Troopships

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Troopships

Postby DJP » 13 May 2011 20:49

What were the conditions and routine of troopships in the 1850-70 period?

How long were the normal journeys? When did steam replace sail? What difference did that make?

If a regiment crossed the equator as all ships to India or Australia would, were all the regiment subject to Nepturne ritual?


Thank you
David
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Re: Troopships

Postby Frogsmile » 14 May 2011 00:02

DJP wrote:What were the conditions and routine of troopships in the 1850-70 period?

How long were the normal journeys? When did steam replace sail? What difference did that make?

If a regiment crossed the equator as all ships to India or Australia would, were all the regiment subject to Nepturne ritual?


Thank you
David


David, I think that this link is a good place for you to glean the answer to most of your questions:

http://www.movcon.org.uk/History/Docume ... 290.10.htm
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Re: Troopships

Postby DJP » 14 May 2011 22:09

Thank you. It was a help. Subsequent to my asking the question I have found a copy of an etching showing a fancy-dress ball held on board the troop-ship 'Serapis', in celebration of crossing the Equator, 1883, so that answers my third question.

http://www.prints-online.com/fancy-dres ... 82679.html

All that remains is to find some information on the daily rotine.


Thanks again


David
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Re: Troopships

Postby zerostate » 14 May 2011 23:36

This is from an 1890s source, so I'm not sure how much is relevant, but I suspect quite a lot is the same judging by the usual rate of 'progress' displayed by the Victorian army in these things.

All 'fatigue work' on board, so deck swabbing, polishing metal fittings, shifting ashes overboard etc was done by the soldiers, not the crew.

There was also 'Watch-duty' for men and NCOs. This was similar to guard duty on shore, but the watch lasted twelve hours, as opposed to twenty-four ashore.

No smoking was allowed, except on deck at certain times. When the duty bugler blew 'commence firing' a soldier could smoke until 'cease firing' was blown.

Daily routine:

05:00 Reveille.
05:15 Every man, with his hammock and blanket rolled up paraded at the stores to return said items.
Next was washing (which I have read would be a horror by modern standards – and even to some men then).
Then the men in each mess cleaned the area of the troop deck for which they are responsible, while the day's orderly men assisted the cooks with breakfast - easy as it was biscuit (or bread if available) and tea only.
07:30 Breakfast.
Then everyone except the orderly men and cooks had to go on deck while the quarters were thoroughly cleaned prior to the ship's Captain inspecting them.
10:00 a parade and roll call, where any special orders for the day were issued. Every few days this parade was in marching order to ensure all men were in possession of all their accoutrements and kit.
11:30 The canteen opened for one hour. Very expensive compared to those available for soldiers ashore, but cheese, biscuit, preserved fish etc were available. No booze though! Once ships had bakeries 'soft tommy' (i.e., fresh bread) could be bought from them.
12:30 Dinner.
After dinner, unless an orderly for the day, on watch, or on fatigue duty, the rest of the day was the soldier's own.
15:30 Tea. Biscuit and tea. No more food was available until 07:30 the next morning!
18:30 Hammocks and blankets issued. These were set up as soon as possible to ensure space – as it was it seemed men had to sleep with hammocks touching.
20:00 First post sounded. Orderly sergeants visit each mess to call the roll.
20:30 Lights out.

As I have said, this is from an 1890s source, but I reckon most will be exactly the same for earlier decades.

I have read something somewhere about an issue of booze to soldiers on transports, but don't know where that was, and don't remember what it was (if anything). If I remember or find it, Ill post it here. EDIT: If it helps anyone else, I vaguely remember a porter ration, although that may be erroneous. RE-EDIT: It was definitely porter, but don't know how much: http://www.imagestate.com/Preview/PreviewPage.aspx?id=1345826&pricing=true&licenseType=RM. RE-RE-EDIT(!) Found elsewhere - it was a pint of porter a day... Those poor alcoholics (of which there were quite a few in the ranks).

There's also a snippet on troopships here: http://www.rnrm.org.uk/education/downloads/cls_wal2.pdf where they get chocolate (I assume to drink) for breakfast one day!

Chris

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Re: Troopships

Postby DJP » 18 May 2011 19:22

Thank Chris. That was invaluable to me


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Re: Troopships

Postby Frogsmile » 18 May 2011 22:15

Life on a troopship was often not easy for the troops. An NCO of 2nd Queen’s recorded his views when the battalion sailed from Malta to India through the Canal in 1878. It seemed that the seamen regarded the soldiers as inferior beings, always in the way. Nevertheless they assisted in many ways. They formed two watches, one of which was always available. They helped reeling in the log, hoisting ashes from the engine room, swabbing the decks, providing assistant bakers, cooks and mess orderlies.

Sleeping accommodation was crowded. Although one hammock and one blanket were issued each evening and returned to the store the following morning the hooks only permitted half the hammocks to be slung. Fortunate was the man who could find a cosy corner where he could roll himself in his blanket unobserved and undisturbed, although if he did not rouse himself before daylight and the bugle call for swabbers he risked a ducking from the hosepipe.

The ration scale for soldiers was less than for sailors on a six to four basis, six soldiers received the same amount as four sailors. There was no cold storage and fresh meat when issued was killed on board. Bread was supplied twice a week, biscuits the remaining five days. Salt beef, salt pork with pea soup and pickles, and tinned beef and mutton filled the menu when fresh meat was not supplied. “Duff”, a concoction of flour, fat, raisins and sugar, made by mess orderlies and boiled in a bolster-shaped bag, was the special meal provided on Wednesdays and Sundays. A pint of porter per man, thick with hops, was issued daily after the midday meal. Defaulters were deprived of this luxury. On “duff” days many were the exchanges - duff for porter, the younger soldiers preferring the former.

The writer complained that notwithstanding overcrowding and scanty food the voyage would have been enjoyable except that someone in authority had conceived the idea that marching order parades would assist the troops to keep their things together and prevent losses. “Please to remember” he wrote “that we were wearing scarlet kersey frocks, blue serge trousers and black leather leggings; also that the valise equipment consisted of innumerable straps, two hard back pouches and an auxiliary pouch known as the “ball bag” and that the valise contained the complete kit; further, that we were packed like sardines”.

Before leaving Malta each man was supplied with a sea kit which consisted of a thin unlined blue serge jacket and trousers, a suit of white drill, blue stockinette cap, one pound of tobacco and a bar of marine soap. As the weather became warmer the thin serge suit was much appreciated. Despite the parades, inspections and fatigues, the want of exercise and other occupation made time hang heavily. Games of cards and “House” were the main recreations, the stakes being chunks of tobacco cut from the sea-kit supply. Money was scarce; no pay was issued on board as the sea-kit had to be paid for.
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Re: Troopships

Postby grumpy » 19 May 2011 17:25

by the turn of the century things were much better:

Frank Richards:

Each man drew a hammock every evening and returned it the fol-lowing morning. The hammocks were slung on hooks below deck, but after we passed Gibraltar we were allowed to sleep on the hurricane-deck and the forecastle. Many of us took advantage of this permission and unless a storm was raging I always chose the upper deck, in preference to trying to sleep in the heat below deck. But I had to move very quickly in the early morning if I did not want the swabbers who were cleaning the decks to turn the hose on me and wash me into the scuppers. Each unit in turn found a guard, with many sentries posted both below and above decks. The only parade we did during the day was about an hour's Swed¬ish drill in the morning, but we occasionally paraded with lifebelts on, for boat-drill. Most of the time was passed away in gambling . There were card-parties of Kitty-nap and Brag dotted here and there on the hurricane-deck and forecastle, but Under and Over, Crown and Anchor, and House were the most popular games. It was generally old sailors or ship's stew¬ards when they were off duty who worked the Crown and Anchor boards. Two of these stewards, father and son, used to relieve each other on the job.

I would add that some games were officially issued on a lavish scale , such as 6 dominoes sets and 3 solitaire boards,
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Re: Troopships

Postby Frogsmile » 20 May 2011 18:56

The ecnlosed illustration, specified as being from a sketch made on board the troopship the HMS Himalaya by Major W O Carlile, of the Royal Artillery, appeared in the 6 December 1873 issue of The Illustrated London News. The text that accompanied it described how fifteen to twenty men would sit down at each mess-table to eat at noon every day, when 'the soldiers behave with their usual gallantry and courage, let the weather be smooth or rough'. 'Where the wives and children of soldiers are on board, the scene at their dinner-time is much less agreeable', the piece continued disapprovingly. 'They are too commonly huddled together in a close atmosphere below, rendered more unpleasant and unwholesome by the want of convenience for washing. While many are sick, others are crying or squabbling, and the voyage is a severe trial to them. A few kind husbands will come down to look after the comforts of their wives and babes. Such men, it is said, are invariably found the bravest soldiers in the field of battle, the most patient and constant in a fatiguing march.'

The second illustration is based on sketches by Major W O Carlile, of the Royal Artillery, that were published in the 6 December 1873 issue of The Illustrated London News (for another, see 'PICTURE: 'LIFE ON BOARD A TROOP-SHIP: DINNER-TIME'' above) depicts a riotous scene witnessed by a few startled-looking army children. The caption explains the illustration's title: 'Smoking tobacco is allowed at meal-hours – breakfast, dinner, and supper – and after the evening inspection, till a quarter to eight o'clock, when all pipes must be extinguished. The only lawful place for the men smoking is on the upper deck before the mainmast; officers smoke near the mizenmast. The signal for lighting pipes is facetiously called "Commence firing!" and it is given by a blast of the bugle, after the evening inspection'. The troopship depicted is the HMS Himalaya, an iron screw steamer that was launched in 1853 and that served as troopship until 1895, when she was converted to a coaling hulk. She was sunk in 1940 in Portland harbour, Dorset, during a German bombing raid.

The third illustration shows the desperately cramped conditions of those few wives and children who are on the strength and permitted to travel with their menfolk on a troopship before 1881.
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Re: Troopships

Postby DJP » 26 May 2011 14:37

Thank you all for the information. My only experience was in the 1950's sailing between Harwich and the Hook, which was crowded but no where near as uncomfortable.
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Re: Troopships

Postby Frogsmile » 27 May 2011 22:03

DJP wrote:Thank you all for the information. My only experience was in the 1950's sailing between Harwich and the Hook, which was crowded but no where near as uncomfortable.


I did that trip too, taking regimental vehicles from Dortmund to a missile firing camp in Benbecula. Also the trooping for roulement to Northern Ireland throughout the 70s was done by LSL. We trooped by train to Liverpool from the military sidings at Ludgershall. I will never forget the regimental band playing us on to the platform formed by companies and carrying our rifles, as the families waved us off. Although I did not appreciate it at the time it was highly evocative of earlier generations and the end of an era. By the 1980s we trooped via RAF Hercules instead.
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Re: Troopships

Postby susancammas » 20 Jul 2017 07:21

Good morning

I refer back to a post by Zerostate on 14th May 2011 concerning "Troopships".
He mentions an 1890s account of daily routine on a troopship.
Does anyone happen to know what troopship was described, or its route?

Many thanks
Susan
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Re: Troopships

Postby zerostate » 20 Jul 2017 11:29

The source was The Queen's Service by Horace Wyndham, 1899.

I have never got to the truth of what regiment was being described so could not narrow down which ship further because it was obfuscated by the author, who claims to have enlisted under the name Robinson. From what is said it was likely to have been a fusilier regiment. To be honest, I couldn't be bothered to follow the trail. He was granted a special commission in WW1 however (he wrote propaganda including a critique free version of The Queen's Service called Follow the Drum). It is possible that some record of his previous service could be with the record of that commissioned service. Identifying the regiment would likely enable identification of the ship.

I'll check the actual book later for the route - it was either UK to Gibraltar, or South Africa, and any other clues.

Chris

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Re: Troopships

Postby susancammas » 20 Jul 2017 14:20

Thanks Chris for your very rapid response.
Please don't go to the trouble of investigating further.
My inquiry was simply because I wondered whether the account would have described the conditions my great grandfather would have experiencd travelling to India around that time.
Thanks for all your help.
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Re: Troopships

Postby Maureene » 21 Jul 2017 04:46

There are some accounts about voyages to India at various dates linked from the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Trooping season, but they are either earlier, or later then 1899.
https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Trooping_season

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Re: Troopships

Postby susancammas » 23 Jul 2017 08:10

Thanks Maureen
Enjoy the weekend!
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