Friday, 11th day (13 April 1917)

Weather still thick and colder.  The birds have deserted us and the sea is getting up.  A small ship would probably find it rough, but our boat hardly moves except to the swell.  Vaccination this afternoon.  Our officers do their best to contribute towards our comfort by cutting short parades in bad weather, etc.  I have bought a pair of tennis shoes from the Ship’s barber to afford a change from the leather shoes issued to us, which get very wet.  An albatross and a smaller bird are now following up the wake.  Sea getting rougher.  Now well over 3000 miles from New Zealand, the boat doing about 290 to 300 miles a day.  Had an interesting yarn with an old sailor (now a machine-gunner) last night.  He had been all over the world and had some hair-raising adventures.

Revielle, 6.15.  Muster parade 6.35, when we simply answer our names and, if late, are given fatigues etc.  Breakfast either 7.30 or 8 a.m. (two sittings).  We then tidy up our cabins and scrub our floors.  Parade for physical drill 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.  Dinner (with hot soup instead of tea) at noon.  Parade for physical drill etc., 2.15 for an hour or two, or if wet, lectures in the dining hall.  Tea at 5 p.m.  Long benches are used for meals, each attended by a permanent orderly, who is exempt from all other duties.  In the intervals after parades, and in the evening we play games such as quoits, boxing etc., and read.

8th, 9th, and 10th days (10-12 April 1917)

We are constantly being reminded of the great importance of keeping ourselves clean, yet we are deprived of the means of cleanliness.  We get a salt shower once a week, but, as Bullen points out, it is quite impossible to cleanse either flesh or clothes with sea water.  I must tell you of how two corporals perform their morning ablutions.  Finding the salt water impossible, they take turns in filling a small mug with fresh (drinking only) water, emptying it over their bowed heads and catching it en route in their hands and smearing it over their faces.  The mess on the cabin floor they then utilise for scrubbing out.  The clock is put on every night to allow for the distance by which each day we overtake the rising sun.  The ship is now sailing with no lights showing and a double look-out.  Portholes being all screwed down it is rather stuffy below.  They are going to get out a ship’s paper or magazine and a prize of half a guinea is offered for the best title therefor.  Weather a little warmer.  We have not sighted a single ship.  Indian clubs, forming pyramids, somersaults etc., are being introduced into our drill.  We have not had an hour’s sunshine for a week.  Saw a small piece of ice of a few tons weight but it is too late in the year for bergs (luckily, as weather is very foggy).

“Indian clubs, forming pyramids, somersaults etc., are being introduced into our drill”, aboard New Zealand Troopship, SS Corinthic, 1917

7th day (9 April 1917)

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.

6th day out (8 April 1917)

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.

4th day out (6 April 1917)

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.

Wednesday, 5 April 1917, 2nd day out

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).]

Departure of SS Corinthic

(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.

Departure of troopship SS Corinthic (HMNZT 80), 2 April 1917
View from Kelburn, Wellington, of SS Corinthic in Wellington Harbour, 2 April 1917

The next two images are sourced from websites dedicated to maritime matters:

SS Corinthic2
“New Zealanders leaving to fight for their country … April 3”
“A rare colour White Star postcard of the SS Corinthic”