Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Mrs Chaldecott’s Sea Voyage Continues

Telegram from Evelyn Beatrice Chaldecott [Z186/13]

Wednesday 27th January 1915: Mrs Evelyn Beatrice Chaldecott has sent more news of her sea voyage to India to her mother in Bedford. They had a rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay during which she and her four year old son Gilbert were both sick as the ship “pitched and rolled and then gave horrid corkscrew motions”; mercifully the French governess was fine and looked after both of them and also the little girl in the next cabin whose nurse and grandmother were both ill and whose mother had a small baby to care for. Poor little Gilbert had a pain and whimpered “I wish there was no sea and no boats”. The weather had since improved and they were able to spend time on deck. Except for the early dinner and the shortage of space in the saloon she does not mind being second class on such a luxurious boat. The food is quite good and the cabins are better than first class on the City Line. There is a large fan in their cabin free of charge, which normally cost a guinea extra.

On Sunday 10th they stopped at Malta from 8am until 3pm and were all able to go ashore. They drove out to some gardens and saw orange and lemon groves. As she did not want to take Gilbert among the crowds they stayed inside a “horrid little carriage without springs” and found Malta disappointing – “bare and brown and dusty”. As passengers have left the ship there are plenty of empty cabins so Mademoiselle Coller was given a two-berth cabin of her own and she and Gilbert had their cabin to themselves. They received Marconi News each day but no casualty lists. She hopes they “are not very awful”.

As the journey progressed Mrs Chaldecott made an “awful discovery”. At first she had thought that the governess was asking for a little brandy each day to ward off seasickness but the woman’s behaviour increasingly aroused her suspicions. After Mademoiselle got her own cabin things “went on more smoothly” until the Wednesday before they landed when her temper and rudeness were intolerable. She discovered from the chief steward that the governess had bought three bottles of brandy, various other drinks, and the stewardess took a bottle of beer to her cabin each night. For final confirmation she took the ship’s doctor to the woman’s cabin. “She knew she was caught and was simply furious, sobbed and cried and said I was very unkind and told all sorts of lies … He said of course she had been drinking heavily and was evidently an old hand and he fancied she took drugs too”. When they arrived at Bombay on 22nd January she was obliged to send Mademoiselle Coller home by the next boat, the Arabia which left the following day.

Source: Letters from Evelyn Beatrice Chaldecott to Mrs Cochrane-Forster, Z186/10-14

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