Friday, 30th May 1919

Wednesday was slipped to adjust the calendar.  Off Cape Palliser!  The refrigerating machinery (hardly necessary in this temperature) says “We’re getting there – we’re getting there”, whilst the big main engines growl “Your’re ‘ome, your’re ‘ome, your’re ‘ome”.  Back from the “Great Adventure” – I am staring again at the high bluffs of Palliser – snow-capped as they are now, and almost obscured by flying foam.

The Southerly is following us right in.  I have your wireless greetings, though by no means the first wireless I have had from you.

As for the wind, let it blow, and let the rain rain!  It tried hard to blow us back, but the “Pakeha” put her nose into it to the tune of 10 knots an hour, and here we are almost in sight of Pencarrow.

As the Yankees stated in an immense poster at Newport News: –


DOMINION, Volume 12, Issue 211, 31 May 1919


A RECORD DISEMBARKATION. Though the evening was wet and extremely cold and miserable, several thousand people assembled on the King’s Wharf, and at the entrance to meet the returned men by the transport Pakeha, which drew into the wharf at 4.30 p.m. yesterday. It was good to note that the wretched weather did not in the least affect the warmth of the greeting, which was well up to Wellington’s best standard. After the men had come ashore they had to run the gauntlet of a lane of cheering people outside the main entrance, each motor-car load of “Diggers” being given a rally as they moved city-wards. The disembarkation arrangements, planned and executed by Lieutenant-Colonel McDonald and Captain Prictor, were perfect. The number of troops approximated 1400 (there were 1370 New Zealand troops, with a few other units), a record number for one ship. Yet, with the use of two gangways only, everyone was ashore in 23 minutes—a remarkable achievement in view, too, of the fact that the operation was conducted in the half-light of an intensely cold, damp evening. Looking back on the disembarkation arrangements of a couple of years ago, the performance was a praiseworthy one. Equally expeditious was the work of the staff, who boarded the vessel in the stream at 2.30 p.m., and completed the checking of the ship’s complement, before the vessel was berthed

As usual, members of the Wellington Motor Volunteer Corps, under Captain W. Pryor, were present in strong force, and did notably good work in seeing the men to their various destinations (including the conveyance of some 700 men to the railway station).  The Auckland contingent left for the north by a special train, which left at 7.15 p.m., and the Taranaki and Whanganui men also proceeded by the train as far as Palmerston North, and will be sent on to their respective district this morning. The Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay men will proceed home by this morning’s express. Those for the south went forward by the Maori last evening, and the Pateena, which had been held back for the purpose, conveyed the Nelson and West Coast draft across the Strait last evening.

The Pakeha, which enjoyed a fairly good weather passage across the Pacific, called at Newport News, where she remained coaling for five days. During that time the men went into the big American camp, that stretches away from the port for a considerable-distance. There they were housed in spacious well-built hutments, and everything connected with the camp is said to be far more up-to-date than anything they had experienced on the other side of the Atlantic. The American soldiers, of which there were some thousands, said that the camp could accommodate a million men. Newport News has its naval construction yards, and when the Pakeha was there a battleship was on the stocks which was said to be bigger than anything afloat. Shore leave was freely granted, and many of the men visited Washington, Baltimore, Richmond and Norfolk, The transport was six hours only at Colon (Panama Canal), during which time the residents proffered them all hospitality.

Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. Cockroft, of Wellington, was the officer commanding the troops on the Pakeha.

[Newspaper article, Dominion, 31 May 1919]

DOMINION, Volume 12, Issue 210, 30 May 1919


TO ARRIVE TO-DAY. The Defence Department advise that the transport Pakeha will arrive in Wellington from England, via Panama, at about mid-day to-day, and providing she is granted pratique, will berth at the King’s Wharf. As the vessel is bringing a very large number of soldiers (1373), Captain Prictor is making special arrangements to facilitate the disembarkation arrangements. All men for districts north of Marton (including Auckland) will leave the ship by the forward gangway, as well as those for Wellington city. The men for Wairarapa, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, and the South Island will disembark by the after gangway. The southern men will leave by to-night’s ferry steamer. The Mayor (Mr. J. P. Luke) requests that all who can do so should make a point of flying bunting in honour of the returned men.

[Newspaper article, Dominion, 30 May 1919]

27th May (1919)

We have been paid, vouchered, ticketed, and the rest of it, and it only remains to make port and sit for 18 hours or so in the Main Trunk train.

As an appropriate nuncio, “Pig Island” has sent out to meet, greet and delay us, a snorting southerly “buster”, into the teeth of which we have been driving for the past twelve hours.

Since we were paid a couple of days ago, the amount and intensity of gambling going on all over the ship, despite stringent orders, has been astonishing.

[Images below: the two-sided “Casualty Form – Active Service” for Gunner Godfrey Lincoln Lee, recording key dates in his wartime service.  Army bureaucracy at its best!]



23rd May (1919)

Tuesday and Wednesday were wet and rough – spent most of the time playing euchre and sevens (or Rickety Ann, as we used to call it).  After Serbia, read a book by Col. Younghusband called “The Story of the Guides”.  Am now reading one called “The Newspaper” on the history, functions, production etc. of newspapers generally.

At last the back of the long Pacific run is broken, disembarking arrangements are in progress, and we should reach Wellington by Thursday next.

Tonight we were entertained by a mock-candidature for the Mayoralty of the City of Kaitoke – quite amusing too.

19th May (1919)

Ship making good time now, but I want some water giant to give it a terrific thousand-mile push from the stern.  Third birthday on active service – my 35th.

The officers and entertaining committees have spared no pains amusing us, and every day concerts, sports, competitions etc. have been held.

Read a book on Serbia by one (Miss) Waring – a striking testimony to the long martyrdom of a heroic race.

10th and 11th May (1919)

Two calm dull days in succession, concluding with a beautiful sunset over a glassy sea glimmering with a hundred different tints.

We had a deck concert, and for the first time in many days, the stars were visible.  There was the old Southern Cross well up in the sky – Laus Deo!  During the day we sighted several mountainous islands, one of them a great wedge-like rock towering out of the ocean, with almost perpendicular sides, like an island in a fairy tale.

Well across the line now.  Good old Pacific – calm-cool (comparatively) – birds both great and small – whales spouting, and, occasionally in the distance schools of porpoises pouncing out of the water in glee.

Thursday, 8th May (1919)

On Tuesday we reached Colon, and in the evening were let ashore.  The heat was terrific.  It is a curious tropical town – the European quarter, Christobal, being separate from the native and larger part.  The buildings are all large wooden two-storey places: usually open shops below, and living quarters above.  Shops, cafes, etc., are all open, or with wire gauze instead of glass.  Magnificent coconut and banana palms grow everywhere.  We bought cool drinks, fruit, panama hats.

The first evidence of America’s great work was an immense mole running out for miles, and forming an artificial harbour.  It is made of huge concrete cubes piled higgledy piggeldy into the sea.  A man who tried to take an afternoon stroll along it would need to be an acrobat.  After sweating gallons all over the place, we returned by special train to the ship, which had been taking in bunker coal by the most rapid method – a kind of revolving belt which whirls it like a stream of water into the hold.

At 6 a.m. we moved into the Canal.  After teaming a few miles through jungle, we got into the great Gatun locks – amazing things, working like clockwork.  By this we were raised 85 feet in as many minutes, into the man-made lake which covers more than half the width of the isthmus.  Its arms reach out in every direction, through jungle-clad hills, the tops of the submerged and now dead forests protruding here and there from the surface of the water.

We steamed at a fair pace for some three hours before reaching the Culebra Cut.  Here and there alligators could be seen snoozing in the mud at the edge of the water.  These were greeted with ear-splitting yells from the diggers, which, however, the Saurians ignored.  The luxuriance of the jungle is bewildering.  Magnificent butterflies and giant beetles visited the ship as she sped past their enchanted islands.  We could imagine what lovely gatherings of “Car” and the “Banderlog” were concealed in that prolific vegetation.*

Evidence of landslides in the Culebra Cut: near which are anchored several powerful dredges.  Here, as in several important stages of the work, is a small town of employees’ quarters.  In other places are wireless stations.  A rail-way appears to go right through the isthmus, following the canal in parts, and at one place crossing it by a curious removable bridge.  At the Pedro Miguel lock we got a great reception from a bevy of officials’ wives and their kiddies, who threw aboard papers, fruit etc.

From that lock you steam across a small round lake to the third and last lock, Miraflores, which lets you down to the Pacific level, and another short stretch of canal launches you out once more upon the ocean.

It is a wonderful thing to see a big ship picked up bodily and carried 50 miles across hilly country, out of one ocean into another.

Before reaching the broad seas we had to pass through an archipelago.

* Kaa (python) and the Bandar-log (monkeys) are animals from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Saturday, 3rd May (1919)

Sighted the Bahama Islands.  The first one was low-lying, set off by a tall lighthouse, built upon a palm-fringed spit.

Continuing to read Mais’ “Studies in Literature” with interest.  He looks upon the present as a great renaissance in English literature, giving many extracts from writers of whom I have never heard, which have filled me with impatience to obtain and read their work.  He also shows the aims of the modern “realistic” novelists who are determined to face facts at all risks, and seek after beauty in the dregs.