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Remembering Earle R. Miller
A Voyage from Halifax to England
Wednesday Oct 11th
Left home about 11 o’clock for Aldershot. Arrived in
Kentville about 5 p.m. and was marched to camp with the rest
of the boys. Was then given a ticket and told to hurry and pack
kit as reveille was to sound next morning at 2 a.m. and that we
were to move out at 5:30 a.m.
I didn’t get a wink of sleep all night as I knew it would be
my last night at Aldershot. I decided to have some fun and
believe me I had it. About half of the tents in the battalion were
flat when some of us boys got through. We dumped over cook-
houses, latrines, etc.; burned everything we could lay our hands
on and I wouldn’t want to hand out cash for all the damage we
did. Went to my tent and turned in at 1:30 a.m. but didn’t get
any sleep as my tent came down about two minutes after I laid
Thursday 12th Oct
Crawled out at 2:00 a.m. and got ready to move away.
“Fell in” at 4 a.m. and had roll call. Marched to the train and
boarded about 5:30 a.m. Had a fine ride on the train. Arrived
safely at Halifax at 11 a.m. and were taken down to Pier 2 in the
train, where we left our kit and then the the 219th Battalion
was marched up Pleasant St (I think that is the name of the
street) to the Academy of Music and then up to the Commons
where they were allowed to stand easy and all friends were
allowed to go through the ranks and say their good-byes. At 12
noon they were marched down to the Pier at the side of which
transport no. 2810 [HMS Olympic] was docked, and boarded. We
found our quarters and then had dinner.
I then wandered around the ship till 3 o’clock getting lost
about a dozen times as she is worse than any city that was ever
built. At 3 p.m. I went to my quarters, which are on F deck i.e.
four decks below the main deck. She has seven decks on which
troops are quartered. We were given hammocks and I turned in
and went to sleep about 4 p.m. and didn’t wake up until 5:30
a.m. next morning.
Friday October 13th
Reveille at 6 o’clock. Got up rolled our hammocks and
went to breakfast at 7 a.m. After breakfast went below and
played cribbage with Simon till 10:30 a.m. and then was called
on deck as the Olympic started to move up the basin. Then went
to dinner at 12 noon. At 1 p.m. “Fell in” on “A” deck and was
issued with a life belt which we were told to wear till we
reached the other side, the only time when we are to be
allowed to take them off is when we sleep and then it must be
within arms length.
There was a general alarm during the afternoon and also a
fire alarm to see how soon we could get to the boat deck. The
ship carries boats and rafts for about seven thousand so there is
no need of worrying about being lost. At 5 p.m. the ship started
out the harbour and as soon as she got to the mouth struck some
gale and started to wiggle around quite a bit; but she is going
some fast as I think they are trying to make a record trip. I did
not feel sick at all and went on deck at 6:30 p.m. and stayed till
8 p.m. Then went below and read till “lights out” at 9 p.m.;
then turned in.
Saturday Oct 14th
Reveille at 6 a.m. Got up shook blankets and rolled
hammocks. Went to breakfast at 7 a.m. After breakfast went on
deck. About 7:30 a.m. passed a liner bound westward. She was
fairly large and had one funnel. We also passed a sailing vessel
about 11:30, one of the crew said she was french.
There was a general alarm at 9 a.m. (the general alarm is
six or more blasts of the siren). At 2 p.m. I was put on guard at
one of the doors in the watertight bulkheads run crisscross all
over the ship and there are hundreds of doors all through them
each one of these doors is guarded by a sentry and his orders
are; that as soon as an alarm sounds he must close the door
(they are sliding doors and are closed with the aid of a heavy
spanner) and then run to the boat deck, there being a flight of
stairs between every bulkhead. I was on duty from 2 p.m. till 4
p.m. during which time there was an alarm and I had to close
the door and go up to the deck. After the alarm I came back and
opened the door. At. 4 p.m I was relieved and went on deck for a
At 5 p.m. went to supper. After supper played cards till 8
p.m. when I had to go on guard again. At 10 p.m. came off and
strung my hammock and went to sleep. At 12 noon the ship had
travelled 381 mi. She came out of the harbor in daylight Friday
afternoon but it was dark when we reached the mouth of the
harbor. She then coasted along the shore up past ------- as we
could see the lights along the shore on ------ side till late in the
evening. She then turned ------ but took a ------ course all day
Saturday. ------ her direction about ------ ------. There was a
strong breeze blowing all day which made it fairly rather
choppy but not enough to hinder a large ship like this. Was not
sick at all during the day.
Sunday Oct 15th
Was called out at 5:30 a.m. to go out on guard. Relieved
at 7:30 a.m. Then went to my hammock and slept for an hour.
Went on deck and stayed the remainder of the morning. Saw 6
whales on port bow, they spouted and then disappeared. There
was a very heavy sea running and she was rolling and pitching
like a crazy thing. She The ship was travelling at full speed all
the time about 25 mi. per hr. During the morning went up on her
bow and watched her cut through the waves. It was certainly
pretty. Sometimes I could see her bottom for 2 or 3 feet so it
must have been pretty rough. Went to dinner at 12 noon. Talk
about grub they certainly feed us fine. Had pea soup, chicken
and plum pudding and they were good too. After dinner went on
deck again. Soon after dinner it began to get rougher and talk
about sick boys. They were laying around all over the ship most
of them somewhere near the rail. What a time! I was not sick
except I almost made myself sick laughing at some of the poor
fellows. It was a shame but I couldn’t help it. G. Wagner*
sick as a dog. We carried him all over the ship and he didn’t
know anything about it. Jim Mallett** was also very sick. At 5
p.m. went to supper. Had a fine supper with oranges and
bananas for a desert. After supper strung my hammock and then
sat down and read. It was very rough but I did not mind it in the
least and was feeling fine. Read till 9 p.m. and then “turned
in”. There was a strong gale blowing all day and it was very
rough. I saw the mountain waves I have often read about.
Monday Oct. 16th
General routine till after breakfast although still rough it
had calmed down considerably. We went on deck after
breakfast and stayed all the morning. Passed a tramp bound
westward at 9:30 a.m.; she was having a hard time with the
seas. Dinner at the usual hour. After dinner went on deck again
and stayed till 5 p.m. One of the bands gave a concert during
the afternoon. Supper as usual. After supper strung hammock
and then sat down to read. Retired at 9: p.m. The ship crossed
the Gulf Stream during the day, the difference in temperature
Tuesday Oct 17th
General routine till after breakfast. After breakfast went
on deck and laid around till 11 p.m. [a.m.] then went to sleep
and didn’t wake till 2 p.m. thus losing my dinner. Stayed on
deck till 5 p.m. Went to supper. After supper strung hammock
and turned in.
Wednesday Oct. 18th
General routine. Went on deck after breakfast. Our
escorts joined us during the night. (I must omit about 20-25
lines here as it describes the ship’s course and different things
that I am not allowed [to] the write about) At 6 p.m. turned in
our life belts as we were past the danger zone. At 6:30 p.m. we
entered the mouth of the Mercey [sic] River and stopped to take
on a pilot who piloted us up to Liverpool. The men were
allowed to smoke on deck after dark for the first time since we
left Halifax. I spent all the evening leaning over the rail
watching the sights. Turned in at 9 p.m.
Thursday Oct 19th
Reveille at 3:30 a.m. While getting breakfast the ship
docked. Got ready to disembark. At 6:30 a.m. we got the order
“packs on”. Picked up our kit and went on deck. At 7 a.m. the
troops started off. The 219th did not start till 10:30 a.m.
Meanwhile we had to stand with our packs on which was rather
hard. When I walked on the wharf it was 10:45 a.m. We stayed
on the wharf till 1:30 p.m. I got my money changed to English
money during this stop. Boarded a train at 1:30 p.m. (The
station Riverside being on the wharf). I knew something about
the English trains, but it did seem funny to see engines with
bumpers and no bells and with whistles that sound exactly like
our old fire engine whistles. The cars are of various sizes and all
are divided into compartments. Each compartment is the width
of the car so that passengers can get into the same
compartment from either side. But I had to laugh when I saw
when I saw the freight cars they about 12 ft long and have open
work wheels. There are often thirty or forty in a string of cars.
Left Riverside station about 2 p.m. and was on the train
until 11:00 p.m. when the train reached Millford a town about
four miles from Camp Witley. There were many strange things
to be seen on the way. I noticed that all the houses were brick
even in the poorest quarters. I didn’t see a wooden building all
the way to camp. I saw in a number of places men plowing and
sea gulls in flocks of fifteen or more following within ten paces
of them picking up weeds, worms etc. The sea gulls are all like
this through England I was told. The people on the station threw
flowers to us, shook hands with us as we went through (I got
more than a few) wishing us good luck and sent kisses after us.
Got off the train at Millford and marched into camp. Had a
lunch and then were sent to our huts. The huts are about 20 x
60 ft and are built strong. They are nothing like what I imagined
a hut would be; they are more like well built barns. Five
windows to a side, a door at each end and a stove in the center.
We sleep on a little platform about 4 in from the floor on which
is a straw mattress. Turned in at 1:30 a.m.
* George Morris Wagner (Service No. 282660)
Tusket, Yarmouth Co., NS
** James William Mallett (Service No. 282941)
The picture and copies of the original letter were provided by David
R. Hahn, the grandson of Earle Russell Miller.
Earle Russell Miller (Service No. 283361) enlisted at
the age of 17 with the 219th Battalion at Yarmouth,
Nova Scotia, April 3, 1916.
He was born July 4, 1898, in Yarmouth, the son of Avard
Herbert and Hannah Sarah (Allen) Miller.
The following is his account of the voyage from Halifax
to England during the First World War.
The fifteen page letter, written home, provides a
detailed account of his wartime experience between the
11th and the 19th of October, 1916.
He begins the letter with his arrival at Camp Aldershot,
describes his seven day voyage across the Atlantic on the
RMS Olympic, and his battalion’s arrival dockside in
His account concludes with his initial impressions of
England detailing the journey by train from the Riverside
wharf in Liverpool to Camp Witley near Millford, Surrey.