Days 84 to 104: Ceylon to Gibraltar (17 October to 6 November 1914)

Day No. 84: Saturday 17 October 1914

Just a day of plain sailing, a cloudless sky and very hot. The sea almost a Mediterranean blue and enough swell on to produce a mild roll, long and graceful. The only diversion was a rat hunt, abortive in its results, as when sitting on deck in the semi dark immediately after dinner 2 rats kept running backwards & forwards along the awning ropes and down the stanchion to one of the boats. I am bound to say I am not friends with rats at all.

A fine display of tropical lightening wound up the day.

Day No. 85: Sunday 18 October 1914

A few squalls with drenching rain visited us after breakfast & later we ran into a perfect rain belt. We kept to it all day, it deluged & deluged again, very different rain indeed to anything we have at home. How welcome it was for the temperature to be so perceptibly lowered by it.

In the afternoon there was an occasional clearing and a steamer smoke away on the port horizon made the ship suspicious, but it was not the Emden (!!), as on the late afternoon we were overtaking her & the funnel & masts could then be seen. We are always looking out for a 3 funnelled Craft, for such is the build of the Emden.

After dinner, instead of going to Church as I put it to the Captain, we developed some photographs which occupied us the whole evening.

We are wearing down the difference in time nicely. 12 o’clock, midday, with us is almost 7.30a.m. with you; only 4½ hours difference now.

Today completes our 12th week from home.

Day No. 86: Monday 19 October 1914

All day the rain squalls have been with us being of the pelting order. Owing to the exceptional number of people aboard this voyage the demands on the ship’s water tanks are very great, so it was decided to stop up the deck scuppers to prevent such quantities of good rain water going to waste. A miniature lake soon collects on the forward deck, as much as two feet deep at times up against the side of my cabin, and is used for cleaning purposes – the ship presently enjoying a splendid “spring cleaning” preparatory to “keep off the paint”.

Nothing of interest to report for the day – “merely sailing”.

Devoted the evening to a little photography.

Day No. 87: Tuesday 20 October 1914

There is a sad incident to record today. Just before breakfast the Fireman Serang of the passenger crew died somewhat suddenly. Arrangements were soon made by his countrymen for the disposal of the poor fellow’s remains. The body was taken along to the after deck where their service was held, strange rites and ceremonies needless to add, so far as one could see from the Bridge where I was. For the Europeans to have gone near them would I think been an intrusion that might possibly have been resented. At 10 o’clock all was ready, the steamer was stopped for a few minutes and the body having been lowered into the sea “full speed ahead” was signalled to the Engine Room & we started churning up the Ocean once again.

Still the squalls with us all day and the rain in such downpour as only the Tropics can produce evidently.

Evening – more photography.

Day No. 88: Wednesday 21 October 1914

It came fine for a change during the forenoon but, for the rest of the day, - rainsqualls again, with a strong following wind and sea producing a nice easy sort of motion but plenty of it.

Evening – still more photography.

Arabian Sea and into the Gulf of Aden

Day No. 89: Thursday 22 October 1914

A dirty day & nothing else expresses it. The only item of interest – a shark excepted which passed alongside this morning – has been the weather. Rain, rain, rain; persistent downpours increasing following wind and, unnecessary to say, increasing sea. Midday brought us about abreast of Socotra – by dead reckoning only as the sun has not been seen for a few days to take a “sight” to get our correct position. I called to mind how, on the outward voyage, I was told in connection with heavy seas “just wait until you pass Socotra”, for certainly the biggest seas we have had homewards, up to now, we encountered here.

Although abreast of Socotra we did not of course sight it – probably 100 miles away – as on leaving Colombo we took a very unusual Northerly Course across the Arabian Sea, from 100 to 150 miles off the customary run as a precautionary war time measure, making for the Bombay to Aden track which route, possibly, owing to the Transports, would be more or less patrolled by men-o’-war, or, at anyrate, they would be escorting a Convoy if any were then crossing. We struck the Bombay track in the Gulf of Aden during the forenoon.

We had sailed, as in the Bay of Bengal, minus masthead lights and dimmed side lights, but tonight the masthead lamps were used again. In the evening the wind and sea greatly increased and, at 10o’clock, the Captain was demonstrating to me in his room the theory of his Storm Charts which I found him referring to. He feared a Cyclonic Storm; everything portended it and he was making preparations to stay up all night ready to heave-to, or to turn the ship’s head to wind, if needs be. He remarked that he thought I was going to have a new experience to record so that at 10/30p.m. when he went to the Bridge I accompanied him, clad in all the rainproof things I could muster, sou’wester included, and oh! the rain. The note of the wind by this time had risen to a shriek and was dead astern, the smoke rushing off in a perfectly straight line right ahead; the sea, a following one, was raging and boiling and it was a strange effect from the height of the Bridge to see monster waves, travelling faster than ourselves, rushing along ahead of the ship – an ominous look & sound about them.

At 11 o’clock it was thought advisable to rouse the crew and the poor old beggars had to turn out & batten down the hatches, fasten up the hurricane doors to the alleyways and make everything tight, while there was yet opportunity, in case we happened to be in the direct path of the storm. There was a deal of phosphorescence about & when the heavy rain was on the splashing of the drops into the foam as it was thrown from the side of the ship produced innumerable sparkling & glittering lights intensely brilliant.

The Barometer received a deal of attention all the time & by midnight there was a suspicion that the wind – still very angry – was decreasing, and on it shifting to the port side shortly afterwards the Captain considered the danger was over – the Cyclone had missed us – and he started to turn in. Before doing so he explained that the rotary movement of a Cyclone goes in an opposite direction to the hands of a clock, hence the wind coming on to the port side proved we were not in its track, had the wind veered round to the Starboard side it would have strengthened the belief that the storm was catching us. He was certain it had passed astern us so I suppose we just got the trimmings.

The change of the Monsoon time, it seems, is just the season for Cyclones in the Arabian Sea & one had evidently been chasing us up for the last few days causing such weather conditions as we’ve had, though it was most unusual to have such weather so far north as the Gulf of Aden, a state of things, in a long experience, they had not been acquainted with before. I turned in also, feeling that after all I had not the experience of a Cyclone to recount and I can safely say I was not sorry.

Gulf of Aden

Day No. 90: Friday 23 October 1914

Wakened up to find the venom had gone out of the weather, but continuous heavy rain was with us all morning – it had not ceased all through the night. Had a chat with Chief Officer after breakfast & he told me quietly that he was certain we had only just escaped the zone of a Cyclone last night.

The weather again got bad & by midday there was a mountainous sea running with rain so thick, it being driven along the water like smoke, that scarcely a mile ahead could be seen. A clearance in a squall just before tiffin showed a steamer on the starboard side and, shortly afterwards, 3 more on the Port side, all going the same way as ourselves, but dimly visible. Bye and bye we made them out to be Transports and gave way to pass under the stern of the starboard-sider – No. 76 was his number painted very large on the bow, the Rajput - & we reckoned there would be more of them. This proved to be the case as after our meal we kept sighting more ahead and the weather, almost instantaneously clearing (remarkable this, like a curtain lifting) soon showed us the lot.

Ye gods! What a picture. 39 ships, so far as we could count, sailing in line about 3 abreast headed by a Battleship & a Cruiser (H.M.S.’s Swiftsure & Hampshire) and only a mile off on our Port hand.
HMS Swiftsure
Postcard showing HMS Swiftsure [1]
HMS Hampshire
Postcard showing HMS Hampshire [1]

HMS Swiftsure was a 'pre-Dreadnaught' type battleship and was considered 2nd-class by the Royal Navy. She had been ordered by the Chilean Navy in 1901 from Armstrong Whitworth but sold to Britain before completion and commissioned in 1904 at Chatham. Our diarist saw her early in her period of escorting Indian troop convoys from Bombay to Aden where she had been sent as a result of the predations of the German cruiser Emden mentioned earlier. After Emden had been dealt with on 9 Nov 1914, HMS Swiftsure served defending the Suez Canal and took part in the Dardanelles campaign. She was finally scrapped in 1920.

HMS Hampshire was a Devonshire class armed cruiser built for the Royal Navy, also built by Armstrong Whitworth and commissioned in 1905. She had been in China when WW1 started and was ordered to search for Emden. Subsequently she escorted an ANZAC troop convoy to Egypt and after a refit served with the Grant Fleet and took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 - though didn't pay a significant role in it. She was lost on 5 June 1916 while en route from Scapa Flow to Russia for a diplomatic mission and carrying Lord Kitchener. The ship struck a mine off the Orkney Islands and sank within 15 minutes with the loss of 737 lives including Kitchener and the members of the mission to Russia. The wreck is a designated war grave.

As we had an extra turn of speed we gradually overhauled the lot, sailing up the line. Looking ahead, they made a noble sight; first the warships & in the next line 2 Royal Mail Steamers & a Bibby Liner, & so on, sundries galore. I recognised a Blue-funneler, 3 Bibby liners, a City boat, 2 Clan Boats, all friends of the Mersey. It was quite like a review, a most magnificent spectacle and one, more than likely, never seen before – a convoy so large (I wonder how many troops were there) and it brought the War home in a very real sense. The best view was when we drew ahead of the Warships as the fleet seemed then more compact. When just ahead of the Battleship, which we made out to be the Swiftsure, the rainy mist away on our right cleared completely and there stood the land – the highland of Arabia.
Blue Funnel
Photo showing a Blue Funnel vessel - presumed to be bound for China [1]

I caught another bird during the morning, (this makes the third) thoroughly played out in the storm & locked him up to rest, in the afternoon releasing him. A flying fish was kind enough to come on board, promptly seized of course, & I took it along for the Cook’s kind attention & had it for Dinner. Very nice eating indeed. The weather continued to clear & we had the best sunset of the whole passage, the sun now setting directly over the bow.

Day No. 91: Saturday 24 October 1914

Gulf of Aden & the Red Sea

Of course I had to be called when passing Aden. 1/30 a.m. saw me on the Bridge just for awhile but there were only the Lights of the 2 Lighthouses, a French Mail Steamer’s lights & the Harbour Search light sweeping the sea. Not much of Aden to be judged from that!

Looking out of the Porthole when my Chota Hazara was brought soon after daybreak saw that land was visible. We opened up the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb about 10 a.m. with the Island of Perim in the Centre. To the right lay the rugged mountain land, all rocks & no vegetation, in front of all being Bab-el-Mandeb Peak, somewhat lofty with a sugar loaf top & standing out in the sea like a sentinel, a miniature Gibraltar. On the next mountain, three-quarters of the way up, a Turkish Fort is perched on a flat ledge; one marvels how the garrison exist amidst such barren surroundings.

It seems as though we are never to get away from squalls, for here we had several & a rather sharp thunderstorm. The African Coast on the left opened up finely the sun on that side of the Straits breaking through the clouds & showing the ranges of mountains distinctly. We passed close to Perim & fine it looked with its little sandy coves, small harbour, strange flat-topped one story dwellings backed up with the Signal Station to the left of the little “Town” & the Lighthouse in the Centre of the Island – the highest part, showing equally up the Red Sea and down the Gulf of Aden.

On the outward voyage we passed hereabouts in the dark, and it was a pleasing change to now have the Red Sea Arabian Coast line in view. The Mountain ranges are I think the finest of the many I’ve seen, although not the highest and their sharp pinnacles bring to memory pictures one has seen of the Dolomites & Austrian Tyrol. The changing lights of the morning due to rain squalls & weird cloud effects made the mountains stand out in a perfect indigo blue colour. On the African side the mountains are of the ponderous order – huge giants minus the peaky points.

Referring to the rain we had this morning it is worth recording that the Captain who has journeyed through the Red Sea something over 200 times has not met rain more than twice, or three times at the most. Aden, I should imagine, would therefore have a welcome visitor today for it is reputed that it rains there about once every 7 years. What excellent Drying days they must have on laundry days!

During the morning our path must have been through an army of flying fish, for a squadron of them rose, literally scores of hundreds, & flew away from both sides of the ship making the sea seethe again as they all dropped back into the water. Have certainly not seen anything like that before. Approaching Mokha (famous for its coffee) – & here the coast line falls away to an extensive plain – we were treated to a fine mirage, everything standing above the surface of the water. As we passed, Mokha, with the sun shining on it, looked a gem with its cream coloured flat-topped buildings, its minarets and few white washed Mosques on the outskirts of the town.

In the afternoon there was the interesting item of the crew being mustered for boat drill (this is more or less described in my notes on the passage out).

The Hanish Islands owing to the remarkably clear atmosphere were visible for hours before we reached them, and running under Jebel Zukur (see notes of August 12th) the sun having just set behind it, the slopes of the Island in the deepening dusk reminded one of a rich dark green velvet. Immediately thereafter we went through the Straits between Jebel Zukur and tiny Abu Ail, the lighthouse on the latter flashing its beams on us. Immediately thereafter again, dinner was served.

It was quite cheering to get in the track of the shipping again. At various times during the day we passed several Army Transports:- The City of Birmingham – Transport No. 56, A “P&O” – Transport No. 65, The Minora – Transport No. 31, and two other “British India” Transports, all probably making their way to India to bring back further detachments. The Orontes, the Orient Line Mail Steamer to Australia went by and in the evening, there passed a Harrison Liner, another “B.I.”, and the Kelvingrove all Troopships.
Photo captioned 'The Australian Mail - Red Sea - Orontes' [1]
We had had a lot of tropical lightening and, later on, we were visited by a squall of squalls – My hat! How it deluged, a thunderstorm accompanying it. When the rain ceased I went to the Bridge & stood for quite a time watching the lightening – the finest I have ever seen. A light showing up on the starboard side I waited until the steamer came abreast. In reply to our enquiry she signalled she was the Frankenfels, one of the captured Germans & then it was time to retire. We were then abreast of the Zebayir Islands.

Day No. 92: Sunday 25 October 1914

The Red Sea

There was a Sunday appearance about this morning, a quietness & calm abroad quite in keeping with the sea which was perfectly placid, a blue sky & a delightful breeze – just made by the Steamer’s own way – reminding one of a glorious morning at home in May. This nice fresh breeze was maintained throughout the day, thank our stars, for I’m not forgetting that this is the Red Sea – we have managed to keep fairly cool although the thermometer is 87° in the shade.

We have seen a few transports wending their way back to Bombay (presumably) – the City of Lahore - Transport No. 44, passing almost within hailing distance. We overtook the Kintail chartered for this trip by Brocklebanks, & another steamer the Queen Elizabeth. A few sharks lazily lolling along & a large school of porpoise went by just at sunset.

Today completes our 13th week away. We are wearing down the difference in time perceptibly (3¼ hours only ahead of English Time now) thus 12o’clock midday with us was 9/15 in the morning with you.

Day No. 93: Monday 26 October 1914

All day a most refreshing light breeze and, for the Red Sea, unusual. It was a subject of comment by the Navigation Department at Dinner that at no time had more wind been experienced here and very seldom indeed as much, little as it is. What a welcome change to our passage out when we simply lay about well nigh stifled & gasped.

Still more Transports have gone by during the day one coming quite close – the P&O Sumatra – Transport No. 6 – also a Clan Liner.

During the forenoon I had all my baggage carried on to the Deck taking everything out of my Trunks & leaving them on the Hatch. What with the powerful Sun and the breeze they had a splendid airing – and they were in need of it for the humidity, in the atmosphere in these Tropical parts is something to remark about; a mouldiness gets about everything, you could grow mushrooms on your boots, say, in no time if you did not watch out.

Referring to things Tropical reminds me to add that today we sailed out of the Tropics.

Day No. 94: Tuesday 27 October 1914

The breeze of yesterday developed into a moderate gale lasting all day and no one would complain of that in the Red Sea.

Painting operations are proceeding all round the Ship – “Wet Paint” is chalked at every turn but, despite the notice, one manages occasionally to “make an impression”.

The Daedalus Rock, that lonely Lighthouse on a coral reef, was passed after tiffin & course set for the next mark – the Brothers Light, 100 miles away, which was duly passed at 10/30 p.m.

More Transports went by, the only steamer near enough to see her name was one of the City Line the City of York (not a Transport) another Mersey friend.

Day No. 95: Wednesday 28 October 1914

Gulf of Suez

The usual morning peep out of the Port and lo! right against the crimson part of the sky, on the tip of the sun in fact – it just then showing, there was a Torpedo Boat Destroyer gradually dropping astern; H.M.S. Racoon. This was so very interesting that I immediately slipped on to the deck & found there were 2 other warships astern – 2 Egyptian Gunboats.
HMS Racoon
Photo of HMS Racoon [1]

I can only find one HMS Racoon in 1914 and she was a Beagle class destroyer with 3 funnels which is not at all apparent from the photo. Assuming this to be the correct vessel, she was completed in 1910 by Cammell Laird & Co. in 1910. She was lost with all hands on 9 Jan 1918 on striking rocks off the north coast of Ireland. Her normal complement was 100 but 9 had been left behind at the last port of call so 91 seamen died.

We had now entered that arm of the Red Sea known as the Gulf of Suez and on the other side of the ship stood right by us Shadwan Island, or Isle of Seals, why so called I don’t know. An 8 mile long island; high – though not lofty as heights go hereabouts; but as rugged as you please & steep. The rocks are of a browny red tint with wide strongly marked veins of yellow (a loaf of bread colour – the crown on top of the loaf with its graduations into yellow at the sides) and from the half lights of the rising sun until full sunlight was on them – but a short period – these colours changed strangely and it took me some time to tear myself away to go & make myself appear presentable.

Sundry islets & reefs were passed during the day. Land on each side was visible all day long & Mount Sinai, 7450 feet, was pointed out, it stands at the rear of a lofty range &, from the sea, it can only be seen from a certain position. As we proceeded up the Gulf there was brought into view the mountains I remembered and which now seemed “mine own familiar friends”.

As the day wore on another Torpedo Boat Destroyer passed down, also the Laertes (Blue Funnel) to whom we said “how d’ye do” by dipping the Flag, and an odd Transport No. 71, the Taroba. Mentioning Transports, about 4/30 this morning 9 large Passenger Ships went down the Gulf in convoy, mothered by a Battleship. The name of the last one we got by morse, the Braemar Castle – Union Castle Liner. This batch, being convoyed – we assumed had troops aboard and we further conjected that East Africa would be their destination. Wonder whether we were right.

Just towards 5 o’clock the Chief Officer sent from the Bridge for me. A strange freak of nature was to be seen – a mirage – a steamer which was deemed to be below the horizon, and under ordinary circumstances not visible, stood up in such a position above the water and against the land that she appeared to be ashore; her hull was magnified quite out of proportion to its size and the funnel & masts quite small – everything much distorted, a remarkable sight.

By now on our right the shore fell to a plain whereon is the camel track from Suez to Sinai and, at the back, some 20 miles inland, are a few scattered mountains beyond which is the Wilderness of the Wanderings.

We were all on the look out to see the lights of Suez & towards 9o’clock the revolving red light of the Newport Rock marking the beginning also of the anchorage ground into Suez Bay came into view. Shortly before reaching it we went by the reputed crossing place of the Red Sea by the Children of Israel.

As we sailed up nearing the Bay the lights of Suez and Port Thewfik as well as the lights of some village on our left looked very fine & it was just here that H.M.S. Racoon, evidently patrolling the Gulf and awaiting that large convoy of Transports in our rear, dashed up & shot her searchlight on us giving a shock all round, - a wonderfully strong light & it was possible to read on deck with it – it was done in fact. At 10 p.m. bang went the Anchor and the rattling of the chains; sundry signal lamps were hoisted and shortly thereafter the Port Doctor was aboard. The necessary Papers & Forms having had attention all the crew were mustered, the Doctor going the rounds counting & examining them by lamplight; he just counted the Passengers & everything being to his satisfaction Pratique was granted, the only remaining duty before his departure was a further inspection – bottles this time, congenial ones!!

The Agent was then free to come and his Launch soon steamed alongside; he was very welcome, he had the letters. By the time the Canal Pilot was aboard & the Anchor hove up it would be turned midnight, when the Ship was headed for the Canal, slowly moving alongside the Port Thewfik Boulevard and, clearing that tongue of land on which it stands brought us into the Canal proper and Suez was abreast of us. The lights of the town and the moon very bright – though setting rapidly behind , and showing up well, the mountains across the bay fronting Suez – made a delightful picture on a dead calm night, & my! how cold it was. I wished to see us get fairly started in the Canal but it was necessary, very, to get one’s overcoat, muffler & rugs. Why, since leaving India, & up to now, it has been hard to realise it would ever be cold again – but here it was and in Egypt too! The temperature today was 86° in the shade and tonight it dropped no less than 18 degrees, making it 68 – no wonder everybody shivered & yet, in England, 68° would be thought nice & pleasant.

Five steamers were coming down the Canal so we had to tie up to the Bank soon after we entered; the first along was a Harrison liner & while waiting for her I was much interested looking over the side at shoals of fish splashing & jumping along on the top of the water – the only sound about. The steamers passed (one a Blue Funnel) & then, to bed.

Day No. 96: Thursday 29 October 1914

Suez Canal

Six a.m. found us tied up again, more ships were coming down from Port Said & as one was a Torpedo Boat Destroyer of course she had to be inspected, even at that hour. H.M.S. Savage therefore went by @ 6/30 – almost at touching distance – decks all cleared, very business looking, and very dirty looking too; these are not the times to study appearances; and was followed at rather long intervals by the Edinwen a Cardiff Tramp (& she looked it), two Liverpool Blue Funnel friends Eumaeus and Peleus; & a Canal Dredger. The whole of the day was spent traversing the Canal & we seemed to be always having to tie up to the bank, consequently our passage through from Suez to Port Said was above the average; 22 hours was our time.

We were at anchor in Lake Timsah off Ismailia at tiffin time when still another Destroyer – H.M.S. Scourge – dashed by taking advantage of the open waters here, where speed is permissible.
HMS Scourge
Very faded photo of HMS Scourge [1]

HMS Scourge was a Beagle class destroyer completed for the Royal Navy in 1910 by R.W. Hawthorn Leslie & Company. She took part in the Gallipoli campaign taking troops ashore at ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay. She assisted in the rescue of passengers from the sinking of hospital ship HMHS Brittanic that had struck a mine near the Aegean Sea on 21 November 1916. Surviving the war, she was broken up in 1921.

Lake Timsah
Photo captioned 'Changing pilots - Ismailia. The white line on the water is the wake of HMS Scourge that had just gone by at great speed' [1]
She having just discharged her Pilot, taking on another for the Suez section. Ismailia is the station where the Pilots are changed. The Bibby steamer Herefordshire whom we saluted followed her, then a large Dutch Steamer, and the way was clear for us – “up Anchor” & across the Lake to the Canal again.
Photo captioned 'Bibby liner Herefordshire dipping her flag' [1]
Postcard showing a crossing of a backwater at Ismailia [1]

The Canal is presently guarded & those sturdy men from India, the Gurkhas, were stationed at various distances over its whole length – 87 miles. Just here (leaving Lake Timsah) on one side a detachment of Gurkhas were busy stone carrying, making rough little fort-like shelters & on the other bank the Camel Corps were working similarly. The Gurkhas were established in little camps over the route, an odd soldier or two acting sentry. They whistle & shout as we go by.
Cutting from the Daily Mirror Nov 1914 showing Gurkhas taking up positions along the Suez Canal [1]

One of the occasions on which we tied up during the afternoon was to let an Oil Tank Steamer go by the Tanchee of Middlesbrough, what a strange craft she appeared looking down on to her deck.
Photo captioned 'Arab boatmen taking ropes to the shore to enable us to tie up so as to permit the steamer coming down (in the background) to pass us [1]
It was just here we passed a heron perched on the bank. The day was a very hot one indeed, cloudless sky and the sun very powerful. Oh! the yellow sand, and the glare on the Desert (far more glare than at Calcutta where at times it was too pronounced for comfort) was so intense that for the first time on the trip I wore my sun glasses, eyes smarted again, everybody was complaining & doubtless very fine sand in the air caused the irritation.

More or less I described the Desert in my outward notes – my impressions are much the same, though I saw more this time through traversing it by day than then. Camels were about at one or two spots, caravans resting; the only signs of habitation in the Desert; until the Signal Stations governing the several sections are approached, and at each is a bungalow & a few trees – the only green visible - & occasionally some children living there run down to the bank & wave. Incidentally there is a pontoon ferry for the use of Caravans journeying over the Desert & to see one on the bank with their Camels makes a fine sight.
Signal Station Signal Station
Photos showing a Suez Canal signal station [1]
Caravan crossing
Photo showing a caravan of camels crossing the Suez Canal [1]

It is not apparent from the photo but from other sources it is clear that the ferry was pulled across the canal by a rope and could probably hold about 4 camels and their owners.

Several dredger looking craft were met occasionally, engaged in pumping up water & silt & sending it through pipes on to the Desert for irrigating purposes.
Postcard showing a dredger on the Suez Canal [1]

Of course the place where Moses was found, in what is now a miniature fresh water Canal running from the Nile, was duly pointed out as we passed!!! ???, vide the Second Officer. !! – J.C. Morris Esq Romancer! There was a nice sunset just behind a little bank of clouds, the brightness & glare of the afternoon changing immediately to a silver light, the yellow sand altering to grey, the Desert as soon as the sun dipped becoming cold & desolate looking.

We at last reached the long straight stretch where the Railway Line to Suez runs parallel with the Canal and about 9/30 the lights of Port Said came into sight.
Photo captioned 'View of the railway (Port Said to Suez) running alongside the edge of the desert and the canal' [1]
We soon cleared the Canal & then slowly into Port Said past the moored shipping amongst which were 4 men o’ war; 2 British the HMS Warrior or Illustrious & HMS Black Prince and 2 French the Charlemagne & St. Louis, these latter being of strange type – very massive build & standing high offering a splendid target it occurred to me & probably not quite modern. These 4 Warships were here waiting for the Convoy which we had passed in the Gulf of Aden, & we heard, during the evening, that the French were going outside the Harbour on the morrow to form up the line, as the fast ships of the Convoy were coming through; the first of them, the Caledonian had entered the Canal & the “Manipur’s” Ship Store Dealer was even then getting her provisions &c. in readiness in response to a telegram from Suez.
HMS Black Prince
Photo showing HMS Black Prince [1]
Postcard showing Charlemagne [1]

Both HMS Warrior & HMS Black Prince were lost in June 1916 in the Battle of Jutland. I don't understand the reference here to 'Illustrious'. There was an old (1896) pre-Dreadnaught battleship of that name in service but not in this area. Charlemagne was an old (1895) French pre-dreadnaught battleship and played a part in the Dardanelles and Salonika campaigns.

We were safely moored at 10/15 p.m. & a few went ashore even at that hour. To my great gratification I found a large Post awaiting me – six weeks accumulation of letters & I could not therefore accompany them shorewards (oh! not complaining!!). It was 11/30 ere I had waded through my wealth of correspondence & scribbled a hasty line or two; & then, I was off to put foot in Egypt. I called a boat, & was rowed past the French Warships & under the stern of a fine Union-Castle Liner Comino Castle to the Customs Depot, where lots of people were coming & going & everybody was challenged, particulars being entered in a book & a “Pass” handed to some to facilitate their passing through on returning. On mentioning the Manipur, English ship, and my nationality all formalities were dispensed with – “quite right Sir – Pass”. See what it is to be an Englishman, even in Port Said, a reflection no doubt of British Suzerainty in Egypt.

It was not far off midnight when I obtained my Postage Stamps & posted my letters. Some few shops were open & café life out on the sidewalks & under the trees was gay & lively. I sat for a while at one and then proceeded to make a few purchases before turning harbourwards; hired a boat & then aboard, about a quarter to one “in the morning”. The Stewarding Department were busy then passing up the gangway the stores which had just come alongside: - Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs &c & that very necessary article – ice. It was not worth while going to bed while all the life & movement was on and as I wished to see the last of Port Said I waited until the Pilot boarded us. Moorings cast; anchor up; telegraph ringing to the Engine Room; & then we slid out of the Harbour, and 10 minutes afterwards, opposite the de Lesseps monument, the Pilot was down the ladder. We went slowly by the Breakwater down to the last lights; a signal to the Engine Room; the Manipur quickened her speed; a sharp turn to the left and lo! once again we were bank in the Mediterranean.

How often out in the Bay of Bengal & Arabian Sea – seeing I was homewards – had I thought, paraphrasing Kipling, or transposing him.

“Ship me somewhere West of Suez
Where the best is not like the worst
Where there are the Ten Commandments
An’ a man has no need to raise a thirst!

and here we are, at last, West of Suez. Almost near England it seems despite 12 days yet to go. I turned in – it was time says you.

Days No. 97 & 98: Friday 29 October 1914 & Saturday 31 October 1914


Both these days were just ordinary days of sailing, fine & pleasant, but one was quite conscious of the difference in temperatures and Indian “gauzes” were discarded for something warmer.

Friday was evidently a great day in the Mohammedan Calendar. It was the Feast of Id-uz-zuha; but you must not ask questions as to what that means. The Crew on the previous evening had asked for certain privileges – duly granted - & now were all resplendent in their best. At 10 a.m. they held a religious service on the Poop, - Arranged in several rows their movements were something between a drill and a ballet – hardly ever still & they went through the performance like clockwork. An adjournment was then made by both Passenger Crew & Ships Crew to present their salaams to the Captain who shook hands with each as they passed; then the Serangs & Tindals called on the Officers & paid their respects to them, and even the Crew Serang deigned to shake hands with me. Fancy, me!
Sunday Best
Photo captioned 'The Lascars in their Sunday Best coming off the saloon deck after saluting the captain' [1]
Take my photo
Photo captioned 'Sahib, please take my photo' [1]
Evidently it was a great day for them for during the morning a little sailing vessel went by at close quarters; Eastern manned, or Mohammedan is perhaps a better word, (Turks, Arabs or Egyptians I suppose) and greetings were excitably exchanged, with very much pantomime, between our crowd and the little “sail-er”. (See picture).
Photo captioned 'The little sail-er' [1]

Day No. 99: Sunday 1 November 1914

The weather today has not been what landspeople associate with the Mediterranean. A 12 hours gale, a la Monsoon, the Vessel “pitching & rolling” as it was expressed in the Ships Log, & shipping seas.

We had a good moon after dinner & its light on the turbulent waters made the sea worth looking at – this, & the weather, are the only items of note for this good Sunday.

Today completes our 14th week away.

Day No. 100: Monday 2 November 1914

The gale of yesterday had left us for here we were in fine weather again, though a good breeze blowing. It was pleasant sitting on deck, though it was necessary to sit in the sun as it was obvious the temperature had fallen – of course one’s not forgetting this is November. Towards 5 p.m. the Maltese Islands showed up, Malta itself then being 10 miles off, the whole length of the Island, some 15 miles long, being clearly seen as was also Gozo, the second in importance of these islands, 8 miles long. At the Eastern end of Malta 2 Warships could be distinguished, and when abreast of Valetta – the Capital of the Island – several buildings, and the Church of St. John, & that of St. Paul with a tall spire, were all, even at the distance, quite conspicuous. While engaged looking at it all the sun set behind Gozo and, as he gradually sank, the contour line of the land showed up with fine detail – the moon, at its full and high up, facing him becoming more silver all the time, “The Lady” showing very distinctly. It was dark almost immediately afterwards & searchlights from several parts burst out restlessly sweeping all around.

I found myself wishing again that we had been coaling here as was the original intention – to visit Malta having always been one of my desires – and here we are, so near and yet so far. Before leaving Malta alone it is worth mentioning that it has neither river nor lake.

Day No. 101: Tuesday 3 November 1914

Sitting up in bed soon after daybreak “Port-hole quizzing” spied a Cable ship close by engaged at her wonderful duties and there went past just afterwards, bound for Calcutta, the Brocklebanker Media to whom of course the flag was dipped. It was a morning of drizzle, so that at Breakfast time monster Cape Bon but 3 miles off on our left could not be seen in detail, & still less plainly was the Island of Zembretta and then Zembra seen which we passed just a little later. A good following wind was with us with an increasing following sea, and it is remarkable with such a large sea how steady the ship keeps. Were we going the other way, well, evidently that would be quite another story for it was interesting to watch a passing steamer with her diving bow, up & down on the shaddle principal, shipping volumes of water over her.

Midday brought us up to those two islets, scarcely separated, the "Cani Rocks” with a Lighthouse on the largest.

We had left the land a little crossing the Gulf of Tunis, but in the afternoon Biserta (the French Naval Station, referred to in the outward notes, if you remember) away in a Bight came into view but, on this occasion, the men-o’-war we expected to see were non est. Shortly afterwards Cape Blanc was passed, with its Semaphore Station (French). They signalled asking us if we wished to be reported but this was not necessary. The next place of interest, a little further along the Coast, was Ras Engela which is the Northern extremity of Africa. We had now the high land once again & hereabouts was the ruins of an old castle or two on the bare plain-land of the coastline, but which starts ascending, gradually increasing to the foothills, and then, precipitous mountains. Passed the Fratelli Rocks about 4 o’clock, 2 rocky islets about half a mile apart; one, the highest, just over 300 feet, is of pyramidal shape and, at a certain angle, reminded me of the face of the Sphinx and at another time like a sail. We overtook a Runciman steamer here – the Queensmore.

The big sea that had been running quietened down towards the late afternoon, but the weather still remained unsettled as shortly before, and during Dinner, we were visited with terrific rain and a violent thunderstorm sailing along with us for almost 2 hours. Dinner over some time I went to the Bridge to watch the wonderful lightening far away on the Portside and away aft. Vivid flashes behind it showed up Galita Island which we were then passing. This is but a small island 20 miles off the African Coast & only inhabited by a few fishermen, mostly Sardinians.

A last look round from the Bridge before turning in showed us to be midway between the Lights of Cape de Garde and Cape de Fer.

Day No. 102: Wednesday 4 November 1914

Heavy squally weather came on during the night, and increasing, accordingly our good ship was plunging and spraying. Breakfast time brought us abreast of Cape Bougaroni with its Lighthouse & higher up the mountain side the Semaphore Station. A little cultivation was visible just at this spot for a change. These mountains, particularly hereabouts, running up so high from the sea remind one of pictures of Norway. We only kept 3 or 4 miles off the Coast and this fine mountain-land, as far as you could see ahead all the time, has been with us the whole day long – how it adds to the interest.

Little of note occurred – the morning gale brought the speed of the Steamer down to less than half her usual (!). she was diving muchly & her propeller racing. Afternoon, it moderated again & we passed a steamer quite easily (very few pass us you will notice) as also a Brigantine, on the shore side, with all sail set and looking very picturesque.

The sun set tonight with very fine effects a little to the left of the bow over the mountains far ahead. Looking to the land abreast of us in the deepening turquoise twilight the long range of mountains in the rear with their variety of irregular edges against the fading blue sky had the effect of a bank of clouds – massive ones - & looked lovely.

In the evening, glorious moonlight, the “P&O” Mail Boat, outward bound went by on the land side – a blaze of light, her several decks lit up splendidly, and, later, several large vessels, Atlantic Liner type, and no doubt Transports.

Day No. 103: Thursday 5 November 1914

Opens with a very fine invigorating morning with Northern Africa’s most bold coast line still with us. (Algiers was passed at 1 a.m. but having seen it outwards I had no desire to renew my acquaintance at such an early hour). During the morning heavy squalls of rain & wind paid us a visit and the African land faded away in the thick gloom - our courses then being shaped to pick up Cape de Gata – the South east of Spain. The heavy weather continued, the sprays coming over the bow occasionally reaching the Bridge. Both the Barometer & Thermometer dropping – it is much colder. Towards 11 o’clock the light on Cape de Gata was sighted - & then to bed.

(Matter of interest respecting Cape de Gata). At Cape de Gata there is a remarkable white patch on the headland & is a landmark to all steamers passing out of the Mediterranean. Beechams it is said offered the Spanish Government as much as £30,000 to slap up there a reminder as to their famous Pills. Nothing doing, however, said the Spanish Govt, but it would have been a unique site to have painted an advertisement, & would have obtained for them world-wide publicity, for there is practically a never ceasing procession of Steamers of all Nations which pass under the Cape. All the outward Mediterranean traffic does so. I saw this feature of Cape de Gata when going to Italy – passing it in daylight.

Day No. 104: Friday 6 November 1914

This morning found us running along the Spanish Coast and here, if you please, are Mountains – ranges upon ranges going back all the time each higher than the other culminating in the fine heights of the Sierras. At frequent intervals one sights villages along the Coast right at the water’s edge and at the foot of the mountains, and the situation of these places as also the odd houses dotted here & there up the mountain side make one think how they must be cut off from the outside world (or the inside world – of Spain) for, looking from the sea, it would seem that communication would be well nigh impossible. I suppose, however, there are passes between the mountains and of course we have read about such things as Mules.

All the high points of the Sierra Nevada Range were snow clad; it added to their grandeur; & the brilliant sunshine on them against the blue sky made the snow a perfect white which was, perhaps, intensified by the dark patches of the few monster gullies which were then in the shade. Almeria was passed at 1/30 a.m. which I did not see and Malaga was passed at 10/30 a.m. which I did see.

Proceeding along the Coast, evidently the land is more fertile as white hamlets become frequent the odd houses, tiny flecks of white dotted on the mountain – in and on the valley sides, are much more numerous. Occasionally in a sheltered valley, high up, a long streak of white appears – a whole village snugly nestling – and adds to the scene for the colourings have changed; instead of bare looking volcanic rock, hereabouts the mountains take on a purply-brown tint, heather looking, the real autumnal colour. There must be advantages or compensations for a settlement of people to live so out of the world and on looking through the glasses there are many signs of cultivation noticeable & if one was to guess what is produced, well, its oranges, figs, olives, grapes & almonds for Malaga, which we are approaching, is noted for these & its wine & raisins.

A little Spanish gunboat passed us inshore here, and seawards, & close by, a White Star Liner bound Americawards.

West of Malaga the formation of the coast changes completely – from the shore there lies an extensive plain gradually sloping upwards to the mountains a considerable distance back. In these Mountains, here & there, very high up, perched on precipitous ledges as it seems, are several townships, everything whitewashed which explains them showing up so well. Surely these mountain people isolated so & probably missing all the comforts pertaining to modern civilisation must be a hardy race.

Along the coast between here & Gibraltar several old Watch Towers are sighted, reminders of the days of yore when the Moors were continually raiding Spain.

At 12 o’clock Gibraltar was sighted & by half past three we drew under the Rock & headed for Europa Point. What a stupendous & remarkable promontory Gibraltar is, most majestic, standing quite alone, for the neck of land connecting it with Spain is just flat shore over which, from the Mediterranean side, the masts of the shipping could be seen in the Harbour & the mountainous land of the other side of the Bay – Algeciras &c. On the very top of this wonderful fortress (it is almost 1400 feet high) right on the skyline, are perched a few monster guns and also on the natural terraces which descend one under the other down to Europe Point and doubtless there are guns in many of the cave like openings which are discernable with the glasses. A very large portion of the East side (the side we passed) is cemented thus making a large watershed the rain from a large area draining down the smooth steep side into tanks or reservoir.
Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar
Photos of Gibraltar [1]

From the Isthmus mentioned the Rock rises quite abruptly & on our side is most precipitous, unscaleable you would think; the other side is the sloping one – facing the Bay – and it is there where the houses & buildings are, a fine humbly-jumbly cluster rising in layers or terraces, flat fronted flat topped verandah style – all of which came into view as we rounded Europa Point where we slowed down & signalled.
Postcard showing Gibraltar [1]

In the Harbour 2 Warships lay, the White Star Liner which passed us earlier on, one of the American Line, sundry steamers various nationalities, 2 Germans – Prizes, and what looked to be a Cunarder, assumed to be the Carmania more than likely repairing after her “scrap” & hardly recognisable in her Navy costume of dull slatey grey and guns aft.

Carmania was a Cunard liner that had been converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) and fitted with 4.7" guns. She was a key player in the Battle of Trindade where she engaged and sank a German vessel SMS Cap Trinidad - a German liner that had been similarly converted - on 14 September 1914. By a quirk of fate she had been disguised to look like the Carmania. Both ships were badly damaged by shellfire but the German ship sank. The badly damaged Carmania was taken to Gibraltar for repairs after which she assisted in the Gallipoli campaign and served as a troopship. After the war she was refitted and remained in service until 1932 when she was scrapped.

We were really in the Straits of Gibraltar now, & on the opposite side the coast of Morocco faced us nobly; Tangier, with all its white buildings situate on a hill slope between two protecting mountains, and two high peaks known as the “Apes Ears” from their shape, were two points of interest.
Postcard showing Tangier [1]
In the centre of the Strait but behind us lay a Torpedo Boat Destroyer, and a tiny Torpedo Boat a few miles off. The latter suddenly turned round & she made for us hot & strong &, after a little chase, came alongside of us – Torpedo Boat No. 89 – very dirty, with nasty looking teeth or nice looking guns whichever phrase you like best, and her grimy crew gazing up at us and all on the grin – good old Jack Tars. Her Lieutenant, perched on a little narrow platform aft – for she was only the width of a railway carriage – hailed us, and the following colloquy per megaphone took place:-

Anything to tell me Captain?
No, Sir
Where are you from?
What was your last Port?
Port Said
You are bound for Liverpool I suppose?
No, London.
To London? Well call at Falmouth first.
Good day Sir; Safe passage to you.

... a signal to the engineer on the forward part of the deck & the brave little craft was off like a shot out into the middle of the Straits where she stopped an Italian passenger steamer. Thus are the outposts of our Fleet on the alert in war time.

We were drawing away well from Gibraltar now and on taking a good last look one could be pardoned for thinking, as one did, with a suspicion of a thrill & with something like pride “That’s Ours” & has been for over 200 years.

Tarifa, mentioned in my noted of 31st July, was passed at 5/30 less than a mile off. The town (but small, built by the Moors ages ago) standing on its little peninsula with the last rays of the setting sun on its white houses, the old fort and the Watch Tower ruins, was truly a beautiful sight and as we went by the first flash of the evening from the Lighthouse saluted us and we were then really out of the Mediterranean.
A Passer By
Photo captioned 'A passer by' [1]

Good, goodbye good old Mediterranean, & I wonder will I ever see you again. Sometime in the days to come I hope so indeed; & something in me says “Yes”!

A last look round at bed time and lights “far out at sea” were everywhere. On the African side Cape Spartel (where the Delhi was wrecked with the Duke of Fife & family aboard you will remember) flashed its beams across, as also did Cadiz and Cape Trafalgar on the European side.
Cape Spartel Lighthouse
Postcard showing Cape Spartel Lighthouse [1]