Troopships leave Albany 1914

The West Australian, November 19, 1914

The Commonwealth response to call to arms. Troops at Albany - a memorable event. Departure from Australia, Albany, November 18.

In these days of rapid news distribution, when the happenings of one day are chronicled within the ensuing 24 hours and noted or forgotten as their importance warrants, a retrospect of three weeks ago is dull reading.

Such have been the circumstances of the present war, however, that information regarding the military arrangements has often been delayed in the interests of the safety of the forces employed. An instance of this kind has to be recorded from Albany, but as it is possible that all mention of it has hitherto been withheld.

The intelligence now for the first time published may come as fresh as if the occurrence to which it relates only took place yesterday. The statement may be received with the full force of a thoroughly up-to-date report that between October 24 and October 28 there assembled in King George Sound the 36 transports that were conveying the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force and the New Zealand expeditionary forces to a destination unknown for service against the enemies of the Triple Entente, together with an escort of warships that were to guard them on their journey.

The fleet of transports comprised some of the largest and finest commercial steamers trading with Australia, they came from all of the five States of the Commonwealth, as well as from New Zealand. The ships on entering the Sound, steamed to the anchorage already allotted them and there they rode at anchor forming four lines running east and west. The Orvieto was the flagship, with Major General Bridges on board and she came straight into the harbour to obtain what supples were wanted before going to a position outside. In twos and threes the vessels came inside, some took water and others coal.

Many also took provisions, but these were delivered to those in want of them while at anchor in the sound. For the next three days the operations were considerably delayed by one of the most violent easterly gales experienced for many years, but once the weather cleared up rapid progress was made. From the first numbers of troops were landed in detachments for marching exercise, as many as 1,500 coming ashore at one time.

With the men came bands and regimental mascots in the form of all conceivable breeds of dog an in some instances a march of 10 miles was made. There was a little leave, but not much and really only officers and men with business to transact spent any time in the town. Night and day the scene was one pulsating with life.  Signalling was constantly kept up and the military and naval authorities ashore worked at fever heat day in, day out, meeting calls made on them by the fleet. Naturally among so many illness was not absent.

One officer and seven others were admitted to hospital, and several operations were performed by local medicos. One death unfortunately resulted. Trooper Leslie White, of the Light Horse Regiment, New South Wales, succumbed on November 12 to meningitis and his body was buried with full military honours. The majority of the other patients having become convalescent have returned to the State of their enlistment.  No fewer than 89 men were discharged at Albany, the majority of whom were found medically unfit and these left for the Eastern States the week after the departure of the fleet of transports left on Sunday, November 1, at 5.45am. The first warship left the harbour closely followed by another. The Orvieto then left the anchorage in the sound and was followed by the transports in order, each line being taken in turn. Thus in Indian file the transports ranged past Breaksea, two cinematograph operators were stationed to get a permanent record of the event. The last boats were the New Zealand transports, which went out in three lines. The Australian division proceeded out to sea and then abruptly turned and went west - it being understood that this order was to be maintained until the Medic and Ascanius, which went to Fremantle to pick up the Western Australian quota, were joined and when finally congregated the fleet was to be formed in three lines.

It was roughly 6am when the departure was entered upon, but it was 10 o'clock before the last ship had disappeared from the view round Bald Head.  The different vessels of this magnificent fleet arrived without announcement and took up the positions allotted to them as if the movement had been thoroughly rehearsed.  When all assembled they presented a magnificent sight and the fact that Albany was selected for so notable a gathering is eloquent  testimony to the natural resources of the port.

All reference to the subject was forbidden at the time and it was only at noon today that the bar of the censor prohibiting the publication was removed.