Monday, 2 April 2007

Chapter 6: Departure for Overseas May 1915

From Service record:

7 May 1915 Embarked on "Palermo" Port Melbourne

AWM photo showing the Troopship Palermo, Brisbane, about 1915. (H02227)

Percy Smith sailed with the 5th Reinforcement of the 4th Light Horse, which comprised Regimental Numbers 926 to 979 inclusive. The reinforcement included 1 Officer and 52 Other Ranks. His comrades included:

Private H Biggs (928) Killed In Action
Private EH Cashmore (934) 12 Field Artillery Brigade
Private A Cashmore (932)
Private JA Cashmore (933)
Private S Chambers (931)
Private W Colombini (950) Died 1939 Returned to Australia 20 Oct 1915
Private G Crooks (939) Returned to Australia 4 August 1915
Sergeant RJ Darby (979) Returned to Australia 4 Nov 1915
Private D Devlin (935) Returned to Australia 28 Jan 1916
Private A Edwards (945A) Returned to Australia 13 Dec 1915
Private AE Goss (936) Returned to Australia 17 March 1916
Private FS Hick (941) Killed in Action 16 Sep 1915
Private H Hill (938) AVH (Army Veterinary Hospital??)
Private RD Hollins (937) British Expeditionary Force (Europe)
Private JP Howard (939)
Corporal KC Hudson (940) Returned to Australia 15 June 1919
Private J Jackson (943) Returned to Australia 8 May 1916
Private C Jobson (964) Cyclist Corps
Private FG Johnston (944) B Squadron Western Front
Private SAJ Johnston (931A) Invalided 1915. Re-enlisted, went with 18th Reinforcements, 20 June 1916
Private MD Lang (960) ABD HQ
Private C Leslie (947) Cyclist Corps
Private JW Lockey (946) Returned to Australia 17 Sep 1916
Private SP Macumber (949) M/O 1 March 1917
Private J McAlpine (955) British Expeditionary Force
Private HF McInerney (957) British Expeditionary Force
Private PW McLellan (959) Returned to Australia 19 Jan 1916
Private A McLeod (956) Died of Wounds 7 October 1915:
Private PA McMahon (958) British Expeditionary Force
Private MW (Malcolm) McPherson (A955) Died of Wounds 17 Nov 1915. Painter by trade.
Private AS Mill (954) 13th Light Horse
Private E Money (951) Cyclist Corps
Sergeant F Mortimer (952) Returned to Australia June 1916
Private R Newth (951) British Expeditionary Force WIA
Private WG Peel (962) Died of Wounds 5 Sep 1915
Private TJ Popple (963) Returned to Australia 31 Aug 1915
Private JA (Joseph) Roberts (969) Died of Sickness 25 June 1915 . Labourer from Cowra.
Private HC Robertson (968) Squadron Sergeant Major. Military Medal. Returned to Australia 15 June 1919
Australian War Memorial Record B01165
c December 1918, Tripoli. Portrait of 968 Sergeant Herbert Charles Robertson MM, 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment. He also served in 4 (Qld Imperial Bushmen Contingent) in the Boer War. Australian Commonwealth Horse, who all enlisted in South Australia. He is wearing the Queen's South African campaign medal. A small badge in the form of the letter "A" on unit colour patch denotes that the wearer had taken part in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.

Private HF Robinson (966) Returned to Australia 11 June 1917
Private J Slattery (971) Died of Wounds 23 August 1915
Private H Stephens (970) Returned to Australia 23 Sep 1919
Private JA Stone (961) Returned to Australia 4 Nov 1915 961
Private (Pte) John Alexander Stone, of Bairnsdale, Vic. Pte Stone enlisted on 25 January 1915 and embarked aboard HMAT Palermo on 7 May 1915. On 22 August 1915 he sustained a shrapnel wound to the leg at Gallipoli and returned to Australia on 30 October 1915. On 19 September 1916 he was discharged as an invalid. (Australian War memorial Record No DA08619 )
Private O Thaw (974) Returned to Australia 15 June 1919
Private L Trigg (973) Cyclist Corps
Private G Vardy (975) B Squadron Western Front. Military Medal. Sgt Wounded In Action
Private JR Walsh (976) Returned to Australia 1 Sep 1915
Private AS Walton (953) To Provost Corps
Private JM Ward (978) Cyclist Corps
Private T Wombwell (977) Returned to Australia 15 June 1919

-From Men of Beersheba: a history of the 4th Light Horse Regiment 1914-1919

From Patsy Adam-Smith The Anzacs, 1978 pp 33-34:

"Most of the men had been no more than six weeks in camp - and much of that had been spent in getting uniforms together, learning to drill, and arranging their papers. On board ship, men who would be signallers for infantry regiments were drawn from the ranks and trained in semaphore and message carrying. All ranks were given instruction in semaphore signalling and all officers 'should be able to send and read semaphore by the end of voyage".

"The men had come on board with much of their personal kit such as 'soap, piece of, in wallets; Boots, ankle, brown. Laces (spare), for boots, ankle, pairs; socks, worsted, pairs - one pair on person, one pair in pocket of greatcoat and one pair in kitbag at base.' The final instruction regarding kit was: 'Soldiers when discharged will receive a suit of plain clothes and a cap for free or sum of 20 shillings in lieu…

During the voyage they were to be paid 1s 0d per day for 50 days. The pay of a private, apart from on board ship, was to be 5s 0d per day plus 1s 0d deferred pay…The allotment to dependents must be 'Not less than 2/5 of pay to wife or de facto and no less than 3/5 if children.' Illegitimate children were to be allotted one-fifth, and pre-maternity orders would be in the order of one-fifth. Colonels of regiments were obliged to ensure that soldiers retain at least 1s 0d per day for their own use while abroad."

From Bill Gammage The Broken Years, 1974 pp 32-33:

"Complaints about food, beer restrictions, canteen facilities, and the distribution of mail were fairly frequent on board the transports, but there were only two real discomforts: seasickness, or 'practising singing', and boredom. With a spirit that was to support them well in harder times, men tried to laugh seasickness away ('If I was Christ I would get out and walk home'), and they had a ready counter to boredom:

Gambling is a favourite pastime on board. I suppose 60% of the troops indulge in these games, more or less. There are the crown and anchor, house, cards, and two up. Any time of the day and up to 9p.m. one will find crowds congregated together at different parts of the ship, playing one or other of these games…the first thing that meets my eyes on coming up from below this morning was the coins being tossed…at the stern…the crowd…started their gambling and kept it up all through the [church] service…I don't think it possible for them to lift their minds off the two coins in the air. (Bdr W.E.Baker, 2 FAV, Telephone mechanic of Northcote, Vic. KIA 21/3/18 aged 27.)

Australians necessarily tolerated their confinement at sea, but they resented being kept on board a ship in port. Authorities invariably attempted to restrict shore leave, and large numbers of men invariably ignored such attempts. General Bridges wrote that discipline on the first two convoys was good, the chief difficulty being in off-loading civilian stowaways at Albany. In fact men from these convoys regularly went absent without leave, often only a small proportion of those given leave returned when it expired, and troops kept under special guard on board serenaded their officers with songs as 'Britons never shall be slaves' and 'Every dog has his day'. "

In mid-1915 soldiers on a troopship at Colombo were refused leave, and were fined when they took it. They were not allowed to buy beer or fruit from the natives, but after the ship left port the canteen sold Colombo fruit at rates 200 per cent above Colombo prices. The 'Australian spirit' having been roused by these injustices, the troops rioted. They pushed officers about, assaulted the military police, broke open the canteen and the detention cells, and threw furniture overboard. When their commanding officer attempted to address them, he was hooted, hissed, and threatened with ejection over the side, until at last he withdrew. The men finally dispersed when more leave and cheaper fruit had been promised them, but by then they had exhausted their opportunities and energies for riot and revelry.

The man who described these events, a Victorian private, defended them by pointing to the injustices done at Colombo, and by listing other iniquities; the men had been kept below deck when they left Australia and so has missed the last goodbyes; the voyage had been insufferably monotonous; there had been no fruit on board until Colombo and seasick men craved fruit; the commanding officer had broken promises about leave and refreshments; the detention cell was hot and dirty, so that men were carried to hospital from it." (Lt H.S. Trangmar, 57 Bn, Book keeper of Coleraine, Vic. b. 1888.)


Voyage From Australia Shipboard Training and Morale

The leadership of the AIF placed great store in ensuring that discipline was maintained on board troopships. For a good deal of the time of the eight week passage to Egypt, recruits were drilled and underwent instruction in weapons training.
The training men received included lectures on hygiene and sanitation. For the Light Horse Brigades there were lectures on horse health and diseases.
Officers of the AIF were also conscious of the need to sustain morale, especially given that theirs was a volunteer citizen army. So it was that, during the voyage from Australia, a measure of high spirits and horseplay was tolerated - more so than would have been given units of the British or Indian armies. Cultural activities such as concerts and the production of ship board newspapers were encouraged, even though these activities sometimes resulted in military authority and politicians being made the target of satire.


Nathalie said...

I'm really enjoying the read Sally, thanks for those very lively details. What a great work you've done!

Evan Taylor said...

Hi Sally,

My grandfathers uncle was Sergeant F Mortimer (952). He was one of the soldiers that went to Gallipoli with Percy Smith. I have been trying for a long time to find out more information about him and when i typed his name into Google, your blog came up.
Thanks very much for writing all this. I'm trying to piece together his time in gallipoli and this helps. Do you have any more info that in not here?