25th County of London Cyclist Battalion
The London Regiment

  
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Journal of Frederick Severwright

Outward journey from England to India 1916 per HMAT Ulysses

The following notes were made by Cyclist F. Severwright No 2828 of 1 / 25th County of London Cyclist Battalion on his voyage to India in H. M. A. T. "Ulysses" which sailed from Devonport at 6 o'clock pm on July 31st 1916.
July 31st 1916. The ship started out of dock at 5 o'clock pm and set sail at 6 o'clock pm escorted by 2 destroyers which left her at 5 o'clock am the next morning.
August 1st 1916. Sea very calm until the outskirts of the Bay of Biscay were reached where it turned somewhat rough and Choppy.
August 2nd 1916. Weather fine, sea choppy.
August 3rd 1916. Weather fine, sea calm again. The sailor in charge of the gun at the rear of the ship tested the gun, the target being a box thrown overboard; shots went very close indeed although box was out of sight with naked eye. Inoculated against Cholera, felt no pain.
August 4th 1916. Arrived at Gibraltar at 9 o'clock am. The rock is a magnificent sight and is a pretty view when the lights are all lit at night. We were allowed ashore only to use the latrines. People on Quay threw tobacco, cigarettes and cigars onto the ship to the troops on board.
August 5th 1916. Went on guard at night. Concert on board this evening, not a great success.
August 6th 1916. Ship sailed from Gib at 7 o'clock am escorted by a gunboat. Came off guard at 6 o'clock pm.
August 7th 1916. Sea calm, in sight of Moroccan coast, escort still with us. Now passing through danger zone, not allowed to smoke, talk or sing after lights out at 7 o'clock pm. We must also carry our lifebelts about with us and when sleeping have them near by. We are now slinging our hammocks on deck in convenient places as it is too hot to sleep below. In the dinner time a French destroyer came up with us and left later in the day.
August 8th 1916. Sea still calm, almost like a billiard table. Algerian coast in sight.
August 9th 1916. Arrived at Malta about 11 o'clock am dropped anchor in Valetta. Maltese came off from shore in boats with tobacco and several other things to sell but we were kept off by the harbour police, but a little business was done on the sly. If one bought 100 Cigs in a box when it was opened it contained about 60. Here there were numbers of boys in small boats who dive into the water after pennies thrown into the sea by those on board. A troopship left as we arrived laden with ???? we were told for France. There was not much of a view from where we were anchored but I should say the scenery was pretty and interesting. We were not allowed on shore. Fortifications are all over the place, the gunners were at target practice as we entered the harbour, we could see the shots hitting the water near the targets. I was told the gunners were not allowed to hit the targets but to fire to right or left of them as directed. Inoculation against Cholera again this afternoon. Got our first war news, since leaving England, this afternoon, cost me 2d.
August 10th 1916. Weather still hot. Still in Malta.
August 11th 1916. Nothing of importance to note.
August 12th 1916. Shipped a Brigadier General today he's bound for Salonica. First thing he did was to inspect us. Had a concert on board at 8 o'clock pm. Went off a treat.
August 13th 1916. Weather still fine & hot. Divine Service at 10.45 am on top deck. Nothing to do as usual but doze all day.
August 14th 1916. Left Malta at 5 0'clock pm escorted by a destroyer, a nice fast one this time. Sea beautiful & calm.
August 15th 1916. Weather still glorious. We are now in a faropen(?) danger zone, viz the Aegean sea, but so far have not seen anything suspicious.
August 16th 1916. Are now passing the coast of Greece. Our escort left us at 6 am and another vessel took its place. There are a good many islands in these waters, which must be inhabited as I saw the smoke of several fires rising. We learn we are on our way to Salonica. The new escort left us at 3 pm and its place was taken by a light cruiser.
August 17th 1916. Another fine day. In this region I notice that at nights there is always a damp and rather cold mist and a stiff breeze blowing. The troops on board which are bound for Salonica are ready for going ashore, there are about 1800 in all, all different regiments. Early this morning we saw a seaplane. Arrived at Salonica at 7.30 am. There was a good many hospital ships in harbour one a very large ship named "La France" had four funnels there were also a few battleships and we saw 2 submarines. Small steamers took the troops off in the afternoon. The scenery from the boat is lovely and the place seems to be larger than I should have thought it to be. There are now only about 600 left on board.
August 18th 1916. Another fine hot day. The firing line is only 15 miles away and guns could be heard last night. Before breakfast two Italian transports came into port loaded with troops. We have now shifted our quarters from the after part of ship to amidships where it is much more comfortable. For the last two nights we have had neither blankets ot hammocks, so I have slept below. Went on guard tonight at 6 pm. We left Salonica at 6.30 pm after shipping 6 Bulgarian prisoners of war.
August 19th 1916. Beautiful day but very windy. Came off guard at 12 noon.
August 20th 1916. Divine Service at 9.30 am. Sermon interesting. Boat is nearing Port Said now and as we can't make port tonight are proceeding slowly.
August 21st 1916. Arrived Port Said at 9.30 am anchored just off entrance to Suez Canal. Can't say I care for place much it is very hot. There are seaplanes on the shore near us. A draft of RFC men disembarked for Eygpt. They took our Gun off in the morning. The ship commenced coaling early in the afternoon and the operation is performed by natives in this manner. The lighters come alongside and two planks are placed against the sided of the ship and the natives run up and down these with baskets full of coal on their heads and tip the contents into the chute at the ship's side. Whilst running along the planks they keep up a continuous chant which it is really funny to hear at first but which gets somewhat nerve-racking after a while in fact the row gets hideous. The natives are very cunning you have to watch them all over the ship.
August 22nd 1916. Left Port Said at 3.30 pm the weather being very hot indeed. We entered the Suez Canal at a very slow speed, should say 6 knots, which was continued all along the Canal. On one side of the canal there is all sand and on the other a railway runs alongside which are planted avenues of trees and the contrast between the two banks is striking. We passed an Armenian Refugee Camp on the desert side near the entrance to the Canal and further down on both sides we passed encampments of British Troops. I shouldn't like to be stationed here, too damned hot for my liking, and nothing to see but sand. Only one boat can pass along the Canal, in one direction, at a time, and on the front of each ship is fitted a searchlight which is kept alight all night if travelling after dark. When the ship reaches the first of the Bitter Lakes she finds several ships waiting to proceed to Port Said.
August 23rd 1916. Physical Drill at 6 o'clock for first time since we have been on board. Arrived at Port Suez at 1 o'clock. We went for a short route march and on coming back I went on guard. Troops not allowed to swim on account of sharks. Beautiful sunset here.
August 24th 1916. Chaps had physical drill on Quay at 5.30 o'clock am but I missed it as I was on guard, also I missed a sortie march in the evening. Our chaps gave a concert this evening which proved a great success, best on board so far.
August 25th 1916. More physical drill at 5.30 am. Took on board this morning a number of drafts of British & Indian troops. The Britishers had been convalescent in Alexandria for some time & were going back to Mesopotamia. We moved off from Quay into the roads at 12.00 noon and anchored there till 3.30 pm then continued our voyage.
August 26th 1916. Are now in Red Sea & it's growing hotter & hotter each day . passed what is known as "Hell's Gate" plenty of sharks in this region.
August 27th 1916. Weather unchanged still damned hot. Divine Service at 10 am. Sermon on the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Well if it were as hot then as it is now they must have had a time.
August 28th 1916. Still hot. Letters handed in for posting them at Aden. Passed 12 small islands known as "The Twelve Apostles" not far from Aden. Thunder storm at night, sea rough, heavy rain & lightning. Very vivid splendid sight. First rain since we left Richmond.
August 29th 1916. Weather cloudy not so hot. Just as we were nearing Aden about 12.15 pm one of the stewards (I believe bedroom steward) shot himself in the head and threw himself overboard. The ship put off a boat to search for him but came back unsuccessful. The steward had a row with the chief steward I am told & had been degraded. Leaves a wife & children damned fool. At 1.30 pm we anchored off Aden, can't say I like the place at all. Bought 50 Cigars here for 1s/-, good too. Left Aden at 8 o'clock pm, the storm of yesterday still knocking about.
August 30th 1916. Weather fine now in Indian Ocean. Went on guard at 6 pm. Sea is now getting rough & ship is rolling. Several chaps sick, I wasn't.
August 31st 1916. Weather hot, sea rough. Came off guard at 6 o'clock pm.
September 1st 1916. Sports on board today, boxing, running, tug-of-war etc. one of our chaps won the featherweight boxing match. Another concert this evening.
September 2nd 1916. Fine day, sea calm. Washing our clothes now as we are nearing Bombay. Another concert tonight.
September 3rd 1916. Sea like a mill board, hardly a movement. Divine Service at 10 am. Handed in hammock this morning. Sighted Bombay @ 5 pm anchored outside at 8 pm. Sunset was very beautiful, best I have ever seen.
September 4th 1916. Docked in Alexandra Dock at 6 am this morning and had to be ready to disembark at 8 am, was however put on guard on Dock Gate at 9 am whilst on guard took a chance to have a look round, but don't think much of the part of Bombay round the Docks. When on guard in the afternoon the Custom House Officers gave Arthur and I a cup of tea and chatted with us for a few minutes. We had a tea in refreshment place in the Dock and at 5 pm started for Victoria Station Bombay and caught the 9.30 (railway time 21.30) train Madras Mail Express for Bangalore on G. I. P. (Great Indian Peninsular Rly.) Before leaving Bombay we were give a towel, cigarettes & soap a present from the people of Bombay. We had 4 in a compartment sleeping in racks 2 on each side they issued us with a blanket, and I slept well right through the night. I believe I could sleep anywhere now.
September 6th 1916. I awoke at 5.30 am got up at 6.15 am and had a wash. The scenery is not so bad. We stopped at Kulti for breakfast, 2 eggs, 2 slices bread & butter & 2 mugs tea. Stopped at Wadi at 12.30 pm for dinner, nice dish of stew, went down lovely. Scenery is getting more beautiful; ran into a thunderstorm just before reaching Guntakal Junction where we had tea and changed into another train on the M. S. M. Ry (Madras and Southern Mahratta Rly.) Travelling on this line is very different from the G. I. P. The track is narrow gauge and carriages much smaller. Still I slept, but in jerks, and awoke at 5 am. We arrived in Bangalore at 6.45 am on the 6th September 1916, and were met by the Band of the First Battalion and marched to the camp. We are placed in Quarantine for a fortnight, perhaps longer, I hope not.
So ends my journey to Bangalore, which has taken exactly 6 weeks from the time I left Richmond Park Camp till I arrived in Bangalore, even to the hour, and I am now looking forward to the time when I shall go over the same ground again on the homeward trip, hoping it will not take so long.

Acknowledgements to Charlotte Hubbard, granddaughter.

 

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