Brother mega sent me an email (all too rare) today of a diary post John had done about life on the ship he travelled upon.
CORPORAL J McGREGOR
This diary has been typed as written.
DIARY OF TRIP FROM MELBOURNE TO EGYPT ON BOARD THE "WILTSHIRE" MARCH 7th, 1916
Left Broadmeadows and took trains for Pier, Port Melbourne. Met Aunt Lena and Ett at Port Melbourne Railway Station. Said Goodbye to them on Pier.
About 2 hours waiting on Pier, then we embarked. A great crowd on the Pier but I don't recognise anyone. About 1.30 p.m. we commence to move out and soon are well under way. The crowd stopped on Pier till the boat was out of sight. We passed through the Heads and into the open sea at about 4 o'clock. The sea was a bit rough so there was some sickness aboard. Felt a bit squirmy myself but all right so far. At half past 7 p.m. go down and get hammocks and blankets issued to us. I slung my hammock and get to bed straight away. A bit awkward sleeping in hammock but will get used to it. The boat rolling a good bit but hammock swings with it so don't feel the roll so much.
March 8th, 1916.
Wake up and get out about 6 a.m. feeling a bit sick. Orders come out that A. company has to go on guard at 8.30 a.m. so get ready. No land in sight. Very sick while on guard, up at intervals all night posting sentries and inspecting guard.
March 9th, 1916.
Reach Adelaide 8 o'clock. Pretty scenery coming into Port. Put on guard over gangway, stop any soldiers going ashore. Two Privates with me with rifles and fixed bayonets. One man let his rifle fall over board went down in 35ft water, did not recover it. Men were throwing letters on to the wharf to escape the censor but most were commandeered by guard and offenders punished by fine 5/- or 10/-.
March 10th, 1916.
Left Adelaide about 6.30 a.m. and start across Great Australian Bight sea fairly calm. Seen 2 sharks and a mob of porpoises and also shoal of flying fish. No land in sight.
March 12th, 1916.
Still no land in sight same monotonous water on every side.
March 13th, 1916.
Sight Cape Lewin I think it is, soon passed and then nothing but water again. Feeling well again. Work on board consists of 6.30 a.m. physical exercises till 7.00 a.m. Breakfast at 8.00 a.m. fall in on Parade Deck at 9.30 a.m.; Rifle exercises, bayonet drill, or lectures till 11.30 a.m.,then dinner till 2.30 p.m.; fall in and more lectures or drill till 4.30 p.m. tea at 6.00 p.m. lights out 9.00 p.m.
March 14th, 1916.
Land sighted at first very dim then recognise two light houses. Later find they are on an island. Pull into Freemantle 6 o'clock p.m. anchor out in river for the night.
March 15th, 1916.
Rise 6.00 a.m. and am picked with 50 men for Perth Piquet. 10 a.m. board a motor boat and go ashore, march to Railway Station, board train and make for Perth. Seems funny to see the railway line only 3ft 6in but trains travel fast. Get out at Perth and march to barracks. It is very hot. All N.C.O.'s were given a lecture on our duties and then marched off for the town I am sent out with 4 men to parade a certain block. Vis. up Barrack Street along Murray Street down Kilor Street and along Wellington Street. The day passes without trouble except a few of our men getting blind drunk. In the evening I, with 6 more men are told off to go down and break up a row in Rose Street. Arrived too late but search house and estimate damage. Coming back one man, too drunk to walk and so he was troublesome, I am told off to take him to Police Station and lock him up till we go back to ship. I had some trouble with him but got him, put him in lock up and let him sleep. A good bit of trouble in town one way and another during the night but only locked up 3 men. Got back to ship 1.30 a.m.
March 16th, 1916.
Got leave for the day. Very hot in morning but teems rain about 11 a.m. Hired a motor 11 a.m. till evening to visit Freemantle and Perth. All over Freemantle for a start then on to Perth. Visited different spots in Perth and a general tour round finished up the day with 2 bottles Champagne 12/- bottle. Got back to ship just in time to catch it. Ten minutes later and we would have missed it. Two of my mates missed boat, left at Freemantle. Only J. Harris and myself left now, out of all the tent mates I enlisted with. The Sydney miners boat was in port at Freemantle. Struck the breakwater entering Port 7ft hole knocked in her side. Be there another week yet. Sailed 8.30 p.m.
March 17th, 1916.
Woke up to find open sea again, sea very calm. Check roll calls show 5
men in 15/5 B. missing, a good many more in other Companies 16,000 on board altogether, about 50 crew or more.
March 18th, 1916.
Sighted boat on horizon going same way as ourselves. Catching her up.
Sea very calm not a ripple in it nearing the Equator. In the evening almost caught the vessel we sighted in the morning. Glasses show she is another transport. Terrible hot especially below.
March 19th, 1916.
Vessel away to stern just see her smoke. Sea still calm no land in sight. 10.30 a.m. church parade, organ going and sing hymns then a sermon preached. In the evening a bit of boxing and such likes. Vessel disappeared.
March 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 1916.
All the same, sea marvellous calm, sighted four vessels. Boxing tournaments proceeding on board. Am entered for heavy-weight. Have been training for the last week will have my first bout tomorrow night. Chap I am to boxnis a good bit heavier but not quite so tall as myself though near it. No land been sighted.
March 24th, 1916.
Ship all astir with the news that menengitis has broken out on board. Turns out a fact 2 cases in Hospital. One half of ship quarantined and other half all have their throats sprayed. Seen two whales quite close
to ship besides numerous other large fish. Ship sailing at nights with all lights out, no escort with us. I am to box tonight for heavy weight of Company.
March 25th, 1916.
Won the boxing match last night, a stiff go, I was down, twice in first round but knocked him out in the second, am now to meet heavy weight of 15/6th Batt. Sea still very calm nearing Colombo expect to pull in tomorrow. Got a compass on with me since leaving Australia been sailing North West the nose of the ship almost in line with setting sun. A pretty moonlight last night shone across the smooth water, and made a pretty sight. Heavy fog tonight and raining heavy.
March 26th, 1916.
Heavy fog all last night foghorn going at intervals for hours. A funny thing, that when I went to bed last night we were sailing N.West, got up this morning and find we are sailing right into the rising sun, compass shows due East. 10.30 a.m. land sighted, about 11.00 a.m. pull into Colombo 4 transports already anchored in the Harbour. I signalled over to them and got who they were Miners, Sydney, New Zealanders, and Seymour Lighthorse, a boat for each unit, there are two Japanese battle ships at anchor close by. Have been carrying on a conversation with one of the men on the Sydney Transport by semaphore signalling. They left Sydney same day as we left Melbourne, and landed in Colombo 2 days before us. They came round north of Australia and did not stop at any ports. Went for a route march through the town this afternoon. Very interesting except for the heat. It was awful hot. No horses used in Colombo all bullocks. Looks funny to see a pair of bullocks harnessed to a cart with a rope through their nostrils to guide them. People travel by means of rickshaws a sort of two wheeled affair with handles like a pram, a native pulls it. It seats one man. All people black, only seen about half dozen whites. The women dress by a lump of coloured rag thrown over their shoulders, and round the waist. Not boots. My hands swelled up by the march, was very thirsty so had a good drink of water then was told I'd get fever before
landing in Egypt. Bought some bananasl/- for a stalk. Only get 18/6 change for 1 Pound note in Colombo, seen one policeman flog a couple of natives, their system instead of arresting them. Got back on board_7 p.m. Natives busy coaling our boat.
March 27th, 1916.
Will be leaving tonight for Seuz. Wanted to get leave to go to town to have a look around but was not permitted. Dived over board and had a swim though. An incident occured during the day I went over one side of the
boat for a swim and it appears another chap went over the other side by means of a rope. He could not swim a stroke but had a life belt on. The water
was pretty rough so he was soon in difficulties. I was swimming away from the boat, heard a lot of yelling going on, on board, but did not understand then they pointed to the chap struggling in the water, I swam after him caught him but was done myself as I'd been in the water for a long time.
I called out to someone, at the same time holding the chap in the water up, he had drank a lot of salt water. Two chaps dived from the rail of the ship and between us we got him to the ladder and sent him aboard, he was a bit sick, that's all. Left Colombo 9 p.m., except about 10 days sail before landing.
March 28th, 1916.
Woke up to find open sea again. Noticed last night that Southern Cross is slowly disappearing, about 2 more days and it will be out of sight. Passed the Equator 2 days before Colombo.
March 29th, 1916.
Sighted land to the north. Drew closer to it and seen the highest mountains I ever seen. The peaks seem to rise out of the sea and disappear among the clouds terrible high, never seen the top of some. Turns out to be an island, or I think it is. Ship travelling twice the pace at night in case of submarines. Since carrying troops this ship has been chased 3 times by submarines but is too fast. At night travels 18 knots an hour, 14 knots day time.
Has 3 shell holes in her deck. All men sleep with left belts under pillows.
March 30th, 1916.
Had a light spar with gloves last night got my thumb put out second time since coming aboard, went to doctor got it fixed up. Will be fighting another contest tomorrow night for heavy weight tournament. Thumb holds be at a disadvantage though. Sailing north west still. My watch getting further and further behind ship's time although keeping Melbourne time right.
March 31st, 1916.
Very hot today, sea very calm. I fought another contest for heavy weight tournament. Won in the 4th round. Very stiff this morning as he was a heavy man 13 stone 7 lb. His towel was thrown in the 4th round he was well beaten in the first. Some talk of cutting out the heavy weight tournament and leaving only light and middle, but don't know how true it is. It's true I will go as middle, I am not much move 11 stone stripped. Tug of war going on board the boat. Our platoon won one heat so far.
April 1st, 1916.
Sea still very calm and sun hot. Had a sports meeting today. We lost the tug of war. The 10 of 21st Batt. beat us, they are a very heavy team, Jack Mannix was one of them. They were all about the one size. Jack Mannix is like a bullock, had to let his tunic out at the back so it would fit him. The heavy weight boxing tournament has been cut out on account of not enough entries. A rotten shame to have men fight four or five fights then cut it out. The last chap I beat had to be paraded to the doctor twice the day after the fight with bruises and sore head. Was
knocked clean off his feet in first round. All that could have been saved but for bad management. I tried to get into the middle weight but was weighed and found too heavy 12 stone 6 with a pair of nickers and shoes on. Surprised myself. The crew had big gun practice a big target consisting of boxes and a flag stuck up in them were lowered over-board and when the ship was about 1,000 yards away her broadside turned on to the target. Fired the first shot and I never heard such an awful row in my life. The ball landed very close to the target although not hitting it, the second, third and fourth shots were close too but never hit it. It was a very small target, anyone of those four shots would have sunk a vessel, the fifth was about 200 yards short. I think she is about a bin. gun.
They were the only balls that they fired and when they hit the water we would see nothing for a good while then away on the horizon we'd see another splash where the ball rebounded, one ball rebounded and skipped along the water 4 times. By the time the last shot was fired the target was nearly out of sight.
April 2nd, 1916.
Sunday again, terrible hot today, church parade this morning from 11 a.m. till 12. We sang "Nearer My God to Thee". It struck me that we were certainly getting nearer every day now. Dinner consisted of roast beef, spuds and green peas, then plum pudding. Some talk of us going to France but fancy its bunkum or as we put it "Latrine Beget ". We will be about 7 days more on the water yet without sighting land we have been 4 days so far this will be the fifth from Colombo. Seen a lot of fish today. Violin going up on deck sounds all right, will be 10 weeks from time of landing till I receive a letter from home.
April 3rd, 4th, 1916.
Nothing doing still very hot. Seen a couple of ships too far to recognise. We are in the Arabian Sea. Expect to see land tomorrow.
April 5th, 1916.
Woke up this morning to see land on the right, indistinct at first but after a while becomes plainer then notice land on both sides. Known as the gates of hell. It is very pretty mountain rising sheer out of the sea on the right, it's very pretty the peaks are so high. It is the Arabian Coast. The Twelve Apostles appear on the other side they are very interesting twelve peaks jutting out of the water, each one a separate island. Just about entering the Red Sea, another hour. Last night search lights were on the vessel for a good while. Could not see where they were coming from but at last came to the conclusion that they were coming from an hydroplane as they were coming from above. Two vessels on ahead, overhauling them fast. We have been getting things ready for disembarkation. I can smell a rough time when we land. Have caught the two vessels on ahead. Took about 5 hours to catch them one is parallel with us now. We are in the Red Sea now. On the left of us about 1 mile is the African coast and on the right now, just out of sight is the Arabian Coast, the Peaks on the African coast look all right, they are so high. We have passed seven vessels this morning and another in sight. We will not be surprised if we are sent into the firing line quick and lively as things going on board, preparations and such like, denotes the fact that we are not going to waste much time. There is some lovely country to be seen here it's so very rugged, the peaks are thousands of feet high. Expect to disembark about Sunday. A destroyer sailed all round us last night, quite close I suppose they just wanted to know who and what we were.
April 6th, 1916.
Well in the Red Sea. It is very hot and the sea a bit rough but getting calmer, passed a few lighthouses last night and 8 vessels in all. There was a lot of big fish following the boat tonight in fact they were not following it but just in front of the nose of the vessel. They were just like a lot of torpedos in shape and were about 9 to 10 feet long. They looked beauties swimming under the water. It's so clear, can see a good depth. Had a bit of fun this evening, a hawk was following the boat and
the officers were shooting at it, and much to the amusement of the Privates, they kept on missing it. Well it got knocked up and settled on the mast, in about 10 seconds two or three officers had their rifles on it. Silence on board for about 2 seconds, then two or three reports and a great yell, they had missed it. Then the men began to yell. Somebody suggested that the officers had better learn to shoot, another told them to fix bayonets and somebody else yelled to the officers to climb the mast and "Hit the -thing on the head with the butt". Darkness stopped the fun but wait till they start instructing the men on how to shoot I am afraid the men may be impolite. A chap in our company won the middle weight boxing tournament on board. If I had been light enough (11 stone 81b) it would have been a cake walk for me as I can walk all over the fellow who won it. However the Secretary for our Company's sports has challenged any man in it to meet the heavy weight of the 15/5 Batt. (That's me) so I don't know if anyone will take it, it's a big order out of 1,600 men but I'm in good form and got a good wallop in the left hand not to mention the right, but ain't going to talk about it see how it gets on.
April 7th, 8th 1916.
Not much been doing. Passed some pretty scenery in the shape of very high mountains on both sides of us. One of the African, the other the Arabian Coast. Everything ready for disembarkation tomorrow or we expect to get into Port tomorrow (Sunday) then we have six hours ride in a train. We have been issued with an emergency ration 6 biscuits and 1 pound of bully beef in case we want it on the track. Just passed a boat that left Colombo 24 hours before we did. At that rate she would have about 200 odd miles lead on us so it has taken about 11 days to catch her. Yesterday passed Troop ship "A69" on her way to Melbourne. Cancel this till I arrive in camp.
April 10th, 1916.
Arrived in camp. Got into Pt. Suez April 9th up at 5 a.m. on the following day and disembark. Get aboard a train at 11 o'clock and start for the desert. We arrived in after nearly 5 hours journey in the train. A desolate place it is too. Our camp is on the battle ground of the great battle of 1882. I think it was where General Gordon was killed, must write a few letters now.
Cpl. J. McGregor, 4881.
The tall mountain is rather a mystery to me, a mirage perhaps?