HMS Cawdor Castle
June 28th 1915
My dear Mother
I believe our first mail will be dispatched very soon, so I must write without further delay. We left harbour the night after I last wrote to you, but didn’t really get on the move till afternoon. We have really been extremely lucky with the weather and so have had quite a respectable voyage so far in spite of the general crush on board. Yesterday the sea was without a wave, and we only had the long swell rocking us gently. Earlier the boat was pitching a good deal and a large number of the junior officers being quartered in second class cabins right over the screw felt it. Quite a lot were rather bad for a day or two, and for about 24 hours I was off my food and not very cheerful, but kept going and didn’t miss a meal. The really trying time on board this ship is the mixture of smells which is extremely potent in most parts, and very difficult to escape entirely anywhere. I understand that it is not worse than is usual on these ships.
I have been sleeping up on deck ever since we started, it is very much more pleasant than down in our stuffy cabins. Last night I got covered with blacks owing to a lack of a cross wind which was rather unfortunate, but that is the only drawback.
We are progressing in a very leisurely manner as the boat is a slow one, and also we are avoiding beaten tracks. We have not had much to look at to keep us amused. No land has been sighted since we saw the last of England, and ships are quite uncommon. We went all day without seeing a single one once. We have had the luck to strike a few whales, one pair of which were quite close so that we saw them rather well. In this sort of weather the sea is beautiful, and a splendid blue, but one tires of everlasting unbroken blue.
The beginning of the voyage was distinctly cold, and I was most glad of my big overcoat, but I don’t foresee much further use for it from now onwards. Yesterday it turned quite warm, and today (being yet early as I write) will probably be yet hotter, and we shall be seeking the shade instead of the sun.
We have very little work. One parade at 11 o’clock when the captain goes round the ship, and one parade daily for physical drill lasting half an hour. Lack of deck space prevents us doing more than this.
There are various duties which have to be performed in rotation by the officers, I was one of the three officers of the watch yesterday, having to take my turn between 4.0 and 8.0 morning and afternoon. It means visiting all the men placed on watch at various parts of the ship every hour by day or half hour by night, this is the trouble for those on deck, but there are several in charge of drinking water taps on the men’s deck below, and it is a horrible job crawling about in the dark among all the hammocks – so close that there is no gangway left anywhere, the atmosphere surpassing anything I have ever struck. I hope I shall never have to do it in rough weather.
I have very small hopes of picking up a mail when we dispatch this, but if we go to Malta I shall look out for one there. We get some news every morning by wireless, just sufficient to keep us in touch with outside affairs a bit.
I have done a fair amount of reading, but somehow one doesn’t settle down to read solidly for long at a time. There is a good supply of reading matter available as everybody has been careful to supply a little.
The men seem pretty contented, and have not been very ill. In fact they complained at first at the shortness of rations, not realizing that it is undesirable to eat as much when having no exercise as they used to do when training hard. In the evening the drums and bugles play on deck, it isn’t very beautiful but gives something of a festive air. We feed quite well on board and don’t have to pay for messing which is very satisfactory. The really cheap part of the business is just beginning now.
I look forward very much to getting letters again. It is one of the most unsatisfactory points about the journey that one has to go so long without any chance of hearing.
I have written a long letter to Mela, and if you see her she may be able to amplify my news a bit, though there isn’t a lot of absolutely fresh information in it. News is in fact rather limited, and to a great extent one has to repeat the same in every letter.
Best love to all from
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden