Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
March 1 Thursday.
We should have been in England by now if we had not had any stops. I played poker all the morning until it was stopped finally by the Commander. I went down aft & watched the 4.7" gun fired. It is Mk 2 and the training, setting & firing & laying are all done by the one person. A cask was thrown overboard and the first three shots were very good but the cask wasn't more than 400 - 450 yards away. The third & fourth weren't any good. Also in the afternoon some 303 firing was done at a towed target. I went in for a sweep and was one number off it. In the afternoon I played a lot of cribbage & deck quoits and after dinner I went to an address given by Mr Joyce of the YMCA on "Why I am a Christian". His argument was very good & very sound but the arguments that took place after the speech were too funny for words. I turned in about 11-00 & it was rather a warm all day.
We are still going on to Sierra Leone. The days are fairly warm and close since we are in the tropics about 11-12°
S. I played cards and played off our heat in the deck quoits. My partner and I lost 31 - 27 but at one time I thought we were going to win. During the afternoon the Miltiades had firing practice and hit the target second shot. A heavy shower came over during the afternoon and soon passed off. After dinner Lieut Inglis RNR in charge of the gun gave a lecture on "Defence of Merchant Ships" and it proved very interesting & instructing. The fact that a bomb was found in the Orcoma before sailing was said to be correct. We were told of it by some of the reserve midshipmen. I did not go up on the bridge till 12-00 so I stayed up till then & had a yarn. It is quite warm of a night time & the sea is very calm & hardly a breath of wind.
The weather is fairly warm. We altered course about midday. I was on watch from a 12-00 to 4 a.m. and I was very sleepy. I didn't get up till about noon. The soldiers had a sports gathering and the events were well attended. I played bridge nearly all afternoon and I watched the Walmar Castle have firing practice. She only fired two shots. After dinner there was an impromptu speech tournament and the speeches were very good and many very amusing. I didn't go to bed till after 11-00 because it is so hot below that you cannot get to sleep. I'm quite good at deck quoits. I wish I had to play my heat over again. The lightning and sunsets that you get here are very beautiful and there is practically no twilight. The sea is still very calm and there is no wind at all. The temperature on the bridge at midnight was about 82°
so it is very warm. I will have to start on my letters soon as we are near Sierra.
We are just about under the sun ie Dec 8°
S. The weather is still warm although we get a breeze on deck. I went to Church in the morning held on the promenade deck & after divisions the skipper addressed us and told us that we had to buck up & take interest in our work. Some more regulations were made but I am sure we deserved a dressing down. In the afternoon I played bridge and also after dinner. I dressed for dinner in my mess jacket & stiff shirt. The candidates for the ceremony of crossing the line were drawn for, we being represented by two. Nurse & Kimlin were chosen. It is to take place on Tuesday afternoon. There was no evening service owing to the heat. There is a report that a man dropped overboard last night from the Ulimaroa as the life buoy were dropped. Some unimportant war news was put up in the drawing room.
Nothing new to note. We are nearing the equator and the programme for the ceremony was distributed at dinner. I was on watch from 12 till 4 but nothing happened. The sea is still very calm and there is hardly a ripple on the surface. I won 4/- on the days run and during the afternoon I played bridge and also after dinner. I didn't turn in till after 10-30 but I couldn't get to sleep till after 11-30 as it was too close. I did a bit of skipping after physical jerks but not much. We have to give a full 20 minutes in gym so I will have to make up a programme. The first batch of us, six in number were told off for gun drill and did it from after jerks till about 11 a.m. I compared my watch with the chronometer so as I can see how correct it is. We had practice at submarine drill and boat drill and it was done fairly correct on the whole.
We crossed the line at about 10 a.m. I went through a course of Weber's body building exercises and although strenuous, they were very good. After them, I had a hot bath and then went down to my chest in the hold. It was too dark and too stifling for me to get out anything. I went on watch at noon and went up into the crow's nest. I went down to see the ceremony of Father Neptune's ordaining and it was very good. About a dozen or two were ordained and it was very funny. They were painted, scraped and ducked after the usual custom and it was very funny. I played bridge after 4-00 & dinner and turned in about 11-00. I won another 4/- on the days run number 4 winning. Since Cape Town I have won about a 17/- so I have come out fairly well. The weather is still very calm and there is no movement on the ship.
I felt very stiff after the strenuous exercises I did yesterday. After doing physical jerks I went down with 5 other to the gun and did gun drill. It was rather warm but it wasn't bad. It is a very old gun, built in 1890 and tested in 1892. After it we were given a little lecture or argument on the RNR work in the war. Of course we don't know anything so our arguments weren't very good. I went on watch at 4-00 after having played bridge and during the watch we had fire stations followed shortly after by submarine attack in which the submarine guard had practice at one of the ships band's side drums which was thrown into the water. After dinner I did not play cards but had a yarn with Flertie & an argument with Paddy & then I turned in about 11-15 reading a paper called John Bull, reckoned to be a blackmail paper. It is somewhat after the "Worker" etc.
Still going strong for Sierra Leone. I was midshipman of the day and I had to take the class for drill. After drill we had gun drill, the usual procedure. During the afternoon I played bridge & also after dinner which was held at 6-30. I went on watch at 8-00 & kept on to 12-20. At 11-12 we changed our course so as to get to Sierra Leone & we ought to get there about noon or after. The night was quite cool and I took about half a dozen azimuth bearings. We all had to sign a paper saying that we thought the messing arrangements were very satisfactory etc. We have been over seven weeks on this voyage and we will probably be another three so it is rather a long trip. The Walmar Castle is fairy unruly and is to be reported to the Senior Naval Officer. My watch is keeping very good time and is regulating itself. I have not written any big letters as they mightn't leave Sierra till late.
When I awoke we were still outside of Sierra & about lunchtime we sighted land, high hills, like the approach to Cape Town. The weather was very calm. We formed single line & passed through the barrier into Sierra Leone river. It is a very pretty approach, on the right being green verdure. We proceeded up the river about a mile & found the cruisers Sutlej & Prince (King?) Alfred & the battleship Swiftsure in at anchor. We anchored in face of Freetown which lies at the foot of the hills and which looks a moderate town. We started to coal right away but no leave was given so I played bridge right up till late. The river is fairly wide & there is a big current running like the Barwon at Barwon Heads. The men'o'war that are in are all old but they look alright to us. The niggers look a lot more refined than those down south but I don't think that they even beat the niggers at Cape Town in coaling. I turned in at 11 but I didn't get to sleep till after 12. I sent three letter cards one to Mother, to Gladys & to Eric.
We were still coaling and taking in water when I got up. We were given leave about 10 and I went ashore with others in a rowboat, fare 1/-. There was a big current running but we managed to get ashore. We wandered around the town and saw the sights. There are no asphalt paths but the roads are of red earth, which with the sun, make white clothes appear bluish. There were a terrible lot of niggers, nearly all in brightly coloured cloths. Everybody is selling something mostly coloured cloths. We visited the army officers club up on a hill & we had a drink & played billiards & then we had a frugal meal of tinned tongue & dry bread at a hotel. We walked up Kissy Street, the principal street of the native quarter & then we returned to the ship in time for afternoon tea (& we were very thirsty) and after tea and dinner I played bridge right up till about 11-30 when I turned in. I couldn't live in Freetown for a pension.
Still in Sierra Leone & still coaling. We had morning service on deck and after dinner I played bridge. I did not go ashore but did a lot of washing in the afternoon amounting to about 4/- worth. I went to evening service when Mr Joyce gave the sermon, a very good one indeed. I turned in fairly early and soon got to sleep. It gets very dark early & there is no twilight. I bought a list of Sierra Leone stamps up to 6d but I wish I had bought them up to 1/-. I also got a walking stick for 1/6 after a good deal of arguing, off a Turkish dealer. I am glad I went ashore as I saw the different parts of the town and the natives way of living. There was a good deal of inter-communication between the convoy & the men'o'war. It seems that we were the only ones that needed coal as we are sailing at 8-00 tomorrow morning and it will be about a 20 days trip to England.
We were weighing anchor when I awoke and about 8-30 we proceeded about of harbour in single line, when we formed up in our usual station outside. The "King Alfred" had previously gone out but no sight of her was seen when we got outside. The ocean was very calm and many sharks were to be seen in fact a place is infested with them. We had boat & fire stations in the afternoon. I played bridge during the afternoon and I dressed for dinner in my mess jacket. The day was fairly close & hot. We are steaming straight out into the Atlantic & we will probably be going out a good way. When we get to England there will be a good few letters waiting for us, in fact there is one there now. I am glad that we have left. We ought to get to England about the 28th.
We were still steaming out West. The weather isn't as calm as usual but it isn't very rough. I did a bit of a skipping at physical jerks to improve my wind and did a bit of writing. I played a bit of bridge during the afternoon but not the usual amount. After dinner I played a game of chess & then we had a bit of a sing song in the drawing room. I turned in early as I have to keep the morning watch. I entered for another deck quoits championship and with a good partner I may give it a good go. The offices are having a mess night & we are invited as guests. I don't know what it will be like. The average loss on the chronometer for about a week is about 50 seconds so it's not so bad. The weather is becoming decidedly cool and nothing like tropical weather. I am glad it is getting cool as I like the cold better than the heat. I'll begin writing letters soon.
I went on watch at 4-00 a.m. but nothing happened during the watch. I went to sleep nearly all the morning and after lunch I played bridge winning most of the time and then I dressed for dinner in my mess jacket. After dinner Lieut Inglis gave us the second part of his lecture. We knew most of the gunnery information but we learnt a bit about mines. He gave the submarine guard a good drubbing down & they deserved it. I entered for another deck quoit competition & I ought to do better. There is no news to put in your diary now and it is very hard to fill up a page. We are passing a couple of hundred miles south of the Azores & we go a good way out. I turned in about 11-00 & soon got to sleep. The wind got up a bit and there is a bit of a choppy sea on. The wireless news told us that Baghdad was taken by the British on the 11th. The war news seems to be a lot better than usual.
A pretty stiff breeze blew all day and there was a slight motion in the ship. I went on watch at 8 a.m. and was in the crow's nest from 10 - 12 but nothing was sighted. After dinner I was surprised to see a tramp bearing down on us. We practised the evolution of scattering and it was a fine sight. The tramp passed us by at very close range, she was heading for Africa & mounted a 4.7" gun. We altered our course to about N 30°
W true during the night so we are passing a good couple of hundred miles out. We will also give the Azores a good berth as well as the Cape Verde isles. I had a couple of games of deck quoits but played a little cards. After dinner I went down & heard the lecture & discussion given by Capt. Chap. Neville on "If a man die shall he live again" & it wasn't bad. After it I listened to some music in the drawing room & then I turned in about 10-30.
The wind increased in force and a bit of a rough sea was on. I went on watch from 12 till 4 and the wind nearly blew your head off up in the crow's nest. I did some more of Weber's exercises before I went on watch. It is much better now that the weather is getting cooler, in fact it was rather cold yesterday. I played a good bit of deck quoits and after dinner I went and heard the lecture on "The Campaign in German East Africa " given by Capt Stoneham, one of the English officers. It was highly instructive & interesting. I turned in a fairly early and was soon asleep. We are going to be convoyed by des (sic) when we reach our rendezvous ie in 45°
N & 15°
W. Our average run is about 250 miles a day so we ought to England about the end of the month. There are shoals of flying fish knocking around they fly a lot better with a wind blowing. There is no news to mention and very little different to usual.
I went down after gym & we had a practice at spotting on a crude but very good spotting table made by Lieut. Inglis & it was quite interesting. After lunch the soldiers had a St Patrick's Day sports & Lieut. Inglis with Newman second won the officers race of 5 laps. I went on watch at 4-00 & dressed for dinner at 6-30. The army officers gave a mess dinner & there was a special menu with a toast list. It was a very good dinner and the toasts were very good. Drinks and smokes were supplied and songs were also sung & it was a very good affair right through. I had a game of bridge after it and turned in at 11-30 & was asleep by midnight. I have got the menu & will send it home when I get to England. All the lifebelts have been brought up on deck so as when boat stations come, no one will need to go down but all will come up. The wind and sea are both still a bit rough. Lat abt 15°
N long 28°
I attended morning service and after it a vessel was sighted on the port beam but it past abeam without much notice being taken. I played bridge all the afternoon winning every game that I played. I also wrote or started to write my letter home. After dinner I had a yarn with Flertie on the boat deck and then I went to evening service and turned in soon after. The day was decidedly cool and it is nice to be able to get warm in bed. We are about 25°
N & 27°
W & our true course has been N 20°
E since we rounded the Verde islands. The wind & sea dropped & we are having calm weather. As I have a good account with Mr Hardie he asked me to allow him to loan some of it out and I gave him permission to do so. We are all looking forward to the landing at Plymouth which we ought to do next Thursday week or so.
A rather cool day. There was nothing doing during the morning. I continued my letter home. In the afternoon I played bridge up till afternoon tea and after afternoon tea I played a good bit of deck quoits. There are a good few nautilus floating by but nothing else is to be seen. We are roughly in 27°
W & 27°
N. After dinner I attended a lecture given by Capt. Strickland on his reminiscences at the front, & the lecture was very good. I turned in a soon after and read a good book that I am engaged in called "The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne". It seems that I will arrive in Plymouth next Tuesday or Wednesday. We know nothing about what we are going to do when we get there. It is like a prize packet, never know what you are going to get. The phosphorus in the water on certain nights is very plentiful & lasts for some seconds.
Another cool day. We had submarine attack and boat drill during the morning. I added to my letter to home. The morning got warmer & it was quite a warm day. I played a lot of deck quoits and after afternoon tea & after dinner I played bridge. During the afternoon the "Miltiades" fired five more shots, pretty bad shooting was seen. We are really only allowed 5 shots a month. I had my hair cut in the morning & it was cut pretty badly. There were three pigeons (carriers) flying around the ship. They looked tired & they rested on the anchor. I don't know where they came from. All the boats were lowered to the promenade deck & all lifebelts are on deck. There was a prepared speech competition & prizes for the sports were presented. We were in at noon 31°
N & 31°
W & still the same course. On the average my watch lost 50 secs a day so it keeps very good time.
It was a very fresh morning and rather on the chilly side. I went on watch at 4 a.m. but nothing happened during the watch. It got colder as the day progressed but I don't suppose it is anywhere near as cold as it will be a up north. About five we sighted a blue funnel ship on the starboard quarter. She caught us up but passed a long way off. After dinner Lieut. Inglis gave a lecture to the soldiers on "Fleet Auxiliaries" which was very well attended & very good. I played bridge up till afternoon tea but after the lecture I turned in & was soon asleep. I played my heat in the quoit championship with Sister Semple but we were beaten at 31- 15. A NE wind blew all day & it was the cause of the coldness. We are in roughly 35°
N & 28 W. I wrote a letter to Eric and continued mine to Mother. We have been nine weeks on this voyage & will probably be ten.
It was a very cold day & a cold wind blew from the north-east. I went on watch at 8-00 a.m. A sailing vessel was seen in the distance to port. I went up in the crows nest at 10-00 & it was very cold up there. I came off at 12 & played bridge all the afternoon. We sighted another convoy about five but it was over the horizon & we could only see smoke & masts. I went to a discussion on "Does it matter what a man believes" and it was very good. I wrote a letter to Gladys. I turned in soon after the lecture and I was soon asleep. We ought to get to our rendezvous about Saturday afternoon & arrive at Plymouth about Tuesday. Mr Hardie does not know whether we land at Plymouth or go on to London. I don't care what we do. I'm wearing thick clothing as it is no use taking any risks. Although there is a wind there is no sea. Lat 38°
N Long 25-4 W.
It was another of very cold day. We altered course to N 32°
E true and we continued at the same speed. According to the officers we are looking for trouble, going at such a slow speed. Another ship was sighted to starboard but she was left behind. I went on watch at 12 and went up into the crow's nest from 2 till 4. It was very cold, the temperature must have been below 40°
. I continued my letters & after afternoon tea & dinner I played auction bridge & I didn't turn in till after 11-00. The noreast wind still continued to blow & there is a bit of a sea up which I think would hinder a submarine attack. A sharp lookout never the less is kept as they are supposed to be pretty numerous in this vicinity. A wireless came through that Russia has been declared a republic & the Emperor & Empress are prisoners in a castle. I hope they won't draw out of the war as it will be very serious. The Gov congratulated them.
Another cool day but not as cold as yesterday. We are still steaming along at the great speed of nine knots. We had our chests brought up and I packed away all my superfluous gear in it. There was a French wireless news from Eiffel tower but nothing of importance. We practised boat stations in the afternoon and all went off well. I went on watch at 4 p.m. and we passed several ships. The wind increased in violence and there were showers of rain. I continued my letters home. There was a wireless message in the morning that a ship was being chased by a submarine which also was followed by a destroyer. The ship was about in Long 20°
W & some 230 miles off a our port beam. She was coming towards us but nothing more was heard. After dinner I played dominoes and turned in early. Our Long is 16 °
20’ W & our Lat (blank) N so we ought to get to the rendezvous at 11-00 tomorrow.
It was a warmer day than usual. When I awoke there were about four ships in sight all zigzaging but we kept on in our convoy. At 10-30 two lots of specs appeared to starboard seven in number, & when they approached they turned out to be the destroyers. Our convoy turned to meet them & we picked up ours, the Goshawk, number 45. She is of the I class. She signalled to us to proceed at full speed and to zigzag during daylight hours to 46º 14" N & 9º W. We set a course S 45º E and & we averaged 16 knots. A destroyer kept on zigzaging across our bows. We soon lost sight of the other ships. There was a Church parade during the afternoon but I played bridge. We arrived at the rendezvous about 11-30 & then we steamed due North for one hour a till we got to 46º 30" N & 9º W. After that we set our course for Plymouth N 40º W. I attended evening service and also attended communion after it. I turned in soon after & was soon asleep.
It was blowing a real gale when I got up. The destroyer was zigzaging right ahead. The sea was very rough and we shipped to a good few seas over the bows. I had to go up in the crow's nest from 11- 12 and the wind nearly blew me off the rigging, I sighted one ship. Owing to the weather we didn't zigzag. I played cards all day and it was pretty cold all day. We sighted the Lizard light about 7 p.m. and later on the Eddystone light. During a day we heard that a ship had been sunk near by, we saw a lifeboat go by. I turned in at 11-30 and soon got to sleep. The journey all through was a very pleasant one and I enjoyed it. The old "Omrah" is a jolly good sea boat and although an old one is fairly comfortable. I tipped Mills the bar steward 2/- and the table steward 5/-. The sea got a lot calmer towards the end of the day but all through it was very cold. During a day the Orcoma and Waitamata were in sight but we were ahead.
When I awoke I found we were the first of the convoy in, having arrived at 3 - 4 a.m. We had to pack hurriedly and we left the ship at 10-30 after having said goodbye to all on board. We went up the river in a steam boat past Plymouth to Devonport. We reached there about 12-15 but we weren't expected. However we went up to the officers mess where we had lunch. We then receive orders that we were to go on to Portsmouth. During the afternoon we looked round the barracks which are very big & well laid out. Williamstown isn't to be compared with it. Flertie & myself went into Devonport. We left Devonport at 4-16, passed through Exeter, attached at Salisbury to the Portsmouth train and arrived there about 11-00. We were met by taxis & driven to the depôt . Here we were given our cabins & instructions were read out. After that we had something to eat. We were then told our ships. I am to go to the Royal Sovereign with five others including Flertie & Hirst. Others are to go to Australia, Glorious & Canada. I turned in at 12-15 and was soon asleep
I was awakened by my servant at 7-5. We had a hot bath and dressed. We were all assembled in the subs cabin and we had to give a list of our kit. We were also told that kit is going to be provided. During the day our chests and suitcases arrived and I unpacked my bag. All my dirty clothes were sent to the wash and I will have to look forward to a nice little bill. After lunch we were divided into two parties and we were shown over the different batteries where all sorts of different guns are kept. We were also shown the different instruments. We were paid £4 by the paymaster but there is still a lot to come. By all accounts I can see that I will have a nice little bill to pay. After dinner I went to a concert given by a juvenile party and it was exceedingly good. All the items were splendid. I turned in at 10-30 and was soon asleep. I found that my watch glass was cracked.
I got up at seven and dressed and then went down to the parade ground where we did gym till 5 to 8. Then we came and had breakfast and after we went over the dockyards where I saw the different parts of the ships being made. I also saw one of our submarines, the biggest in the world. We inspected the "Courageous" which is just getting built and we saw a lot of remarkable sights. I also saw an aeroplane fly overhead. After lunch we had field exercise and it was very cold in the open. I saw a good few planes in the distance. There is a military flying school near by. I posted my letters home as the mail had arrived and after dinner I had a game of billiards. I drew £
1 from Mr Hardie and got a few articles out of my chest. During the day gun testing was going on in fact it is going on each day. Mr Hardie had to leave for London so he will get a our orders. Weekend leave it is going to be given.
We did gym as usual at 7-30 and after breakfast we fell in for divisions. One half went into Gieves while my half did field training. It was a warmer day than usual. After lunch the second half went into Gieves where we were measured for caps, suits and boots etc. My suit is made very well. After that Flertie & myself went to a picture show where they charge 7d & 1/2 and after it we came back in time for dinner. I received my first letter from home and that one was from Gladys and I was jolly glad to get it although I expect a lot more. I received my money from Mr Hardie and sent letters to Eric & Gladys. A lot of gear came from Gieves and I can see that it will be a big bill to pay. A few of the things are too small. I will be very glad when I get on board my ship and when all this shifting is done with.
About 13 went on leave to London, all those who had friends there. I didn't go and all the rest of us did field training all the morning. After lunch I went on leave, went to a play called the "Tiger’s Cub" which wasn't too bad. I bought an Onoto fountain pen and its requisites and returned to the depôt in time for dinner. After dinner I played billiards till 10 when I turned in. We are expected to leave here about Tuesday after we have kitted up properly. This isn't a bad place and it is very comfortable. I have a few articles of my kit too small which I am getting changed. My washing was returned and the bill was exceedingly low only 2/9½ . I thought it would be about 6/-. Every morning here we have to attend divisions and prayers and it is a good sight to see all the sailors march past. There are a terrible lot of reserve officers here and a lot of mates all doing a special gunnery course.
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© Michael Calder February 2003