5th June

"On June 5th at 4am we started on our voyage to North Russia, from Victoria Docks, London. We are part of the North Russian Relief Expeditionary force and our unit is the Hospital Corps. The boat on which we sailed is one of the Belle Company boats, ours the London Belle, and another which sailed with us, the Walton Belle. These boats are fitted out as River Hospital Carriers. The London Belle had 165 beds, the Walton not quite so many.

"The fitting out of these paddle steamers incurred great expense, everything being done to ensure the comfort of the patients. If only some consideration had been shown for the crew and sick berth ratings, life on board would have been lived with some degree of comfort. Apparently such mundane thoughts did not trouble the Admiralty, hence, from the very start, all loudly expressed dissatisfaction and dissentions were the order of the day.

"The provisioning arrangements too were most unsatisfactory and gave a conclusive instance of government mismanagement. We were not a day out of port before we were out of bread. The boat was tied up to a buoy off Sheerness, and myself, with two others of our staff, went ashore to buy food. Another cause of complaint was the utter lack of washing accommodation. This was particularly inconvenient for the stokers, and greasers, who had to bathe every time they came off duty. At last a couple of buckets were found. There were no brooms or brushes provided, indeed nothing was served out to us for cleanliness and comfort.

The London Belle
The London Belle, possibly during its days as a pleasure craft. (Courtesy Simplon Postcards)