During the early part of the war, Albany was the last Australian port of call for Australian servicemen sailing from the eastern states to join the Allied forces in the northern hemisphere. The first convoy left Albany on 1 November 1914.
The Journey to Albany
In the week leading up to October 1914, transports carrying troops from the eastern states left for Albany, the first port of call on the long voyage to the war.
In towns across the country, farewell functions were held to say goodbye to the ‘boys’ who were leaving for training camps and eventually the front. Speeches were made, and gifts given, as communities shared their hope that those who were being farewelled would return. At Weld Hall in Busselton people gathered to farewell Dudley Anderson and Vernon Bovell. The local paper reported the mayor’s words of farewell:
'Just as they were obedient footballers in years past, he knew they would prove valuable soldiers. The wish, or perhaps the prayer, of the people of Busselton was that God would protect her boys, and bring them safely home again covered with glory’.
Dudley and Vernon did not return to Busselton. Dudley died of wounds received on Gallipoli and Vernon was killed on the Western Front.
The voyage to Albany from the east coast took up to a week. The Queensland ships had been docked in Melbourne for almost a month before finally leaving for Albany. Most of those aboard were not used to such long voyages and initially suffered sea sickness. Nevertheless, they were occupied by the routines of military life including daily exercise, cleaning and guard duties, and drill. Those aboard transports with horses were kept occupied caring for the horses.
Diary entries, letters home and a photograph here and there, further illustrate what life was like for those making the voyage, via Albany, to the war.
Private Leslie Gaviston White (NSW)
Private White enlisted on 22 August, 1914, aged 19. He was posted to the 1st Light Horse Regiment and sailed from Sydney to Albany in the transport A16 (Star of Victoria) on 20 October 1914.
On arriving in Albany Private White was found to be suffering from typhoid fever, so on 31 October he was sent ashore and admitted to hospital. Despite the care of the local doctors and nurses, he developed meningitis and passed away at 9am on Thursday, 12 November.
D’Arcy Johnson (VIC)
Previously a draper, D’Arcy Johnson enlisted on 17 August, 1914, at 24 years of age. He joined the 7th Battalion and HMAT Hororata in Port Melbourne on 19 October 1914. In letters, D’Arcy described life aboard the ship, including the sleeping arrangements – 'At 7 we swung hammocks, of course, we sleep in the hammocks,' what they ate – “‘we have boiled mutton, beef and stew, beans, potatoes and soup' and what they did to pass time – 'the soldiers occupy their time playing games, but gambling is not allowed, as they have military police all over the ship watching'.
- Departed Albany on 1 November 1914
- Comprised 38 transports and four naval escorts, two of the transports and one of the escorts joined the convoy having departed from Fremantle.
- Included ten New Zealand transports.
- The first convoy carried some 30,000 troops and 8,000 horses.
- The ships of the first convoy began arriving in Alexandria on 3 December 1914
- The second convoy comprised 16 vessels – including five enemy ships that had been seized in Australian harbours at the outbreak of the war.
- Departed Albany on 31 December 1914
- It did not require a naval escort, but the Royal Australian Navy’s submarine, AE2, was towed by the Berrima.
- The second convoy included three New Zealand transports.
- The second convoy carried some 12,500 troops and more than 5,000 horses.
- The ships of the second convoy began arriving at Alexandria on 28 January 1915.