Had a good journey to Southampton and a most enthusiastic send off, the streets thronged. It is now 10 p.m. and as I am sharing a cabin with 2 others must not write much tonight, I am going to be revaccinated but not inoculated.
21st May: Yesterday was lovely and the sea beautiful, we were in the Bay but it was in one of its best moods. The stewardess brings us a cup of tea about 6 a.m., then some have baths and we breakfast abut 8.30. At 10.30 we had a service. As there are 3 clergymen on board one of them took it – not much of a sermon.
Then we lunch at 1.30. Have a cup of tea and bread and butter or biscuits at 4 p.m. dinner at 6.30. No supper. The food is very good and plenty of it. The 2nd and 3rd class orderlies had some games. The 1st class sang hymns. There was a service for them aft. They are not allowed to mix with us at all. After dinner we sang hymns in the dining saloon, pianos accompanying. There are about 35 of us sitting at meals in the 1st class D.S. 8 doctors, 12 sisters. Sister Roberts1 returning to S.A. after taking the men of the ‘Powerful’ home .. .. ..
Several have been sick not yours truly. We are through the bay and were very near the coast of Spain this morning. Passed Cape Finisterre before lunch. My bed got swamped with sea water early. They have changed it all. The waves have been dashing over the bows of the boat. It has been so windy today we could scarcely stand in some parts, but I am enjoying myself thoroughly, not sick yet. They had some games tonight, Gordon Highlanders v Yeomanry, Surrey and Lancashires. The students2 or 1st class orderlies have a sort of concert every night in the fore port.
23rd May: Yesterday I saw some flying fish. The day passed much the same as others. Eating, drinking, sitting and reading. Walking and talking. A concert given but spoilt by the conceit and half intoxication of the reciter named Wolff. Gave us the peroration before Agincourt from Shakespere. Did it well but had been having too much Scotch, in fact he spoilt the whole evening for us.
Today I have taken 4 photographs. I don’t like the Thiosulphate Tabloids3 they are not nearly strong enough. We land at Las Palmas while the ship is coaling where I hope to take more. Won’t stay for more shall be late for post – finishing in my bunk.
25th May: What a lovely day we had yesterday. Arrived at Las Palmas about 11 a.m. it was fun to see the boats come alongside with Spanish, Italians and some negroes in them all selling oranges, lemons, bananas, green figs, onions, cigars, tobacco, parrots and such like things. Then came a big barge full of colliers another of coal. The kiddies in the boats were stripping and diving for silver pennies as they called them.
Then came two boats and took off a party of 25 including nurses and doctors. When we landed our conductor fried 5 of the funny little hooded crustaceans for us and we went on a 7 mile drive to an hotel on the top of a high hill. It gave us a splendid idea of the place. We found it on the whole very barren. A few palm trees and some other something like our birch trees seemed to flourish in the dry and infertile situations. We saw several patches of maize and some vineyards right up on the hills. Round their own houses and inside the houses on the streets there are well cultivated and most luxurious little gardens. You remember how Nelly told us of the little gardens inside the houses where they take their Sisters. They leave their front doors open so we could see the gardens inside. Geraniums for big shrubs. Agapanthus, clematis, roses, photinia, luxuriate and there are other lovely climbers, shrubs and plants.
I saw abutilons the size of young trees. Shrubs and lilies of all descriptions. Splendid. All gardens were full of flowering plants but it seemed to us that the Spaniards were too lazy to cultivate the rest of the ground. We only saw a very little corn and that of the very meagrest.
I have taken 2 views of the streets but they are not very successful, but they will give you some idea of the funny flat look of the houses. We returned in the same carriages and visited the Cathedral. Had not time to take a view of it. Then we returned to the town Hotel. Some of them bought some lovely Madeira wine at more or less ruinous prices. Returned to the boat between 5 and 6.
30th May: Not much to record since Las Palmas. We are now in the tropics and for the last few days and the heat has been tremendous. Monday was terrible. The heat gave me one of my old sick headaches so I had to miss dinner. The only missed meal so far.
On Saturday several of us were vaccinated I amongst them, but I don’t think mine has taken at all. On Sunday night there was some irritation and inflammation and none since.
On Sunday after service I took 2 groups of Drs. and nurses, with the ships captain. I am afraid that they will not come out well but Dr. Stirling4 said it would be the best day to take them as they would all be in Khaki for church parade. It has been too hot since to do any work.
We saw a tremendous shoal of porpoise. We crossed the Equator about 9 a.m. on Thursday. A case of suppressed enteric turned up amongst the Gordons so 3 of us are nursing it. We only take about 4 hrs. each and that is quite enough as the hospital is in the steerage end, and one feels the motion of the boat very much more there. However, we don’t see any signs of enteric ourselves and his temperature is now normal. It was 105o when admitted.
There are heaps of flying fish to be seen this side of the Equator and some nautilus also. They had a shuffleboard tournament yesterday, it was very good. The 2nd and 3rd class passengers got up a concert for us last week, they have a professional violinist amongst them. It was a very good concert. We are to give a return one next week, and I believe the stewards are getting up a minstrel group for next week also.
We are having some lessons in Cape Dutch from a pro-Boer parson who is on board, he is a very jolly little fellow. We have been rather more lively the last few days, on Tuesday evening we (1st class) gave a concert. On the whole it was very good, but it was spoiled for me pretty much as I had to play accompaniments for 3 gentlemen. Have you heard “We’ll be there” Jack?5 it is a music hall song from the British to Oom Paul6. It is capital. Banjo accompaniment I think.
On Wednesday we had sports on the well deck. They were very good. Long jump, high jump, cock fight 2 men sit inside a chalk ring with their knees up, hands clasping them. The hands are tied and a stick passed through their legs, under knees and over elbows. When trussed they begin with their feet close together. The thing is to turn your opponent. When once over he has no power to right himself. If both go down it is a rare tussle which shall get the other outside first. In the evening the stewards gave the minstrel entertainment.
Wednesday a mail boat passed and we signalled “Have you any news?” Their reply was “P.R.E” and “T.O” then “surrendered”. We could scarcely believe it. The Red Cross people received the information with mingled feelings, but directly the troops were told there was cheering and great excitement, drinking, taking up lots and so on. Most hoping fighting is not over.
There is a shocking lot of gambling and open betting – We can’t tell what to make of the news or how it will affect us. We may be sent to Pretoria now, or some other place and not go to Kroonstadt7 at all. Last night some of us played round games, “tea-pot” etc. Evening passed quickly.
- ROBERTS, Ida Henrietta, Trained at Westminster Hospital London, joined the Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve), on May 4 1900 as Nursing Sister (546). Nursing Sister Roberts, caused an enormous fuss which led to a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Care of the Sick and the Wounded in South Africa. Roberts alleged that many of the nurses were completely incompetent and barely knew how to change a bandage.
- Medical students were taken as 1st Class orderlies. Army Nursing Notes (1900) Nursing Record and Hospital World. Vol 4: May 26th; p41
- Thiosulphate was a photographic fixing agent. The word tabloid was a registered trademark of Burroughs Wellcome pharmaceutical company for products that ‘had the form or likeness of a tablet’. http://website.lineone.net/~mauricefisher/Johnsons of Hendon/Johnson Year Book.html
- STIRLING, Dr. Robert, Visiting Surgeon, Royal Infirmary Perth. Army Nursing Notes (1900) Nursing Record and Hospital World. Vol 4: May 26th; p416
- Kruger’s Dinner Party; or we’ll be there. Song. G. Le Brunn & F. C. Smale. British Library Shelfmark H.3602.b.(31).
- KRUGER, Paul, 1825–1904, South African Transvaal statesman, known as Oom Paul. Kruger fought in the early stages of the Boer War, but in 1900 he went to Europe on a Dutch cruiser in a vain effort to enlist aid for his country. He died an exile in Switzerland.
- The Author spells Kroonstad also as Kroonstadt