Diary of JJ Rowe, 1889

In a previous post, I wrote about my great-granduncle, Joseph James Rowe, and his time with the British army in Gibraltar, India, and Rangoon, from 1883 until his death in 1923. After writing that post, I was contacted by Joseph’s great-granddaughter, Marion Bowles, who kindly provided me with a copy of a journal that Joseph had kept during the 5-week period from 10 February to 20 March 1889.

Joseph’s journal is a personal one, rather than a formal army diary, and through it, Joseph provides us with insights into army life, the perils of travelling by sail, what he saw en route to, and in, India.

His journal begins in February, 1889, as he leaves Gibraltar with his regiment and travels by ship to India, his next posting. Travelling with him are his wife, Martha Mary, known as Pollie, and his 4-month-old son. He describes the route taken, the sights, and weather encountered as the ship departs Gibraltar, enters the Suez canal, sails down the Red Sea, and on to Bombay. Along the way, Joseph tells us about the availability of food and water aboard ship, illness, entertainment, hurricanes and unbearable heat, the role of wives and children in a military regiment, and much more.

I will post entries from Joseph’s journal throughout the months of February and March, 2020, on the same dates that they were written by Joseph 131 years ago. Please follow along. I hope you’ll find the voyage as fascinating as I do.

Note: Joseph’s diary entries contained little punctuation and made little use of capitalization. I have edited the text, mostly to add capital letters at the beginning of sentences, taking care not to change the meaning of anything that Joseph wrote.

WARNING: This is a transcription of an historical document. Some of the diary entries contain offensive language and stereotypes that must be understood in the context of the times. Such language and stereotypes are not acceptable today and are not condoned by the author of this blog.

The Diary Entries

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