Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
May 1 Tuesday.
After having breakfast I had to assist in the taking in of 15" shells. After that I got into sea boots and oilskin and went out with Hirst in a drifter on patrol. We started at about 9-00 & arrived outside the booms about 10-00. I went in at the torpedo drifter and Hirst went in the gunnery drifter. We didn't do or see anything while we were there but simply slept nearly all the day. I took some tucker with me but about five I felt pretty crook and went once over the side. The motion resembled the Franklins and brought back pleasant memories. It was blowing and raining all afternoon and I slept mostly all the time and turned in, on the couch and tried to sleep but only slept very fitfully. The drifter was called the "Trust On" and was armed with two tubes and a gun. We get to two shillings extra a day for going out but I won't volunteer again for it in a hurry. You have to take your own grub but I had a nice piece of steak for dinner and that was all that I wanted. At any rate it gave me a good clean out.
I awoke about 7-30 but did not eat anything but went over the side a few times. We were relieved about 9-30, Kimlin from the Canada relieving me. We arrived back in time to get aboard and as we were just about to get under weigh. I had a hot bath and by the time I was cleaned we were a out in the Flow and all the hatches were closed. We then had 6" firing & the concussion & shock was felt in the ship more than I thought. We finished about 1-00 & had lunch. Our class of ship looks very imposing when at sea. We came to anchor about 2-00 but I didn't do anything as I came off patrol. We have started to do watch keeping and boat work and we were told off for the different watches. As I wasn't feeling too well I turned in early after having played cards after tea. I arranged for an advance of our pay from the fleet paymaster and also inquired about paying money into the bank. I am going to bank my money in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
It was a beautiful day, hardly a ripple on the surface and the sun was shining brightly. I was on watch from a 8 - 9 & went away in the galley to the beach to pick up a wood fender. I wanted to take it in the boat, but as it was heavy and the bottom slippery the coxswain persuaded me to tow it with the result that I couldn't sail the boat properly & had to be towed back. We were all allowed to go ashore, so after doing some navigation in the morning & after being paid £10 by the paymaster (warrant) we nearly all went ashore. Of course, we had come over to the North shore early in the morning so we were quite close to Kirkwall. I paid all my bills & servant & for shoes. We landed about two and after a big walk we arrived in Kirkwall. There wasn't much to see. This is an old cathedral which dates back to many hundred years, built about 1,000 AD I think. It is being renovated & there are many graves & tablets in the cathedral & some of date back to 1300 AD. I did some shopping & returned to the ship about 6-00. I went on watch at 6-00 till 8-00 & turned in after dinner after having continued my letter home.
Another beautiful day & of course a make & mend was given. None of our lot went ashore but we took watches and picket boat. There are two Canadian majors aboard just for a day or so, to look round and they went up in a seaplane and visited a submarine so they saw a good deal in a short time. I read mostly all the afternoon. Our sextants along with a pair of binoculars and a telescope arrived and they were very good, quite the envy and jealousy of the others in the gunroom. Our names were engraved on them and they are 1st class instruments. I played poker and lost pretty heavily about 4/- but I had terribly hard luck. I think I will go steady this month & see if I can save a bit. I posted my letters to Mother & to the Commonwealth Bank. In the evening in the papers I saw that the Ballarat was torpedoed near England. It had about 1,000 Australians on board mostly Victorian. Splendid discipline prevailed and no lives were lost. Armitage also was on board. I suppose that is where letter at No. 4 was lost as I haven't received it yet. I suppose the mail that is now due has been lost.
Today was very cold & it rained slightly and snowed a bit. I went on watch at 8-00 a.m. and then as we got under way I went up on to the compass platform. We knocked around the Flow and they did some sub-calibre 6" firing. I was sent down to the wheel house and I had to take the wheel. This ship is very easy to steer only I should think that the gyro compass would in time affect the eyes of the helmsman. We came to anchor in the usual place over with the rest of the fleet. I went off watch at noon & had lunch. We had a stand easy after noon and I read mostly all the afternoon. During the afternoon Watkins and I fell out and I firmly believe I am in the right so we have parted company and I am not sorry. The gramophone is once again in working order and the records are very good & up to date. I went on watch again from 6 - 8 p.m. and it was very cold on watch. After dinner I waited up for the mail but as no letters arrived I turned in and soon got to sleep. Our travelling expenses came to roughly 18/- each.
Today was a better day than yesterday and at times was quite warm. I was awakened at 5-00 p.m. (sic) and had a bath and then called the Commander at 5 to 6. I should have called him a 10 past 6 and he went off a bit. I was on watch till 8-00 p.m. (sic). We then had to tidy the gunroom before divisions. After divisions we had Church and after that I read mostly all day. I went on watch at 4-00 p.m. after having a game of cards and I came off watch at 6-00 p.m. After dinner I played bridge and then we received a mail. I received a letter from Mother, Gladys and Harold. Mothers letter was numbered 7 so 6 is missing. All seem to be well at home & all are enjoying life. They had received my letters from Durban and Cape Town so that's alright. The letters from S Africa took exactly a month. I turned in about ten and read my letters and I enjoyed them. As regards the war news the Allies are advancing slowly & the Germans are trying counter attacks. I used my scope of the first time on watch yesterday.
It was fairly cold today & snowed a bit. We did 20 minutes gymnasium before breakfast. After breakfast we had navigation & we worked out two or three problems. We each received our travelling expenses. After lunch we went down to the assistant bosio'n (sic) & he gave us a few questions in seamanship. We packed up about the 3-10 and then I wrote letters home. I wrote 12 pages to Mother & 4 to Gladys so I was pretty tired of writing at the finish. I played the gramophone a bit & then we had our usual signalling test in which I did fairly well. After dinner we played bridge for 5’ a hundred and I won 1/4 on the day's proceedings. I turned in about a ¼ to 10 and went to sleep. There was a concert given by the Warspite but I didn't go. I was called away in the picket boat about 10-8 and we had to go over to the Pansy a minelayer. I took charge and brought her along alright. My extra account came to 3/8 for the week but I think that they have added something on.
Not a bad day to day. We did the usual routine, navigation in the morning and signals in the afternoon. My mess extras & wine bill for the week came to 7/-. We got underway at 3-30 & I went up on the compass platform as I was on watch. We did some sub calibre firing and 6" reduced charge with the rest of our class. The afternoon was a bright one & it was a pleasure to live. I went on watch after dinner at 8-00 p.m. Another midshipman arrived by the mail drifter. He seniority dates 1st May. I went off watch at 9-00 & turned in early. I posted my letters home & to Gladys & I wrote one to Harold. I came 2nd in the last gunnery exam with 70% so that's not too bad. A new a marine lieutenant arrived also last night. We are having a galleys crew. Three Anzacs are included amongst them. There isn't much new news, all the same stuff each day. The doubling round this morning was particularly violent and nearly knocked me out. My wind isn't so bad as I thought it was.
It wasn't a bad day. I had to go away in the second picket boat to the Revenge & Blonde before breakfast. After divisions we had about an hours signals and then we packed up for lunch. After lunch we had some navigation problems & then took out our sextants & corrected them for side error & index error. After tea I played cards but was called away a couple of times to go away in the picket boat. I can't say I am very good at bringing picket boats alongside but I am improving. Three new midshipman arrived after dinner & they are a big lot, they are the biggest of their lot. I had to go away in the picket boat to the Hercules & Chatham at 10 p.m. & had to go down to the wardroom of the Chatham where all the officers were singing & drinking & I had to stay there till about 11-15 p.m. I was offered whiskys etc. & it was hard to persist in a refusal. We got back to the ship about 11-30 & I turned in. We had a guest night tonight but only officers of our own ship were asked to dine.
It wasn't a bad day yesterday but it rained a bit in the morning. In consequence divisions were held on the battery deck. After divisions we had navigation examples & notes on the sextant & the vernier. After lunch we all went sailing, the Anzacs going in the pinnace with the Commander N. We raced with all the other ships of our class. We sailed round the island but we didn't get in first of the whole lot but beat all the other boat of our class. I played cards after being on watch from 3-30 to 4. After dinner I went on watch from 8 - 9 and then turned in early. Egerton and Walters are leaving early in the morning so were given a bit of the sent off. I will be glad when Smyth goes & I am glad that Egerton is leaving too. I obtained Walters' locker after he evacuates so I'm alright. We are going to have more practical work in Nav & Seamanship according to the Commander. Also every Friday night we are going to be given a signal exercise from the flagship at the rate of eight words a minute & all results are to go into the Admiral.
A wet morning and consequently we didn't do any physical exercise. We wrote out some seamanship notes in the morning & after lunch we had an hour and a quarters signals from the First Lieutenant. After that we had a bit of semaphore & packed up. I was on watch from 4 - 6 and it was pretty cold. After six I didn't do anything. We had a few signs & letters in flashing before dinner. I turned in early and after reading a bit I got to sleep. Egerton & Walters left the ship early in the morning. In Walters locker I found a good amount of grub so was very lucky. I obtained half a dozen cap ribbons from PO Philpots and I'm going to send them home tomorrow. There were two DSOs and one DSC awarded for the late destroyer attack. It is rumoured that a defensive policy is going to be carried out & I hope it is true as I want to see a bit of activity. There is going to be a sports meeting for this ship soon & by the looks of it nearly all of us will have to enter for the marathon & relay races.
Another rather wet day. I was MOD and woke up the subs alright. I had to get up at five and went on watch at 6-00. I played cards all morning & afternoon & won about 2/-. I went on watch again at 4 p.m. after having censored letters and had afternoon tea. After dinner I worked the gramophone till it bust and then I turned in about ten as no mail had arrived. There doesn't seem to be any signs of activity. Destroyer scraps seem to be the thing. The remainder of the subs don't seem to be going. I only wish they would hurry up. We all had to sit out on the big table and it isn't half as good as being on the small one. The big advance has been stopped & the Germans are now counter attacking. The Australians seem to be where all work is going on. A new navigation & seamanship programme has been drawn up. We have to take charge of a boat each & I have the launch. It will be a terribly big bore. The boxing tournament is still in progress.
I was midshipman of the first picket boat and had to take our Chaplain over to the Blonde before divisions. I attended divisions and then Church. I then took the picket boat over to the Resolution to bring off both Commanders. It was a very calm day and rained about 11- 12. After lunch I played cards right up till tea. I sent three cap ribbons home to Mother in an envelope. After tea I had to take the Captain down to Longhope where the Admiral of the port resides and I had to wait for about two hours. I brought him & the Captain of the Superb back to their ships. After dinner I started my letter home. No mail came from Australia. I received a letter from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia with the necessary forms to fill in so I am going to bank my money. I also received a reply from Mrs E Tuson and she told me all about the family & invited me anytime to go over there. I don't think that they are very well off. I turned in soon after nine.
A drizzly day. As we are all doing Seamanship I didn't get a watch till 8 - 9 p.m. We all did a navigation test in the morning till lunch. After lunch I wrote my letter home but as no letters came in the mail I have kept it back. We had an easy afternoon. I copied in my seamanship notes most of the time. After tea I played cards and then read an interesting book. I went on watch at 8 - 9 and after that I turned in a early and read. A lot of new records arrived but they don't seem to be much good. I fixed up about banking my money & fill in my forms & posting it tomorrow. There is absolutely nothing to put in a diary as we haven't been anywhere yet. We are expected to go out in the Flow tomorrow. The new Navy List arrived. We are included in the Australian Naval Forces with our seniority & the amount of seniority that we have gained. I can't get enough to fill a page now so it can't be helped.
A better day today in fact it was quite warm. After divisions we continued our exams in navigation but I did pretty rotten on the whole. We were given our action stations during the afternoon when we were at signals. I am in B turret. They are practically the same stations as for night action. We fired two torpedos when we were under way after having been to action stations. I don't think that the torpedo running was very correct. After dinner we had to go to night action stations & we did some sub calibre firing while the search lights were playing on the target. We didn't pack up till after eleven. I turned in at 11-30. No letters arrive from home so I suppose that no mail left Australia weekly. We came to anchor about 12-00. The weather is now getting quite warm and there are only about 4 hours of darkness. I kept back my letter hoping to get a mail but as none has come I will post it tomorrow.
I got up at 5 a.m. & had my bath, turned out the Commander kept watch till a 8-00 a.m. & then had breakfast. It was a beautiful day, not a ripple on the surface. I went to B turret after divisions where we did some loading & the gunnery Lieut. Com said it was very good. After lunch we heard that all officers were recalled & given 1½ hours notice, so there wasn't any sailing races. All the fleet got up steam and we thought we were going out. However we had Navigation in the afternoon & I did pretty rotten in that exam. I lost my key ring with all my keys on, during the afternoon. I played deck hockey & posted my registered letter to the Commonwealth Bank & one home to Mother. After that I had my hair cut & we had a signal exercise. The order was received to be able to have 18 kts in ½ hour. Consequently we all thought we were going out for sure especially when the submarines got ready. However we were still waiting when I turned in at 10 after having played bridge. I do hope we go out.
We were still at anchor when I got up. We had gun drill before breakfast. I kept watch from 8 - 9. It was a fine day. While on watch the Chief Yeoman told me that everything was reverted back to the usual routine so that settles the matter. We did some navigation sights and I took a couple of land horizon sights. There was no work after lunch as some of the snotties went ashore I played cards all the afternoon. After tea we thought we had to do some study but we were allowed off. I had to go away to the beach after that in the launch and bring off some officers. Soon after dinner as there were no letters for me I turned in and read. I posted up two notices advertising for my keys which have been all lost. I hope I find them. White cap covers are to be worn at the end of the month. I don't know where I left mine. All submarines & the Campania went back to their original positions. I would like to know the reason of the scare. Some say it might have been the tides at Williamshaven.
Nothing doing today. We had seamanship in the forenoon. We had to rig the cutter and went for a sail before lunch. After lunch there was a sailing race. I went out in the launch. We did very well & beat all the others of our class. During the race the battle cruiser squadron came in & anchored close by. There seems to be something doing. After tea I played cards and read & after dinner I again played after the signalling exercise was done at 9-15. It was conducted from the Resolution & I did pretty rotten. In the cards I won a couple of bob. I received a guarantee about my registered letter. I turned in about 11-00. No letters have arrived from home. The weather is now quite warm. I think we will go out soon. The Glorious was amongst the battle cruisers but the RAN snotties didn't come over. I was slightly disappointed in the appearance of the Battle Cruisers. They looked like German ships but still they look very powerful.
Got up & had a bath at the usual time. When I went on deck I was told that we were going to sea today. About 9-00 the battle cruisers except the Glorious & Courageous put to sea. We were given short notice. I kept the forenoon watch. At 12-40 we raised anchor & put to sea. We steamed out, the light cruisers leading with the submarines & observation balloon. Then the 5th BS except the Queen Eliz. The 1st BS next & then the King George class. We were guarded by innumerable destroyers. It was a wonderful sight. We steered a up north towards the Shetlands. I played cards till tea & then I went up to the compass platform & kept the first dog. We had supper at seven and there was a speech night when several of the snotties had to make speeches. I played bridge after that but turned in a early. The weather is fairly calm although the is a fresh breeze blowing. We zigzag to a certain extent but I wish we would go down south and try & have a smack at the Huns. There is very the little movement in the ship.
I rose at 3-30. It was as light as day. I went on watch at 4 and kept the morning watch and I had plenty of tramping to do. I came off at eight and had breakfast. All the fleet were together including the Orions & St Vincents. We were waiting to sight our battle cruisers who were considered as the enemy. At 9-00 we had to go to action stations but only practice control was held. After lunch I played cards and lost 2/6. We were rolling & pitching a slight amount but not much. At 3-30 we had to go again to our stations & again we had a dummy run at repelling the enemy. Our latitude reached was about 63º N & longitude about 4º W before we turned round & came down south again. We sighted a neutral ship with her name and nationality painted on its side. It went right between now lines. I kept the last dog and soon after dinner I turned in & got to sleep. I took some sights after noon and about five o'clock but I think I will have to fake them owing to Thompson's rotten disposition.
I went on watch at 8-00 a.m. There was a fairly strong wind blowing and we were making for Scapa. We sighted land during my watch & we encountered Scapa about 10-12. We anchored during lunch. We received our mails. I received a letter from Gladys & one from Mother & Eric. We had to do some seamanship in the afternoon & we were given a description of the way to write up the log. I took the first dog & after that I wrote a letter home to Mother. We are all settled down again to the usual harbour routine. The Battle Cruisers came in & anchored near by. We filled up with oil as soon as we came in as also did the destroyers. At dinner Ash’s health was drunk as he received his appointment so I will be 2nd in command of the turret now. I finished my letter home & then went off to bed. There was a scrap in the Mediterranean when Australian ships sank fourteen drifters. There wasn't any other war news.
The usual routine once again. I posted my letter home & also posted one to Eric. We had Navigation during the forenoon but I had to go to divisional drill in the turret. After lunch we had signals principally flashing exercise. After tea I had to go & see that B & C doors were closed & then report them to the Commander. At 4-45 we had our first dog watch lecture. Guns took us & we took a lot of notes on sights. Kept the last dog. After dinner I continued reading my book called "The Rocks of the Valpre". I received a letter from Burrumbeep by the mail and was very glad to get it. I turned in soon after and read a bit. We took in a lot of provisions during the afternoon. Our mess extras were put up. Mine is about 7/6. The Battlecruisers are still in with us but we couldn't get any of those aboard the Glorious to come over. We have a food on the upward scale once again. I have arranged for the Naval Representative to pay £5 a month into the Commonwealth Bank so I am now fixed up.
A beautiful day today, not a breath of wind and the sun shining. In consequence we didn't do any study but a lot of them went ashore. I didn't but had a loaf & read my book. I took the launch over to the beach to fetch back the Garden Party & also went to a few ships with different messages. After lunch I went down to the "Cyclops" for a cargo of iron rungs & brought them back. I wrote my letter to Gladys & finished it. Three of our lot went over to the Canada for dinner. I went on watch after dinner till nine & after the mail arrived I turned in & soon got to sleep. We are shifting over to the north shore tomorrow & we will probably have a few days off ashore. We had a dog watch lecture by the Commander N on tides etc. & it was quite amusing. I got some cakes of soap & some chocolates from the canteen as we can't get any from our mess. I finished my book & thought it very good.
It turned out a beautiful day and we went over to the North Shore. We put in for leave but we had to go out in the third cutter during the forenoon, row out, up sails & sail back but as there was no wind we rowed back most of the way. After lunch I put my name down for leave & got into my No. 1s. We left here about 2-45 to go to the Monarch in the Admirals barge. We arrived there about 3-30 & went into the gunroom where I had a smoke etc. After that I went into the theatre which was very large & spacious. It was a very good little piece entitled "after the war" in two acts. During the interval I had tea. We left about ¼ to 7 or 7 & arrived back about eight when we had dinner. After that we had a signalling exercise and I did fairly well. As I had a headache I turned in early & soon got to sleep. Farncombe arrived on board with the mail so we are all here now. We always seem to strike lucky weather when we come over here & the good weather looks as if it is going to continue.
Another beautiful day. We all had an early breakfast & nearly all of the ships company were landed by all the boats & were drawn up for a route march. We marched about 3½ miles to a landing place where we all embarked again & we got back to the ship about 12-30. I liked the walk very much as it stretched my legs. We didn't do any work during the afternoon and at 3-30 we closed up for sub calibre firing. We finished about 6-30. After reading for a bit I had dinner. As we were going to close up again I didn't turn in but read till about 11-00 when action was sounded. I don't know what went on outside as I didn't see anything but I was very sleepy & we didn't pack up till 1-00 a.m.. I went straight down & turned in & got to sleep. I wrote a letter & posted it to Edie. We came back again to our berth so we will probably get ashore again.
Another beautiful day & in consequence we were given leave from nine to six. I didn't go ashore in the morning but knocked around the gunroom. After lunch I went ashore, bought something to eat at a store at the Scapa Pier & went for walk, visited a distillery near by & was shown over the place by an old Scotchman & it was very interesting. I returned to the ship about 6-00 & we got underway & went back to our old billet. We are having a very good weather this summer according to people who were up here last time. After getting ready, Larkins and myself had to row two subs over to the Renown & in the skiff. We arrived back in time for dinner. As I was next of kin. I had a hot bath & turned in straight after and read before going to sleep. A captain has been made an ADC to the King. He is second now on the Captains list and ought to be a Rear Admiral soon.
27 Whit Sunday.
We had the usual routine, divisions followed by Church. We were all invited over to the Glorious, so after lunch we left in the launch & after a very rough & wet trip we arrived at the Glorious & went down to the gunroom where we had a good old yarn with the rest of them. It seemed to me that they run the whole show & take no notice at all of the subs. We had a good afternoon tea including eggs. We had to leave about 5-30 & we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It inspired us with hope re our future concern. After dinner as I was MOD I had to run the gramophone & I wrote a letter home to Mother. No letters for us arrived by the mail. I turned in about 11. I heard that Reilly was awarded the King's Medal for been the most influential cadet at the college. I think he was the most uninfluential chap and & he was hated & disliked & was a sucker round. Larkins, Long or Getting should have got it but not Reilly.
We got under way soon after breakfast & 15" control was sounded off so I went to B turret. I have been given the job of manipulating the Dumaresq * & it isn't too bad as one can see the target. We did 6" firing and some say it was very bad firing. We were out in the Firth but came in about noon. It was a nice sunny day and during the afternoon we had squad drill on the quarter deck. We fired torpedos about five. I had nothing to do so I read most of the dog watches & played some cards. A big notice about censoring was put up. A very successful air raid was carried out by the Huns in the south of England killing 74 & wounding 170 odd. It was by aeroplanes. After dinner as Elliot was leaving, drinks were showered around and consequently there was much row. I turned in about 10 as I was sleepy. No mail arrived so we will have to wait till next Sunday. A heavy fog came down during the evening.
A fine day. We went out sub calibre firing during the forenoon & I had to go to my station. After lunch we had rifle exercise & we managed to show that we knew it. At tea we were asked to sign a paper whether we would like to go to certain families in certain districts & towns when we get our 12 days leave in July when we go down to refit at a Scottish dockyard. I replied yes & in London for preference. Thomson also said yes. It seems that Lady Ferguson wrote over to the Victoria League in England & asked them would they look after us & they replied yes. It was very good of them as I knew no one & had nowhere to go. It was the League that mother told me to go & visit. We had engineering dog watch lecture & had to take about 10 pages of notes on turbines. I wrote some of them up in my fair book after. We invited the five over from the Glorious to dinner & we all had a good time. Four of us played bridge but we didn't play for money. I had to leave about a ¼ to 10 so we were very sorry for them to go. I turned in soon after.
A rather a warm day. We didn't do any drill in the morning in fact we haven't done any for weeks. After breakfast which was an early one, all of about class steamed out to do 15" practise. We went out into the Atlantic side and each ship fired four rounds per gun at a target about 22-300 (22,300) yards away. The blast was pretty strong. I was in the officers hood and could see all the fall of shot. When our guns fired the turret rocked about like a cradle and then gradually steadied down. Some say the shooting was good, and others say it was bad. I thought it was good. We came in about 10 and we had to go down to the pump rooms & we have a lecture on the hydraulics of a turret. In the afternoon we went down into the shell room and had another lecture on the pipe system. We didn't have a usual dog watch lecture but I wrote up my engineering & gunnery notes into my fair book. We had a lecture by Denny on eating too much food but I think he is mistaken. It is the subs who profit well. I played bridge before I turned in.
The anniversary of Jutland but we are still in here. It was a fairly fine morning and we did gun drill on the forecastle before breakfast. After breakfast we had to write up and sketch a diagram on forms on the 6" shoot the other day. After lunch we all went down to the shell room and had the usual lecture. All the other mids went out sailing but it rained nearly all the afternoon. After tea we had a torpedo dog watch lecture and we knew most of what Torps told us. After dinner I read the papers which arrived and turned in. The Battlecruisers left during the afternoon so we won't see the Glorious lot for some time. Smyth is going on sick leave shortly I think and that would be one less. Everybody is writing up his engineering notes and they were a good length. There is no more news.
Next month >>>
^ back to top ^
© Michael Calder February 2003