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Wartime Heritage ASSOCIATION
Remembering Earle R. Miller Return To Canada
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.
Prologue On numerous occasions I have promised to write a description of this particular trip across the Atlantic. I intend to write it in the form of a diary and see it through a soldier’s eyes as a soldier for I am still a soldier although for not much longer. Thank God! Wednesday April 16th. 1919 Reveille this morning for the draft was at 5.45. Breakfast at 6.15. Fall in on the parade ground at 6.45. The roll was called and one man struck off the draft for being unsteady (hadn’t got over the effects of the night before). A heavy wind was blowing and it rained all the morning. It certainly was rotten weather. I never had much use for English weather and this my last day in England, has just put the cap on it. I am leaving England with a very poor opinion of the weather. We stood on the parade ground until 7.30 and then marched to the station (Kimmel Park, about a half mile). Before boarding the train we were given embarkation tickets. The train (special) left the station at 8.35 bound for Liverpool. Chester 9.55. Warrington 10.40. And reached Liverpool at 11.30. But were not allowed to leave the train for some time. There was quite a crowd of civilians to see us off, mostly men. We boarded the boat at 3,30 and were allotted our places. Now as an N.C.O. (as I am still in the army) who of course is supposed to know everything and to be able to answer all manner of questions I set out to explore. So perhaps I had better tell a little about the ship. She is a large ship nearly as large as the Olympic but has never been fitted for passengers. She was being built as Belfast at the time that was was declared and was taken over by the government for the purpose of transporting troops. She was to have had two more decks and one more funnel (She has only two at present) There are no finishings at all there   is nothing but just the bare steel walls. The only place to walk around is on the boat deck as that is the only deck open to the air. And as there is nearly three thousand aboard this ship it is rather crowded there. We got dinner at 15.00 and then I spent a while watching the people on the shore with my binoculars. Then as I had not much sleep last night I went below for a little snooze. Supper was at 19.00. Then I went on deck and watched the tugs manoeuvring the ship around the docks. The ship is inside the locks here and as the tide is low at present we can’t get out. It has cleared up now and is fairly fine but there is still a strong wind blowing. Well I am pretty sleepy now, it is only 20.30 o’clock but I think I will turn in in a few minutes. We sleep in Hammocks slung so close together that the side of each bump. But it isn’t bad, I can stand it I guess. Our messing tables are directly underneath our hammocks and we are walking all over them most of the time getting in and out of the hammocks. The [sic] There are no lights near my hammock so I will have to make a habit of going to bed early. I will turn in now. I have been feeling fine all day as far as health is concerned, but of course the fooling around rather gets on a fellow’s nerves and I haven’t been in the best of humor all day. Thursday April 17th 1919 I woke up this morning, about 7 o’clock by English time. During the night the ship had left Liverpool and when I went on deck England had just passed out of sight and we were in the Irish Sea somewhere. Breakfast was at 7 or supposed to be. I didn’t get mine till about 5. After breakfast I went on deck and watched the ships etc. which passed us. The Irish coast has been in sight all day. I spent a good deal of my time this morning watching the gulls, they have been following us all day. Dinner was at 12 noon. I am not sure about the time as the ship’s time is changed about 3/4 hour each day and I don’t known at what hour it is set back. I set my watch back in the morning anyway. This afternoon and evening I have spent on deck also. It is regular Monte Carlo up there with crap games, crown and anchor, etc. running full blast. Tea as served at 17.00 o’clock. And we get butter real butter my but it tastes good. And lots of sugar in our tea, oh! we are well away. There was a heavy wind blowing all the morning but it has gone down now. I had my last look at Ireland at about 19.30 o’clock when I came down here it was just fading in the list and darkness. It seems strange to think that perhaps I have had my last look at the Old Country. The old boat has acted fine all day up till tea time I could imagine I was ashore somewhere. There was no motion midships at all and very little fore or aft. But to-night we have struck the Atlantic swell and she is moving around a little. I have been almost praying all day that it would get a little rougher so that some of the boys would get sick, not that I wish anyone and harm or anything like that but there would be more room to move around on deck and more to eat if some of the boys stayed in their hammocks instead of being up. I was talking to one of the stewards to-day and he said we would make the trip in six days if the weather was fine. Well here is hoping she makes an extra spurt somewhere on the way. My bunk is midships and on the second deck so I am in a good place if it is anyways [sic] rough. The only thing is that there is quite a vibration from the engines as I am directly above them. I have a slight headache to-night because of this and so I think I will turn in, in a few minutes. I havn’t [sic] had either a wash or a shave to-day the first time I have missed for a good many weeks, and I don’t seem to notice it much. I guess it must be the salt sea air. Well I guess I will have a smoke and then turn-in (21.00) Friday April 18th 1919 (Good Friday) Got up about 6.30. Eggs for breakfast. It has been fairly rough all day and my selfish wish has been fulfilled. It was hard for a good many of the fellows but the deck was not so crowded to-day. Most of the fellows who were on deck were either over the rails or lying down out of the way. I spent the whole morning just wandering around the ship. It was so foggy during the morning that it was impossible to see more that a few hundred yards away from the ship. The Nova Scotia boys were paid this morning at 9.30 {L1 and a slip for $5 (to be drawn cashed as soon as we reach Halifax)} After dinner I had a sleep until tea time. I don’t know what is the matter with me but if I go on deck for awhile I get very sleepy and hungry and my only ambition to-day has been to eat and sleep. All day, outside of the ship, I have not seen a single object of any kind. After tea it was clear but I didn’t see as much as the smoke of a steamer not even a bird of any kind. Nothing but a stretch of dark blue, white capped water beneath a clouded sky; through which stray rays of sunlight gleamed. The Monte Carlo aft has been going full speed all day, there are enough fools who are not sick to keep it going strong. To night I had supper at the canteen ( a few cakes and a bottle of pop). I have been feeling fine all day. Havn’t [sic] been in the least sick, although I spent most of my time to day either in the bow or stern of the ship just to see if I would get sick. But I guess I am as good a sailor as ever. I am not enjoying this trip in the least. I wish I could sleep through the whole thing and wake up the day we enter Halifax Harbour. I have met a few fellows I know on board but no one that I can call a chum or even a friend. I am struck here all by myself and just keeping wandering around alone. I can pick up acquaintances fairly quickly but am very slow making chums or friends and I am getting sick of this. There is no one on the ship (or at least I have not met no one, that I knew in pre-war days. I wish a huge aeroplane would take us in tow and land us in Halifax tomorrow morning, instead of sometime next week when we expect to reach there. Well, it it [sic] getting along to 21.00 o’clock so I guess I will turn in for a little snooze. Saturday April 19th 1919 Rev for me was at 7.30 I had a good sleep last night, am just getting used to my hammock. A fellow can only lie one way in a hammock of course. That is of course with ones head and feet about two feet above the rest of the body. Breakfast (sausage & spuds) After breakfast I went on deck again but to day has been just the same as yesterday not an object of any kind in slight all day, nothing but the deep blue. The ship changed her course last night to a more westerdly [sic] direction and the wind is blowing across the port bow, this makes the ship roll quite a bit as well as pitch. At 11 o’clock this morning there was a fire alarm, and we all had to fall in on deck and were allotted our positions in case anything did happen. To-day at noon has been the first day time that the sun has been showing clearly and I watched the officer using the sextant and set my watch accordingly. Shortly after dinner we ran into a rain squall but it only lasted about fifteen minutes and it came out fine immediately afterwards. This afternoon has been the first time it has been anyways pleasant on deck. I spent most of the afternoon watching the gamblers. After tea I went on deck and there met Sgt Eldridge (James) who I havn’t [sic] seen for four years. He took me down to his quarters. They have fine quarters two nice bunks and a fair amount of room and electric fans besides. We had a good old talk together about old Yarmouth which we both hope to be in very shortly. But more than anything else our talk rested on the subject of English girls and how they were going to compare with the Canadian girls we would soon be amongst again. We both agreed that the Canadian girls would have to look out or all the young fellows would be coming back to England for their wives. And that they would certainly have to be at their best to use the boys any better than the English girls have. I stayed with Jimmie until 20.00 o’clock and then came down here again and now I guess I will turn in. I have been feeling fine all day and to-night I don’’t feel quite so disheartened as I did last night. The ship is supposed to be about halfway across the Atlantic to-night. Sunday April 20th 1919 6.30 Rev. Had breakfast - no eggs this morning. After breakfast I went on deck until noon and spent the time walking around the gambling, etc. After dinner I read till tea time. After tea played 45’s till 20.00 o’clock and am now sitting down to write this. It has been foggy all day although it wasn’t bad this morning. But this afternoon we ran into a heavy mist just about as bad as rain and the wind has increased in strength so that it has been far from pleasant on deck so I have kept below. Today has been just the same as yesterday as far as scenery is concerned. Not an object of any kind in sight all day. Well the old ship is drawing close to land now instead of getting father away. This afternoon we were only 900 miles from Halifax and we expect to dock in Halifax the day after tomorrow, The sooner the better is all I can say. It is a little rougher tonight but nothing to speak of. Nearly as the boys have got their sea legs now, I have only seen one fellow sick today. This afternoon |I examined the log. It is the first time I have had the chance. It is more like a speed meter on an automobile than anything I know of. I have been feeling fine all day in health as usual but the time drags and it gets on my nerves seeing the same old thing day after day. Well I guess I will turn in (20.30 o’clock) Monday, April 21st 1919 Well one more day nearer home. I was up this morning about 6 o’clock. But the ships whistle woke me quite a while before that. During the morning we were in the vicinity of icebergs, we passed numerous small ones. The fog was so thick at times that it was impossible to see the length of the ship. It kept this way all the morning until 10 o’clock when the fog lifted and it began to get warmer. The ships engines were working all the morning at just enough pressure to give headway. From 10 till 11 o’clock I watched a few boxing bouts that were taking place on deck under the supervision of the Y.M.C.A. officer. At 11 o’clock there was a medical inspection for M. D. 6 and that took up the time until dinner. After dinner it came on colder but not quite so foggy and the ship did not slacken speed any. She has been making an average of 18 knots this afternoon. During the afternoon I just wandered around on deck seeing the same old thing over again. After tea I stayed below and played cards. All the fog has disappeared now and we are going along fine. The seas has been almost like a mill pond to-day, I would hardly realize that I was on a ship if it were not for the throb of the engines. I saw quite a number of young sea birds this morning just learning to fly so we are getting close to land again. Two whales were seen from deck this morning before I was up so of course I missed that. Well at present we expect to be in Halifax by tomorrow night if we don’t strike heavy fog again. The boat is scheduled for six days and was eight hours ahead of time last night but lost all of the gain this morning. But we will strike Halifax Tuesday night or Wednesday morning for sure. The boys are so pleased that there is no holding them; they have been like a bunch of raving maniacs all day, doing everything conceivable to make a racket. I have been feeling rather that way myself. Well it is about time I turned in for a little sleep. Have been feeling fine all day. Tuesday April 22nd 1919 Usual routine today. It has been foggy all day. I couldn’t see fifty yards any time during the day. During the morning I watched the boxing for about an hour and the remainder of the morning I spent below playing cards. During the afternoon I watched the boxing for awhile and then went below. It has been warm all day although rather damp. The ship has been going full speed all day in spite of the fog. The whistle has been blowing all day at intervals of two minutes and is still at it. I don’t know whether I will get any sleep to-night or not as the old horn is enough to deafen a person. After tea I spent my time packing up and sorting out my kit; and did a little shinning, the first I have done during the trip. We expect to reach Halifax before daylight and [perhaps I will be a civy by to-morrow night. I hope so. Well it is about time to turn in and see if I can forget that - whistle. Have been feeling in the best of health all day. Wednesday April 23nd 1919 (Halifax) Reveille was about 4.30, anyway I got up about that time. I got my breakfast and then went on deck. The coast of good old Nova Scotia could be seen on our starboard side about two miles away. Now you talk about an excited bunch of kids well we certainly were that. We entered the mouth of the harbour about 7 o’clock I think it was and had to wait there for a pilot. Then we steamed up the harbour. When we came in sight of the city I guess they blew off all the steam that they had in the place. All the fellows were on deck or the majority of them were, the remainder were amongst the riggings. We docked at about 9.30 o’clock and I clambered off at 9.45 o’clock. And maybe I wasn’t pleased although I knew nobody in Halifax. From the pier we were marched up to the Armories where we were given a lecture by some Major and were then sent over to the barracks until we would be called for. I had my dinner and a change of clothes and then hung around until 15.00 o’clock and then had to collect my surplus kit and go to the Armories again. I got over there with about a couple of hundred other fellows and had to hang around till 17.00 o’clock before we got started. After I entered the first department I was discharged in about twenty minutes. First we went to Q. M., then chaplains, M.O. Dentest, pay master, badge dept, discharge dept, (where I got my precious slip of paper) Railway office. Then to the bank to get my check cashed and my English money changed. I met Ken Vickery in the bank office and I was some pleased to see him as he was the first civy I had met on this side I knew. Well my soldiering ended this afternoon at 17.30 o’clock and I am now a full fledged civy. After getting my discharge I walked down town to a “chop suey” joint to get something to eat, and then I walked around till about 22.30 o’clock and then came back here to barracks. Well I guess I will turn in now. 23.00 o’clock. Feeling fit as a fiddle. Finis April 24th And I am back to the same old place I started from over three years ago. E.R. Miller
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