Friday, 5 February 2016

The Diary of C.W. Kyle contd.

 Continuing C.W. Kyle's diary of his service as a steward on Troopships during WW1.  This is a rather long entry, mainly because Kyle is so enraptured to be able to visit Rome 'the Eternal City.'   However during this period Kyle also suffers an injury on board, and makes some very astute remarks about the service of the Mercantile Navy - no medals for them!

1916 Continued

Tuesday May 3rd
Signed Articles at Melbourne for voyage to Italy and back on H.M.T. Troopship AngloEgyptian A25
Commander Captain Greenhill

Saturday May 8th
Left Port Melbourne for Newcastle at 3PM Whither we are going for coal

Tuesday May 10th
Arrived New Castle [sic] at 6 AM

Thursday May 11th
Left Newcastle for Sydney at 8AM arrived Wooloomooloo Bay at 1PM

 (Saturday) Left Sydney for Italy at 5PM. Had R.A.A.M Corps on board 450 Horses. 500 Soldiers Crew of 175 Men 46,500 Bags of Wheat.
Military G.C. Major Biggs of Bega
Medical Officer. Captain Ken Vickery.

May 21st
 Sighted land Cape Leewin, West Australia. Lost 15 Horses.

May 28th
(Sunday) No Chaplain on board Captain requested me as his First Orderly to conduct a religious service. did so to the best of my ability.

May 30th
Terrific Storm Indian Ocean. fell and hurt my leg. Had to lay up.
Horses dying in all directions. In my opinion no one seemed to care for the horses. Lieutenant Laurence would shoot a horse if he got down & was troublesome. We have lost now 36 Horses. I believe half could have been saved if those in charge had exercised patience & forethought.
These magnificent animals were valued at £50 each.

June 7th
(Wednesday) Sighted African Coast at day break. 26 days out from Sydney No Deaths of Passengers or Crew No Sickness.

June 8th
(Tuesday) Arrived at Aden 11PM to replenish Coal Bunkers
Heard of Lord Kitcheners Death

June 10th
(Saturday) Left Aden for Suez 7AM Passed Purnim Island at 3PM entered the Red Sea. Heat unbearable
Never saw a ship coming or going since we left Australia

June 15th
(Thursday) Arrived at Suez at 7A.M. 13 weeks ago left here for Australia in H.M. Troopship Borda. Lost 45 Horses valued £2250.00

June 16th
(Friday) Troops & Horses were all disembarked.  Left Suez at 2.30PM for Port Said

June 17th
(Saturday) Arrived at Port Said 6.30AM

June 19th
(Monday) Placed two Guns one 4.7 the other 12 Inch on board. Left Port Said for Naples (Italy) with 46,000 Bags of Wheat. Embarked Eight British Gunners.

June 20th
(Tuesday) In Mediterranean Sea. Ship in total darkness. Received Wireless Message 6PM from H.M. Troopship Maliva. A British Indian Boat. Asked to come to her rescue 15 Miles off as she was being attacked by a German Submarine. From 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM. both had exhausted their ammunition. Captain decided to go right on

June 21st
(Wednesday) At 11.30 A.M. today passed Crete Island where St. Paul the Apostle was Shipwrecked on his way to Rome. See 27th Chapter of Acts in Bible.

June 22nd
(Thursday) We are now between Crete and Italy at 12.45 P.M. A Cunard Liner with 3000 British Troops passed us on Port Side. She was on her way to Mesopotamia. She was escorted by Two Battleships & Two Destroyers. All saluted as we passed.

June 29th
(Friday) Entered Straits of Messina between Italy & Sicily at 11 A.M. A Destroyer pulled us up and asked for Credentials before allowing Ship to pass through the Straits.
Ships Carpenter took soundings & reported to Captain that 600 fathoms & no bottom
Magnificent sight Etna Mount in full eruption. With Stromboli in the distance also in full eruption - at 3.30 we are off Stromboli now, what a sight. The Volcano is in full blast
Awful catastrophe took place last night - the village went down in an earthquake.
Inhabitants who escaped came down to the sea shore and signalled for help. One Thousand perished.
Captain did not stop.

June 24th
Arrived Bay of Naples at 8 A.M Went ashore in the Afternoon. Got permission to visit Rome 130 Miles off.

June 25th
(Sunday) Left Naples for Rome on Sunday at 8 A.M. arrived in Rome at 10.45AM.
Cannot realise I am in the Eternal City.  St Peters Dome visible fully 20 miles off. Saw hundreds of women, girls & boys doing harvest work. No men anywhere.
Went first to St Peters. Engaged a guide at 5/- per hour.
There is an Obelisk in front of St. Peters 75 feet high, at the top there is a brass urn, in this Urn tradition says, the actual wood of the Cross on which Christ was crucified is preserved therein.  A fountain is also there. This fountain is surrounded by 168 marble Statues of the early Saints.
St Peter’s. It is majestic colossal & indescribable. There is no rhetoric to depict it.  It is erected on the spot where St Peter is buried. It is the most famous and luxurious Temple in the World.
On the right is the Vatican, the residence of His Holiness the Pope.
St Paul’s Statue is on the left and St Peter’s on the right at the entrance to the Temple both by Michael Angelo [sic].  Inside you first behold the Statue of Moses 40 feet high by Michael Angelo.
A few yards onwards you come to Angelo’s greatest of all his great masterpieces, the Statue called Mercy. 
He executed this at the age of 24.  It represents the Virgin Mary seated at the foot of the Cross holding the dead body of Christ.

Passing on to the right you have the monument of Conova erected by Clementine XIII. It represents the High Priest in prayer.  On the left is the Statue of Religion, on the right is the angel of Death. Opposite is the magnificent monument of Gregory XIII.
In front of St Peter’s is a square 250x350 yards.
From the Dome of St Peter’s a glorious view of Rome is obtained.  I saw the spot and stood on it where the Pope blesses Rome at eventide.

The Vatican Library contains 400,000 volumes.  It was founded AD 1450.
The Vatican Statue Hall is the richest Art Gallery in the world.  Its Statues are valued at One Million Pounds Sterling. (what a haul for ? illegible)
The interior of St Peter’s is adorned with works of Art by the Master Minds of the World.
You see “The Last Judgement” and “the Descent from the Cross” by Rubens, “The Transfiguration” and “Ascension” by Raphael, “The Sermon on the Mount” by Titian, “Christ blessing Little Children” by Gainsborough, “The Light of the World” and “The Shadow of the Cross” by Holman Hunt. The latter picture of Hunt’s is very fine.  It like it much better than his Light of the World.

It represents Christ in the Carpenter Shop.  After the days engagement he is standing with outstretched arms. The sun is setting in front of him and throws its light in at the opening door and a shadow appears behind Christ in the shape of a Cross.  Mary the Mother of Christ is seen looking in at an open window. She starts back with fright as she sees a Shadow of a Cross behind Christ.
Visited St Paul’s Cathedral in Rome.  It is erected on the Tomb of St Paul. Built by Constantine the Great 1823. It was destroyed by Fire in 1824. Pope Leo XIII ordered it to be rebuilt in 1825 and in 1854 Pope Pius 9th consecrated it.
The chief features of St Paul’s are the elaborate paintings depicting the Life of St Paul.

June 26th
(Monday) Went to Pantheon a perfectly round Building without a Window. A Masterpiece of Rome erected by King Agrippa in 727. Pope Boniface 5th consecrated it to Christian Worship and dedicated to Mary of All Mary’s.
The pictures of Rubens, Raphael and other Masterful Artists are all here.
In the Pantheon are the Statues of King Victor Emmanuel who died in 1878 and King Umberto 1st who was killed in 1900. 
The finest monument in Rome is that of Prince Victor Emmanuel commenced in 1888 and finished in 1911, its height is 225 feet.

Visited Termani Square. It is a solid Marble Fountain. It gets its name from the fact that all Trains in Rome have its base as their destination of arrival.
On Sunday Nights during the Summer Months, and commencing at 8 PM and continuing for two hours the Rome Brass Band of 90 Performers dispense sacred Music at this Fountain.

Last night Sunday 25th I was there and heard "Lead Kindly Light", “Thy Will be Done”, “Porgia de Amour” (Mozart) and National Songs of Italy and England.
Visited Forum most celebrated place in Ancient Rome. Here is where the Public Life of Rome met. Here are Monuments of Ancient Temples of all ages such as that of Castor and Pollux. 
Visited this afternoon June 26th the Coloseum [sic] begun by Emperor Vespasino and finished by his son Tito 79 [Titus 79BC]. Will seat 80,000 people. The last three Popes have each restored a part of it. I stood on the very flags of stones where the Christians were torn to pieces.
Went down into the dens where the lions were kept.  What thoughts crossed my mind.

At 6 PM. this evening an American Lecturer gave an Address to 2,000 people in Religion. It was interpreted by an Italian.
Entrance to the Vatican is guarded by Rome Soldiers who it is alleged wear the same colour and pattern Uniform as was worn in the time of Christ.

June 27th
(Tuesday) Saw Ruins of Caesar’s Palace. Went through the Arch leading to the Palace. Through this very gateway Paul The Apostle passed when he appeared before Caesar.
Saw Dante’s house and the house where Paul lived for 2 years and the Mamertine Prison where Paul was a Prisoner for so long.  At 4 A.M.  this morning I was sitting under a tree about 100 yards from the Rome Railway Station. I heard the whistle of a Train and proceeding to the Rome Railway Station I saw three Red Cross trains arrive with 2,000 wounded Italian Soldiers, who the day before had been fighting the Austrians – their wounds had not been dressed.  They had been 13 hours in these Trains - and when they disembarked and walked down the Station there was a trail of blood like a slaughterhouse. My God this is war I exclaimed.
Men kiss each other in Rome and kiss the hands of women. 
The time is counted from 1 to 24 not from 1 to 12 A.M. and P.M. like we do.
Walked down the Appian Way where Paul walked when coming to Rome. I have not been to bed in Rome yet – how could one sleep in the Eternal city, this is my 3rd day here.
I cannot realize I am in the City where Caesar, Brutus, Nero and others lived.
Thought of St Augustine who once said, I have had three great desires in my life –
     1st    to have seen Christ in the flesh
     2nd   to have heard Paul the Apostle preach on May Hill Athens
     3rd    to have seen Rome in all her glory.
I have seen Rome bereft of her glory, but I have seen it.

With the diary is this souvenir of Rome, perhaps once it contained pictures
of sites of interest, however these have all been lost

Inside the covers of the 'Ricordo', Kyle has pasted two of his discharge papers

June 28th
(Wednesday) Left Rome for Naples at 7 A.M. arrived Naples at 10 A.M.
Mount Vesuvius in full eruption.
Truly I am seeing wonderful sights for me an Australian, it is an experience. It is worth risking one’s life day after day.

June 29th
Visited Pompeii 14 miles from Vesuvius and 22 from Naples. Went by Train to the Ruins of Pompeii and returned by Electric Tram.
Words fail to describe what I saw.  God protects the dead. There is a hill of petrified lava 50 yards from the cemetery gates at Pompeii.
This lava stopped of its own accord when nearing the Cemetery whilst flowing from Vesuvius. I saw it there.

July 3rd
(Monday) Left Naples at 5 PM bound for Australia.  At Barcelona it took 14 days to get 65,000 bags of wheat off. At Naples it took 5 days to get 46,000 bags of wheat off.

July 4th
Passed Stromboli in full eruption at 4 A.M. A magnificent spectacle. Passed through Straits of Messina at 7.30 A.M.

July 5th
(Wednesday) Passed British Warship at 10 AM, coming from Salonika. She signalled us to look out for Submarines as she fired at one 200 miles ahead of us. Ordered by Captain to put on Life Belts and be ready for any emergency.

July 6th
(Thursday) A British Battleship the Heiletrophe signalled us at 9 A.M.. this morning to stop. We are now opposite Crete Island in the Mediterranean Sea Grecian Archipelago.
Our Captain was requested through a Speaking Trumpet to produce the Ship’s Charts. After satisfying himself we were British the Commander of the Heiletrophe informed us we were being pursued by A U. German Submarine and said his Battleship would escort us through the danger zone.

July 7th
(Friday) Arrived at Port Said at 7 PM after an absence of 20 days.

July 8th
(Saturday) Magnificent Cunard Liner Troopship with 3,500 English Troops arrived at 8.30 AM  en-route to the Persian Gulf from London. She was escorted by Two Destroyers and a Battleship. She cast anchor beside us.

July 9th
(Sunday) British Officer in Command of Troopship lying beside us came on Board and gave all our men a cordial invitation to visit his Transport and fraternize with his men.

July 10th
Captain of my Ship gave me permission to go aboard the British Transport and give two Lectures to the English Soldiers on Australia “The Land of Lands”.
Had a great reception. William Hughes never got a better one anywhere in England than I got.

When I left the cheering was deafening. The Captain of my Ship asked me on my return what had I been saying to get such an Ovation.

July 11th
(Tuesday) Left Port Said for Australia.

July 12th
(Wednesday) Arrived at Suez at 11 PM.

July 13th
Sailed for Australia at 6 A.M. Asked an Egyptian today where Moses crossed the Red Sea. He said It was not here. Moses live Port Said. I know that old fellow well. He hit a water there.

July 15th
Dreadful Cyclone wind and sand. Engines were clogged with sand had to stop Ship.

July 17th
Terrific Storm continuing. Ship heeled over. Officers said 1/8 of a deg [degree] more we would have been lost.

July 20th
Storm abated now in doldrums, quite calm.

July 23rd
(Sunday) Passed Equator 11 PM

August 4th
Arrived at Fremantle Australia at 7.30 A.M.

August 5th
Left Fremantle for Port Pirie at 2.30 PM to load lead for England.

August 6th
Passed Cape Leeuwin 2 PM.

August 10th
(Thursday) Entered Spencers Gulf 1 PM.

August 11th
Arrived at Port Pirie 8 AM.

August 20th
(Sunday) Today Dr Leach Port Medical Officer operated on my leg, the result of the accident I had on May 30th en route to Egypt.
He ordered me to cease duty, Captain of Ship agreed to discharge me and pay my Train fare to Melbourne.

An official connected with Port Pirie Smelting came on board our Ship and in conversation he told me that for five years previously to the War breaking out several Million Tons of lead were shipped to Germany from Port Pirie.
Where was the Secret Service? and what were they doing to allow this lead to go away eventually to be used in shooting down our men.

August 21st
Paid off today at Shipping Office. Received First Class Certificate of Discharge for Honesty, Ability and Good Conduct. Left Port Pirie by Train for Adelaide en route to Melbourne.

August 25th
Arrived in Melbourne a complete Cripple. Doctor orders 12 months rest to get my leg better. Shin bone is injured.

Note – coming through Suez Canal Ships travel 5 knots an hour, thousands of Australian Soldiers came down to Water’s edge, and called out the Names and Addresses of their relatives in Australia. I got a large number and have had great pleasure and joy by calling on Mothers and Sisters in Melbourne and Sydney to assure them their loved Soldier Boys were well.

Am still unable to work since last July owing to my accident.  I received no compensation whatever. This leads me to mention that the Mercantile Marine Sailors get no Pension, allowed to incur no badge, no medal. Yet these men the Ships Crew have done more to win the War than anyone. If it had not been for the Transports there would have been no overseas Troops and the Mercantile Marine Men carry our lives in our hands, not knowing what is under the water.

The diary does not reveal how Kyle made a living while he recovered from his injury. Are you asking yourself, who is this man? He is obviously educated, articulate and capable - addressing English troops to great acclaim, he is not without charisma it seems. And he is forthright about the standing of the men of the Merchant Navy. How come he is but a steward?   At this point I feel very sympathetic towards him, unable to continue in this line of work, how is he managing? But by November 1917 he is able to make one more voyage, and next week we will give you the first part. It is the third voyage which is the most extraordinary.


  1. Thoroughly enjoying (especially as I have just been to Rome!).. Look forward to more..

  2. Thanks Infolass, glad we are stirring your memories; next voyage he journeys through the Panama Canal...