After five weeks at sea HMAT A74 Marathon finally arrived at Durban and was escorted into Port Natal. It was here on 7th June 1916 that the 33rd Battalion heard the news of the death of English military leader, Lord Kitchener, drowned when the ship he was on was destroyed by a German mine. His image had been used for recruiting posters, so he was well known to soldiers.
The men disembarked for a route march through the city, headed by the Battalion band. Children gathered and followed them through the streets back to their ship. Once back on board, as the long process of re-coaling the ship took place, the men were thrown fruit and cigarettes by locals.
The following day the Battalion was given shore leave for the first time since leaving Sydney. Many took advantage of a rickshaw ride to see the sights whilst others visited the baths for a swim. Hotels were out of bounds, although that did not deter some of the soldiers.
Early on Friday 9th June 1916, the Marathon departed the wharf with the band playing Auld Lang Syne and a large crowd waving and cheering them on their way.
Photo: Private collection
Click for larger photo