ss. Euryalus takes the 2nd Victorian Contingent to the Boer War 13.01.1900


Some of the Officers of the 2nd Victorian Rifles who departed Melbourne on ss. Euryalus


ss. Euryalus (date unknown)

On Thursday, December 21st 1899, the Victorian Cabinet decided to accept the offer of Messrs. A. Currie and Company, of the steamer Euryalus, 3800 tons, to take the 2nd Victorian Rifles to Capetown. This was to be Victoria's contribution to the 2nd contingent sent to the 2nd Boer War from Australia. It should be remembered that this is prior to federation so each of the colonies had their own defence force and defence minister.

The men were roused in the Flemington camp at 4.a.m Friday (12.01.1900) and rode out of the camp at 9.a.m. The members of the 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles then rode through Melbourne, on, their way to the Euryalus.

There was a fair crowd of people in the streets who cheered lustily as the contingent passed. The men rode four abreast, but as some of them were in charge of lead horses and the majority had difficulty in controlling their own mounts, which, being country bred, did not view the trams with much favor, and exhibited a tendency to back away from them on the footpath, their formation was anything but perfect.

On arrival at Port Melbourne the troops lined up in front of the railway station. Then, the men having dismounted, the horses were led in single file along the pier to the side of the vessel. They were divested of their saddles and equipment, and they were walked on board. From the side of the ship to the pier a strong gangway had been erected, so that the horses could walk straight on to the vessel's deck. It was then that the real difficulty of the embarkation began. The horses had little objection to walking up stair's, but he usually entered a vigorous protest against walking into the hold of the ship by running backwards down the incline which he had just climbed.

It did not take many experiences of this sort to teach the four riflemen detailed to shove the horses on board that some means would have to be taken to prevent the animals from accomplishing a successful backward rush. The difficulty was now over come in a singularly effectual manner. As soon as the horse reached the summit of the incline the four men rushed in from behind and, seizing hold, of the animal's hind quarters, lifted him bodily on to the down ward pathway. As long as the horses kept going there was no need to adopt these forcible measures, but as soon as a block occurred the obstructionist was hustled along the gangway in no half-hearted way. With the horses now loaded the men embarked to spend the night on Euryalus.

Loading the horses in Port Melbourne

2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles march through Melbourne

While the embarkation was in progress an accident happened to one of the spectators, a young woman named Lydia Elmore of Penshurst, she had gone down to see her brother Private Ernest Elmore, one of the departing soldiers. There was an immense crowd on the pier, and the young lady in question was pushed over the side at the shore end. She fell heavily on to the sandy beach below, fracturing her knee. The girl was transported to the Melbourne hospital.

The next morning the contingent marched up to Victoria Barracks to join the compliment of the Barracks for a parade through the streets of Melbourne in honour of the contingents departure. The the contingent, escorted by the whole available strength of the Defence Force, was marched to the entrance gate of Government House shortly after 2 p.m.. (in those days, before the Shrine of Remembrance was built, the entrance was opposite Victoria barracks) where they were reviewed by the retiring Victorian Governor Lord Brassey, His Lordship wished the men God speed, and thanked them for their patriotic service. Then he and Lady Brassy's coach led the parade as the contingent marched through the city.


The parade went down St Kilda Road, passed through Swanston Street, left into Collins Street, left again into Market Street. Upon reaching Queen's Bridge Lord Brassey left the procession and drove to Port Melbourne, where he embarked on the yacht Sunbeam and ready to take part in the marine part of the farewell. The contingent continued across the Queens Bridge and down Queens bridge street, before turning right to make their way to Euryalus at The Port Melbourne Railway Pier (now Station Pier), the entire route being lined by thousands of well wishers. Lord Brassey who was leaving that very day went aboard his personal yacht "Sunbeam" to start his voyage home.

At 4.45 the steamer Euryalus, under the command of Capt Colin McDonald, cast off her lines. As the band played Auld Lang Syne, some of the troops on the wharf cheered, others presented arms, the vessel gradually drew away from the pier taking 15 Officers, 250 other ranks, 305 horses and 6 wagons off to war.

Euryalus was escorted down the Bay by the steamer Pateena bearing the members of the Ministry and of both Houses of Parliament. Many other vessels and yachts joined in the festivities by lining both sides of the channel while the Sunbeam, Euryalus, Cerberus, and accompanying vessels passed between them.

ss. Euryalus pulls away from the Railway Pier

ss. Euryalus steams down Port Phillip Bay

Transcripts of some of the letters from the contingent an be read HERE. Saddler-Sergeant Allinson wrote home to say the contingent were much gratified with the send off accorded them. " It was fit for royalty." Many of the letters say that sea sickness was very prevalent those first couple of days at sea.

This is not surprising considering most of the soldiers had probably never been on a ship before with many of the country boys not having even seen a beach or the sea. In Merchant Marine circles the voyage from Melbourne to Adelaide is known as “The horror stretch”, ships tend to roll very badly as you are beam on (side on) to the continuous swell that rolls up from the Southern Ocean. Saddler-Sergeant Allinson also notes that after leaving Melbourne “About half the men were down with sea sickness and next morning an officer could be seen trying to find a bugler fit to sound the reveille".

On Sunday the 14th the weather was fine though there was still a heavy swell. Euryalus passed Cape Nelson at 2 p.m. signalling the lighthouse keeper there, "Thanks for adieus. All well. Goodbye."

On Monday (15.01.1900) the Captain advised Euryalus had steamed 302 miles in the past 24 hours. Dining arrangements for the Officers were as follows: - at the Captains table the Master had the Colonel and the Adjutant on his right, and the Chaplain Dr Wray and Surgeon Major Honman on his left. The chief mate sat at the head of the second table, with the lieutenants around him. The troops sighted of a school of whales which helped to break the monotony of ship board life for some.

Tuesday (16.01.1900) Euryalus put another 285 miles behind her the previous day. Despite the wind freshening towards the evening and the ship "pitching a bit" many of the men had their sea legs and were able to do a little drill, though under difficulties as it was a most difficult task to keep the line due to the motion of the ship.

There was an abundance of good food, plenty of fruit (although one letter notes an inadequate method of distribution), a piano, and large collection of books for the use of the men. Capain McDonald held several evenings of "limelight views" with his magic lantern (slide projector). One of his slide shows was called "The Voyage of the Sunbeam", Captain McDonald had some years previously, been the Sailing Master of Lord Brassey's yacht and it would appear he was quite the photographer.

Wednesday (17.01.1900) 262 miles steamed. It had been a fairly rough night with a heavy sea, the ship rolling and pitching, but weather was otherwise fine.

The horses aboard Euryalus

No 3 Coy 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles on Euryalus

Thursday (18.01.1900) About 6 a.m. Euryalus passed a Dutch full-rigged three-masted ship, and exchanged signals. also saw the liner Argus in the distance.

Euryalus passed Breaksea island at 3 p.m before making an unsheduled call in to Albany at 5 p.m.. Euralus hove to in the Sound and landed two men via the Pilot vessel. Trooper Ratcllffe who had been discharged for insubordination (refusing to be vaccinated), and Trooper Wilkinson, who was suffering from rheumatism and was taken to the hospital. The opportunity was also taken to land many letters and telegrams, the ship then resumed her voyage. On leaving Albany the ship rolled a good deal, going over as much as 22 degrees or so it is claimed. The Warrigul left Melbourne on the third of January with the N.S.W Contingent on board, ten days ahead of Euryalus, but it was advised she was only 54 hours ahead on leaving Albany.

A little inter-colonial rivalry came to the fore here. Captain McDonald announced he was going to attempt to overhaul the Warrigul and believed he would do in the course of about eight days. The band started practising " The ship we left behind us," and other appropriately derisive tunes.

Friday (19.01.1900) A French sailing vessel, a quarter of a mile distant, signalled to Euryalus "Good luck, well done Australia”. Cigar parade was held at 9 a m., 2 cigars for each man was issued; this parade was to be held daily. The captain had another magic lantern show.

Saturday (20.01.1900) The troops we went through a course of volley firing in the afternoon.

Sunday (21.01.1900) At 11 a.m. there was a church parade. The current position of Euryalus at 12 noon was , Lat 32=35S. ; Long. 102=31E. Euryalus had steamed 810 miles since leaving Albany and still had 4070 miles to steam before reaching Cape Town.

A Section of the 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles

COL Tom Price saying goodbye at Cape Town

Monday (22.01.1900) Holy Communion at 9:15a.m. on the promenade deck, 12 attendees. Laundry parade today. Still quite a lot of me suffering from vaccination complications.

Tuesday (23.01.1900) At 10 a.m. the Colonel,Surgeon-Major Honman and Dr Wray accompanied Captain McDonald on the daily inspection of the ship. In the evening Captain McDonald again gave another interesting lantern show this time called "Scotland".

There was so many men down from the effects of the vaccination that Captain McDonald moved his sleeping quarters to the chart room. Major Honman and Dr Wray moved into the Captains cabin and their cabin was used for the sick troopers.

At 10.45 that evening the electric lights went out and there was a great commotion amongst the horses. There was a racket of stamping and neighing till the picket togeather with some officers and other men got to them and quietened them down.

Wednesday (24.01.1900) At noon Euryalus passed close under the stern of the "Rhine", an English full rigged sailing ship out of New York bound for Calcutta. This caused great excitement. The buglers mustered in the bow, the officers on the bridge, the band on the saloon deck, and the men aft.

The buglers saluted her first—the band played "Soldiers of the Queen," and officers and men cheered. The ship replied, and Euryalus continued for the Cape.

Thursday 25.01.1900 Full dress parade and inspection of kits was ordered this morning. Weather was rather warm in the middle of the day with Whales seen at odd times in the distance, porpoise, flying fish, and threshers. Euryalus was now steaming due west along the 30th parallel.

Friday (26.01.1900) A.N.A. Day (now called Australia Day). Ships time is currently five hours ahead of Melbourne time. The run of 306 miles in the previous 24 hours was Euryalus's best run to date. Another lantern show "London" given by Captain McDonald that evening.

Saturday (27.01.1900) Steamed 304 miles. Day spent on squad drill, mainly ambulance work which proved to be most satisfactory.

Sunday (28.01.1900) 294 miles steamed, Rained heavilly at 3 a.m. and again at 6 a.m. , Surgeon-Major Honman taking this opportunity to have a shower in the rain on the promenade deck.Holy communion in the saloon at 9:15 a.m. with 23 in attendance, the church parade at 11 a.m. was a full muster.

Monday (05.02.1900) Euryalus arrived in Cape Town, despite leaving Melbourne 10 days Prior to Euryalus, Warrigul arrived in Cape Town only 4 hours before her.

Tuesday (06.02.1900) Euryalus was visited by Lord Roberts, VC, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, VD, PC, FRSGS. He sent the following telegram to the Victorian Premier Mr McLean:-

Cape Town, Feb. 6.

"I had the greatest pleasure of personally welcoming here to-day the second contingent of the Victorian Mounted Rifles. I wish to express to your Excellency my high appreciation of the patriotic spirit which has led our fellow subjects in Australia to send such a useful and workman like body of men to assist in the work of restoring peace, order, and freedom in South Africa."

In writing to Major-General Downer, Colonel Price remarks that the food on board the Euryalus Is, "If possible, too good." This Is satisfactory, and goes to show that Archibald Currie and Co. are determined not to be beaten by the owners of the Medic ( Ed note: Medic transported the 1st Contingent).

Euryalus Sailed from Cape Town 09.02.1900 for her return journey to Melbourne to embark the 3rd Victorian Bushmen.

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