3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Friday 19 January 1917 – departure from Adelaide on board HMAT Bulla

Departure from Adelaide ~ ship library ~ sleeping on deck ~ sea sick ~ boxing on deck ~ sports ~ concerts

At sea
Friday night [undated – but written on 19 January 1917]
see record of embarkation
Dear Lic

Look at me now! It’s 8.15pm and I’m up in my hammock as comfie as may be – in our own ickle library, enjoying the ‘sporting life’ as Jack Hardwicke calls it – as well as most & better than some. It’s been rough today & is still but I’ll start from the beginning – last Tuesday. I can hardly realise that we have actually started on our trip – when I think of it at all. Seems as if we’ll be home for a leave night or weekend soon at any rate. Did you get all of those Australias etc and pins the other day? The last went from a good distance but I think they lobbed safely on the wharf. Seeing that those in my coat collar wouldn’t shift & also that I had 2 Australias in my pocket – I still have a set to wear in the west.letter19170119My word we had a fine send off all the way. In the tram we had great fun – waving to people, getting flags, fruit & papers etc & slips of paper with girls’ addresses on ’em. I’ve two very elegant looking slips from Wellington Street, Portland I think – I’ll send ’em with this if I think of it.I saw Mrs Benny, Black, May, Jarvis, Aird on the way down. When we marched on to the boat it didn’t seem to take long to get our places & up on deck again. Lots of chaps had telegrams – just then – mine amongst them (from Elf). I did not see anything of Uncle Bert: ‘spose he could not get down. It was jolly good of Stella R, Mr Norwood & Co – Mrs Tommy & Bennie to go down and see a fella off, & for Dork and Ruth to get there with all the rest of you – even if it was a bit exciting doing it – that was a’right. I’m glad everyone was pretty happy too – that helped lots. I nearly cried to see poor old Lickie looking a bit sad & wished I didn’t have to go, but you feel better by now I guess. Anyhow cheer up – it won’t be long before I’m back – and for the present I’m having a fine time. I could see you all for a long way out & Mack & Dork did a bit of a sprint up the wharf & Mother too I believe. I thought it must be a race for the end of the breakwater – but we won. We went out a bit, then dropped anchor I think for an hour or so & started again about 2 o’clock. It was a bonny calm afternoon & no-one was ill of course. We had a good feed of each other’s fruit & stuff & at 5 o’clock had tea: cold meat etc.

During the afternoon I arranged to set up the library in the boat ‘Clinque’ [clink ie prison] as we don’t reckon to require it in that way this trip & I shifted in a number of parcels & cases of books etc, sent by friends – S. Lunn & WCIW, YMCA & Glenelg & Semaphore Cheerup Societies. Didn’t do much though for the first day. Jack Taylor put in to be my assistant so at night we brought our hammocks and blankets up here & slept instead of staying down below where it’s more stuffy & crowded. It’s A1 up here.

You remember the little building on the corner of which I was standing when we left the wharf – well that is the library. [added later: That’s wrong after all cos we are up on the high deck. I’ll send you a photo later on – taken as we were leaving]. It is in 2 compartments, one used as a prison & the other one for the use of the guard. The latter is our office & it we sling our beds at night – just room for two. The furniture was just a form and desk but now of course we have made box shelves & filled them with books etc.

The inner – or clinque proper room we use for spare unopened parcels & boxes & for our own clothes and other belongings. It is very handy indeed through quite small. Well I’m sleepy & tired so I’ll finish up later on – perhaps tomorrow so Goodnight all – Spence.

Sunday morning – continued (21 January 1917)

Land in sight all the way to Fremantle now – we passed Albany away across say 10 or 12 miles yesterday – but as it was dull and a bit wet we could not see much. But this is skipping ahead again.

On Wednesday morning [16 January 1917] a good many chaps were off their tucker! There are 12 at our table – our old 8 and 4 others: Frank Jones & I seemed about as well as any so we took on the ‘mess orderlies’ job. It kept us busy below for a good while & made me feel a bit off at dinnertime – I was just sick and quickly better & good again for my tea. That’s all I’ve been ill & it was only because I was down in the stuffy hold too long.

We do ‘jerks’ at 6.30 in the mornings & run or skip round a bit and then after brek are allocated various tasks – mine of course is to come here to the library & straighten things up for inspection at 11am. The days don’t seem long. I’ve read a bit – some odd bits beside ‘The Silver Horde’ by Rex Beach whom Ruth knows.

On Thursday morning it was good and rough & Frank & I continued to be mess orderlies cos those who were not ill reckoned they could not stay below any length of time.

I was feeling tip top – good luck. Jack Hardwicke was bad for a start but he has got alright now. Herb Groves has been worst of any of us, but he is now beginning to feel more like himself. The other have been working in their turns the last few days.

We had some sport on board on Wednesday – running, high and long jump, hop step & jump, 3-legged race etc. I was in for several but didn’t win any. I got on pretty well in high jump & finished about 4th or 5th.

Yesterday – Saturday afternoon we had some more sports – but it was a bit wet & inclined to be rough, so they did not last very long. We had a tug of war with the boat crew and pulled them twice straight.

On Wednesday evening we had a bit of a sing. Started and finished with songs – with a middle part of hymns. Then last night there was a concert in which a good number of chaps took part. Our Doctor is acting organist so far: I have not had a cut but I could do better than he does I think. The organ is only a little one – belongs to the crew. Mr Heath’s was left behind by some misfortune – also his music and songbooks etc missed the bus somehow. But these latter we hope to pick up or replace in Fremantle tomorrow if we get leave. We’ll arrive tonight I reck, probably something after 10 o’clock, maybe about midnight.

Last night after the concert we had a gathering of ‘the clan’ in my den here: in fact half of ‘em are here now – as quite often happens.

I got my cocoa & someone brought up the sugar and pannicans (enamel plates & mugs here) & we had some cake & biscuits & had a good tuck in. The cocoa goes A1.

The ‘Gloves’ provided in the ‘cheer up’ parcel are often used – especially after tea when the chaps have a bit of a ‘box on’ with each other. We have had a good tempered lot of contests so far. They are good fun for the crowd & hard exercise for those taking part. I have had two little cuts but so far I’m only a learner. I hope to be better at it before we reach our destination.

Our Sunday is about over now – I’ll start on another sheet & write to Mother – cos after this post it will be a good long time before we can post again – & longer before you can get anything.

So Pip Pip Lic – goodnight, sleep tight – I’m alright – fine – splendid.


Say goodbye and love to Mary from me!

HMAT A45 Bulla
HMAT A45 Bulla
previously a captured German vessel, Hessen, transferred to Commonwealth Government Line 15 April 1918

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