War Memoir of Robert Ellwood

We went over in three lines. I think there were 32 boats in the three lines and on our left flank we had the Sydney and I think. I don’t know what was leading .. I’ve got the records in there somewhere, the name of all the boats, too. But anyhow, the thing was going smoothly, we were having ordinary routine work, losing a few horses through pneumonia and strangles and things like that and in the middle of the ocean, you know, the general routine domestic troubles, and all of a sudden about, oh, 11 o’clock I suppose it would be, the Sydney on her left flank belched out huge volumes of black smoke and simply an literally fell over the horizon and of course there was a big rumour ran immediately through the whole show because the was running around the place. Anyhow word came back not long afterwards that when she fell over the skyline, the English blokes, the leading boat who was leading the convey and all that sailed smartly across and took up her position and the boat protecting our right flank then went into the lead, I don’t know whether it was the Melbourne or what it was anyhow the Australia or something, and it wasn’t long then before we heard that this action had taken place…and I think it was Colombo or was it Port Said and next time we saw the Sydney she had a gaping hole in her wide about, oh, what would that be, six or eight feet, about eight feet above the water line and you could have driven a cart and horse through it. That’s the next time we saw the Sydney.

Turnbull: The boat that you went over on was the Star of England

Ellwood: Star of England yes.

Turnbull: Can you tell me something about the conditions on the boat itself. You said that the crew were very good.

Ellwood: Oh yes they were good. I can’t find anything to complain about. All the horses were down below of course as a matter of fact it probably I don’t know why but I was a Senior NCO under officer and a duty officer in charge of the lower deck where the horses were. I don’t know whether it was because I had a feeling for horses or I must have there must have been some reason for it. and we were fully occupied down below looking after those horses all day. And at night time of course it was just a case pickets were left on and we were then put up, I was a Sergeant at the time, and we were then put up on the boat deck, I think we were. that was our sleeping quarters. No it was a very comfortable journey, we were well looked after and the crew I would say were very friendly and there was nothing to complain about. Nothing at all.

The only thing that I remember about it was the sickness of some of the horses, they had strangles and pneumonia an we had one or two occasions two or three occasions had to reduce the speed of the boat and slide them out, the dead horse out through an opening in the side of the ship. but apart from that it was a very uneventful voyage and the only excitement was the engine episode.

Turnbull: there was also one other thing which was talked about, that was the ships newspaper

Ellwood: The ship’s newspaper

Turnbull: Yes. Somebody said that they were involved in a court case

Ellwood: I don’t remember much abut that doctor. I can’t help you there. I don’t remember much

Turnbull: Was there a newspaper on the ship?

Ellwood: Oh there was bound to be a daily bulletin yes. There was a daily bulletin. and I think it was put up on a board in different sections of the ship. where the different squadrons were and things like that you see. But there was nothing to me, I never had anything which, I never saw anything which impressed me or registered in my memory about it at all. It was just a daily occurrence you know, not a great deal of interest or value.

Turnbull: So it was not a very elaborate thing.

Ellwood: Oh not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge. I don’t profess to know everything that happened but as I say not to my knowledge.