Getting there
Trooper Rowland Smith's 1917 Featherston Camp experiences and his voyage from New Zealand to Egypt with the Mounted Rifles reinforcements units on the "SS TOFUA".
Displayed above: A computerised colour 1917 photograph of Rowland Smith. A barge loaded with Mounted Riflemen being towed into the wharf at Colombo for a days leave. Above a collar badge of the Pegasus Horse, the symbol of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Reinforcements. Next, a copy of the onboard journal printed on the Tofua by the men as a souvenir of their voyage - The last pages record lists of the men from each Reinforcement unit who arrived in Egypt, December 21st 1917.
These lists reprinted and available by clicking each of the links below :
29th Reinforcements NZMR. List of men departing NZ 1917

30th Reinforcements NZMR. List of men departing NZ 1917
31st Reinforcements NZMR. List of men departing NZ 1917
32nd Reinforcements NZMR. List of men departing NZ 1917
33rd Reinforcements NZMR. List of men departing NZ 1917
34th Reinforcements and Mounted Field Ambulance - NZMR. List of men departing NZ 1917


Rowland captures a dramatic
moment during action in
Palestine - view large format



When the Main Body of New Zealand's fighting force departed on October 16th 1914 in a convoy of ten transports and four naval escorts, the military were already planning for future departures of reinforcements. The departures from Wellington to the war zones of Egypt and England where half a hemisphere away - New Zealand troops had to travel further to battle than any other soldiers on the planet.
In 1914 the military were finding their way on establishing a route and bunkering stations to get to the European and Middle Eastern Fronts. The Main Body departure was to travel to Egypt via Hobart and Albany (Perth) in Australia, then to Colombo, Aden and finally Suez. For later convoys the ports of Hobart and Aden were dropped from the voyage bunkering - a faster six week trip was deemed better overall for men and horses rather than a seven week voyage in the cramped conditions.
To understand what the men thought and experienced on this long voyage is no better explained than the words written by Rowland Smith in a Diary that was immediately shipped back to his family once he arrived and settled in Moascar, Egypt December 27th 1917.

Australasian Rough Diary for 1917
New South Wales
Western Australia
South Australia
Northern Territory
Federal Capital Territory
New Zealand
Maoris in New Zealand included in above figures

Population figures printed in the preface of Trooper Rowland Smith's diary of 1917.
"Published for Letts's Diaries Company Limited by Cassell & Company Limited - Melbourne, London, New York, Toronto."

1917 Diary of Rowland Smith of the 30th Reinforcements NZMR Begins:
Transcribed by Steve Butler for the NZMRA from the original hand written 1917 Diary. Ordinary brackets are those used by Rowland, example: (Riley). Straight brackets are those used by the transcriber, either to insert words he thinks were written, or words unable to be deciphered, or additional comment. Examples: [anchor] or [*****] or 10/- [ten shillings].

July 16th Monday.
Returned to Camp after final leave.  Arrived here at 4 pm, not feeling a scrap too good, and to top myself off a damned civilian nearly jammed my finger in the door of the car..
Did not have tea in the dinning hall but went with two of my pals and dined at the Camp Restaurant.  After several trips from one hut to another with a donkey load of gear, I had to return to my first hut 85 to sleep in Lewy Rings bed.  Luckily he was on lone picket.  I slept well.

Tuesday 17th
After a lot of bother finally got settled down in Hut 61 and was lucky enough to get into the quiet end of the hut, and with good fellows on each side of me.  As far as work was concerned we did practically nothing but play cards, the weather was unsettled and showery.
I’ve got my eye on a buzzer that Riley, one of the other boys, owns.  It may prove handy if I use my head.

Wednesday 18th
Up again at 6.30 am, did a little rifle drill in the Hut, still another wet day.
Saw Angus Dempie and had a good long talk, also coffee in the canteen.
Came to an agreement with Riley and got his buzzer by providing a Cell 3/6 [three shillings and six pence] on which to run the thing.
Went to a dance in Masterton same night and had a good time, quite a lot of us went but none of the 85’s could go because of night manoeuvres.

July 19th
A little brighter day, went out with the Sgt. Cramp and did a few hours rifle drill and semaphore Sigs.  After dinner I got onto the buzzer again.
Received a fine large cake from Sil and Arthur.  Also two pigeons (tame ones) and a large tin of tarts from home, some good “A” tea – the next few days we’ll have plenty of morning and afternoon teas I guess.
Got a great pile of letters – played more cards etc – afternoon fairly wet.

Some members of the 30th Reinforcements pose for a photograph in their barrack room at Featherston Camp 1917.
Inspection is over for the day and the troopers take time out before the next round of drills.
Two kit bags in the room show the stencil markings of the 30th Squadron. The kit on the left also shows the name: A.E. Summers 50430, which appears to belong to the man sitting second from left in the photo. (Cenotaph records show this kit belongs to Bushman, Alan Edward Summers of Waimauku - Alan went on to survive the war.)
photo- Rowland Smith

July 21st
The first performance of the day was an eight mile march, with spells and short lectures on the use of maps and compass etc.
The morning was very dull and close and we did perspire some.  The roads were also heavy going owing to the rain that had fallen earlier this week.
After a nice hot dinner I went off to Masterton by car, arriving there a little after dark.  Had tea at Stewarts and went to a dance same night.  Also slept at Stewarts.

July 22nd Sunday
Got up after a good sleep. In a decent bed.  Had breakfast at 8.30 then went along to Joy the photographer and got my photos taken, after which I drove back to Camp with him.  Quite a decent drive, although it was very wet.  Arrived in Camp in time for dinner.  Had a game of snooker with Quilter.  Had a game of F/ball in the Hut and broke some windows – then wrote letters

A section of the 30th assemble for morning roll call at Featherston Military Camp north of Wellington 1917. Interesting to note the men parade without putties which were standard issue in the field. Also various pieces of uniform differ, some men wear hat badges of the Reinforcements, some wear the earlier pattern bandolier others the 03 pattern bandolier.
This photograph is titled "Bill Masseys Dare Devils", the photograph records the photographer as "Cameron". This photo is from the collection of Rowland Smith's estate - Trooper Smith stands first on the left.
Bill Massey, "William" or "Farmer Bill" as he was known, served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1912 to 1925.

Monday 23rd.
Up nice and early, only six of us left in the Hut the rest away in Wellington on weekend leave.  Consequently a squabble followed as to who would be mess orderly.  Medical examination and rifle inspection followed, then a lecture on telephones etc in which I went to sleep with others.
The rest of the day we spent in flag waving [semaphore].
Same evening Hook and I went to a dance at Greytown.

July 24th
Spent all the morning Flag waving and reading practice – quite a decent day for a change.  Had coffee in the canteen with Hook, also went to Pictures.
30th parade after Morse lamp, and I was 7 minutes too late for Roll Call, so I got a weeks leave stopped for a charge.
Doctor gave us a shake up over the general condition of the Hut.
Untidy mounted men.

July 25th Wednesday
Still on the Flags.  Quite a nice day again.  We were dismissed at 3 pm – and as I could not go to Masterton I went out on the parade ground and watched the 34th Mounteds playing football against themselves.
Was a good boy, spent the evening writing letters.

July 26th
First test day, but only one of our men was put to it, and he went through very well (Riley).
In the afternoon we had a lecture on the correct way to fill the signal forms.  Also code time on the clock face.
Too wet for the Morse Lamp so had buzzer practice for an hour.  After which Trickett and I went to a concert in YMCA given by the Masterton people for the soldiers free.  A very decent performance.

Friday 27th
A very wet morning so all the signallers spent the morn in the YMCA concert hall on reading and wagging practice.
After dinner the same performance and to top off had to sweep the YMCA out and ended up by getting off an hour early, thanks to our OC Mr Dawn.
After tea went to pictures and then had some nice home made cakes for supper.
drink ale
It seems our forefathers were not lacking in their approach to humour, as a careful look exposes where one wag has carved into a beam above the room and away from the line of sight:
"Drink Staples XXXX Ale".

August 7th Tuesday
Flag wagging in the morning, but threw the job in in the afternoon and turned into bed.
Influenza developed, probably from catching a chill in the train after a route march on Saturday morning.

Wednesday 8th
Spent the day in bed feeling considerably off :”Influenza”
The prospects are not too good for tomorrows tests.

Thursday 9th
Our long expected sending and reading test took place, got through sending easily but reading was off.  Four of us out of six got through.
Went to a concert given by the Masterton people in the YMCA.  The Dutchies – its “very good”.

Saturday 18th August
Spent the morning cleaning out trenches and doing other odd jobs in connection with same.
After a very scanty and sudden lunch 5 of us caught the Troop Train for Wellington, arrived there at 5 o’clock.
Went to Harris’s and stayed there the night – etc etc etc.

Sunday 19th
Had a good look round Wellington – quite as good as a blooming rough mare and also had a look at a Japanese war ship etc.
The finest weekend for 16 weeks.

Monday 20th
Up at 4.30 and had a cup of cha at Harris’s.  Went down and caught the 6 am train and had a good sleepy trip home to Camp.
Arrived at 12 and had lunch in the Canteen.  After lunch did a little in the big Flag.

Tuesday 21st
At the Big Flags.

No entries for over two months.

November 11th Sunday.

Last day in Featherston MC

Spent the best part of the day making preparations for Monday packing our kit bags burning straw and drawing and exchanging our last issues of clothing etc Also doing a little washing.
Paraded and got paid at Headquarters – our last pay in N.Z.

November 12th
Up early and making all necessary preparations for our trip, supposedly to Palestine via Troopship Tofua.
Left for Wellington at 11 am arrived about 5 pm by troop train “Vans” and went straight aboard Transport and stowed our kits and matteras [sic] in our berths.
We were then dismissed till 11 pm.  I went to Wilcock’s and spent a very enjoyable evening leaving at 10.30.  Had my first sleep on the old Tofua which was to be my home for 6 weeks.

November 13th
All the other boys arrived and as soon as they were aboard we cast off and anchored in the harbour till 4 pm.  Then we weighed anchor and started on our long journey across the ocean.
The weather was clear and fresh with a good breeze ahead and our old ship parted the waves some as she steamed out around Wellington Heads and headed out into the straight.  Darkness followed and a sparkling sunset and the hills of dear old N.Z. faded – for how long providence was to decide.

November 14th
A bright clear day with the wind still ahead. A lot of the boys very sick and feeling very miserable with their lot in general.  The mess rooms very rough and stuffy, enough to make any ordinary man sick, but the food on the whole good, very good for a Troopship.

November 15th [page dates at this point overwritten by Rowland with new dates]
Sky overcast with trouble ahead. Appointed Batman to YMCA representatives on board, two very decent fellows.  They dine in their cabin, so I’ll be some waiter when I get to the other end, and if I don’t get the sack.  Work consists of waiter at meal times, scrubbing out cabin and cleaning in general.  A camera under the bed, so probably more work to follow.  Also a few pairs of white shoes.

November 16th
Weather still rough and overcast, and wind ahead “West”.
My new job not too bright, too much trouble scrapping with the ships waiters to get my turn at the counter – off the first class Pantry, down two flights of stairs.
See me scrambling up the stairs with a plate of soup in each hand – some fun I tell you in a heavy sea, but I suppose I’ll improve.
All the boys very sea sick.  Thanks to being a good sailor or I would not have had this job.

November 17th
Weather still overcast and rough with wind ahead “West”.
Shipped a big sea forward broke off two ventilators and carried away a wooded railing round the fore hold.  Also flooded out the boys in the fore hold – 33rd and 34th Mounted Rifles, and half drowned a lot of seasick boys on the lower deck.
My new job progressing alright, getting to know the waiters and stewards, also the Pantry man – the most important man on the ship at meal times.
Saw a few small whales in the distance spouting – which have been cruising round since Wednesday.
Plenty of Albatrosses about but not as many as I thought would be in my early days.

November 18th Sunday
Weather much calmer with wind right astern for a change – “cast” sky also bright.
Too rough for Church Parade so spent the day in the usual way with a little sing song in the forward mess room.  Hymns, songs, and violin solos very good.
We sighted the high mountainous mountains of Tasmania in the afternoon.  Most of the boys were very excited about it but darkness set in and we saw no more of it.
My Orderlies job progressing favorably.

November 19th
The weather much brighter and the sea calmer, all the seasick boys out on deck making the best of it, no excitement just the usual old thing – Coits and Cards.  Had a little game of poker, lost 8/- [eight shillings] and made 10/-.
Kyle who had been very bad much better.  The sun set was most beautiful.
The camera under the bed YMCA –has come to light, spent an hour after tea washing films, all well.

November 20th
Weather still good, quite glassy with a fair swell and a bright sky – nothing much doing, just ordinary routine.
The boys started boxing and caused quite a lot of amusement, also a concert in forward dinning room – some very good items.
probably HMS Phillomel

Rowland only notes on back of this photograph: "Escort HMS ---" [This is most likely HMS Phillomel ]

November 21st
Weather still good though sea a little lumpy.  Sky fairly bright but dulled a little in the afternoon.
Plenty of Porpoises about but would not come near the boat. 
Kyle, Hook, Tric, Andrews and self did a little on the buzzer after dinner.
Orderly job progressing quite favorably, getting to know my way round etc.

November 22nd
Weather still clear with a good fresh breeze on the beam south and a fairly choppy sea.
Excitement getting intense, only 100 miles out from Albany.  All the boys cleaning up in anticipation of getting ashore for a while.

November 23rd
Up bright and early and up on deck to find that we were just entering the big bay which forms the first entrance to Albany.
Everything nice and smooth for once.  Were met by Pilot Boat and ran straight in under slow speed and dropped anchor just off the outer pier.  32, 33 and 34 went ashore at midday and 32, 30 and 31 went ashore at 1 pm by Ferry Boat.  30 return to vessel at 7.30 pm.
Good job Pub’s were closed or we’d have torn the place to pieces.  At all events we enjoyed ourselves as much as we could in the time and got back just in time for roll call.

November 24th
The Boat had [shifted] in to the wharf on Friday afternoon and the programme for Saturday was a route march around the hill and back through the town.  The view was grand, tough all the townspeople were very quiet and not a bit concerned, what few of them were about.  Albany is quite a small place, very little better than Coro, though a few better [bangs].
We returned to ship at 11 am, roll was called and we went aboard and down to our bunks to get off our finery,  and as we were having dinner the boat pulled out from the wharf and dropped anchor in the stream or bay, and at 1.30 weighed [anchor] and steamed slowly away out to sea, and that was the last of Albany.
We drew out of sight of land just about dark, our next port we surmise is Colombo and so we have another 14 days out across the ocean.

November 25th
Weather fine, Sky clear and sunny with wind astern.  Started work at YM at 5.30, did a little and then went and had a shave etc.  Had breakfast and cleaned up quite a big job, missed Church Service the first onboard.  After dinner played cards and did a little washing and deck mooching.

November 26th
Weather fine, clear sky with wind astern.  Very little bird life, Albatrosses all left us after we got clear of Australia.
The 29th started their sports.
My job still progressing satisfactory.

November 27th
The weather still fine tough a little misty and dull.  Wind still right astern about NE.
The 29th continued their sports and afforded quite a lot of amusement.
Saw a few Flying Fish, but still no bird life.
Washing day so did a little after my other work was done.

November 28th
The weather fine though an overcast sky with occasional misty showers.  Wind still astern and a little fresher
A target was let out astern and we did a little rifle shooting.
The 29ths started on Tues and the other reinforcements will follow on in their turn.
Had a little excitement down aft with the gloves after tea.

November 29th
Weather still fine and wind still astern, sky overcast in the morning but cleared off during the afternoon.  The 29ths completed their sports programme and the 31sts have started. Rifle  shooting still continues at a target let out on a long rope over the stern.
Plenty of Flying Fish about this morning.
Did a little writing before dinner (Home)
Getting very warm, most of the boys sleeping above decks.

November 30th
Weather fine, Sky clear with slight breeze astern.  Weather getting very warm and sun getting strong as we are in the Southern Tropics.  Still no bird life but Flying Fish about.
The 31sts going on with their sports.
We were paid Featherston Canteen Fund in tickets today, 10/- [Ten shillings] worth.
Some good boxing aft in our quarters after tea.

December 1st
Weather fine, sky clear and sea moderate smooth with slight breezes from everywhere dying away to a dead calm in the evening.
Still no bird life but plenty of small flying fish.
Sports still continue in good style.  Weather very hot, not long passed the Cocos Islands, though too far off to see.
Had a fair programme of Boxing down aft.  The Straper or Donkeyman came down and had a lash at Frank Bull.
He’s some good at the game, but Frank gave him a fair amount of sport considering his right hand was out of action – done playing football at Featherston.
A cold salt shower is a good friend these times.
Probably crossing the Equator tomorrow or the day after.

December 2nd
A nice fine clear morning with the wind coming ahead, a nice fresh breeze in the afternoon.
Mail closes tomorrow night so we are getting fairly close to Colombo. I hope.
Had a very good exhibition of boxing down in the aft after tea.  Fletcher and the Donkeyman of the Tofua, but he didn’t make it as hot as Frank the other night before.
Church Service on the top deck, very good service.
After work spent the best part of [my] time writing letters etc.

December 3rd
Still nice weather with a nice fresh breeze ahead and clear sky.
Censor would not pass Albany Port Cards, so got them all returned.
Mail closed tonight.
Had some good boxing down aft as per usual of late.

December 4th
Still a nice fine day with a slight wind ahead.
We slacked down speed considerably for some reason.  I suppose so that we should reach port on the right day.
Sports still going on in fine style.
Our Sports started today.

December 5th
Weather still fine with a slight breeze ahead, clear sky and very warm as per usual.
Our sports still continue.  I ran in the Potato race and won my three heats.  Will run in the finals after we leave port.
All hands looking forward to seeing land in the morning.

December 6th
Up bright and early, land just in sight Colombo or (Ceylon rather).
Sail after sail hove in sight until quite a 100 of small boats were all around us, also several liners and two or three minesweepers at work.
Pilot boat came out to met us and we went right inside  the breakwater and hooked onto the buoys, quite 12 other liners in port.  The Blax were around us in hundreds in no time, their main object to make money, started coaling, all hands spent the day rail swinging and watching proceedings.
Transport vessell SS Tofua

The S.S. Tofua at Colombo. - photograph Rowland Smith.

December 7th
All hands up very early, weather beautifully fine.  Didn't get much of a nights sleep, what with the gabbling of the niggers and the row of the winches loading.
We all got leave from 8 till 2 pm.  I was drawn in the ballot for fatigues but [saw] McRichards and got away.  We spent most of the time in a [4 wheeler], 3 of us and a guide and had a good look round town, and it was most interesting.
Bought a few little necessities and got half stunned but didn’t miss roll call as I was supposed to have done in Albany.
We all came aboard at 2.30 in Barges.  The vegetation in Colombo is very luxuriant especially the Bunyan trees and Bamboo.

December 8th
Up early again in hopes of getting some more leave, but we all missed the buss [sic] and got dressed for nothing.  The N.C.O.’s and Officers went ashore, so most of we men indulged in a bathe over the side, and all escaped without getting chewed up by the sharks, didn’t even see one.
There were quite 12 liners in port also a troop ship of Australians.
We spent the rest of the day until 2.45 pm watching the Blacks diving for coins (anything silver) loading coal and general cargo etc.
Just on 3 pm without any warning the engines started and we loosed off from the buoys and weighed anchor, and in quarter of an hour we were outside the breakwater and making for the open ocean from where we had come the morning (or 2 mornings) before.  Before darkness set in we were out of sight of land and the gabbling Nigrers and rattling winches and bustle of small boats and general shipping changed to nothing but the blue ocean and unbroken horizon.  The Australian boat followed in the far distance.

December 9th
At sea again.  Weather fine and clear with a nice fresh breeze blowing.  Sea very calm and practically no roll on at all.
We steamed a SSW course from Colombo until about midday and then wheeled right round WNW (about).
The daily routine went on just as it has done from the start.  Church Service on the boat deck and in the fore mess room had a few games of draughts etc.

December 10th
Nice fine day. Sky clear and sea smooth with a nice fresh breeze.  Our escort hailed in sight for the first time, a small man o’war about 4000 tons.  She came right alongside and we put three or four men aboard her that we had bought from Colombo.  HMS Juno, we drifted about till about 2 pm (meanwhile having great sport with the sharks, those with fire arms shot three or four) and then another Transport came alongside and after a conflab with flags etc we fell into position and steamed off.
Land, an Island and Lighthouse away to the North – Probably the Maldives Isles.

December 11th
A nice fine day and clear sky.  We all three boats steamed along together.  The sea was beautifully smooth with just a nice light breeze blowing.  Sufficient to keep the air fresh.
Sports commenced again and I ran the final potato race for our squadron and won it.
Everything going alright with YM etc.

December 12th Wednesday.
 Weather still nice and fine.  Sky clear and sea smooth with a nice fresh breeze.  The Australian Transport had fallen back a good few miles during the night but came up again later on in the day.
Sports continued as per usual.  Had a few games of draughts etc in spare time.
Started carting afternoon tea for YM, a little more to do.

December 13th
Weather fine with a fresh breeze on the beam.  The sky a little overcast in the morning with a few misty showers but cleared again in the afternoon.
Boxing started on the top starboard deck.  The first round of bouts was rather slow but the other three were brighter.
Kyle, Hook, Trickett and Andrews  doing all the night signalling with our convoy etc and the 30th machine gunners on semaphore during the day.

December 14th
Weather fine with fresh breezes on the beam.  Sky overcast in the morning but clearing up nicely after dinner.
Boxing continued on the top deck, some very good contests, two knock-outs and a little blood etc.
Everything else of the day satisfactory.
Australians and our convoy still in same position.  Convoy went well ahead in morning to have a look about.  In the vicinity of Socotra Island, a few birds about.

December 15th
A nice fine day, with clear sky, a smooth sea, light breeze on the beam.
Our convoy and the Australian Troopship drew up in a line abreast in the afternoon.  Almost close enough to speak to one another, but at dark dropped into line again.
For the first time on the voyage the lights were unscreened and the ships put up their lights and opened the portholes and doors etc.
We were to have sighted land this afternoon “Aden” but did not, so will in the morning I suppose.  At all events the danger zone has evidently passed, that is for tin fish and Raiders..
Boxing continued at 1.20 and was fairly brilliant.  Fletcher winning the heavyweight against Williams in the final and Walker winning his event in the semi-final.
All went well with my job.  Had a few games of draughts after lunch and the usual routine continued.

December 16th Sunday.
Weather as per usual fine. About 8 am our escort and the Aus Transport came close up together with us and we stopped for about an hour.  The warship mustered her men on the foredeck and gave us three cheers, to which we responded in a likewise manner.  More than 3 [times].  Her band also played us a few patriotic tunes to which we sang likewise, as we had no band.  We then all 3 parted company and in a couple of hours we were on our lonesome, drawing into (Hell’s Gate) at dark.  Also passed several liners etc outward bound.  All other events going well (no sports Sunday).
Transport at sea with convoy 1917

Rowland writes on back of this photograph: "A ship that was with us a good part of the journey".

December 17th
Fine, but blowing a good stiff breeze, (astern luckily).  Had passed Pirim during the night but land in the distance and plenty of rough jiggered Islands on the Starboard side.
Lighthouses on most of the high ones.
Sports continued, Walker winning Middle weight in the first round one hand, and Jamison of the 29th the Lightweight.  And I won another heat in the ship’s finals of the Potato race.
More birds about than usual but strangers to me, also a few porpoises and flying fish.  Kit inspection on deck a regular nuisance.  All else well.

December 18th
Weather still fine and clear with wind on the Port beam.
Mail closes tonight so we must be nearing port.
Sports continued all the afternoon in good style as it was the winding up day for all the finals, which had already not gone off.
I won the Potato by a yard in the sprint, it was ding dong go and all our different squadrons were barracking for us in good style.  The Tug-a-war was very good and afforded a lot of amusement –also a lot of exertion to the tuggers.  Had a few games of poker in the Sigs cabin.

Tug-a-war teams pull against each other on the open deck. In this version team members have their hands tied behind their backs.

This particular competition photographed onboard the "Port Lincoln" by Trooper Charles Broomfield of the 26th NZMR Reinforcements that departed New Zealand on the 31st May 1917.
Charles' collection of photographs from Turkish Palestine HERE

December 19th
Weather still fine and clear with wind on the Port beam.  Lots of sea birds about (strangers to me).
Land in sight but passed several liners running down the Red Sea.  Had a few games of draughts after my mornings work and a few games of Poker in the Sigs cabin which was [*******] the gunners cabin situated right aft on the top deck.  But the gun was missing – had been taken off for some reason.
Was presented with my prize – a blanky Razor Hone.

December 20th
Weather still fine with wind a good stiff breeze ahead.  Land in sight in the distance with very high mountains on the right thousands of acres of sand flats moving out from the mountains to the water of the Gulf of Suez.
We passed several fairly large ruggered Islands running up the Gulf.
All well with the YM job, but as per usual the better they are treated the better they want to be treated..
Had a few games of Poker in the Sigs cabin and caught 3 Bol orders to be up early next morning.

December 21st Friday
We arrived in Suez early about 6 am the wind had gone down and we steamed into the glass waters just outside the breakwater and dropped anchor.  The thousands of small white gulls screaming all around us put us quite in mind of home.
The Australians which had previously left us on the run to Aden were there and cheered us as we steamed past them.  We fooled about on the boat in suspense until tea time and then we pulled in alongside the wharf and disembarked into goods trucks.  We puffed away from the old ship at [last] and cheered her well.  Arrived in Moascar about 4pm had a cup of tea and a biscuit and turned in on the hard sand.  (No joke I can tell you.)

December 22nd
Awakened by a terrible din just after dawn and on scrambling out of the tent found that the din was caused by almost a dozen aeroplanes which were flying about like birds.  We of course got all stiff necks that day.  About 8 am one of them turned a flip while trying to settle and got badly damaged.  I went over and had a good look and got a little of her planes as a keep sake.
We were all paraded and addressed in a very business like way by our Colonel, Colonel McKasey [Colonel Mackesy], the father of the McKasey [Lieutenant Harry Mackesy, killed in Action, Gallipoli August 7th 1915] that use to manage the Camo Creamery [Kamo Milk Factory, Northland].  A tall dark fine looking man.
We were then dismissed to do little else but discuss the sad plight into which we had been dumped.  Dashed crook tucker, Tea of a kind and biscuits straight for breakfast.  Dinner stale hard bread, “The Tea” and jam.  Tea is the same with a good lot of sand in each lot.  I got into a tent with five Red Cross men and three hardest cases of our Squadron, my luck as per usual, but its all in the game.  Tumbled into bed – feeling very badly treated.

December 23rd
Up bright and early, blowing fairly hard and very dusty, only one or two planes about this morning.
Had the same old stuff fro breakfast then tent inspection which is to take place every morning, and after that Church Parade (Church of England).
After dinner went down to the YMCA building and wrote some letters etc.
Tucker no better.
Had another sleep on the hard sand, and getting use to it slowly.

December 24th
Up at Reveille in the dull of morning, blowing like the devil and the dust nearly cutting the eyes out of us.
Physical drill one hour before breakfast to make us hungry enough to eat the grub.  After breakfast Troop Drill until 10 then went and got inoculated on the left arm for or against Dysentery.
“After Dinner” we drew our rifles and cleaned them up, also our water-bottles etc.  Harness rifle strap.
Xmas Eve, most of the boys drank down with the spirits – to keep the spirits up.

December 25th Christmas Day.
Up at Reveille early wishing one another a Merry Xmas, though well we know it wasn’t too Merry.  Well not as merry as the last anyhow.  Breakfast was better than usual.  Oatmeal of a kind boiled bacon, bread and jam.  Dinner the Major came round to see us and we had good boiled Beef ( & Plum pudding and wine from NZ) and with the Major drank the Kings health.
After dinner I was selected as an attendant for the Officers mess (a what) and got Turkey and green peas and potatoes, pudding, tea and fruit.  I tell you I did go for it.  We Orderlies mess after the Officers have finished, 19 of them.

December 26th
We should have attended the sports of the Camp but owing to isolation the whole [session] was a wash out.  So we consoled ourselves by playing football in the sand.  Thank goodness the wind has gone down and all is still again.  The tucker in the Officers mess is grand.  Breakfast, Eggs butter, jam and fruit and bread. Luncheon, tinned salmon, tomatoes etc.  Dinner, Roast Beef, potatoes, kumera, pudding, and soup and jam.
To top all this luxury we were informed that we would have to pull out and go on with our signalling.  So that will be the end of this little job.  There are 3 of us sigs on this job and I tell you there is great washing of tears.  Breakfast tomorrow will probably be the last of it.  After we had taken the trouble of shifting our area and rigging up a tent for ourselves close and handy to the Officers mess.
The Officers mess room consists of marquee about 20 x 18 which has to accommodate 18 Officers a barman and liquor etc. as well as two waiters and a carver, and the food to be carved. (not too big a [piece] for the purpose).
I don’t know what our signalling stunt will be like but I suppose it will be a little better than the ordinary drill and what is more I suppose we signallers will get in together again.
The rest of our boys have just arrived in Camp 9 pm those that stayed on the ship to clean and help load etc and some of the boys from this Camp here are returning to NZ per SS Tofua tomorrow so if all goes well this old book will reach home in a couple of months which will give a fair idea of the trip.
I am enclosing a few menu cards which will give an idea of the tucker I got aboard ship.
Outside, the gabble of the gambling gang is a regular nuisance, each one barracking for his own game.
The wet canteen is just along side also and the noise going on is pretty considerable, but thank goodness they all have to close down at 9.30.
There are the Police rooting them out now, so I had better wind up and get into bed – and there goes the call to get into bed.

December 27th
Up in the dark this morning and have just finished cleaning up tent and shaving etc.  It is as cold as the devil and the air is very rowdy with aeroplanes, quite a lot of them flying around.
Well here’s the end of it as I have got to wrap up and take it along to the fella that is taking it back.- RS [Rowland Smith]

[Back of book as written]
May 4th 1917 arrived in Featherston and started training in M.R. [Mounted Rifles]
July 4th 1917 Transferred into the specialists and went home on final.
July 16th 1917 Returned to Camp.
September 24th 1917 Left Camp on special leave granted to all farmers of 29th, 30th and 31st MR (No pay)
October 30th 1917 Returned to Camp.
November 12th 1917 Left Featherston for the Front.
Tuesday November 13th 1917 at 4 pm left New Zealand by SS Tofua for the Front.
Arrived in Suez on Friday-
21st December 1917 and went out to Moascar Camp the same night.

"Somewhere in Palestine". The new arrivals of the Auckland Mounted Specialists finally arrive in Palestine after their long journey. Rowland is seen center kneeling with his hand on knee. Both Smith and Trickett can be identified through the stencil markings on their respective kit bags. Both men also wear the Signallers crossed flags badge on their lower left forearm sleeves.

Computer colourised image from 1917 photograph

Full Name: Charles Collings
War: World War I, 1914-1918
Serial No.: 50407
First Known Rank: Trooper
Occupation before Enlistment: Carter
Next of Kin: Mrs M. Collings (mother), 2 Elgin Street, Grey Lynn, Auckland.
Body on Embarkation: New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Embarkation Unit: 30th Reinforcements Mounted Rifles Brigade
Embarkation Date: 13 November 1917
Departed: Wellington, New Zealand
Transport: HMNZT 98
Vessel: Tofua
Destination: Suez, Egypt
Nominal Roll Number: 74
Page on Nominal Roll: 6
Above: Charles Collings wearing the flying Pegasus hat and collar badges of the 30th Reinforcements. This computer colourised photo is part of Rowland Smiths collection, and is taken from a postcard to Mrs Smith thanking her for "putting him up" during a leave in New Zealand.
Like the reinforcements before them, and the reinforcements that were to follow, the men of the 30th once in camp were designated to report to one of the three regiments within the Brigade. Here they would take up their new positions within the ranks and replace their reinforcement insignia with that of their new adoptive squadron within that regiment.
17,723 New Zealanders were to serve with the Mounted Rifles during the Great War. (source: Lieutenant Colonel Guy Powles - New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine.)
Squadron badges may be viewed HERE.