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Findlay J S   Sapper   1813

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 11 years ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


Findlay J S   Sapper   1813    John Stanley          1 Sig Co Engineers    30    Clerk    Single    Meth        

Address:    Moonee Ponds, Bowen St, 31    

Next of Kin:    Findlay, J, 31 Bowen St, Moonee Ponds    

Enlisted:    10 Jul 1915       

Embarked:     A62 Wandilla 9 Nov 1915  


Relatives on Active Service: 

Findlay C F Gunner 24555 brother




Sapper F. S. Findlay (sic), of Bowen street, Moonee Ponds, sends the following interesting account of the trip from Egypt to France:


From Serapeum to Alexandria. We awoke at 3.33 on Thursday, June lst, and loaded up motor cycles, bicycles and cases onto wagons, followed same to siding and there unloaded and stacked. Returned to camp and had breakfast. After breakfast we pulled down the tents and cleaned up all round. We then had our final swim in the canal. Odd jobs took us up till 7, when we had tea, after which we fell in and marched to siding, where we loaded all our gear on to the train, the drivers entraining the horses. We then got aboard into open trucks, and finally got a move on at 8.45. We travelled all night (if was fairly cold in open trucks and too crowded to get a sleep). We arrived at Alexandria at about 7 on Friday. The train's journey was around the side of the city, so did not see Alexandria. We were taken down on to the pier, where we had to unload train, and carry every thing about 100 yards to the boat's hoists. We then got aboard the transport. the s.s. "Kinfann's Castle," and washed off the dust of Egypt with a real goodwill and no regrets.


On Board the S.S. "Kinfann's Castle." We weighed anchor and left the pier in the afternoon, and put out to sea for a mile, where we dropped anchor for the night. We could now see the wharves all around and all full of transports. Next day, the 3rd, we got on the move about 10 a.m.. and this time it was farewell Egypt and her sand. We were then issued with life-belts and instructed to wear them continually while on board, and to keep handy when sleeping. The water was beautifully calm, and the boat moved along without the slightest vibration. Our course was not the usual trade route, but led up past Crete, and then turned west, passing south of Greece. Our transport, a two- funnel vessel, was formerly a Union Castle liner whose run was England to South Africa and return via East Coast and Suez Canal. On board were the 4th Div. Hdqrs. Staff, 12th Infantry Brigade Hdqrs. Staff. Artillery Hdqrs., 4th Div. Sig. Coy., 4th Cyclists' Coy., 45th and 36th Bns. also some details, including machine gunners.


The weather for the whole of the voyage was very pleasant and water hardly had a ripple on it. We often passed other vessels, including transports, and all the voyage practically could see either a cruiser or destroyer escorting us. Our boat zig-zagged in all directions, and kept clear of all traffic. Once some wreckage, sighted from the bridge, made us do a few circles and bolt, and another time a whale had us bluffed; but in the finish we all but passed over him. Of a night all portholes were closed and covered, and no smoking was allowed after dark. Whilst on board some terrible rumours of war were circulated. We heard of a great naval battle and also the loss of the "Hampshire" and Lord Kitchener. One "reliable rumour" was to the effect that one of our escorts rammed a submarine.


On June 8th, we sighted Marseilles, which, from the sea is very pretty, especially a big church on top of a hill. Upon the spire of the church is a large golden cross which glittered in the sun like a light house. We pulled into the wharf in the morning and disembarked after tea that evening and marched to a railway siding through the side streets. We got a good reception from the people. but saw none of Marseilles city.


A 60-hours Train Journey through France.


We got into the train at about 8 o'clock on the evening of the 8th. Our Coy. were put into covered vans (after same style as Vic. railways meat trucks -32 men to a truck). There were 45 trucks on train, so imagine size. Some of the Infantry travelled in second class carriages. Before the journey was half over we realised that we were far better off in the trucks, having more room to sleep and move about:   also we all could view the sights from the open door with comfort, where as those in carriages had to crowd the windows. Knowing what was before us as regards the train journey, we at once settled down to sleep. Beds were made head to foot, and with a tight squeeze and adjusting long legs we got our first sleep (or what was possible with jolting of train) in glorious and beautiful France. This being the middle of spring we had arrived at the best time of the year for sightseeing.


Next morning, June 9th, we awoke at Orange, where we stopped for half an hour and had a wash and breakfast. Then on again, and we began to crowd the doorway to see the sights of the world. Fresh from the sands of the desert the greenness of everything around us was like entering a new world. Soon after starting, we met the River Rhone, which is a very wide river and has a strong current. The valley of the Rhone is the great vine-growing district. On all sides were grape vines, no plantation more than a couple of acres, mostly a lot smaller, but all worked to the last square inch. Mixed with vines and crops were poppies and blue bells, and they just added the colour needed to make the sight a real picture indeed. We soon noticed the absence of young men from around the farms, these being worked by the women, children and old people. We therefore realised the sac rifice our French Allies are making against our common enemy. All along the line the boys cooeed and cheered, and we got a great reception back from the inhabitants, especially the girls. And what a fine lot of women they look, too, mostly dark, and with beautiful eyes and complexions. In the distance, on both sides, we could see the mountains, and on coming closer, would sight ancient castles and churches built on high rocks, and surrounded by a village --beautiful sights, and far above my describing. Toward mid-day we came to the city of Lyons, and were held up for ten minutes on a viaduct on the outskirts. Here the people in the streets got very excited, especially some of the girls, who threw up their rings to the boys and chanced getting a "rising sun" badge in exchange for it. From the viaduct, we could see the main part of the city on a big hill, and in the distance it looked a place worth seeing. We were disappointed, though, as the train enters a tunnel and comes out on the other side of the city. Quite a long tunnel this: it took more than 15 minuites to pass through. This tunnel at Lyons, although the longest, was only one of hundreds we met on the journey. With tunnels and bridges and big deep cuttings, these French railways are abundant, and cost to build must have been enormous. Our evening stop was a siding outside of Toulons, where we had tea and soon after got to bed, after the most exciting day I had ever spent, full of new sights and all brimming over with interest. All along the line middle-aged men were on guard, and in variably met with a shower of cigarettes from the train. Next day was practically a repetition of the first, but still held for us the same interest, especially some of the girls who were handing up postcards or paper with names and addresses on for us to write to.


We often saw soldiers working at fetching in crops, and are told that the French Army has arranged that men be allowed leave to go home and do this. We here touched River Soane on one side, and at times sighted River Seine on the other side. Both are beautiful streams. All day we travelled, but we were getting tired of it all, being too cramped up to enjoy it to its fulness. The weather also had got dull, and showers were plentiful -another change for us: rain. Toward evening we pulled up at Juvisy, and bought a supply of cake and bread to replace biscuits. We here also got an issue of matches and smokes--not bad on a train ride. Tinned butter was great on bread. We had the butter issued, but could not relish it properly on biscuits. At Juvisy, we were shunted off the main line, and learnt with regret we would not pass through Paris as we expected. Soon after re-commencing our journey, we sighted tops of high buildings of Paris, and could pick out Eiffel Tower in the distance. We crossed the River Seine close at junction of the Oise, which river we followed for rest of the evening. We again settled down to bed for our third and last night aboard the train. During the early hours of the morning, we passed through the outskirts of Calais. We had noticed throughout the journey numbers of empty tins along the line, and this set one thinking what troops had done this Journey before us--the Anzacs; also, I expect, all the Indians. What English regiments had done the trip from Boulogne or Calais?


Our next stop was St. Omers. Here we met a train load of French soldiers, fresh from the trenches; going on leave to England; included amongst them we picked out three New Zealanders and a couple of Australians. At St. Omers is a fine big cathedral. Shortly afterwards we passed another big railway centre in Hazebrouck. We were now travelling east from Calais, and the country, although pretty, could not compare with Southern France, nor was it as thickly populated. Our next and last stop was Bailleul, which we reached at about 10 am. We had had 62 hours' train ride and come right across France from Marseilles to Calais and then turned east again. We had taken at times a round-about route, but had kept a good rate of speed all the time. One of our chaps, though, has travelled from Naples overland to London in 24 hours.


We marched to Oultersteene, at which village we were billetted, our brigade headquarters being a schoolroom. Behind the school was a pond. Here we washed the remains of the train journey off, and looked for something for the inner man. This we found in four eggs and plenty of bread and butter. At this house we learnt we were only ten miles from the firing line, also that this village and surrounding villages, which are a permanent staging camp, had been the home of the 1st Aust. Div. for a time; also for eight days in October, 1914, it was in the hands of the Germans.


OUR SOLDIERS. (1916, August 24). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4 Edition: Morning.. Retrieved February 4, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74593886



Stan. Findlay, of Ascot Vale, writ ing from France on 6/12/16, states:


"I have been having a turn 'somme' where where letter writing is out of the question. Things went well while in the line; but while marching out, Fritz got a few shells amongst them and killed the sergeant and wounded three of the boys. This was the first casualty among the section. The sergeant, a Sydney lad, went through the landing at Gallipoli, Lone Pine and the evacuation. We were lucky the shell did not get more of us. Talk about mud and slush - Broadmeadows at its worst was not a patch on it.


OUR SOLDIERS. (1917, May 3). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 1 Edition: Morning. Retrieved May 11, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74602430




War Service Commemorated

Essendon Town Hall F-L

Moonee Ponds West Methodist (S)    

Moonee Ponds West State School

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour With the Colours

Regimental Register

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