The 1916 war diary of 2nd Lieut. Dick Willis Fleming
February 1916 archives
Left Leicester at 9 a.m. with 20 men to go overseas and join up with the battery who sailed last Friday. Sailed from Avonmouth at 10 p.m. in the "Karoa", 850 men on board mostly A.S.C. and artillery, 330 mules, and motor transport etc.
Been snowing all day so is pretty cold. Nearly all the crew on board are blacks, mostly Indians. Gieve waistcoat handy all ready for emergencies.
Woke up after a good sleep to find the ship rolling a bit. We have all got to lend a hand looking after the mules, mine are in No 1 hatch forward, No 2 deck. All the mules are from Romsey Remount Camp.
Everyone seems a bit off colour today, especially poor old Bradley. Went through the men's mess decks after midday stables and found nearly all the men in various stages of sea sickness.
3 p.m. Several of the A.S.C. officers succumbed but the gunners still holding their own, a very nasty swell and roll and I am afraid Bradley won't last much longer. At present we are two hundred miles from Avonmouth and 1063 from Gibraltar. It is a great comfort to see our escort (1 destroyer) hovering around us all the time, though having a rough time of it.
4 p.m. Went and saw to the mules being fed, very few of the men managed to turn up. Poor old Bradley succumbed at last, went at fetched him out for a cup of tea but he couldn't hold onto it for long.
Our escort has deserted us but I hear we are to be picked up by a French cruiser during the night. Feeling quite lively still, though too long in the mules quarters would finish me. We shall be in the Bay sometime tonight so shall turn in before we get there.
Slept like a log. Reveille 6 a.m. I had a cold sea bath. We got into the Bay about 10 o'clock last night. Not so rough as yesterday, Bradley nearly himself again. I think I've nearly got my sea legs now. Saw one or two tramps on the horizon. Had boat drill this morning, our boat is to hold 57 men and three officers, personally I shall trust to my Gieve if the time comes.
I was having a nap in my cabin after lunch when my servant came rushing in to say there was an alarm. I went up on deck and found a fire had broken out, the black men worked like devils and had it under in quarter of an hour. Luckily it was the chief engineer's cabin on the boat deck, and not below as the hold aft is stuffed with ammunition. It was rather comforting within half an hour of the fire breaking out to see a battleship cruising towards us, when she found we were alright she steamed away again. I was talking to the marine in charge of our submarine gun (a twelve pounder) and he says the submarines like to attack at dusk or dawn when they can come up on top for a sure aim.
Passed Cape Finnisterre about 4.30 p.m. but unfortunately couldn't see it as we are 100 miles out to sea. There is a nasty swell but we are all feeling very cheerful. Whenever I go back to my cabin I find a black man in there doing something or other, they won't give our servants a look in, but they seem very honest and are very good waiters.
This afternoon we passed the area where the German raider Mowe was last reported to have been at work.
A glorious day to start with, a hot sun and strong wind, & I feel very fit indeed as I have quite got my sea legs. Several squalls about midday and almost a gale and getting very rough towards evening. We passed quite close to a three-masted schooner, the "Cimbria" of Dartmouth, bound for England. She was fairly burying her nose. I am officer of the watch from ten o'clock tonight til 6 tomorrow morning.
We saw land soon after six, and by seven o'clock we were going through the straits. The coast of Spain was beautifully clear and looked very wild, also the coast of Africa. The first town we saw was Tarifa (Spain) then we had a splendid view of Tangier and Centa. We came abreast of Gibraltar just before eight and it was a glorious sight, but there was rather a mist hanging round the Rock. A school of porpoises came along quite close to the ship.
Just as we had passed the Rock a torpedo boat came dashing out to us and told us the course we were to go, and also said enemy submarines were active in the Gulf of Lyons, but we shall be giving that a wide berth. There was a good many cruisers in Gibraltar. It was beautifully calm today and nice and warm. Have seen a lot of black backed gulls about. After leaving Gibraltar we kept getting glimpses of the North coast of Africa but about thirty miles from us.
A glorious day, calm and a hot sun. We've been averaging 350 miles in 24 hrs all along, so are getting along well. We had four boat drills today, so every man ought to know his place in case of necessity. Four blasts on the steam whistle is the alarm signal. We had two practice alarms today and they went off very well.
We've had the coast of Algeria in sight all day but are about 30 miles off it. We passed Algiers about 10 am but were too far away to make anything out. We could see the Atlas Mountains quite plainly; all their tops were covered in snow and they looked very high.