[Editor’s note: Written on board the H.M.S. Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic.]
On Board H.M.S.T. 2810.
Tuesday Aug 28/16.
Dear Mother and All,
This is likely the last opportunity I will have of writing for some time so I will take advantage of it. We arrived in Halifax Monday morning and immediately embarked. I was very much surprised to find our transport, to be, I believe, the second largest vessel in the British passenger service. It is a little larger than the Titanic and beautifully finished. The wood-work has been covered over tho, as have the walls, ceilings etc. In the big reception rooms, on the decks below (there are something like 14 decks) B deck, tables of been installed for eating purposes and above them hammocks slung for sleeping. The crowding here is terrible, but thank goodness I was fortunate enough to get a stateroom, with two other boys.
After the troops were loaded, we went out in the harbor and anchored, remaining here till Thursday noon. Then we said farewell to Canada. Immediately we were issued with life belts and our life boats slung out ready for service. Our convoy soon left us, and as far as we know we have had none since. The boat is well armed but depends chiefly on her speed, for her protection. We are making our final dash thro the danger zone, expecting to dock sometime to-night. At present we are making between 25 and 30 miles per. hour, which is some speed in the water.
We have alarms regularly for practice and the boat is emptied in less than five minutes I believe, which is going some, when you consider, we have more than twice your population on board.
When we sight a vessel which we are not sure of, the alarm is sounded, and guns trained on it. There has been no firing so far except machine gun practice.
We have had what under normal conditions would be considered an ideal voyage, the ocean has not been rougher than a lake. I have not been sick altho for a couple of days I had a miserable stomache, but irregular meals etc account for part of that.
On board No. 10, is in charge of the hospital. It is a dandy of 60 beds about 1/3 occupied all the time. I am on at night, consequently this time of writing, the work is very good. We have had several slight operations for puss pockets etc. Before leaving Halifax we put ashore eight patients, one of our boys among them. He has an abcess in the head, very serious. We have no idea when or at least where we will land but likely in England, to-night. Our course is I believe directed from England thro our wireless.
To-night just before going below to tea, there was great excitement when three vessels appeared on the horizon. No alarm was sounded, as there are to be no more false alarms, but we were nearly all on deck, and the guns manned etc. Two proved to be sailing vessels, the other, a steamer, did not come very near. We would feel much safer if convoyed, but they say we would loose speed. We do over 500 miles sometimes in the 24 hours.
We have no authentic war news. There is a paper published for the officers each day, but we do not get it, only rumors. Just heard Roumania has turned against Austria. Hope so.
We are all sealed up at night, and make great speed then. Possibly we do not carry even ship’s lights, altho we do not know this, as we are not allowed on deck at night.
I will sure be glad when we sight land, as it is rather a strain waiting for a hidden enemy.
I do not know whether or not, this letter is censored, please let me know.
I will write a little more later before posting this.
Wed. Aug. 30th/16. – 4.15 A.M.
Well we are anchored off a city at last, but I am not allowed to name it. Also I am not allowed to cable you for four days so this letter will likely arrive shortly after my cable. We dock at eleven in the morning.
Yesterday, our wireless picked up the news, apparently being flashed to America, that we had been sunk. I do hope you did not get this news. We were not touched at all.
Have not been sick at all. More after we land.
Just landed O.K.