Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
February 1 Thursday.
When I awoke I found that we were in the Swan River. I dressed and had breakfast. We were given leave till midnight so Hirst & I went ashore. We all travelled in the railways free. On arriving in Perth we went to the PO & posted our letters in ordinary envelopes, because Orient company envelopes are censored. It was a fairly warm day. We then went to some pictures & then had dinner. After dinner we went to more pictures & then went to the gardens. We went to more pictures & then went for a walk to the river. After another lot of pictures returned to the boat at about 11-00. The soldiers had to be rounded up and they got most of them on board. They were all given leave after the route march. We heard in Perth that no news had been published regarding any raider so we don't know anything further now. They are also to other transports in Albany & the Encounter. I turned in about 12-00 & soon fell off to sleep.
I was too lazy to get up for breakfast. In the morning's paper, Germany has told United States that all vessels in danger zones will be sunk without warning. War is expected to be declared. Yesterday we heard of the sinking of the Laurentic. Two or three more vessels put into Fremantle with us. We coaled till about 5-00 p.m. We left the river at about 5-30. Old Drunkle missed the boat. Tried to get on board from a motor boat. It was jolly warm. I did not go ashore. A lot of the fellows went in for a swim but I didn't have any togs. I suppose this will be the final goodbye to Australia. It takes us about 14 days to get to Africa. I suppose more competitions will come off. The weather is still very fine. I was very lucky at 500 today. After playing cards till about 10-15 I turned in and read till 11-15 and then I went to sleep.
I got up for breakfast & we were going strong for Africa. It was a beautiful day and the weather very smooth. I found my library book & changed it for another. Played cards but I have decided to knock them off although I am winning on the whole. I didn't do anything all day, simply read my book. About 6-30 we sighted a ship right ahead. It was in the sun's rays so it wasn't seen at first. We altered course to North & she did so we altered it further & soon we were a out of sight. We were very suspicious and there must be some raider of some sort in the Indian Ocean. The boxing tournament was again held some very good bouts being held but not as good as the first bouts. I turned in about 10-30 & soon got to sleep. The sea & swell got up slightly & we began to roll a bit. A wireless report said that United States is very near to war but I don't think so.
Rose at 10 to 4. I kept the morning watch. Nothing happened during it. The wind rose & the swell increased. I attended Church. After lunch I went down & had a good sleep. I slept till about 5-00 p.m. I wasn't feeling too well owing to the swell. I read till dinner time & after dinner I went to the evening service which was very good. I turned in early & was soon asleep. The day was very cold. I felt cold all day. We are not proceeding very fast, saving coal in case we have to run for it. We are only doing about 12 knots. There is very little to do, the same thing day after day. My appetite went completely when I felt crook.
I rose at 7-20 had a hot bath and went on watch at 8-00 a.m. Nothing happened while I was on watch. There was no wind but a big swell was on. It gradually died down towards evening. I think I have found my sea legs at last. I read mostly all the afternoon and played a few games of cards after dinner. I watched some boxing and then we had a small singsong after it. I watched the trial tug'o'wars between the Tunnelers & the Officers in which the Tunnelers won & between the Midshipman v Tunnelers in which we won. The time passes very slowly here, one day the same as the other. We should get into Natal about 6- a.m. on Friday the 16th and I hope we don't take any longer. The day was a lot warmer than yesterday but I still have one blanket on of a night. I turned in about 10-00 & was soon asleep.
The usual procedure I took the 12 till 4 p.m. watch. Nothing happened of importance. At about 4-30 had accident boats drill. Both buoys were dropped. Took about one hour to complete the evolution. A very bad performance. I don't know how my boat is to hold 30. I don't see how any of the boats will do it. I think if we are torpedoed it will be a panic or something like it. We were supposed to have also been attacked on starboard quarter. The gun was fired with quite a report. The wind started to get up and also a swell. I played cards & had a yarn before I turned in. We are beginning to darken all the scuttles & protective screens are being rigged so as we can watch of a night time. A submarine guard is also being practised consisting of all the best shots of the ship.
There was a fresh wind blowing and a fair swell but I was not sick. The midshipmen pulled the officers in the tug'o'war & won it twice consecutively. I kept the 4 till 8 watch. I played cards and knocked around but they isn't much to do. It rained in showers. After dinner there was a small concert held and I turned in about 9-30 feeling very tired. We are about two-thirds of the way across to Africa. Plenty of birds are knocking around the ship. There was some wireless news posted up about America & we are wondering what will happen. I went in for a sweep for the day's run but I did not come anywhere. I had my hair cut yesterday, they charge 1/-. In the saloon they have all sorts of things lollies, goods etc. This journey is pretty monotonous, not much to do but I am looking well on it.
The swell decreased & it got pretty calm. I played some cards during the morning. About half a dozen whales were sighted to port but they did not come up to the surface. I did not have to go on watch so I had an easy time. Our tug'o'war team was beaten by a team from the A flight. They were terribly bigger than we were. We pulled well considering. After dinner there was a concert given by the troops etc. which was very good. As there was nothing to do after it I turned in about 10-30. I had a fairly lucky day at cards. There is no news at all. A notice was put up about leaving electric lights on when the scuttles are open. There was a sham submarine attack during the day. I will be glad when this voyage comes to an end.
Still a bit of a swell. A fresh wind blew from the W by N. I played cards all the day. The only thing to do is to play cards. There were some semi-finals in the boxing tournament during the afternoon & there were some good fights. I played cards all the afternoon & night & I turned in at 10-15 after having a few songs. A good portion of the lights have been removed and shutters placed over the windows. All outside lights have been cut out so we are not lit up. We are about half way across now & we ought to be in the danger zone. Notices have been put up about fire & collision stations & where & what to do. The menu is not keeping up to its standard especially for dinner. I hear it is not as good as the P & O line but soon we will have to take what comes along. It is very hard to find news to put in the diary.
There was a fair swell on when I got up & the day was slightly rainy. As there was nothing to do I played cards all morning & afternoon coming out a winner by a few bob. We pulled the civilian aviators (who are joining the RN as airmen) at tug'o'war but they beat us twice running much to the surprise of everybody. We thought we would win one of the contests. I watched the favourite for the heavy weights training. Hammond is his name, ex champion of Queensland. We have gone too far to turn back to Fremantle now so we will have to run for it in a pinch. As I was to get up at 4-00 a.m. I turned in at 10 & was soon asleep. I found that our stool was pinched but I can guess who pinched it. We are noticing the decline in the food but as I don't do any exercise my appetite isn't what it ought to be.
I was awakened at 4 & went on watch. It rained all through the watch and there was a big swell on and a rough sea. The sea was a wonderful sight to see. All through the watch I had the usual argument with the 4th Officer concerning Aust v England. It continued to rain heavily all through the day & consequently Church was held in the saloon. I played cards all afternoon and went to the evening Church in the saloon. I started my letter home and turned in about 10 & went to sleep soon after. A notice was put up informing us that we have to take it in turns to go up into the crow's nest to keep a lookout. Good lookouts are kept now we have got so far and we have increased speed the average run being about 330 to 40 miles a day. Daily sweeps are held about the last number of the days run.
Got up early and went on watch at 8 a.m. It was still raining and there was a fog on but we did not reduce speed. Nothing happened during the watch. I played cards all the afternoon and continued my letters to Mother & Gladys. I then went down & attended a lecture given by Captain Lang on the history & progress of aviation. It was a very good lecture & I enjoyed it thoroughly. Soon after the lecture I turned in & after having a read, I got to sleep about 11 p.m. I backed three numbers for the sweep, Nos. 2 7& 9. The numbers represent the last figure of the day's run & I was given 13 to 2. A noticeable decrease in the menu was noticed today, the dinner being very poor. Everything that will float has been loosed so as it is free of the ship if it sinks and which will be very serviceable to those in the water.
I was midshipman of the watch. I went on watch at 12-00. I did not have any luck in the sweep number 1 winning. The day was foggy & misty. I played cards all my spare time winning a 1/- or two. I watched the finals of the boxing tournament. The finals were not as good as the heats. Hammond ex-champion of Queensland won the heavyweight. Owing to the fog no lookout was kept in the crow's nest but on the flying bridge. I think I will go into training after we leave Cape Town so as I will have a bit of wind in me. After dinner I added to my letters and wrote one to Cranmer & then turned in early. I am reading a good book entitled "The Eternal City" by Hall Caine. The fog lifted towards evening and we still kept on a westerly course. I am looking forward to going ashore at Durban.
I was midshipman of the day & had to report to the Commander at 8 a.m. I took the class for gymnasium. I did not have any luck in the sweep number 1 winning again. I played cards till 4 p.m. when I went on watch. The day was fine & sunny & once we had a few drops of rain. Dinner was served at 6-30 p.m. and then a mock trial was given by the soldiers in the saloon. It was very good indeed & all acted very well. I had a yarn to Mr Joyce the YMCA representative before turning in and after having a read I went to sleep. We are nearing the end of our Indian Ocean trip only about 400 - 500 miles out now. All the lights were switched out suddenly but it couldn't have been anything much. The prizes for the boxing were distributed at the end of the evening's performance.
A very fine day. I didn't have to go on watch so I had an early day. It was one of the calmest days that we have had. I played cards all day & I won 4/- on a sweep my number being 4. Everybody is writing letters & I finished mine after dinner. We also had a sing song after dinner. Our last day in the Indian Ocean. I am glad that the trip across the Indian Ocean is finished as it was a very monotonous one & the food was getting very poor. It will be more interesting during the next part. We might have a convoy from the Cape to England. We are taking it in turns now to go up into the crow's nest but I haven't been up there yet. We had our side lights alight till about 11-00 when we switched them off suddenly but I don't think that anything very much was the matter. I'm looking forward to getting ashore at Durban.
When I awoke we were in the harbour at Durban. On one hand there was a big bluff covered with thick trees while wharves were on the other. The harbour was full of ships, Cunard line & others. Altogether there were about 14,000 troops in. A great number were English going up to Mesopotamia. We lay out till the Miltiades left & then we went along side at 6-00 p.m. It was very amusing to watch the niggers loading us with coal. We were given leave and I went ashore with Hirst & Watkins. We were allowed to travel free on the trains. The rickshas were very amusing & the boys were very strong. We knocked around town which was packed with soldiers & went for tram rides. It rained a bit. We returned about 10-30 & they were all coaling hard. There were a few man'o'war in, the Severn a monitor being in dry dock. There was also a few German prizes.
Watkins & I went into town. I finished off my letters & posted them at the Post Office. We then went & did some shopping & played some games of billiards. After having lunch we went for a tram ride & then we took a ricksha to Bond Street. I didn't enter any house but others did. I knocked around the town and then it began to rain. At about 4-00 we took a ricksha to the boat. It is very comfortable riding in them. We shoved off about 5-30 after throwing coins to the coolies who scrambled for them like animals. We steamed out & set our course for Cape Town. Durban is a very pretty place built on a hill but I'm glad that no coolies or natives are in Australia. There is plenty of vegetation and the houses are pretty. The public buildings are very handsome. There are not a quarter of places of amusement as there are in Australia. I turned in early & was soon asleep.
It was a very fine day. All the time we could just see the coast of Africa. I didn't go to Church in the morning but wrote a letter home. We have heard that all uncensored letters are being kept back in Africa for about 3 or 4 weeks so I'm going to have mine censored. In the afternoon I played poker and other games & after dinner I went to evening service. I turned in early as I had to keep the 1st watch. There are plenty of sharks in these waters, one or two big ones being seen close by so I wouldn't like to go down here. We heard in Durban that three ships have been sunk between Durban and Cape Town, & it is believed that it was a from an internal explosion. We will probably pick up a convoy at Cape Town so we will be protected up to England. The sea here is not very deep ranging only from about 40 - 95 fathoms. The water seems a very phosphorescent & is not as blue as further out.
I was awakened at twelve & took the 12 till 4 watch. We sighted a few lighthouses but no ships. We then went out of sight of land. During the day we past three big ships going to Durban. Nearly all the way we were helped by a 3- 4 knot current. I wrote letters to Willie, Eric, & Mother & gave them to the censor to be censored. It was a beautiful fine day. I finished my book which was very good & played a lot of cards. After dinner I play a game of chess with one of the passengers, an old man & was beaten after a good game. I went to bed early after listening to some music. During the afternoon I washed some shirts, singlets & socks & put them a out to dry. I have been off my food of late but after Cape Town I will go into training & see if it can go up again. We expect to get into Cape Town about 8-00 a.m. tomorrow morning & I hope we get some leave to go ashore.
When I awoke we were close to Cape Town. It was very pretty entering. The mountains on the sea coast were very majestic. Table mountain looks quite flat and the town lies at the foot. We entered into the docks and we found that there were about four other Australian transports in. We were allowed ashore about 10-30 & we knocked around the town a bit. After lunch I went for a tram ride to Camps Bay & it is the best tram journey I have done. You climb right up the mountain side, obtaining a magnificent view of Cape Town & then on the top you receive a beautiful view of the ocean on the other side. We knocked around down there & then returned by another way, thus circling the "Lyons Head". I send postcards to Mollie & Gladys & a letter to Mother. After dinner Flertie & I met two nice girls on the pier & we had a very good time with them. We might meet them again. We missed the last train & had to walk back & I got to sleep about 12-15.
I did not go ashore in the morning but wrote a letter to Eric. The armed liner "Orcoma" came alongside the wharf. I went ashore in the afternoon & visited the museum & different places. After dinner we went into town but did not catch anything. Coming back we met two reserve midshipmen from the Orcoma & went on board with them. We had a good yarn & had supper. We were invited out for tomorrow & we had a good time. They each have a bonzer cabin to themselves & have a real good time. She has six guns aboard and two 6 pdr antiaircraft guns but she would not be much good in an action. The niggers here are a very poor lot, solemn and sulky & not half as good as the ones in Durban. They have the real government stroke. The town isn't up to much & is pretty old fashioned, no places of amusement. We will probably stay here until Saturday & I think that the Orcoma will convoy us up. They say that we will also call in at Sierra Leone.
Got up in time for breakfast and loafed all morning. After lunch Flertie & I went with the two reserve midshipmen to Camps Bay & we had a swim in the warm sea baths which was very good. We had afternoon tea at a Cafe there & then we had a walk along the beach. We chatted with two girls & I have never seen anybody so good at keeping up a conversation as Vickers. We then met a party of friends of the midshipmen & we went & had another swim in the baths. After that we all went & had some refreshments & had a sit down on the beach. We left about 10 - 11 & arrived back about 10 to 12. We went on board the Orcoma & had a feed of fruit and had a yarn & then we got to bed at about 1-00 p.m. & I soon fell asleep. I have had a fairly good time here but I won't be sorry when we leave & get to England & join the fleet.
I awoke at about 9-00 & had breakfast & at 9-30 we & the two reserves, went into the town & had something to eat. After that we went up to the museum & gardens & then we went to the municipal fresh water baths & we had a good swim. After that we had a good lunch & then we visited the place where the girl we met the other night worked & we arranged for tonight. We then visited a curio shop & then we went to a bioscope tea room where we had afternoon tea. We then returned & I sent a line to Mr Crockford 2nd engineer of the Ulimaroa who wanted to see me telling him that I could not come. We found that all leave was stopped in the Orcoma & we went ashore & met at the two girls. We went to their aunt's where a concert was being given & we left about 9-30 & took the girls home. After supper we walked back & got to bed at midnight. We are showing off tomorrow.
When I got up at 11-00 I found that we were anchored in the bay and we were waiting for some other transports to come out. I sent a letter to Mother & I did a bit of fishing & reading. The day was fairly warm. I watched some revolver shooting. At about 4-30 or 5 all the transports left Cape Town as well as the Orcoma & we steamed out in order, Orcoma, Miltiades, Walmar Castle, Omrah, Ulimaroa & Anchises. There was a good bit of rolling, in my opinion we rolled more than ever before but I wasn’t sick. We were all in darkness & only a couple of lights showing from the other ships. We picked up the Waitamata, the slowest ship who had been sent on ahead of us. I had a good dinner & listened to some music before I turned in but the rolling woke me up during the night frequently. My watch has stopped owing to the hand being put on wrong in Cape Town when it came off.
During that the night I was awakened a few times by the heavy rolling we were doing. When I awoke I found that the convoy was in line ahead, columns disposed abeam on either quarter of the flagship. In the port column were the Walmar Castle, leading, the Miltiades & the Omrah. In the starboard column were the Waitamata leading, Ulimaroa & Anchises. We kept this order all day. The Miltiades caused some trouble owing to her steering gear going wrong. We are only doing ten knots as it is the maximum speed of the Waitamata. I went to morning Church, communion in the afternoon and Church at night. I changed my library book & had a bit of a read before I went to bed. The rolling decreased during the day and we got a bit steadier. Now & again the ships would get a out of station and I don't know what it would be like to have a big convoy. I think that this will be a big long trip and some say that we will be dispersed further up near England and be convoyed up by a destroyer each.
The same order was kept in regard to the ships. I went on watch at 8-00 a.m. and did my first round in the crow's nest but I didn't sight anything. We kept our station fairly correct. In the afternoon I read my book and played poker winning about 1/6. Also after dinner I played winning about 1/- and then I turned in about 10-30. We ought to get to Sierra Leone about the 9th of next month & in England about the in and of the month. I don't know how long we are to stay there to coal probably a week. Some more lights were cut out as we were thought to be in too much light. I wish to voyage were over & that we were in England. We ought to have about £
19 when we get there for our pay. The weather was fairly calm & it was a sunny day. My appetite is improving and I am beginning to enjoy a meal. The fruit was cut down owing to the amount that we had consumed about £200.
Still the same order of the line was kept. We are still going for Sierra Leone. The day was very hot and we ought to get it pretty warm for some time as we are just about on the tropic. We are steering for a place about 7º S & 1º W & then we go on to Sierra. We sighted the smoke of a ship on the port beam and all the day we had its smoke in sight but it did not come into sight. I was on watch from 12 to 4 and the rig was all whites. We practised accident boat & boat stations during the afternoon and all went fairly well. I played poker all day and night and am winning 7/9 from last Sunday till today so that it's a paying game. We haven't had anything exciting since we left. We heard by the wireless news that the Laconia was sunk and the German destroyers raided Margate. I am looking forward to getting there and seeing all of that is happening.
The weather still keeps getting warmer as we get up towards the line. I played poker all day and after dinner losing about 3/- on the day. Some heats of the deck quoits tournament were held & I was persuaded to enter although I am no good at it. I was on watch from 4 till 8 and I was in the crow's nest from 4 - 6 but nothing happened. I did not turning in till about 11-00 as it was rather hot. My watch is going again quite serenely. We ought to arrive in Sierra on the 7th if all goes well. I was taught how to make a code by a warrant Officer and find it very useful. The convoy is still as it was before, nothing has changed. Nothing new happens, still the same routine. Out days run lies about 250-60 so it isn't a bad one after all. We ought to cross the line about Saturday. I will be ordained if we do. I hope it is not too hot.
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© Michael Calder February 2003