Since our grand-uncles sailed together to India, you may be interested in Fred's account of the voyage and their first few weeks there. I'll skip over the family talk, it's a long letter.
Wed Feb 5 1913
We left Colchester early, at 5:30 on the 19th Dec. and got to Southampton at 12. We stopped at Aldershot to pick up some KRR's an 5th Dragoons. We went on board the Dufferin, which was just opposite the train, and got our spare kit stacked away in the hold, and were told off in messes. There were drafts coming in all the afternoon and we whiled away the time watching them come in. At 5 o'clock the ship moved off from the quay and there was a lot of shouting going on for nearly an hour. A lot of the troops had their friends down to see them off and a lot of women and girls starting crying. One of our chaps, who is on the way here now with the next draft, stood on one of the capstans they moor the boats to. All the people, about 300 or more, were crowding round him, and he was waving his bowler hat, and bawling out " Are we downhearted." Then all the troops on board shouted back "No." We kept this up till we were about a mile from the quay, when the people gradually went away.
At 8 o'clock we stopped off Netley Hospital for the night, starting off again at 5 next morning. The boats always stop like this leaving Southampton, as it is too dangerous to pass by the Needles in the night. The next morning we saw the last of old England for a good time. We passed down the Solent between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, of which we got a very good view, especially the Needles, three sharp pices of rock sticking out of the water about 200 ft high. This was the last we saw of the land.
We soon got used to the life on board. We were all queer for the first two days while in the Channel. I wasn't sick, but I felt dizzy and couldn't eat much. The grub we got wasn't very grand, and as it was cooked by the crew, who were all halfbreeds or Lascars as they are called, it didn't give us much appetite to eat it. We used to amuse ourselves watching them make their own grub. They would mix up a lot of curry and flour stuff, treading all over it with their feet. When it was cooked they would all squat round and maul it out with their fingers. It looked as if they never washed, for their skins, which were brown or black, looked regularly going green with stale dirt. They were good sailors though, and they are of course cheaper to employ than Englishmen. A lot or in fact most of them come from Bombay or Karachi. The ships bugler and some others had been in the Indian army. The Dufferin is owned by the Indian government, and you don't find Lascars on the other troopships. Up alongside their quarters were kept sheep, goats, dogs, rabbits and pigs, it looked more like Captain Scott's Polar Expedition.
While we were in the channel we run down a smack. This was in the night, and we knew nothing about it till next morning. There was no one drowned. On the third day we got into the Bay, which it took us two days to get through. It wasn't very rough here, the waves didn't ever look like coming over the decks. We had it rough one night though, the boat was rolling and we were pitching against each other in our hammocks.
On Monday night at 8 o'clock we passed Gibraltar. It was dark so we could only see the lights. The garrison on top sent a searchlight message and wished us a merry Xmas and Happy New Year. We did the same. We passed lots of ships on the way out, and there were always signals exchanged. We didn't get anything special Xmas, but on New Years Day we each paid a shilling, and got plenty of turkey, pudding, and nuts and oranges etc. The water was rough and smooth by turns going through the Meditterranean. It had been cold too, so far. We passed Malta, as we did every other place, at night. We saw a lot of the coast of Tripoli, but too far off to distinguish anything. What we did see were thousands of porpoises jumping about in the water. We saw two sharks and some flying fish and several kinds of jellyfish as well.
On Sunday 29th Dec., we got into Port Said. We stopped here all night to coal ship. It is a big place, it was lit up, and we could see lots of big ships with illuminated signs on top, such as Bovril and Nestles Milk. A lot of barges came along with coal and the women were shovelling it into baskets for the men to bring aboard. They were chattering like a lot of magpies and they were the biggest rogues out. They came aboard with dates, bananas, cigars, Turkish delight and chocolate. They would offer you stuff for about a 1/- and be glad to sell it for about 2d if you wouldn't buy it. It is just the same out here, the natives try to do us, and we have to do them. It is tit for tat.
On starting off again, we got into the Suez Canal where we had the hottest weather we have had so far. The sun broiled down on the decks and the sea was as smooth as glass, not a ripple on it. We took a day to get through it. It is 90 miles long, but big ships are not allowed to go more than 6 miles an hour. It is only about 200 yards across, although in one part it widens out into a big lake. We passed lots of dredgers on the way. We had Egypt on the right, and the Peninsular of Sinai (Arabia) on the other. Africa one side, Asia the other. We saw plenty of caravans on each side, camels, Bedouin Arabs, and women who cover their faces with a veil, you could only see their eyes. We soon finished the rest of our journey. We sailed 500 m iles through the Red Sea, past Aden, round into the Arabian Sea, and across to Karachi which we reached early on Thursday morning 9th Jan.
When we were on board we had nothing to do except find guards. I only did two during the 3 weeks. We paraded at ten for "Rounds" when the Captain walked round the ship, and then we had a fire drill and life saving. We had to put on life belts and stand on the top deck, while sentries were placed over the boats. We had all sorts of games on board, sports were got up, boxing, obstacle races and tug of wars. And concerts in the evenings. There was a lot of gambling went on but I never did any of it. We had a church parade on Sunday mornings. There were over a thousand soldiers on board. There were drafts of 5th and 2nd Drags., 16th Lancers, 11th Hussars, RGA's, RB's, KRR's, Seaforths, Lancashire Fus, Irish Fus, Welsh Fus, Essex and West Kents.
We left Karachi by special trains driven by English drivers, at 8 o'clock at night on the 9th Jan, and got here at 7 pm on the 11th. The distance was about 1000 miles right through the Sindh and the Punjab. There were rest-camps on the way up where we stopped for meals, bread, hot tea, tinned meat and butter and jam. The largest places we came through were Mooltan and Lahore. There were lots of strange sights to see on the journey, the little villages with houses built of clay, and thatched with wattles of straw. Camels carry all the heavy baggage, ponies are used for driving the garrys, which take the place of cabs and buses out here. Other animals used for carrying are bullocks, mules, donkeys and goats.
We were first of all sorted out in companies. 9 of us went to E Coy, then we got a hot supper, and were put in tents away from the barracks. We were isolated here for two weeks. This was in case we brought any disease with us. We had to go to the hospital every morning to be inspected, and have lectures given us on how to take care of ourselves to avoid enteric dysentery and sunstroke etc., and what to do in case of snake bites. We were all inoculated, and then done again ten days afterwards. You are bad for about two days, as you practically have the fever germs pricked into you. We had to do a parade every day on the square while we were in the tents to let us get used to the drill which is a bit different out here.
We are in the bungalows now, and it is quite a gentlemens life taking it all round. The knappies (that is barbers) come round and shave you while you're asleep, the boot wallah cleans your boots for about an anna a week.
Of course, we get Indian money out here, not pounds and d., but rupees and annas and pice. A rupee is 1/4, anna is 1 d, pice 1/4 d, and pie 1/12 d. I am only drawing 2 rupees aweek for a month or two, as we have got our Indian kit to pay for, 3 suits khaki, 3 suits white, and suit of black, besides short knickers, called khud "knicks", puggarees, which go round the helmets, socks and boots. Once I have paid for this I shall draw more than I did at home and begin to save some up. I shall be able to send plenty of things home presently.
We go off on some manoeuvres on Monday to a place 38 miles away called Sang Jani. We do another 3 weeks again after that. Later on when it begins to get too hot the whole camp moves from here up in the hills to a place called Kuldana. It is only just warm here now, but later on it will be somewhere about 124 degrees in the shade. There is a lot of rain up in the hills when the monsoon comes. It never rains in England like it does here.
North of our camp lie the Murree Hills. They are called hills but they are over twice the height of Mt Snowdon, which is 4000 odd feet. Between us and the hills is the railway which runs onto Peshawar, through the Kyber Pass to Kabul. The air is very clear out here, for the foot of the hills, while it is 11 miles away, doesn't look any more than two. A mountain 13,000 ft high, which we can see quite plain, is 25 miles away as the crow flies, and 37 miles if you walk it.
We have to take great care of our rifles out here, for fear of thieves, Afghans and Pathans from the hills. The rifles, when we are not using them, are locked in racks in the centre of the bungalow, and two men sleep by them every night. A rifle orderly is told off every day and he holds the keys. The bolts and magazines and swords are locked in our boxes every night. It is bolts the thieves are after rather than the rifles, which they can make themselves.
We are part of the Northern Army, and if any trouble broke out on the frontier, we should be the first to go. There are three posts ahead of us, Peshawar, Nowshere, and Mebong. In Peshawar no one is allowed out after retreat. We are safe enough here, although it doesn't do to go into the native city unless there is about 6 of you. There are 15,000 troops here including natives. I will tell you more about the place next time.
That's most of the letter but here's a little gift from India http://i314.photobucket.com/albums/ll403/dennel13/india1.jpghttp://i314.photobucket.com/albums/ll403/dennel13/india2.jpg
Honoring Rfn Fred Peters and Rfn Charles Durrant and the men of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade