From Kaslo to Cape Town
My first of the series of papers I hope to send you was mailed at somewhat short notice and in a rather unfinished state. At 5 a.m. Wednesday the 15th Nov. on Reville sounding we turned out on deck to find a homebound steamer in sight and signals being made to ask her captain if she would take our mail. She passed astern of us then seeing our signal stopped and circled us stopping again on our starboard quarter. In half an hour our pay-master was on her decks with our mail. Little news was obtained of the front as she left Quebec. A few incidents of the voyage omitted from my last article I must mention now.
Four days out we had the misfortune to witness a burial at sea. A death having occurred in D. Co'y. the result of a spree before embarking.
On Thursday the 17th at 10.35 we crossed the Line.
No ceremonies were undertaken. I hear that some of the crew appropriately garbed proceeded aft with the intention of shaving the officers but not receiving sufficient encouragement - they abandoned the scheme.
From now until we land there is little new in the daily drills and meals go on with more or less accuracy and noise and those who are wise devote much more thought to the former than the latter.
The Regimental Band played this morning at the three church services and very pleasant it sounds to sit in cool spot & listen to the old familiar hymns and now we are in our last whole week at sea & the days are slipping quickly away.
One day we receive our Khaki suits and all hands are busy sewing the buttons on afresh so that they will hold, the contract for the clothing having been executed in such haste that the stickers on the buttons were very limited. The next day a few experienced men are detailed to fold and pin on the "puggarees" on our [?] while "Tommy Atkins" generally gets out his "housewife" and sews them on. On the left side above the knot is placed our badge a green-bronze Maple leaf with the word Canada in gilt letters across the lower part of the leaf. The same badge only much smaller is fastened on our collars. We are next given a list of the various articles we must wear, carry in our valises and put in our kit bags.
From helmet to boots, we are told the exact weight of every article we wear, of every part of our equipment and rations and the sum total amounts to sixty-one pounds fifteen ounces.
One month has slipped away since the Kaslo boys joined the Contingent at Revelstoke and the date is made memorable by its being the occasion of our first pay day.
On the 24th Nov. the men in A Co'y. from A. to O. received their pay.
"Forty cents a day for thirty eight days Pts. Smith; fifteen dollars and twenty cents" announces the Company Sergeant Major & Pte. Smith steps up and receives three sovereigns and sixty cents in Canadian currency. In future we shall be paid by the Imperial Government.
And now it's only a month till Christmas and instead of skating and sleighing we look forward eagerly to fruit and fresh water, how the Kootenay boys would enjoy a good drink of Kootenay water now. And now we spend our last Sunday on board all our equipment has been issued with the exception of field cap putties clasp knife and emergency ration. A detailed list of our equipment might be of interest it as follows: when we land we shall wear: helmet, Khaki suit, putties, ankle boots, flannel shirt, flannel belt, drawers socks and braces. In our valises we shall carry: Emergency ration, tins of boot grease, 1 pair socks, 1 flannel shirt, "housewife," hold all, containing knife, fork, spoon, razor, brush and comb: worsted cap, field cap, towel and soap, cloth brush, canvas shoes, bootlaces, serge trousers drawers, and jersey. The Oliver equipment besides the valise carries the following: overcoat folded 9 X 15 inches, haversack with one days ration, 20 rounds of ammunition and Bandolier in eight folds: clasp-knife and lanyard, side arms, entrenching tool, water bottle, eighty rounds of ammunition in pouch and rifle complete. A packet of "first field dressing" and a description card are carried in small pockets inside the front bottom corners of the tunic.
Another glorious bright morning greets the opening week a fresh breeze, blue sky and silver capped bounding waves combine to make a bright and beautiful scene.
Church services are in progress and the music of the band adds interest to surroundings. The next two days are full of the stir of getting ready for our landing and on Wed. morning the 29th land is in sight.
At noon we are in the harbour one of some 24 troop ships.
The sight is one not to soon be forgotten. In the background stands the famous Table mountain flanked on either side by rounded and conical hills of picturesque outline. At the foot of the mountain is nested the city.
The day we arrived the scene is somewhat marred by a haze over the land hiding the city somewhat.
In Table Bay [??] anchor a great fleet of vacated transports and two which arrived the same day that we did and within an hour of us hearing our comrades for the front.
And have we not all great reason to be proud that we are to have the high honor of receiving our baterne de few under the able guidance of the famous Black Watch and the Seaforth Highlanders. Surely Canada has been well treated in this respect and we hope our friends in Canada are as proud as we are. After dropping anchor in the harbour we first took on the [?] Medical officer
After his inspection which was perfectly satisfactory our pilot came on and after him a few minutes an officer of the Imperial service from whom our C.O. received the latest orders respecting our movements. A few minutes later our anchor was hoisted and we were on our way to the dock.
Passing astern of the Transport carrying our Kilted Comrades we were heartily cheered by them and their cheers were echoed by our boys and followed by snatches of the Maple Leaf and Rule Britannia. To the music (?) of fifteen or twenty steamer whistles we glided into our berth at the dock and were heartily cheered by the crowds assembled there.
After supper we were allowed out on the dock for a walk and greatly we enjoyed it after "thirty days C.B." on the good old "Sardinian" which brought us safely through a trip of some seven thousand miles with very few discomforts and excellent health.
The scene at night on the dock was very pretty. Across the dock from us is the "Dunregan Castle" from which is being unloaded a goodly cargoe, on our left in a glittering crescent shine the lights of the town while all out over the bay the lights on the troop ships make a very brilliant display.
We disembark at 8 a.m. tomorrow, exactly one month from the day we embarked and this is being written in haste and an upper berth as our time is very liable to short for letter writing now.
Rumour has it that we may leave for the front tomorrow so it is well to be prepared for any eventualities.
Our boys seem all in excellent spirits and with the exception of a couple of deserters from Quebec Regt. who stowed away and a few who have been found unfit or incapable the whole Regt. is eager for action.
We have been granted the unusual concession of lights on for some extra time to give those who wish to a chance to write and others a chance to look over the few papers received. Which privilege is with few exceptions eagerly taken advantage of. The morning of the 30th sees us all ready for disembarktions. It is difficult to get reliable news of our movements but as we may be starting for the front today I will close this part of the of the account of our trip and as soon as possible send you an account of our doings "From Cape Town to the Front."
The Royal Canadian Regiment is picked out for work and will I am sure give a good account of itself, in the doing of which your boys from Kaslo hope to do their full share and whatever the end may be we will do our utmost to act under all circumstances in a manner creditable to the Corps we belong to in particular and Canada generally "Kaslo for ever and God save the Queen"
30th Nov. 1899