Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
February Friday 1. At sea. PZ’ing.
I had a night in & got up when GQs were sounded at 6-45. The sea was a bit rougher but still not at all rough. I had breakfast and went up on the bridge & kept the forenoon till we sighted the battle cruisers & 5th BS when we PZ’d and went to GQs. We packed up at 10 to 12 & I was up on the bridge till about 12-45. I had a lunch & read a bit & we went to GQs again 2-30 & stayed there till 4-00. We then returned to Scapa. The 2nd BS are going down to Rosyth. We picked up the main fleet at 7-30 this morning. The Yanks were out with us. The Valiant was reported to have attempted to ram a submarine. I kept the first watch & had to take a sounding by Thompsons machine but I could (sic) find a sounding with 60 faths of wire out. I wasn't relieved till very late. It was rather cold up on the bridge. We sighted Copinsay Lt about 11-00 p.m.
Saturday 2. At sea. Scapa.
I was relieved about 12-30 and straight away turned in. It seems we anchored about 10 to 3. I didn't get up till 7-30. We went to notice (½ hours) for nearly all day. Perhaps they tried to catch us on the hop. Everyone oil & coaled & were ready about 2 - 3 p.m. I posted my letter to Mother & one to Gladys & after lunch I wrote one to Eric. We had a lecture on health by the PMO at 11-00. It was very interesting mostly on such diseases as Phthisis & Fevers. I played a bit of bridge. A lot of light cruisers are in are with us & the Glorious I think. The 2nd Division went out convoying at 10-30 p.m. After dinner we went into the wardroom & saw the pictures. The Charlie Chaplin as "fireman" was very good but the others pretty rotten.
Sunday 3. Scapa.
I turned out fairly early and had a bath. The Commander N gave orders that two mids had to keep watches one RAN and one RN. I was lurked for the forenoon with Evans. During the forenoon I fell on the QD & fell on my thumb. I squashed it pretty badly. The nail will come off & it is about twice its size. I loafed all day & watched some shooting at shags etc. They got two or three. I played a little bridge. We were paid today. I received as usual three pounds. We received a big mail today. I got two from Mother, one from Eric, Gladys, Edie & Auntie Jo. They were written between the 1st & 12th of December. We have our show next Wednesday & the Borodino alongside tomorrow. The Goeben got off Nagara Point & got back to Turkey. I posted my letter to Eric.
Monday 4. Scapa.
I had the morning watch and I had to get up at 6-15. I had my finger dressed at sick bay. I also has a back tooth filled. It hurt & ached for about 1 hr. The Borodino came alongside during the forenoon & after Nav & Seamanship I went aboard & purchased about 10/- of goods including a 5/6 pipe. I had my first smoke after lunch. We had to look round the ship after lunch. Thompo & I did a bit of a tour together. After tea we had a gunnery dog watch lecture. I should have played ½ in a squadron rugby pick up but my thumb prevented me. After dinner I went to sick bay & after that to a band rehearsal. I turned in after having a breather on the QD. The weather is extraordinary. Quite calm mild & not at all like a 60º N winter as I pictured it.
Tuesday 5. Scapa.
I attended divisions & then sick bay. I had the forenoon watch. I did navigation in the forenoon & removed errors in my sextant which the Commander N put in for me. After lunch we were under weigh but as the port side weren't closed up I had an afternoon off. Torps was too tired to give us a dog watch lecture. I played some bridge after dinner. I went up to the sick bay. My thumb is getting sceptic I think, I have a bit of a pain in my forearm. I might be sent on leave. After dinner I played some bridge & turned in after having given one of five cuts to Pitcher (?) who besides being very cheeky tried to take Larkins on at the three card trick with marked cards. We have our show tomorrow. We have two substitutes in the chorus. We might have another owing to me.
Wednesday 6. Scapa.
A fairly good day. I was excused all work in the forenoon. The Gourko came alongside about 10-30. I had an early lunch and then dressed and was painted. We gave our show at 2-00 to a full house with plenty of brass hats knocking around. The C in C came in time for the last act. I met all of the Canada’s gunroom after the show & had a good yarn. We gave another show at 8-15. Madden & Prince Axol of Denmark came so we started again from of the second act. I went into the wardroom after the show & had some coffee. As I had a bit of a headache I turned in early. We have Lieu -Com. Lamb of Denmark aboard the ship. He is of the Danish Naval Mission and many parts of the ship he is forbidden to visit. Two Yank ships have gone out convoying. It would be amusing if they struck something. The Benbow returned from convoying in the forenoon.
Tuesday 7. Scapa.
We had a lie in till 7-30 a.m. & I had a bath & got most of my paint off. I had my hand attended to. They hope to save the nail but I don't think that they will. I did navigation to 10-30 when port 6" control went. We practised runs controlled through main armament. In the afternoon we looked around the ship. Thompo and I were found in Y space doing nothing & we were the subject of a sarcastic remark. I wrote a few notes of gunnery & then kept the last dog. We had a signal exercise at 6-30. I did fairly well in it. After dinner I played bridge and turned in about ten. I payed my mess bill which came to £4/2. I will have to a economise a bit. No mail for me. I am waiting for one from Harold. Beatty stated a wish to see all of our show so I suppose we will give it again.
Friday 8. Scapa.
We had 6" control at 9-00 & we weighed anchor & went out in and the Firth. We went to GQs at 10-00 & we did 6" full calibre main armament one guns salvos. Things went smoothly in the battery but from all accounts it was a bad shoot. We fired at the Resolution with a 6º left at deflection. Feldt & others were over from the Canada. I took a sight and bearing of land about noon. We were allowed to go to the Warspite’s show & although we arrived late I got a good seat & I think it was the best show that I have seen here. Every performer was tip-top. We got back about 6-00. We had pictures after dinner and they were very good & included a Charlie Chaplin. We had signal exercise at 6-30. I did fairly well. The weather is still very mild & fine for mid-winter. My thumb is progressing. I have generated a bit of a cold.
Saturday 9. Scapa.
I kept the morning watch. After breakfast I had my finger bandaged and a nerve taken out of my tooth & a temporary filling. I then wrote us some hydraulic notes. After lunch I went to the Warspite’s show again and thought it very good. When the mail came aboard Hirst came back and he told us all about his trip & all the old "Omrahs" that he had seen. Also he told me of a first casualty in our "year". Poor old Cunningham was in a the "K 4" when she was rammed by the Fearless at Rosyth when we returned from the PZ. I never thought he would be the first to go. Showers was in at the K 22 at the same time when she was rammed but not sunk by the Inflexible at the same time & luckily escaped death. There seems to have been rather a muck-up down there. Newman & Collins came over from the Canada for dinner.
Sunday 10. Scapa.
I had a bath & kept the forenoon watch. It was rather a pleasant watch. My cough & cold is getting pretty bad. In the afternoon I finished off my gunnery notes & also inked being some of my construction sketches. I watched some shag shooting after tea. I wrote a letter home to Mother after supper. Junior mids have to be out of the long baths by 7-00 a.m. each morning now which is rather a good thing. The weather still remains mild. The Yanks returned back from convoy. We might go next week. We are running torpedos tomorrow morning in the Flow. I turned in early & read a bulletin. Very little news to put in my diary. I hear that the Australian destroyers are operating in the Mediterranean. I wish I could go to one. I'm going to try & turn in tomorrow.
Monday 11. Scapa.
I went up to sick bay about my cough & Dr Ratcliffe gave me some medicine but would not excuse me watches. We were out in the Flow all the forenoon. I was up on the bridge for coming to anchor. After lunch we were told to look round the ship. I'm getting tired of doing so. The Texas I think arrived here about 1-00 p.m. today. I think she has been expected. We had a navigation dog watch lecture and the Commander N told us about our exam & gave us a paper to read in which it said that in order to equalise the RAN & RN ages we have to do 20 months sea service as midshipmen & then do so much time as acting subs according to seniority we gained at college. I don't think we gain much by it. We haven't received the date of our exam. I played poker after dinner. When I turned in I had a terrific cold in my head & nose & didn't get a wink of sleep.
Tuesday 12. Scapa.
When I got up after a sleepless night of sneezing etc my eyes were all swollen, I had a pain across my forehead, a sore throat, a cough & bad cold so after breakfast I went to sick bay & was sent to bed by the Fleet Surgeon. I was given a nasal douche & put in No. 2 cabin. I slept mostly all day & was awakened for meals which I didn't want. Dickenson came up to see me. I had a touch of diarrhoea. There is plenty of noise about this cabin. I had another douche & then went to sleep about nine o'clock. Surgeon Nickol is a very decent sort & so are all the sick bay staff. Gartrall brings up my meals. We are giving a performance of Shu Shin Shu to the E of I tomorrow but I won't be in it. I am not sorry. They had a rowdy night in the gunroom. Chapman's birthday.
Wednesday 13. Scapa.
I felt much better in the morning although my eyes were still swollen a good bit. I read mostly all the forenoon and I had a good few visitors to see me. I had a good sleep in the afternoon & had some afternoon tea but my appetite isn't very good. The theatre party gave a show to the E of I. They didn't get back till 1-00 a.m. I think. I went to sleep about 11-00. It is a good rest to get a few days in bed. Quite bucks one up. I can't do much writing. I have a good few bulletins that I can read & I am fairly well off for literature. The cabin that I am in is pretty bare but not so bad although there is always a terrible noise outside. I am getting up on Friday.
Thursday 14. Scapa.
I was much better today but the doctor said I had to stay in bed till my eyes went quite down. A good few of the snotties came up to see me. I had a good sleep in the afternoon. We were underweigh all afternoon running torpedo. We also did night firing after dinner. Evans & Dallmeyer played poker & bridge with me nearly all the evening. I received two bulletins from Willie. I have enjoyed my stay in bed and feel much better for it. The 1st Division 4th BS went out convoying. It is our turn next week. I received a letter from the Commonwealth Bank saying that that they had forwarded £10 to Mother and that £22 still remained to my credit. I ought to have enough for leave.
Friday 15. Scapa.
I got up after breakfast & went to the sick bay & had a yarn with one of the sick bay stewards. I felt a bit shaky on my pins all day. I was told not to do any work today & go up to the sick bay tomorrow morning. I had my tooth filled after lunch. I attended quarters and found out that a lot were slacking so reported same to Mr Wells who told me to take them up before the OOD which I did. They were given Commander’s report. After tea I read & took things easy and then dressed for dinner. I was allowed to go to the pictures. They weren't at all bad. Just as I was turning in heard we had to be ready to proceed at 2-15. I didn't have much sleep as people were shoreing up bulkheads etc. I have the forenoon watch tomorrow.
Saturday 16. Scapa. At sea.
We weighed at 2-00 a.m. There was a slight muddle we parted our port cable. I had to sleep somewhere else as the noise was too much. I had the night in and kept from 8-00 till 9-00 on the bridge. There was rather a big swell on. I was sick twice and altho I partook of every meal I was feeling far from well. We went to BJ1 at 9-00 and stayed here it till 3-00 p.m., each watch taking it in turn to go to dinner. We were washing down in the battery all the afternoon. We turned at 2-00 p.m. & started to come back. I don't know why we went out. I was excused keeping night watches by Surgeon Ratcliffe so I turned in at 8-00 p.m. and soon got to sleep. All the Grand Fleet were out but one couldn't see very far as there was a big mist. Range was only about 2-3 thousand. We were taking plenty of seas over.
Sunday 17. At sea. Scapa.
We dropped anchor again at 1-58 a.m. I had a bath. We had Saturday routine. We had divisions and church at 11-00 a.m. as the Padre is leaving. He came in and said goodbye to us in the Gunroom and he was no use to the ship. I played bridge & poker in the afternoon. I have been feeling far from well for the last few days. After tea I wrote a letter to Eric & posted it. I don't feel up doing any work at present. After supper I went up to sick day & I am having AgNo3 put on my spots. After that I received a very short note from Harold saying that he was in camp at Cobden. I wrote him a letter & told him to write longer letters. I also wrote to the Bank telling them to forward me £2. I was told I had to go as rake party tomorrow, curse it, so I turned in an early. No war news.
Monday 18. Scapa.
The usual course of events except that I had to go out with the rake party. I had breakfast at 7-30 & went out in the drifter. We towed the target. The weather wasn't too calm & very cold. I kept the times for the fall of shot of the gunlayers test & marked the fall of shot for the concentration. We returned to the ship at 1-15. Although I wasn't too well at times I wasn't sick. In the afternoon I had a stand easy, wrote up my diary & crossed out some of my letter to Eric which was censored. We had a gunnery dog watch lecture and I dressed for dinner. After dinner I played poker and didn't get a hand all the time. I turned in about ten. I haven't been feeling well for some time. I'm taking some of Clark's blood mixture. We are doing full calibre 15" & 6" tomorrow night.
Tuesday 19. Scapa.
My spots on my face aren't improving & I still don't feel up to scratch. I was at N.I. all the forenoon and started on a paper. After lunch we had signals with Lt Sinclair. It was a pretty ragtime affair. I saw the Texas firing 5". It was awful shooting. We weighed about five we the Benbow & Marlborough and went out in the Firth. We closed up at 6" control and opened fire first with the 6" each gun firing a star shell & then fired six rounds of practice. The 15" fired full calibre as well. Y turret due to some wrong order didn't fire a around. We returned in time for dinner at 7-30. After dinner I wrote up some gunnery notes and then turned in early. Russia has said she will go to war again with Germany. The 4th BS are still at sea convoying. We go out sometime this week.
Wednesday 20. Scapa.
Same old routine. We had a semaphore exercise after divisions. I don't think the (sic) since the Padre left that there have been any prayers said. It was rather a warm day today at least not freezingly cold. We were allowed leave to go to the Queen Elizabeth's performance. We all went. It was the best show that I have seen & the leading lady & one of the chorus were just it. I saw Weeks & Boddie at the show but didn't speak to them. We had some tea there. A few from the Canada were there. The Commander N raised a bit of a shine because of the was no one on watch & issued an order about having reliefs for watches etc. We had a band night the first for some time. I received a letter from Gerald Cadden & after playing poker I turned in about ten.
Thursday 21. Scapa.
I got up at 6-15 and had breakfast at 6-30. The forecastle division had to coal ship. The lighter came alongside and we started about 7-00. I supervised a party but I also took a shovel & did my share of the shovelling. I enjoyed it but one gets terribly dirty all smoke & grit & dust all over. We coaled 50 tons with one whip in 1½ hours. After which I had a good wash & a hot bath but still my eyes show traces of coal dust. I had the rest of the forenoon off & wrote up some gunnery notes. After lunch we were told to look round the ship. Thompo, Hirst & myself went to the B space & I looked up some torpedo notes. We had a torpedo exam at 5-00, a pretty rotten one. I don't know how I did. I kept the last dog & after dinner wrote up gunnery notes before turning in at 10. There was a bit of a strafe over gundrill in the morning.
Friday 22. Scapa.
I went up to gun drill at 7-00. After divisions we had GQs. I went to the 6" GCT. Nothing exciting happened but the battery made a bog of things. After lunch we had to go to divisional drill & guns popped a lot of rotten questions to Roberts. We packed up at 3-30. I wrote up my hydraulic notes till 6-00 when I kept the last dog. The weather has been pretty bad of late, gusty, squally & rainy. We had the usual signal exercise at 6-30. I did very well. I had to find the time of moon rise for the Commander N. I took the result to him at dinner. It rose at 1-30 p.m. I tidied for the pictures. They weren't bad. The results of the torpedo exam. Farncombe 1st, myself 2nd. Didn't expect it. We beat the RN. New food rations. 8 ozs meat, 3 oz sugar, butter 1 oz, potatos 1 lb, bread 18 ozs. A big Australian mail but none for me.
Saturday 23. Scapa.
A rotten day. I finished off my hydraulic notes by lunchtime. After lunch I played poker but I couldn't get a hand in fact I lost a quid. After tea I wrote a letter to Mother. I kept the last dog. Nothing exciting. The QE went down to refit at Rosyth. We received a mail. I got two from Mother & one from Gladys. In Mothers I saw the deaths of Bobbie & Delia Cadden. Mother went to Sydney to Auntie Fannie’s. I wrote a letter of sympathy to Gerald Cadden. Mother received her £5 & Gladys got the garters sent her on Christmas Eve. I have finished a 10 page letter to Mother & posted it. I put in my hydraulic notes. I expect some more letters tomorrow night. I received a registered letter from the bank with £2 in it. Absolutely no news. Am feeling much better of late. Mother was in Sydney when she wrote to me.
Sunday 24. Scapa.
It was calm but drizzling during the forenoon. Service was conducted by a padre from the Oak at 9-30. No divisions. Wrote & posted a letter to Gladys before lunch. After lunch played poker & lost again about 15/9. I will have to go slow. I kept the first dog. The Commander N almost called me a liar. Saw me coming along the port side on the QD. Accused me of being up on the FX deck ie gunroom. I was outside lavatory & had come out of that door. I told him where I was. He said he saw me coming down ladder. I said "no". He was the liar. Had to do some work for him. After dinner wrote a letter to Brenda Millar & posted it via home. Very cold day. Temperature 34º. I shot a shag in the head at extreme range. Turned in the early. No naval news. Australian mounted troops entered Jericho. Cochrane came in and anchored.
Monday 25. Scapa.
The same old routine. I went to gundrill before breakfast. I finished my navigation paper & got 92%. Rather good. After lunch we went through a seamanship paper. I kept the afternoon watch. Nothing happened. We had a navigation dog watch lecture. I think an extra snottie is going to a destroyer for March. I squared off my card debts. I wrote letters to Eric & Auntie Martin. Life is very boring at present. Nothing about a convoy yet although it is our turn. Am getting rid of my spots. Armitage managed to get on sick leave by chewing cordite I think. Rather clever. No mail arrived tonight. The weather has been much better of late barometer high. There is a buzz that the Achilles & Duke of Edinburgh have been sunk but probably there is nothing in it.
Tuesday 26. Scapa.
I didn't go to gun drill but had a bath this morning. I went to the dentist & had one of my back teeth filled. It's a wonder how I had kept my teeth in my head. I took a stand easy for the rest of the forenoon. In the afternoon we had to go down to the fan flat for signals. I did a bit of torpedo & tapping. I received a 98% for the last signal exercise. Posted letters to Auntie Martin & Eric. An awful day. Wind about 7 & the sea was very high. Very gusty. Had to stand on the QD all through it during 3-30 to 4-00 owing to the Commander N. Larkins is going to be sent to the Napier on March 1st & Maclean to another. I will probably go about May. A bit too near the exam. We had an engineering dog watch lecture. After dinner I inked in some of my construction sketches. Am feeling very well of late. Knocked off playing poker for a bit.
Wednesday 27. Scapa.
The weather had moderated when I got up. I did gun drill as usual. I finished off another Admiralty sight & started another. In the afternoon we did navigation not forenoon as above. In the forenoon we had morse & semaphore. A ML came alongside to tow our experimental target. After lunch it was tried but no good. The idea is for water to be forced out through holes instead of having a cumbersome canvas target. I kept the 1st dog watch. Nothing happened. I had my hair cut. We had the band for dinner. Played some of the new pieces. The mail arrived but there was nothing for me. The Russians are being pushed right back. Petersburg is in danger. Thompson is going up to the Noble in place of Maclean. I have another bad cold. Turned in early. I have been doing slight study.
Thursday 28. Scapa.
Fairly cold day. It has snowed a bit. It was rather cool doubling round on the Fxle. We had 6" control all of the forenoon breakdowns & fires etc. Guns was in the battery the whole time. I was in the GCT some part of the time. In the afternoon we all went round the ship with the Commander N. He asked questions. I learnt a bit. We packed up about 3-00. In the dogs I wrote up a few notes. I kept the last dog & it was fairly cool but I listened to the band all of the last part of it. After dinner I played poker but I didn't have any luck at all. I received a letter card from Harold but there was no news in it. He is now in the 59th infantry battalion. I turned in & read a Steads review that I got from home. There is a rumour that we are going out convoying shortly, tomorrow I heard. No news from Australia.
|* TB - Description: a wasting away of tissues; also known as tuberculosis or consumption. It is an infectious caused by a caused by a bacterium, mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is contagious, especially for persons living in crowded conditions. It was rife in the navy, especially with the introduction of the modern navy, with iron and steel ships, which lacked the ventilation that could be found in wooden walls.
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© Michael Calder February 2003