The life jackets don’t look particularly reassuring, but they were required. Otherwise, dress standards seem to have been relaxed on board: note the non uniform caps, the gym shoes, and the droopy cardigan.(2)
It was misty, as they crossed the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and spotted some fishing smacks.Some of the soldiers went below to visit the stoke hold twenty feet below the water line. There were fifteen boilers to provide steam to power the ship. The stokers each tended three fires, “[slaving] in darkness and terrible heat 8hrs a shift night and day.” (3) Before they’d left port, stoking was one of the jobs the men had considered “in order to make a few pounds and ensure good meals.” (4)
Others were already feeling the “gentle heave” of the ocean and queasily took to their beds. That night the 12th Brigade, including Percy, must have been glad of their second-class accommodation: some of the men of the 14th found the stench of their steerage quarters “frightful,” and took their beds and their life belts onto the open deck — preferring the cold and the spray to their crowded noisome cabins below.(5)
(1) The convoy was escorted by HMS Drake, from whose log books these details are taken.
2) The photograph is from Percy’s small album; the caption reads “On board the SS Metagama.”
(3) Ives, Raymond Ellsworth. Memoir (manuscript). Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project. Errors in the transcription provided on this site have been silently corrected by comparison with the scans which are also available there.
(4) Wills, Archie. Diary. 3:16. September 12, 1916. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(5) Wills. Diary. 3: 21-22. September 14, 1916.