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H.L. Dixon, NZ Garrison Artillery, 1917

Saturday 15 Dec 1917

MacDonald and myself warned at 10.30am to be in readiness to go aboard IRIS at 12 noon. Reported at EL Yard at noon. Went aboard BUNGREE which took two 6-pounders and 150 rounds of ammunition at the Defence Wharf, and then proceeded to HMCS IRIS. Another 250 rounds came down to the cable wharf just as we were on our way for tea, and to our great surprise when we returned, a squad of Maoris had loaded it all aboard. All hands worked hard until 10.30pm. Slept on board.

Sunday 16 Dec 1917

Got up at 5.30am. Worked hard getting guns into position. Knocked off at 7.30 and proceeded to EL Yard for breakfast. Lt Roberts took us back in motor launch. Went aboard at 9.030am and again started work getting ready for sailing. Weighed anchor at 10.30am. Had a "scratch" dinner. All hands very tired. Passed TIRI 1pm. Sea fair. Fired two shots at WATCHMAN ISLAND at 3.45pm to test mounting of forward gun. Gun stood test. Sighted scow near CAPE COLVILLE at 4.15pm. Hove to. Motor launch came out and reported she was RANGI from MAYOR ISLAND. Owned by WINSTONES and loaded with shingle. Reported she saw a launch believed to be PEARL pull up alongside scow MOA which then sailed eastward. We did not board the scow RANGI. Sighted CUVIER ISLAND 5.30pm. Rum up at 8pm.

Monday 17 Dec 1917

Sea fair weather fine. Passed FLORA from TAHITI bound for AUCKLAND 4.30am. Passed ALDERMEN ISLANDS 7.30am. Signalled CUVIER ISLAND but no news. Sighted MAYOR ISLAND 9am. Fired two shots at 10.15am to test mounting of gun. Had one misfire. Cartridge thrown overboard. Party landed at 11.30am. Capt Mellows gave orders to the party to spread out but found no clues. Mac thought he was on the scent. Back aboard - steered northward. DSea began to get rough. Passed a school of porpoises. Distance from Auckland 300 miles.

Tuesday 18 Dec 1917

Weather showery, sea rough. Saw a few albatrosses. Hove to from 4am till noon. when the Captain gave orders to get the three boilers under way. 1.30pm 12½ knots - sea still rough and wind blowing hard. Borrowed a camera from one of the crew and took photos of IRIS dipping her nose, but to my disgust all the photos were "duds". Bud and I had to secure the ammunition for it was sliding from one side of the ship to the other. This job was done in the light of the ship's searchlight. Capt Holmes ordered the ship hove to and instructed some of the crew to assist us. Gillbanks and Grant very seasick, especially Gillbanks - all he could say was, "Can you see Rangitoto?" Billings bad for an hour or so then he was all right.

Wednesday 19 Dec 1917

Weather improving, sea fair. Got up at 6am. First sight of land 8am. FRENCH ROCK 15 miles away. Rebuilt 6-pounder mounting. All Hands cleaning rifles. Rifle drill 9am. PT 9.30am Cleaned 6-pounder - very rusty after bad weather. 11am sighted KERMADEC ISLANDS. Took photo of boys cleaning gun. All hands off sick list and cheerful. 12.15pm passed between CURTIS ROCKS. Steam issuing from largest rock reminded us of ROTORUA. Although the sea was calm the way it splashed on the rocks was most beautiful. After passing through we turned and retraced our steps to make sure we had missed nothing. We are now heading for McCAULEY or GOAT ISLAND. Porpoises are taking the lead. We also saw some birds very much like swallows. Arrived at McCAULEY ISLAND 3.50pm. Did not land but fired two shots at the island. Saw plenty of goats.

Thursday 20 Dec 1917

Weather fine and calm. Still in sight of CURTIS ROCK 6am. Capt Mellows and Chief Mate went ashore and found stores still intact. Rifle drill 9.30am. PT 9.45 am. Left CURTIS ROCK 10am. Capt Holmes ordered look-out to look for schooner KERERU bound for NOUMEA. Two-masted schooner reported just on horizon 11.15am. Hove to 12.15pm. Turned out to be KERERU which had changed her name to RIRA. Chief Mate was doubtful about name. ORdered a boat to be lowered and he went aboard and made a thorough search but found everything all right. She had changed name on change of ownership. No news of Germans. Distance from AUCKLAND 500 miles. Distance travelled 600 miles. Now steering due North. Bud told George what he thought of him for dodging giving a hand to pull up the whaler. When Bud came into the cabin George wanted to fight him, but Bud was one too many for him. George will be a bit quieter from mow on. SUNDAY ISLAND sighted 2.30pm. Arrived there 5.30pm. Steamed slowly around island. All hands looking forward to landing next morning. Rum 8pm.

Friday 21 Dec 1917

Weather fine slight swell. Now off GOAT ISLAND instead of SUNDAY ISLAND (to our great disgust). 6am Capt Mellows and Chief Mate tried to land to inspect provisions there but owing to the swell and rugged coast gave up after an hour's attempt. Capt Holmes flew the flag 'Y', and as soon as the Chief Officer saw it he gave orders to return to the ship. Steamed slowly around island till 11.20am when the lookout reported a scow on the horizon due South. Captain rang "full steam ahead". Flew flags "I.D." at 12.15pm but no answer. Captain ordered a shot to be fired across her bows (12.20pm). ...[line missing here] ... After the shot the MOA hoisted the German ensign, then hove to. IRIS flew the White Ensign. Von Luckner and three of his Cadets pulled over to the IRIS, where they were searched. No arms were found. Davy, MacDougall, and Dixon then marched the prisoners down to our cabin from which we had had to remove all our belongings. This we did very hard, knowing we had our work cut out looking after them. A boat's crew was then sent to search the MOA. The remaining Germans on board surrendered quietly by holding up their hands. A thorough search of the scow revealed no firearms, but the crew told us afterwards that there were some service rifles, hand grenadeds, and a sword supposed to belong to Col Turner, which were thrown overboard when we fired at her. The only items of interest found were a sextant and some wireless apparatus. The MOA was captured just off CURTIS ROCK from which the Germans had looted all clothing and provisions. While the sail was still being lowered one of the crew, Carl Singer, was hit on the head by the boom. He was brought aboard IRIS for medical attention. We then learned from him a few facts about the capture of the MOA by the Germans. See Carl Singer's account. We then started home with our prize in tow at 2pm. 6.20pm tow parted (chain on MOA broke). Hauled in 6-in line and put out 3-in wire hawser. Started home again 8.30pm. Rum 8pm. On duty 6½ hours.

Saturday 22 Dec 1917

Weather fine, sea smooth. On guard 2-4am and 8-10am. Germans have 1¼ hours drill on deck 2-4pm. MOA signalled IRIS that she had sprung a leak, so IRIS slowed down to 4½ knots from 3pm. Chief Officer says they are doing their best to be in Auckland for Christmas, and we all hope so. Germans out for exercise at 4.20pm to 5pm. Speed reduced to 1½ knots - a poor look-out for Christmas. Sea becoming rough. RSM called us at 6am and told us to get our beds made up and hurry about it.

Sunday 23 Dec 1917

Weather overcast, high winds, heavy swell. Still going very slow. On guard 8-10am. Weather improving. Germans out for their morning airing. Sighted a shark's fin 10.40am. All those off guard to parade on promenade deck at 2.15pm. 11.30am steering due West. Captain of IRIS gave orders to the purser to supply the Germans with tobacco, but when we came on board we could get none. However, they opened their hearts after we captured the Germans, and sold us a tin of 50 cigarettes each. We had travelled 65 miles in 24 hours up to 12 o'clock. Today our distance from Auckland is 365 miles, and 150 miles from the nearest land. The parade was called to tell us that Capt Mellows was going to apply for 14 days leave for all of us. Sea a lot smoother. We are now travelling at about 6 knots. Expect to arrive in Auckland Wednesday morning. On guard 2-4pm and 8-10pm. Rum 8pm.

Monday 24 Dec 1917

Weather much improved. Sea calm. On guard 2-4am. We are all getting very leg-sore owing to the constant sway of the boat. Hove to 7am till 8.40am to fix the wire hawser which was chafing the mast of the scow. From 5 to 7am we did 16 knots but are now doing 5½. Distance from AUCKLAND 280 miles and we expect to arrive there about 8pm Tuesday night. All hands have been ordered to have a bath. Germans had an hour's exercise this morning. All hands had a hot bath and felt a lot better for it. Saw another shark today. On guard 8-10am and again 2-4pm. Rum 12 o'clock. Strong wind blowing, heavy swell. Our speed reduced to 5 knots from 5pm. Rum 8pm. [Line missing here]

Tuesday 25 Dec 1917

On guard 2-4am. Wind dropped, sea fairly smooth. Doing 6 knots. Germans had exercise from 10.40am to 11.20. Rum 12 noon. Christmas dinner not worth eating. 190 miles from Auckland at noon to-day. On guard 2-4pm. Still no land in sight. Germans had for Christmas dinner mutton, roast potatoes, cabbage, spinach, and fresh peaches. On guard 8-10pm and 2-4am. Sighted CUVIER 3.30am.


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