Note: This object includes a derogatory slur. Such words and sentiments are not condoned by Museums Victoria which considers them to be racist. Historical distance and context does not excuse or erase this fact.

Transcription of letter ST 041186:

Hand-written on lined YMCA stationary: 'S.S. YPIRANGA / 8.30p.m. Thursday / 22nd Mary 1919 / My dearest Freda / We have spent a / most interesting day in Las / Palmas - the boat pulled in / about 5am this morning / and left about 2pm - we / do not see land again for / another fortnight. I hope the / mail we sent ashore turns up / alright. Every blessed native of / the island appeared to be / notified of our arrival as the / bum boats with all the rubbish . in the world were at the entrance / of the harbour waiting for us / & as soon as we anchored we were / besieged by the blighters /

[SECOND PAGE] & the bargaining began at once. / Cigars bearing the name of a / very good brand "Henry Clay" / were offered for £2.10 a hundred / the [illeg.] were beaten down / to infinitely small prices / some bought them at the / start for 25/- & then the lowest / the niggers would take was / 15/- in exceptional cases boxes / were bought for 10/- of course / I did not for one moment believe / they were genuine & many / others were of the same opinion / as the price for the same cigar / in London is not about £5. / the blessed things were an  / awful swindle as a few of us / were talking to an Englishman / who lives in the town & who / came aboard he said the Cabel / and bores were made by Germany /

[THIRD PAGE] and the cigars manufactured by / filthy natives in the port & / could be bought ashore for 8/-, / I very nearly bought a box / for that amount but the old / nig would not see it does / not matter at what price they / sell, they make a nice little / profit. Any brand of cigars / it is immaterial how bad they / are, are worth 10/- a hundred / each - the cheapest cigar one  / can buy in Australia is about / 3d or 2d. The fruit was horribly / disappointing & very expensive / bananas 1d each oranges 1d each / that was all they had. /

[FOURTH PAGE] I was trying to pick up a  / little ivory elephant merely as / a souvenir of the place by the / beggars wanted 4/- for it & an / officer next to me had only a / few minutes before bought the / same thing for 2/-. Bedspreads / were in great demand and they / were offered at £5.10 & upwards / heaps were eventually bought / for £1 of the sisters on board / say they were very good / bargain at that price. The / nig. Would display one / and some on would buy it after / bartering for 1/2 an hour & / if the purchaser was not very / careful the one he asked for / would be replaced by another / worth a few shillings. All the / boats have little back ? attached /

[FIFTH PAGE] & a chord attached to it in which / you put the money & then up come / the goods. Silk pyjamas were / sold for about 15/- the price / asked was £2.10 but the silk / is awfully trashy  stuff and / I doubt if it will stand being / washed - I am sure a person / could not do a quick bend / in them. We have a boat load / of canaries on board - I think / nearly every digger on the / ship has one & they can be / bought much cheaper in / Australia. 5/- was about the / lowest price for them. After the / men had bought the bird they / began to wonder how they were /

[SIXTH PAGE] going to sell them & of course there / the dago had them - for 1/- / they got enough canary seed to / fill a hollow tooth. There were / heaps of puppies that could just / crawl offered at about 10 at 1/-, / none were bought chiefly because / they are not allowed on board. / No one was allowed off the boat. / Bargaining is the greatest / fun in the world - as you can / see there are no fixed prices / & every body gets as much as / possible for his rubbish one / nigger offered me a cigarette / case for £5.10 & another the/ same thing for 35/- I bargained / for about 1/2 and hour through a / port hold over the blessed thing / & offered 10/- - the nig I think / was cursing inwardly he /

[SEVENTH PAGE] swung his arms about & danced / like a heathen - but he would / not let that case go - he was at / one time just about to say " put / the money in the basket" when his / co-conspirator thief stopped / him. I might have got it if I / had given another a few shillings. / It is really the funniest thing / going and highly amusing / in every way. / Of course we also had boys / diving for money. I have / never seen such a cut throat / looking lot before [crossed out] in / colour they ranges from jet / black to white. / 10p.m. 23rd Several casualties to /

[EIGHTH PAGE] this evening. Four canaries / were committed to a watery / grave this morning and I / imagine the remainder will be / there before we reach Australia. / Could not do any boxing this / morning as the deck was too / slippery having been / washed with caustic soda - so / had to content myself with a / skifs? This afternoon I had / chipped a bit off an old / stopping, trying to crack / nuts. I always expected to  / do something like that - in / future I will be more careful. / This evening I played bridge / & came out winning the / huge sum of 1/6d - the weather / has been much cooler today / & by all the rules of the game it / should be getting hotter. /

[NINTH PAGE] 10.20p.m. 14/5/19  A most unexciting day / except that I managed to pick up / a very interesting book that kept / me occupied the whole day. / This afternoon after [crossed out] / lunch 6 of us congregated in . our cabin & told of our / various experiences during / the last 4 years. We were all / sprawled out on the floor as it / is the coolest position. Have just / been doing a little bit of/ doctoring turning a young / fellow's eye lid inside out and / painting it with some / rubbish - every time I got the / blessed thing ready for work the / blighter would wince and /

[TENTH PAGE] we had to commence again. / I got quite a lot of fun out of it / although the patient suffered /somewhat. / It has been remarkably / cool today and tonight for / the first time for years we saw / the Southern Cross. / We learned tonight that as / far as Lad Palmas the old boat / was going rottenly. One / engine broke down. The steering / gear went wrong & she was / leaking badly & the maximum / speed was about 11 knots / everything if going well now / & we average about 12 1/2 knots / & for 2 hours last night we did / 17 - I wish we could do 117 - / although it is pleasant enough / on board. /

[ELEVENTH PAGE] 10p.m 25/5/19 - Today has been the / hottest since we left - but it is / great - I picture you having / such a day in [illeg.] and / playing tennis while we were / playing quoits. Went to church / parade this morning & was / awfully pleased I did as the / Padre was most interesting - / I could have listened to him / for hours as his views on / Christianity etc. are coincident / with my own. He is a reformist / to a large extent the diggers / flock to hear him talk & he / has got them worrying over / religious questions to an / unexpected degree. /

[TWELFTH PAGE] This afternoon - Dawson & I / took a rug & pillow & lay on / the boat deck in the breeze & / read ourselves to sleep - even / the band playing did not / wake me up. Am going to / sleep in a bathing costume / tonight as the ordinary / sleeping suit is too warm / & we have a door & 2 port holes wide open / & an electric fan going the / whole night. It is rather a treat / to be able to sleep on the top of all / the bed clothes instead of / underneath them. I have / just come down from the / boat deck where a few of us / have been talking &  / smoking it is too hot to / play bridge. /

[THIRTEENTH PAGE] It looks very much like a / storm this evening otherwise / I would sleep on deck as I / have a collapsible camp / stretcher. / 10.30p.m. 26/5/19 The monotony of the / day was somewhat relieved / as this afternoon there was a / boxing contest and this / evening our concert party gave / their initial performance. / I took an active part in the / fight by acting as time keeper / & had only to take the time and / sound the gong - after the show / one of the fighters came up to / me & said he came from / Ganoah - how he knew me /

[FOURTEENTH PAGE] I don't know - I do not know / him from a bar of soap & have / never heard his name but it / appears my pater offended / some of his illustrious ancestors / so of course he knows me. / The concert was quite a success / one of the outfit gave a couple / of pieces from the Sentimental / Bloke - including [crossed out] "Romeo / & Juliet" he was awfully good / What is Nell's favourite line / something about "Romeo gets / luck as 'ell." / I decided to risk getting / wet last night & slept on deck / it was even hot there - this / morning I had to extricate / myself from a pile of / cinders I slept on the wrong / side of the boat and the wind /

[FIFTEENTH PAGE] carried the wretched stuff over / my way - perspiration and / cinders are a dirty mix here./ I will have to give up / boxing for a few days as / my partner for hit on / the nose this morning & / is incapacitated. It is / frightfully hot & as I write / this I have a hankerchief [sic] in / my left hand & am mopping / my face the whole time - this / in spite of the fact that the / fan is only a few feet / behind me but I do not / feel at all uncomfortable. Am / just going to cart my bed / upstairs. Bon soir. /

[SIXTEENTH PAGE] 10. 15p.m. 27/5/19 The concert party gave / another show tonight but I / thought it wiser to have a / stretch on the boat deck as / it is frightfully hot. About 10.30am / this morning we struck a / miniature hurricane - it / blew like mad and rained / cats and dogs for about half / an hour the breeze has kept up / all day but even then one / perspires sitting down - we / are only about 100 miles from / the Equator. Today we / were again punctured / for influenza. The authorities / are apparently taking no / risks. Here is a little story. / One man was remonstrating / with another regarding his / manners in a restaurant as he /

[SEVENTEENTH PAGE] had tried to eat his soup / with a fork & when asked the / reason why said "Well a fellow / must have something  to / spear them peas with." / One man (a) was asking another / man (B) what animals he liked / best at the Zoo & 'B' said the / Dangeroos A said "You mean / Kangeroos B said no Dangaroos / they looked like lions. A said / B was silly. B then said "I / ought to know as the cage was / marked "Do not touch these animals / are dangerous." Am now / going to fix my bed / on deck. / 9.15am 29/5/19 It was too late to write /

[EIGHTEENTH PAGE]  last night as I was plating / bridge with the Col. & 2 others / until after 11p.m. and it was / midnight before I finally / turned in. Managed to / lose a whole shilling. We / crossed the line about 7pm - / Yesterday was quite cool / where as it should have been / extremely hot - it should / get cooler and cooler as we / get south - I prefer the heat / Did nothing exciting at all yesterday - except be / inoculated about 2pm - / it has not at all affect [sic] me / as this morning I was up / on deck doing a little / strenuous exercise. Dawson / just told me that my / hair is sprouting very well /

[NINETEENTH PAGE] I have not shaved it for the / last 3 days - the steward has / just come in to tidy up the / cabin & believe me it takes / some tidying I have to / get away on parade. / 10.30p.m 29/5/19 Nothing exciting today / we witnessed an eclipse of the / sun at midday & received / the news that Germany could / not sight the peace treaty / I played a few games of / quoits this morning & read / all this afternoon, sitting / in a deck chair in the sun / The concert party has given a / show the last four nights. The / same programme every time /

[TWENTIETH PAGE] as there are nearly 1000 / on board & only 250 can / get in at once. Our dining / saloon is used as the / theatre. Next week the / programme is completely / changed. I managed / to kick of a can of very / hot water in this cabin / today & we are all pattering / about with wet feet the / water squelching every time / one steps on the carpet. / 10p.m. 20/5/19 It is getting much cooler / & I will soon have to sleep in the / cabin although I want to stick up / on deck as long as possible. / Played bridge with the Colonel / tonight & won the huge sum of six- / pence. Today we were deprived of / out electric fan as some of the / cabins on a deck lower than this / are without them. /

[TWENTY-FIRST PAGE] Make another stay there. / I was orderly officer today / I had to go round about 32 / mess tables asking what compaints / they had. The soup was too thin, / the peas were like marbles - not / cooked enough - meat too / salty - tea too weak & soon / such grievances are not / universal  - one table says the / food is "tip top" another "it is / good enough" another "it is rotten / but will soon be home so / a man can put up with / crook tucker for a few weeks" / & so on but that are all / pretty well satisfied and / seem to be enjoying the trip / personally I am jumping /

[TWENTY-SECOND PAGE] out of my skin with energy. / 11.15p.m. 1/6/19 Have just finished / playing bridge with the Colonel / I managed to love 1/- - a / very cheap evenings amuse- / ment. This morning I went / to church parade and / although it was voluntary a / huge number of officers and / men turned up. Spent the / afternoon in a deck chair / roasting in the sun but it / has not the same hear in it as / a few days ago. Found / an awfully nice book "Missing" / Mr Humphrey Ward & read [crossed out] / straight through without a / stop. It is horribly sad but / quite realistic & I liked it / immensely. It is getting much / cooler - I wish we could cruise /

[TWENTY-THIRD PAGE] about in the tropics for another / week so that one could then / get well baked & come out the / colour of mahogany. / This morning our cabin / steward came along & asks  us for some fruit - he said / he would get some more / later on. We gave him / about half a dozen apples / & half a dozen oranges the / dining saloons stewards / get us that. This evening / he came in with a dozen / apples & a dozen oranges all / straight off the ice - were they / good? No!!! how he gets / them I don't know & I don't /

[TWENTY-FOURTH PAGE] want to know as long as / the supply keeps up. / 9.45p.m 2/6/19 It is exactly 3 years / ago today that I got my / Commission at Tel-el-Kebir / in Egypt. I remember the day / quite distinctly as I had / weekend leave to Cairo & / had no sooner arrived there / than I was wired for & told / when I got back to Camp to / put a star up & be ready to / proceed to France in a few / days. / Have just finished / a couple of rubbers at bridge / & went down about 1/6 Held / absolutely rotten cards / There was a practice life / boat parade this morning / & this afternoon the men's /

[TWENTY-FIFTH PAGE] hammocks & blankets / were checked & all ranks / were paid / I have just read / "Scandal" by Cosmo / Hamilton - it is rather / good & I regret to a certain / extent that I did not see / the play as I understand / from officers on the shop who / saw it, that the pl [sic] follows the / book closely - I should / imagine thought it would be / very much like the naughty / wife & as I saw that I don't / suppose I missed much by not / seeing the other one. / A book a day is rather / good going but the stock /

[TWENTY-SIXTH PAGE] of good books at such a rate / runs out too quickly the / supply I am afraid is not / equal to the demand. / 3/6/19 10pm Have been quite / occupied all day after / parade this morning I / came down to the cabin / and did some darning / quite a success. This / afternoon out troop deck / beat no. 5 troop deck in / the tug of war - it was awfully / exciting. We son the 1st pull and they won the 2nd pull / excitement was then / naturally as a high / pitch but we managed / to win the 3rd pull [crossed out] / tomorrow afternoon we / have a bye. /

[TWENTY-SEVENTH PAGE] The concert party again / commenced their weeks run / tonight & the show was a / huge success much / better than last week / I heard 2 or 3 good jokes / Id a negro was run over / by a motor car & lost his / knee where would he go. / To Africa were the negroes. / If I negress had the same / accident where would she / go. Naturally to Africa / No to Jerusalem where / the "Sheknees," If a / young negro boy had the / same accident where / would he go - to Africe, no. /

[TWENTY-EIGHTH PAGE] No to the butcher where / there are kidneys - They /are really quite good / don't you think do. / The old boat did the record / rung for 24 hours up to 12 noon / today - 2999 miles - we / generally for 270 - I should / imagine the cooler / weather would account / for the difference. / I must write to Mr. Loardlaw? / before we reach Cape Town / 10.20pm 4/6/19 Have passed a  / very uninteresting day - I / have only slept or read / Have just finished a / rubber & came out 1/- to the / good. The old boat is pitching / and rolling like mad / but I am glad to say it / doesn't affect me now. /

[TWENTY-NINTH PAGE] It is getting quite chilly / after we leave Cape town / is should be very cold / as we go nearly due / south for some distance / before making for Australia / to get the / advantage of winds / and currents I understand / We expect to reach / Cape town Friday [crossed out] / evening or early Saturday / morning / the mail closes / on the ship at 4pm on / Friday / Great cleaning of / boots & belts & pressing of / uniforms is going on /

[THIRTIETH PAGE] I am going to try and / get off in mufti - much / better than uniform / I think. / 5/6/19 10.30pm Managed to lose / a couple of shillings at / bridge tonight / This afternoon out / tug o war team lost against / another troop deck - of / course I had a little / bet with another officer / apparently it was my day / off. / This evening we / received the distressing / news that a certain number / of civilian passengers / are coming on board at / Cape town & we will be / ? from this bonny /

[THIRTY-FIRST PAGE] cabin as there is a bath / room adjoining and it / is reckoned one of the / best cabins  - rotten luck - / the air is still slightly / coloured on account / of this news. / The "Nestor" passes us / tonight several of the / officers have sent wireless / messages to us most sarcastic / in tone about taking messages / to Australia & they left / after us.

[THIRTY-SECOND PAGE] Then another leant back / in a chair & bang went a / leg so we are just about / ? & absolutely / chairless but not quite / cheerless. / 10a.m 6/6/19 The mail closes at / 12 noon today - We expect / to reach Cape toward before / noon tomorrow / I hope everybody if very / ? & enjoying the holiday / Eastbourne will be referred / to as last month when we were / at Eastbourne 'ere this reaches. '

 

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