at sea, 1/5 Somerset L.I., Indian Ocean, Troopship Chakdara1
[Envelope stamped ‘passed by censor May 4 1917 No 3009’]
My dear old Elsie
Before leaving Bombay I sent a cable to Elm Grove saying I was sailing – I hope the censor sent it off all right and that Greta has let you know. It is just possible we may put in at Aden tomorrow for new stores of fresh meat water and ice and so I am hoping to post these few lines on to you. Unfortunately I can’t tell you our destination even yet but we gathered unofficially at Bombay that we are bound for Egypt and after re-equipping at Suez Alexandria or El Arish we are to join up with the forces operating at the bottom of Palestine. Of course all these plans may be moonshine and some of us are still hoping that we are on our way to old England Its rather exciting this uncertainty but we should probably get our definite orders at Suez and of course I shall write to you at once. I believe the British need reinforcements in Palestine – if you take a look at the map you will find a place called Gaza on the coast – the Turks have got a strong position there stretching inland 40 miles to Beer Sheba. Up to now we are having a fairly good voyage – it is rather a tub of a boat – very different to the Kenilworth Castle – and the Indian Ocean has some days been very rough but I suppose Im a better sailor than I was in the old days. We are one of a convoy and of course our wonderful Navy is escorting us for there are enemy raiders about2 – day and night we have to wear or carry lifebelts and we are always practising the alarm and every man knows his particular job. We have now been at sea just over a week and I expect it will be another week before we get to Suez for we have to take time from the slowest ship in the convoy and consequently can only do about 10 knots an hour.
I think every man was glad to leave India at last and of course everyone is in the highest spirits at the prospect of striking a blow for old England before the war ends – we had a great send off from Bombay and I am sure none of us will ever forget it. The Colonels wife and the other ladies of the Regiment – who have been bricks to us since weve been in India – came to see us off —they hope to get home by mail boat soon.
There were some hundreds of the Bombay garrison at the Docks and of course thousands of envious natives – Our bugles sounded the Advance and the Band played the Regimental March – the men were singing and cheering. Ive been at sea 9 days now and have had absolutely no news – we hope to hear all that’s been going on when we reach Aden. I hope you are very fit dear old girl – I shall write to you as often as I can – Best love
1 Troopship Chakdara: British India Steam Navigation Co., passenger vessel, 1,581 tons, built 1914 at Leith.
2 The German raider Wolf left Germany November 30th 1916. In January & February Wolf laid mines off Cape Agulhas, Bombay and Colombo. Then Wolf went East and in May 1917 was refitted at Sunday Is, in the Kermadec Group, NE of New Zealand. She laid mines in the Cook & Bass Straits and off the Anamba Is, near Singapore. She then returned to the Indian Ocean and home to Germany in February 1918. (Halpem, op. cit. pp. 372-3.)
Next letter May 17th 2017