The AFRIC No. A19 was a 12 thousand ton transport ship embarking from Sydney carrying units of the 1st Australian Division, including the 1st Battalion Infantry, Army Service Corp. and Engineers. It was among the first fleet of eleven ships designated to embark troops and horses in Sydney. The final count was made up of 48 officers, 1372 men and 8 horses.
On Sunday the 18th October 1914 the men of the First Field Company Engineers were finally ready to embark for a seven week voyage at sea. A few false starts and weeks of delays, the loss of one of its original members and 8 weeks of training, finally the men were about to head off for the great adventure. The drum beat sounded – Reveille – at 5.00 and the 1st FCE broke camp at Moore Park and marched to the trams to take them to the wharf at Woolloomooloo Bay and then they were taken by Ferry to board the troopship A19 – Afric.
53 Thomas Drane in his diary mentions the large crowds of people waiting at the Quay and the police having to hold them back and 29 Bob Lundy described a similar scene with bands playing, flags waving and large crowds cheering.
151 Ernest Murray recalled how ” there was a good deal of excitement on the way down”, however he was disappointed he did not see any loved ones at the wharf. 213 Roy Denning described it as being on the threshold of a new, harsh and adventurous life. – The Great Adventure had started……
On Board the Ferries
Boarding the Afric A19 – courtesy State Library NSW
The Afric left Sydney at around 5.00 pm. It was raining heavily and they were experiencing gusty winds and rough seas. Many men at sea for the first time were sick as soon as they had left Sydney Heads. The ferry whistles, launch sirens and all the farewell cheering and music had faded in the distance and now as Spr. Roy Denning described, everyman was now silent, occupied by his own thoughts.
101 John Hoey Moore also made some interesting observations. “In about half an hour the first boy began to show signs of uneasiness and a little while later took his position at the rail. Before bedtime about half the sappers, had joined him and I could not say they were holding their own. I notice that most of the anti sober and hardest case brats when in camp or on leave, are the steady ones tonight on their feet. I am sorry for some of the boys, one fellow lost his false teeth first hit.”
The men of the 1st FCE were finally on their long-awaited voyage and after a rough and tumble start they were headed with the fleet of the 1st Australian Expeditionary Force to Albany in Western Australia where they would be joined by the New Zealand Fleet.
From the pages of John Hoey Moore, Ernest Murray’s letters and diaries and the correspondence from the enthusiastic Ernest Tubbenhauer it’s possible to recapture some of the spirit of the 1st FCE and the troops on their voyage on the Afric.
140 Sapper Ernest Tubbenauer from Mudgee NSW gave his initial account of the voyage………… Ernest couldn’t wait to ply his civilian trade in printing and liked the idea of being a journalist. Ernest would became the ‘unofficial’ war correspondent for his home town regional newspaper, the Mudgee Guardian. He also couldn’t wait to join the printing staff of the onboard Newspaper ‘The Kangaroo’
Off to the War.
Letter from a Mudgeeite
Mr. E. Tubbenhauer, late of Mudgee, and now a member of the Australian Expeditionary Force (1st Field Company Engineers), writes from s.s. Afric at sea, under date of October 24: —
‘We sailed on Sunday afternoon at about 5 o’clock, and cleared the Heads about 5.30. The sea was very choppy, and the majority of troops were soon sick, including myself. Seasickness is a ‘lovely’ sensation. I was bad on Sunday night and Monday morning, but on Tuesday I ‘was right’ and am eating like a tiger now. As soon as I was right I hunted up the printing office, and got a place on the staff, and have been working hard ever since.
We are bringing out a daily ‘rag.’ It is the biggest paper ever printed at sea. There are five off us working in the office, and we have a fine little plant. Part belongs to two of the chaps working in the office, and part was given by the State Government printer, Mr. W. A. Gullick. ‘We are just nearing Albany, and have to have our letters ready for post by 6 o’clock to-night. There are over 1400 troops on board the Afric— about- 1000 Infantry (including Harry Collins), 200 Engineers, and about 240 Army Service Corps. We are having a tip-top time — plenty of games and reading. The parades are very light. There is not enough room to do much work. We have to get out at 6 o’clock and fold hammocks; physical exercises 6.30 to 7.30 a.m.: break fast 7.30; parade 9 to 10.30; knotting and splicing 11; fire drill; dinner 12 noon; parade 2 to 4 p.m. (semaphore signalling), tea 5 ; swing hammocks 7; lights out at 9;15. That includes the day’s work. I am exempt from all parades to work in the ‘Kangaroo’ office. ‘We expect to be at Albany for A couple of days.
All the transports meet there, and leave together under escort. There will be 28 transports from Australia (20,000 troops) and 11 from New Zealand (9000 to 10,000 troops)— 39 transports altogether ; it will be a grand sight, and only seen once in a lifetime.’ Source:nla.news-article156830216 – Published 19th November 1914
The ‘Kangaroo’ was the name of the onboard daily newspaper which Ernest mentioned in his first unofficial correspondence. It was a single sheet, about the size of a sheet of the “Herald,” and was printed on one side generally in the style of a six columned newspaper. It was printed on a cotton rectangular tabby weave fabric and printed with red paint. The Union Jack and the Australian flag were pictured in the heading, and a kangaroo on the left and the emu on the right give each other a friendly glance. Below was the announcement: “The representative newspaper of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force (1st Battalion.)”published on the troopship “AFRIC”.
On Sunday 24th October the Afric arrived at Albany and the troops spirits were high. John Hoey Moore tells the story…………………………………….. “This morning finds us in the port of Albany and we expect to be here for some days. Only twelve of the troopships are here so far and even then it is very interesting to see so many big ships in one spot. Albany is a dreary looking place from our point of view but perhaps if we could get ashore we would make some fun, the three hotels would do a good trade I know.”
Within a few days the New Zealand Fleet had also arrived…………………………………
” I watched the Maorilanders or “Pig Islanders” as the Australians call us, arrive in port. Perhaps I should have been with them for here was I, a true New Zealander, going off to war with the Australians. ” John Hoey Moore had just embraced the idea of the ANZAC spirit before it was known as ANZAC.
The men had responded to the call, they had been training for weeks and now on the long voyage to war, they were allowed to let off a bit of steam while on board, hair cuts, glee clubs, a Neptune ceremony, drill competitions and boxing tournaments followed.
“Time goes very quickly on board and the boys make the pace fast and positive, last night being one of the most amusing on record so far. Some of the boys with pretty curly or silken locks had refrained from getting them cut off in direct disobedience to the strict troopship orders. Some of the engineers organised a good strong team and armed with hair clippers, proceeded to carry out the duty of barbers which, although rough, had the desired effect. Each long haired soldier was set upon and held down while the clipper man took a patch out of his locks. The rest of the hair was removed at the victim’s request next day by the official barber.”– John Hoey Moore
“A boxing tournament is to be set in motion and I see some kind friend has appended my name to the list of those representing the engineers. I guess that means some hard work and a sore head at the finish.” – John Hoey Moore
Letter from a Mudgee Boy
“Following is a letter from Mr. E. Tubbenauer, who is a member of the Australian Expeditionary Force now in Egypt:- S S Afric at sea
“Sunday, Nov 1 1914 We arrived at Albany last Sunday and left there this morning at about 7.30. We were in the harbor about a week, waiting for all the other transports. The boats make a fine sight- 30 in all, sailing in three lines of 13 each with five warships as conveys up to the present. An officer told me this morning that we are going via the Suez and that our next port of call is Colombo, so that is where I will post this letter. There are in all 39 transports with 30 000 troops — 28 transports from Australia (20,000 men) and 10 from New Zealand (10,000 men). We were allowed ashore on Friday afternoon last for a route march. We did about six or seven miles in all. It was tip- top after being on the boat a fortnight.”
Source: nla.news-article156860248 – Published Mudgee Guardian
After four weeks at sea the AFRIC had arrived at Colombo on the 15th November and within a few days they left without setting foot on land. Ernest Murray thought it was a beautiful mountainous island rich in green foliage and the bay area the same only with buildings adding colour with white walled buildings and fine hotels. Bob Lundy thought the same, admiring the beautiful scenery, the fancy large hotels with tennis courts and lawns.
The next few days sailing conditions were perfect, Boxing and rifle drill competitions had taken the spotlight on board, the Engineers were favoured to win the rifle drill . The boxing tournament was also set to be a great success for the Engineers with“Maorilander”John Hoey Moore into the Semi Finals and up against another Maorilander.
John described the match-up ………” it was rather comical as my bout was with a Maori and we were talking to one another in Maori. The boys from Australia could not make it out at all.”
John scored again and had won his way through to the final. A few days later ……..“was pitted against a crack this time and came off second best. All the same I am quite pleased with myself to win second place and a prize of £3 for my troubles.”
The big excitement for the troops surrounded the Rifle drill competitions on board. The engineers had put up two teams , A.S.C two teams and 1st Battalion eight teams. According to most accounts the Engineers came first and second place, the ASC 3rd and fourth. The division corps had easily outclassed the infantry.
Ernest Murray recorded the winners in his diary and Bob Lundy must have been very pleased with the outcome as he earned top honours and it was also his birthday.
Names of winners of Rifle Drill Competition L Cpl Lundy Sec Cpl Dobbie L Cpl Baldwin L Cpl Shoosmith Sprs Bird Sprs Finnie Sprs Murray Sprs Smith Sprs Waters Sprs Sutherland Sprs Turbet Sprs Hay Sprs Murray. E. Sprs Wells Sprs Lytton Sprs Gatty Sprs Banks & King Sprs Cridland & Stock.
According to Bob Lundy, the follow up night was a real celebration, they had a “royal time” eating, drinking, speeches and plenty of music from the “Bijou Orchestra” who gave a special concert at the sharp end of the ship. Bob said he “could not have had a better day for his birthday”.
The following day on November 26th the troops on board the Afric had news that they were not going to England. Kitchener had ordered the troops to disembark at Alexandria for Egypt to finish training there. Apparently winter conditions in England were quite severe and they would be unable to accommodate the growing troop numbers.
The Great Adventure – Part 2 – Breaking Ship……….coming soon.
The Engineers Signatures
The souvenir card of the AFRIC above is a precious moment from the past. From the private collection of Jack Moore , son of 101 John Hoey Moore, he has kindly provided a high quality digitized copy of the card showing many of the originals signatures. On the back of the photo John has written “This photo has survived a fire and a flood”…. John at the time could not have envisaged it surviving the war and a further 100 years.
The following is a list of signatures from the AFRIC Souvenir Card
Interestingly some signatures are from a few non original members but obviously good friends of John as well as two originals on board the Clan Maccorquadale which John Hoey Moore must have obtained after the voyage.
When 209 Sapper William Cridland enlisted in 1914 , it is likely he was unaware of his ancestral history. William was a convict descendant, today considered Australian royalty, and when he enlisted with the Engineers in the AIF he was certainly unaware of his future place in Australian history… as a legendary ANZAC.
Considerable distinctions for a young man by today’s standards. But William was a modest man and would not have cared much for titles and labels. However as his life continued to take many turns, he would add one more distinction, the title of MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) , a well deserved Royal Honour for his outstanding civil service after the war.
William Charles Hall Cridland was a great Australian, a man who after the war dedicated much of his life to preserving the memory of the men who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and the future welfare of the returned soldiers. Ironically his own story and memory has faded with time, but is now reignited and now retold for generations of Australian’s to remember this extraordinary man.
At Gallipoli on landing day he had witnessed fellow sappers and soldiers die and a few weeks later had to bury his close friend 54Henry Fairnham. He also had to watch helplessly as young 21 Len Gatty lay motionless in no- mans land during the battle of Lone Pine. William lost another close mate and would later take special care to let Len’s people back home know of the circumstances that led to Len’s brave sacrifice.
The compassion and deep feeling for his fellow soldiers during Gallipoli no doubt laid the foundation for the path he would later follow and his dedicated civil service after the war.
In 1930 William would later give his account of the landing on Gallipoli and described having the honour of being one of the first to land on the shore.
The Landing: First Clash with Turks
(By William Cridland, 1st Field Coy. Engrs., A.I.F., and President, T.B. Soldiers’ Association.)
“How many pause to give thought to that gallant band who landed on the shores of the Aegean Sea on April 25, 1915, placing Australia in such high esteem throughout the world?
The transports and convoys of the Anzac Armada concentrated at Albany, whence they sailed on November 1, 1914, and the troops were landed in Egypt early in December.
All troops were assembled at Lemnos, the advanced base, and on the evening of April 24 the assaulting units were taken on board transports and warships to the Gulf of Saros.
On arrival they were transshipped on to barges to be taken Inshore. A. and B. Company, of the 9th, 10th, and 11th Battalions were chosen as a covering party, and 20 sappers, N.C.O.’s and an officer each from Nos. 1, 2 and 3 sections of the 1st Field Coy. Engineers were chosen to go in as a demolition party with the covering party. I had the honour of being one of the chosen of No. 1 section, and we had to go in with Aand B of the 9th Bn. My section and the 9th Bn. were very fortunate in that we went from Lemnos to the hopping off place in the H.M.S. Queen, the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet.
All ranks aboard treated us with the usual British naval hospitality, and we were all able to get a decent sleep in bunks, and, on waking, a hot bath and a jolly good feed. Then, to cap all, the canteen was thrown open to us, and the sailors packed us with their issue of chocolate. In the early hours of the morning came the clear but low order to fall in. All lights were out, and the night was pitch black. Each man’s load was evened up as well as could be, so I’ll mention what I had – the usual full marching order, not forgetting rifle and bayonet, 250 rounds (the dinkum stuff, too), emergency rations, pick, shovel, wire-cutters, one dozen sand bags, and a case of gun cotton. How we managed to go down the rope ladders into the barges, then through the water and up the sandy beach, God alone knows, for I don’t, as each barge had its full complement.
At last all barges were ready, and we were taken in tow by steam pinnaces. The moon had disappeared prior to our leaving the Ship, but, looking back, we could see the black forms of the battleship following in our wake ready to cover our attack. Here we were at last launching out into the unknown, but it was a long-looked for event, after over eight months’ hard, rigorous training at home, on board ship, in Egypt, and at Lemnos.
However, our thoughts were suddenly checked by the report of a solitary rifle shot away up in the hills. Every man realised that the supreme moment had arrived, and presently Hell was let
loose, but so far there was only one side having a go. Full speed ahead raced the pinnace towing the barges, then, swinging clear, left us travelling inshore. Now, the little middies, standing erect, grim, determined and heroic, directed the barges, swinging them clear of one another. Lieut. Mather, realising that the barges afforded no protection from the murderous rain of lead from rifles, machine guns, and artillery, told us to go overboard and make the beach. His advice was promptly followed. We were, of necessity, compelled to gain what cover was offering, in order to take a spell, for, after struggling through about 40 yards of water and then up the beach with our load, we were somewhat blown. This, as near as I can remember, was in the vicinity of 0.420 o’clock. After a very short breather Col. Lee reminded us of the job on hand. Now was our turn, and, with fixed bayonets (not forgetting the one in the tunnel), we started off up the hill, dragging ourselves up with the assistance of the undergrowth in places. Eventually we gained the top, and became subjected to fire from all directions, and I think all our casualties there were caused by snipers and shrapnel. There were about seven of us in a group, and we decided to move with caution, for some of our own cobbers coming up behind could very easily take us for Turks, for we were more like ragged tramps than anything else.
Our decision proved a blessing, not only to ourselves, but to those coming up, for, lying hidden as we were, we began picking off the Turks – some at very close range, too. As our numbers increased we began to move forward, till a messenger came up with an order that all engineers had to report back and commence the establishment of a line of defence, and cut steps up the cliff so that travelling would be made easier. It is difficult to remember the position of the job I had to carry out, that of cutting steps in the hill, but, as near as I can judge; it was that steep portion leading to Russell Top. Whilst engaged on this task, General Birdwood stood talking to me for a while, and was nearly sniped. On a later occasion he informed me that it was an occasion he would never forget.
From this job I went up the hill to assist in some trench running, and as soon as I got there a sniper got busy from across the gully; but he did not reign long, as one of our chaps sent him to Allah. That evening my section, in charge of Lieut. Mather, had a job of trench running somewhere up Shrapnel Gully, and, considering the incessant blaze of rifle and machine gun fire all night, it was a wonder that any of us were left.
When one considers the geographical formation of the country, it is amazing to think that we ever got a footing on the Peninsula at all. To some people the landing at Gallipoli is merely something that happened in the distant past, but to many it is the most sacred day of the year.
I know many who took part in the landing who travel hundreds of miles for the Memorial Service on Anzac Day, and then spend the rest of the day with their old unit cobbers.
That is the Anzac spirit, and it will last while ever there is an Anzac living.”
Source: W. Cridland, ‘The Landing: First Clash with Turks’, Reveille, Sydney, RSS&AILA, NSW Branch, 1930
No doubt one of William’s proudest day’s was the landing at Gallipoli, but nearly twenty years later as he stood atop the pediment of the newly built Anzac Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park on the 24th November 1934 , as President of the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association of NSW and a Trustee of the new memorial, he must have been even prouder with his post war achievements and being instrumental in preserving the memory of those who served in the war.
The Anzac Memorial was officially dedicated and opened by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester on 24 November 1934. The original wreath laid at the opening ceremony by the Duke of Gloucester is still displayed in the Memorial’s Hall of Memory.
The Memorial’s mission statement was:
• to maintain and conserve the ANZAC Memorial as the principal State War Memorial in New South Wales
• to preserve the memory of those who have served in war
• to collect, preserve, display and research military historical material and information relating to the New South Wales citizens who served their country in war or in peace keeping activities.
The Opening Ceremony
Photo by Sam Hood, Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales – ( William Cridland would have been present on top of the pediment with the Duke of Gloucester and other dignitaries in this photo)
The newspapers reported on this glorious day, and William had the proud honour of lunching and enjoying the spirit of the occasion in the Dukes presence and the honour of reciting the famous words from Laurence Binyon’s “Ode of Remembrance” before the toasts and speaches…….the following is an extract from the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Monday 26 November 1934 describing the events of the day
SPIRIT OF ANZAC
150,000 See Duke Pay His Tribute
UNVEILING OF MEMORIAL
Formality Forsaken When Ex-Servicemen Entertain Duke at Lunch
In the presence of 150,000 persons the Duke of Gloucester .’in Sydney on Saturday unveiled the memorial to the men and women of New South Wales who served in the Great War.
Returned Men’s Luncheon
The Duke of Gloucester was entertained at luncheon in the Town Hall this after noon by the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League of Australia (New South Wales branch), the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association, and the Limbless Soldiers’ Association. About 1000 persons attended, and the gathering was successful in every way. Free from formality, as gatherings of returned men generally are, his Royal Highness enjoyed to-day’s luncheon immensely, and the ex servicemen appreciated the spirit in which the Duke entered into the proceedings. The chair was occupied by the President of the New South Wales branch of the R.S.S.I.L.A. (MIr. L. A. Robb, C.1M.G.). Before the toasts were to begin the President of the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association (Mr. W. Cridland) called on the gathering to stand in silence in memory of departed comrades. The silence was broken when Mr. Cridland recited the stirring lines of Binyon-
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
On the 1st January 1936 William Charles Hall Cridland was awarded an MBE for his civil service, an award considered long overdue and voiced as such by the “Truth” newspaper when they predicted in December of 1935 that he was a certainty for a C.B.E………………
Those Whom the King Delights To Honor
THEIR NAMES WILL BE FEW
” ‘Truth’ names as a certainty for minor honors Mr. W. Cridland, president of the T.B. Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association. His activities have been so considerable and so successful, and he has been overlooked for so long that nothing short of a C.B.E. would seem to fill the bill.”
Truth Newspaper – Sydney, NSW Sunday 29 December 1935.
This is an original extract from William Cridland’s Biography which will be added to his own page soon.