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……
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”.
“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.”
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 Murray. E.
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.
Story compiled by Vance Kelly ©2015
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.
154 ANDERSON, Albert Rudolph
*180 BAILEY, Clyff Goward
115 BLAIR, Robert Parry
90 CHISHOLM, George
113 DOYLE, Laurence Peter Joseph
92 FAHEY, William
146 FRINGS, Edward Franz Hubert
124 GARRETT, Sidney Matthew
96 GEDDES, Hugh Stewart
97 GIBB, William
22 GOUGH, Cyril George Amerson
219 GROOM, Frank
61 HOWLETT, Stanley Lisle
142 HULME, George William
152 HUNTLEY, John Robert
117 JACKSON, Harry
44 JESSEN, Rudolf (Randolph)
158 JOHNSTON, James
143 KEIG, Percy George
26 KING, Roland
MATHER, Leslie Francis Strang
102 NICCOL, Norman Jack
165 O’BRIEN, Alfred Moore
139 PASFIELD, James Albert
192 PHILLIPS, William Irving
106 ROCHESTER, Frank
134 SMIRTHWAITE, George Howett
120 SPECKMANN, Carl
155 SULLIVAN, Gregory
40 SUTHERLAND, William Alexander
105 SUTTON, Richard
170 TURNER, George Harold
*189 WEAMES, Reginald Murray
144 WHITE, Harold Stephen
137 WOODS, George Ernest Martin
Unconfirmed signatures below as well as Pvt. Lohden
575 Pvt. Arthur Joseph Lohden – member of AASC
2 signatures completely ???????
A Special thanks to Jack Moore, son of original sapper John Hoey Moore D.C.M for kindly allowing me to use his images and material from his book “Anzac Jack”- J.H Moore.
The full Book is free and available in PDF format and is an excellent read…. please follow this link
“Anzac Jack”- J. H Moore DCM – Courtesy of Jack Moore
Clarence “Bob” Lundy M.C MID – Diary – AWM
Ernest Murray M.M + Bar MID Diary – State Library of NSW
“Anzac Digger” by Roy and Lorna Denning. is available from Military Booksellers and also Ebay.
AWM, NLA, NAA, and State Library of NSW