Europe, here we come!

On November 15, 1915, the 58th boarded a train at the Exhibition grounds and headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia. The men used this time to play cards, sleep, eat and enjoy themselves. Two days later they arrived. Not much time was wasted transferring them to the city port and to the ship that they were to sail on – the HMT Saxonia.

click for more information on the Saxonia

Saxonia loading for England.
Saxonia loading for England.

The ship had just arrived from a 4-day stay in New York City. The 58th was to share the ship with the 54th Kootenay Battalion and the 1st Siege Battery of Halifax. The Saxonia could accommodate about 1100 troops in relative comfort. For this trip, she would be carrying 2400.

A last glimpse of Canada for those destined to die.

3rdclassroom
3rd class accommodations
3rdclasssmrm
3rd class state room
Saxoniaimages
On deck
Boatoct1914
Scenes taken by Col. Lamb when 1st Division crossed the Atlantic in Oct. 1914. The Canadian Press/HO, Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada

The Saxonia was originally a Royal Mail Ship of the Cunard Line. She was now one of His Majesty’s Troop Ships. She was painted in camo to make detection more difficult.

Saxonia1900
HMT Saxonia, troop ship in WW1
Saxoniacamo
Saxonia in Camo

It certainly doesn’t take much imagination to picture the living conditions aboard ship. To make matters worse, they shared the vessel with a couple of dozen horses. There were many complaints about the amount of food that was served to the men. On November 29, some of the men raided the food canteen and this resulted in the Captain of the ship relenting, and increasing the portions given to the men.

Off the coast of Ireland the Saxonia picked up a destroyer escort for the duration of the journey. She arrived safely in Plymouth Harbour on December 1, 1915. For many of these men, it was a return home.

 

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