The First World War Memoirs of Sampson J. Goodfellow, Part 3: Across the Atlantic

I’m posting the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law, Sampson J. Goodfellow, a few pages at a time…

(Part 1. Part 2.)

Up at 6:00 a.m., had breakfast and paraded my guard to the Hurricane Deck on port side to have them inspected. The men from other companies got the devil but mine didn’t.

Left St. Johns at 5:15 p.m. and lights out at 9:00 p.m., out into the Atlantic Ocean but our boat anchored at Halifax at 4:20 a.m.

We were on the Metagama; and in the Bay was the Olympic Lapland and the Empress of Britain.

The boys have named their passage way, Yonge St. and Hogan’s Alley; and Lizzie Lane is quite near.

The gossip was that we were to be there until the 28th.

I was appointed Fire Corporal for the 3rd Division Supply Column. We had a trial maneuver.

In case of fire on the ship, I had to run as fast as I could to the bridge to the senior Lieut. Colonel and Captain of the ship; which I did. They then gave me a written order to take to Major Mayall and he then explained my duties.

After I left him, I began to think that I will be like the Captain; if we are torpedoed then I must go down with the ship. “I guess my life is not worth a tinker’s damn.”

We left Halifax on Wednesday the 26th at 4:00 p.m. heading into a very rough Ocean.

The boat rocked from side to side and the bow plunged until the water was over the forward deck.

Of course, we were all seasick.

I was placed on the Athletic Committee that Sergeant Hamilton was heading to have different sports for the troops.

The men were late for the 2:00 p.m. parade and had to do fatigue the following day; I was the Ship’s Corporal for that night as it was our D.S.C. guard. I picked out 36 men and they certainly kicked.

We had Church parade Sunday, April 30, and the Chaplain of the 63rd preached a good sermon.

We were in the danger section of the Ocean.

The Warship had left us and then our Convoy was joined by four Torpedo Boats.

They are wonderful boats which can turn on their own length. They stayed with us, as we were rerouted to North of Ireland between Ireland and Scotland and then went to Liverpool. I saw lots of places I had read about in Sir Walter Scott’s books.

The Empress of Britain, an 18,000-ton boat, had 4,500 troops on board; the Metagama, a 13,000-ton boat, had 1,700 troops.

The Torpedo boats were so swift that they could circle the Convoy in a few minutes.

While on board, a soldier of the 63rd asked if he could box me. He weighed 240 lb and I was only a lightweight, 135 lbs. I said, “No Chance.” If he ever hit me he would knock me into the Ocean.

Everyone started making remarks that got under my skin, for I knew it was a put-up job.

I said, “O.K., I will box him.” I think everyone on the ship was there to see me beat up.

It was to be three rounds.

We put on the gloves and the referee gave the signal to start.

He made a lunge at me but I jumped out of the way. I gave him a good punch on the chin. He shook his head and went at me again. I smashed him on the nose and he started bleeding. This went on all the first round.

His second gave him instructions for the second round. I moved backwards and he chased me all over the ring. Every time he lunged at me, I wasn’t there. I gave him black eyes, and he could hardly see. The referee stopped the fight. Then who wanted a go at me, but a loader in our outfit who was a Hamilton Tiger Rugby Player.

I said, “O.K.” We only went two rounds when again the referee stopped the fight.

We went below together and he asked me why I had to hit him so hard; and I asked him why he hit me so hard. The skin on the roof of my mouth was lying on my tongue. That pleased him. He did not like me because I had turned him down as a driver on account of not having any mechanical knowledge so it was a grudge fight.

One day in France, after we had taken Vimy Ridge, some of us had a day to ourselves.

We decided to go swimming in the Scarpe River which was near Arras. The banks were high and those of us that could swim ran along the Bank and dove into the water.

The same chap who had boxed me did the same thing. He could not swim and started to drown. I was afraid to go after him as he was so strong, but I went down the bank to the water. I saw that a root of a tree was sticking out like a rope so I grabbed it and went into the water. He grabbed my ankle and I pulled him out. I asked him why he jumped in when he could not swim. He said if I could do it, he wanted to do the same.

We were up at 4:30 a.m. and reached Liverpool on May 4, 1916. I had a look inside one of the Torpedo Boats. They were all engine.

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