Colder and colder. A fair heavy sea is now running with a piercing southerly wind and things are pretty bleak and miserable. Most of the men wear overcoats all day. I only put mine on occasionally, but wear more garments under my dungarees. Some of the waves are very high, and it is fine to watch the ship squash them into a peculiar aerated mass of cold, light prussian-green colour – the colour I saw in the ice-caves on the top of Ruapehu – the colour of cold itself. The canteen is rapidly running out of various commodities so I am laying in a reserve stock of tobacco to avoid the catastrophe of finding myself some fine morning without a smoke.
A sharp southerly breeze is covering the rollers with catspaws or white horses. We hear that we shall sail probably 200 miles south of the usual courses around the Horn but that the Captain says “It’s the best time of year for this trip”. When standing about on Guard I wasn’t too warm with singlet, shirt, sweater, tunic and overcoat. If we take the route expected (to Capetown via the Horn) we will go equal to 3/5ths of the earth’s circumference before making way North. Yesterday we were assigned our respective lifeboats, rafts, etc., and wore our life-belts. They are kapok ones of course, very light. Mine however, is of the old cork variety. The Captain gave us a short lecture about keeping our heads in case of casualty of the ship and said that the officers had orders to shoot any man who panics. The Maoris are a constant source of merriment. The birds now following us appear to be Mother Carey’s Chickens, neat grey-coloured birds, convoyed by a couple of albatrosses, whilst a lonely little sea-sparrow flits about the bow. Albatrosses have no difficulty in getting up off the water though possibly they might if it were dead calm. I am for the first time reading Bullen’s “Cruise of the Cachalot”, find it most entertaining and am longing to sight a sperm whale.
Now about 1,100 miles from New Zealand. In honour of Good Friday the tucker here has been extra special – fish, rabbit, prunes, but as I am on guard (which is kept punctiliously all over the ship), I have had to eat etc., under difficulties. Some amusing boxing contests took place, the Maoris being especially funny. We have not yet sighted a single ship, or anything of interest, only the great waste of sea on all sides and a few lonely sea birds. The cold is steadily increasing.
After steaming about 12 hours turned in our tracks straight back to Wellington. (Explanation: Captain, on opening ‘sealed orders’ found he had further to go than he expected). Took aboard more water and coal and set out again without berthing. Having two Wednesdays this week to account for day gained in sailing East. Have not been sick at all, though many are very ill. Ship is gradually settling down into working routine. Distance glimpse of the Chatham Islands this morning about twenty miles to northward. Yesterday the ship was followed by Gannets and young albatrosses; but today they have given way to Moly-Hawks. Glimpsed school of porpoises. Ship is not fast, about 12 knots, drawing about 30 feet and rides the seas steadily. Nothing visible but a waste of rolling water, but it has a grandeur of its own and gives a feeling of freedom. Great fun when we do physical jerks on the moving deck. The Artillery won the toss for the few cabins available. I am in a four berth one.
[Note – Lincoln’s typescript starts on “Wednesday, April 5th 1917, 2nd day out”. This appears to be in error – it should be Wednesday April 4th 1917. For the voyage, the typescript then records “days out” and the occasional day name, rather than full dates, with “Monday 7th day” coming soon after, (this would have been Monday 9 April 1917). Future blog entries we will follow from 100 years to the correct date (which is, in any case, corrected later in the typescript, when he disembarks in England).]
(This post provides background information on the sailing of the SS Corinthic from Wellington Harbour and is written by the blog editor, John Hutton).
The 23rd Reinforcements, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, departed New Zealand on two troopships: Ruapehu (14 March 1917) and Corinthic (2 April 1917). The ships were, respectively, the 79th and 80th troop ships to depart from New Zealand during World War One, out of 111 sailings.
The Corinthic carried the “left wing” of the reinforcements and was given the designation His Majesty’s New Zealand Transport (HMNZT) 80.
Lincoln Lee’s wartime account apparently commences on “Wednesday 5 April 1917″, which he describes as the ‘second day out’ from New Zealand. This appears to be an error, and the date should have been Wednesday 4 April 1917”.
The following two photographs are from Lincoln’s private collection, held by his descendants. The first is a blurred shot of the SS Corinthic and departing troops, taken from the wharf in Wellington. Lincoln’s location in the crowd is marked with a “X” on the original photograph. The second photograph is taken from Kelburn near the cable car, looking down on Wellington Harbour. An “X” appears to mark the location of the troop ship. We might assume that Lincoln’s first wife, Mary Catherine Lee, to whom he wrote his diary-like letters which this blog reproduces, was the photographer.
Dedication in “Walk March” typescript
Warwick St. George Ruxton Wilson, of Scotch and Irish ancestry, who when he died suddenly and painlessly at the age of 77, was head of a well-known Auckland legal firm, was, from school days, my lifetime friend. He and I were A.L. (afterwards Sir Alexander) Herdman’s clerks in Wellington in 1905 and we came to Auckland within a year of one another in 1912 – 1913, where he joined as junior partner of the firm of which he finally became the senior member. He did a lot of motor cycling then, running a branch office in Waiuku, which recalls that after the tragic drowning of his brother Noel, he had promised his mother never to take up yachting. It did not occur to her that motor-cycling was at least as hazardous. Noel’s yacht had capsized at Wellington Heads, leaving him and his two companions clinging to wreckage in a terrific sea which even the Harbour Tug could not face. Watched helplessly by the Pencarrow Lighthouse Keeper, Noel held on for an hour longer than his companions.
In 1916 we both enlisted in the Artillery, going into Featherston Camp in August when he had been married for about one year and I for nine.
I have an old photograph of our Sub-Section showing us both as tough young soldiers. His eldest son, Ian, was born in lodgings near by and after the christening he cooly informed me I had become its Godfather in absentia. Twenty-four years later we evened things up by making him Godfather to our daughter Belinda (by my second wife, the first having died childless). Both Ian and another son were killed as air pilots in the Battle of Britain and a third survived the war.
In the army he was the mainstay of my sanity under conditions more trying to one of my touchy nature than to his calmer and more stoical one. I must often have exasperated him with my grousing but the worst I ever got as a rebuke was “You do go on and on”.
His wife died some years before him, their three surviving children all happily married, so he spent his last years at his club. His chief hobby was golf at week-ends with a few old cronies. After his sudden death, just before dinner at his Club, his doctor ordered the body to be taken to the private hospital which he had patronised. By mistake, it was taken to the General Hospital where Belinda was nursing. She was on duty laying out the dead and did the last offices to Warwick’s body mechanically without studying his features. On looking at the identification card she fell back crying “Oh, it’s my God-father!” A senior doctor took her kindly aside and made her sit down and rest. How did that come about? Who knows? She loved him.
I started this Dedication to my dead friend intending only a short note, but felt that would not do justice to his memory. We hadn’t many tastes in common; perhaps why our friendship never failed. He was “Salt of the Earth”, and his quiet qualities of good humour, integrity and reliability will be remembered by all who ever knew him”.
(Lincoln Lee – likely written mid 1960s)