Since September 19th was about the midpoint of the journey, the 14th Brigade began to ask when they would trade their steerage for the 12th’s second-class cabins.In response, the officers ordered an inspection below —
in full dress, bandoliers and spurs, which did not improve the attitude of mind in the ‘pig-stye.’ At this time the smell below was as pleasant as a boneyard. The officers got so far on their tour of duty and inspection when the equilibrium of their stomach was upset and they had to make a hasty retreat to the deck to our great amusement. We remained below long enough to get our equipment off and do a little fervent swearing, then made for the deck to give our lungs a spell.(2)
The other ships in the convoy were the Metagama, the Scandinavian, and the Northland.
SS Metagama was even newer than Cameronia, having begun service for Canadian Pacific Lines in 1915.
Scandinavian and Northland were older, having made their maiden voyages in 1898 and 1901 respectively. Both had been bought and sold between different shipping lines, accompanied with name changes. Northland and her sister ship Southland had originally had Dutch names that sounded too Germanic once hostilities had broken out: Northland had been Zeeland, and Southland, Vaderland.
Southland was also a troop ship during the war, and a hazard in at least one transatlantic convoy. “She is a tub and a great nuisance. Several times she has swung in ahead of us in a most alarming manner, and the language from our decks was illuminating.” (4) Another soldier in the same 1915 convoy thanked his stars he was not on Southland, “for she pitches terrible [sic].” (5)
The ships varied in dimensions and gross tonnage: Cameronia was the lightest; Metagama the heaviest; both were shorter by about fifty feet and a little broader in the beam than the others. The two older ships were originally built to carry about 1200 passengers; Cameronia, nearly three hundred more, and Metagama, which was configured for cabins and third-class accommodation only, held over 1700 peacetime passengers.
Cameronia was the fastest, 16 knots without trying hard; the others were supposed to be able to maintain 15 knots. If Northland was anything like her sister Southland, it is doubtful that she could maintain that speed – one of the reasons the trip took much longer than a peace-time crossing.
Unless otherwise noted, information in this entry is from the ship descriptions available on theshipslist.com
(1) HMS Drake, Logbook, September 19, 1916
(2) Wills, Archie. Diary. 3: 27. September 19, 1916. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(3)The image is one of several on a site providing information about the settlement of Harvey, NB (not far from Janie’s birthplace).
(4) Qtd in Grout, Derek. Thunder in the Skies. A Canadian Gunner in the Great War. Toronto, 2015. 70
(5) Qtd in Grout, 71.
(6) This image is one of the postcards in a collection called Great Ships.