Mt Clarence (for spectacular views of St George’s Sound)
Desert Mounted Corps Memorial
Mt Clarence Memorial Precinct
Albany WA, 6330
On 1 November 1914 a great fleet of thirty-eight transport ships assembled in King George Sound, off the coast of Albany in Western Australia, with seven warships as escorts. They came from Australia and New Zealand, gathering to travel in convoy via Ceylon and the Suez Canal to training camps in Egypt. From there servicemen would be directed to the various theatres of war.
From Mt Clarence, a high point above Albany, local people watched the transports and their escorts assemble, filling the Sound with ships.
Once the ships were anchored in the Sound, efforts were made to keep the enlisted men fit and healthy. ‘Shore leave’ caused occasional consternation when energetic young men who had been cooped up on crowded transports were liberated to enjoy a little freedom along Albany’s esplanade.
There were also more formal activities on land. The walk up the escarpment to high points such as Mt Clarence proved popular with the officers and men.
Letters home and the official War Diaries of the 8th Battalion record the trials of men, mostly from Victoria’s Western District, who had steamed from Melbourne on the Benalla. On November 3, as they approached their rendezvous point in King George Sound, Private Taylor wrote:
Wind is blowing a hurricane and the sea is very rough. The port holes have to be kept closed. It’s terribly stuffy down below. I feel as though a mouse is running around in my stomach … (Cobbers in Khaki, Ron Austin p. 16)
Ron Austin describes the 8th Battalion landing from the jetty at Albany to ‘stretch their legs by going on a route march’. He also notes their remarkable appearance when they came back to the jetty to return to the Benalla – for many, their last contact with Australia:
When a halt was called many of the men picked [wild] flowers and made themselves garlands to hang around their necks. Unfortunately no photograph records the sight of the 8th Battalion bedecked with wild flowers as it arrived back at the pier. (Austin p. 14)
Cobbers in Khaki: The History of the 8th Battalion 1914–1918, Ron Austin, Slouch Hat Publications, especially chapter 2.
Albany Convoy Commemorative Events 2014–2018: http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au/program/faq.htm
Troopships: First World War: http://www.awm.gov.au/research/infosheets/troopship_ww1/
Albany, November 1914: http://www.anzacalbany.com.au/discover-ww1-albany/albany-november-1914/
Film & Sound
This footage of the departure of the transports from Albany, roughly cut together, records not only the departure of troops, but also the formidable appearance of the armada of ships that carried them: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F00161/