• Richard Walter Ahearn

Army / Flying Corps

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  • Enlistment - WW1

    Victoria 3250, Australia

  • Birth

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Stories and comments
    • Letter from R.W. Ahearn re the Southland saga
    • Posted by FrevFord, Thursday, 25 September 2014

    The Argus, Tue Nov 23rd, 1915: DOWN IN THE STOKEHOLD A modest account of a very heroic deed is given by Lance-Coporal R.W. Ahearn, of A Company, 21st Battalion, who was one of the men who volunteered to go down into the stokehold and get steam up in the transport, which was then thought to be sinking. In an interesting letter, Lance-Corporal Ahearn states that some time after the explosion, and when the last boats were leaving, the captain of the Southland called for 15 men to remain behind to man the stokehold, and that he and another Mortlake recruit, Private Williamson, 13 men, and five officers answered the call. Some of the volunteers felt a ‘bit off’ as they went down the long succession of ladders and passed the gratings, but it was only for a few seconds, and then they set to. “The fires,” Lance-Corporal Ahearn states, “were down, and there was no water in the glasses; but we followed the engineer’s orders, and nine of us took on 32 fires. Steam had been down – only showing 70lb – hardly enough to keep one pump going. It was awfully hot down there, but our only hope was to keep moving. We kept the pumps going, and got steam up to 200lb, which enabled the engineers to get the ship under way. We had the engines going when a relief party of stokers from HMS …….. came aboard. I was never so glad to see a sailor in all my life. We got out on deck after doing two hours below, and our appearance was enough to have brought tears of laughter to your eyes. A nigger glee-party was not in it with us. We had a great laugh, and the relief of getting on deck again made us laugh the more. You see, we did not exactly know how much the ship was damaged, and all the time we were expecting another ‘tin-fish’ to blow in. We took the chance, and with God’s help, got out of it safe and sound. After that we were treated splendidly – allowed anything we fancied. I had a small bottle of ‘the best’. We dined in the saloon, and the lads polished off eight chickens, and heaps of good stuff – a real picnic.