The Midlothian Archives hold a unique series of diaries written by Frederick R. Lucas, a doctor and keen traveller from Dalkeith, Midlothian. Lucas fought in the First World War, afterwards staying in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a ship’s surgeon. He kept a diary whilst on board several ships from October 1920 until July 1921, when he disembarked and returned to London to await further orders. He sailed from London to Bombay on the SS Assaye, where he joined the SS Lhasa on November 19th 1920, sailing to Karachi. Finally, he joined H.M.T Ekaterinoslav, where he sailed between Bombay, Basra, and Alexandria before returning to Britain on June 27th, 1921. During this time, he performed duties as ship’s surgeon, dealing with outbreaks of tuberculosis, cholera and typhoid, as well as the occasional accident on board ship.
Lucas also took the opportunity to go sightseeing, particularly whilst harboured in Bombay, where he apparently made some good friends with members of the British community. As well as dining out and going to shows and concerts, Lucas also made many visits to local Scout groups, as a keen supporter of the Scout movement, who would later become a Scout Leader. He met Lord and Lady Baden-Powell on several occasions, and was present at many events during the Duke of Connaught’s trip to India in 1921. The Duke, also a friend of Lord Baden-Powell, performed the official opening of the 3rd World Scout Jamboree at Arrowe Park, which Lucas attended and described in his diary with great detail and enthusiasm.
Upon returning to Britain, and ending the diary, he described the voyage as “an education in the fullest sense.” In his detailed, touching and often amusing diary there is much to learn about contemporary attitudes; towards religion, society, and how the British ruling classes in India viewed the world around them. However, at the end of his diary, Lucas paused to reflect upon his travels, expressing remarkably universal sentiments:
“The world is small, and it may be, that at some future time I shall meet again those from “the far places of the earth” whose hand I have grasped in friendship and of whose salt I have eaten. May I return then some of the kind hospitality they have so liberally showered on me.”
Below is a map charting the voyages he made on three different ships, marking the places he called at. If you click on a placemark, you can read an extract from the diary and find out what his experience of his journey was. To read an extract from the diary in document form, click here.