JJ Rowe Diary: 19 Feb 1889


After several days of heavy seas, Joseph tells us that there has been a break in the weather. There is entertainment on deck, and Joseph and Pollie spend a happy time together.

The Diary Entry

19.2.89 Tuesday

At 4 Am watch sounded, no-one there but myself. scarce{?} the remained asleep. Officer of the watch & warrant Officer of the Navy made a bother about it, another Sergt & myself had to go before the Colonel about it. Explained matter, all correct.

Had salt pork & pickles & pea soup for dinner. Made a very good dinner, so did Pollie.

Saw the Ship with all her Sails out this afternoon.Continue reading

JJ Rowe Diary: 18 Feb 1889


Joseph describes violent sea swells and panic among the women on the ship. There were injuries and damage to the troopship.

The Diary Entry

18.2.89 Monday

Fine morning. Slept late. Sea roll very heavy. No wind hardly. Had our breakfast on deck. Ship rocked about very much & going down so low as to touch the waters edge, so women frighten very much, some crying & some calling out Good Lord deliver us. I was not frightened nor was Pollie as there was no danger what ever.

Preserve mutton for dinner. Eat none of it. Marine gave us our dinner, fryed meat & potatoes (very nice).Continue reading

JJ Rowe Diary: 17 Feb 1889


Joseph chronicles his seventh day at sea, describing the effects of yet more rough weather, and his remedy for sea sickness.

The Diary Entry

17.2.89 Sunday

Arose about six. Got out of hammock. As soon as I was out, I was down & slid from one side of the place to the other & back again. Got up again & had to hang{?} at everything we could get hold of.

Went to see Pollie. Found them all frightened & excited. Had a raw dryed herring for breakfast because I was sick which stopped it. Pollie had her breakfast about 10 am.Continue reading

JJ Rowe Diary: 16 Feb 1889


Day 6 of Joseph’s voyage saw Pollie going ashore in Malta for groceries. The troopship pulled up anchor and continued on its journey, but it was lashed by a hurricane.

The Diary Entry

16.2.89 Saturday

Fine morning. Arose early. Took Pollie. got water, to wash baby. Had breakfast.

Pollie went on ashore & went to market. Brought back milk & cheese, which I am very fond of, some eggs, oranges, nuts, bacon & sausages, I was nevise [sic] time she went. Boy good, drank a whole bottle of milk while she was away & had fresh beef for dinner. Very good.Continue reading


By mid-day on 15 February, which was the fifth day of travel, Joseph’s troopship had reached Malta, and had travelled a distance of 1,145 nautical miles from Gibraltar. The ship took on supplies, including fuel and food.

The Diary Entry

15.2.89 Friday

Fine morning. Rose at 6 am. Went in to see Pollie. She was in the wash-house. Took her some hot water & She stiped him & gave him a nice comfortable wash.

Had a good breakfast of eggs which I boiled, & went on deck. It rain at little but, not for long. Sighted land, all the way.Continue reading


This is the fourth day of travel en route by ship from Gibraltar to India. Joseph paints a picture of life aboard the troopship with details of bathing, meals, safety drills, and entertainment.

The Diary Entry


A bright morning, not so rough. Slept till six thirty. Got up, roll up my hammock & cleaned my boots & had a wash, which is a very hard thing to get on a Trooper, especially in fresh water as I had this morning.

Went in to see Pollie, she was up, & in wash-house, washing baby.

Sickness gone, had a got breakfast which both of us enjoyed, off ham, as we where thoughtful enough to bring a whole ham with us, which I cooked in the cook-house, & a whole Dutch cheese & some braion thanks to Pollies economy in house keeping.Continue reading


The troopship carrying Joseph and his fellow soldiers continued to sail eastward through the Mediterranean Sea, with the north coast of Africa sighted. It was not a good day for Joseph, however. There was insubordination, snow, ongoing sea sickness, and to top it all off, a hammock mishap.

The Diary Entry


At 4 Am, a Petty Officers & called for the watch. Then I mustered them. There was about 40 of them out of the 100 which should have been there. I reported it to the Officer of the watch & he told me to tell the bugler to sound the watch call, but there was only a Sergt, a Corprl, & one or two turn out.Continue reading


For those with a love of being on the water, today’s diary entry paints a picture of adventure, albeit it a small one. There is rough weather in the Alboran Sea, some sea sickness, and a thorough drenching.

The Diary Entry


Arose at 5 am, rolled up my hammock & went up on deck & had a wash as we are not allowed in the womans quarters till 7 am. Just as I was going in, I was told Pollie was on deck, so I went up on deck & their she sit the only woman on deck. It was a fine morning but rather rough, & Pollie would not go below, but remained on deck all day.Continue reading

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.… Continue reading

JJ Rowe Diary: 11 Feb 1889


The first entry in Joseph Rowe’s 5-week diary was made on 11 February 1889. He had been stationed in Gibraltar with the British army for just over a year, and it was here that his first child, also named Joseph, was born in 1888.

The diary begins on the day that Joseph and his fellow soldiers departed Gibraltar for India, the site of their next posting. Also travelling with Joseph were his wife, Pollie, and his 4-month old son. It is a nostalgic entry, looking back at his time in Gibraltar and the friends that he and Pollie were leaving behind.… Continue reading