While on board the RMS Adriatic, the 11th Field Ambulance had a few days to wait while other battalions boarded and the convoy made preparation for the transatlantic crossing. James’ diary recorded some first impressions of the men he would be serving with.
We rose at 7 am. and had breakfast. After this we strolled the deck. There are all[sorts of] characters on board. Soldiers from all parts of Canada. Some are fine looking fellows and speak will and many I believe are Christians. Others are careless and indifferent regarding the best qualities that go to make up a true man. They use the vilest of language and disgrace our race as well as our Empire. As for God they have no reverence for His name or existence. I do hope the X’ians [Christians] on board will be kept and used for his honour.
We are now at anchor waiting for other transports to take on other battalions. There are two gun boats in the harbor waiting to escort us over to England. The weather is cold and foggy, and thick smoke hangs like a cloud over the land. We need a light zepher [sic] breeze and the radiant sunshine.
There is a corporal on board tall and slim. He struts about with elevated chin and his nose in the air as though he were Field Marshall.
After breakfast we strolled about the deck enjoying the fresh air. We had a very nice service at 11am. We were all in full dress and lined up in the bow. The chaplain gave us a very timely and well spoken message on “Unconscious Influence.” He said we all exert influence for good or evil.
After dinner I began to feel sick. My head was aching and my throat wasn’t in the best of condition. In the evening a large number met in the 2nd class dining room and we had a song service. It was clear that the men liked the old hymns best.
I noticed one man. He was rough in appearance and yet with a gentle eye. His eyes kept moistening with silent tears as we sang and now and again he wiped them away as it afraid anyone might see.