After five days at sea James and the men were still in good spirits with the anticipation of entering into the war effort. Canadians had united around the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, and the call to defend King and Empire. For many of the British-born Canadian soldiers there was also the hope of seeing their families and their homeland. The RMS Adriatic was a comfortable vessel; a White Star ocean liner, built in Belfast in 1906 (the first to have a swimming pool and a Turkish bath).
During the war of course many of these comforts were unused as the vessel become a troopship; these were men training for war and each day there was “physical exercise morning and afternoon (23rd May). Also, the food, according to James was “far from being the best. If it was clean and cooked it would not be so bad, but it is not” (23rd May).
Apart from these ‘little inconveniences,’ this was a pleasant crossing for the troops. On 25th James recorded;
It is seldom that the sea is placid but sometimes its rise and fall is regular and the sun shimmers across its wavelets and all seems well.
On 26th his diary entry was short and sanguine;
All is well! The sun is shining and we are going at a good speed over a comparatively calm sea.
The following day (27th May) James began his diary entry in the same vein;
The sea is still calm, the sun is radiant in its splendor, health and life are mercifully preserved and all is well.
In this calm and somewhat relaxed atmosphere the men had time to think, to muse on aspects of life. James observed the nurses on board;
The next few days James writes long entries in his dairy, musing on life, humanity and the hope of soon seeing his family.
The vastness of the ocean with its ever restless motion gives much to reflect on. Its immensity makes man realize his own insignificance and yet as its unsounded depts are made up of drops so his life is made up[of] a little here and a little there and he is as it were a drop in the ocean of humanity. The heaving bosom of the sea is ever restless and well illustrates the life of man. Occasionally there are huge billows sweeping across its disturbed bosom as tho[ugh] nothing could stay them and yet they fall and are lost in again foaming part of the even tenor of the ocean. At another time two waves rise and meet as tho[ugh] in deadly strive [sic.] and both go down in the struggle (27th).
This reflection seems to be a reference to Isaiah 50:10. It could also echo an illustration that he had heard less than a year previously. As a delegate to the Baptist Convention meetings in June 1915 James recorded an illustration given by Rev. Walker on Missionary work in India. He wrote at that time;
“Men rise in the world just in the same way as a wave rises in the sea. It rises out of the impressionable and unintelligible sea and yet it seems to have an identity of its own and then it sinks back and loses its identity for ever.”
On 26th James recorded;
Hail to the morning light! when we can arise from our bunks and escape from the obnoxious atmosphere of “down below.” It is as a waft of health to go on deck and inhale the salubrious and salutary breeze as it blows off the sea. It makes the heart beat more regularly and causes the color to rise in the cheeks. In fact it makes one glad to be alive.
I am longing for the time when we shall land and when I shall be able to obtain a pass to visit all my friends, all my dear ones.