Diary of Alfred John Hotton
Alfred John Hotton (pictured) served on "HM Australian Troopship Orvieto" which was part of the convoy from Australia to Suez, carrying the 5th Australian Infantry and other sundry units. His great-grandson John Ryan from Porirua, New Zealand, has transcribed Hotton's diary about the voyage, between 21st Oct and 3rd Dec 1914, "written in pencil on tatty old paper that is 86 years old (loose sheets)."
John has kindly allowed me to reproduce his transcript here.
Wednesday 21st October
Horses emboarded at 9.30am. Officers horses only were carried, twenty in all, and very restless and took four hours to embark. Troops started to embark at 10.30am and were all on board by 1pm. Company of Australian 5th Infantry and Company of Engineers all very smart and busy looking men. Trains carrying troops were decorated with flags and flowers and [unreadable] corresponding with all, made things look very smart and a good show it was for the people of Melbourne to see the [unreadable] departure of the Flagship, Orvieto. A crowd of spectators, relatives and friends at side of wharf. From 9am many more arriving by train to Port Melbourne. They presented a splendid sight, being a hot day, they were dressed in summer clothes and flags were waving. The wharf was guarded by soldiers with fixed bayonets and nobody was allowed on the wharf without a Special Permit from Military Officer in charge of Transport, but even then they were very few. But alas, for our soldiers with their bayonets, for the anxious crowd, just before 2pm I watched them pushing the barrier down and rushing onto the wharf. I was astounded and [unreadable] one streaming mass of humanity. Such a scene had never been witnessed at Port Melbourne. Many favourite songs were sung by the troops and the huge crowd on shore, including "Auld Lang Syne" and "Goodbye Dolly, I must leave you" and "Don't Cry Little Girl, Don't Cry". The military band onboard struck up the National Anthem, as the ship pulled away from the wharf at 3pm. Soldiers crowded the decks everywhere and rigging up to the masthead was crowded with soldiers, looking like one mass of khaki, from mast to deck. Many small craft followed us as close as they dare to come and turned back and lost to sight very soon. Thus the Orvieto A3 on Wednesday 21st October1914, sailed away on her voyage of what shall be as time goes by. Sailing day made it a busy day for both crew and troops to get things straight as the troops knew very little of the ships qualities if anything.
Thursday 22nd October
A most glorious day [unreadable] [unreadable] fun [unreadable] [unreadable] all merry and bright. Officers [unreadable] very little alteration having been made in the catering thus the menus of [unreadable] classes, in fact everything almost the same as usual. Drills were performed on deck during the day. At 4.30pm the bells were rung for fire drill immediately followed by boat drill. Everything was carried out in an orderly manner. The canteen was opened this day. Takings amounted to £92, mostly all in small drinks and cigarettes. The troops are allowed 1 pint of beer per day for which they pay the sum of 3d a pint. NCO's have 3 pints per day, one bottle to each meal with a charge of 6d per pint as bottled beer is considered better beer than the draught beer the troops are having.
Friday 23rd October
A magnificent day. Very few clouds and a beautiful breeze was blowing. HMAS Melbourne was sighted at 9.30am. She was abreast of us at 1pm and was out of sight again by 4pm. She was travelling at a speed of 20 knots [unreadable] as we were travelling only at about 16 knots. The Melbourne being one of Australia's light cruisers and looks a very nice boat at sea as she was making her way through the water. The second class music room has been converted into an orderly room. The piano has been moved to the second class deck where all the NCO's can sing to their hearts content. The smoking room has been converted into a guard room. A concert was held in the second class saloon tonight and an evening spent there promises that they have a very good all round talent.
Saturday 24th October
Sun shining gloriously but the sea a little choppy. A few more soldiers down with the Mal-de-Mer. Very [unreadable] pairs as usual. Troops [unreadable] beer only half a dozen pints being sold. Troops could not be convinced that it was not [unreadable] beer and that it belonged to the [unreadable] They were under the impression it was bought out of Melbourne's canteen funds. Mineral waters were provided by that fund but for hospitals where only tobacco and chocolate were given, but all under bond until we leave the coast of Australia. It was decided to put the whole of the [unreadable] beer on shore at Albany.
Sunday 25th October
Still a bit choppy. Troops given one more chance to keep beer on board. About forty gallons was sold today. Each mess orderly has to have a chit signed by the Orderly Officer to draw for their messes. The troops seem to be coming to their senses with [unreadable] and to the beer. A concert was held by the NCO's in the 2nd class saloon. On Sundays the troops are allowed 1 bun and 1 apple. Troops appreciate food very much indeed after their camp life where I understand they eat more dust than food. Holy Communion was held in the saloon at 7.20am. Church Parade held on the boat deck in the evening.
Monday 26th October
Weather sometimes choppy. Amidst gales. Laying in outer harbour very rough. Albany [unreadable] a very pretty spectacle when the sun is shining on green hills. [unreadable] bush reminds me very much of the entrance to Plymouth. To rough to [unreadable] our water up or to get stores on board. 80 gallons of beer sold today. Lecture in 1st class saloon tonight.
Tuesday 27th October
Went into inner harbour. Quite calm inside harbour. Weather much improved outside. 200 gallons of beer sold today. Troops lecture held in 2nd class saloon by NCO and Staff Sergeant. Baker makes 200 loaves of bread of 1lb each per day, Butcher cuts up 2000lbs of meat daily but with increased staff in butcher and baker shops.
Wednesday 28th October
Weather same as yesterday. The New Zealand Contingent arrives with escort of 15 cruisers, namely, HMAS Melbourne, Pioneer, Pyramus, HMS Minotaur and the Japanese cruiser Ibuki. These ships were a beautiful sight. We saw the smoke rise over the horizon and gradually come on to anchor in the harbour. Movies were taken of them so probably we shall see them on the pictures in England later on as time goes on, after the war, that is, if we are granted a safe journey home. The Minotaur fired two shots during the night. I am trying to find out what was wrong. Probably a ship that would not answer her signals, so probably a shot was fired across her bows to stop her progress.
Thursday 29th October
No change in the weather. Usual routine. There are about 36 troopships in harbour. Letters can be posted onboard but must not be sealed as notices have been put up to the effect it is strictly forbidden to put [unreadable] [unreadable] or where from and not to state any movements of the troopships. Letters from all ships are sent to HMA Troopship Orvieto A3, where the staff officers examine all letters and that they do not convey any news to the enemy. If any news refers to the enemy, a black stamp is put on and nobody knows when it will reach its destination. A dead horse was seen floating around the ship today. Supposed to be from the Southern A27. Eleven horses have died altogether but so far we have lost none.
Friday 30th October
General routine. Lunch given by the Commander in Chief of Expeditionary Forces, General Bridges, to the Mayor and Mayoress of Albany and Officers of the convoy. [unreadable] were invited and champagne was freely circulating and all were looking very pleased with themselves. Afterwards [unreadable] the Chief Steward who was [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] about the amount of his [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] the ordinary [unreadable] [unreadable].
Saturday 31st October
Troops carried on as usual, drilling and learning flag signals during the early afternoon. At 6pm all ships taking up their positions except the Orvieto A3, being the Flagship of the convoy. When all ships were in position, the Flagship took up her position at 12pm.
Sunday 1st November
1st day of a new month. I wonder what this month will bring forth. We left Albany at 7am with 36 ships forming three lines. We are the leading ship in the centre line, which all orders are taken and sent to other ships of the convoy. We take the command from the man of war in command of the convoy then pass it on. The Wiltshire A18 taking the lead of the port side line and the Euripides A14, the lead of the starboard line. HMS Minotaur acting scout, Ahead of troopships, HMAS Melbourne on port side and HMAS Sydney on starboard side. HMS Pyramus and Pioneer in the rear, making a wonderful sight and comprising of the largest fleet of ships that ever left Australian waters together, or any other part of the world, at the same time.
Monday 2nd November
[unreadable] [unreadable] by [unreadable] [unreadable] with Minotaur [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] weather [unreadable] [unreadable] troops feeling the Mel-de-Mer too. Southern A27 first ship astern of us came within a few yards of our stern. In consequence of this a light was rigged showing the reflection in the water.
Nov 9th 6.30am
Sydney told off by HMS Minotaur to follow her on. Minotaur had received signal but would not discuss any result. Capt Smith in charge of gunnery aboard Orvieto. Arrived Colombo Sunday Nov 15th at 2pm.
Friday Nov 13th
New Zealand convoy left the lines and proceeded to Colombo for coal and water.
Sunday 15th 2pm
Arrived Colombo with [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] At 3pm [unreadable] men sent onto Orvieto from the convoy. 3.45pm [unreadable] Pyramus arriving with Emden prisoners. Capt Von Mueller, [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable], 2 M.O. and 35 men, all prisoners. 2 men refused to give their parole. Sunday 22nd Arrived at Aden. Capt Smith, General Bridges and Capt White and two other officers went onboard HMS Hampshire.
After a meeting of Naval and Military Officers aboard Orvieto, that all ships should be landed at Port Said after receiving [unreadable] message [unreadable] Orvieto was to lead convoy at full speed and proceed to Suez for [unreadable] left convoy 12 noon.
All prisoners put in cabin under guard.
Arrived Suez at 10.00am. 3.20pm entered canal
Tues Dec 1st
7.30am Arrived Port Said. Landed two companies of infantry & stores.
Wed Dec 2nd
A hearty cheer from the [unreadable] Oman of [unreadable] as she recognised the Orvieto as the Flagship by seeing the Union Jack at the masthead. Transferred all prisoners to HMS Shropshire to be transported to HMS Hampshire as she was still in the canal.
6am Left for [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable] disembarked all troops. This ends the voyage of Australian troops for the Orvieto.
Copyright © John Ryan