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Reproduced courtesy John J Gould ANMM Collection

Diary of Able Seaman William Gould deployed to Boxer Uprising China

Date: 1900 - 1901
Overall: 178 x 117 x 12 mm, 174.8 g
Medium: Pencil and ink on paper, cloth bound
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from John Jones Gould
Object Copyright: © John J Gould
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Diary
Object No: 00047688
Related Place:Zhonghua, Beijing, New South Wales, Tianjin,

User Terms

    This diary was written by Able Seaman William Ernest Gould who served in the New South Wales Naval Brigade. It covers the period 6 August 1900 to 23 April 1901. Gould describes sailing from Sydney to China aboard SS SALAMIS, his service in China after the Boxer Rebellion and the return voyage to Sydney on the SS CHINGTU. Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian naval brigades were responsible for guarding and policing Tianjin (Tientsin) and Beijing (Peking) during the Boxer Rebellion.

    SignificanceThis diary provides a rare and vivid personal account of the work carried out in China by members of the Australian colonial navies following the Boxer Uprising in 1900. Gould provides a clear picture of the experiences of a typical sailor onboard the SALAMIS and the CHINGTU on the journey to and from China.
    HistoryAustralia took its first step into East Asian conflicts in 1900, when three colonies sent support to the British at the Boxer War. This was a joint action by several nations including Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia and the USA to crush a violent uprising against foreigners in China. The action was immortalised in the Hollywood movie "55 days in Peking". The term Boxer was a Western corruption of the original Chinese name.

    South Australia lent its steel twin screw gunboat HMCS PROTECTOR (Her Majesty's Colonial Ship) with a crew of 110 to assist the British Royal Navy. Victoria and New South Wales sent naval brigade contingents totalling 462 men. The Aberdeen Line cargo passenger ship SS SALAMIS was requisitioned by the New South Wales government to transport the contingent to the conflict. The China Navigation Company Limited vessel SS CHINGTU was requisitioned to bring the contingents home. They steamed through Sydney Heads on 25 April 1901.

    Arriving after the main conflict was over; their main duty was guarding and policing Tianjin (Tientsin) and Beijing (Peking). The Australian colonial forces returned home by May 1901 and all men were issued with a medal known variously as the Boxer Rebellion medal, the Queen's China War medal and the Third China War medal.

    William Gould wrote in his diary at regular intervals during the deployment. He describes bouts of terrible sea sickness and the daily routine whilst at sea.

    'Friday 10 August - Felt sick all day, miserable, the routine for the day is, first get out of hammock about 6.30, then the order is "lash up hammock" and then stow them, then the cooks get breakfast which is coffee and (this morning) yankee slice bread and butter, then wash down decks, upper and lower and then fall in for Church Service which the "Old man" reads out, then dismiss and loaf about till dinner time, same till tea, go to bed at 9.30.'

    Gould commented on the marine life he observed during the journey and attempts to prevent the outbreak of disease at various times. 'Mon 13th August - saw more flying fish and sighted an island about dinner time, we are now passing it 6.30pm. it is one of the Tousiade Archipelago it looks very nice. I was vaxinated today, it was compulsory so had to. ' and 'Saturday 18th - There has been an order today that all men who sleep on deck must wear cholera belts'

    Gould revealed that a stowaway was found onboard ship 'Thursday 16th - Last night a young chap (a stow away) had to be brought up on deck from the stoke hole as he was utterly exhausted from heat and coal dust, he is about the decks today but very weak.' and he also comments on the way the sailors amused themselves during a Crossing of the Line Ceremony while at sea. '16th August I think I have enjoyed myself this afternoon as well as I ever did, Neptune came on board and I think only two men of this contingent escaped getting shaved, it was awfully funny'.

    Gould also described the difficult conditions faced by members of the Australian naval contingents during their time in China, including witnessing the aftermath of conflict and burying the war dead.

    'Sunday 16th September- I write this in camp in Tsin Tsin...... We passed a lot of forts that had been smashed and saw a lot of gun boats. The river is very muddy and fresh. We also saw some dead bodies floating down that looked sickening. We passed some villages of mud huts. ..... There was a swarm of grasshoppers coming up millions of them, we anchored at dark and prepared for the night we were very crowded and uncomfortable.'

    'March 7 - I have just been informed to hold myself in readiness to start next morning and dig up all the people that were killed in U.L. during the siege (about 42) it is a very nice job.'

    March 8 - My friend and I exhumed 2 coffins. Some of the bodies were only buried on boards, wrapped in blankets, boots and all. They smelt a little but not much. We got up about 8. In the after noon we were relieved by some more men, and I went and had a bath.'

    March 10 - I forgot to write that W. Bennet a man who has lately been reduced to the ranks from the rating of a Petty Officer shot himself. I do not know any of the facts of the case, but it is a great pity. he was a Marrickville man and I was tent mates with him in Tientsin, and always found him a very decent man.'

    Able Seaman Gould described some of the leisure activities of the sailors in Hong Kong during their journey home and described the scenery he observed in northern Australia before reaching Sydney in late April.

    'April 4 - Arrived at H.K. today at 10am and anchored in about the same place. We (the Port Watch) were paid and went on leave at 3pm. I went ashore and then to Ship Sr. After that we went to Happy Valley which is a very nice place we then came back and had tea at a Sailors home and went to the theatre which cost $1. The play was called the Belle of New York. It was no good so we left at the end of the first half. We then went and slept at a Sailors Home all night and went aboard at 4am next day.'

    'April 17 - Entered the harbour of Thursday Island, it is a very pretty place and very quiet. We left after getting some meat etc. on board at 3 oclock and came through the famous Torrres Straits which are very narrow and pretty. We are now coming south with the Queensland coast on our starboard hand.'

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