|Rushden Echo, 22nd June 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Lady’s Eventful Voyage
Across The Atlantic With Mr. Balfour
The Guarding of the Ship - Escorts of Destroyers
Practising on Dummy Submarines
Note: Ernest Brandon married Louisa Perkins at St Mary’s Church on August 2nd 1897, and emigrated ten years later.
Mrs. Charles Clark, of Irchester-road, Rushden, has received from her sister, Mrs. Brandon, of Lessard-avenue, West Toronto, Canada, and interesting description of a journey from Rushden to Toronto. Mr. and Mrs. Brandon were married at Rushden and were at that time connected with St. Peter's Church. They left Rushden for Canada about ten years ago. Mr. Brandon joined the Colours and served with the Canadian Forces in France. Being wounded, he was sent to England, and last October Mrs. Brandon returned from Canada to see him. Just before she left Rushden on the return journey, and from her interesting description of the voyage we take the following extracts:-
The goodbye at Rushden started our trip, and then to Wellingborough, and change and wait 30 minutes; off again to London in quick time, only stopping at the chief places. From St. Pancras, we started for Euston, got all in at 9 o’clock, and all the Canadian officials were there, also 120 of the Royal Flying Corps, going with us and doing all they can to help us, and a lot of soldiers going on furlough and some to be discharged.
The train had on 18 corridor carriages and two engines. We went “some,” believe me, and our first stop was Crewe, the next Preston. There we were served with hot tea and buns, and then off again, and early in the morning we crossed from Carlisle over that grand river Tay in Scotland, and in about four hours got to our journey’s end on the trainto Greenock. When we got there the water was so rough we could not go on board, so we all went to the City Hall, and were entertained by the Mayor and the ladies of the townhot milk, tea, ham, dandy buns, oranges and bananas.
The weather was still rough, and they had no room to put us all up in Greenock, so we got on the train once more and off to Glasgow, and were billeted all in different places. Just fancy 3,000 to do that for. Women with children were sent to different homes, including hotels, and all private rooms in the city hall were opened up for us. We six travelling together had one to ourselves. It was fitted up good, and we were served with hot meat pies for supper and hot drink, and cushions and blankets to lie on. We did nothing but laugh half the night, and the other half we slept well. Then a good breakfast was served to us. Then down to the station again, and back to Greenock. It was 45 minutes’ ride each way in special train, and the flying men are waiting on us with luggage and carrying the kiddies. Then we passed through the Customs in pretty quick time, and the ferry-boat took us out to the ----- and we landed on it at 4 o’clock on Wednesday. It is a grand boat; one cannot compare it to anything. Four times round the deck is one mile, and it is magnificently fitted up like a palace. She has ----- guns, and we have gunners from quite a number of the Navy ships, and most of the officers of the ship are from the Italian Navy. Eddy and I have a cabin to ourselves. There is every convenience in it, and we are more than comfortable. The soldiers and the flying men are making things swing. Skipping on deck and music is all the go, and nobody is dull.
Of course, it would be an act of war to sink this boat, so everything is being done to guard it, a marine stands at each post with fixed bayonet.
I forgot to say that soon after we enetered Scotland we got a view of the Grampian range of mountains, and they are still all round us. As we sit on the boat they look grand, and they are covered with snow. We are on the Clyde, and don’t know at present when we sail. They are coaling her as hard as they can, and we are having a grand escort, but will say more about it later. It is Thursday, and destroyers are all the while around, and it is a sight.
This is a mighty ship. The engine room is the largest one in a ship of this kind. We have just seen some torpedoes, and they have explained how they work.
We are sitting on deck, and one wonders what will be at the end. On her own speed, the vessel could do the voyage in four days, it is said, but we will have to go at the same speed as the last escort. We have a cruiser just a little way off, heaps going round. Nothing has been spared to make us comfortable, and I heard the Canadian officer when they were in Glasgow say nothing must be spared. The bill will be footed at once.
The life-boats are all slung over the side of the ship now, so it looks like business. We have had hot-cross buns for supper, and that is the way we knew it was Good Friday, and at present no news of sailing. We have had life-boat drill and are all in our life-belts; we must carry them with us even the crew, officers, and all.
This is Saturday, and still in dock. We had a dandy breakfast, but Eddy and I had to make a raid on the stuff we had left, we were so hungry. It was a blessing they fed us on the train. We had buttered rolls and fried eggs and liver and some good porridge for breakfast, but we are always ready for the next meal.
Sunday, and still in dock; Easter, too. It doesn’t seem possible to us. We went to service this afternoon, and it was good. The chaplain spoke nicely, and had nice hymns and prayers, and the day passed quietly. Now it is Monday; been away a week, and still in harbour. There is a special wire to prepare for, and special suite of people to sail with us, and by all accounts it is Mr. Balfour. We have one of the latest destroyers still at the side of us, and we have been allowed to go on it. Eddy has been down below, and one of the stokers explained everything to him. We saw a torpedo at work; the fangs look just like the knives in a mincing machine when they fly round. The sailors all come up and play whist with us. We have concerts each night, and there are swings put up in every spare place, both on deck and down-stairs, for the kiddies. This ship is 46,595 tons. Imagine that!
It is Tuesday, and there is a whist drive on tonight; we are still in dock, and all is well.
Wednesday, and nothing else of any importance happened. There is a concert tonight.
The concert passed off well, and now it is Thursday, April 12th, so we have been on board nine days, and today we have a good old English dance, Tommies and Jacks, and all the lot of us, and tonight we were waltzing down the dining room.
Today is Friday, the 13th, so what with those two together, we shan’t go out today.
It has turned out wet, so it is indoors for the games; cards and dancing are the chief things for us, and swings for the kiddies. On one side of our boat we can see the Duke of Argyle’s estate: it comes right down to the river Clyde. There is a boat just come back that has been mined; the front of her is right under water. We saw her go out at night, and she came back next morning, and one of the destroyers that is going out with us is standing by to help her back. We hear very little news of what is going on in the world, but we heard that the Canadians have taken Vimy Ridge. We have life-boat drill each day, and the life-belts do not improve our figurewe are as thick as we are long.
By the way, when we came up towards Glasgow, we passed the famous Gretna Green, famous for quick marriages.
This is Saturday, and we start at noon, so I suppose for a little while nothing will seem worth while. We are surrounded by torpedo destroyers, and one keeps going straight across the front of the boat and back again. The others are on either side of us. The sea is so rough and the destroyers seem to be under the water half the time. Out boat is zig-zagging, and so is my dinner, so I must leave it again.
Now it is Monday, and all is well. Nothing happened out of the way, but a notice is up to the effect that the guns will be fired off on Tuesday, so that will be something to look forward to. We are now in the mid-Atlantic, and all day yesterday our outlook sighted a vessel, but it was flying no ensign, so was a puzzle. (Hope it is not a raider.) We understand there are five of the Navy within a few miles, so I suppose they are after the strange ship.
Tuesday, and today the guns have been fired. Six of the guns went off one after another, and it was deafening; no one can describe what it was like. They made a dummy submarine and sent it off, and then got the range and sunk it, and fired the others. Each of the guns were fired four times. The fire leaped out of them, and we saw them strike. The water went in the air like a fountain, and my ears arched with the noise. We all were aware it was to happen, or I think we would have gone crazy. There has been a baby girl born since we started, and there are quite a lot in the hospital for different things. This afternoon there have been some sports and a baby show. Thus ends Tuesday, and all is well.
Wednesday; the weather is all right and we are getting nearer home; land was sighted, dear old Newfoundland. Now there is some sad news: one of our stokers has had a fit and he died at 4p.m. Of all the martyrs on a vessel they are the greatest. He has left seven children at home. Such as us cannot bear to be within yards of the furnace housethe heat would send us mad. I saw some of the stokers today, and even their eyebrows and eyelashes were burnt off; it made them look very funny, but God forbid that anyone should slight them. We have been to the concert tonight for the seaman’s orphans. It realised £43 2s. 6d., and not all in at that. They sold programmes with Mr. Balfour’s signature and an Admiral of the Fleet that is on here, and they realised a lot of money. The Chairman said that we were making a memorable voyageone that would stand for many years to come, for Germany had her eyes on us, and would never wish for a better prize. It is getting close to the icebergs now, and we are pretty cold, I must say.
Friday, and we wake up to find we are near to Halifax, and there are small ships, with quick-firing guns on, to guard us to the Harbour. Now it is night, and we are still on the boat, waiting to pass the Customs, so we shan’t get off until Saturday. That will mean nearly three weeks and still on the boat. The first day to be in dock this side there were eight hours of sunshine, so they have been kidding the men of the Flying Corps about it; it is their first time everthey have come here for recruiting purposes.
Saturday, and busy packing to leave the boat. We have to pass the Customs, so have a day’s work ahead, but we are going through it on our boat, and the regular meals are being served. Now, tonight we board the train, once more our feet on Canadian soil. There is a large room here divided into wards, over the Customs Place; the beds are dandy, and nurses here to serve us. In ordinary times this large place is used for a home for people who come here and have no home to go to, and after the women and kiddies are settled the man is found work, and must get a home before he is allowed to take them away; that is, is he lands and has not enough money. No hospital is kept more clean. Our train does not leave until early morning, about 2 o’clock, so we are having a hot supper at this place: two new-laid eggs and rolls and tea, and then to bed.
We are now on the train, and it is Sunday morning, and we are getting home now fine, after three weeks on the way.
Sunday is flying by and not much sleep, for we cannot sleep on the train as it rocks more than the boat. We get good meals on here, and there is a lot to look at as we pass.
Monday is here, and still flying through the forests, and sleep on the train as best we can. Montreal is reached to tonight, so good old Toronto tomorrow.
It is Tuesday, and today at noon we will be home. What an eventful journey. We seem to be in a different world, and know nothing about the other.