Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
April Monday 1. Scapa.
I started engineering today. Nothing to do. I knocked around as usual and visited No.1 hydraulic room. We weighed about noon & went over to the Fleet anchorage. I studied a sketch of the Babcock boiler. It is a useful thing to know for the exams. We weighed again about five. We did a sub calibre firing at a splash target but we had a hydraulic lecture. After dinner I read & turned in early. More Australian mail arrived but still none for me. I expect mine tomorrow. We have had fairly fine weather. We anchored in E3 berth. The German advance has been temporarily stopped although some advances have been made. Over 1,000 planes were a brought down last month 800 being German. We have anchored quite close to the battlecruisers. We are having some over on Wednesday night.
Tuesday 2. Scapa.
A very fine day. Nothing of interest to report. I did engineering in the forenoon on No. 4 air compressor. In the afternoon I was asked to play in a 1st BS snotties pick up. I played half. We had a very good game. I scored one try. I had tea at the clubhouse and then walked about a bit on the island. We got the 6-30 boat back & I had a bath before dinner. The Napier came alongside & Larkins came aboard. After dinner we had the pictures the continuation of Black Box. It is pretty absurd. I received two letters from home one from Mother & one from Gladys & also one from Gerald Cadden. The battle cruisers did their full calibre shoot today. Saw Feldt & Collins ashore & also notification in Fleet Orders of our exam in September.
Wednesday 3. Scapa.
Another bonzer day nice & sunny & warm. In the forenoon we had the evolution "Abandon Ship". I had charge of the whaler. We lowered it & set sail. After lying off the ship for some time we made fast astern & finished the evolution about 11-30. We were paid yesterday. I received £10/11 all our back pay being given to us. In the afternoon I was doing engineering sketches. I did one of the ahead turbine. After tea I wrote a letter to Mother. I received three letters from home, one from Mother & two from Edie. I wrote up some gunnery notes. After dinner I played some bridge & didn't turn in till about 10-30. Hirst went across to the Australia. The Chief Gunner is aboard. He told him some good yarns. The new lot are still at Whale Island. Weekly sailing races commence.
Thursday 4. Scapa.
Another beautiful day. We weighed about 8-30 and went out into the Firth. I went to 6" GQs & we fired 6" full calibre at the splash target towed by the "Nonsuch". The shooting was pretty bad. We returned about 12-30 & then we had the weekly sailing race that has just been started. The Captain won with the galley. We also got 4th & 7th. I did engineering & in the dogs played deck hockey. The Yanks from the Wyoming came to dinner. Had a very good feed. Met Preston again. We went into the show afterwards and it was very good. Thomson returned tonight and I received a letter from Eric. After the interval I turned in as it was 11-30 & I soon got to sleep. I think they had a good time. We are having all the Australia’s over tomorrow night.
Friday 5. Scapa.
A pretty rotten day today. We had general quarters in the forenoon. We didn't go but stayed doing engineering. As luck would have it the 2nd BCS left Scapa at 1-00 & went down to Rosyth. In the afternoon I fooled around in the engineer’s office. Engineering has become rather good this time. I wouldn’t mind going out whilst I am doing it. In the dogs I changed for deck hockey but it rained. I did hydraulic notes. After dinner I went to the show & watched it for a couple of turns. I received a letter from Mother & one from Gladys posted about the middle of February. I turned in about 10-30. The Glorious is still here in restricted quarantine. We are due for Rosyth any day now. Nothing doing of any importance.
Saturday 6. Scapa.
Not a bad day. I didn't go below for engineering but did my hydraulic notes. Nothing happened all day. We sent over to the Glorious & asked them to come over to dinner but as they are in restricted quarantine they weren't allowed to come. I wrote letters to Gladys & Eric & read & loafed all afternoon. In the dogs I did a bit of exercise. After dinner I did some more notes & after that I had a talk of old times & turned in. Absolutely nothing to put in my diary. No more mail has arrived. The offensive in the West continues but we are holding them alright. The junior snotties beat Evans’ lot in a gunnery exam but Evans’ lot weren't prepared. The new lot haven't arrived yet.
Sunday 7. Scapa.
We had divisions & church as usual. I was doing hydraulic notes & sketches all day and got pretty tired of them. The same fine weather continues. I managed to start letters to Edie & Eric. We are having an engineering exam on Tuesday, all of us. I will try & get fairly high in it. No big ships have been out on convoy for some time. The last one two merchantmen were sunk off Bergen. Armitage was over to lunch. Nothing doing in the Canada. It was quite warm in the afternoon and I had a game of deck hockey in the evening after which a bath. After supper I at last finished my notes. There was no mail for me. I turned in about 10-30. No news from the front. Herald will be over there shortly I suppose.
Monday 8. Scapa.
I was down in No.3 hydraulic room & the CER all forenoon. Not a bad day. The 5th BS left Scapa. Hope they don't go to Rosyth. I posted letters to Edie & Eric. At 1-15 I went to the dentists & had my pivot put back & another tooth filled. For the rest of the afternoon we were in the office whilst Mr Noake & Squirrel asked us questions. We were given a navigation dog watch lecture in the dogs. I was in the lower chart house all the while. After dinner I played poker & then turned in before 10. It started to drizzle during the afternoon. No news at all. Volunteers are asked for the CMB (coast motor boats). I would volunteer but only a Sub & above are allowed to do so. Mids RNR are allowed to volunteer.
Tuesday 9. Scapa.
We were at 2½ hours notice when I got up. We did engineering as usual. I was down in the bilges in the CER mostly all the forenoon. We went to one hour about 11-00 a.m. The Barhum (sic) returned to the Flow oiled & then went out again at four. I was doing a sketch of a Babcock boiler all afternoon. In the dogs we were out in the Flow being spotted on by submarines. It was very calm & one of the K boats was rising & submerging. We anchored about 7-00 p.m. We had the pictures & continued the Black Box. It ought to end next week. I am looking forward to going down to Rosyth shortly. Ireland is to have conscription as well as Home Rule so the Prime Minister says. The will be some row on over there. I am thinking of writing to the Australian Officers Club & joining it, Hirst to also.
Wednesday 10. Scapa.
Still at one hours notice but reverted to 4 hours at 1-00 p.m. We expect to go to Rosyth next week. I was down the CER during the forenoon & read up my engineering notes. In the afternoon I was in the office & read notes etc. I played deck hockey during the dogs & afterwards had a bath. We had the band but it was pretty rotten. I wrote letters to the Australasian Club asking for particulars & also to Harold. I turned in after tea in. The weather still continues to be very good. I am going to go steady on cigarettes. Life goes on just the same each day. We do a our engineering exam tomorrow I think I will do a fairly well. Larkins broke the glass rule in the office for me. I have to make another.
Thursday 11. Scapa & at sea.
We did the usual routine. I was down in the CER all forenoon studying up my notes. After lunch we had a lecture on metacentric heights by Mr Squirrel. We went to 2½ hours about 1-00 p.m. We had the engineering exam in the dogs & according to the engineers it was a paper which would puzzle many of the senior watchkeepers. I don't know how I did. I did as well as the majority. At 6-20 p.m. we were ordered to prepare to leave harbour at 8-15 which is rather sudden. We keep engineering watches. I hope it is a flap. The Huns have started another offensive & advance. It seems pretty serious. We will probably have beautiful weather at sea. I hope to get plenty of sights. We will probably go to Rosyth afterwards. I hope so. I received an Argus from Eric but no other mail. Weighed at 8-15 & left harbour.
Friday 12. At sea. Rosyth.
I kept the morning in the boiler room. We went to GQs at ¼ to 6. Rumours that we are after the Huns. Had breakfast & had a wash & tidied up. All the fleet are together except 5th BS. Steaming in line abreast Yanks astern. Course South gyro. We went to GQs about ten. I had to go up in the top for concentration. Bit of a fog on & no chance for any sights. We proceeded to Rosyth & passed May Island at 20 to 4. We proceeded up & anchored in A9 berth. The 4th BS entered 1st & 2nd next then ourselves. The 5th & 6th BS anchored below the bridge. The BCs weren't in here. We were put at 2½ hours notice & all told to oil & coal as quickly as possible. I don't know what is up. I kept both dogs in the boiler room coming in. After dinner I played bridge. No mail for me. I turned in at 10-15.
Saturday's 13. Rosyth.
Quite a surprise to find oneself near civilisation. We had a torpedo dog watch lecture in the forenoon on torpedo lookouts. Afterwards I played bridge. Very misty weather. We were still at 2½ hours notice. I sent a letter to Harold telling him to try & arrange to come up to Edinburgh. Officers were given restricted leave. The offensive near Calais continues & they have advanced in masses a couple of miles. Thompo and I went ashore. Had to take the train to get across the bridge. Saw Spurgeon at a distance. We had a good walk & had tea at the Queensferry Arms. We returned about five. Recall hoisted. We were at 1 hrs notice. 1st BCS left & LC's & destroyers. By time we got back we were back to 2½ again. Had dinner & read & then turned in. We are down here till offensive is over I think.
Sunday 14. Rosyth.
We were at 2 hours notice all day. The attack on the Western Front is still in progress. Restricted leave is being given to officers & men. We had divisions & church as usual. After lunch I read up torpedo notes & tried to understand a bit more about it. The weather today was very good. I played deck hockey during the dog watches. After dinner as there was nothing to do I turned in early & read. One sees plenty of new destroyers down here & one knows when something is up. Some of our fellows saw some of the new lot ashore. Things were pretty bad at the college last year. They ought to be disciplined stricter. This new lot were never very good. I hope we can go to Edinburgh shortly. No news & no mail.
Monday 15. Rosyth.
A very nice day. I went down to the TS for spotting table. I have to work the rangefinder range plot. It is hard but interesting. We did director firing & circuits with Mr Elsdon & afterwards Denny gave us a short account of ladder spotting. We have gunnery exams every afternoon this week so we won't get ashore much. The exam was very hard all theory stuff. I knew nothing about it. We were at 2 hours notice but later we went to 4 hours. Afterwards I knocked around and read a bit. After dinner I played cards and then turned in. We had a our hydraulics lecture from 8-30 till 10-00 p.m. It is much better down here but pretty cool & chilly. Rumours of a destroyer action.
Thursday 16. Rosyth.
Another fine day. I was down in the TS for spotting table. I can see my place going down there every day. We traced out director circuits & saw the Henderson's Gyro Gear. We put in for leave and we were well told off by Guns. We had another exam & I did as bad as yesterday. We were again told off again after the exam. I came 3rd in the engineering exam with 52%. In the last paper I can (sic) 3rd in gunnery with 42%. The Cardiff went into dock with a shot in her. The Erin's air vessel (sic) in the fore flat yesterday & went into dock. After tea I played poker & won about £ 1. We had pictures as usual saw the end of the Black Box. Nothing much doing. Bailleul taken. Huns advancing. 10 drifters sunk.
Wednesday 17 Rosyth.
Another fine day I went ashore at 8-30 to play the band at soccer football. It was a good ground & we had a good game. We won 1-0. We got back to the ship for lunch. After lunch I did gunnery. Guns went over the paper & we finished off the last one. I had a walk on the QD after tea. We have finished painting ship. The sun was out for quite a long time today. New restrictions came out about leave. Our routine is as follows 7 - 8 study 8 - 8-45 breakfast 8-45 - 12-00 study with stand easy. All can then go ashore not on duty the remainder on board do study. A pretty rotten idea. We also have to be turned in ¼ of an hour after the gunroom is cleared. We had the band. I played bridge till 10-15. I wrote a letter to Mother & posted it.
Thursday 18. Rosyth.
A fairly chilly day. We got up at 6-30 & started gunnery at 7-00. We did gun circuits till 8-00. We did Analysis all the forenoon & then we were told that only two are allowed to Edinburgh each day so we have to cut for it. I went ashore with the mob. We landed at the dockyard & walked to N. Queensferry. We looked up Lt. Blundell & asked for permits to cross the bridge but he sent us over in the steam boat. It was very chilly on shore. We met Baldwin & Dudley from the Canada & Britt & Armitage. We had tea. I bought some collars & studs & returned to the ship at 7-00. We have another act sub in the mess now. Joined tonight. We have our test exam on May 18th. After dinner I wrote up my hydraulic notes & turned in at 10-00. Anniversary of our commission.
Friday 19. Rosyth.
A better day today. We did notes before breakfast & after analysis. GQs went and I was in the battery afterwards. Denny finished up the morning with us. I went ashore at 12-20 & landed at S. Queensferry. I thought that it would be a bad day but it turned out nice & fine & sunny. I had some good cider at the Queensferry Arms & then Dicky & myself went for a walk before tea. We walked about three miles or so & arrived back in time for tea. After tea Thompo, Dicky & myself went along the river & returned at 6-00. No one ashore much. We returned at 7-15 p.m. The torpedo dog watch lecture was put off. We did a signalling exercise. They made it very rotten. I turned in & read after it. I feel very stiff with all the walking I have been doing. Heard that Mr Steele was washed overboard from his destroyer.
Saturday 20. Rosyth.
It was raining & snowing during the forenoon. I wrote up gunnery notes. I obtained a handbook on navigation & pilotage. It cleared up wonderfully in the afternoon, quite sunny & warm. Hirsty & I went ashore & went for a walk. We met Long & Vail ashore & had a yarn. Long was in one of the V class in the drifter scrap. Said that they took the crews prisoners & then sank the drifters. Coming back we went to 2½ hours notice & later we went to 2. I had to make a new glass rule for the engineers office. I wrote letters to Gladys & Eric & then turned in. I hope to get up to Edinburgh on Monday. I want to do some shopping. Very tired tonight. I think Harold has gone to the front as he hasn't answered my letter yet.
Sunday 21. At Rosyth.
Only nine are allowed ashore now except those playing games. Another fine day although it got pretty chilly now & then. We had divisions & church. I didn't go ashore but read up navigation. I pasted my sketches in & put my hydraulic books in. We got orders to go out in the Flow tomorrow. After dinner I played poker & by very good luck at the last hand I won 30d. I wrote letters to Gladys, Eric & Edie. Nothing new to put in. We have to economise with water. baths 1/3 full. I think Harold has left England as I haven't received any reply. A cruiser squadron went out in the evening. We were back at 4 hrs notice when I got up this morning. Hot baths are very scarce now. The Captain & Commanders etc had their wives on board. A bad example I think.
Monday 22. Rosyth.
I got up at 5-30 when cable officers went. We unmoored & weighed at 7-00 & proceeded to the Flow. 15" control went and I was down in the TS. We did a couple of runs. The day was the warmest that we have had yet quite sunny & calm. I took a couple of snapshots with my camera. We returned about 2-00. We had to do silhouettes for Guns. We moored six on each. Later in the afternoon we went to 2½ hours notice. I played poker after dinner. We had a navigation dog watch lecture. The Commander N got quite pally. Absolutely nothing to put in. A lot of destroyers put to sea. Vertue passed the port on his 19th birthday. Hope to get up to Edinburgh. No reply from Harold yet.
Tuesday 23. Rosyth.
We were at 2½ hours notice until just before lunch when we went to 4 hrs again so Hirst & myself hurried & caught the boat ashore. I did TS in the forenoon & another exam. We got the bus at S. Queensferry & got into Edinburgh. I bought a pair of football boots & a pair of lined gloves. 19/- for the 1st & 15/- for the 2nd. We went to two sets of pictures & had tea. Heard of the Zeebruge raid. Casualties were said to be fairly heavy. Objectives attained so they say. Richthofen brought down on the front. We took the train back & arrived at the dockyard & got back to the ship about 7-45. We had the pictures. They weren't at all bad. The Vindictive was one of the cruisers. I received a letter from Eric.
Wednesday 24. Rosyth. At sea.
We were at 2½ hrs notice. Full reports about the raid. Two old cruisers were blown up & sunk off Zeebruge. A sub E3 blew up purposely against the mole. Success also at Ostend. Parties landed heavy casualties. Remained ashore for an hour. We lost the destroyer Moon Star (sic) and a couple of light aircraft. We received a confidential account of it. We had a lecture on crusher gauges. Went to raise steam full despatch. unmoored. LCSs went out 1st & 2nd. We weigh at 2-00 p.m. Received a letter from Mother, Eric & Gladys. All the cruiser squadrons went out. We weighed at 2-45 & proceeded to sea. A heavy fog settled down. We had 6" control. I am turret or MOW. We had GQs at 5-0 to prepare. I kept the last dog on the bridge. Fog cleared up about 7-20. I had dinner and & turned in in B turret about nine. We go to action stations at 4-30 a.m. tomorrow.
Thursday 25. At sea.
Anzac day. I was called at 4-15 and went to GQs. We packed up at 5-00 & of the rest of the morning I kept on the bridge. Destroyers were firing all morning presumably at mines. We dodged a torpedo yesterday. I took sights all day. We went to GQs again about ten. The day was bright & sunny. We steered East all day. Reached long 5º E. A report came through that sixteen German cruisers were reported steaming west. We all thought we were going into action. Gas masks & anti gas apparatus were worn. Quite exciting. Packed up at 10-30 to 11-00. Normal state of affairs. E45 was the sub that reported. We turned again to West. Nearest to Germany yet. Plenty of subs knocking round. I kept the first dog. Nice & warm & sunny. We are returning to Rosyth. Turrets didn't close up so I have the middle tomorrow.
Friday 26. At sea. Rosyth.
I kept the middle watch. Nothing much happened. We had sighted May Island when I came off watch. I didn't turn out for cable officers. We had gunnery in the forenoon. We anchored in the old billet. We had a lecture on ammunition. I received tons of papers & a letter from Mother & one from Cranmer. We went to 2½ hours notice and later to four. Only hockey parties were allowed to land. We were given a stand easy and I wrote a letter to Mother. I received a parcel and a very good one from home. I played deck hockey and got a good whack on the thumb so I can't write a very well. After dinner I did a signal exercise and then wrote letters home. I turned in at the usual time. Very good weather. We oiled.
Saturday 27. Rosyth.
About the warmest day we have had yet. No more letters. I wrote a letter to Eric & posted it. We had an engineering dog watch lecture in the forenoon. After lunch I put in for leave & went ashore and walked to Kirkliston with Dickinson. It was a very nice walk & I felt warm for once. We had tea at the S. Queensferry Arms & I read and talked to some of the new lot & returned to the ship about 7-30. No fleet news. The Australians retook a village in a counter attack. They are doing a lot of attacking now. After dinner I played poker and won almost £1. Turned in about ten. I wrote a letter to Gladys before playing. We all do torpedo next three weeks. We work in groups. Hirst is with me.
Sunday 28. Rosyth.
The usual routine Divisions & church. I went to Communion. I was the only one there. During the afternoon I studied up some navigation & seamanship I also wrote a letter to Cranmer. I took a few photos. I want to see what my camera is like. We received orders about going out into the Flow tomorrow. I didn't go ashore. After dinner I played poker. The stakes were pretty heavy I won a fair amount. No naval news. We start tomorrow at torpedo. I have a fairly rotten cough & in consequence and not feeling tip top. No more Australian mail. We didn't turn in till about after eleven. Some of the gunroom have to paint outside the square port owing to us having to climb through it when at sea as the doors were closed.
Monday 29. Rosyth.
We all had to turn out at six when we got underway. I had to go up on the bridge before I had finished breakfast as there was no MOW. The Captain jumped on to me for not knowing the expression "wooded". No one else knew. I was relieved at eight. We were in the Flow all day. I was down in the TS. I still assist at the plot. I think my action station is the plot as well as temporary. After lunch while some were doing 1" firing I did torpedo. Connected up instruments in the TLD (?). I was up on the bridge for the first dog when we returned to harbour & I watched them mooring. After dinner I went to the sick day & got some medicine for my cough & then wrote a letter to Auntie Martin & Harold & turned in. We went to 2½ hours during the forenoon & all day.
Thursday 30. Rosyth.
A fairly good day but a bit blowy. We went back to four hours notice during the forenoon. We started torpedo. I joined up & sketched the branch breaker. We also had a lecture on the organisation of the torpedo staff. I managed to get ashore but didn't do any walking. I joined the JOC at Rosyth 2/- per month. I saw Britt and a lot of the new lot. I had a game of billiards. Met Corkie Long. We returned to the ship about seven thirty. I got some photos whilst going & returning. Watkins goes to a destroyer next month. We had the pictures after dinner but they weren't much. I turned in about eleven. No news from the front. We have to attend spotting table every morning now. Heard good news about H Maclean.
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© Michael Calder February 2003