young Australia greets Young New Zealand.
Thirteen days after leaving Wellington the New Zealand ships crept into the spacious harbour of Albany, Western Australia. Here were gathered innumerable vessels of every line trading in the Southern oceans. Not painted uniformly grey like our ships, but taken in all their glory of greens, blues and yellows, they rode on the calm water of King George's Sound packed with the adventurous spirits of the First Australian Division. The cheering and counter-cheering, the Maori war cries and answering coo-ees would have moved a stoic. Young Australia was welcoming Young New Zealand in no uncertain manner in the first meeting of those brothers-in-arms soon to be known by a glorious name as yet undreamed of.
[Lent by F. W. Randall
An Impressive Sunday Service on the “Athenic.”
The padre is the Rev. Canon Taylor, C.F., a frail man with an enthusiasm for serving his fellows. He served through the Gallipoli Campaign, and at Sarpi Rest Camp was tireless in his efforts to rejuvenate the listless survivors from Anzac.
Great attention was now paid to the masking of all lights by night. It was known that German cruisers were at large—notably the “Scharnhorst,” “Gneisenau” and “Emden.” In order to evade these ocean highwaymen the usual course was not set through the Indian Ocean. For the same reason, a strict censorship in regard to movements of ships prevailed in Australia and New Zealand. At Hobart and Albany the greatest precautions were taken. Ample proof was ultimately forthcoming that this trouble was not in vain.
But the convoy was a very cumbersome thing. The cruiser leading and the cruiser acting as a rearguard were both hull down on the horizon. There was an Australian transport that most days could do nine knots with an effort; one or two erratic performers like this sorely trying the practised station-keepers of the Imperial Navy. Characteristic sailor messages were being constantly transmitted. The following is a sample:—“From H.M.S. ‘Minotaur’ to all transports: The attention of masters of Australian transports is again drawn to the extreme importance of keeping accurate station, especially at night. During last night the Second Division straggled to seven miles, whereas their line should be three miles in length. The Third Division straggled to six miles, whereas their line should be three miles and a half. By this careless station-keeping the masters expose their ships to an increased risk of being torpedoed by an enemy, and also involve the New Zealand convoy in the same danger. The New Zealand convoy are keeping stations at three cables apart in excellent order, and their great attention to convoy orders as regards reduction of power of lights merits my warm approval. The ‘Medic’ and ‘Geelong’ were signalling last night with lights visible at least ten miles. I again point out the necessity of reducing the power of lights by blue bunting or other means.”
A strange ship on the horizon always aroused great speculation; never did a cloud of smoke materialize into a page 20 ship but the stranger was already attended by one of our escorting cruisers. Thus was the R.M.S. “Osterley” of the Orient line examined, and later passed the convoy on Guy Fawkes Day, homeward bound, carrying the soldiers' Christmas mails.
An air of expectancy hung over the convoy on Sunday, November 8, for on that day news arrived of the naval battle off Valparaiso, in which H.M.S. “Good Hope” and H.M.S. “Monmouth” were destroyed by a superior German force.
Early that same morning the “Minotaur” signalled to the “Maunganui”: “I am ordered on another service; wish you the very best of success when you land in France. Give the Germans a good shake-up. It has been a great pleasure to escort such a well-disciplined force and convoy. Good-bye.”
The Triumph of Australia.
With the news of the Valparaiso battle and the departure of the “Minotaur” came word that the Cocos Islands would be passed during the night, and special precautions were ordered to be taken in regard to lights. The usual sharp look-out was kept, but the hours of darkness slipped by without incident. But at 6.30 a.m. the “Melbourne” turned to port and spoke for a few minutes to her sister ship. By this time all the transports were aware of the wireless messages from the Cocos Islands signalling “S.O.S.,” “Strange warship approaching.” The Australian transport “Karoo” and the New Zealand transport “Arawa” picked up the following: “PNX DE WSP DE PNX NE DE NGI PFB DEO,” also, “S.O.S.—Strange warship at entrance. Ignores our remarks—S.O.S., S.O.S.,” then a long message, apparently in Dutch. These mixed-up messages, obviously mutilated and jammed by the hostile Telefunken, provided knotty problems for those whose duty it was to fathom the mysteries of code and cypher.
The Last of the “Emden.”
While the “Sydney” dealt with the “Emden,” the “Ibuki” and “Melbourne” lay on the threatened quarter of the convoy. The action took place out of the sight and sound of the troops on the transports, which were over seventy miles away from the Cocos Group.
With the two cruisers lying handy on the threatened flank, the troops waited anxiously for news. All realized that just across the horizon a life and death struggle was taking place. No sound of battle could be heard but the spluttering of the wireless, from which it was learned at 9.30 that the enemy had been brought to action.
The men could hardly contain themselves for excitement This was intensified when, about 11 o'clock, the Japanese cruiser appeared to steam away in the direction of the fight. But at twenty minutes past eleven the wireless announced. “Enemy beached herself to prevent sinking.” Restraint was thrown aside. The men cheered again and again. Messages then chased one another in quick succession: “Emden beached and done for. Am chasing merchant collier.” The cheering burst out afresh, for this was the first mention of the “Emden.” How the New Zealanders envied the Australians this momentous achievement of their young navy.
About half an hour later came the story of the price paid for admiralty—two killed and thirteen wounded. The troops shouted themselves hoarse when they learned that the “Emden” was ashore on North Cocos Isle, and had surrendered with her foremast and three funnels down. The following message was sent from the “Maunganui”: “Many congratulations from the N.Z.E.F. on result of first action of the Australian Navy.” Back came a typical naval answer: “Reply to your signal of yesterday. Many thanks to New page 23 Zealand Squadron for their congratulations. It is very satisfactory that in its baptism of fire the superiority of town class cruiser over German town class light cruiser was so completely established.”
Four days after this most memorable day a signal announced that H.M.S. “Hampshire” was steaming fifty miles ahead of us, and to facilitate coaling and watering at Colombo, the New Zealand squadron was ordered to steam ahead of the Australians, who were left in charge of the “Ibuki.”
The line was crossed on the same day (November 13), and His Deep Sea Majesty King Neptune, attended by his consort and a numerous suite of barbers, bears, and orderlies, came aboard each of the transports. All deference and homage was paid, and the hoary old salt never had a busier day—eight thousand four hundred New Zealanders paying their tribute according to their respective popularity with His Majesty's attendants.
A Run Ashore at Colombo.
Two days steaming brought the “Hampshire” and her convoy within sight of Ceylon. This to most New Zealanders was the first far-off view of a tropical isle. As the ships steamed over an unruffled sea, the troops drank in the wonderful sight, so refreshing after the tiresome monotony of the voyage. The little brown fishing boats were thickly sprinkled over a fleckless seascape — ashore the beautiful buildings resplendent in a setting of graceful palms. Up the coast and round the break-water the squadron picked its way through a flotilla of every conceivable variety of small craft.
Inside the crowded harbour lay our old friend the “Melbourne” and a quaint five-funnelled warship—the Russian cruiser “Askold,” which we were later to know so well. The work of the “Emden” had been fairly thorough—during her career she had sunk sixteen merchant ships, the Russian cruiser “Jemtchug,” and the French destroyer “Mousquet” — and here in Colombo Harbour were dozens of ships which had been held up, but were again free to sail the ocean highways.page 24
The prisoners, 138 in number, were distributed over the Australian and New Zealand transports, an officer and half a dozen men being placed on each ship. Many of them could speak English, having served on British merchant ships. It then became apparent that the precautions of darkening lights and a strict censorship had indeed borne fruit, for on the night of November 8, the “Emden” actually crossed the bows of our convoy, accompanied by a captured British collier, the “Buresk,” heavily laden with the best Welsh coal. The raider, knowing nothing of our presence, arrived off the Cocos group early in the morning, and sent a party ashore on Direction Island to destroy the cable and the wireless station, which barely had time to send out the S.O.S. received by the flect. The page 25 appearance of the Australian cruiser on the horizon (the Germans took her to be H.M.S. “Yarmouth”) was the first intimation to the “Emden” that all was not well. The German ship put out to sea and fought her last sea fight, while the armed party ashore busied themselves with preparing the “Ayesha,” a local schooner, for flight. The “Sydney” had to turn her attention to the collier, which was endeavouring to escape. On overtaking her, it was found that her sea-cocks were open, and as she could not be saved, the “Sydney” fired a couple of shots into her at the water line. Night coming on, the schooner with her adventurous crew successfully cleared the Cocos, apparently for the African coast. Such were the facts as gleaned from the German prisoners.
[Photo by Capt. Paddon, O.M.R.
Prisoners from the “Emden.”
The 138 prisoners were distributed among the Australian and New Zealand transports.
From the transports in Colombo Harbour 200 men at a time went ashore from each ship; each party being broken up into smaller ones of twenty men with an officer. Going ashore in the boats we pulled through clouds of lemon, chrome, and golden butterflies fluttering over the water in all directions, reminding one of yellow poplar leaves drifting to the page 26 ground in an autumn wind. Once ashore the brilliant colours and fragrant flower scents seemed like fairyland after the heat and smell of the horse decks. Along the brick-red sandy roads the rickshaw coolies pattered with their slouch-hatted loads. Under the shade of the Eastern trees the soldier snatched one hour of the real joy of living. Interested parties explored the Buddhist temples, the air heavy with incense and the scent of many flowers. Down on the Galle Face, where the cocoanut palms weep over the sea, the revelation of poverty and mendicity came as a shock to the young New Zealanders—thousands of beggars, the halt, the lame and the blind—small boys begging pennies, old men with one foot in the grave complaining in broken English, “No mother, no father, sixpence please!”
The New Zealand soldier away from home is prodigal with his money, and the Cingalese and Indian shopkeepers parcelled up many thousands of pounds worth of gifts, ranging from precious stones and expensive silks down to the cocoanut-wood elephants and the little green-backed beetles. The censors never left their desks, so energetic were the correspondents, but gradually the pile grew less and the mail bags more swollen; the shouting gangs of dirty coolies passed—basketful by basketful—the contents of their loaded barges page 27 into the hungry stokeholds; all water tanks were refilled, and on the morning of November 17, the New Zealand transports, escorted by the “Hampshire,” headed once again for the deep water.
The Monotony of the Voyage.
In a sense this was the most wearisome stage of the journey, although there was a little to interest. By day, shoals of flying fish leaped ahead of the ships, shimmered in the sunlight, and splashed again into the depths; and in the hours of darkness the stable picket gazing out of the porthole marvelled at the mass of gleaming phosphorescence. But the monotony of the warm weather and a placid sea, together with the reaction after the glorious taste of freedom at Colombo, did not make for tranquility of spirit. Even the civilian passenger in the first saloon tires of marvellous seascapes, and ship's food, however daintily served, becomes repugnant. Pity, then, the poor soldier cramped up in a transport; necessarily living on monotonous food which he must help to prepare; tending horses and cleaning up the ship; stiff from the inoculations designed to protect him in the future, and steaming steadily on (at a rate of nine knots per hour!) to a destination only vaguely guessed at. So it was a relief to reach that rocky outpost, Aden, and to learn page 28 that just on the horizon hostile Arabs and Turks were bent on making trouble. Dicomforts were quickly forgotten in the thrill of nearing battle grounds. Away on those red sands we could picture Turk and Teuton scheming and planning to get possession of those priceless water cisterns.
No one was allowed ashore, but the harbour was full of interest. Nine big vessels packed with South Wales Borderers and Middlesex Territorials were coaling, on their way to India. The “Ibuki” here wished us good-bye and steamed away to join the Southern Japanese squadron.
The voyage from Aden to Suez was commenced on Thursday, November 26, with the “Hampshire” escorting the entire Australian and New Zealand fleet in five divisions, the five leading ships all being in line. We passed Perim at 2.30 in the afternoon, the New Zealand ships having been ordered to steam five miles ahead of the Australians.page 29
It was anticipated that the horses would be severely tried in the Red Sea. When a following wind got up the troopers were more apprehensive, but the horses seemed determined to do honour to their native land, and there was little sickness.
Ordered to Disembark in Egypt.
In the Red Sea a wireless was received instructing the Force to prepare for a disembarkation in Egypt. Turkey being at war with the Allies and already threatening the Suez Canal, this turn of affairs was not surprising, but some were disappointed that anything should occur to defer our landing in France to help the sorely tried British and French Armies.
[Lent by F. W. Randall
Steaming into Alexandria.
[Lent by F. W. Randall
Disembarking at Alexandria.
In the foreground is a white “ramp” used for disembarking horses. On the outskirts of the group of soldiers may be noticed two Egyptians endeavouring to “change the money.”
From Suez to the Bitter Lakes, past all the posts we were destined to know so well; past Ismailia and the fortifications of Kantara, the transports slowly steamed. It was the New Zealander's first real glimpse of Empire. Here lining the banks were the picturesque bearded Sikhs, the native cavalry and infantry from every frontier State, and the alert Ghurka with his familiar slouch hat and short trousers.
At Port Said the German prisoners of war were transferred to the “Hampshire.” This was the last we saw of the famous cruiser, fated to become, on the disastrous day, July 5, 1916, off the Orkneys coast, the ocean mausoleum of that great soldier, Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum.
Exactly seven weeks after leaving Wellington Harbour, the look-outs saw with the dawn of December 3, the great white city of Alexandria standing in a sea of mist. Slowly we forged ahead until clustering spars resolved themselves into a multitude of transports and captured sailing ships, for here were interned most of the enemy mercantile marine captured in the Eastern Mediterranean. By 8 o'clock that morning six of the New Zealand transports were alongside, and clamouring round, the long-skirted rabble of the Egyptian seaport beheld in the stalwart colonials the same material as that which wrested victory at Tel-el-Kebir and Omdurman.
The poor horses were delighted to get ashore; groggy on their feet, they cut the most amusing capers. Soon men and stores, guns and horses, were en route to the railway station, where troop trains were waiting, and in a few hours were speeding across some of the most magnificent agricultural country in the world—the delta of the Nile.