AT SEA, ABOARD S.S. ADRIATIC
April 5, 1916
We have now been 5 days at sea and so far our voyage has been uneventful. I expect to find the next 2 days more exciting as we shall then be in the war zone. I will add to this letter as we go along, but meanwhile will give you details of what has happened so far.
I think there have only been about three cases of sea sickness in our Corps. This is a splendid record because men in the line Battalions are lying around the deck in dozens! Although most of us didn't feel as well for a few days as we would have been on land. I had a queer dizziness and buzzing sensation in my head for two days, and although I was not sick and haven't missed a meal, I have no desire for smoking, so "some 'at's wrong".
We have only been travelling at three quarter speed until today because the OLYMPIC , which is supposed to be carrying 5000 soldiers left Halifax two days behind us, and has not caught up yet. When she does, we shall travel full speed. We have only one cruiser as an escort; leading the way behind that is the BALTIC with 2,500 aboard. Then the ADRIATIC with 2,700. Then the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN with 2,500, and the OLYMPIC in the rear with 5,000, or possibly more. However, we expect to be met tomorrow night by a strong convoy. Of course we don't know yet where we are to be landed, but from the seamen we heard we are about 56 miles off the regular Trans- Atlantic route. We expect to land sometime Sunday morning.
Great excitement on board now. There is a boat in sight and everyone is guessing and wondering if it is another Cruiser, or a raider. Of course our escort likely knows what it is, but all on board are anxiously waiting to get a glimpse.
You know, we ARE lucky devils being able to travel first class. The troops on the other boats do all their own fatigue and sleep in hammocks, and we have stewards to wait on us at mealtime and in the staterooms. That is, to make the beds, clean the room, empty washing water etc. We're lucky, believe me! of course if this boat makes many more trips with troops, ahe will be dismantled, and all the stewards will be taken off.
We are wearing our lifebelts all day now.in fact it is part of ones' dress. We wear them during meals and keep them on our beds while sleeping. Most of our drill is boat drill. We are all divided up into fifties and each man has been told which boat he belongs to. And we have already had two calls (false alarms) just for practice.
I shall always remember the rush and scramble I witnessed tonight when we got our call. We were all in our bunks preparing for supper and quite unprepared for an alarm. When the boat's whistle gave 5 short blasts, and about 8 or 10 different bugles sounded. Believe me it didn't take long for everyone to scramble on deck; it was a case of every man for himself! And within 2,500 men rushing up a staircase (just the width of two men) to reach the boat deck, you can imagine what a scramble it was. Some were climbing hand over hand up the rigging, some were climbing from deck to deck, and others going up the stairway in a massed body. I think it took about 10 minutes for everybody - including all the crew - to be in their places and have a roll called. But, I think I know what a whole lot of us intend to do if we ever get torpedoed. Just wait until a few boats are launched and the take your little jump into the sea and hang on to the first boat possible.
Personally, I don't think we shall ever see or hear of a submarine. But of course all these precautions are necessary, and one has to be prepared for the most unlikely things to happen. Im sorry to admit there are quite a few on board who are in a blue funk about it though. They talk all day of subs. etc., sleep with all their clothe on, and in life belts. The boys in our bunk are not that badly scared yet, fortunately, and personally, I think a man a damn fool to sleep with his clothes on when he has a chance of sleeping between nice white sheets. What do you think? Where the scare started was by one of the crew. He brought a paper with him from New York - some anti British rag- with an article giving warning to the ADRIATIC not to sail with troops or she would be torpedoed. This had the effect of scaring the crew, some of whome deserted before the boat sailed from New York to Halifax. Consequently we are short of stokers, and any soldier that goes on report while on ship has to do one watch in the stokehold shoveling coal. Two men have been sent down for smoking in the staterooms, and others for lighting matches on the deck after dark.
I must quit for today as the boat is rolling and pitching something fierce and it is all I can do to balance on my bunk and write. Oh, the boat I mentioned that had been sighted was a British merchantman - it came no closer than 5 miles. . .
Well, we are on the last day of our journey, or rather night. I'm on hospital duty tonight. Have charge of 6 wards, just eight patients in all. Mumps, measles, tonsilitus, rheumsatism. I am only on for 12 hours - from 8 o'clock tonight 'til 8 tomorrow morning.
Our trip has been much more exciting today, as we have now an escort of 5 torpedo destroyers, and two cruisers. It was a wonderful sight to see them pop up from all directions. Within twenty minutes of our first sighting them on the horizon (each came in a different direction), they had surrounded the four liners. This afternoon they all maneuvered around us, patrolling each side, two ahead, and one behind. And the cruisers went ahead, as far as we could see, and scouted.
Tonight, our party is broken up. Our liner is heading for Liverpool, and all the others for the south of England. At six o'clock tonight, we struck the coast of Ireland, and we passed right by the spot where the LUSITAINIA was sunk. You can imagine we were all very glad to sight land again, it being 8 days today since we came aboard - seven days open sea. The reason we are going to Liverpool, which is in the north of England, is because the ADRIATIC is scheduled to sail from there the end of this week with passengers for New York. I think we are fairly safe now, although really we are now doing the most dangerous part of the journey - this being the war zone. Travelling I darkness is good enough protection now that we have parted from the convoy; all we have to fear is submarines, the course having been swept free of mines this week. Sam Hughes passed us in a liner yesterday on his way back to Canada. He sent all officers and men his best wishes and "bon voyage".
I guess we shall have to take the train tomorrow for the south of England; a trip of about 230 miles. It's funny to think we shall land before the 56th, as they got a start of 10 days on us. The Draft from "C" Section is also behind us on the EMPRESS. They had 3 days start - we passed them both this afternoon.
Well, I don't think I should drag this epistle on any longer - you will think I'm getting long winded. I will close this and let you know my experiences for the rest of the journey as soon as we get settled in Camp. I shall post in Liverpool, so you will know as soon as you get it that we have landed safely.
Best of love,
and yours as ever,