Corporal-Bugler Akins made, perhaps, the speech of the evening, and struck the right note in describing the disappointment he felt in not being picked for the first contingent, and in his expression of sympathy for the three volunteers who had, on this occasion, not been chosen...."
He was also given a patriotic send off from his fellow staff members of the Union Bank 5 -
On the eve of your departure with the second Victorian Contingent of Volunteers, for active service in South Africa, we, your brother Officers in The UNION BANK of AUSTRALIA Ltd. STAWELL, ask your acceptance of the accompanying small souvenir of the high esteem in which you are held by us, and of our appreciation of your action in making one to assist in upholding the honor of the Great Empire to which we belong.
Trusting the little gift will tend to remind you of pleasant days spent in Stawell, and wishing you "GOD SPEED" and a safe return.

S.S.EuryalusAfter spending a period of training in Melbourne, the nine lads from Stawell embarked on the S.S. Euryalus (shown opposite) and set sail for South Africa. As you can imagine, life on board would have been rounds of training and “morale boosting” events. This life is conveyed a little by a letter [somewhat abridged] that Donald Akins wrote to his parents while on board the ship -

S.S. Euryalus
Jany. 31st. 1900

My Dear Father & Mother and to all the family.
We are not at the Cape yet, but I want to have the bulk of my letters written before we get there, so I am making an early start in writing to you. Of course I will keep it open until the last minute, in case any fresh news turns up, so if this letter appears a little erratic, you will understand the cause.
One thing that speaks well for the boat is, that so far we have not lost a single horse. Of course there are about half a dozen pretty sick, but I fancy they will come around all right. Tell Flo [his sister] that my horse "Mike" is as good a sailor as any of them.
We have plenty of everything to fill up the days. I will give you an outline of the usual days drill. Reveille goes at 6.30am. We dress, wash, & fix up our bunks. Dress for parade goes at 7.15; fall in at 7.30. We have physical exercise without arms for half an hour, & then breakfast is ready. Loaf until dress at 10 o'clock, fall in at 10.30 & drill till 12 o'clock. Dinner. Dress at 2 o'clock, fall in at 2.15 & drill till 4 o'clock. The days work is then over, bed time being at 9 o'clock. Not too much, but just enough to make the trip enjoyable. Of course the drill differs every day, except lately.
Lately we have been having a big dose of bayonet exercise. There is a competition in two or three days from now, & we are doing our best to get in form. I will let you know later on how it goes. Two teams come from each division, so that there are to be plenty of competitors. I am chosen in the first twelve of our lot, so that I hope to be able to tell you later on that I am in the winning team. Of course I am Private Akins now, as I could not get my plate fixed at Albany. However it will be done as soon as we get over there, when I hope to get my rank as bugler back again. I will have a hard try for it, & will let you know how I get on in a later letter. When I reported the matter, I thought I was in for a good dressing down, but not a word was said to me. I am afraid my letter is rather mixed up, but I have so much to say, that I hardly know how to write.

We have plenty of amusements on board, amongst them being the boxing gloves, single sticks, cards, singing, also concerts, one of which we are to have tonight, and the Captain of the boat fills in an odd evening with a lot of views from a magic lantern. He has given two shows and is also going to give another. They are really splendid, as he has a big stock of pictures. We have plenty of all kinds of reading, as the chaplain has opened a library. There are all sorts of books, from Shakespeare down to Deadwood Dicks, and as for illustrated papers and magazines, well they are almost in the road, but having no roads here, that cannot be. We have a regular institution in the form of a daily paper. It is published by the first mate. It gives our position daily, our distance from Albany and Cape Town, & the distance of the daily run. It is very good, and causes many a good laugh. Another paper was started in opposition, but its existence only lasted two publications. The name of our paper is the Ocean Times.

We have a really good band on board. Instruments were presented to the contingent before we left, and now we have a first class band. The excellence of the band is due, I have no doubt, to my being side drummer. I am coming on well, having held the position for over two weeks. The other drummer was given the shoot on account of not being able to play.
We also have a choir, of which I am also a member. In fact, I feel that I am becoming a leading public citizen, if that is the right term. But we really have a very fine choir, the Chaplain himself being choir master. There are about thirty members in it altogether, and I am included in the bass singers. Our chaplain is one of the finest men I have ever met. I don't think I was ever more taken with a man, and it is the same with all on board. It is really a pleasure to hear him speak, and I go to evening church which is held three nights a week, just for the sake of hearing him speak.
Every one on board still has a good heart, & like myself are not sorry for having gone in for the undertaking. But of course we all look forward to the time when we will be able to return to our homes. I see a lot of all the Stawell boys, and all of my spare time is with them all, especially Jack Goodwin. Soon as duty is over, Jack & I get together.

I forgot to tell you in my last letter that when I got on board, I found a telegram waiting for me from Dr.Syme. It wished me good bye and good luck from himself & Mrs.Syme. I was very much surprised indeed, and a very pleasant surprise it was to get it. Be sure to give him my very best thanks for his good wishes and kind remembrance. Everybody on board is about recovered from their vaccination, but a great many had a bad time while it lasted. In a lot of cases it affected then men's legs & feet, so much so that a great many could not walk. For myself I got on splendidly, & am well over it.
Today we had paper & envelopes, and ink pencils issued to us. This letter is written on the paper, & you will see that it has the name of Tuson of Ararat on it. He presented a big quantity of it for the use of the contingent, & it came in very handy, as everybody was running short of paper. We have a daily issue of 2 cigars to each man, and now & again a plug of tobacco. We do not get any cigarettes for nothing, although we can get sixpenny packets for threepence. The box of cigarettes that the dad got for me came in very handy indeed, and lasted me up to a couple of days ago.

A great institution on board is washing day. We have one a week, when we wash our overalls & underclothing. The dress on washing day is bear (sic) skin, or as one of the men said, "Nothing, with side arms". The only bath we can get, is to get up early when the niggers [prior to the days of “political correctness”] are hoseing (sic) the decks, & to let them turn it on you. We have about two parades a week barefooted, when the doctors examine our feet. We also have to drill now & again without boots or socks, so as to harden our feet. There are a dozen magazine rifles on board, the same as are to be issued to us when we reach S.A. We have all had a turn at drilling & shooting with them. They are grand little rifles, & have a range of sight up to 2800 yards. They have a magazine to hold the cartridges, which is only to be used in case of necessity. All the drill is changed in connection with the rifle, as having the magazine, the handling of it is different to the Martin Henry. We are to have helmets issued to us in a day or two, in place of the hats we have at present. They are almost exactly the same as the Rangers' helmets, so that I will always have something to remind me of the old company. The uniform looks very much the same as the Rangers now.

Feb 4th 1900
We had a concert last night, which was the best that has been held. It was due, no doubt, to my rendering of "Like his Father". No encores were allowed, or else I might have still been going. The Colonel also sang what he termed the "Regimental Song". He was very good & lively, & you can guess that there was plenty of applause, but he would not respond a second time. They hold the concerts where the guard is on duty so that I was there to hear every item.
In the last two days we have lost three horses. They are the only ones so far, & we are all hoping that they will be the last. The Captain of the boat hoped to get through without losing one, but we had a little bit of rough weather, which finished off the most sickly ones. We received our helmets today, but I believe we are to receive others when we land. The ones issued are not proof against the sun, as the back does not come down as far as the rangers do. While I am writing there is a sailing vessel in sight, but she is right away on the horizon, being too far away for us to speak to. The bayonet competition came off the day before yesterday, but we did not have the luck to win. My team tied for second place, so that we were not far out.

In fact the Colonel was in favour of placing us first, but the other two judges thought different, so we only came in second with another team. We have changelled (sic) the winning team, and I hope we will have the luck to down them. My division is the leading one of the whole contingent. When we came on board, we were number four but since then we have been promoted to number one.

I have a grand officer over me, Lieut Bruce. If I had my choice, I would pick him before any of the others. Taking them all around, the officers are as fine a lot as you could wish. The guard I was on with yesterday was composed of men all from my division. We got credit of being the best & cleanest guard turned out since leaving Melb. so that was not too bad. We made up our minds to have a big try for the best guard, & so everything was as clean as could be.

Rem. me to Captain Isaacson, Lieut Stanton, & all of the Rangers. I am not writing separate letters to Harry, & the rest of the family just now, as I can give all the news in this letter. I hope mother does not worry about me being away, as there is nothing to worry about, as I am having a really good time. I send my very, very best love to all at home, & am looking forward to sitting together with all of you some day, which will soon come, as the time will soon pass away. I must now close on account of the Cook house call, with my love to you all, from your very aff. son & brother.
(Signed) Don G. Akins


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED - All material used on this site is copyright - No photographs or other material may be used without the express written permission of the web master - 2014