A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 98

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
Jump to navigation Jump to search


field ambulance, etc. There were 9,000 horses and seventy guns. The embarkation of the division began on October 17 and lasted five days. Nothing was allowed to be published outside Australia concerning it, and the departure of the transports was kept as secret as possible. But it was impossible to suppress the overwhelming enthusiasm of the people in Melbourne and elsewhere as the men marched down to the front. When Brigadier General W. T. Bridges, who was responsible for the expeditionary force until it was later on taken over by General Birdwood, left Melbourne with his staff on Trafalgar Day, he was given a reception that kings might have envied.

Much uneasiness had been caused by the presence of the Emden and other German cruisers in the Pacific Ocean, and it was believed, not without reason, that they intended to attempt a raid upon the expeditionary force on its way to Europe. Steps were taken to deal with these raiders. British ships, Japanese ships, and Australian ships manoeuvred to convoy and protect the vessels bearing the troops, and nothing untoward happened to them.

The rendezvous of the transports was Albany, Western Australia. Here not only the Australians, but also the New Zealanders arrived. "It is the most wonderful sight an Australian ever saw," said one who witnessed it. The long line of transports set out, a great string of ships, each keeping its distance behind the other, a couple of cables' lengths away, moving on, a steady, unceasing procession, the pace of all being fixed at the pace of the slowest. Around were the guardian warships.

New Zealand, like Australia, was in the fortunate position of being ready by land and by sea for war. There had been for some time before the outbreak of war compulsory military training for all males between the ages of 12 and 25, and there was a fine defence force thoroughly trained, armed, and organized, with ample guns, transports, and scientific corps. Some days before war was declared, the prime minister of New Zealand, Mr. W. F. Massey, announced that the government intended, if necessary, to offer an expeditionary force to the Imperial government, and an understanding already had been arrived at concerning the number and constitution of that force. The leader of the Opposition, Sir Joseph Ward, declared that the entire Opposition would cooperate with the government in the

← 97   ·   98   ·   99 →
(page index)