Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
December Sunday 1. London.
A wet drizzly day. Leila & Nurse went to their relations so I went into the Club. Had lunch & a game of billiards & then witnessed the passing of Marshall Foch & Clemenceau. They passed the Club & we gave them a good Aussie cheer. I then wrote letters to Mother Eric Gladys & Harold. I had a game before tea & some more afterwards. I stayed in the Club for supper & had a chat with a military college fellow. I returned home about ten & turned in at eleven. Have made up my mind to go to the Admiralty about my appointment. It's getting over the fence. Very little news. No war news. Mostly about the coming election. Saw Lloyd George in with Clemenceau. Haven't had any letters for over a month now.
Monday 2. London.
A better day. All of us went into the Inn where all of the barristers are. Leila tried to see Mr Seely. Afterwards we went & collected rent in Drury Lane & then took the tube to Holloway & had lunch at Beales getting home about 3-30. I then went & booked three seats for the show at the local Empire & we all went to the first show at 6-30. It was very good indeed. We got home about nine & had some supper & then I turned in. No war news or appointment. Didn't have time to go to the Admiralty. Will try & go tomorrow. Posted all my letters. Mail goes out tomorrow via N Y. No naval news or anything. We are advancing into Germany now. I am going to Australia House to see an exhibition of war trophies.
Tuesday 3. London.
A misty day but it turned out of very fine later. I received my appointment as a Sub-lieutenant with a seniority 15th October & I acknowledged it. I also received a letter from Gladys. I left home about one & went to the Admiralty. I sent my name & business in to the C W department & they brought out my appointment to the Blake for HMS Vancouver at Chatham. I then went round & got my railway pass. I walked up to Piccadilly & got a bus to the Club. Had a couple of games of billiards & left there about six. Had a good dinner & turned in about ten. I leave by the 4-20 train tomorrow & it is an hours run. No more mail arrived from home. Hope there are a decent lot aboard the Vancouver. Don't feel inclined for work.
Wednesday 4. London. Chatham.
I got up about ten. Received a letter from home. I packed & got everything ready & about two after lunch I left Highfield & went to Victoria. Took a taxi to the Bank & got their just after three but managed to draw £5. I then went back to the station & fixed up my luggage. Left by the 4-20 train and arrived at Chatham at 5-23. Couldn't get a cab. The streets were packed. Some gala day on. I managed at last to get one & arrived down at the dockyard about 6-30. Found the Vancouver but no one aboard except the QM. I left my luggage, went up to the depô t & fixed up about my bed. Had dinner & and I turned in about ten. The Vancouver is refitting after her smash with the Nessus some months ago. We hope to leave in a week's time. We belonged to the 11th flotilla.
Thursday 5. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
I got up about 7-30 had a wash & then had breakfast. I went down to the ship about 8-30 & met the Chief, No.1, & the Captain & they all seem decent chaps. It seems the other sub is the senior one but he hasn't arrived yet. I shifted in my cabin but may have to shift out again. I was given the job of wine & tobacco caterer & have ordered a big order of both to come in. We start to live aboard on Monday & I will be very glad of it. Had lunch in the barracks & in the afternoon did some clerical work. After tea I went ashore & bought some soap etc & returned about five. Played some billiards after tea & wrote letters to Mother, Eric & Gladys and turned in about ten thirty. Very little news & I think the depôt is a dud place altogether.
Friday 6 HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
I got up at 7-30 & after breakfast came down to the ship. Nothing much doing in the forenoon. I wrote letters most of the time. I had to send off our programme. We are doing trials all next week and we shove off from here on Sunday week I think. Most of the ships company & officers are going on weekend leave. I decided to stay on board and let the gunner go. In the afternoon I knocked round and left about a 3-20. Met some RNR subs that I knew in the Grand Fleet & had a game of snooker with them. I had a long yarn with Surgeon Nickol who was aboard the R. S. As I have to sleep on board I came down about 9-45 & turned in. I will be very glad to get settled down. Everything is pretty dirty at present. No letters from home.
Saturday 7. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
A very nice day. I had a sort of a wash on board & left for breakfast. At 9-00 I left with three hands & went up for confidential books. We picked up a handcart & got them about 10-30 & I was packing them away all the forenoon & after lunch. The other sub joined. He is a public school fellow and is a bit senior to me. I went round & had a look at the four German submarines in here. They look alright. Played snooker after tea. Didn't go ashore at all. We are inspected on Tuesday & our wine should arrive then. We start messing with lunch on Monday. I had a read & turned in after dinner about 10-00. A bit cold in this cabin. I am going to shift into the double cabin on Monday. It seems it will be rather warm there when underway.
Sunday 8. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
I got up at 7-30 & had breakfast at the barracks. Came down about nine & looked over the ship. Had a yarn with No.1. Received some parcels & letters for the Captain. Read & played billiards in the forenoon & afternoon. Had a bath in the dog watches. Played billiards after supper & came down & turned in about ten. No letters have arrived for me yet. Will send my mess bill to the ship & tell them to forward on letters to me. The ship is getting a bit settled down. I think the double cabin is one of the best. Next week will be rather a busy one. Am glad we are going to mess on board at last. Not much news. Chatham is an awful place. The Hercules is at Keil. Cassandra sunk by a mine in the Baltic.
Monday 9. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
Not a bad day. During the forenoon I shifted into the other cabin. It is a very good cabin but it has a rotten approached down a hatch which must always be closed at sea. However it will be very warm. Nothing much doing in the forenoon. No.1 got round the different WOs of the dockyards stores & is getting some carpets & chairs etc. The Captain is still on leave & I am going to try & get up to London for a day & get some more gear. I hope I can. In the afternoon it was very quiet & I went to the barracks about 3-30. After tea & dinner I played billiards & came down & turned in about ten. Hope we get 12 days at Christmas although I don't know if I can stand being on leave all of that time due to financial reasons.
Tuesday 10. Chatham. London.
Raining nearly all morning. The doctor arrived & is going to share my cabin curse it. Nothing doing in the forenoon. Inspected by the Captain of the Dockyard. I asked No.1 if I could go to London & he said I could so I made out some passes & left by the 1-45 train. Got up to Victoria at the 3-15 and went to the Club. Met Larkins, Getting & Showers. Went to Finsbury Park & had tea with Leila & Nurse & got some gear I wanted to get out of my chest. Left there about six as & went to the YMCA for officers & booked a bed in Belgrave Square. Had dinner at the Club & met everybody again & had a wet. Another Aussie & myself then went to the Regent Palace & had coffee. Left there about ten & I turned in about ten thirty. Was chatting with some more Aussies till about eleven. Didn't get much sleep.
Wednesday 11. HMS Vancouver. London. Chatham.
I got up about 7-00 had a bath & shave & then had breakfast, served by Lady Hamilton. Called in at the Club before leaving by the 9-20 train for Chatham. Arrived about ten thirty & was lucky in getting the motor back to the dockyard. We started messing aboard at lunchtime & it seems rather a success. Nothing doing during a day. It was raining most of the time. I went up with the doctor & had some billiards at the barracks. My tooth for came out again. The 1st lieutenant had his brother aboard who was a prisoner in Germany. The Captain arrived back after dinner. I played bridge up till about twelve and turned in about half past. Enjoyed my brief glimpse of London very much. I feel very much out of the way down here.
Thursday 12. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
A better day than usual. I went up to the sick day in the barracks & was sent along to the dentist he put my tooth in again. When I came back we were doing slip trials & I was on the bridge from 11 - 1 in case we parted any hawsers. Nothing much doing in the afternoon. No.1 went up to London. I went ashore after tea early & bought a registered letter & a book. Got back about six. After dinner I played bridge & turned in about 11-30. The British Army were leading in the great boxing tournament. Australia didn't do so bad. Beat all the other colonies. Very little news in the papers. No war news at all mostly elections. I hope I will have enough money on my ten days at Christmas. Painting ship.
Friday 13. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
A nice day. No rain & so the cabin doesn't get a very dirty. Two cases of flu have left the ship. Hope there isnít going to be an epidemic. Went up to the barracks & had a look at the papers no news. Nothing to do aboard. We are shifting to the dock tomorrow. I received a flimsy from the Excellent. After lunch I read & knocked round & then I went up & had a bath & shave at the dockyard. Sent my mess bill to the R. S. & received £9 from the Bank. Played bridge after dinner. Heard that our flotilla the 11th has gone to the Baltic. Hope we go. Turned in about twelve. Haven't got my washing back yet. Rather inconvenient. The mess is very tolerable but I want to get back home. Appeals for volunteers for minesweeping.
Saturday 14. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
Not a bad day but nothing doing on board. I went up to the barracks shortly after breakfast. No mail. Started my letters home. We did not shift from the dock owing to our work not been completed. I went up & read the papers after lunch. Cubett went on leave. I stayed aboard all the afternoon & read. After dinner the Captain had the Captain of the Matchless in & we sat talking solidly till 2-00 a.m. I was tired. We will probably go out on Tuesday & with luck shove off on Thursday. No war news at all. The armistice and has been extended a month. Heard that volunteers are being asked for for minesweeping. May volunteer. Nothing exciting. Received a letter from Hirst. He is in the Dauntless & has done some sea time. Our flotilla is at present the duty flotilla.
Sunday 15. Sunday. Chatham.
A fair day. I didn't get up till close on 9. After breakfast went up to the barracks to read papers etc. We were doing the wine books all of the afternoon. The drinks are pretty dear at present. A lot of tobacco from the Saccone for the ships company arrived and No.1 & myself distributed a bit of it around. I wrote my letters and posted them to catch the mail on the 17th After dinner I read & in order to make up for lost sleep I turned in at ten. We are getting a RNR snottie for control duties. He will make eight in the mess. No mail for me. Nothing doing. It seems we won't ever get away from here. Wrote & told Harold about my leave & to try & get me a pair of Zeiss glasses. Hope he can.
Monday 16. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
The RNR snottie named Tanner and arrived. Seems a decent chap. Nothing doing in the forenoon. Took some Admiralty orders round to a furnace & burnt them. Found our valve wasn't any good so we are not sure when we will be shoving off. After tea I went up to the barracks & read the papers. After dinner I yarned for a bit & turned in about eleven. Allowed the doctor to tap me & sound me & he says I am perfectly fit. A lot of ships & submarines have come to Chatham to pay off. No appeal yet for volunteers for minesweepers. Read that we get three weeks every twelve months foreign service. A lot of VCs given, 10 of which went to Australians. All our mail has been forwarded up north. No hopes of my washing being done for some time.
Tuesday 17. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
Quite uncertain when we are leaving. I went up to the C in C's office & got our private signals. Decidedly chilly weather. Can hardly write. During the afternoon I went right through the confidential books with the Captain. Paid a visit to the barracks after tea. Read till dinner time. After dinner I played bridge up till 1-30 a.m. & then turned in. They fitted the valve in & we are going to shove off tomorrow if it passes the test. We got some nice carpets from the stores for our cabin by dubbing up a bottle of whisky. They're starting the sub-lieutenants courses at Oxford & Cambridge next January. My job is cable officer. We shove off from Sheerness Thursday I think.
Wednesday 18. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
Not a bad day. I was on the FX when we shoved off. We proceeded to bull nose lock & then out to No. 14 buoy. We tied up to the buoy & started to take in ammunition. At 1-30 I went ashore & took back the Nore orders to the C in C's office. I then had a beautiful bath & returned to the ship at 3-30. It started to blow & was blowing about 5 when liberty men went ashore. I played bridge before & after dinner. We shove off at 7-00 tomorrow morning & go down to Sheerness. The weather calmed right down by 11-00. I turned in about 11-30. Good bit of noise in my cabin with the engineroom alongside. The weather is getting quite cold again. We finished ammunitioning about five.
Thursday 19. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
I got up about 6-00 in order to weigh but was told it was cancelled. It seems a that our circulator was smashed up. We had experts aboard but we were told to go into dock. We got our tugs about three. I was on the fxle and we slipped & were towed into dock getting back to our old position about 4-30. It seems that we will be here for at least another three weeks so the Captain made arrangements about leave. We all cursed as we wanted to go up North. Still here we are. I don't think we will pay off. After dinner I played bridge till about 11-00 and then turned in. It seems that my washing has been sent up North. Everything seems to go wrong. No mail or cards. I don't think I will go on leave first batch.
Friday 20. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
Got up about 8-00. No word about our defect. In the afternoon I went up and drew our Nore orders again. Sending one watch on leave. No.1, the Chief, & myself are staying aboard. 12 days leave is being given. I was busy signing passes. We drew pay from the barracks. I drew £12. We then paid the ships company and got rid of all our cigarettes. Nearly all the officers shoved off before & after dinner. I advanced £ 3 towards the mess fund. Don't know how I am going to make ends meet. Gieves will have to keep my coat for some time. I didn't turn in it till after midnight as No.1 was breaking his TT spell. I will probably go on leave on January 2. I don't mind missing Christmas & I hope Harold will get his leave about then.
Saturday 21. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
I got up & saw the leave men off. Only one watch aboard. I went up to the barracks after breakfast. Not much doing now everyone has gone. Weekend leave has been approved. In the afternoon I walked with the chief to Rochester where we had tea at Dickenís famous pub "The Bull" not a very good tea. We did some shopping coming back. I have got some cod liver oil. The other sub left with his friends. We were very gloomy after dinner but the subject went round to socialism & democracy & we talked on that for hours till 12-30. We aren't going to celebrate Christmas aboard. No of us feel inclined. I sent fourteen pounds to the Bank so as it will be there for my leave. I'm pretty hard up at present but I will soon get square.
Sunday 22. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
A rotten day, squally & rainy. Got up about nine. After breakfast went up to the barracks with No.1. Nothing much to do in the afternoon. Wrote a letter to Mother. No more mails till Dec. 27th. My tonic is doing me very much good. We all turned in very early after dinner & I read till about eleven. I don't mind the life aboard but I wish we were at some other place except Chatham. My servant is an ass. The whole staff aboard want shaking up. No mail from the North yet. No news in the papers except elections. Wish my washing would arrive. I can hardly find any news to put in.
Monday 23. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
At last we received our mail from up north. I got about ten letters all from home and some from Harold. He is getting me a revolver. I also received two parcels from home & although knocked about a bit still they were very handy. All our tobacco arrived & so we were busy all day. I went up to the barracks & squared up about pay. No.1 went to London in the afternoon & arrived back after dinner. I am going up on Thursday. It will be a great day in London. I wrote letters to all at home & sent them off. It doesn't seem anything like Christmas to me this year. They expect me home for six weeks after the New Year but I am very doubtful. No news. Distributed a lot of canteen cigarettes. We get on quite happy aboard the ship, no quarrelling etc. I turned in early & read.
Tuesday 24. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
I didn't receive any more letters but more cigarettes. There were a lot of visitors on board but not much to do. After lunch No.1 & myself mustered the wine. We find we are short of bottles but have extra cases. It was very chilly. My servant went for a few days leave. After tea as the Chief decided to go home for a couple of days I walked up as far as the town with him & then bought a diary for 1919. I walked back & the walk did me good. No.1 had gone out so I was all alone. I received a parcel from Edie & it was OK. The sub of the May came aboard looking for whisky but he didn't get any. One of the dudest Christmas Eves I have spent. I turned in about ten & read till 12. I think there is going out be a court of inquiry over our defect. Am going to town Thursday.
Wednesday 25. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
A find day but a nice frost. Rather chilly. No.1 came back feeling rotten. Says he didn't drink anything last night. I went up to the barracks in the forenoon & had a nice hot bath. All the afternoon I read & smoked. Really nothing doing. We had just the ordinary dinner except plum pudding. We both turned in about nine. A rotten Christmas Day for me. Still tomorrow won't be so bad. Very few people down here. I hear the Hawkins or one of her class is going out as flag of the light cruisers to Australia. We may go home with Jellicoe. No mail or papers today. The plum pudding from home was real good.
Thursday 26. HMS Vancouver. Chatham. London.
I got up at eight had breakfast & then walked to the station. There was a nice frost & it was very chilly. Arrived too early at the station so I went up by the 10-16. Got into Charing Cross at ľ to 12. All the streets were decorated & there were crowds of people in the street. I walked to Piccadilly & then got a bus to the Club. It was crowded. I met Esdaile & we had lunch together & then watched Wilson go by. It was a great sight. The King was with Wilson & the Queen with Mrs Wilson & Princess Mary. I gave the King a good cheer. I was on the roof of the Club. We then went to the Albert Hall & listened to a concert given to the AIF. It is a huge place. Billy Hughes spoke. I then met the Chief at Waterloo & we had dinner at the Elysie. Very good. We then called in at the Regents Pal. & Café Royal. Missed the 10-5. Caught the 11-25. Not a bad time. Arrived aboard at two.
Friday 27. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
I didn't get up for breakfast but slept in till 11-00. There was nothing doing all the morning. We distributed cigarettes to the ships company and I received the tobacco bills & made out the prices. After tea No.1 & I went up to the barracks & played billiards & read the papers. The Prince is going out to Australia next September with Birdwood. After dinner I read some bulletins that I received & I turned in about ten. I do wish we were with the flotilla. They are now over at Keil & those places. Just my luck to miss them. The Chief says there will be a court of inquiry over our breakdown. No letters. Afraid I won't see Harold before he leaves. Five more AIF VCs out of twelve granted.
Saturday 28. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
The weather has lately been decidedly milder & warmer not at all chilly. I got up at the usual time. I wrote a letter to Lylie telling her I would be on leave next week. I squared off some book work & read mostly all afternoon. After tea No.1 & myself went up to the barracks & had a game of billiards & I read the papers. There seems to be an overwhelming majority for the Coalition in the last election. All of the rowdy crowd were pitched out. After dinner I read till ten & then turned in. Wish some of my washing would arrive. It is at present in Edinburgh. I don't mind this life, very easy but wish we were at Edinboro. I have to go easy on leave if I want to meet all my bills. I may get an overdraft at the bank.
Sunday 29. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
Not a bad day. Full particulars of the election. The socialist party easily defeated. Lloyd George got a complete victory. Nothing to do. I wrote letters to Mother, Eric, Gladys & Harold & posted them. I read mostly all of the rest of the afternoon & we were yarning till about 11-00 p.m. Running short of coal. No.1 doubled the sentries as they were found up forward last night. They are reported correct to me every watch, an awful strain. I wish my washing would hurry up. Very little war news. Two Bolshevik destroyers captured. An extra rise in pay is shortly coming out I think. They say in AOs that mess dress will shortly be worn. That means more money. Am sleeping very badly but am feeling alright.
Monday 30. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
A bit chillier. Not much to do. Was repeatedly awakened due to the new sentry scheme. Distributed some more cigarettes to the ships company. I went to the barracks to draw some slops but have to wait till the end of the month. Had my hair cut in the barracks. A very rotten attempt. After tea I went up & had a game of billiards with No.1. As usual he beat me. We yarned up to 12-00 p.m. before turning in. No news of importance. Have been promised a sketch book for some sketches. No war news at all. Ordered more wine & 20,000 cigarettes for the canteen. I am going to have a very quiet Christmas leave. Haven't got any money for a lively one. Hope my barracks bill isn't very high & I hope I will be able to meet it.
Tuesday 31. HMS Vancouver. Chatham.
The weather is now rather chilly. I got up at 8-30. After breakfast I knocked round and wrote a note to Hirsty. Nothing to do. Wrote out & signed the railway passes for the ships company. Heard that there is going to be an all round increase of pay 3.3%. Also that the prize money only comes to £1/10 a share & that the Bonus is going to be roughly a years pay. Hope it is true. I went up to the barracks for a walk before dinner. They were having a dance. No.1 & I stayed up till 12-00 & we were joined by the Chief who had dined out. I went up & rang 16 bells at midnight. Some say I only rang 14 but if so it was due to the tongue being out of the bell & the bell swinging about. We sat yarning up till 2-00 a.m. I sincerely hope that my next New Year will be spent under more pleasant surroundings.
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© Michael Calder February 2003