Leonard John Monks was born in Warrington, Lancashire on May 7th, 1898. He lived at 50 Lovely Lane, Warrington which is less than 1/2 mile from, what is today called Warrington & Halton Hospitals. In 1914 it was simply called Warrington General Hospital. The site used to be a workhouse. In 1898 the workhouse infirmary became Warrington General Hospital. During the 1st World War, the site became home to Whitecross Military Hospital. Perhaps this proximity, and his obviously young age, had some bearing on his joining the RAMC.
Family history says that he lied about his age and joined the Army when he was underage. Since his official army records were burnt during world war two, his service record has to be constructed through other means. The primary source of information is his extensive set of war photographs. Some of these date and locate him during the war years. The start of his service is provided from his Medal Index Card which shows that his RAMC regimental number was 11434 and that he had a disembarkation date of May 30, 1915 in Egypt.
An analysis of RAMC service numbers for the approximately 120 other men with the same disembarkation date to Egypt indicates that Leonard John Monks most likely attested in February 1915 and was trained at Aldershot for about three months.
One of the other men with a Medal Index Card disembarkation date of May 30, 1915 is Pte. Ernie Leppard. Below is a photo of Pte. Ernie Leppard at Aldershot, he is on the front row 2nd from the left.
Sitting next to him on the far left of the front row appears to be a familiar face.
No 21 BRITISH GENERAL HOSPITAL
There is very strong evidence to suggest that the RAMC men arriving in Egypt on 30-5-1915 were mobilized along with the No 21 British General Hospital (BGH) that itself only arrived in Egypt in June 1915. The evidence for this analysis is from Service and Pension records for 14 men out of a total of 119, (plus another 5 who have “Silver War Badge Roll Transcription” entries which give their attestation date).
No 21 BGH was at the Ras-el-Tin barracks in Alexandria and there is some evidence to show that men assigned to No 21 BGH left the UK from Southampton on HS DELTA on May 20, 1915 arriving Alexandria on May 30, 1915.
The following excerpt is taken from Medical Services General History Volume III (Medical Services during the Operations on the Western Front in 1916, 1917 and 1918; in Italy; and in Egypt and Palestine), by Major-General Sir W. G. MACPHERSON:
When it was decided to undertake operations in the Dardanelles, four general hospitals were sent to Egypt from the United Kingdom, to act as base hospitals for the force. Two (Nos. 15 and 17) arrived in March, and the other two (Nos. 19 and 21) at the beginning of June 1915. They were all opened in Alexandria, No. 15 in the ” Abbassia Schools,” No. 17 in the Victoria College, No. 19 in the Deaconesses’ Hospital, a German hospital, and No. 21 in Ras-el-Tin barracks. They were nominally under the administrative control of the D.M.S. of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Surg.-General W. G. Birrell, whose representative in Egypt was Colonel Sexton, the A.D.M.S. of the Base at Alexandria.
At this time, men were typically assigned to their initial deployment (in this case, No 21 BGH) for at least one or two months before being sent on to where they were actually needed. As they rotated between postings they were often temporarily assigned back to the Base Depot at Mustapha, Alexandria. Later on in the campaign, newly arriving RAMC men went to holding camps rather than to base hospitals.
ALEXANDRIA & CAIRO
Pte. Monks arrived in Alexandria in June 1915 and was assigned to the No 21 British General Hospital (BGH). Hospitals In Egypt at this time were being used to treat the overflow of casualties from Gallipoli who could not be treated at Mudros and/or who were not immediately evacuated to Malta or the UK.
It’s more than likely that the 17 year old Pte. Monks bunked in one of the European Pattern Tents shown above.
As a young RAMC Private he would not have had too much opportunity to explore the sights of Alexandria but he obviously did get out on certain special occasions.
We don’t know exactly how long Pte. Monks spent in Egypt but we do know that while he was there he managed to take in some of the obligatory sights that thousands of others like him also did.
At that time, Cairo was a short 4 hour train ride from Alexandria and was the obvious place to make for when leave was granted.
FROM EGYPT TO MESOPOTAMIA
When the fighting in Gallipoli ended abruptly in January 1916, significant medical personnel and infrastructure started to be re-deployed to Mesopotamia to support the war effort there. At this time, the Turkish Siege of Kut al-Amara had already begun and would eventually result in the unconditional British surrender there on April 29, 1916. Casualties and sick men from the fighting “up river” were shipped 200 km down river to Basra in variety of small river craft and in the first half of 1916 the medical facilities at Basra were makeshift and insufficient to meet the needs of the sick and wounded arriving there. Consequently, upon arrival at Basra, men were allocated to hospitals, assessed, stabilized and then quickly evacuated to India for treatment. This policy required an increase in hospital bed capacity, an increase in convalescent hospital bed capacity and in increase in Hospital Ships.
The VITA arrived at Basra in May 1916 freshly converted from a troop transport into a Hospital Ship to meet this need. At this time, a significant number of “surplus” RAMC personnel in Egypt were assigned to Hospital Ship duty and put on ships sailing from Suez to Bombay for subsequent re-assignment.
All we know for certain is that Pte. Monks traveled from Egypt (to Bombay or Mesopotamia) and ended up on the Hospital Ship VITA working as a RAMC medical orderly sometime in 1916 and during this time the VITA mainly sailed between Basra and Bombay.
Since the VITA was a shallow draft ship it was able to cross the Bar of the Shatt al-Arab year round whereas many of the other deeper draft ships used as Hospital Transports were not. Consequently, as well as transporting sick and wounded to India the VITA also made many short trips down the Tigris and transshipped patients at the Bar before returning to Basra to load its own patients that it would carry to Bombay.
The photo above, taken by Pte. Monks probably in 1917, is of the HT Royal George transhipping patients at the bar. Transshipping patients between ships was a necessary but difficult and sometimes dangerous procedure. The VITA was specifically mentioned in the Medical Services; General History, Vol IV, (Page 272).
Complaints had been made to the Home Government regarding the class of case transferred by transport to India, and the shortage of personnel and stores provided for the care and comfort of the sick on the journey. … Comment was also made on occurrences during the transhipping of patients at the bat to the deeper draft ships, which were unable to come up the Shatt-al-Arab.
This was especially emphasized by what happened in the case of H.S. “Vita” in the third week of July  when transhipping patients to the “Dongola” at the bar on a very hot day. A number of cases of heat stroke occurred while the ships lay alongside each other. The transfer of the patients was slow and several of the orderlies engaged in the duty were struck down by heat stroke.
THE JOURNEY UP RIVER
At this point it is useful to get an idea of what the river passage must have been like for those on the VITA who sailed up and down the Tigris many times, and the following extract is taken from the book, With a Highland Regiment in Mesopotamia, by Anonymous.
Slowly we approach the wide mouth of the river, successfully pass over the bar, and the new campaign for us has begun, and it is the last day of the year — 31st December 1915.
It takes about seven hours from the mouth of the river to Basrah. The journey up is of interest as none have been here before, and everything is new. Both sides of the river the banks are covered with palm trees, stretching inland for distances varying from 500 yards to three miles, and after that all is desert. We pass Abadan on our right where the pipes of the oil fields belonging to the Anglo-Persian Oil Coy. reach the river from Ahwaz. It has been said that the Mesopotamian Campaign was started in the first place to protect these oil-fields. One wonders now if it would have been advisable to protect them and hold Basrah only, and not push forward further inland. But it is easy to be wise after the event, and high politics, tactics and strategy do not form part of an account of the doings of the 2nd Battalion — so I must not be led astray.
The river is very broad and is navigable for hundreds of miles. Mohammerah, the Persian town at the junction of the Shatt-el-Arab and Karun rivers, looked an interesting place. It is; as many months later I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time there. The Sheikh of Mohammerah has proved a good friend to the British, and almost opposite his palace one can see the remains of the three steamers in the river which the Turks sunk in a vain endeavour to block the passage as they retreated; as good fortune or Providence would have it, one boat in sinking swung round and left the passage open.
A PLAUSIBLE TIMELINE
We have some circumstantial photographic evidence that places Pte. Monks in Mesopotamia at various points in 1916. All of these photos were found in a single photo album which appears to be the first of three and so chronologically it is reasonable to assume that they cover the same period.
In May 1916 the VITA was converted from a troop transport ship into a Hospital Ship. The refit was most likely done in Bombay and the HM HS VITA arrived at Basra on its first trip in this role on May 26, 1916 (as recorded in the war diary of the Assistant Director Medical Services, Basra).
33 British General Hospital (BGH) June 1916
The ADMS Basra War Diary entry for June 11, 1916 says: “No 33 BGH [personnel] disembarked from VITA & proceeded to Camp at TANOUMA” and the War Diary for the 33 BGH shows that the personnel sailed from Bombay on the VITA. So, it may be a stretch but since he went to the considerable trouble to photograph (and label) the 33 BGH it seems likely that he had some personal connection with it. Unlike his photos of No. 3 BGH and the Beit Nama Oficers’ Hospital this photo could not be taken from on board the VITA. He had to disembark and then traverse some distance to take it.
If Pte. Monks had joined the VITA in May 1916, when it arrived in Basra as a newly converted Hospital Ship, he would have immediately sailed to Bombay from Basra with sick and wounded and then at Bombay would have loaded and transported the personnel of the 33 BGH and brought them back to Basra. This would have been his first Basra-Bombay-Basra round trip voyage and it seems reasonable to suppose that they would have left a lasting and personal impression on him.
Turkish Officers, Sept 1916
The ADMS Basra War Diary entry for September 28, 1916 says: “We were told VITA from BOMBAY was bringing repatriated Prisoners of War, no indication was given that they were sick men until S.M.O. reported to me.” There is no other record of the VITA repatriating Turkish PoWs.
Angels of Mercy, December 1916
The only chronological evidence is the annotation of “December 1916” in the photo album. He was just 18 years old in December 1916 and this was the month that the VITA first visited East Africa (Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam) and that should have made an impression.
The caption on this photo was “RAMC Personnel, Persia 1916.”
The only chronological evidence is the annotation of “Persia 1916” in the photo album. The most likely possible locations are Mohamerrah, Abadan, Bushire and Bander Abbas. We know from other ships logs that the VITA loaded sick British personnel at Mohammerah and Abadan in July, 1916 and August, 1916 respectively. Additionally, several of the men in the “Persia 1916” photo are clearly identifiable in the group photo of the VITA RAMC personnel and so it is quite possible that the “Persia 1916” photo was simply a group photo of the VITA RAMC taken onshore at a brief stop. Subsequent, un-dated photographs of Bander Abbas and “Foul” (Al-Fawr) clearly show that he was able to disembark more than once, at least briefly, in Persia and along the Tigris to take photos. It should be remembered that at many points along the river the difference between Mesopotamia and Persia was simply which side of the river the ship was on.
The Banks of the Tigris
The photo below is of a very young looking Pte. Leonard Monks and unnamed colleague walking along the banks of the Tigris. There is no date associated with this photo but it is likely to be 1916.
Throughout 1916 the VITA sailed between Basra and Bombay. In December 1916 the VITA sailed to German East Africa, specifically calling at Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
HM HS VITA 1917
The War Diary for the HM HS Vita does not start until June 1917.
In February 1917 the German Raider SMS Wolf laid mines in the approaches to Bombay harbour.
Image from the book Der Kreuzerkrieg in den ausländischen Gewässern.
However, it was not until June that ships approaching Bombay started to be affected by the mines laid by the SMS Wolf.
In the meantime, the HM HS Vita was mainly sailing between Bombay and Basra and as a precaution would bring all the patients that could be moved onto deck in areas known to be mined.
During February 1917 there was one sighting of the HM HS Vita by other ships:
15 Feb, 1917 Basrah. Men discharged to HS Vita
During March 1917 there was only one sighting by other ships:
Mar, 1917 At Sea. 8.40am: Closed HS Vita
During April 1917 there was only one sighting by other ships:
12 Apr, 1917 At Sea. 7.40pm: HS Vita passed, Bombay to Basra.
There were no sightings by other ships in May 1917.
|1-Jun-17||At Sea||Left Basra|
|22-Jun-17||Departed 8am for Basra|
|26-Jun-17||At Sea||Persian Gulf|
|28-Jun-17||Basra||Anchored @ Saraji|
On June 6, 1917 the SS City of Exeter struck a mine off Bombay. Number 1 hold filled at once, and the master gave orders for the passengers and crew to leave the ship. Then the master and chief engineer returned and, at grave risk, made a thorough examination of the ship. They decided that, with the exercise of the greatest care, the crippled vessel could reach Bombay under her own steam. The passengers re-embarked and the vessel safely arrived in port.
10 days later, (per Lloyd’s War Losses The first World War), the Japanese freighter Unkai Maru No7 struck a mine on 16 June ’17 at 18° 33′ N, 72° 10′ E. Gross tonnage 2,143 bound For Bombay with rice.
The VITA was in Bombay from June 4-22, 1917 (at Alexandra Dock No2 Shed) and it’s certainly not unreasonable to think that Pte. Monks was able to get out and about around the harbour during this extended stay. From the photos it appears that rather than sinking, the Unkai Maru was able to make it into Bombay harbour (approximately 45 nautical miles). It’s not difficult to imagine that any ship arriving at the harbour after striking a mine would have been of great interest to all sailors currently there, especially coming just 10-days after the SS City of Exeter also suffered the same fate.
8 days later, the SS Mongolia, 9,505 tons, struck a mine and sunk June 24, 1917, off Bombay.
|7-Jul-17||At Sea||Left Basra for Bombay|
|14-Jul-17||Bombay||Alexandra Dock No2 Shed|
|25-Jul-17||Sailed at 1pm|
SS Croxteth Hall, 5,872 tons, struck a mine July 6, 1917, off Bombay. Sank July 11 while being towed to Bombay.
SS Okhla, 5,288 tons, sunk July 29, 1917, off Bombay.
|5-Aug-17||At Sea||Left Basra for Bombay|
|11-Aug-17||Alexandra Dock No2 Shed|
|17-Aug-17||Left Bombay for Basra|
|2-Sep-17||Bombay||Alexandra Dock No2 Shed|
|3-Sep-17||Anchored in the Stream|
|18-Sep-17||At Sea||Left Bombay for Basra|
|4-Oct-17||Basra||Left Basra for Bander Abbas, Iran|
|5-Oct-17||Bandar Abbas||Arrived Bandar Abbas|
|6-Oct-17||At Sea||Sailed for Bombay|
|10-Oct-17||Bombay||Alexandra Dock No2 Shed|
|11-Oct-17||Anchored in the Stream|
|24-Oct-17||At Sea||Left Bombay for Dar Es Salaam|
|30-Oct-17||Crossed the Line|
Medical Services; General History, Vol IV, Chapter XX, Conclusion of the Operations in East Africa, Pg 498 references the VITA’s diversion to East Africa:
[In 1917] The increase of hospital patients had necessitated extra measures for evacuation overseas. Two hospital ships, the “Ebani” and the “Vita”, were employed on coastal work. A bi-monthly evacuation to India by hospital ships sent from India was maintained, and when active operations were in progress an extra hospital ship called at Dar-es-Salaam every ten days to ease the congestion. Two hospital ships were employed regularly between Dar-es-Salaam and the Cape for the evacuation of sick to South Africa.
|1-Nov-17||At Sea||Diverted to LINDI, Tanzania|
|4-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|5-Nov-17||Dar es Salaam||Anchored in harbour|
|6-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for Zanzibar|
|9-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|11-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|12-Nov-17||Dar es Salaam|
|13-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|14-Nov-17||Lindi||Anchored in harbour|
|16-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|17-Nov-17||Dar es Salaam||Anchored in harbour|
|19-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|21-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|22-Nov-17||Dar es Salaam||Anchored in harbour|
|23-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|25-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|26-Nov-17||Dar es Salaam||Anchored in harbour|
|27-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for Zanzibar|
|30-Nov-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
On December 3rd, 1914, the German cargo ship KONIG, built in 1896 by Reiherstieg Schiffswerfte & Maschinenfabrik Ag and owned at the time of her loss by Deutsche Ost, was scuttled in Dar es Salaam harbour (but later sold to a local).
|3-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|4-Dec-17||Dar es Salaam|
|5-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for KILINDINI, (Mombasa, Kenya)|
|7-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|10-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|11-Dec-17||Dar es Salaam|
|12-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|14-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|15-Dec-17||Dar es Salaam|
|19-Dec-17||Zanzibar||Sailed for Zanzibar|
|23-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|25-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|26-Dec-17||Dar es Salaam|
|27-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for LINDI|
|29-Dec-17||At Sea||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|30-Dec-17||Dar es Salaam|
HM HS VITA 1918
The War Diary for HM HS VITA is blank for January 1918 but we have the following telegram sent by Pte. Monks to his family from Zanzibar which provides a location, at least in early January.
|1-Feb-18||Zanzibar||Coaling; Sailed for Lindi.|
|4-Feb-18||Lindi||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|5-Feb-18||Dar es Salaam||Arrived inner harbour Dar es Salaam|
|8-Feb-18||Lindi||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|9-Feb-18||Dar es Salaam|
|10-Feb-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for LINDI|
|12-Feb-18||Lindi||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|13-Feb-18||Dar es Salaam|
|14-Feb-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for LINDI|
|17-Feb-18||Lindi||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam|
|18-Feb-18||Dar es Salaam||Anchored in inner harbour Dar es Salaam|
|20-Feb-18||Kilindini||Arrived Kilindini; Sailed for Zanzibar.|
|25-Feb-18||Zanzibar||Sailed for LINDI|
|28-Feb-18||Dar es Salaam||Arrived Dar es Salaam. Indian Patient Died.|
|1-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for LINDI|
|2-Mar-18||Lindi||Arrived LINDI; Sailed for Dar es Salaam|
|3-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Arrived Dar es Salaam.|
|4-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||At anchor in harbour|
|5-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for LINDI|
|7-Mar-18||Lindi||Sailed for Dar es Salaam|
|8-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Arrived Dar es Salaam. Patient death; Buried at Sea.|
|9-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Patient died. Sailed for Zanzibar|
|14-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for Dar es Salaam. Arrived Dar es Salaam.|
|16-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for LINDI|
|17-Mar-18||Lindi||Arrived LINDI. Sailed for Port Amelia, Mozambique|
|18-Mar-18||Port Amelia||Arrived Port Amelia. Patient died; Buried at Sea.|
|19-Mar-18||Port Amelia||At anchor; Cleaning & Disinfecting wards|
|20-Mar-18||Port Amelia||Sailed for LINDI|
|22-Mar-18||Lindi||Sailed for Dar es Salaam|
|23-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Arrived Dar es Salaam. Anchored in harbour.|
|25-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||At anchor. Staff painted beds in Wards I, II & IV.|
|26-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||At anchor. Staff painted beds in Wards I, II & IV.|
|27-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for KILINDINI.|
|29-Mar-18||Kilindini||Sailed for Dar es Salaam|
|30-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Anchored in Dar es Salaam harbour|
|31-Mar-18||Dar es Salaam||Anchored in Dar es Salaam harbour|
|1-Apr-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for KILINDINI|
|2-Apr-18||Kilindini||Arrived KILINDINI. Sailed for ZANZIBAR.|
|4-Apr-18||Zanzibar||Coaling. Sailed for Port Amelia.|
|7-Apr-18||Port Amelia||Arrived Port Amelia.|
|10-Apr-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for KILINDINI|
|12-Apr-18||Kilindini||Arrived KILINDINI. Sailed for ZANZIBAR.|
|15-Apr-18||Lindi||Arrived LINDI. Sailed for ZANZIBAR.|
|17-Apr-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for KILINDINI|
|19-Apr-18||Kilindini||Arrived KILINDINI. Patient death. Sailed for ZANZIBAR.|
|24-Apr-18||Zanzibar||Sailed for LINDI|
|27-Apr-18||Lindi||Sailed for Dar es Salaam|
|28-Apr-18||Dar es Salaam||At anchor Dar es Salaam Bay|
|30-Apr-18||Dar es Salaam||At anchor Dar es Salaam Bay|
|1-May-18||Dar es Salaam||Heaved anchor and went to inner harbour.|
|2-May-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for Kilindini|
|3-May-18||Kilindini||Arrived Kilindini; Sailed for Dar es Salaam|
|4-May-18||Dar es Salaam||Dropped anchor in Dar es Salaam Bay|
|5-May-18||Dar es Salaam||Went into inner harbour.|
|8-May-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for Kilindini|
|9-May-18||Kilindini||Arrived Kilindini; Sailed for Dar es Salaam|
|10-May-18||Dar es Salaam|
|11-May-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for Zanzibar|
|15-May-18||Zanzibar||Sailed for Dar Es Salaam; Anchored in Bay|
|18-May-18||Dar es Salaam||Sailed for Durban, South Africa|
|25-May-18||Durban||Tied up alongside the Wharf at Durban.|
|26-May-18||Durban||Sailed for Cape Town|
|30-May-18||Cape Town||Anchored in Table Bay|
|31-May-18||Cape Town||Tied up alongside the Wharf.|
|2-Jun-18||Cape Town||Went into dry dock for repairs|
|10-Jun-18||Cape Town||Sailed for Durban|
|14-Jun-18||Durban||Arrived; Took in Coal.|
|15-Jun-18||Durban||Sailed for Zanzibar|
|21-Jun-18||Zanzibar||Arrived Zanzibar; Ships stores took onboard|
|22-Jun-18||Zanzibar||Sailed for Bombay. No patients embarked.|
|30-Jun-18||Bombay||Dropped anchor in Bombay harbour|
|1-Jul-18||Bombay||At anchor in stream|
|6-Jul-18||Bombay||Went into Alexandra dock to Coal|
|8-Jul-18||Bombay||Left dock and anchored in stream|
|9-Jul-18||Bombay||At anchor in stream undergoing repairs|
|31-Jul-18||Bombay||At anchor in stream undergoing repairs|
|1-Aug-18||Bombay||At anchor in stream|
|17-Aug-18||Bombay||Sailed for Basra|
|23-Aug-18||Basra||Tied up to Hospital Pier at Basra|
|25-Aug-18||Basra||Sailed for Karachi, Pakistan|
|30-Aug-18||Karachi||Arrived Karachi; Sailed for Bombay|
|1-Sep-18||Bombay||Arrived Bombay; Dropped anchor in stream|
|2-Sep-18||Bombay||Tied up to No2 Shed|
|7-Sep-18||Bombay||Sailing for Basra Cancelled.|
|12-Sep-18||Bombay||Came into No7 Alexandra Dock dock to Coal|
|13-Sep-18||Bombay||Disembarked for Training @ Deolali|
No 42 RAMC Embarkation Company
On September 28, 1918 all of the non-commissioned ranks of the RAMC personnel serving onboard the HM HS VITA were taken on the strength of the No 42 RAMC Embarkation Company, Bombay and immediately assigned back to the VITA. The commanding officer at this time was Captain Geoffrey Moulson.
DEOLALI, INDIA 1918
On September 13, 1918 Pte. Monks and Pte. Knight disembarked the HM HS VITA in Bombay for temporary transfer and training with the 1st Battalion, South Stafford Regiment in Deolali, India.
“Under instructions contained in AQMG Bombay Brigade no 10/31/8A dated 9th Sept 1918, the following men disembarked on transfer to Deolali for training with Detachment 1st Btn South Staffs Regt.
68069 Pte. Knight T.
11434 Pte. Monks L. J.”
1st Garrison Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment
The regimental history of the South Staffs notes that, in January 1917, a 1st Garrison Battalion was formed at Lichchfield and moved to the 6th Poona Division Area sometime in 1917 “where it remained“. Garrison battalions often contained men who were not considered fit enough for front line “fighting” battalions, or who had recovered from wounds but were not really fit enough to return to the trenches. These men were often assigned to overseas postings in order to release fit men for fighting.
6th Poona Division
At the outbreak of the First World War, the 6th (Poona) Division was mobilized in September 1914 and sailed from Bombay on 16 October for Mesopotamia. The 6th Poona Divisional Area was formed in October 1914 to take over the area responsibilities of the 6th (Poona) Division. It took over the units left behind by the original division and initially only commanded the Bombay Brigade, which was joined by the reformed Poona Brigade in December. The division was commanded by Major-General W.C. Knight. Until 1917 very little of note took place in the area, apart from supervising the transit of troops through the port of Bombay to various theatres of war.
In June 1917, 6th Poona Divisional Area was renamed the Poona Division. However, the Ahmednagar Brigade was not formed until May 1918, followed by the 58th and 59th Indian Brigades in June. The Bombay Brigade became independent in the same month.
In 1918, the division was responsible for posts and stations at Ahmednagar, Anandi, Arangaon, Belgaum, Dhond, Kirkee, Kholapur, Manmad, Poona and Satara. The Bombay Brigade was responsible for Ahmedabad, Baroda, Bombay, Colaba, Dadar, Deolali, Nasik, Rajkot and Santa Cruz.
Below is a photo of Pte. Thomas Knight, RAMC, who accompanied Pte. Monks on his trip to Deolali, taken on-board the Vita.
Deolali was a transit camp and hospital complex. There were two major Hospitals there; the 34th Welsh General Hospital and the 44th British General Hospital. There was also a RAMC depot there.
Below is a photo of the 34th Welsh General Hospital showing the site to be a large sprawling layout of many semi-permanent structures. However, Pte. Monks and Pte. Knight were housed in tents for the duration of their stay at Deolali.
By the end of November 1918 both the War and their temporary assignment at Deolali were over and Privates Monks and Knight returned to the HM HS VITA, embarking at Bombay.
|3-Dec-18||Bombay||Came into No 2 Shed, Alexandra Dock|
|5-Dec-18||At Sea||Sailed for Aden & Suez|
|10-Dec-18||At Sea||Gulf of Aden|
|11-Dec-18||Aden||Arrived Aden; Took in Meat. Left Aden|
|12-Dec-18||At Sea||Red Sea|
|15-Dec-18||At Sea||Gulf of Suez. Patient Died; Buried at Sea.|
|18-Dec-18||Suez||Suez Docks; Coaling|
|21-Dec-18||At Sea||Sailed for Bombay.|
|22-Dec-18||At Sea||Patient Died|
|24-Dec-18||At Sea||Patient Died; Buried at Sea|
|26-Dec-18||Aden||Arrived Aden. Left Aden|
|31-Dec-18||At Sea||Indian Ocean|
REPATRIATION TO UK
|1-Jan-19||Bombay||Anchored in Stream|
|2-Jan-19||Bombay||Alexandra Dock No2 Shed|
|3-Jan-19||Bombay||Permanently left the Ship|
On January 3, 1919 Pte. Monks, Pte. Knight and Pte. Hooley disembarked the VITA for the last time in Bombay on the start of their journey back to the UK.
It is not clear exactly how these three RAMC privates made their way back to the UK or how long it took but they would have done so under the auspices of the No 42 RAMC Embarkation Company, Bombay. Analysis of other men’s service records indicate that they would have most likely been put aboard the next available hospital ship returning to the UK which probably would have taken around 30-days. Pte. Hooley’s Pension Records still exist and show that he joined the VITA on July 12, 1916 (in Bombay) and was demobilized on April 24, 1919 suffering from Malaria, which he contracted while serving on-board the VITA. All of the RAMC men serving on the VITA were discharged from Military Service listing the No 42 Embarkation Company as their last posting.
After a while, life onboard the VITA must have been a monotonous daily grind caring for sick and wounded patients in extreme and oppressive heat and humidity with the possible threat of German raiders or mine fields. The only entertainment onboard was that created by those present and “The Wanderers” must have been a great diversion for all those involved and present at the shows
Pte. Leonard Monks can be seen on the far left back row. Standing next to him is Pte. Lewis Haywood.
And the performances were not just limited to entertaining those onboard as can be seen from the following press cutting from Bombay.
A very successful Concert was given on Friday evening at the Seamen’s Institute by the “Wanderers”, a talented Concert party from one of his Majesty’s ships. They appeared in attractive pierrot costumes of black and white, and introduced many entertaining innovations to their programme.
A large toy engine named “The VITA Special”, to which was attached a card indicating the item number of the programme, was drawn across the stage in between each item. This was quite a clever idea and afforded much scope for side play to the two corner men who made the most of their opportunities. The felling of a toy Zeppelin in flames was realistically produced.
It is difficult to single out any one item of the varied programme; all were well received by a large and appreciative audience. Perhaps, one calling for special mention was Mr. Finch, who kept the audience in roars of laughter with his amusing anecdotes and character impersonations. A liberal applause was accorded to each turn and encores were the order of the evening.
The Concert was brought to a close with the singing of “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the King” by the whole company.
The Wanderers are to be congratulated on their talent and organisation, and we all look forward to their return to Bombay, when it is hoped, they will again pay a visit to the Institute.
AFTER THE WAR
After the war it appears that the RAMC men of the HM HS Vita got together every few years to reminisce.
But over time their numbers started to dwindle.
SHORT SERVICE RECORD
Feb 1915 to May 1915 UK
May 1915 to ? Egypt (EEF)
? to 1916 Mesopotamia / Persia (MEF)
1916 to Jan 1919 HM HS VITA
OFFICIAL WAR RECORDS
The only official war records for Leonard Monks are his Medal Index Card and Medal Roll.
His Medal Roll Index Card tells us that he was assigned to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) as a Private and that he first disembarked on overseas service on May 30, 1915 in Egypt. It also shows that he was awarded the British, Victory and 15 Star medals.
His medal roll shows that he was entitled to the British War Medal and the British Victory Medal.
Leonard Monks died in Warrington, Lancashire on September 24, 1974. He was 76 years old.