52nd day (24 May 1917)

No leave, owing to the prevalence of fever.  Only a few hundred white people live here.  A welcome change of fare for breakfast – bread and marmalade and porridge, instead of stew.  Blacks in boats and canoes are hanging about the ship selling green looking fruits at exorbitant prices.  The only fruit strange to me was what they are calling Mangoes.  I tasted one but didn’t think much of it.  The pineapples and bananas are small and measly.

Being Empire Day, there is no parade.

nlnzimage 1-4 061222-F Sierra-leone
Canoes from Sierra Leone coming alongside the World War One troopship Ruapehu. Neill, Gordon Kirkpatrick: Negatives relating to World War I. Ref: 1/4-061222-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

Note – the RMS Ruapehu (HMNZT 79) departed New Zealand on 14 March 1917, carrying the other part of the 23rd Reinforcements to the SS Corinthic, which Lincoln Lee travelled on.  The Ruapehu arrived in England on 21 May 1917, whereas the Corinthic arrived on 10 June 1917.  Both ships appear to have stopped off at Sierra Leone allowing enterprising locals to sell fruit to the embarked troops.

Wednesday, 51st day – Sierra Leone (23 May 1917)

Here we are steaming in a long line into our second port.  Forest on the hills and smoke visible in several places.  Specks that may be houses beginning to show up.  Met with tiny fishing craft many miles out, but not near enough to see their occupants.  To the north of the hilly portion is a tract of low-lowing forest country following the coast line.  We are now passing a beautiful little peninsula on which is built a white light-house against a background of tropical trees.  Now at anchor opposite the port.  Steamers and ships are lying at anchor and rum-looking native boats with leg-of-mutton sails flit about the bay.  The natives are very black skinned and look finer than those at Cape Town.  A few blacks in rickety looking canoes came around with some frowsy fruit but were chivied off.  Many men have been fishing, but caught nothing, probably owing to sharks.  I saw a fairly large one this evening.

50th day (22 May 1917)

It rained cats and dogs last night again and the water came down the hatchway and flooded out some of the cabins.  There is something almost uncanny in the regularity of the weather – dull mornings – clear afternoons – cloudless hazy sky in the evening with distant lightening in East – then clouds over and rains about midnight.  Have seen no birds for days.

[Note (25 May 2017) – dating sequence now corrected between 22 May 1917 to 26 May 1917]

Sunday 20th May

Yesterday 19th was my 33rd birthday, but I forgot about it, until Warwick produced a present from you.  Many thanks.  Wish we were following Ithobal’s course and were hugging the coast, instead of mid-ocean.

Last night a thunderstorm broke with a deluge.  I crawled into various places on deck trying to sleep and finally curled up on the ammunition boxes.  At about 4 a.m. the aches and pains became unendurable and I crawled below.  Morning dull again, but dull here implied the possibility of being sunburnt through your shirt.

47th day (19 May 1917)

Rudely awakened at midnight by a downpour of warm rain.  I have for the third time en voyage had my shaving mug stolen and am getting wild about it.  The canteen has almost run out of cigarettes.  I really prefer a pipe, but fall a prey to their handiness. I have also lost my penknife and am surprised to find to how many uses I have been putting its single small blunt blade.  As the Presbyterian is beginning to stream out of me (as a little girl put it) I must now adjourn to the deck.  The Neptune’s Court was screamingly funny.  Officers and men in fearsome get-ups, Neptune, mermaids, and all sorts of monstrosities before whom representatives of all ranks were tried, lathered with white-wash, shaved with a huge wooden razor and hurled backwards into the bath.  Even the O.C. of the ship took his turn.  There were fiendish dental and surgical operations productive of large bones, strings of sausages and a doll.  Towards the finish it degenerated into a rough house wherein the dunked dunked the dunkers, and unfortunately some sort of a row occurred amongst the officers which rather put a damper on the conclusion.

[Note – photographs of “Neptune’s Court” can be found at p.25 of the SS Corinthic ship’s magazine, Tiki Talk]

45th day (17 May 1917)

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.

‘Our means of defence – 4.7” naval gun’, on SS Corinthic (Claude Moore Collection, Presbyterian Archives Research Centre, P-A409-6-43)