Entertained last night by a gramophone playing ragtime. The infantry have been at rifle practice all day at various targets thrown over the stern. The bullets send up little spurts of foam.
Fired the gun – 3 shots – the bluejacket seemed to be a good shot and actually hit the target (a small cask) at 1000 yards. The other bluejacket is down with the fashionable illness for this ship – appendicitis. He is a decent chap and we hope he won’t follow the Maori officer. The shock of the gun was not so severe on the ears as our own field gun, though much heavier. We got limejuice and cold meat for dinner today and found it a vast improvement. At night all is in darkness and it is curious to pick one’s way about the decks strewn with men avoiding collisions by help of glowing cigarettes.
Slept on deck on a big coil of rope with a few old bolsters for mattress; sky overcast and heat oppressive. Have seen numbers of flying fish, mostly about the size of a herring – the young ones go in shoals and the bigger ones singly. They seldom cover more than (say) 20 yards in the air and do not rise more than a foot or so above the surface. The gun crew is to fire practice shots tomorrow, so if this record breaks off abruptly you will know that we have all been blown up. Have just had a shower and am sitting quite naked near porthole yet quite warm. We have all been issued with big lumps of chocolate in lieu of handing us the odd shilling still owing to us out of canteen profits. You would gape at the amount some of the chaps spend on sweets, drinks, tinned fruit and so forth.
Now allowed to sleep on deck. The other ships are very ugly-looking customers, being painted black with black funnels (except one which has a hideous light-blue one). One carries Chinese coolies and another has black labourers aboard. We still get roasting hot dinners in the middle of the day with soup piping hot and am getting fed up with it. One would expect to get lime juice in this weather. Very few birds have been following us of late; some black gulls and an occasional albatross. One example of the carelessness of the average N.Z. youth is in this cabin; after breaking the glass of his (presentation) watch for the third time he threw the watch over-board; a drastic remedy! The paper “Tiki Talk” is not to be published until we reach London.
Had a “gun alarm” last night and fired a number of imaginary shots at the bow of the vessel immediately following us. Did not observe many palpable hits. Dress in future is to be in shirt and denim pants only – there will be a great shortage in pocket room.
(Our tenth wedding anniversary.)
Many happy returns! It is very hard to realise that we have been married for ten years, and here I am off to fight Germans with a lot of boys.
8 p.m. In bed. The Southern Cross will apparently remain visible until we pass the equator. The moon is waning for the second time during our voyage but the black bulks of the other ships can be made out prowling in the starlight. Good night.
Some girls in a boat caused a diversion by coming alongside and taking letters from the men (lowered from the deck by means of puttees etc) until shooed off. This is a magnificent Bay. On my right is the great Table Mountain around whose base the town clusters. In front, sandy beach from which a plane sweeps about 40 miles to a high ragged range of mountains (The Drachenbergs?) To the left the beach runs on as far as the eye can follow, flanked by rolling hills dotted with farms. These continue round to the outer horn of the bay, apparently 60 or 70 miles away, where the ocean makes up and completes the circle, save for a small low island about 5 or 6 miles out opposite the port which is I understand, a Leper sanatorium. The sun is blazing and hot-looking clouds lie around the horizon and over the brow of the mountain and this is winter!
We are off! Put out to sea with bands playing; one of a convoy of eight large steamers sailing in line about ¼ mile apart. Table Mountain is shrinking in the distance and we feel again the familiar roll of the ocean. Later the vessels lined up two and two, with the escorting ship (a converted cruiser) in the rear.
Night: The sea is highly phosphorescent, and the bow wave of the ship seems to be composed of scintillating diamonds. From the luminous darkness an army of porpoises, careering like long-tailed comets through the sparkling water, have been rushing up to the bow, where they double on their tracks, piloting the ship for miles and providing the best pyrotechnic display I have ever seen.
More and more ships have arrived including a man-o-war and an auxiliary cruiser. As one of the chaps remarked, “Germany rules the waves all right!”.
This afternoon we had boxing instead of drill. Most of the bouts were mere punching matches. I got a clout on the head that made the world go round for a while, but my opponent reckons he saw many varieties of stars also. A powerful young farmer; when I asked why he hit so hard apologised and said once started he couldn’t help it, we became friends.
The harbour is filling with ships. A naval gun is now mounted in the stern and we gunners are to man it under the supervision of two Naval Reserve gunners. We will have continuous shifts of 4 hours on and 8 hours off throughout the rest of the voyage.
Alas – our boat went out into the stream this morning, and is now awaiting convoy. Tobacco, railway fares, fruit in season, servants and labour, are cheap, meals, food stuffs etc. very dear, also firewood, but salaries are correspondingly higher. I had on occasions a glass of brandy with K. and have never tasted spirit which I cared so much about. The reason is, here distillers are under compulsion to make brandy out of wine. The city and suburbs are situated at the root or isthmus of a long narrow peninsular dividing two large bays (see atlas). The water in the bay on which the city stands is cold, but that of the other bay is much warmer and its shores are consequently the favourite watering places. The higher ground is stony and rocky and of a reddish volcanic appearance, though not scoriac, and is thinly coated with a stunted kind of heath and scattered hardy-looking trees. On the low country there is grass and the soil is sandy though good for certain purposes, such as growing vegetables. What with the heathers, of which there are numerous varieties, and all the other flowering things, it must be a wonderful sight in spring.