The following two articles were published in the September 12, 1914 edition of the Ashton Reporter:
THE SCENES ON BOARD THE TROOPSHIP
Men Splendidly Provided for and Food Excellent
We received the following communication too late for insertion in our last issue.
We have made arrangements for receiving reports from time to time of the Ashton Territorials while they are abroad
“The Aragon” Southampton Dock, Sept 10th
Yesterday all preparations were made for the Battalion to move off. Reveille sounded at 4:30am or half-an-hour before its usual time. This was probably intended to act as a narcotic during the long, tedious journey that was to be made to Southampton in the afternoon. During the morning the men paraded for final inspection and after piling arms and stripping off equipment they left the parade ground. Suddenly the weather, which had been uncommonly promising, began to blacken into a thunderstorm and in a very short time a drenching shower followed. All the rifles and equipment were thoroughly soaked, and though it is true the sun did afterwards shine shyly, yet this respite was only followed by a much heavier shower, and when the men paraded at 4:15pm their rifles had to be thoroughly cleaned by oily rag and hard rubbing. The equipment was well beyond easy drying and this made another burden for the men to carry.
Throughout the afternoon visitors from Ashton were arriving both by train and car, and in spite of the muddy state of the camp and the murky appearance of the interior of the tents, the friends and relatives were made agreeably welcome and a spirit of home life pervaded the whole camp.
At 6pm, preceded by the band playing the liveliest airs modern music can offer, the right half of battalion, companies A, B, C and D marched down to Bury carrying rifles, equipment, great coats and also their well packed kit bags. They had a magnificent reception, all the route being lined by townspeople and visitors, sometimes to the extent of three deep. Small Union Jacks were waved from many of the windows, and hearty cheers were given for the men of Ashton as they took the first step on a long journey.
At Bury Station the men were comfortably seated in a long transport train of twenty-one carriages. There were only six men allowed to enter one compartment, so that traveling comfort was ensured. The remaining half of the battalion followed an hour later.
The railway journey was long but far from unpleasant, the scenery passed being enjoyed.
At 8am the train steamed into Southampton Dock Station. The kits were collected and carried on board the Aragon, which is an RMPS boat on Anglo-South American service. The County of London Yeomanry, the RAMC and the Royal Engineers of East Lancashire, besides 1,000 of the 9th are here.
The boat is expected to depart at 7 or 8 to-night for Egypt. The men are splendidly provided for, everything is new and spotlessly clean, the NCOs being in the 2nd class quarters and sleep in bunks. Food is excellent. Dinner – roast mutton, baked potatoes and good stew. Tea – bread, butter, cheese and pickles and tea. All contented; men in hammocks and allowed to parade the deck. Weather was drizzling this morning but mild and calm.
THE EAST LANCASHIRE DIVISION
The East Lancashire Division of the Territorial Force on Wednesday left the camps at Bury, Littleborough and Turton to proceed to the station assigned to them overseas. About sixty special trains were required for the division which is made up of Headquarters, one squadron of the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry, three Infantry Brigades (Manchester, Lancashire Fusiliers and East Lancashire), Headquarters Divisional Artillery, three Field Artillery Brigades, the Heavy Battery and Ammunition Column, Headquarters Divisional Engineers, two Field Companies Royal Engineers the Signal Company, the Divisional Train and three Field Ambulances. The personnel include 598 Officers and 18,077 men. There were also 5,600 horses, 36 15-pounder guns, 12 howitzers, 24 machine guns, 239 carts about 400 wagons and tons of baggage.
The Divisional Staff consists of Major General W. Douglas, CB, DSO commanding: Lieutenant-Colonel AW Tufnell, general staff officer; Captain Allan, deputy assistant adjutant and quartermaster general; and twelve officers who have been posted to the staff on mobilization.
A postcard received from a foreign service member of the Duke of Lancaster’s Yeomanry intimated that they were on Thursday night boarding a transport carrying 2,000 troops to Egypt.
JOLLY DECENT BOAT
The following was from one of the regiments – “Just a line before we sail. Here we are safely on board after a 12 hours’ journey. This is a jolly decent boat, and I think we shall be comfortable. We are the only infantry battalion on board, the rest being yeomanry and artillery, so we are really amongst the ‘Knuts’. They all seem jolly decent men and I think when we are shaken down we shall be a very happy party.” It was understood that the ship would first stop at Gibraltar.
The following article was published in the October 3, 1914 edition of the Ashton Reporter:
Life on Board the Aragon
Dukinfield Man’s Interesting Diary
Councilor J. Taylor Newton of 2 Lodge Lane, Dukinfield has received a letter from his son Samuel of the 9th Batt. (Ashton) Territorials, descriptive of his life on board ship during the voyage from Southampton to Egypt. The letter is as follows:
Monday September 14
I am writing to you in expectation of being able to post the letter when we arrive at Gibraltar and hope to find you all in the best of health. I have been making notes every time I had a chance in a scrap book I happened to have, not being able to get any paper of any sort.
Friday: It is grand. I wakened up about five o’ clock and am told we left Southampton at 11:30 o’ clock. Feeling cold. I inquired if we were passing the North Pole. We slept in the mess rooms, slung in hammocks from the ceiling. They are very comfortable. We are allowed a white clean blanket which is very warm. Some slept on deck all night. There are about 50 washing places and plenty of drinking water and about four salt water baths. After dressing and stowing away hammock I went for a wash, feeling sniffy. I then went below and put on my sweater and slippers which come in very useful. Then I went on deck for a blow and I got it especially when I got to the nose of the ship. It nearly blew me down and I may say there is no dust in it. At 7:15 breakfast, which consisted of bread and butter, kippers and coffee. They were very large kippers and nobody enjoyed it better than me. We go nothing short. At 9 o’ clock we were on parade and were shown where to fall in, in case of fire, collision, etc. Then they dismissed us and I passed time on deck until 12 o’ clock when dinner was served. It consisted of soup, boiled beef, potatoes in jackets and bread. After dinner there was a medical inspection, mostly for cleanliness. To tea, at 5 o’ clock, we had jam and bread and butter. I forgot to mention that we have been stopped since 10:30 this morning off the coast of Cornwall. I have counted ten ships on one side of ours, including two dangerous looking men-of-war, and some containing troops and horses.
Saturday and Sunday: Two awful days. We were in the Bay of Biscay and everybody was seasick in all directions. The 9th are poor sailors. Today (Sunday) I was on guard. It was only a matter of being there but it did me good being on the higher decks. I had some plum pudding to dinner and it has not disagreed with me. We are only going very slow. Today we were told to discard our boots and socks as we are coming into warmer regions. The men-of-war are still hanging round and have been signaling by lights to us. I am feeling better now and hope there are better days in store. Guard duty is fine, two hours on and four off, which is spent in a small room with cosy seats in it and a piano on second top deck. We finish guard at 8 tomorrow morning.
Monday: Much calmer and warmer; feeling in the pink. We are getting near to Gibraltar and are expecting to arrive tomorrow. A man-of-war has just been signaling to us. Two horses of ours have died. The smell below is horrible and we only go down at meal times and bedtime. There is a canteen on board and it is very busy when open. Sometimes waiting an hour and then see it closed. There are about nine boats and men-of-war on the right of us still. There is a roll call every day. We get war news every day by wireless and it is posted up all over the ship on typewritten sheets, and by accounts we are getting rid of the Germans nicely. We have also heard what Churchill said and the death of the Hendon airman. They say the “boss” said we would have Christmas dinner at home and I hope it is right. There are on board, in addition to the 9thBattalion, some Duke of Lancaster’s Own, East Lancashires, Royal Army Medical Corps, East Lancashire Royal Engineers and a good number of yeomanry from London, amongst whom is Lord Howard de Walden. Four o’ clock we have just had a parade of ten minutes.
Tuesday: Last night we traveled with lights out as there was danger knocking about. I got up at reveille this morning which is six o’ clock. There were seven ships, all within a radius of half a mile, ours being the centre. It is champion sailing now. We are off the coast of Spain. This morning I was on duty scraping steps which lead to the mess rooms, also mopping them. I am now able to tell proper time of parades, etc. Six o’ clock reveille, 7-10 breakfast, 7-40 physical culture (which is too soon after a meal), 10 o’ clock roll call and inspection (or walk past of captain of the ship and battalion officers), 2-45 parade for rifle instruction, tea 5 o’ clock, 9-15 all lights out. I have been on deck for about 2 hours, viewing round. There are in sight 15 ships around us including two men-of-war. All look within a radius of a mile, two passing quite near to us with troops on board. We are also in sight of a light which gives out a bright light every four seconds. One ship sent out two rockets which send out sparks when they burst like those at Belle Vue. Today they came to vaccinate our company. It was not compulsory and lots refused including myself. They then tried to draw us in by means of a lecture but still many refused. One man said, “they’ve tried to mak’ us into soldiers, then sailors and now they’re trying to mak’ us into pin cushions”. Owing to this vaccination I have to go out of my turn for mess orderly which is shared with me on our table of 20 men. The duties include going to cookhouse for chuck, and to wash up. The sun is blazing hot and I feel as if I have had a Turkish bath. Today a sergeant told us that if we had any letters we must post them tonight. I am still well and hearty and eating like a horse and I hope you are all in best of health. A band is at present playing on deck. We hear we are stopping at Gibraltar until further orders. It may be many weeks before you hear from me again but I shall always endeavor to let you know of our travels as soon as possible.