Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Cameron Robertson war diary, 18 October-20 December 1914
MLMSS 1043/Item 1

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[Inside front cover]

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Diary of
Cameron Desaile Robertson
561 No 2 Company
Aus Army Service Corps
Divisional Train
1st Aus Imp Exped Force

Oct 18
Left Kensington at 7.45 am for Fort McQuarie there we caught ferry boats to S.S. Afric. We left Sydney Harbour at 5 15 pm. Same date. It was raining all the time.

At Sea Been a bit squamish all day – but am better now. Had a concert on deck. Warship sighted about 3.30 pm Weather good Sea Calm.

Passed Wilsons Promontry about 7 am. Had a good day. All A.S.C. gathered at 5 30 pm and Sung Australia’s Khaki men with Mulligan as instructor. Very funny.

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Mulligan counted out. 8 pm. Ship Sighted on Starboard, wireless messages exchanged. Supposed to be “SS Karoola".
Weather Still Same Nothing to do all day. No land in Sight. Have left Adelaide behind long ago. 7 pm Storm coming up but I dont think it will be much.
Bathurst feigned heart failure so as to be put off at Albany. Strength is he has “Germanitis" Nothing doing. Windy and Sea choppy.
Sea a bit rough. “Euripedes" Sighted. We are nearing this end of the Australian Bight and expect to reach Albany some time on Sunday. Started to rain about 5 pm & everything points to a rough night. I have a billious headache & feel sick. Had a rough night
Oct 24th
Storm gone down. Sea choppy & air cold. Still feeling sick. Head very bad.
Wrote 10 letters yesterday and 5 to-day also wrote two more & Sent one Souvenir photo to Sydney. Food becoming very bad.
Expect to reach Albany to-morrow.
Oct 25
Arrived in Albany at 5 am and anchored in King Georges Sound. Practically everybody

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up on deck at 4 am to See entrance into the Sound. We dropped anchor at 6.35.
There are a few Small islands at mouth of Sound, one of which is Breaksea. There is a lighthouse on it, and is situated to the right as you enter the Sound. I have not seen any beaches like we have in Sydney yet; though I am told there is a nice one near the township. One of the Engineers caught a small shark about two feet long and the men started to cut it up alive. After they had ripped it up & taken its tail off, they threw it back into the water.
1 pm. The Shropshire has just come into the Sound. There is another one following. Supposed to be the “Saldanha".
There are now about 14 troopships in the Sound.
Officers went ashore & returned to ship about 6.30. Rumours of march through Albany. I hope it comes off. The H.M.A.S. Melbourne arrived about 8 pm.
Heavy wind blowing. Sea rough. Orvieto and Geelong arrived about 8 am. There are other boats continually coming

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into the Sound. I am told that by to-morrow there will be over 28 in the Sound.
It is a public holiday being the W.A. Eight Hour Day, and is raining hard. All hands allowed below Mail in from Sydney Only a few letters for A.S.C. I received a letter from Sydney.
Wind blowing hard & there is every indication of a furious night.
Oct 27
Nothing much doing, still raining, in fact it is altogether a miserable day. I will be glad when we get on the move again Read out in orders this morning a Speech by Senator Pearce wishing us God Speed etc, also one by Earl Kitchener giving us advice and telling us to keep away from women and wine?
Wrote to Jim OConnor.
Am feeling darned lonely and wont be sorry when our stay in Albany is over & we are on our way again
Oct 28
Nice and fresh. “Miltiades" arrived at 8.25. There is only 10 New Zealand ships to arrive now 10 am New Zealand ships arrive
They are all painted grey and were escorted by three British Cruisers and one Japanese

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Cruiser. All are anchored at mouth of the Sound.
A small whaler came alongside with vegetables & supplies. She was very old and had a very dilapidated appearance
The Engineers & A.S.C. held a combined concert to-night Artists very good. Proposed to repeat same every week
Warship supposed to have fired shots across the bows of a transport steamer while entering the sound at
There are now about 42 ships in the Sound. There is now a strict censorship over all letters leaving the boat but letters sent to those on board are left intact.
Jim Buchanan asked Jack Clark what does radium do who said it mucked up things in general.
Oct 30.
Left moorings at 6.30 and came alongside the pier at 7.45.
The Infantry and A.S.C. from the “Benalla" went ashore about 9 am. They were a fine stamp of men.
The A.S.C. and Infantry off

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the “Afric" also went ashore at 2 pm and went for a route march through Albany. We marched right through the city and round to the beach, then round the mountain and back to the boat making a complete circle. We passed Anthony Horderns memorial on the top of the main street near the outskirts of the town. We passed his grave further on.
It is not a bad little place though it is a one horse-power outfit and everybody has the outback look.
The day was spoilt by a few fellows who broke the ranks and got drunk. Bathurst was amongst them and was trying to get away. The patrol caught them all in town and brought them back to the boat. David was in a rotten condition. He is to be tried this afternoon to-morrow
Oct 31st
Fire alarm at 5.15 am All hands turned out half asleep & half undressed. The fire was among some

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stores in no. 6 Hatch but was soon put out without causing much damage. We left Pier at 6. am and returned to moorings Everything ready to move off.
Mock courtmarshall at 7 pm Bathurst was tried on a charge of wearing a belt insufficiently tight to prevent his heart from slipping into the seat of his trousers & having told our comrades on the “Benalla" that all the men of the A.S.C. were suffering from Germanitis. He was found guilty & sentenced to a shower bath, a blanketing & Sent to Coventry for 14 Days. The Sentence was carried out right away and as there was not sufficient water in the shower the hose was turned on him.
Sunday Nov. 1st .
Nice and fresh Set sail at 7.45. and passed through the mouth of the Sound at 8.25 Sea very calm
We are moving along three abreast. The Afric is the fourth ship in the third line that is the last line on the port starboard

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Side. The “Orvieto" is the flagship. She is the first ship in our column
There is a cruiser at each of the rear flanks and one out in front. It is truly a splendid spectacle. There has never been as many ships under one flag on this ocean before. and I doubt if it will occur again.
All lights are put out on main deck and portholes are closed are closed until 9 pm, when they are opened, after the lights go out on troop deck.
Nov. 2nd
Very Rough weather Rain at intervals. New routine for ASC.
Lost my Soldiers Pay book.
The “Benalla" and Armidale are pitching and tossing like egg shells
Still very rough. Ship very steady compared to the rest. Feel sick. Have a very bad head Pay book found by Lance Corporal Woolman. 2/6 Reward to pay Pay Day. Only received 14/-.
3 pm Sea very high now. The “Medic" and “Ascanices" came into column

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from Freemantle [Fremantle] escorted by two Japanese cruisers.
Everyone is talking about the prophesy that the A.19. would go down on her Second day out They Say it is going down to-night at 11.55. Rot!!
“Gmynastics" to-night. Had gloves on with Jack Clark Good time. –
Sea gone down to heavy swell and ships rolled all night. I have no hammock and am sleeping on the troopdeck so which ever way the ship rolled I rolled too
Nov. 4th
Heavy. Swell. Dull day, Dead horse thrown overboard from the “Shropshire" Boxing tournament to-day at 2.30. It was a bit of a freeze. Too many forfeits Bob Mayman had a victory.
A very close night.
Nov. 5th
Glorious morning I am up on winch deck enjoying morning Sun while the rest are drilling We are in the tropics now and are beginning to feel the Sun
The food was pretty bad to-day although it has been improving. I have not had

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a decent cup of tea since we left Sydney.
The Osterley passed homeward bound at 6.50. She was very close and we could read the name quite plain. The passengers cheered and the troops cheered in return They signalled Good bye & God speed and were soon out of sight.
Later. A meeting was held over goods on board marked for troops. They say they were presented to the troops & want to know why they have not received them A committee is too be paraded before the colonel.
Very warm all day.
Practice in the use of lifebelts Had a tryout to join Glee club that is being formed on board.
Gee, but it’s hot to-day and the sea is quite calm.
Burial at Sea.
A chap by the name of Kendall died on board the “S.S. Euripides" and was buried at 10.30 am. The Ship going out of her course to do so.
I fell asleep on the winch

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deck and having no shirt on woke up later to find myself burnt all over
The “H.M.S. Minataur" left the head of the fleet this morning on other Service. The H.M.A.S. Melbourne will now be in charge of the escort.
A Slight sprinkling of rain but still very hot Something doing to-day. The Japanese cruiser that was on our right crossed the line of transports and tore west as hard as she could go
Rumors of the Emdem being captured.
11.30 am. Wireless from H.M.A.S. Sydney “Embden beached herself to Save sinking. Am now in pursuit of collier."
11.50 “Embden beached & done for in an engagement with Sydney."
Later “Two Killed and thirteen wounded on Sydney"
“Collier captured".
Getting warmer every day, storm during very during  night. Expect to reach

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line very soon.
Quite calm again. A death on the Orvieto.
We have not lost anybody yet though there are a few in the hospital.
The fellows are continually going under the shower on account of the heat.
3 pm. Three deaths on the Ascanices. It is rumoured they died from entenic [typhoid] fever. There is now a nice breeze blowing which is quite a change after the heat of the day. Write to indecipherable 
Sea like a millpond Expect to be on the equator Some time to-morrow The men are now rigging up the bath.
A Ship passed outward bound at about 1.45. She was painted grey but her red water mark was easily discerned. Later. I have just found out that she is the Empress of Asia. taken over by the Naval Authorities and sent to fix cables at Cocos Island which were destroyed by Emden.

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Raining very hard New Zealand troopships moved out in front of the column at full speed. They are going direct to Colombo.
At one oclock the A.S.C. met the Engineers in a wet towel and water fight on deck. I had to change three times, and had one Singlet ripped to pieces. At two oclock, came the ceremony of crossing the line though in reality we went over early this morning ie at 7.35 It was raining all the time and to make it worse they turned the hose on us.
Only the officers and those men who were standing on the platform were put into the bath. I got off with a thorough wetting But Gee it was funny while it lasted
It is hot and sultry to-day. The air being very heavy. To-night I witnessed the most beautiful Sunset I have seen in my life. The Sun was like one huge

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fiery ball Sinking into the ocean. There have been some pretty Sunsets but this is the best.
Land in sight at last, first we have seen for two weeks. Will be in Colombo this afternoon. There are about half a dozen native boats or catercuarangs as they are called. Sailing about with a few natives on them. They came as close as they could but are only allowed to a five hundred yards radius There are also a few schools of porpoises to be seen diving about near the Ship.
I have a very sore throat So much so, that I am dieted and ordered by the doctor to cease smoking cigarettes.
We have our uniform on to-day for the first time since we marched through Albany. Jingo my feet are sore after being without boots so long At last we are at Colombo. It is a great place, very pretty and picturesque. The town is built along the coast and there are some

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fine buildings to be seen near the water’s edge.
Behind the breakwater are several Russian warsh and Japanese warships, all the New Zealand troopships, the Sydney, Melbourne and the “Empress of Asia" which has the prisoners from “Emden" on board.
She is a very large ship having a tonnage of 23,000, and speed of 23 to 25 Knots. Nearly all of them are flying the yellow flag, but I am not sure if it is meant for quarantine.
During the afternoon there were numerous people on the breakwater and the beach. They were all dressed in white and looked fine
Very warm and Sultry. Mt throat is still very bad During the afternoon a native boat came alongside. It was between fifteen and eighteen feet long and was made of three long pieces of wood laced together . and floated practically level with the water. In all it was a strongly built structure

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and it was quite obvious that it would never sink On it were perched six Cingalees, one of whom had only one arm, which was severed at the shoulder. They were absolutely naked except for a bit of cloth around their loins and of course were coal black.
They gestulated and Sang out in pigeon English to throw “One shilling" “Two shilling" “All right. Get Him" meaning they would dive for them which they did and always caught them before they reached the bottom. They never missed a coin, but would not dive for coppers as they said they could not see them. They caused us small amusement where on being asked to sing, Sang “Ta ra ra boom de ay" at the Same time flapping their elbows against their ribs and clapping their hands.
4 pm. There are quite a crowd of white people to be seen on the breakwater among whom are a lot of Russian, Japanese and English mano’warsman

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New Zealand troops are to be seen continually going ashore in batches. We have the hard luck to be anchored in the stream so cannot follow their example
It is now the middle of the Indian Autumn. Gee whiz!! What must the Summer be like
Very warm though there is a nice breeze blowing. A tug manned soley by. Cingalees came alongside at about 10.30 am with jam and preserved fruit for the Ship.
11 am. A British warship and Some of the transports including the “Orvieto" A3 Hymettus A1 and “Southern" A27 moved off to sea en route for England via Suez Canal.
We will follow later in the day 4 pm. Tug again Came alongside with goods for sale such as cocoanuts, bananas, apples, and newspapers.
It is hard to realize that we are 5203 miles from Sydney. Nevertheless ‘tis true.
7.12 pm. The anchor has just been heaved up. We are continually going ahead, stopping, and going

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astern. We moved off at 12. knots an hour at 7.46.
The Searchlights from the shore played on us until we out of Sight. We are now en route for Aden. It rained pretty hard during the night and those Sleeping on deck were forced to go below.
It is still raining, but its very close for all that.
There are now only [two?] transport and a Japanese cruiser “The Ibuiki" [Ibuki] in our column. We expect to catch up to the others to-morrow who are only travelling at 8 Knots.
12 am noon. Up to now we have done 192 miles. I have since leaving Colombo omitted to enter up the mileage which is put on chart every day at 12. up to the present but will do so hereafter
It still remains very hot. We are moving very Slow in fact we are keeping the rest of the fleet back in consequence.
The Stokers complained of the heat and some of the A.S.C. & Infantry relieved them. The Speed is now improving

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though the rest of the fleet are not in sight yet. Up to noon to-day we covered 256 miles
Very warm. Practice for rifle team of which we are the favorites. The betting being 6. to 4. Mileage to-day 280. We overtook the rest of the fleet during the night but we are all mixed up that is we are not in our original positions.
Beautiful morning Sea as usual. Calm A collision occurred at 5 am this morning between the “Ascanius" and the “Shropshire". The “Ascanius" ramming the “Shropshire" astern. In consequence two men who were sleeping on deck were shook overboard by the impact. The searchlight from the cruiser “Hampshire" played on the water and two boats were lowered at once from the “Shropshire".
They were picked up after being in the water about an hour. Both were none

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the worse for their immersion.
I consider that those on board the “Afric" are extremely lucky having no mishaps and very little sickness.
We are now put in the Slow division. The fast steamers have gone ahead at 13½ knots.
Good programme by Glee Club. Seaman Wilcox excelled and was returned three times. Mileage up to noon 278.
Practise for rifle compet. ion. Betting still unaltered At fire practice to-day Dutchy Roberts asked the Second officer (Ships) how big the fire was going to be. He is the nut of the corps.
258 Miles
Sokatra Island in sight at 7 am. Took all day to pass it. Competion run off to-day. No. 2 Coy had the bad luck to let one of their piles (of rifles) fall, and so lost points. The result was
No 1 sec of Engineers 1st
No 3 “ “ 2nd
No 1 and 2 Army Service tied for third place.

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A concert was given by the Bijou Orchestra & ASC. to the Engineers in honor of the competion coming to the Sharp end, otherwise the bow. The Orchestra played some very pretty Selections including the “Norwegian Cradle Song". There was also some good songs.
It was attended by the A.S.C. & Engineers officers and men and we had a royal time. The fact of beating the Infantry at their own game was sufficient to make us happy.
Toasts were given by the ASC officers & the Engineer officers heartily responded. In all it was a brilliant success and was enjoyed much better than those that are held down aft.
Mileage 264.
Weather still pleasant The sea is dead calm in fact it is like a sheet of glass the only movement in it being made by the wash of the ship.

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We have run short of fresh water and have been using condensed water for about a week. We hope to reach Aden to-morrow where I believe we get Some fresh. I won’t be sorry if we do. as the condensed has a peculiar taste like lime & Salt and a cup of clear water would be very much appreciated by those on board. 259 miles.
Glorious morning. Sea unruffled and there are thousands of jelly fish with a red cross on them floating about.
On account of water being short no one is allowed to do any washing until we reach Port Said where we will coal and get a fresh supply of water. I don’t think we will stop at Aden though we are very near there now.
The escort has gone ahead & last night there was an extra guard posted to watch the ammunition which was

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brought up for the 4 inch guns, which are posted at the stern.
This was the cause of some rumors to the effect that the Turks were marching on Aden and the A.I.E. Force were to land there and prepare for action.
Land in sight at 1 pm. Arrived outside Aden at 4.15. Dropped anchor at 4.37.
The rest of the fleet and two warships were waiting for us here Its coast is rugged but unique. On the top of one of the cliffs which towers high in the air is a lookout station. The rocks are jagged and like a saw. To me it seems inaccessible.
This is where the 3rd Grenadiers were sent when they mutinied some 13 or 14 years ago. We will only stay here for about 12 hours.
Copy of wireless received Berbera Signal station to-day

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Cathedral and other buildings set on fire in Argonne Violent attacks on both sides without result
On of largest German Sub-marines the U18 was rammed by British Patrol boat and sunk off North East Coast of Scotland Three officers and twenty three men rescued by our destroyer Carry.
Persian Gulf enemy defeated on 15th and on 17th fled We captured 18th and occupied Basrah on 21st.
German East Africa – Anglo Indian unsuccessfully attempted to Siege important terminus. Found enemy in much Superior strength. Casualties nearly 800 including 140 British Officers and men.
Miliage 52 260
The fleet has formed again and we are ready to move again. The anchor was weighed at 6 am & we moved off at 6.35.
About 7.45 we passed one of the Indian troopships which was returning from

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the continent. She was travelling very fast.
We are now going through the “Gates of Hell". Gee!! but it earns its name
Wireless message picked up. Indian troops gallantly re-take some trenches lost yesterday capturing three German Officers, 100 men, 1 motor and three machine guns.
Yesterday 2 British Battleships Severely bombarded points of military significance. Ziebruge French Government reports violent infantry attacks especially in Argonne otherwise no change.
Russian Government reports continued fighting in Poland. One corps captured 5000 Germans and many machine guns Successful fighting reported from Caucausus.
Zepplin Airship factory at Frederichs Haven attacked by British Naval Aeroplanes and severely damaged one British Officer being wounded & captured.

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Later. Wireless from Berbera Union Jack hoisted at Basrah 23rd. Estimated 2000 Turkish wounded brought these after occupation.
During the day and practically all night there were numerous Indian troopships passing us outward bound.
We were in sight of land all day.
Mileage 60.
Morning broke fairly warm, but fresh.
8 am. We are now passing Some small islands which are called the twelve apostles.
The New Zealand ships are right out in front of the “H.M.S. Hampshire". They are to be seen just on the horizon I do not know if there are any cruisers in front of them. There are plenty of porpoises and shoals of dolphins to be seen about here. It is dreadfully warm to-day, in fact the air is suffocating, and below decks is like a huge boiler. I think the cold

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weather will be welcomed? for a while.
Mileage up to noon 263
Weather still same. Sea unaltered. There is a peculiar fever pervading the ship, with the result that several officers & men are in the hospital.
It is as warm now as it was where we were crossing the line, only it is a muggy heat, not clear.
It was announced to-day at dinner that we are to dis-embark early on Tuesday morning at Port Suez and entrain for Cairo. where we will finish our training. We are to take the place of the British Territorials who at present man the garrison there.
Everyone is discontented at the Sudden change in the programme. I am for one just after dinner the top deck was like the Tower of Babylon. There were arguments everywhere.
We held the last concert to-night by the Glee Club

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Leuit Col. Dobbin presented the prizes for the rifle competion.
Mileage 257.
Very windy but fresh Sea becoming very rough. The air is quite cold at night to-night being the coolest we have had so far.
Still blowing very hard Sea a bit rough. Expect to land very shortly.
The wind to-night was very severe and during the night it blew a hurricane I was sleeping on deck and the wind cut like a knife in fact it was impossible to get warm
December 1st
Sea choppy Air cool. Heavy wind still blowing.
There is land on either side of us. It is rough and sandy not a tree or bit of green stuff to be seen. But there are plenty of lighthouses and beacons.
Arrived at Suez 12 noon Dropped anchor at 12.35. There are two warships here. There are also to be seen plenty of sharks in the water near the boat.
Some native craft came

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alongside this afternoon with fruit, figs, dates, chocolates, and Egyptian Cigarettes.
They did an enormous trade. The New Zealand troopships have gone through the canal. While they were in sight it seemed as though they were travelling through sand and not water on account of so many turns and twists.
4.30. The Sun is now sinking and the scenery about is something magnificent In fact it is so great that it is impossible to describe.
We are at present taking in fresh water.
To-days order is that we will go on to Alexandra where we will disembark and proceed to Cairo by train.
Very dull day. No further move yet but will enter the canal some time to-day
The Main Guard is now issued with ball cartridges the reason of which we are told is because it is expected we will be fired on any minute
Moved off at 1 pm

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and passed the French Battle-cruiser – the crew of which sang out “Vive-le-Australie" and “Vive-le-Anglais" and when the first Battalion Band struck up “Le Marsellaise" they cheered and cried “Hip, hip, le roi" the nearest they could get to it in English.
We entered the canal at 1.10.
On our way we passed numerous British and Indian Outposts who were guarding the canal.
Arrived at Port Said at 5.10 am
The place itself is certainly pleasing to the eye. All the buildings are highly colored.
They have some curious customs. This morning I saw a native drive two cows along the street, stop at a house directly opposite to where our boat is moored, and when the woman of the house brought out her jug, he calmly sat down and milked the cow

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into it.
There are plenty of English people here who gave us a cheer this morning.
First uncensored mail sent away to-day. Also mail from home
Moved into stream at 6.30 pm to make way for the remainder of the fleet.
8 pm Are now anchored in Mediterranean.
Very Dull day. Sea dead calm.
I have been ill for past two days and am still feeling bad. Will be moving off some time to-day. We have been ordered to pack our kits as we will be disembarking to-morrow at 7 am.
Moved off out 5.30 pm. Very cold. Another mail, one from indecipherable 
Raining steadey, Heavy sea
Arrived at Alexandia at 8 am Everything ready for disembarkation. Later :- As usual there is some hitch. We are not to land till Monday
There are innumerable sea gulls flying about here. The most I have seen so far. There are also plenty of small sailing vessells and fishing smacks moored near the town. From what I have seen

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of the city, it seems to be a very large one. All the buildings are painted a light yellow and are built very close to-gether.
Nice and fine, but cool
Numerous skiffs, with Greek crews are to be seen moving about round the boats
The Khedive of Egypt has cleared out and I believe the Union Jack is to be hoisted in the city.
A death occurred on board to-day. A chap from the Infantry died from Pleurisy and pneumonia. This is the first death that has occurred on board. He was taken ashore in the afternoon in a launch to the fort which is manned by British Territorials.
Very Dull. Still on board No further move yet.
A good few fellows from the Infantry scaled overboard last night and went ashore. They were missed and a trap was laid for them. When they returned eighteen of them were captured including Captain Swannell of the Infantry. They got 7 Days cells and lost seven days pay. I don’t know how the Captain

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got on.
The funeral of the chap who died yesterday was to-day.
Twenty four men from the A.S.C. attended besides his own company and the 1st Battalion Band. He had a very decent funeral.
We were paid to-night for the last time on board as we will be landing to-morrow some time. There were great preparations etc.
It is raining and altogether a miserable day.
Left moorings and came alongside about 9.30 am. The horses were the first thing taken off. There were only about half a dozen of them. All of them went off quietly except one which had to be slung
Next came the ammunition of which there was a great quantity and then the general cargo.
All the goods were loaded on to the natives lorries, which are twice as long as an ordinary lorry and about three feet from the ground. The wheels being very small. They are drawn by two mules, who, nine cases out of ten are skinny looking beasts.

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They look peculiar after the Lorries of Sydney.
The native policemen are also amusing. If a man does anything he does not run him in, but lams him with a big stick or anything that happens to be on hand. He shows no mercy either.
This afternoon they boys on board were throwing money to the natives on the wharf. Gee whiz, you ought to have seen the scramble. They dived down on it like hawks. It reminded me of a football scrum only they were lying down in the mud kicking, grunting and squealing. We nearly burst our sides when the policeman came up with a paling and started whacking them. Say! It was like a pantomime to see the scatter the natives are very frightened of the policeman and the soldiers A very good thing too.
Small four wheeled cabs are to be seen tearing here and there They seem to have no speed limit
There is a railway siding alongside the wharf and everything is in a bustle, all the natives talking

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at once makes it worse.
All round the wharf is filthy dirty though there are plenty of natives with brooms who are supposed to sweep it and there are a few dilapidated buildings in the vicinity.
There is a regiment of Imperial Army Medical Corps here also a regiment of Dragoon Guards.
The AM.C. uniform in khaki drill with peak caps (like our officers) and puttees. They some time wear short trousers just above the knee and puttees.
They cant come up to the Australian Soldier for neatness though. They are left far behind.
My opinion of the place is not overwhelming as far as I have seen. We are landing to-night at 6.30
Ball ammunition is to be issued as soon as we land on account of the Union Jack being hoisted to-morrow.
If the rain continues we shall have it wet for the disembarkation as we did when we embarked. We are going to a place called “Mena" which is situated about

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ten miles from Cairo.
We have a one hundred and twenty mile run in the train first.
Not landing till tomorrow.
Last breakfast on board at 6.30 am. All hands were on the wharf at 8 am except Jack Clark, Les Wall, Harry Hoghead and myself. Us four having to stay behind to swab the decks.
We stayed on board till about 9.30 am. We then went ashore and stayed on the wharf with the rest of A.S.C. (who were the last to leave) till about 11.30 am then we formed up and marched through the city (the streets of which were very sloppy) to a place called Gabbari where we camped in an old vegetable market which smelt strongly of onions. We also found that it was infested with cockroaches and other insects.
There is a terrace of old and very much dilapidated houses at one side of us from which the men and women lean from the windows to stare at us. They are a dirty looking lot.
The women wear a cloth over their face all you can see is their eyes. We are not allowed to look too long or stare at them as it is considered by them as an

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It is very cold, but I suppose we shall feel it worse to-night. I do not know how long we are going to stay here
Leave was granted (as I tipped it would be when we got away from Colonel Dobben) from 2 pm till 6 pm.
Scotty McIlveen and myself went all round the city. Great to my surprise I met Lambert Graham whom I used to know quite well in Balmain. He had two pals with him. All three were wireless operators and are returning on the 10th Dec (tomorrow) to Australia.
All five of us engaged a cab to take us round the city. We had him for an hour and when the journey was completed we gave him five piastres which is about 1/-½. You ought to have heard him blow off but as that was the registered fare we walked away and took no notice. He soon shut up.
Cabs and in fact all travelling is cheap but the natives try to sock strangers if possible. It did not work with us.
All the supply section including Clark Wall & Johnson left for Cairo to-night. The transport section are not leaving till the “S.S. Hymetties" lands the horses.
Broke nice and fresh, but it was very cold during the night.

[Page 40]
The native children in the nearby houses started yelling early in the morning. It was an uearthly noise. I hope they dont make a practice of doing this every day.
At present we are on very rough rations. All we got up to dinner time to-day was tea and a couple of extra hard biscuits. Gee they were hard. You could soak them in boiling water for an hour and it would make no difference to them.
For dinner to-day we received some cheese without ant taste and some bread. The tea had no sugar in it. This is where we begin to rough it.
We have done nothing yet as far as taking up the defencive but still mucking about as we did at Kensington.
Reveille at 4.15. Had a half a cup of tea with no sugar that was all. Started for wharf at 5.30 to unload horses from S.S."Hymetties". Had more tea and dry bread at 10 am. All had to work like trojans. There were several mishaps. Up to 6.30 pm we unloaded 600 horses and trucked them. Gee but it was hard work especially on an empty stomach.
Had bread and jam only for tea while the Sergeants went on board for tea Unloaded more till 9.30. Entrained at 9.45. Train left for Cairo at 10 pm Up all night.

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Arrived at Cairo 2.30 am, shunted to a siding two miles on where we detrained and had some cocoa & bread & cheese at a stall There was only one thing wrong with it There was not enough.
There we unloaded horses, and proceeded to Kasse-el-Nil barracks which is about a mile from the station where we watered them.
Started for Mena at 8.45. It was the worse march I have been on but the scenery round about was gorgeous Everyone including officers were tired and exausted from want of food and sleep when we arrived at Mena a distance of 11 miles from Cairo, at 9.30 am.
More fooling about till 11.30 am. At 12.30 we had some dry bread and cheese. Plenty of work till 6 pm then bless me if I was not put on picquet. The horses were pretty bad and were continuously breaking loose.
64 hours without sleep and only bread and cheese. I am dead beat Have till 12 noon to have some sleep, then get to work again.
We are now camped practically in the shadow of the pyramids. It is all sand but it is clean. There are 70-000. troops here now including the English [Tommies?]
We are now on quarter rations

[Page 42]
with plenty of work. Quite a contrast from the boat which was just the opposite though the food was bad. It is fairly warm during the day, but at night it is very cold.
Camels are pretty plentiful and the horses shy like [blofes?] at them. If we stay anytime here I will soon learn the language. The French language is fairly prevalent here.
Beautiful day but very cold early in the morning.
Pay day drew £ 6 00. On leave till 10.30 pm Went to Cairo. It is a fine city, but the natives are a nuisance they pester you to buy things. There is one hotel. The Grand Continental which is the Australia of Cairo.
Heavy mist till about 8 am The pyramids were hardly discernable.
Appointed for special patrol duty to keep natives in their place etc. I am mounted, and it promises to be a good job. I have been extremely lucky in securing good jobs all through. I start at 4.30 am.
Very cold in morning but warmer in day.
Patrol strenuous. In Cairo bought several views to send home.
Home early.
Very misty, in fact it was so bad

[Page 43]
that I lost my way for a while. It was impossible to see 2 yds in front.
Rode over to the pyramids during the afternoon and round the sphinx. Had my fortune told by arab for 2 piastres (5d). He is right in one thing only all the rest was wrong.
Still misty. Up at 4 am, very heavy day. Horses broken into harness and waggons.
Called out of bed at 8 pm to saddle up & patrol main guard, back at eleven. Very tired.
As usual misty. Natives very unruly and lazy. It took some time to get them to work.
Met Reg Passo from Lane Cove, Sydney. He came with the 4th Battalion Infantry. Great surprise on both sides.
Mail in. None for me worse luck. Went into Cairo to register and post some views.
All the city was ablaze with lights and decorated with flags the Union Jack & French Flag being most prominent. The Imperial Force’s military band was playing on the verandah of the Continental Hotel. There will be a grand celebration to-morrow (Sunday) The New Sultans birthday.
Returned to camp at 11 pm after a fairly good night.

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There is nothing much to be seen at night except shops ablaze with lights. They keep open till they are tired then they close. There seems to be no specified time for closing Sunday is just the same to them.
It takes nearly an hour to go into Cairo from Mena and I am not going in again until I really have to. That is at night. I will go in the day if possible so as I can have a look at the mosques & temples.
I am going to climb up the Pyramids some time next week.
Very clear & cold: natives worked well so I was finished early. I have to turn out again shortly though.
Church parade at 10 am. It is hard to realize that Xmas is so near. I dont suppose it will make any difference to us.
The 7th Battallion left for Cairo at 4 am on duty.
All guards are armed with ball cartridge after 10pm.
I have finished this book but will continue my diary in another which I have bought in Cairo.
Cameron Robertson
Driver 561
Cairo 20/12/1914

[Page 45]
Dec 8th 1914
The Coinage of Egypt
Nickel – English
2 milimes – ½ d
5 milimes – 1 ¼ d
10 milimes (1 pisatre) – 2 ½ d
1 piastre – 2 ½ d
2 piastres – 5 d
5 piastres – 1.0 ½
10 piastres – 2. 1
20 piastres – 4. 2
100 piastres - £ 1- 0- 0

Egyptian sovereign very rarely seen.
£ 1 in English worth ---97 ½ pias
10/- “ “ “ ---48 ½ piastres
Bought in Albany, Western Australia October 30th 1914. When the 1st Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force visited visited there while on their way to help the Allies in their fight against the Germans.
They were landed at Alexandra, Egypt instead of proceeding to England on December 8, 1914.
Posted to Australia from Mena Camp
December 20 - 1914

[Transcriber’s notes:
Page 5. Saldanha= Saldana
Page 22. Sokatra = Socotra Island, Yemen
Page 27. Frederichs Haven = Friedrichshafen]

[Transcribed by David Lambert, Ros Bean for the State Library of New South Wales]