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]

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