Fitzpatrick letter from Aden 1915

Windsor and Richmond Gazette, January 8, 1915

The following extracts are made from a letter received last week by Mr J. C. L. Fitzpatrick from Lieut. A. L. Fitzpatrick, Quartermaster, 1st Division Australian Light Horse, now in training in Egypt.

We went straight to Albany from Sydney without a stop. The first day out the weather was a little rough, but after that and right up here, we have had it beautiful, with smooth seas. It was a wonderful sight in King George's Sound, Albany, with thirty troopships and five warships, all at anchor and a warship patrolling outside all the time. The ten ships of the New Zealanders arrived a few days after we did and made a fine show. All their boats are painted grey like warships. We left Albany on the Sunday morning, November 1 and put to sea three lines. Can you picture it 38 ships in three lines, all equal distances apart? We had nice weather right through the Indian Ocean to Colombo, which we reached a fortnight later, at noon.

We passed Galle in the early morning and sighted Adams Peak, the highest in Ceylon. The natives in their catamarans were in hundreds round the ships. Colombo is a beautiful place. I had the good luck to go ashore with the Colonel on the Monday, after going down on the flagship the Orvielo.

We arrived in the city about 4pm and had a good look round. We two were the only Australians ashore from the whole fleet. After a little shopping we hired rickshaws and went round the native quarter. Talk about crows, there seemed to be millions of them. They are the scavengers in the native centre and are sacred birds. There was one big tree in the street just black with them and as all were squawking too, the din was awful.

There are some fine buildings in the European quarter and the roads are wonderful, but the native quarter interested me most. I could just imagine how diseases would spread when they broke out, narrow dirty streets, low filthy dwellings. The shops were strange and the markets had fruit I had never seen before. We hired a taxi and drove down to the Galle Face Hotel on the ocean beach. It is a magnificent building, about 250 rooms, beautiful palm trees all round, some of them 40 to 50 feet high. We had dinner at 7.30pm. Later we went back to Colombo and to the ship, after having a lovely time.

I suppose that you heard our little warship Sydney sunk the Emden between Albany and Colombo. She was with us, on our left flank and left on morning at six. We heard about dinner lime that the Emden was stranded with holes all over her on the Cocos Islands. The Sydney then chased the collier and after taking the crew off sunk her. The following day we saw the Canadian Pacific, Empress of Asia, going down to pick up the German prisoners and the day afterwards the Sydney and the Empress of Asia passed us at 5am on their way  to Colombo I saw some of the prisoners being transferred to her from the shore.

I saw the captain of the Emden also the Prince, said to be the Kaiser's nephew, both wearing their swords, also two boatloads of prisoners There were about 350 in all and they were mostly sent on with the New Zealanders. We are now in the Arabian Sea, three days from Aden. We left Colombo eight hours after the other divisions. We caught the other two divisions up the day before yesterday (19/11/14) passed right through them and are heading for Aden.  Just note what the '— — — -' can publish. Remember the account, of the deadly conflict between the Emden and the Russian cruiser Askold off Hong Kong, some months ago? Well, when we arrived, at Colombo the Askold was there safe and sound. She is a five funnelled cruiser. The Sydney was not damaged in the slightest with her fight with the Emden. We saw her in Colombo and lots of the tars went ashore. Some of them were boys from the Tingira.