Sailing from India to Hong Kong, daily life at sea.

Sunday, 18 March, 1860

The 87th (Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regiment were ready on 18 March 1860 to sail aboard five steamships bound for Hong Kong. The colony was about to become, in the summer of 1860, the base from which an Anglo-French expedition would launch operations to conclude the Second Opium War (1856-1860). The 87th required volunteers from other regiments to make up the numbers required to reach a strength of one thousand and sixty-six officers and men.

Private Burton, one such volunteer from the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment, described life aboard:

We had a bathing parade every morning from four o'clock to six o'clock, and every one of us had to be on it, and whilst the bathing was at the end of the hose-pipe, we really enjoyed it. We had two parades every day sometimes three; and everyone had to attend prayers once a day. After we were properly settled down we began to look out for something to amuse ourselves after tea, so there was card-playing, dominoes, boxing, wrestling, singing, hunt the slipper, leap-frog and other games kept up till it was hammock time ... [At Singapore] we took in provisions and coals ... One part of the provisions consisted of a lot of live fowls; these were for the officers' mess. It was a grand treat for the men, as there were a great many cock birds among them, and at every opportunity we took two or three couple of the birds out of the pens; put them at it as hard as they could fight, whilst we bet sticks of tobacco on the result. But the officers tumbled to it at the finish, so there was a guard put on the pens. The officers could not resist the fun, so they started the same games themselves, and made the cooks of the officers' mess kill all the hens first, so as to keep the cocks for fighting. They used to bet five or ten pounds on their favourite birds.