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Remembered Today:

Route from Cherbourg to Taranto to Alexandria


Fraggle

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Hi, I'm tracing my great uncle's steps who was a medic in the war. He was sent to the base hospital at Alexandria in 1918, and the details of his journey are from Sthampton on the 'Arbrcath' on 15/6, disembarking at Cherbourg on 16th. Then re embarking on the 'Canberra' in Taranto on 25th to get to the base hospital in Alexandria on 29th.

Would be interested in the route probably taken from Cherbourg to Taranto, have checked the direct route on a map, but am not sure if anything was direct in those days.

Also his record says he joined Depot and then it has the name Kautara???? next to it-can't find on map with the following info- To 11 Ind Sam Sec for duty.

Then ???Davids Hospital at somewhere that looks like Surafend.

Any info on any of this would be gratefully received,

cheers

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Fraggle

I think it's Kantara. The 11 Ind(ian?)(ependant?)San(itary?) Section.

The ship on the 15th June is the Arbroath.

Surafend is (was) in Palestine.

The route from Cherbourg (a seaport)could have been a transhipment to another vessel by sea to Taranto (a seaport on an island-Sicily). Could equally have been overland to Marseilles and a ship from there to Taranto !

Sotonmate

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Hello Fraggle

Cherbourg to Taranto was an overland rail route which was considered safer from German attack and also did away with the need for long distance shipping.

The basic route was Cherbourg - Tours - Bourges - Lyons - Modane (on Italian frontier) - Turin - Piacenza - Bologna - Rimini and then down the Italian east coast to Brindisi, then across to Taranto on the "instep" of the Italian mainland. From there, men and supplies could be shipped to Alexandria or Salonika as needs required. It was known as the "Mediterranean L of C".

There ere various other linked routes from the north of France (particularly le Havre) through or round Paris and on to Lyons, then south to Marseilles whence they followed the Italian west coast down to Rome and Salerno, then overland to Taranto.

Information from the Maps volume of "Transportation on the Western Front," an extra volume of the Official History.

Kantara (or Qantara nowadays) is just east of the Suez Canal, not far from Ismailia.

Ron

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Then ???Davids Hospital at somewhere that looks like Surafend.

Could that be King David's Hospital?

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  • 8 years later...
On 04/02/2009 at 16:19, Ron Clifton said:

Hello Fraggle

Cherbourg to Taranto was an overland rail route which was considered safer from German attack and also did away with the need for long distance shipping.

The basic route was Cherbourg - Tours - Bourges - Lyons - Modane (on Italian frontier) - Turin - Piacenza - Bologna - Rimini and then down the Italian east coast to Brindisi, then across to Taranto on the "instep" of the Italian mainland. From there, men and supplies could be shipped to Alexandria or Salonika as needs required. It was known as the "Mediterranean L of C".

There ere various other linked routes from the north of France (particularly le Havre) through or round Paris and on to Lyons, then south to Marseilles whence they followed the Italian west coast down to Rome and Salerno, then overland to Taranto.

Information from the Maps volume of "Transportation on the Western Front," an extra volume of the Official History.

Kantara (or Qantara nowadays) is just east of the Suez Canal, not far from Ismailia.

Ron

 

Further to Ron's post, while researching something else, I found these handy diagrams of the Mediterranean Line of Communication from  Cherbourg to Taranto used from spring 1917 to service the Salonika/Macedonia and Egypt/Palestine theatres after German U-boat action made the sea route from Marseilles too dangerous.

 

They're from the Official History Medical Services Volume III, Chapter XVIII, facing pages 328 & 329 ...

 

594c74daa95b4_OHMedicalServicesIIIChXVIII-MediterraneanLoCfacingp328.jpg.843c8d04835fff113568006022db3a15.jpg  594c74d982874_OHMedicalServicesIIIChXVIII-MediterraneanLoCfacingp329.jpg.73626a630d6ddc69914279a2e92c72bb.jpg

 

The accompanying text in the OH gives much more detail.

Cheers,

Mark

 

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  • 1 month later...

Does anyone know of a length of tunnel on one of these routes that took 28 minutes to go through in 1917?  I have just read my grandad's letter of 100 years ago today and found him on this route, after the railway had followed the contours round lakes and other beautiful scenery.

 

He had left Southampton on 18th July and on 23rd was in a "sunny rest camp" in a country where the bread was sold by the yard.  I had previously believed he must have sailed from Marseille but with the tunnel reference and the info in this thread now think it was through the Alps and into Italy.

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10 hours ago, Stuart T said:

Does anyone know of a length of tunnel on one of these routes that took 28 minutes to go through in 1917?  I have just read my grandad's letter of 100 years ago today and found him on this route, after the railway had followed the contours round lakes and other beautiful scenery.

 

He had left Southampton on 18th July and on 23rd was in a "sunny rest camp" in a country where the bread was sold by the yard.  I had previously believed he must have sailed from Marseille but with the tunnel reference and the info in this thread now think it was through the Alps and into Italy.

 

Not all traffic on the Mediterranean Line of Communication went Turin to Modane through the Frejus Railway Tunnel (as per map above).  Some traffic kept to the coast via Marseilles and Genoa rejoining at Bologna, so did not really penetrate the Alps.  However there were several long tunnels further south in the Appenines.  Here are details of the route (south to north) from the Civil Service Rifles unit history:

 

Quote

  The first part of the journey was practically along the seashore and there was nothing of special note about the scenery. Halts were made at Bari, Foggia, Termoli and Castellammare, which town was reached about 1 p.m. on the 25th. By the following midday we had reached Rimini, having passed through Ancona and Pesaro en route. As far as Rimini the scenery had not been above the average of the coastal scenery of Kent or Sussex, but shortly after leaving the town the railroad branched inland towards Faenza; and on this part of the journey the scenery was beautiful, the countryside being rich with summer flowers of bright colours, while the perfect blue of the sky overhead added to the richness of the colour scheme. Faenza was reached by 4 p.m. on the 25th June, and a long halt was made in a siding and men were permitted to leave the train and stretch their legs a little. Hitherto the halts had been short and just long enough to permit the issue of hot tea which had been prepared at wayside cookhouses previous to our arrival. At Faenza the long halt of several hours permitted officers to visit the town, where a decent meal was procured at one of the hotels. Time also enabled many of us to purchase and send home as souvenirs, pieces of artistic pottery for which the town is noted. Early in the evening the journey was resumed, and our next halt was made in the large station of Bologna, just after 8 p.m., when we caught a passing glimpse of the quaint Cathedral and University in the town. The people on the station cheered us as the train pulled up; a decided change from the apathetic gaze which had been our greeting from the southern Italians. While standing in the station a long ambulance train full of wounded Italian troops drew up alongside our train and fraternising between the two armies commenced, cigarettes and souvenirs were exchanged, and when the hospital train moved out we gave a hearty cheer to our wounded allies. A short time afterwards our train steamed out of Bologna, and by dawn the following morning we were passing through the glorious mountain scenery of Northern Italy. The train wended its way along deep valleys and pierced through the long tunnels which are numerous in the Apennines. The route taken was through Novi Ligure, Ronco [Scrivia] to Sampierdarina, just west of Genoa; the railway skirting the city at this part of the journey. During the afternoon of the 27th we halted at Savona where an enthusiastic crowd gathered and cheered us; no doubt thinking that the Battalion was part of the British Forces which had so materially assisted the Italians in their recent victories on the Trentino Front. We did not disillusion these kind people and accepted their flowers, fruits and, cigarettes. From Savona the journey was continued along the sea shore, and we enjoyed the beauty of the calm, blue, sunlit Mediterranean on our left, and on the other hand the steep cliffs covered with bright flowers and dotted here and there with pretty little towns and beautiful gardens. At 11 p.m. that night the train pulled up at Ventimiglia, the frontier station where certain international formalities were gone through by the railway officials. However, such things did not worry us, and we spent the halt in the railway refreshment cafés and buffets. Unfortunately, the beauties of the Mentone-Cannes Riviera were passed at night-time and the only excitement of the night was the gamble in most carriages while we were passing Monte Carlo. Early on the morning of the 28th June we reached the outskirts of Marseilles. The railway ran along the north-eastern side of the town on high ground, and a splendid view of the harbour and city was obtained. From this point the route went northwards via Miramas, Avignon, where we crossed the Rhone to Le Tiel, which town we reached at 10.30 p.m. that night, and obtained an excellent meal at the railway buffet. The rest of the beauty of the Rhone Valley, which many of us had enjoyed some eighteen months previously, was lost in the darkness. Lyons was passed early the next morning, but it was sufficiently light to obtain a splendid view of the city and its bridges, which had been denied us in the outward journey to the East. After passing through St. Germains au Mont D’or the railway branched off to the west and a long halt was made at Paray-le-Monial, giving us the opportunity of exploring the quaint provincial French town for about an hour, when the journey was again resumed. During the night we passed through Moulins, Nevers, and Gien, and on this part of the trip we passed a train containing the London Scottish which had been delayed owing to a fire breaking out in one of the trucks. During the morning of the 30th June we arrived near Versailles about 10 a.m., at which point the network of railways is extremely intricate and hopes of passing through Paris were high at one moment when we appeared to be travelling towards the capital, only to be dashed to the ground the next when the train shot over the points in quite a different direction. Over this network of railway lines outside Versailles the train halted, shunted, went forward, moved backwards until we became quite bewildered as to the real direction of Paris, but when we eventually passed through the station of Poissy it was settled once and for all that we were not going near Paris. The day was beautifully warm and every one was getting tired of this long train journey with its constant jolting, when the train pulled up miles from nowhere. Every one descended from the train to the fields alongside and enjoyed a “leg stretch.” The signal was against us, and in spite of the frantic whistle of the engine it did not fall. None of the railway officials could account for the stoppage, so we enjoyed the freedom of the fields for about two hours. Eventually, however, the shrill whistle of the engine warned us that the journey was to be continued, and as the train slowly moved, every one made a dash for their truck. Every one was present except two officers, and we all worried about their apparent predicament or even perhaps their desertion. However, about a mile further up the line the train pulled up and the two truants appeared. Apparently they had gone off to a village further up the line in search of luxuries in the shape of eggs, butter, fruit, etc., and before leaving had made a compact with the driver (no doubt with the aid of a few francs) to wait for them at a given point if the train was permitted to pass the signal. After this incident the train crawled along until the town of Gisors was reached, and here the explanation of our delay was apparent. The train in front of ours, carrying French troops and transport, had run into a stationary engine in the station, and as the result of the collision, several carriages had been smashed up and the engine derailed, causing casualties among both troops and horses. After some delay, which allowed us to visit the cafés in the town near the station, we proceeded on our journey, and early on the 1st of July we passed through Etaples, where the large British Cemetery brought back to us the real horrors of war after a pleasant journey across the Mediterranean and the long and interesting train ride through Italy and France. From Etaples the journey to Boulogne was through a particularly dull piece of country, and consisted of a continuous line of dumps, hospitals, camps, hutments, ordnance depots, etc.

 

About midday on the 1st of July, 1918, the Battalion detrained at Audricques, a large Royal Engineer locomotive repair depot.

 

 

 

Edited by MBrockway
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Could have been any of these then but at least I know he did not sail from Marseille to Alex.  He was heading for the "Garrison Battalions in Egypt".  Anybody know if that was simply a stepping-off point for Palestine and the upcoming Third Battle of Gaza?

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It could have been, as most of the troops in Palestine came from Egypt rather than landing on the coast of Palestine, but "Garrison Battalions" were units of men who were mainly older and less fit, and were used on defensive duties. This releved fitter and younger troops for front-line duty.

 

Ron

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Thanks.  He was only 27 and at that time, I believe he was fit, although had just trained as a signaller.

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  • 2 months later...

I have now found that Grandad was with the Headquarters Company of the 1st/4th Northants and almost up as far as Gaza between 25 Aug 1917 and 6 Oct 1917.

 

I have found a 1993 research note for WO 95/4378 for the Third Echelon at Alexandria which seems to have recorded movements of troopships.  However, no movements are recorded on the right date, so I wonder if troopships for Gaza went into Port Said or maybe somewhere further up the coast.  Any ideas please?

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  • 9 months later...

Very late to this but thanks for clarifying the relationship between brindisi and taranto as far as rail transport is concerned. I have been tracking the route home from gelebek PoW camp in Anatolia taken by my grandad in december 1918. I know that this part of the journey starts in taranto, then a rail journey to calais - dover - london - birkenhead. The detail between taranto (via brindis I think) and calais is missing. If anyone has a railway map for the taranto - calais route i would be delighted!

 

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On 19/10/2017 at 15:25, Stuart T said:

I wonder if troopships for Gaza went into Port Said or maybe somewhere further up the coast.  Any ideas please?

 

Stuart,

I'm sorry that you didn't get a more prompt reply to this,

but the answer must be that troops bound for the Gaza front were landed first in Egypt (at Port Said/Alexandria) from where they would usually be trained to the front or at least as far as Belah Station.

Even later in the campaign (1918) the rail line back to Kantara East was the route taken by troops. There were no deep-water port facilities available to the allies on the Palestine coast. For instance, supplies which came in via Sukerieh had to be transferred to surf boats before they could reach the shore and even the use Jaffa port usually involved transhipment. Haifa may have been a deep water port at that time (?) but it was not captured until late September 1918

 

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Michael, thanks.

I was eventually able to decode some postmarks and found that Grandad definitely landed at Alex. I was even able to name his troopship, thanks to the war diary of the Third Echelon (where he later worked).

 

He went as far as the front line south of Gaza but came back down the line with dysentery before the Third Battle, so the Palestinian ports did not come into play for him anyway.  Knowing the numbers of his CCS and GHs, I have pinpointed his train to the very hour and, yes, he did come back through Kantara.

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Stuart,

I don't think that the train journey across the Sinai would have been particularly comfortable or quick

I've had a look at 'Tracks in the Sand' edited by Catherine & James Foster Dodds, where they reproduce a February 1917 timetable:

eg - Kantara East to El Arish (about 155kms) took eight hours and five minutes!

And that was only part of the way to the Gaza front line

The journey was not always safe either. The book also shows photographs and documents relating to a collision, at Bardawil, between an Ambulance train and a Ration train on 10th April 1917

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This is the war diary for the train, with my red annotations showing when grandad was aboard.  Any idea what AMR was (bottom left)?  It seems that the train from El Arish went to the end of the southern branch to start with, then came back to the junction before proceeding to the Deir el Belah terminus, then straight back home.  It needed a refit at the end of the month!

WO_95_4752_0002 marked.jpg

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Do not know what AMR means but I can tell you that AT was composed of 6 ex-London and South Western Railway carriages that had been sold to the Govt in c1916.  They had been built originally as saloons for the boat trains from Southampton, they were known as Eagle Saloons.  Two still survive in Israel.

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On 14/08/2018 at 14:39, Stuart T said:

Any idea what AMR was (bottom left)?

 

The bottom section appears to be details of the passengers

Offs = Officers

OR = Other Ranks

then nationalities given as: 'Brit', 'Aust' &  'Ind'

In this context then AMR . ORNZ could possibly (?) be short for Auckland Mounted Rifles. Other Ranks New Zealand

but I'm guessing

 

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I thought it was a train stop on the railway line.

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Yes, I think you are right, higher up it has BWI, British West Indies Regt

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Just a minute...............................

I see that AMR appears not only on the bottom entry (3.10.17)

but also on the earlier two (1.10.17 & 2.10.17)

Need to look again at this question

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The AWM website has a number of pictures of AT 6

 

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On 25/07/2017 at 10:31, Stuart T said:

Does anyone know of a length of tunnel on one of these routes that took 28 minutes to go through in 1917?  I have just read my grandad's letter of 100 years ago today and found him on this route, after the railway had followed the contours round lakes and other beautiful scenery.

 

He had left Southampton on 18th July and on 23rd was in a "sunny rest camp" in a country where the bread was sold by the yard.  I had previously believed he must have sailed from Marseille but with the tunnel reference and the info in this thread now think it was through the Alps and into Italy.

Stuart

 

The tunnel is the Mont Cenis tunnel. You can read about it here:

 

http://tinyurl.com/ybs56uo3

 

TR

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11 hours ago, michaeldr said:

I see that AMR appears not only on the bottom entry (3.10.17)

but also on the earlier two (1.10.17 & 2.10.17)

Need to look again at this question

 

I'm still struggling to connect “AMR” to a specific point on the rail system

Is it possible that it refers instead to a medical facility/collection point?

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