Destination Gallipoli (Part 1)

phot0841On 4th August 1915 a young Canadian nurse called Helen Fowldes, was sitting on a ship writing in her diary. ‘This is the anniversary ending the first year of the war. Who could have foretold a year ago that today would see us off the coast of Spain bound for the unknown east?’ Helen was just one of thousands of men and women: troops, sailors, merchant seamen, and those from the medical corps, all heading for the ill fated military campaign in a place called Gallipoli. However, not all made it as far as the Turkish peninsula, becoming victims at the hands of the German submarine fleet that lurked in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and the Aegean. One such ideal target was His Majesty’s Transport (H.M.T.) Royal Edward, a beautiful ocean going liner that was more used to transporting the well-heeled and those with only dreams and a suitcase travelling to America and Canada. 100 years ago this week she would have a much different passenger list with a cargo that could only suggest that this was a ship headed to a theatre of war. On 28th July 2015 she set sail from Bristol’s Avonmouth docks with a course set that will see her round Lands End, then south past Portugal, into the Mediterranean, with the Spanish coastline on her port side, and the north African on her starboard then on to Gallipoli via Malta and Alexandria. Along with hundreds of other large ships she’d been enlisted by His Majesty’s government to act as a troop carrier to help in the war effort, bringing with her a crew of 220 merchant seamen of numerous nationalities which were all employed by the Canadian Mercantile Marine Service. My Great Uncle William was an engineering officer on board. Add to this a roll of 31 military officers, 1,335 servicemen, equipment, weaponry, ammunition: perhaps livestock such as horses or donkeys, and the Royal Edward was headed for the Dardanelles and into history.

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