Janetta Andrews' Voyage: Aden in 1939

The diary dates from 1939 and begins when my great great aunt Janetta Andrews (1868 - 1958) left Sydney on 26th. April, 1939. The ship was the Orford which was from the Orient Line.

"Monday 14th [it was actually 15th] passed Guadafui. We are all on deck looking at the coastline can see wireless station and a small settlement. There is a big rock jutting out into the sea called Lion Rock; very huge. A ship has now come into view sailing towards the settlement and looks very pretty on the blue waters. We have been watching porpoises; great big things as large as elephants some jump right out of the water. It is all excitement as we look at maps etc etc.

We are now in the Gulf of Aden. It is getting rather hot and the breeze seems to be dying down; we have left all the bare mountains behind. We are having great fun now about Mr Buck. He is fairly worried now with all the girls, especially the new arrival. She has set her cap on him the poor thing.

Tuesday May 15th [actually 16th] Aden everybody up early the first thing. We could see was a huge rock butting out of the sea; our first sight of Aden. We were all looking through the glasses trying to see the different buildings, could see the wireless station and houses and buildings. At last we got there; a small wee bay and plenty of native craft about and larger boats. We got off again in the little steam boats and it was exactly nine o'clock when we set foot on that barren place.

Oh it was dreadful. Great huge bare mountains, rocks and buildings and streets just as drab with its mixed population of black folk Arabs, Mahommedans Chinese etc & the hot sun pouring down in full strength. There are only a very few trees there - a kind of plantation in the main street but oh there is nothing to appeal to anyone. We explored the shops & they are very keen but do not tout for customers like they do at Colombo.

I bought a satin set for 7/6d. Others got great bargains. We then strolled up the street & saw some awful sights; beggars and freaks of nature; a man about a foot high like a gnome; it made me shiver. After a cool drink sitting on a verandah & being fanned by a little black boy who manipulated it we got a car 2/- each and went on a little trip and everywhere it was the same barren sun-baked place - great bare rocks and oh the homes they live in they must be like ovens.

We saw the little English cemetery and the Mahommedan one then drove through the mountain pass where the policeman is stationed on duty then we drove through the market where 200 camels arrive every morning with the loads. We drove through the market oh it was an awful place just crowded with natives. We bought a watermelon Lil & I for 8d. We went past the Mahommedan church & saw a nice little C of E up on the hill then went as far as one of Solomon's Wells built by the Queen of Sheba 600 yrs BC*. It was just wonderful to see it & looks to be in perfect condition. It was empty, but the one further on is full.

At times we saw hundreds of goats and all looked fat and well and seemed to be thriving on barren rocks and stones & gravel. Oh I do not know how any English person could live there for very long, they have had no rain for 2 yrs. We were all glad to get back to the boat and then we had great fun watching the natives in boats with all their goods displayed and bargaining with the people on deck. Such a display of Kimonos and all sorts of silken goods. How much they would say how much you give & so it went on - great fun. Some people got great bargains.

When you asked about anything they would throw up a rope & up would come the basket with the goods in it. If you decided to buy it the money would be wrapped up and sent down again in the basket. They were battlers in that broiling sun. We were soon pushed off & no one was sorry to say goodbye to Aden."

Diary entry kindly provided by Ton Anderson.