Chapter 9 Final Leave and return to New Zealand
By Horace William (Bill) James
|Bill James 1918|
February 19th I started out on leave, 14 days. They had us out of bed at 5.30-am for breakfast, started handing out passes. I had the luck to wait until 9.30-am for mine, and then had to chase around three different A.R’s and argue the point over it. However, I started off with Jim Flynn on a little trip to Ireland. Got the train up to Chester. First change we had a bit of a wait at Crewe and then went onto Hollyhead. At 2-pm we got on board our ship (Duchess of Devonshire) and were landed at Kingstown where we were greeted with some tea and eatables and then had a short run up to Dublin where we had tea and a good stroll round the town and landed home a bit late.
20th February 1919. We caught a train up north at 7.30-am the next morning and had a nice run up to Belfast getting a good look at the country, small holdings etc. and also an Irish Bog. We booked beds at the club and then went on the ramble once more. Had a look at some of the houses, or dens, and I don’t think I would care to live in the same. In the evening Jim went south so I was alone and was very near to coming a gutser with a would-be friend. But being up a bit early that morning was still awake. I went to the Opera House where I met Eric Garry and had a bit of a yarn to him.
21st February. I got up a bit late and just in time to join a party going north to the Causeway. There were eight Canadians and Willie. We got a train up to Coloraine and then on to Portrush, a nice little town on the coast, very pretty. Here we were met by two motorcars and driven out to the Giant’s Causeway, 14 miles. It was a nice run round the coast. We passed the ruins of an old castle and a real Earl’s home, which was not flash. We pulled up at the hotel where they had dinner waiting for us and a guide ready to show us round the sites. First we went to see the Cause, which to my mind was nothing startling, 600 yards long with the sea running in. Plenty of pigeons flying round and I would have liked to have my old gun. Then we went to see the rocks, which were very fine and interesting, and we had a drink at the Giant’s well and sat in his chains for a wish.
On returning back to town we had tea and caught the train back to Belfast after a very enjoyable day. I had just time to collect my gear and catch the boat (The Duke of Connaught). When on board I camped down below amongst the roughest crowd I ever struck so soon got my brains working and with the aid of a few temptations was put into a nice little cabin with a Middy. I went to bed and did not know anymore until I was lying alongside the wharf at Fleetwood, doing the trip both ways without wasting any of my reserve rations.
22nd February 1919. I got an early train down to Blackpool. My first job was to get a bed, was recommended to one home, which was a bit too rough for me and finished up at the Y.M. I spent all day looking round the place and doing the prom, and went to a dance in the evening with another digger and we had a fair time.
The next morning we went for a walk together and also looked for somewhere to stay. Found a private address he had which seemed all right so we booked rooms. Mrs Lusty was our new landlady and she gave us the biggest Sunday dinner I have had for some time, which had the effect of keeping us indoors for the afternoon. In the evening we went for a bit of a stroll and landed home early, had supper and went to bed. Had a really good sleep.
Monday 24th February. I got up late, took things very easy with a nice little stroll on the prom. In the afternoon we went to St. Annes, a very pretty little place with a good beach, baths, garden and beautiful streets. We got home for tea and in the evening went to the Tower and finished up at a dance. The next day 25th we had the usual morning stroll and stayed home talking to Madame in the afternoon. Went to visit, drive and dance in the evening with the lady help and had a very decent time.
On the 26th I decided to move on so spent the morning packing etc., and looking up timetables. Ma persuaded me to stay for dinner for which she produced a very large steak pudding and tried to make me eat the lot. I left at 3-pm and got into Liverpool and found a bed at a Yankee Y.M. Had some tea and went for a stroll, got tired so went to see “Tes Uncle”, not a bad show, had a good gig.
The next morning, 27th February, I went for a look round the docks, which are five miles long. I saw a good number of boats including one leaving for NZ (felt like getting on board). I met G. Bethel up here. I was with an Aussie who knew the docks fairly well. We got on board two boats Alanza and Ara Brie, both fairly large boats, would do me for a trip. From the docks we went up through the slums, which are rough, and from there through the fire station, a very good plant, as good as London or better. In the afternoon I went for another stroll round and struck a large hotel Midlands, some size! At 4.30-pm I left for Manchester. After getting dug in with a private family I continued my rambles about the streets and met two very nice girls. I went home and just about got lost on the way, but landed there in the end.
The 28th I looked up some brick builders and went and looked them up but was very disappointed when I got there. In the afternoon I went out to Bellevue Gardens but was not shook on them so went to an aeroplane school and had a look round. Went to a picture show in the evening and caught a train at 11.45-pm for London.
1st March 1919. Landed in London at 6.30-am and went to the Club, got a bath etc., had breakfast and went to collect my mail. Got one very crook letter. From there I went and drew some money and then back to the Club to read my mail and had some fairly crook news. In the afternoon I went out to Hearne Hill to see Mrs Boak who was laid up. I spent an hour out there and had afternoon tea, got a parcel and returned to London. Went to a panto
mine in the evening, “Babes in the Wood”, very funny, beautiful scenery, landed home, met Jack Taylor.
|Bill's Trench Art|
March 2nd. I got up fairly late went to church at St Pauls, very fine organ. From there I went across London Bridge and got a train out Crystal Palace, a wonderful building, all glass, very large organ. Grounds are simply lovely. I had a good walk round them and also through the building. From there I caught a bus for Looting and went to see Jacks grave, which had been a bit altered. After leaving there I came back to London and went for a walk through Hyde Park and along the Serpentine and then up to Trafalgar Square where I had tea and a bit of a spell, was more than tired. The rest of the evening I
spent at the club writing. That night I got a train at 11.45-pm for Coventry where I landed at 3-am on the 3rd. No beds being available I spent the rest of the night at the Police Station where I landed a good jug of coffee and had a sleep.
On the 3rd of March, I got out to find somewhere to sleep and had a good walk around before being satisfied. Then I went out to see the Daimler Motor Works, which are a very big firm and I spent a good morning. In the afternoon I went through the Singer Works, which were also very good but much smaller than the other place, and then I went through a coach factory, fairly large but I saw nothing startling. That evening I spent in front of the fire and very soon got to bed.
On the 4th March, I had a bit of a rest in the morning and after dinner went for a bit of a walk round some of the old parts of the town with an Aussie and went through the old church. At 4-pm I got a train back to Camp where I landed about eight and found only four of the boys had landed back. The 5th I spent in Camp washing, cleaning up etc. and put in for more leave and got it. I stayed in Camp again that night.
On the 6th March 1919, I left in the morning and went to Birmingham. In the afternoon I went through the B.S.A. Works and was rather disappointed with it, except for the size of the buildings and the smithy shop, which opened my eyes - seventy-five steam hammers. I did not see the cycle Dept. and was very sorry. That night I went to have a skate but came a gutser so went for a walk round the streets instead.
7th March. I went to see through the Calthorpe Body shops and saw some good machinery but this place like all the others was just changing over and was in a bit of a mess. That afternoon I went out to the Austin Motor Works, about six miles out in the country, a nice little trip and a very large firm – 20,000 employees. There was not much car works going on but plenty of aeroplanes etc. The smith shop here was also an eye opener but the body shop very poor and nothing doing in the paints.
On the 8th it was 11-am by the time I had breakfast so I went for a walk round the town and went to the library. In the afternoon I wrote some letters and waited to see R. Powell but he never turned up. I had tea and caught a bus out to Walsall arriving there at 8-pm. Found a room, pretty rough, had to double bunk, no bon.
Sun 9th I got up very late so spent the morning cleaning up. In the afternoon I went for a walk round the park and in the evening after doing some writing I had some more exercise and found a fresh room.
On the 10th March 1919, I first went round to see the firm of Brace and Blythe who showed me over their premises and I went for dinner with Mr Hindle. In the afternoon I went to the firm of Russel Bros. to see their tube mills with one of the directors. On returning to the warehouse I was politely told I was to go home for tea with Mr Hindle, which meant a short run into the country per train. A very flash house but nice people. Spent a nice evening out there and then came back to town.
The next morning the 11th my leave was up so I left for Birmingham. My friend gave me a letter of introduction to a firm in there, Den makers, which I did not go to see. In the afternoon I went to see some machinery and got a train for Stafford landing back in Camp about 7pm.
On the 12th March, I did some cleaning up etc. and writing and went to the pictures in the evening. The next few days we spent filling in time and drawing extra clothing and on the Saturday got orders that we were to shift to Sling on Tuesday 15th. That morning we were up fairly early and after the usual hanging around got to the station (Breton) about 9am and were soon on the train and away. We had a fairly dreary trip and landed at our beautiful home about 3.30-pm and got dug in for the night and landed a fairly rough tea.
There is a very big difference in this Camp to what it was when I was here last as the result of a riot that took place a few days ago. The whole Camp seems to be run by the diggers. The next day we heard all sorts of rumours about going home but nothing definite turned up so three of us decided to see if we could find out up in London.
On the 22nd March, I took seven days leave and made for the big smoke where I intended getting some teeth fixed up. I landed there about 5-pm and after a bit of a hunt found a bed at the Kiwi Club.
Thursday 24th we got busy and went to interview some of the Heads with very good results. I also paid the dentist a call. That night I went to a dinner with Alex McLeod who was doing his first visit to London. That afternoon we went for a look round the Docks.
Wednesday 26th March. I got up late and missed breakfast. We went to Waterloo and after waiting for two hours got a train out to Walton to see Archie Fenton. There was a bit of a smash on the line, which caused the long wait. When we arrived there I noticed my friend just getting on the train I had got off. However, he forfeited the trip to London and spent the afternoon with me. He went back to the hospital where Archie supplied me with some dinner, which I made a terrible mess of as it was, then about 1.30-pm and no breakfast. We left there and got back to town, had tea and went to another show.
Thursday morning I went to see a firm and in the afternoon went round the city with Alex visiting Hyde Park, Wax Works and the Museum. That night saw “Hello America”.
Friday 29th March. I spent the whole day with the Dentist and in the evening I had a good bath and went to bed early. Saturday morning I did some business and in the afternoon we went out to see NZ play South Africa. Not a bad match, diggers had a win 14 – 5. From there I just managed to catch a train for Sling after a good run from one train to the other. I landed back in Sling about 8-pm, went to bed and was up again on Sun morning just in time for dinner.
Sunday afternoon we were told that we were to sail for NZ in the Pakeha and she leaves about the 10th April and believe me I felt happy. The next few days we all felt very happy and were looking forward to our trip but it was not long before all our good hopes were dashed to the ground. We were politely told that we were not going in the Pakeha and I don’t think I was happy this time and felt like giving a certain person who I consider got us put back a little bit of my mind.
A few more days passed by very slowly and then we were again told we had got a ship, this time the Tofua and she was to go to the South Island. I refused to believe the rumours. However, on the 16th April, we were told that it was definite that we leave on the 18th so I began to get my gear ready in case we did go. We had a big evening that night but I was not overexcited, as I could not make myself believe we were actually going.
At 3.30-am on the 18th (Good Friday, 1919) we were roused out, had a large breakfast of kippers and then paraded at Head Quarters. About 4.30-am we moved off and marched to Bulford Station, got aboard the train and in an hour we had started our trip. We went up to London and arrived at Tilbury Docks. There we went out to a tug that took us out to the Tofua, which was anchored out in the stream. By 12.30-am we were all aboard, and then I made up my mind that I was on my way home. She very soon pulled up her mud hook and we were actually on our way to good old NZ.
I stayed up on deck until we got to the mouth of the Thames and then went and fixed myself for the coming sickness. Being mess orderly I had to get some dinner for the crowd and also tea. Fortunately, the sea was very calm along the coast so I got through my little job and then went to bed early.
The next day there was a bit of a roll on and I lost my breakfast but after that felt a lot better but could not manage to eat much for the next three days. The fourth day out it started to blow and it was not long before our good ship was having a lot of fun with me, hanging over the rail trying to recover the kippers I had at Sling. All that day I was right down to it.
The next day was a bit better and although I was not sick I felt very rotten, continued to do so for about five days and was not able to eat much food. May 1st shooting season but I did not do any shooting, not even over the side. We are well into the tropics and in the Caribbean Sea and tonight we had our first view of the old Southern Cross.
Saturday May 3rd 1919. We sighted land and about 8-pm we were going into Colon Coaling Station. After putting alongside there were all sorts of rumours going round about leave, the principal one was that we could not put off until the morning, but that was no good to the diggers and it was not long before there was a bit of an argument on the gangway between a couple of officers and a crowd of diggers with the result that the latter were soon seen climbing onto the wharf in all directions and in half an hour the ship was deserted, myself and two pals amongst the crowd. We got across a small river in a ferry and drove to the town, about two minutes in a buggy, some ride, we won easy.
Colon is a gay little city, nearly all blacks, plenty of fruit, which I very soon gave a big bump. It was about 11-pm so we went for a walk round the town to see the sights - some show, and streets all concrete. At 1-am we went and had some supper, steak and eggs, have not had so much for donkey’s years.
We went for another walk and sat on the side of the road eating oranges until 3-am. Then we went to the Y.M. and lay down on the veranda for a while. A digger came out and told us we could go inside which we did and got a bit of a sleep in a bunk. At 5.30-am we went and had a shower and got some breakfast and had a bit of a spell before going down the street. The rest of the morning was spent in looking round, shopping, and eating fruit, until 11-am when we made back to the ship well laden up with fruit and then we watched the rest of the crew coming on board some needing a good deal of gentle assistance.
We got clear about 12.00-am and started for the Canal. Needless to say everyone was very interested. We got through the first three locks into the lake. There we had to wait to pick up a digger who got a good skin full and refused to come on board and ended up with our skipper and a few officers doing a chase of the hills. While waiting for them some of the boys had a swim and nearly all hands had a good wash in fresh water.
The trip through the lake was very interesting and there was some fine scenery. It was getting near sunset by the time we got to the next lock and here we got a good hearing from the people who gave us a lot of parcels and reading matter. The third lock was reached just after dark, about 8-pm. At Balboa a launch brought out a load of fruit for the ship and after getting that on board we set off for the big run to NZ.
The following morning we could still see land in the distance up until about 10-am and then it disappeared. On the 19th May 1919, we passed Bass Rocks, which helped to pass that day a bit quicker. The time now is beginning to go very slowly and all hands are counting up the days about every hour.
Wed 28th May at 2.30-pm we at last sighted dear old NZ. What Oh! Everyone was up on deck with a big smile in about two minutes. At 7.30 we dropped anchor in harbour at Port Chalmers. Needless to say it was a long time before we got to sleep that night what with cleaning up and shaving etc., everyone was kept busy until late. Then the mail came on board and most of the boys got telegrams but my luck was out as I drew a blank. Landed some apples and got busy on them, some good too. Finally got off the ship feeling very thankful to be so close to home once more.
At 5-am on the 29th May, 1919, the day started with an argument over football by way of a pastime. I think it was not long before all hands were getting ready for shore even though we did not start to move until 9.30-am but those hours went by at last and we started up the harbour to Dunedin and after going a short time managed to pile up on a mud bank.
Our trip on the briny was not a bad one as far as weather goes except for the last four days when we ran into a bit of a storm which shook me up considerable and I had to give up my little bit of food which was very hard as I had a bit of a job to entice myself to swallow any of the stuff we got dished up throughout the voyage. But enough said about that as I wish to forget it all as soon as possible as I think I have only had one meal during the last five weeks.
|Thanks from the King|