Boxer Rebellion Journal
- March 1976
- Murmin, Midshipman C.E. NSW Naval Brigade
- 19th century wars
- None noted.
- Originally published in the Naval Historical Review edition (all rights reserved)
Midshipman Murmin was an officer of the NSW Naval Brigade contingent which sailed in the troopship, Salamis, for China on 8th August 1900. The Australians arrived too late to become engaged in the fighting but shared with the International Force in China the duties of policing the ravaged countryside. Murmin, on his return to Australia in April 1901, resigned from the Naval Brigade and saw service with the British Army in South Africa. This extract covers the journey from Tientsin to Pekin.
Wednesday 10th October 1900.
Left hospital at 9.30 am for lighter to Pekin and had our things put on the lighter and then had to wait till 12.30 before we left, as all the stores were not yet on the lighters. In the meantime the Brigade had marched in from camp and when they arrived lined up in front of the pier, they were then inspected by Vice Admiral Seymour, Commander in Chief of the China Station. The Brigade marched off at 12.00 as they were going to march all the way, meeting the lighters every night and bivouacking for the night, while the sick went in a lighter.
The river presented a scene of confusion and was crowded with junks going up and down and each flying the flag of the nation to whom they belonged. On one side of the river were thousands of bags of white stuff that looked like rice and which belonged to the Russians. We then passed through a pontoon bridge consisting of 8 punts and which had to be frequently opened to allow boats to pass through. We made very slow progress as three Chinamen on shore towed us and three more dug boathooks into the mud and shoved us along. We passed about 500 coolies in charge of 4 French soldiers and they were carrying bricks, each man had five on his shoulder, and they walked in pairs, making a long line. We came to another bridge and had to wait an hour all but 5 minutes before we got through.
I got ashore and had a look at a railway station nearby, and saw about 50 cars that had been shelled, and of most of them only the axles wheels and springs remained, the wood having been burnt off. Passing up the river we passed numerous Chinese villages and a very strong fort held at present by the Japanese, and from the river we could see 15 guns. We next passed the ruins of a cathedral, which had been a very fine building but was now in a state of ruin. The next fort we passed was also a strong one and was held by the Russians who when we passed were watering a lot of horses. I served out the men’s blankets at 5.00 and posted sentries for the night. We saw the Brigade who passed us at dark but we could just see a body moving and heard them singing. We anchored at 8 p.m. and seeing, no-sign of the main body we turned in, but got very little sleep as it was very cold and draughty.
Thursday 11th October 1900.
Turned out at 4 am and got under way and after having gone about ¼ of a mile we met one of our own junks that had been left with some bread and water for us. We then went on and after passing a Japanese camp we saw the remainder of the junks anchored at Peitsang and we hove-to and went onboard the mess junk for breakfast. Just as we commenced breakfast the Brigade marched up, having lost their way the day before and marched about 9 miles out of their way. We served out fresh meat to the men and remained at Peitsang till Friday morning. Two Indian officers (English but with Sikhs) dined with us and another passed with about 70 Sikhs while we were at dinner.
I joined the Brigade and we marched off at 7.30. We passed through several villages and cotton fields and after marching 14 miles through very pretty country arrived Yangtsen at 2 p.m. and had dinner. There was a party of Sikhs and then a regiment of Americans camped there. We bought some provisions from the American Commissariat and got some very nice tinned fruits. As the junks did not arrive till late at night, we had to sleep ashore and two of us shared one blanket, and found it very cold!
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