• William Keith Allard

Army / Flying Corps
  • 2nd Australian Division Signals Company
  • Private

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  • 1914–1915 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal
  • Birth

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • Enlistment - WW1

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Stories and comments
    • Letter from Keith Allard re his part in the Southland saga
    • Posted by FrevFord, Thursday, 25 September 2014

    The Herald, Tue Nov 23, 1915 “A STREAK OF FOAM” SWIFT TORPEDO WATCHED Graphically describing the scenes which followed the damaging of the Southland, Signaller Keith Allard writes as follows to his mother:- September 3, 1915 “It was just before ‘fall in’ and a beautiful morning, and I was walking round the deck under the bridge, and was debating whether I’d take a snap of a lot of chaps cleaning their rifles in the well deck when I just happened to glance to my left and saw a thing that, although I had never seen one before, I knew what it was; at the same time I heard someone shout, “God, is that a torpedo?” and then someone said, “By Christ it is .” I’ve given you the exact words used, as I’ll never forget them. “GOING LIKE HELL” “As I was on the side it was coming for, I thought if any bit of debris were flying, I wouldn’t be hit, and waited till it was about 50 yards off. It was going like hell, and then I ducked. Very few saw it. It was just a streak of foam and then a clanging, rumbling roar, and the whole ship trembled. Immediately the siren blew five blasts, which meant abandon ship, and everything was done as if on parade. “I went down to my cabin and got my lifebelt, and went back and fell in opposite my boat, and waited. There was very little confusion. “Our boat was overcrowded terribly, so before we reached the water all those who had lifebelts on and could swim got over the side to give the boat a chance. Luckily I had my knife, and slashed my leggings and boots off, and Rex and I were first over. “As soon as we struck the water we got separated somehow, and the last I saw of Rex he was swimming towards the boat a bit ahead of me; then a chair or something hit me from above, and when I had sufficiently recovered my nut I was a long way from it, so resigned myself to a swim, and promptly emptied my pockets (I only had on my riding pants and singlet). “I MADE FOR A BOAT” “Some of the sights I saw I’ll never forget. A boat full was being let down and one of the ropes either broke or slipped, and one end dropped, and there it was hanging end on. Naturally its occupants all fell out all ways, and then the other end broke, and the whole boat dropped on them. There were yells, etc., but I didn’t wait to see any more, and espied a boat some distance away and made for it. Eventually I reached it, about a mile or so from the ship, and got hauled in, although I don’t remember that; I was feeling a bit goosed. However, after five minutes spell, I got on to an oar and started to row. Not that we wanted to row anywhere, but just to keep head on to the waves and keep the water down. It was a collapsible boat, and lived up to its name admirably and collapsed frequently. After about an hour or so smoke appeared on the horizon, and it turned out to be a hospital ship, coming up fast. Then another appeared, and then another, and then a destroyer came in sight, and soon quite a collection had arrived, but all made for the ship herself, which was still hanging on to life. “Then our boat went to the pack and started to sink. Oh! It was a lovely sensation – I don’t think. Eventually after 4½ hours up to our knees in water, bailing and rowing like fiends, we reached the hospital ship, and – talk about a relief to feel something solid again! As soon as we came up the ladder each man was handed a packet of cigarettes, and we were then bundled below, and had beef tea and dry clothes given us. “I forgot to say that soon after we were hit our little 4.7 let fly. I don’t know if she hit the submarine; at all events she scared it, or we’d have stopped another for a cert. And God only knows what would have happened if we hadn’t had wireless to let everyone know. However, it’s all over now, and I’m safe and sound, bar a bang on the head and the ankle, but have only a pair of pants and singlet and my knife; no hat, or boots and socks.”