There is silence for a while. The next time we hear from Monty is nearly a month later; on September 30 he is aboard the RMS Carpathia[1] “at sea.” He left New York on the 10th of September and as he starts his letter, the ship is a day or two from its destination. He reports that the RMS Carpathia is the ship that “picked up the Titanic survivors several years ago[2]” and that the Carpathia didn’t go directly from New York but made a second port call were Monty is already wrapped in the responsibility delegated to officers to keep information tightly held:

We went to another port where we waited on board ship for over a week for the convoy to assemble. There we officers were allowed to go ashore two days after first giving our word of honor not to attempt to communicate with friends or relatives. …the enlisted men certainly looked envious when we went ashore and they couldn’t go. Felt sorry for them but they couldn’t all be trusted not to give information which might have endangered all of us.

The tight security fits against a background of the sinking of the Lusitania two years earlier and several recent incidents of sabotage, including two in New Jersey, all of which contributed to heightened tension and ultimately the US entry into the war in April 1917. Germany pursued a desperate policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, an immediate cause of the US entry into the war but also a reason to restrict information about troop movements. The RMS Carpathia leaves port in a convoy of fourteen transport ships with cruiser escort. This configuration changes a day or two out of his destination. “Our destroyer escort met us yesterday afternoon and I think everybody felt better to see them coming over the horizon. …now that we are in the real submarine zone, all protection is welcome and the destroyer comforting.”

[an undated note from “An Atlantic Port” which is presumably the port described above: “Don’t know exactly how much I am allowed to say in this but it now seems I’ll be even longer in getting to the other side than I’d supposed. Am therefore dropping you this line to say that I am well and not to expect any cablegram before from the 1st to the 10th of October.”]

[1] The RMS [Royal Mail Ship] Carpathia is a Cunard Line ship of 600 feet and a passenger capacity of about 2500 at the time Monty is aboard. Less than a year later a German U-Boat sinks the Carpathia with minimal loss of life.

[2] The RMS Carpathia is renowned for arriving on scene first after the sinking of the Titanic and taking aboard the 705 survivors. The photo in the blog was taken several days after the Carpathia docked in New York with the survivors of the Titanic.

 

Transcription of original letter:

Onboard S.S. Carpathia – at sea

Sept. 30, 1917

Dear Mother —

This is our 10th day at sea and we are supposed to dock tomorrow or the next day so this might be on its way back to you soon.

Our destroyer escort met us yesterday afternoon and I think everybody felt better to see them coming over the horizon and very quickly thereafter get up to and take a position around us. Our ship is one of a bunch of fourteen coming over together all of which mounts from 1 to 5 guns and we’ve also had a cruiser escort but, now that we are in the real submarine zone, all protection is welcome and the destroyers very comforting.

I left Port—New York—the day I expected—September 10—but also, as I thought, didn’t come directly over. We went to another port where we waited on board ship for over a week for the convoy to assemble. There we officers were allowed to go ashore [for?] two days after first giving our word of honor not to attempt to communicate with friends or relatives. There are a bunch of troops aboard besides some 75 of us unassigned officers and the enlisted men certainly looked envious when we went to shore and they couldn’t go. Felt sorry for them but they couldn’t all be trusted not to give information which might have endangered all of us.

This ship is, as you may know, English—a Cunard liner, being the one which picked up the Titanic survivors several years ago. The officers and crew are typically English and have been an interesting type to me.

There are four of us to a stateroom and I consider myself lucky in my roommates. The senior is a prominent Boston lawyer of 43—Stackpole—and a Harvard law man. One of the others is also a Bostonian and a Harvard man of about my age while the third is a Yale man from New Haven of about the same age. Luckily we were quite congenial and also all fond of bridge so I have killed a lot of time very pleasantly at bridge. We have an hour of conference on some military subject every morning, an hour of French and half an hour of physical exercise in the afternoon. The rest of the day is at our disposal and there’s nothing much to do but read and play bridge. We also have a boat drill about once a day at the sound of the [indecipherable’s] whistle all running to our stations with life belts. It has become so much a matter of habit now that I believe if we were torpedoed we’d all go to our stations with very little excitement

The weather got rough the second day out and lots of the fellow were seasick but luckily I escaped. Didn’t feel any to easy the first day of rough weather but after getting by that day was all right. It calmed down a couple of days ago and is very smooth today.

Tell Kate I lived in the smaller sweater she gave me almost ever since coming aboard—it has been most useful. It will be hard to go back to a stiff collar and blouse when we land.

Two Colombians are on board who knew Kate and Frank—Dr. La Bruce Ward and Captain Chisolm of the Engineers

Three days later—as I write we are drawing up to the dock at Glasgow have been on deck since breakfast watching the hills of Bonnie Scotland

The next day—didn’t write any further yesterday as scenery was too interesting and I stayed on deck until we docked. Am now in Glasgow getting up town from the ship last night, and we go on to London tonight. Am very glad we got this opportunity to see Scotland for it has been most interesting. We are the first American troops to be in Glasgow and are a sight for the natives. They welcomed us with open arms and you hear expressions of goodwill from all sides. Haven’t done any sightseeing yet but expect to go out on a tour this afternoon. Will write you again in a day or two when I find out where I am to be

Love to all,

Carl

From

Lieutenant Thomas C Montgomery

Inf. U.S.R. American Expeditionary Force]

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