Here we have another new experience. A first class passenger on a large transatlantic liner, is hardly what one would expect to be doing in the middle of a Sanguinary war. But we are lolling in the easy chairs of a luxuriously furnished saloon, while the Brigade band helps us to digest a most excellent seven course dinner. Presently we shall retire to our state rooms, not cabins, & sleep completely surrounded by the latest patent inventions for surrounding American millionaires in luxury. And all this at the expense of H.M. Government, all we have to pay for is what we drink.
This certainly is a good boat, large fast & very comfortable. On board with us is the Divisional Staff & a large number of officers who are having their first leave after several months on the “peninsular”. The Gallipoli show is always known as the “peninsular”; similarly one talks of the “Gulf” & the “Canal” – we only have the “Salient”.
I am sharing a state room with Escombe the signaller, he has the lower berth & I the upper berth: I of course had the choice & mindful of the old “look-out” story could only do as I did. Bosworth rejoices in a 2nd class berth & will doubtless do himself very well indeed. At dinner tonight, the same arrangement will doubtless hold good throughout the voyage, I sat next to the Adjutant, & 2 other Monmouths, in fact we had a small table to ourselves.
There is only one defect that we have so far discovered, the absence of a piano. This is a great pity as there are several pianists & plenty of people who are willing to sing. As I shall post this letter at the end of the voyage, & it will in all probability therefore reach you before the others that I wrote in Alexandria, I had perhaps better explain just briefly why I am on a boat at all. It is thus. I just reached my own people again when the powers that be decided that it was time we returned whence we came: fortunately only half the infantry had crossed so it was not so bad as it might have been, had there been the whole Division to trans-ship back again. A full description of all out intermediate doings will doubtless reach you in time & I cannot write it all down again. This is the result. We are all on this boat, sitting at the present minute in Alexandria harbour, & tomorrow morning we sail. Our destination has not been officially told us but there seems to be little doubt but that this letter will be posted in the selfsame town in which I spent much money & did little work for nearly a month after Xmas.
We were originally intended to sail this afternoon but were prevented from doing so by a very simple little affair. All the skill of the authorities failed entirely to discover any method, any combination of ropes, slings, & pullies, any manipulations of cranes & derricks, whereby the G.O.C. car could be hoisted on board, without damage, or loss of some such essential part as a few spokes. For nearly 2 hours the car stood on the quay while one general, two A.D.C.s, 2 Captains, a fatigue party of men to represent the junior service, the chief officer, the boatswain, 3 A.B.s & seven Lascars, to represent the Senior service, tried to invent some way of solving the problem. If the ropes were firm enough to support the weight of the car, the mudguards got crushed as soon as the car left the ground. If on the other hand the ropes were so arranged as not to touch the mudguard the military authorities declared that the whole thing was insecure & complete ruin was all that they could expect; in the end a compromise was effected & the car was got on board with only a slight damage to the mudguard. But it was now too late. All these harbours now have their closing times, that is to say the hour when the boom is drawn across the entrance to keep off the prying eyes of inquisitive submarines. That hour had almost come & so we are staying here tonight.
Last night, owing to a very early move this morning the whole of the staff slept in the town & left us to stay in camp & bring along the men. I too had a small jaunt in the town, as finding Pullinger wandering about, we had dinner & tea together, the former at the Majestic, the latter at the “Savoy” Hotel. In between these two important events we wandered about trying to find a shop where we could pick up some small souvenirs of this country to send home. I managed to find a couple of little things, one for you & one for Dini & shall send them along when I get a chance to do so. Of course there is always the possibility, if all these rumours are true that I shall bring them along to you myself. At all events I hope so.