The following is an account of Vic Smith’s military service from his enlistment in 1916 in Auckland. The account starts with his military training in New Zealand and England and then his deployment in France and Belgium. Following his wounding at the front he describes his convalescence in England, repatriation and finally discharge from the army in July 1918.
The account is not formatted as a diary would be and I believe he wrote it after he returned to New Zealand from various notes he may have written during his service and from letters he sent home to his parents and siblings. Being primarily a remembered account, the inconsequential day to day detail are absent and the more important and larger issues are related. The account was hand written by Vic in a small note book without paragraphs and takes up 71 pages. To aid readability I have introduced paragraphs and a few explanations and clarifications.
This is Vic’s account of his war.
“V H Smith 42419 No 1 platoon A Coy 23rd Reinforcements while in New Zealand and at sea.
1st Auck Coy Auck-Well Rgt, while in England. 15th Nth Auck Coy 4th brigade, while in France. I attested on the 6/10/16. The date date first fixed for the 24th going into camp was 12/12/16, but was afterwards altered to the 3/1/17. We assembled in the Drill Hall in the morning and had our photo taken and then dismissed until 1PM. On reassembling we were given a farewell lecture by the district CO and marched to the railway station and left by special troop train for Trentham. Our first army rations were issued on the train.. We played cards nearly all night, and had no sleep, and arrived at Trentham the next afternoon. The training there was very easy but much discomfort was caused by the heavy boots that had to be worn and the loose stones that the roads were mostly made of. Bathing parades were held at the Hutt River and they were much enjoyed after the long dusty roads from the camp to the river. We had a fair amount of leave to Wellington in the evenings, but never got as much as we wanted. We were well provided with recreation rooms and free stationary at the camp and a number of shops sold most of the things we wanted without us having to go outside the camp. After a week or two we shifted by rail to a much larger camp at Featherstone to make room for more men coming into camp at Trentham. We went through more training there, and were inoculated against typhoid while there. I was transferred with two or three hundred others from the 24th to the 23rds to make up a shortage in the 23rds. We then returned to Trentham for musketry instruction. While in camp many men were met who openly stated that they were not there for any love for the part England was taking in the war, but because of the social pressure put on them by their friends and relations who had been influenced by the newspapers. We had final leave from Trentham and went to Auckland by the ordinary express (train) and after our leave was up we returned to Trentham. A little later Norman, Neil, Charley Musker and Roy Neeley arrived in camp.
On the 14/3/17 we left Trentham for the last time. Norman and Neil were on guard duty the night before and I said goodbye to them just before daylight as they were coming off duty. We embarked at Wellington on the Ruapehu at 11:30 AM and anchored in the harbour until 5:30 PM and then left Wellington going west for about three hours. We then turned back and made for Cape Horn. On the third day out we had two Fridays and the date 16/3/17 was repeated. The clock was put forward about 25 minutes each day. For about 10 days after that the sea was very rough. Many albatross Molly hawks, Stormy petrols and whales were seen.
Snow fell on the 25/5/17 and on two other days afterwards. The food had to be carried from the cookhouse on deck, down two flights of stairs which was very difficult during the rough weather. Much creaking noise was made by the wooden bunks moving when the ship rolled. Concerts were held in the hold on many evenings and a free lending library helped to pass the time.
The sea was calmer on the 28/3/17 and
on the 30/3/17 we passed Cape Horn, but did not see any land. The sea there was quite calm.
On the 1/4/17 we turned north and at breakfast time the Faulkland islands could be seen. Many wild duck could be seen at that time. The flew so close to the deck that they could easily be hit with lumps of coal by those men who were keen on killing something. We cruised up and down close to the wireless station and lighthouse for about an hour exchanging signals. My prism glasses were in great demand as there were not many men brought glasses with them. At 11-30 AM we left for Capetown without once stopping the ship.
On the 11/4/17 the starboard engine broke down and we continued with the other one at a slow rate. Lime juice was issued for the first time and was issued daily afterwards. Fresh water could be had for washing as we were getting close to port. Up to this time we were only allowed to have fresh water for drinking purposes. We would go to the tap with our mug for a drink of water and take it away and use it to wash in. Sometimes we would go to the tap an hour before daylight when there would be no guard there, fill a fruit tin and have a bath with it.
On the 14/4/17 we could see Table Mountain early in the morning. The clock was put on one hour and forty minutes. A cruiser met us outside and escorted us into Capetown. We passed a large turtle feet upwards and helpless while entering the harbour. We came to anchor at 12-30 PM after having been at sea for thirty one days. A large number of colliers and tramps were at anchor. Eight transports and two armed liners arrived at 2 PM and berthed before us. The city is built at the foot of Table Mountain and from the ship we could see many sandy beaches and a small breakwater. Next day we were still at anchor. A transport marked NZ69 with troops wearing helmets could be seen through the glasses. No information could be got about any of the transports and it was not known to us where they had come from or to where they were going. There were about thirty five vessels from overseas in port.
Next day the 16/4/17 we moved into the wharf at 8 AM. Many scrambles took place among the blacks for pennies that were thrown on the wharf. We had a short route march in the morning and leave in the afternoon. In the evening we were invited to supper at a hall after we had finished picket duty. Some very good singing was heard and we had a very enjoyable evening.
On the 17/4/17 a heavy swell broke our mooring lines and we went back into the stream. Heavy seas came over the breakwater.
On the 18/4/17 we were back at the wharf and had leave all day. We visited the museum and the botanical gardens. The sea birds in the museum were very interesting to us after watching them for so long on the way across. There was an albatross that measured 10 ft from tip to tip of the wing. The food in the city was very dear, but the best grapes could be bought for 1 ½ per pound (one and a half pence per pound weight) and other fruit was fairly cheap. There were a lot of small sailing boats with bright red sails in the harbour. We saw another turtle feet upwards and helpless, but not as big as the one we saw outside. The town clock was not lit up at night time and the time could only be seen in the day time. We visited a very elaborate pier with a large open air theatre, and a lookout tower at the end. Trains ran from the wharf to the city. The double decked cars had the tops covered in. The city was lit by electricity and no gas was seen except on cookers. There was a large number of blacks in the city and many Dutch. Most of the signs were written in both Dutch and English. A very fine promenade ran right along the water front. We spent a day at Camp bay, where we were given afternoon tea and an invitation to the baths which were much appreciated after being so long with only salt water to wash in. There was very fine white sand on the beach and was a splendid place for a picnic. In the evening we attended a tea and concert given by the Y.M.C.A. Next day we had leave all day, and I visited the public library, Art gallery and the whale skeletons. The public buildings were larger and of better appearance, than in New Zealand. The picture shows had good music and were lit up after each picture.
On the 21/4/17 we had no leave. The ship left the wharf at noon, and the harbour at 3PM with HMS Kent in front of us and the SS Euripides behind us with South African troops. A 4.7 gun had been mounted on our ship while we were in Cape Town. On the night after leaving, two search lights could be seen in the south-east, but nothing could be found out about them. No lights of any kind were allowed on deck on any of the transports. Not even a match was allowed. This rule had applied since leaving New Zealand, but it was more strictly enforced after leaving Capetown. Owing to measles breaking out we had to go through an inhalation chamber every day. After that there was a supposed case of scarlet fever in A Coy., and we were isolated from the rest of the ship.
Submarine guards were posted from the 23/4/17, in addition to the ordinary guards, and the rifles had to be cleaned every four hours. A sailor fell overboard during boat drill for the crew. He had his life belt on at the time. It took over half an hour for the ship to turn and launch a boat and pick him up. Much of this time was spent in getting the ship in a position where a boat could be launched safely. He was easily found by the number of Albatross and Mollyhawkes that surrounded him. The time by the clock had been kept the same as it was while at Capetown.
On the 24/4/17 the Kent and the Euripides went ahead and waited for us in the evening.
On the 25/4/17 flying fish were seen in large numbers. They could fly about one hundred yards without resting. We were getting near the equator and no birds of any kind were seen. The men were allowed to sleep on deck.
On the 29/4/17 Father Neptune came aboard before his time to fit in with the Sports on Saturday afternoon. A second ventilator was put in our hold two weeks after it was needed. Flying fish were a common sight being seen every day. The sea water was quite warm.
We crossed the line on the 29/4/17. The heat was very great and the holds were quite unfit to sleep in. There was a light wind with the ship and that made the canvas ventilators useless. The chaplin protested against the men playing cards while the church parade, which was a special one, being the first Sunday after Anzac day, was being held. The church parades were voluntary, and very few men took any interest in them. The idea of mixing war with religion was repulsive to a lot of men.
On the 1/5/17 a large number of porpoise were seen. The speed of all ships was reduced. Next day the crew of our big gun had practise useing a target towed behind the cruiser about a mile away at first, and afterwards increasing the distance.
On the 3/5/17 we arrived at Freetown, Sierra Leone. The entrance to the harbour was very pretty, the hills being covered with palm trees. There was a large steamer stranded near the entrance. We anchored in the stream. There were many cargo boats , HMS Weymouth and another cruiser of the Drake class anchored in the stream. Lots of blacks sold fruit from canoes and dived for coins. The fruit was poor in quality and very dear. The banana had skins that were quite green, but the fruit was ripe. Bank of New Zealand notes were accepted by the natives. They would show them to a native boy, who seemed to be carried in the boat for purpose, and he assure his elders that the money was all right. Two cruisers left and one cruiser arrived with two cargo boats. One South Afican died on the Euripides and was buried ashore.
We did not get any leave at Freetown and on the 6/5/17 with the Euripides and Kent, at 6-30 PM., we left for England. We kept on a zig zag course with the Kent a very short distance in front of us in such a manner that the Kent would always be steaming in a different direction from the transport’s. A large number of sharks and porpoise were seen about this time. Next day we were going half speed. Life belts were worn all day and boat drill for the soldiers was carried out every day. A call to go to our boat stations would sometimes be given while we were at our meals. It did not matter what we were doing, when the call was sounded, we had to get to our places in as short a time as possible. On the 12/5/17 the Kent left us and went south, and the Weymouth, a much faster cruiser took her place, keeping further ahead. We were getting out of the hot weather, and the evenings were getting longer. On the 16/5/17 the sea became rough, and the Weymouth went further ahead and at 7-30 PM, four destroyers arrived, and took up positions very close to the transport’s. The Weymouth then circled round at full speed. The weather got much colder. Many barrels and pieces of timber were seen floating near us. They were probably part of the deck cargo of some vessel that had been torpedoed.
On the 20/5/17 two airships arrived and kept above the ships. The airships in addition to the destroyers, and the cruiser circling outside of them made it almost impossible for submarines to operate. A great many ships of all kinds were seen, and at 3-30 PM we arrived at Plymouth, having taken nine weeks and four day on the journey from New Zealand. Steady rain set in and our first view of England was a very wet one. We stayed in the stream that night, and and next morning said goodbye to the old Ruapehu that had been our home for so long. We landed in a ferry, and left by train for Bulford at 10-30 AM. Small boys with trays of meat pies did a good trade at the station before we started. It was a long time since we had tasted a pie of any sort, and we were curious to know what type of baking they did, in what was then a strange country. It was late spring in England and the country looked nice and green as we passed through it. We had lunch at Exeter, with cabin biscuits and butter. That was the last time we had butter for many months. Our haka team gave a haka on the station before the train went. We arrived at Sling camp at 5 PM. The training at that camp was much harder than it was in New Zealand. We had a pipe band to escort us to the training ground every morning. The food was poor, and not much of it. The bread was made of rice flour, and a lot of other kinds of grain, with only a little wheat flour to make it seem like bread. When we got margerine and jam on it, it tasted just a little like bread. We had leave every evening and on Sunday afternoon. There was plenty time in the evenings as it was not dark until 11 PM. We visited the villages near Sling. One of them named Figheldean was supposed to be the place where Longfellow wrote his poem “The Village Blacksmith”. A large chestnut tree was there with a smithy under it, and in the churchyard were the headstones with the names of the family who, the villages said, belonged to the village blacksmith. The soldiers did not care whether the story was true or not. They took leaves from the trees for souvenirs, signed their names in the visitor’s book and sat in the choir seats where once “You could here his daughter’s voice singing in the village choir”. Another very pretty village named Amesbury was very popular in the evenings. There was a very old church there many centuries old. Some of the headstones in the churchyard were dated as far back as 1200. Nearly all the houses had thatched roofs, and the streams were spanned by old fashioned bridges made of stone. Close to Sling was the town of Salisbury with its famous cathedral, about which was written – “As many days as in one year there be, So many windows in this church we see; As many marble pillars here appear As there are hours throughout the fleeting year; As many gates as moons one year does view, Strange tale to tell! yet not more strange than true.” Stonehenge was another place that attracted a large number of soldiers while they were at Sling.
By the 10/6/17 we had finished our training in musketry wireing, live bomb throwing, and machine gun etc and on the 11/6/17 we had our first leave to London. We arrived at 1PM, and stopped at the Shakespeare Hut.
On the 12/6/17 I took a trip round London, with a party in a brake, and was shown through the Tower of London, St Pauls cathedral, Houses of Parliament & stables of Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey, and a number of other places. A day was not long enough to see any of these places properly and the same places were visited several times afterwards. Food was dear in London but was not rationed to the soldiers at that time. The theatres were much better than the ones in New Zealand. Smoking was permitted in many of them. The next day there was an air raid over London, but I was in a theatre at the time and heard nothing of it. Twenty five school children were killed by one bomb during that raid. Next day I visited the Kensington museum and the famous waxworks. The rest of the time was spent in trips through the city and the art gallerys.
On the 14/6/17 we left London in the evening for Sling arriving back at 1 AM next morning. The remaining time at Sling was fairly easy compared with the first few weeks. Some wonderful flying feats were performed by the airmen from the flying school near Sling.
On the 22/6/17 we left for Folkstone at 1 AM. arriving at 6-30 AM, and left for France at 2-30 PM and arrived at Boulogne at 4-30 PM. French girls sold us strawberries for 1 franc per box. They checked the value of our half crowns, and two shilling pieces by measuring the diameters of them on a broach that they carried for the purpose. We marched from Boulogne to One Blanket Hill, stayed there for one night, and next day started on the long march to Etaples, passing through many villagers. We stopped at a rest camp for two hours to have lunch and arrived at Etaples in the evening. The route taken was said to be the same as that taken by the first British Ex. force in 1914. Etaples camp was a very large one. There were English, Portugease, Aussies and New Zealanders all training together. We slept in tents on sandy ground. The dust was very bad and gave us a lot of trouble with the rifles. The marching was very heavy on the sandy soil. we had lunch every day on the training ground which was very dusty. We drilled with the Argyle and Southern Scottish.
The 28/6/17 was an off day for washing and the 29/6/17 was light duties. Our full kit with steel helmets was issued to us.
On the 6/7/17 we left Etaples at 7-30 by train, passing through Boulogne, Calias, and other towns, and arrived at headquarters behind the line in the evening. We stayed two nights at an old farm near a village that was about four miles behind the line.
On the 8/7/17 we went into the trenches. The weather was overcast and that made it hard for the airmen to do much. That part of the line was known as the Pont-Rouge section. Part of the time was spent in carrying rations from the cookhouse along the sap to the trenches, and in the evening, in carrying dry rations from the depot to the cook house. Heavy shelling took place all the time, but it was always worse at night. Sleep was impossible owing to the noise.
On the 10/7/17 in the evening owing to extra heavy shelling near our dugout, we were advised by an old hand to shift to another about 100 yards along the trench. The four of us had just got to the other dugout when heavy shelling started there also. While the two older hands were reporting the shift to the sergeant I shifted into the wing for better cover and to make a comfortable place for the night. Here I was hit by a shell fragment. My first impression was that I had several ribs broken. Just after that there was no pain at all, but just a heavy feeling. When they cut my tunic off, they found that I had got what the sergeant said he would give a fortune for, but as I was losing a great deal of blood, I began to take very little interest in what they said. My iodine and field dressing was put on and I left with three others for the first aid post about a mile and a half along the sap where the wound was properly dressed. A shell hit the depot that night, but did no damage owing to the thick concrete protection. I stayed there until daylight and then went further back to a depot at the brewery on Stokes Farm. There I had the wound redressed, and an injection for antetanus. I went from there in an ambulance to the main dressing station at Pont a Neippe. Another dressing was put on there and I was sent on in an ambulance to the australian casualty clearing station at Steenweark, where I was put under X ray and then put under chloroform, and had the shell fragment removed. I stayed there for two days. An air raid took place there on Friday morning, killing two patients and a number of patients. I heard before leaving, from an Aussie orderly that one of the Fritz airmen who had taken part in the raid that morning, was taken alive. When asked to explain why they had bombed the hospital, he pointed out that we had our observation baloon hung almost above it, and to attack the baloon he had to risk hitting the hospital. I had seen the baloon over the hospital the day before, so I knew that what the airman had said was right. I left there that morning on a hospital train. The beds were three deep each side of the carriage, and were fitted up very comfortable with glass windows aside each bed so that we could watch the country as we passed through. The hospital train moved along close to the line for some time picking up men from other hospitals, and then left for Boulogne. We got there that evening. I was taken to the 83rd Doublin general hospital where I stayed for three days. The French people brought fruit of many kinds to the patients. The cherrys were much larger than I had seen in New Zealand. On the 16/7/17 I left in a hospital ship on my second and last trip across the channel. We arrived at Dover at noon, where we were put in another hospital train and taken to Walton-on-Thames. This trip took twelve hours owing to the train having first to go to Portsmouth to take some Tommies to a hospital there. The New Zealand officers complained at Portsmouth about being taken such a long way round, but they got no satisfaction. We went back to London and from there to Walton where we arrived at 2 AM. I slept during much of the trip. I was feeling very pleased at being back in England. I was very well treated in Walton. The food was good and plenty of it.
The stitches were removed on the 21/7/17, and I got up shortly after. There were free trips to Windsor Castle for those who were able to go, but most of the men who were able to go any-where got no further than the village.
I left Walton on the 6/8/17 and arrived at the Hornchurch Convalescent hospital at 1 PM. We lived in a marquee while at that depot. There was plenty good food, and nothing to do. We had leave every evening from 4-30 till 9-30. I was classed B6 and told to report again in 10 days time. Every Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday we could get leave to London. In the evenings we could walk into Romford, a large town about two miles from camp, or else go to Upminster, a pretty little town about one and a half miles east of Hornchurch. On one Sunday I went to Southend a seaside place near the mouth of the Thames. The Royal Irish Guards band was playing there that day. There was a pier there one and a quarter miles long with a dance hall and cafe and several shops at the end. An electric train ran from the shore every few minutes. The people were charged for, but the soldiers went free. Southend was a very busy place on Sunday. A lot of trade was done and it was not like a Sunday at all. All sorts of side shows were in full swing and most of them were free to soldiers. An air raid took place a week before, and I saw one house that was wrecked.
On the 17/8/17 I reported and was given another ten day B6. I spent most of my Saturdays and Sundays in London at the theatres and had all my meals while away from camp at the military huts in London. I had estimated that Norman and Neil would have arrived in England about this time, and had written to Norman, and a week later I wrote to Neil.
A short time after I got a reply from both of them, and on the 6/9/17 they both came up to Hornchurch to see me while they were on their draft leave from Aldershot.
On the 7/9/17 I got special leave and spent the day in London with Norman and Neil. We went to the Paladium theatre and had tea together at the Aldwych hut, and strolled round the city in the evening, until it was time for them to catch their train back to camp. After I had been classed down from B6 to B3 I was given two weeks leave with a free railway pass to anywhere in the United Kingdom. I spent the first evening in London and at 10 PM I left Kings Cross in the flying scotchman and reached Edinburgh next morning. We were met at the station by a guide and taken to the overseas clubs. Edinburgh proved a very good place for a holiday. There was a splendid zoo there, The cable trams were very slow. The theatres were very good . Edinburgh castle was well worth visiting. The best sight near there was the forth bridge. It was so large that there were gangs of painters who spent all their lives painting it.
I left on the 23/9/17 for Inverness, passing through some very beautiful highland scenery. A place was pointed out from the train where, I was told, the battle of Kilicrankie was fought. I saw some shaggy headed highland cattle for the first time. The people spoke much better English there than in any other part of Scotland that I had been in. The town was rather quiet after the bigger places, but was very interesting. I returned to Edinburgh next day and went from there to Glasgow. Heavy rain partly spoilt the next few days and I could not go far. When it was fine enough I went for a trip across Loch Lomond, from Glasgow in the train then in the steamer through the Loch and back to Glasgow by train.
After seeing the Art Gallerys and a few of the theatres I returned to Edinburgh and visited the museum and an old castle and returned to London on the 3/10/17. I left next day for Codford, where I arrived in the evening. That camp was the place where men went from the hospitals to get light training before they went back to Sling, or back to New Zealand if they could not reach the standard required for Sling. It was a rather dreary place. The food was poor and not much of it. I was classed B3. That meant only light duties and no training. There were a lot of Canadians, Aussies and Tommies camped near our camped
and on the 14/10/17 a crowd of them with some of our lot among them had a riot. Much damage was done to windows, the canteen broken into, the beer emptied in the roadway and the till smashed and the money taken. There was a muster parade next day. The C.O. complemented the men on their behaviour under trying conditions, but regretted that the first hand that he saw going into the till in the canteen belonged to a New Zealander.
On the 17/10/17 I was B.3T.
on the 24/10/17 B.2T.
on the 31/10/17 B2.
Owing to measles in our hut I was not classed again until the 21/11/17 B.1T.
On the 27/11/17 I got a weeks leave to London. I met Reggie Bluck there and we spent the evening at the theatre. A few days later I heard Lloyd George speak in the House of Commons. I went through the East End and saw some of the poorer districts of London, and visited the foreign quarters. The best part of London was its theatres, and these I never got tired of. I went again to St Pauls cathedral and climbed to the whispering gallerys.
On the 4/12/17 I returned to Codford classed B1 on the 12/12/17.
On the 19/12/17 I had Christmas leave and spent it in London. We had a special Christmas dinner given at the Shakepeare hut .
On the 27/12/17 I left London for the last time and returned to Codford.
On the 28/12/17 I got a job in the dining room.
On the 9/1/18 B1T. On the 16/1/18 A.
On the 18/1/18 I was deferred for one week at the exams for the Sling draft.
On the 28/1/18 I was reclassed B1 at the exam for the Sling draft, 6/2/18 B1
and on the 14/2/18 I was class C.
On the 16/2/18 I was examined by our own doctor and a travelling medical board. The previous classification was confirmed by the board. Many men were in very poor condition owing to the severe food rationing. The right kind of foods could not be had and apples and rice diet during a very severe English winter was quite useless to men who were not used to such cold weather. No sugar or milk could be got and the apples were cooked just as they fell from the tree without being peeled or cored in any way. Sometimes enough bacon for one man would be divided among ten men. The result was that many men who may have gone to Sling as fit men, had to be rejected and sent back to New Zealand. I left Codford for the last time and went to Torquay where the men waited until there was a boat to take them back to New Zealand. There we had better conditions and a little better food than we had been used to. We slept in proper beds and the weather was getting warmer. The town was a very interesting one. Our camp was quite close to the city and we had leave every afternoon. There were flax bushes and cabbage trees growing in the parks that were taken from New Zealand . Just below the camp were some beautiful beaches. There was no sand on them but a kind of shingle of many different colours. Near the town were Kent’s caverns where the footprints of animals are supposed to prove that England was once part of the continent. We had perfect spring weather while we were there, many long walks were taken round the cliffs near the city. On a still day we could hear the heavy artillery in France while we stood on the cliffs, in spite of the long distance that separated us. About two miles from the city was the town of Paignton with a beautiful esplanade along the waterfront. The beaches there were a dark red coloured sand with safe bathing.
On the 31/3/18 I left Torquay by special train, on a long journey to Glasgow where we arrived next morning. There we embarked on SS Athenic for New Zealand, on Easter Monday. A very large number of shipyards were passed on our way down the Clyde river. We stayed at Greenock for six days. Many transports arrived while we were waiting. A cruiser with paddle wheels passed us, the only one I had ever seen, also a strange submarine with two funnels and two guns. There were no bunks on the ship for us. We had to sleep in hammocks. They were placed sixteen inches apart, and that made then very uncomfortable.
On the 6/4/18 we left on our long journey home with an escort of three destroyers and one armed liner. Submarine guards were posted as soon as we started. We passed small towns all the way down the Firth of Clyde. That night we passed many light houses along the coast. There were no lights carried by any ship. We nearly ran down a trawler that night. We missed only by a few feet. On the next day the sea became very rough. The destroyers left us in the afternoon and next day the armed liner left, and we were all on our own. We were fairly safe as it was very difficult for submarines to make an attack in very rough weather.
On the 9/4/18 the sea was worse than I had ever seen it, coming right over the bow & many parts of the deck were unsafe. On the 12/4/18 we ran into calmer seas and sports and concerts were held daily. We had seen no ships of any kind. On the 19/4/18 we saw land for the first time, passing several islands. Large quantities of seaweed were seen for over three days. It was getting hotter, and flying fish were seen. We slept on deck every night.
The heat increased daily and on the 24/4/18 we arrived in Colon. Large birds with double tails were seen flying high above us. An American destroyer came out to meet us and escorted us in. We take on coal all the work being done by machinery. We got leave for the day and went to the city in a special train supplied by residents. We had a very good welcome there, the people giving us free trips round the city in motors, and refreshments of all kinds supplied to us free. There were many Spanish and Blacks there. The Spanish were very keen on bringing customers into their shops, stopping the soldiers on the street in the hope of doing business. Armfuls of magazines were given to us to take back to the ship. Most of us got back about 10-30. While we were in the city the Ionic had arrived with Aussies going the other way. They had no leave.
On the 23/4/18 we left Colon and passed through the Panama canal. The American band came to the locks to play while the ship was being passed through. A large number of civilians came with them bringing all sorts of gifts for the men. Three steamers and one barque were passed going the other way. The working of the locks was very interesting. The lock fills very rapidly and the ship is hauled through with electric monkeys from the sides. Banana trees and other tropical plants could be seen on the hills as we passed through. At the other end of the canal mexicans threw tobacco and cigars on deck while the ship was in the locks. It took eight hours to go from Colon to Balboa. We did not stay at Balboa, but went straight out to sea between many small islands. The sea was calm and the weather was very hot. Plenty of grapefruit and apples could be bought at the canteen after leaving Colon. I met only one man whom I could remember coming over on the same ship. Big gun practise was held on the 1/5/18.
We saw a very unusual lightning display on the 5/5/18, lasting all night, but there was no bad weather with it. It was getting colder but we still slept on deck to get the fresh air. We all went before a provisional medical board, one of the doctors wearing civies. I was recommended for a partial pension. The date 15/5/18 was missed.
We went from the 14/5/18 to the 16/5/18 in one night. We stayed up most of that night looking for land. A light was seen just before daylight and at breakfast time we were passing Cape Colville. We came up the gulf in lovely weather and arrived at Auckland at 10-30 AM, but owing to the stupid red tape of the New Zealand officials we were not landed until 8 AM next morning.
I was discharged from the force on the 12/7/18.