Suez, Egypt: The Entry into the Canal

The battleships of the Atlantic Fleet arrived in Suez tired from a long journey.  Months at sea with hulls barnacle-encrusted and boiler tubes with scale found ships not operating in peak conditions.  Sailor were also tired and were now looking longingly to arriving back in Hampton Roads.  They were homesick.  Suez would be a stop that would be sort, only to space the ships through the Canal in groups.  This was done to prevent a major problem if one ship were grounded or had engineering difficulties in transit with other ships close behind.  Connecticut, Kansas, Vermont, and Minnesota were the first group to transit on January 4th and arrived in Port Said on January 5th.  They immediately left on the 5th with Connecticut off to Messina, the site of an earthquake relief effort, and the others to Villefranche, France.  The second group was Louisiana, Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio leaving Suez on the 5th and arriving on the 6th.  New Jersey, Rhode Island, Georgia, Nebraska, Kearsarge, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Illinois transited on the 6th arriving on the 7th.  Some of the ships in the last group stayed in Port Said till as late as January 10th.  These are the ships that the most cards and letter are postmarked with dates in Egypt.


the flowers of Seaman cook

Seaman Cook, USS Illinois purchased this small booklet during the short stay in Suez.  It contains dried flowers of the Holy Land.  The cover of the booklet in inlayed olive wood and there are 16 pages of floral arrangements that have been dried and separated with tissue paper.

A second booklet of this type, from a sailor on the USS Virginia is displayed on the Cairo page of this website.



The  two cards above were mailed to Annie Bryant of Los Angeles.  They are cards from Egypt that were postmarked in Turkey on January 17th 1909.  They are signed A. A. C. which I believe was a Second Class Machinist onboard the USS Louisiana.  Louisiana and Virginia were the only two ships in Turkey on this date and A. A. Couch of the Louisiana was the only sailor with these initials between the two ships.



These two cards of Suez were both postmarked on the USS Kansas on January 12th, 1909.  Kansas had very little time in Egypt.  They transited the Canal in the first group on January 4th-5th and immediately departed to Vallefranche arriving on January 11th, 1909.  These were sent out the next day.  The card at left shows the train station that the 1,600 sailors left from to go to Cairo.

One of the unique series of cards that was published for the cruise was this set of cards from Egypt.  The cards were produced by Max H. Rudmann, Cairo and were standard souvenir cards that were over-printed with "United States Atlantic Fleet, Our travels in Egypt on January 1909."  I have only been able to find two groups of these cards that have built the collection I have below.


earthquake at messina

This is a nice card that was purchased in Suez and mailed in Port Said.  "USS Rhode Island, Suez, Egypt, January 5, 1909, Presume you have heard of the terrible earthquake at Messina, nearly 200,000 people killed.  We have sent all the medical stores and provisions to the suffers that we could spare. P. Lind"



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