HMS Jumna, July 7th
“Thus far we have arrived on our way to Zululand. Unless the news of the British success which reach us cause plans to be altered we shall leave here tomorrow, or next day, after coaling, for Natal. Our voyage throughout was very fine and pleasant, thirty-one days from Plymouth here, which although rather long for a crack Indian troopship, is accounted for by the fact that since being thoroughly overhauled show has had two trips to Bombay, calling at Cyprus, and also a trip to Ireland. Her engines are considerably out of order, having to be stopped for an hour or so almost daily during the voyage, to pack the cylinders. We had light head winds all the way from St. Vincent to the Cape. The health of the men has been good, the total number of sick is 13, one being rather a serious case of brain fever. Six men of the battalion have, on inspection by the doctor during the voyage, been rejected as unfit to go to the front, and will be left behind at the Cape when we go on. The chief cause was liability to rheumatism. Amusements and exercises on board have been in active progress throughout the voyage, the ‘tug of war’ being the most popular. Some clever work has been done on the horizontal bar by both officers and men. The number of married men on board is 140, and they have left behind 246 children.
Soon after leaving St. Vincent it was discovered that there was a stowaway on board. He is man named George Peters, an acting drummer of the 69th Regt. When questioned by Capt. Parsons, R.N. as to how he came on board, he stated that some time ago the 69th Regt. was asked for volunteers to fill the ranks of the 24th, but as he was only an acting drummer he was not allowed to volunteer. Some of his old mates, however, had gone out, and, being very anxious to be with them, and also to see some active service, he got on board the Jumna at Portsmouth. It seems that he was one of the band that played the Royal Marines on board the troopship, and that, instead of returning to barracks with the band, he marched on board with the Marines, and managed to exchange the 69th uniform for that of a Royal Marine. The matter must have been arranged before hand, as no man on board was short of the serge tunic or cap which Peters had obtained.
On our arrival here at nine o’clock this morning Colonel Hunt received telegrams, which he read aloud to the crew of the Jumna, stating that the Prince Imperial had been killed, and also that a battle had been fought at Ulundi. It was stated also unofficially on board the ship that Lieut. Carey had been sentenced by court-martial to five year’s penal servitude. A rumour also spread that Cetewayo had been captured.
H.M.’s ships in port here are the Active, the Boadicea, and the Flora. The troopship Egypt, which had left St. Vincent the day before us, left Simon’s Bay early this morning, having coaled on her way to Durban. The latest news as to our movements on board is that we sail to-morrow night for Natal.”
(Source: The Western Morning News, August 2, 1879)