Friday, 19 February 2016

The Diary of C.W. Kyle contd.

C.W. Kyle's diary continues : his ship HMT Demosthenes has reached the safety of Glasgow.  But now mysteriously Kyle is in trouble.


January 1st

Appointed Night Officer on ship. Had full charge from 10PM to 6AM occupied this position for 26 days.

January 2nd

Then officers Gray and Bunt came on board Troopship Demosthenes and asked for my passport and birth certificate, searched my luggage in my presence and informed me I could not land in the absence of a birth certificate or passport – explained to them that the Demosthenes was the fifth boat I had served on with 1st Class Credentials and that no passport or birth certificate was ever demanded before. Was asked if I knew anyone in Scotland or England who could identify me.

January 6th

Still on boat visited twice daily by Military officers.

January 8th

Wrote to His Majesty the King [George V] informed him I was held up at Glasgow having no proof of nationality, complained of the treatment I was receiving and reminded His Majesty that when he was Prince of Wales and toured the world with his brother the late Duke of Clarence and Avondale, that he visited Ballarat Victoria Australia in 1881, and that 2000 children sang before him at a gold mine called the Band of Hope, which he visited and that a little boy sang as a solo the first verse of God Bless the Prince of Wales whilst 2000 sang the chorus, I asked his Majesty if he could recollect the circumstances and how he patted the singer on the head and said “Yes and God bless you.” I was the boy who sang and was born at Sebastopol near Ballarat April 13th 1871. Wrote also to Mr Andrew Fisher High Commissioner of Australia in London and complained to him.

January 15th

Still a prisoner on board Troopship. The ambiguity of the position is that I still hold the post of Night Officer on board and have the whole run of the ship, yet I cannot land in the daytime.

January 16th

Then officer interviewed me, I suggested that a cable should be sent to Australia to Provost Marshall McInerney at Victoria Barracks, St Kilda Rd Melbourne, asking for my nationality. I consented to pay cost of cable and that of a reply. Officer consented to do so. Handed of £2.12.6 to defray cost.

January 18th

Then officer Bunt called at ship and said the cable had been sent to Home Office London and they declined to send it. He gave me the money back.

January 19th

Wrote to Andrew Fisher and complained that no reply had been sent to my letter of January 8th. Mr Fisher replied at once saying a reply had been sent. It appears that the then officer in Glasgow intercepted my letters, opened them and did not acquaint me of their arrival. A reply came from the King informing me he had sent my letter on to the Home Office with a recommendation and also saying he remembered the incident at Ballarat and that I must have been there and a British Subject I must be.

January 24th

My nephew Gunner D.C. Samson No 16132 53rd Battery 14th Field Artillery Brigade who left Australia in 1916 came from London to see me on board the Troopship. He is a widow’s son and enlisted at 17 years of age. He has been wounded four times and has had 17 stitches inserted in his side, the result of a brutal kick by a German whilst a prisoner.

Twelve Germans surprised six Australians one day in a trench, they jumped on them and beat them unmercifully. One of the six was shot dead because he did not have a cigarette to give to one of the German captors when asked for it. The other five were taken prisoner included in the five Australians was the Bomb Sergeant.

He had a bomb secreted on him the second night of the capture the German guard was discovered asleep and the bomb Sergeant blew him up. The five escaped and were in no mans land for four days. A German put a lighted bomb in a Belgian baby’s hand, it went out.

An Australian soldier was sitting under a tree holding in his hand a cigarette. My nephew went up to him and asked if he wanted a light, getting no reply he shook him and he fell over. He was dead. His body was still warm. He had been gassed by the Germans and robbed of his money belt and identification disc. A grave was dug and he was laid to rest. No one knew his name. He is one of the missing.

Two Australians were found in a mud pond dead. They had 20 lbs of stone attached to their feet. They were in an upright position with their heads only showing.

My nephew Gunner Samson was one day foraging for food in France and was overtaken by a motor car. An officer in the car asked him if he were an Australian and if he had a mother or father. He replied I have no father he died when I was only 4 years old but I have a mother. “When do you write to her” the officer asked. Samson said “every Saturday I write to her” Have you a soldier’s testament was the next question and Samson said yes sir – “Do you read it like the King every day” was further asked – the reply was not every day. And “When did you have any food” was queried and the reply was given “not since yesterday”.  Get up in my car was ordered. And whilst riding along the officer said do you know me – “No” replied Samson. Well “I am Birdie” he said – General Birdwood, but call me Birdie, and I am taking you to Headquarters. You shall have one of the best dinners you ever have had because you write to mother in far-off Aussie – and Samson got it.

“Put your arm under my head mother” said a dying Scotch soldier boy with closed eyes as a Catholic clergyman approached him, and asked him the way in a French battlefield. The Padre did so. I am so glad you came said the dying soldier and will you repeat to me something about Our Father and he himself repeated the Lord’s Prayer groping in the midst of it with a final kind of stumbling difficulty. Now kiss me mother he said. The Padre did so and he fell asleep to wake no more.

The Germans had wrecked a convent near Reims in France. A regiment of Dublin Fusiliers were in search of the desperadoes. One of the Dublin soldiers was captured by the Germans and subjected to awful torture. He was asked to disclose where his regiment was and refused. His eyes were gouged out, his ears cut off and was told if he did not tell, his tongue would be cut out. He jumped through a window, his body was riddled through with bullets as he went. His grave is marked with a small table on which is written these words “He saved others but himself he could not save”. The report of the firing at the Dublin soldier was heard by his comrades and they located the Germans in a farmhouse and wiped them all out.

I saw the photo of the grave in London.

An Alien Officer called on me on board the Demosthenes and informed me I was to leave Glasgow for Tilbury Docks at 9.15 AM to next morning. That I was not to land and that I was to be taken back to Australia as I was not a British subject.

January 25th

Left Glasgow at 9.15 AM for Tilbury docks in charge of 3rd Officer Gill of H.M.T. Demosthenes. Captain Elrich the Commander saw us off. He is a German and in charge of a British Troopship. Arrived at Euston Station London at 8.30 PM, was met at the station by Police and Military Officer, was taken to St Pancras Station under arrest and proceed to Tilbury Docks, arriving at Tilbury at 10.30 PM. Was taken to Police Station, subjected to all kinds of questions by police. Fingerprints and description of self were taken. Was then at midnight placed on board HMT Euripides and placed in a cabin with two soldiers on guard. Both armed – one slept in the cabin, the other took sentry duty outside.

January 26th

Captain Williamson of the Troopship Euripides interviewed me in his cabin, was brought there by Military Escort. He told me he was sorry indeed I was placed under Military arrest, as he was informed by Mr Gill of the Demosthenes that I had an excellent and a most unusual history. A written testimonial from the passengers to whom I acted as steward from Australia to England. He urged me to keep up my heart and spirits and said he was sure an awful mistake had been made.

Left Tilbury Docks at 4 PM for Plymouth to embark Australian soldiers and nurses.

January 27th

Sunday.  At 2PM today when the ship was in the Straits of Dover, orders were given that submarines were after us. Everybody was ordered to put life-belts on and standby the boats. It was discovered that my cabin was locked and the key missing. It took nearly an hour to release me by breaking the door open. Especially note had the Euripides been torpedoed I would have gone down and drowned like a rat in its hole and no one would have known how the door of the cabin was locked or who did it.

Adjutant Tootell of Australia informed me today Monday January 28th on arrival at Plymouth that I was to be under strict military arrest all the way to Australia and that I would not be allowed on deck at all. He called for 12 soldier volunteers to guard me all the voyage.

January 29th

Tuesday. At 2PM today an official named Brennan arrived on board the Euripides from the High Commissioners Office London and interviewed me. He said some dreadful mistake had been made and that Mr Fisher could do nothing and that I had no chance whatever of being allowed to land in England.

January 30th

At 5PM today was informed by the Sergeant Major of Troops we would be sailing for Australia at daybreak Friday morning February 1st.

January 31

Red letter day in my experience. At 3.30PM today a Naval launch came out to the Euripides, she is lying three miles out from Plymouth in the roadway. Two officers of the Royal Navy came on board, Captain I.D. Shriff of 22 Milvertin Gardens Seven Kings Essex was one, the other, Lieutenant C.I. Webster Royston Lodge 23 Church Rd Brixton Hill S.W.2. They asked me my name, my age, my birth place, how many Transports I had served in, to produce my Mercantile Marine Ships Discharges, also had I any money and any friends in London. I replied that I had a nephew Gunner Samson of the A.I.F. in London. I had £2.0.0 in money as I had cabled £20.0.0 to my widowed sister in Australia and given my nephew £5.0.0, keeping only a little to carry on with.

These officers then informed me I was no longer a Military prisoner that I was to be landed at once by command of His Majesty the King. I was then taken off the Euripides by the Naval Officers and placed in the Naval Motor launch.

On arrival at Plymouth was given over to the Alien officials who extended to me the greatest kindness. They searched all my luggage in my presence and then handed me over to Detective Mutton of the Military Intelligence who was instructed to give me every help and facility to reach London.

In searching my luggage the Alien officials desired to retain the foregoing diaries of all my travels.

I consented for them to do so, they promising to send same to me to London. I duly received these diaries from them with a letter saying they were absolutely of the most interesting, educating and intelligent kind and suggesting that I should interview the Directors of the Madam Tussard Exhibition and Museum, Bakers Road, London and offer them for sale.

Left Plymouth for London at 7.40PM January 31st.

A strange adventure indeed.  The diary doesnt give a clue as to why this should have happened to Kyle.  Did you like the astonishing reference to Ballarat?  We can't find any reference to that event actually happening although indeed the Princes were here and were photographed at the Band of Hope.

In next week's post we will "do London" with Kyle, prior to his return to Australia.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic. What a tale.. Look forward to the next instalment.