all firmly convinced that this "big do" would be all over in a few months. The first thing now
to do was to enlist & of course, being volunteers, we thought at least we were entitled to
chose [sic] our unit, so after locating the nearest recruiting office we paid our fare to Bath,
with just the clothes we stood in plus overcoats & on arriving we asked if there were any
vacancies in the Royal Artillery. Of course we had in view that we should not indulge in
"Shanks Pony", but the Sergeant Major very nicely replied that he was "sorry" to say that
there were only vacancies in the G.S.I. This of course meant very little to us as regards its
identity, but we eventually were informed that G.S.I. meant General Service Infantry &
afterwards interpreted by us as Poor B..... Infantry.
Now that we had assigned ourselves to an indefinite future, it certainly seemed in a
different world, just a number, to be sent here & there, not of our choice & not to our
pleasure. What did it matter - we were all together, a motley crowd maybe, all of one aim, but
we were cheerful, although possibly suspensive [sic] & wondering naturally about what the
future may hold for us.
AUG 31st, 1914
We had been allotted to the Somerset Light Infantry & became part of the first 500,000 asked
for by Lord Kitchener & we entrained to Taunton (at the expense of the nation) & for a few
days we were training to become smart soldiers, we hope. There were about 300 volunteers
assembled at Taunton, some lads coming from Somerset, Lancashire & South Wales.
SEPT. 3rd, 1914
On Sept. 3rd we had marching orders & having been issued with two blankets, we marched to
the station at night & entraining in a none too comfortable train. After many hours we
reached a seaport now known as Fishguard. There was a boat in the docks & we had to "hang
fire" so to speak to enable the boat to be unloaded & the cargo was cattle. I am not ashamed
to say that I am a poor sailor & I offered a prayer that the trip wherever it may be would be
smooth & it may be uneventful. We eventually boarded the boat. My pal & I made tracks for
the forecastle, laid down our blankets & in common terms "got down to it".
Within a few hours, the engines throbbed & we steered clear of the breakwater &
approached the open sea of the Irish Channel & what a greeting it gave us. One wave broke
right over us - drenched the lot. This somewhat gave a warning that my prayer was not being
answered & all of us on deck were ordered below. As all lights were extinguished it was
difficult to find our way about. However we were shepherded below decks into the main hold
where the cattle had just vacated. What an existence, with a heavy roll & pitch of the boat &
a heavy load of Kitchener's cargo it soon became evident that the first trip was not going to
be enjoyable. The greater majority were seasick, the floor of the hold being littered with the
excretions of the cattle & the vomit of our "passengers". The area dimly lit with hurricane
lamps swinging about with a monotonous "zing". I feel sure that I was not the only one on
board to hope for a speedy sinking, so after ten hours of torture we arrived to the calm &
welcoming waters of Waterford Harbour.
That voyage, short as it may have seemed, will stand in my memory as distasteful & it is
said that the first impression is always a last impression, so I hope that my next sea trip will
be at least a little more pleasant & its passengers catered for in a more considerate manner.
What a relief to breathe the real fresh air after those dark hours on that boat & inhaling the
vilest of impurities deriving from departed cattle & heaving humans.
How strange it seemed after landing at Waterford to walk or even stand for that matter.
Even the ground seemed to roll & want to remind us of the sea & our pacing was very