Silent Heroes - 199 Sgt John Reilly

A couple of years ago I was shown a photocopy of a handwritten diary detailing some of the 1st World War experiences of a young man from Bega, NSW, John (Jack) Bernard Reilly. This diary is not in the collection of the Australian War Memorial at the time of writing. This is Jack's story.

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Location: Canberra, ACT, Australia

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jack's Diary - 25 October 1914 to 1 November 1914

25th October: Arrived Albany on Sunday to wait for remainder of fleet. Anchored about two miles from the town. This is the meeting place for all Transports & the escort & the harbour is a picture to look at. The following is the names of our fleet except the New Zealanders:

A1 – Hymettus
A2 – Geelong
A3 – Orvicto
A4 – Pera
A5 – Omrah
A6 – Clan Mai.. (Maccorgriodole.Ed)
A7 – Medic
A8 - Argyleshire
A9 - Shropshire
A10 – Karoo
A11 – Ascanius
A12 – Salanha
A13 – Katuna
A14 - Euripides
A15 – Star of England
A16 – Star of Victoria
A17 – Port Lincoln
A18 - Wilshire
A19 - Afric
A20 - Hororata
A21 - Marero
A22 - Rangatera
A23 - Suffolk
A24 - Benalla
A25 – Anglo Egyptian
A26 - Armidale
A27 - Southern
A28 - Miltiades
New Zealanders as follows:

No. 3 Manganui
No. 4 Tahiti
No. 5 Ruapeku
No.6 Orari
No.7 Limerick
No. 8 Star of India
No. 9 Hawkes Bay
No. 10 Araiva
No. 11 Athena
No. 12 Mainana

It will thus be seen that we have a fine fleet of ships & what a fine hall (haul. Ed.) for Emden & Co. Hawkers have been busy all day bringing fruit aboard and soon found a ready sale for their wares. Apples & oranges for 2/- per dozen.
Church parade was held this morning for all religious sections. The lads are all busy fishing & one of them landed a shark this morning, about 4 ft long, a young grey nurse. All hands are fully occupied today whatching the arrival of the rest of the fleet. Our boat was the 13th to arrive. I don't know whether it sounds ominous or not.

Mon. 26 October 1914: It has been raining incessantly all day & rough into the bargain. Thank the Lord we are not in the Bight. Twenty three ships are now in harbour awaiting orders. Our Flagship is the Orvieto. Talk about the British Armada. We go alongside the pier tomorrow for fresh water & it is said we sail on Wednesday.

27 October 1914: Albany Harbour Tuesday 27/10/14: Tuesday was quite in keeping with the previous day of our stay here, wet, windy, cold & miserable & in consequence we were all herded down below like sheep in some of the trucks that leave the North-West.

28 October 1914: Wednesday broke fine and at last Sol shone forth in all his glory. The rest of the fleet arrived today. Last night a concert was held and some first class talent was brought to light. We have a few celebrities on board viz. Major Dawson of Bisley fame. He is C.O. Of the company I am in & is beloved by all. R. Barri...? champion ball puncher of the world whose exhibitions are delightful to watch, Capt. B. I. Swannell International footballer, Sergt Larkin MLA for Willoughby, R. J. Massie International cricketer & numerous other athletic lights. At time of writing we have no idea which route we are taking nor shall we because I believe we are under sealed orders.

30th October: we drew into the wharf to take fresh water. Advantage was taken of the stay at the wharf to take the men on parade. The outing was very much enjoyed & proved of great interest. We did in all about 5 miles through the town & outskirts. In the centre of the town is a magnificent monument erected in memory of the original Anthony Hordern who was born here.
Hundreds of people lined the line of march and gave us an enthusiastic welcome. In my opinion Albany possess a harbour second only to Sydney. The town is situated on the side of a hill & right round the hill is a magnificent drive from which you get a fine view of the Harbour same being enhanced by our 40 odd transports.

Saturday (31st October) broke fine and clear & all of us were up much earlier owing to the fire alarm sounding at 5.30am. We have had false alarms before but this was no practice. A fire was discovered in no. 6 hatch at the extreme end of the ship. It was put out in about half an hour. Sugar and other stores were destroyed. I believe this is the second time the Afric has been alight.
1st November: With everything in order we steamed out into the Indian Ocean. It was a great sight to see the great fleet of transports with escort in three lines, the greatest fleet that ever sailed in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Fleet Leaving Albany, WA, 1 November 1915 (AWM P00252.002)

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