Dardanelles: ‘I got married a week before’

This is one of many letters sent by staff of the Great Western Railway Audit office at Paddington who had enlisted to fight in the First World War. (RAIL 253/516)

George Shipley, 6 August 1915, at sea on route to the Dardanelles, Turkey. Born: 18 August 1878, Regiment: 10 Middlesex Regiment, Regiment number: 2594, Rank: Company Sergeant Major, Died: 2 December 1915

Transcript

Dear Nic,

First of all I must thank you and… the others who sent me their kind letters of sympathy in regard to my brother Sam. We all felt it very much at home and it was a great shock to our parents naturally, but it can’t be helped, as he was killed in a good cause.

I suppose you have heard how we left Bedford early on Sunday 18/7/15 and had a lovely trip down the old firm to Keyham, we were well laden and I was glad to get aboard and get to my berth in which I am very comfortable with two other Warrant Officers. The men and Sergeants are on the troop deck and none too comfortable but are jogging along alright now.

The first part of the voyage the sea was very quiet, we passed Gibraltar in a fog at night, so couldn’t see it. We then skirted the coast of Algeria and had a pleasant run to Malta where we stopped a full day. The higher officials went ashore for a few hours (including myself) and had a good time. I cannot mention troops or ships so refrain from doing so but there was a hell of a lot.

Our next stop was Alexandria for three days, where we had another look round including a route march for the Battalion. The sea is fairly rough at this end, rather surprising, but a lovely colour, light blue at day and dark at night. All lights out at 8.00, perfect darkness, there is no twilight to speak of, being dark at 7.30pm.

We then wondered where we were off to but eventually reached Port Said, stopped a day, went ashore, and off we go to the Dardanelles which we expect to reach tonight.

Our kits have been left behind in Egypt and all we have got we stand in. We are now passing through the Aegean sea, full of rocky islands, very much like the highlands of Scotland. Bullen has just lost his helmet over the side, but is otherwise well…

I am in the best of health at present and hope to go through alright. I expect you heard I got married a week before I left, a lot of us did the same thing, it was quite a common occurrence.

Our old boat is a captured German liner and is full up but we have got a Greek crew with a few Portuguese thrown in and so are a mixed lot, especially with Welsh men aboard. How are things going at the office, I have been away nearly a year… I shall be glad to hear from you now and again just to keep in touch… I must close now as they say a mail is being collected before we land… Yours sincerely,

George

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