Troop ship: ‘five weeks on board’

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)

H. Beaumont, 29 November 1914, SS Grantully Castle (Beaumont was travelling on a troop ship sailing in convey out to India). Born: 17 October 1873, Regiment: 1/6 East Surrey Regiment, Regiment number: 2297, Rank: Quarter Master Sergeant, Died: 1952

Note: He was a member of volunteer army as a young man. He was a life governor of Richmond Hospital, London and held an MBE (Military Division)


Dear Mr Wheeler

Just a few lines to let you know of my whereabouts. This is our fifth Sunday at sea. We left Southampton on Thursday October 29th shortly before midnight and our convoy of ten huge liners each with about 1700 to 2000 territorial troops on board assembled in the English Channel early next morning.

We were escorted by British warships as far as our first port of call- Malta the French warships to Port Said. After staying one night there we proceeded through the Suez Canal. We lay off the Port of Suez six days waiting for another escort then on through the Red Sea to Aden where we stayed four days waiting for our Japanese escort. When it arrived it brought with it an immense convoy of over 80 huge liners transports filled with New Zealand and Indian troops. This in addition to a convoy of thirty five vessels that came into Suez whilst we lay there. So it may truly be sung that “Britannia rules the waves.”

It has been a most delightful and interesting voyage and the weather is now so hot that hundreds of troops are compelled to sleep on deck nightly as the heat is much too great below. We landed two cases of fever at Aden. Fortunately it does not appear to have spread any further so far.

We expect to reach Bombay on Wednesday next, December 2nd then three or four days’ train journey to Fyzabad, some distance north of Lucknow. Shall be very glad to get there, as five weeks on board a crowded troop ship with very little opportunity for exercise is getting rather irksome, especially, when we get no ‘Daily Paper’, only a little wireless war news, occasionally.

I am glad to say that I am wonderfully fit and well. Our food has been wholesome and plentiful. Trusting you are well, with my best wishes for as Happy a Christmas as is possible under prevailing war conditions, and a Prosperous New Year in due course. Also please convey same to Messrs Wood, Welsh, Davis and others. Hoping to see you again on the termination of our successful conclusion of the war.

Believe me, yours faithfully,

H. Beaumont

Will you also convey my respects to Mr Price please?

Return to Letters from the First World War, part one