Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
April 1 Sunday.
There weren't any jerks and I dressed in number ones and at 9-20 all the ship’s company fell in and all marched to the Church. It was not too bad marching to thro the streets. It was the old service we had at Geelong but without the sermon. The singing was very good. We marched back and had divisions. After that I played billiards and all the afternoon the day was fairly cold and there was nothing to do. I went into the library and did a bit of reading. I had a hot bath before I turned in about 10 p.m. I rather enjoyed be lazy life of the weekend. I am wondering why no letters arrive. Perhaps they have been sent on to our ships. We are due to leave on Tuesday. There is no news worth speaking of. I don't like the Portsmouth streets being so narrow. Dickens’ birthplace is in the main street.
We did some more field training and also some .22 shooting but I didn't do any good at it. Nearly all the others returned from leave about 12 o'clock. In the afternoon we had some Webley Scott pistol firing but I didn't do any good at that either. I saw my first lot of snow fall in the morning and it was very pretty. After afternoon tea I went into Portsmouth with Flertie but I didn't get anything I wanted. I played cards after dinner and turned in at 10. The British are nearly at St Quentin and are advancing. We received our mess bills up to the end of the month ie. 4 days. Mine came to 11/5. The weather is gradually getting warmer and sunnier. Our suits are expected to arrive tomorrow when we will be inspected by the Commander in Chief. I have only received one letter since I arrived. There is a corps of small boys who belong here & drill and they are very good at saluting etc.
It was a warmer day. We had the usual field exercise. We were inspected by Admiral Colville about 11-00 a.m. and he wished us good luck etc. After lunch I went in and saw Gieves about some gear I returned being too small. It snowed during the day. I got back about four. After that I wrote letters. I received my Australian mail, two letters from Mother numbered 1 & 2 and one from Edie. Mollie wrote in Mothers. I answered them all. I was very glad to get them & hear all the news of home. After afternoon tea I had a game of billiards. I received my gear from Gieves, one monkey jacket, two pairs of trousers & one grey flannels. After dinner I had a game of bridge & then I returned in and wrote my letters in bed. The British troops are still advancing. America is expected to declare war against Germany. I went to a play called Petticoats after dinner and it wasn't bad but too short, it ended at 8-30.
It was a warmer day. All the snow has not melted yet. We are not to go today. We received our bills from Gieves mine came to £6 odd. A lot of the gear was dear. We did field training in the morning and we were paid £5 at 11-45. After lunch we did some .22 firing and field exercise. After tea I went into town visited Gieves and arranged about my gear which has gone astray & did some business in town. We were given our provisional appointments to our ships and I answered mine. After dinner we arranged several things. I have started to pack my things away in my chest. We are to go tomorrow at midday. I haven't paid my mess bill yet. I haven't had the opportunity. We have had a fairly good time since we have been here but I won't be sorry when we get to our ships. America is on the verge of war but I hope she stays out. Farncombe is in hospital with a possible neumonia (sic). It is very hard luck for him.
I packed my bags and we all left Whale Island in taxis about 11-30. I was not sorry to go but I had a fairly easy time. We caught the 12-6 train from Portsmouth and we arrived in London about 4-00. At Waterloo. We took the tube railway to Euston station where we booked our luggage and then Flertie & myself went and had a good feed at a restaurant nearby. I posted my three crests, a letter & a package of menus home and then we all left by a service train at 6-00 p.m. from Euston. We met Capt Chambers on the station and we all had a chat with a him. Flertie and I had a carriage to ourselves & we settled ourselves down, one to each side & went to sleep. We didn't see much of London as we went by but it seemed a mighty place to me. We received our real appointments from the Admiralty. America has not yet joined the war. The day was fairly cool.
6 Good Friday.
We arrived at Inverness about 9-00. Half of us disembarked at Perth & they went on to Rosyth. Coming up, the Highlands but looked very pretty especially the passes but in some parts it looked very bleak. After fixing some matters up, we had breakfast at the Railway Hotel. We passed through Invergordon and we had lunch from a lunch basket on the train which wasn't too bad. We arrived at Thurso at 4-00 & we went by motor down to Scrabster Harbour. Thurso isn't as small as I thought it would be. We crossed over to the Orkneys and we had to wait till 10 p.m. before we could get to our ships. At last after having delivered all the mails we arrived at the "Royal Sovereign" half having embarked aboard the "Canada". We were taken to the gunroom, a very good one, had a drink and turned in soon after. We weren't given anything to eat & we were terribly hungry & tired.
I was awakened by the marine servant about 7-00 & had a wash and dressed. We had a good breakfast and we did not do anything in the morning. We had a talk with the Commander and we read the orders etc for us. The meals aboard here are very much better than I thought they would be. In the afternoon I wrote letters to Mother, & Gladys and after tea one of the K class submarines came along side and made fast to us. We did a bit of firing during breakfast but not much. After dinner I read till about 10 when I turned in. This gunroom is not too bad at all and is well ventilated and fairly comfortable. There are about seven other midshipman in this gunroom all younger than we are, and rated mids on Jan 1st. I don't know who are senior, we should be. There are also about the same number of subs who have just been rated and who are leaving shortly.
8 Easter Day.
I was told that I had to take the starboard watch of the FX. I attended divisions and after that the Church service. After that I read mostly all the afternoon and wrote up my list of the men in my division. I was shown around the ship by one of the marine servants. We were addressed by the senior sub and he told us that we were of the same seniority as the English snotties and that we were to be separate from them. He also told us what was expected of us and he seems a fair and honest chap. After dinner I did a bit of writing and turned in early and finished the book I am reading. I am feeling very happy & contented now that I know how we stand with regard to the others. My servant tidied up my chest which arrived today in a fairly good condition and he also took away my washing. He seems to be a very good steward. I wrote a letter to Gieves telling them to forward on my parcel in quick time. This is a fairly easy time up here and I quite enjoy it. We only go out for one or two days every month. We are going out next week.
Usual routine. I took divisions in the morning and after that Flertie & I went round the ship and tried to find out more about her. The weather was squally & rather cold. I received a letter & an Argus from Edie this morning and wrote her one in reply & posted it & Mothers & Gladys. After lunch we had another look around & went inside the turrets. It is hard to imagine what a gigantic size it is. After afternoon tea we all had to go to the Commander’s cabin and he told us what our syllabus was and gave us some advice on different subjects. I did not attend quarters but wrote up my general orders and read till dinner. Before dinner we had to do a bit of flashing. We have to do it twice a week. After dinner the senior sub called we Anzacs over and said we had to give them a song. We obliged with five choice songs being headed by "Two Old Buffers" & "Parley vous". Any how it was a success. I turned in early & after reading a bit, I went to sleep leaving orders and that I had to be awakened at 6-15. Now I am quite happy and contented.
No letters or papers arrived. I got up at 6-15 and had a hot bath. After breakfast the Navigating Commander showed us over the ship and told us what he thought we ought to do. The day was sunny, snowy & rainy. Each day I take divisions & quarters and up to the present I am enjoying the life. During the afternoon I went down the forward turret and a PO told me something of its working. It is a mighty thing when you get inside it. I read after 4-00 & after dinner I turned in & read. It is the great sight to see the whole fleet flashing their search lights about. The day are getting sunnier and altogether everything is alright. We are not starting work till Monday so we have had a fairly easy time so far. We don't do much boat work as I don't think that the Commander likes it. We are to have an exam on our work about February & I am going to try and do well in it. The meals still keep up to the good standard that they have always been. I expect a mail from home soon as it is over a week ago since we got our last.
Usual procedure. After breakfast and divisions I went up on the forecastle and drew a sketch of it and watched them getting the paravanes ready. I received three letters and an Argus one from mother, from Eric & from Col. Rideout. I was very pleased to get them. After going out on the forecastle I had a yarn to the Chief Boatswain who has been to Australia. We went up on the bridge after lunch which we had at 11-30 and watched us going out for a cruise. We cruised around outside for a few hours & then we came in about 2-00 & anchored at 2-30 p.m. in good style. After afternoon tea I attended quarters and after that I watched some boxing going on. Arbuthnot one of the RN snotties is very good at it. After dinner which was a guest night I had the misfortune to have to stay and shuffle the cards for them & I didn't get to bed till after 10-30. We were allowed to smoke after dinner and I did. I wrote a letter to Eric in reply to his.
I got up at 6-45 had a wash and dressed. After divisions we all doubled round the ship to the tune of the band. After that we went up to the control tower and were shown over it and also over the turrets and transmitting stations. After lunch I went out with the rest sailing, in charge of the Major of Marines named Arbuthnot and we had a very good day's sailing. The major is an expert sailer. After that Larkins & myself went up to the censoring room where we stamped & sealed the letters. I wrote a letter home to Mother & posted them both. After afternoon tea I played hockey of the QD until it started to rain. It is very strenuous & I am out of training. After I had changed I read till dinner & after dinner I turned in a early & read for a while. I was awakened about 10 to 12 by bugles blowing etc. and was told that a submarine was outside. I was too sleepy to pay much attention. Not much doing. The weather is still fairly cool.
Same old procedure. Got up at 6-15 and had a bath. Divisions were held near the battery owing to the snow. I heard that the scare last night was due to a submarine. They said it tried to follow some cruisers in and is now between the first and second gates. I don't know if they have caught it yet. I looked round the ship part of the morning the rest I spend in reading. The morning turned out to be bright and sunny. I did nothing all afternoon and we went out with the other three of our class present for sub calibre 15" practice. We fired 3 lb. shells. The firing was very good. I was in the turret most of the time. It is a fact that you can watch the shells in the air as I saw them myself. I tidied up for dinner and soon after it I went to bed and finished my book named Eldorado. I wrote a letter to Whale Island inquiring about his bag. If it comes at any time now I get 5/-. We start work next Sunday and I will be glad to get something to do.
I got up at the usual time. After breakfast Hirst & myself were told to go away with the picket boat to pick up torpedos. I had charge of the whaler. We were towed to the buoy but it was a bit cold in the snow and wind. The torpedos went very close to the buoy & about a hundred yards further on, they broke surface & we had no difficulty in picking them up. The whaler was towed back by a motor launch to the ship, but then we had to go out again & pick up buoys. It was about 12-15 when we got back. Saturday afternoon is a make & mend & I read mostly all the afternoon & had a sleep. I had a bath before dinner & soon after dinner I turned in, after watching one of the ships doing night defence & it was a sight. The flashes from the guns showed her out very clearly. I'm enjoying life not too bad and I am feeling quite contented. The weather is a lot warmer and it is getting a lot sunnier. Farncombe won't be here for some days yet.
I dressed in No. 1s and attended divisions and then I went to Church. I received two letters, one from Gladys & one from Mother & Mollie numbered (3). Evidently the letter that I received last Wednesday dated 19/2/17 & numbered 5 went via America & beat No. 3 dated 12/2/17. All are well at home. No other news of importance. I wrote a reply No. 6 to Mother & posted it. I also wrote a letter to Gladys. I read mostly all the afternoon and other than writing, but I played a game of poker & won 3/-. After dinner I had a smoke as there were guests and then I turned in early. My back muscles are again giving me trouble. There was a big fall of hail & snow about 6-00 p.m. & it covered the quarterdeck with some inches of it. I heard that at the college things are getting very strict. I am glad I am away. I finished another book that I was reading. There is nothing much else to do but read. We are still advancing on both fronts. We have war maps all round of the gunroom.
I received a letter from Gladys from the Blue Mountains where she spent her holidays. I posted my letter to her. We started summer routine today and also a gunnery course. We watched the spotting table for 15" guns & also attended down in the transmitting station. After lunch we had instruction in the working of X turret, the hydraulic system and how to load the lifts. We also inspected & were shown over the magazine. It was very interesting. After tea and quarters I read mostly all the afternoon as there were no games & as it snowed. Arbuthnot caught a seagull by letting the bird get tangled up in the cotton to which is tied some meat. We had a half hours signalling instruction before dinner. I turned in soon after dinner and read about ships organisation. The news here is just the same. I can't find enough news to fill in my diary. The British & French are still continuing their advance.
A fine day for up here. We did some squad drill on the forecastle before breakfast and after we did 1½ hours of it on the quarterdeck. I think we ought to know it by now. After 11-00 we did some spotting table work, the common or garden spotting. After lunch we tried to catch some seagulls but didn't succeed. We were given a lecture on fire control and after that I did some censoring ie stamp & licking the envelopes. After afternoon tea Shadwell & I had to inspect a ABs kit for punishment to see if he had all his gear. After that we did some more seagull angling. We had an early dinner and then Flertie & I & a lot of others went over to the Collingwood to see a show that was being given over there. It turned out to be a very good play about Kaiser Bill etc. & and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We were all taken to the gunroom and given sandwiches & drinks & we returned to our ship about 11-00. I turned in straight away & was soon asleep.
The first anniversary of the commissioning of the "Royal Sovereign". I was midshipman of the day & had to turn out a few of the subs. As it was wet we had 6" drill instead of squad drill. After breakfast we each went into a turret & watched them practising till 11-00 & then we went into the TS & GCT for a lecture on control given by Sub Lieut Denny. After lunch we had stripping down a 6" Mk12. Breach. After quarters I didn't do any exercise accept chopping up some wood for the hockey players. We had dinner at 8-00 & had the band out side. We were allowed to smoke & half of the subs were shicker in commemoration of the commissioning day. I had to run a lot of messages and as I was MOD. They have us doing evolutions and acting the ass generally & there were plenty of drinks knocking round. However they nearly all turned in about 11-00 & I got into my hammock about 11-30 & soon got to sleep. It wasn't a bad night after all but there was a bit of bullying going on.
I didn't get up and as early as usual owing to the late night last night. It was blowing a real gale like aboard the Omrah just outside Plymouth. We went out into the Flow for a submarine attack but I don't know how it was conducted. Then we had concentration fire and I was in Y turret all the morning. After lunch we had practice at the spotting table and in the GCT which was very good. I read mostly all the afternoon after tea. The big French push is still in progress & they have taken a large number of prisoners. I played cards after dinner till about 10-30 & then turned in. I expect another mail shortly from home. We are all in for a billiard tournament & all our handicaps are terribly low but nearly all the others have got high handicaps. I have been given 40 in 200. Some get 115 which is ridiculous. Nothing new, we seem to stay here all the time and let all the work rest on the destroyers & cruisers.
We had some instruction in 6" missfires from 7 - 7-30 & after divisions we had a further lecture in the X turret, being shown the different valves etc. After lunch we were given a lecture on Control by the Gunnery Lieutenant. I had to muster one of my divisions kit (Etty) which I did at 4-45. After that I wrote up my gunnery notes and then got ready for dinner. We were allowed to smoke after dinner and I turned in about a 8-30 - 9 p.m. Some of the billiard rounds came off and it showed how out of reason were the handicaps. The big advance is still taking place & we & the French have captured thousands of prisoners. The weather moderated and it was nice weather after tea. I am quite settled down to it now and it is getting quite home-like to me. We are expected to go out any time now and I think it is about time too. We never seem to go out side the Flow. Only one letter arrived from Australia tonight and that wasn't for me so I expect one tomorrow night. Sergeant Sterling of the Marines is our instructor in gunnery and he is very good & explains it very well.
Today it was a make & mend all day but I didn't go ashore but loafed and read all morning. The day was a nice warm day. After lunch I played my first round in the billiard tournament and after a very close go I won by 5 in 200 although I had to give a start of 10. After tea I played pitching the punishment ball over a net with some of the officers & it was very strenuous. After doing some training with it I had a bath and got dressed for dinner. I had my hair cut after dinner & turned in early. The Broke & Swift met 5 modern destroyer (German) sank two, third uncertain. Our casualties 21 killed 26 wounded. There is a rumour that we will be going out on Monday & call in at Rosyth. I was getting into my bath and my knee cronked & I have got water on the knee. I have been invited to supper with Lieutenant Gill tomorrow night. A party left in the afternoon for a paper chase but I didn't go as I was too lazy.
22 Sunday. (6th letter)
I attended divisions and Church. After Church I read nearly all the morning and after lunch I played cards nearly all afternoon winning about three shillings. I afterwards had a small game of billiards and then I went to supper with Lieut Gill. I had a yarn and after supper we all played snooker and then billiards and I didn't get to bed till about 11 p.m. I received a letter from home and read it in bed. It was the 6th. They all are well and all seem happy. I also received a pair of mittens from home. This morning I got a letter from Australia House re the 4 white tunics to Gieves. The day was nice & warm during the morning but got colder as the day went on. My knee is getting much better but I'm still a bit lame on it. There isn't much news. Still the same routine. Very much like the routine at the College but a lot better. I am quite enjoying the life. I only wish we would go to sea more & see more active service. It seems that all work rests on the shoulders of the destroyers & light craft.
Usual routine. We did 6" loading exercise before breakfast. I did it alright. After divisions we had turret drill, at least we had shell room drill. It was very interesting and good. I started my 7th letter home and also continued it after tea. After lunch we had a lecture on ammunition, tubes etc. We went out & did torpedo firing while we were at lecture and then we did a bit of manoeuvring with the Royal Oak & then we came to anchor. I played bridge till dinner and also after until about 10-30. Germany is sinking British Hospital ships without warning. America seems to be firmly in the war now. The weather now is much warmer and you can get at least get warm. I have let Hirst have my wine bill as I won't use mine. It doesn't seem as if we are not going out to sea this week. It seems as if they are worse than us in the Australia as Long was being cautioned by the subs. There isn't much out of the ordinary to speak about here. The subs are expected to go away any minute.
I posted my letter home & also one to Mr W Tuson at Preston England. We continued practice at the 6" loader before breakfast and after divisions I went into the X turret and watched the marines loading. Newman came over from the Canada to see the dentist and he told us that it was good oh over there. He is coming over to dinner tomorrow. After stand easy we had drill in the working chamber of the turret. After lunch we were given a lecture on control by Sub Lieut Mansergh and packed up early. I read my book nearly all the afternoon. It is a good book entitled "His Official Fiancee". We had a big signal exercise before dinner. After dinner I finished a game of cards and I then turned in early. Someone has stolen my dancing pumps. It was I think during the early morning when I was asleep & when my chest was left open by the servant. I have got a new wrist strap at last. Two more hospital ships were sunk yesterday. The weather is now nice & warm and I sleep terribly well in my hammock.
The second anniversary of the landing of the Australians at Gallipoli. We had gun drill before breakfast. After divisions we had practice at what occurs when fire is to be opened. After that we visited the 6" magazine. After lunch we had instruction in 6" spare parts & were given a lecture on the engine which trains the turret. We went out in the Flow for firing practice with the rest of our class and did 6 pdr firing. The Courageous came in here yesterday. After dinner to celebrate Anzac Day we had to scruff with the RN snotties who were supposed to be Turks. We had to storm the table and chuck em off. We did this fairly easily. They had their turn & got us off but not in as quick as a time. We were 5 they were 7. I played bridge up till 10-15 and lost 6’. I have since heard that the submarine who was trapped was blown up alright. The light up here is very peculiar. It doesn't get dark till about nine. It keeps getting later each day. Newman did not come to dinner as we did not come to anchor till about 7-30 - 7-45.
It was a very windy day and we had 3 rounds each of 6" loader before breakfast. After divisions we had turret drill and after lunch we had a lecture on the TS, Director Tower & ST by Denny and it was very windy up top. I had nothing to do so I had a hot bath and after that we had a signal exercise but I haven't got a grip of the signs yet. After dinner I turned in and did a bit of study and then got to sleep. There is nothing doing up here although I don't mind it. We are expected to go out shortly but I wish they would hurry up with it. The Allies are still on the offensive but aren't gaining as much as usual. My dancing pumps were stolen alright as no further information has arrived. It is downright robbery. The wind kept up all day & was very chilly. The time seems to go quickly up here. There is nothing to do but work & so we look for it. I really can't find any news at all to put in a diary and it takes a good bit of thinking to find out any.
A better day today. We had a bit of a lecture on the 6" gun before breakfast. We had the usual double round in the morning and then we had an exam of the work we have done in gunnery during the last fortnight. It was a fair exam & I ought to do fairly well. After lunch the Gourko came along side and the Boys boxing championship was held. I watched a few bouts and they weren't too bad. After tea I read a bit and wrote a letter to Gieves telling them about the gear. We had an early dinner at 7-00 but I didn't go to the concert held on board the Gourko but played bridge up till 10-15. I won about 10’ during the night. I turned in then and soon got to sleep. I have only received one letter during the last week so I am expecting some this week. The ships sunk this week were larger than any previous and the war news is getting quieter. Hirst as it was his birthday had to stand everyone in the mess a drink.
It was a wet day. There were no divisions but I didn't know what to do with myself during the morning. I read a bit and played poker. After lunch I also read again & then played poker and bridge all afternoon. I played my second round of billiards but I was beaten, the handicap I had to give was too big. I gave him 40 and only caught up 8. After that I had a bath & dressed for dinner. After dinner I played bridge up till 10-00 and then I turned in. No letters arrived so I expect them tomorrow night. There is nothing to do when make & mends come and I think I would rather work. I always thought that the British Navy sailed the seas but we haven't been out yet and we have no intention of doing so. We start our next course on Monday, Navigation and Seamanship and we have it four eight weeks, up till July 14. The new lot of RN midshipman are expected to arrive at about the 10th of next month. All the mess bills are being made up & I expect it to be a fairly big one. Farncombe hasn't arrived yet, so he must have had it bad.
It was a very windy day but we had divisions on the forecastle as usual. We were divided up into watches to go down into the shellrooms as a good many shells weren't correct. I went down at 12-30 & we had to inspect and mark the shells good or bad. We finished about 4-00. I played bridge up till 7-00 p.m. and won 10’. After dinner as no letters arrived I went to bed early and read till 9-30. My messing bill without extras is £5/0/6 & it includes £3/2/6 as a mess subscription. There is absolutely nothing to put in a diary here. The war news is again very quiet compared with recent news. Mostly all is connected with the America's entry into the war. I hear that diaries are forbidden but I don't think that one like this would matter as no information could be derived. Anyhow I won't put anything of importance in to it that isn't already known outside. There has been a wholesale rooking concern going on during the last few days, my pumps & towel being two amongst a lot which have been taken.
We started our Navigation & Seamanship routine. We had gymnasium from 7- 7-20. I was MOD but I forgot to call them but I was lucky in getting off with a caution. After divisions we were given a Navigation paper by the Naval Instructor. We were taking in ammunition all day from an ammunition ship alongside. It was a very nice day, very calm and the sun shining. After lunch we were taken by the boatswain and shown over the anchors cables etc. and had the different ropes & hawsers explained to us. After tea I played bridge after doing the censoring, up till 6-45 when we were given an exercise in signalling. After dinner I played poker up till 10-30 & won a couple of bob and then turned in. Our mess bills are out. Mine for this month came to £5/17/6 or near that. My extra extras came to 15/- so taking into account that our mess subscription came to over £3/10 we ought to be able to save a bit next month. No letters have arrived yet but I suppose they will arrive tomorrow. I think I will be going out on patrol tomorrow.
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© Michael Calder February 2003