Volume 2: Letters written on active service, M-W, 1914-1919 - Page 75
We then moved off for Alexandria, where we landed on the 23rd, July (Friday). We took train from there to Cairo, a distance of about ninety miles, landing at our camping ground, Heliopolis, at four o'clock Saturday morning. By the way, our routine of drill coming over for the troops – morning – physical; afternoon – rifle inspection and drill, just to keep one fit. Of course, mine with the band practice, morning's play programmes for Officer's Mess every other night, taking turns with the Eighteenth Band. Sunday afternoon programmes – Church Service mornings. As you already know, our boat was terribly crowded. I suppose there must have been over 3,000 troops aboard; our sport mainly was boxing tournaments, concerts and all sorts of games, which passed away the time, and proved good pastime for the boys. The tucker consisted of a little of all sorts – beef, mutton "under ground mutton" or rabbit, all kinds of vegetables, with a little custard or prunes to top them off. On the whole, it was very good. We had a canteen there where you could get a change of tin fruits, which I hit up very much; plenty of cordials, which were very welcome, coming through the Tropics and Red Sea, being very hot.
Our most fun was when crossing the Line. Every one had to be thrown into a big tank of water, then Father Neptune lathers you up with a big white wash brush with soap, shaves you, then with a big wooden razor, then throws you in again. Of course, they have a few more colleagues in there all the time to duck you. They are all blacked up. Officers and all get their turn. It was fun I can tell you. Our band played out for the occasion; didn't matter what clothes you had on; if they got hold of you, it was good-bye, in you would go.
We had six deaths coming over, which I must say passed a gloom over the ship. Our trip on the whole was O.K. It is to be hoped we will be as lucky on our return, to get as good a transport as the dear old "Ceramic" and crew.
Well, our stay in Egypt was very short – three weeks – and then to business. As you have already had my doings in those three weeks, I will cut it out. Orders to pack our instruments away, leaving all that we could in our kit bags, just taking what was necessary to make a light load. Packing all up what we were to leave behind, we took train once more to Alexandria, leaving Heliopolis 8.30 a.m. 15th August, arriving in Alexandria quarter past five Monday morning. Boarded another transport S.S. "Aaturnia" [SS Saturnia] which was a dirty old thing, just by way of a change from the "Ceramic", bound for Lemnos, leaving the wharf 6.30 p.m. that night. Had a pleasant trip through the Meditteranean, calm as milk pond, landing at Lemnos Island, Thursday the 19th. After a twenty-four hours spell, we transhipped to another transport the "Osmeniah" [Osmaniah], sneaking out after dusk, we proceeded for another four hours' run, which I must say was quite exciting. All lights out, no cigarettes butts – silence – no one allowed to speak. We steered on our way in between destroyers, doing patrol, and keeping a sharp look-out for submarines.