Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
November Friday 1. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
The war seems to be up almost over. Both Austria & Turkey are pulling out in fact Turkey has. Revolution seems imminent in Berlin. We did the same work, drilling & stripping. Larkins & I didn't receive any pay. I received a registered letter with £5 from the Bank. My mess bill for three days came to 11/3. They charge 2/- for actual messing but there are a lot of extras. I didn't leave the island in the afternoon. I paid my mess bill, looked at the paper & played billiards. After dinner I played snooker & turned in. I expect a few parcels to arrive from Aussie any day now. Have to see the doctor tomorrow. It seems that I will spend my birthday in London. It is Sunday fortnight. Nothing much doing here. I read in the library a bit.
Saturday 2. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
A fairly rotten Day. I went over to the sick day & got tapped all over again & was given some more medicine & some cod liver oil. We did ammunition all the forenoon and it was a wasted forenoon. In the afternoon Burnett & myself went ashore. We went down to Southsea. We couldn't see a girl anywhere. It wasn't a bad place but too chilly. A lot of P boats went out. I don't think I would like to go to one of them. We returned about six & I wrote a letter to Mother, had a bath & some billiards. After dinner I went into the library & got out a book & read it & sat yarning till 11-00. We didn't do any drill this morning. I received my tin case from Gieves today. Thus ends the first week. If the remaining weeks are like the first we will be clever chaps if we know it all.
Sunday 3. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
A rotten rainy day. I got up at 5 to 8 & had breakfast & as it was raining we all went down to the drill shed & had church at 10-00 a.m. We had a day off after that. I wrote two letters before lunch to Gladys & two after to Gieves, Mr Maguire & one letter to Hirst. In the afternoon I didn't go ashore but read & played billiards. Except for the war news nothing is exciting. We have only Germany to squash as Austria has surrendered. After supper I had a yarn & turned in at nine & read till ten. Told my servant to be sure & send my washing. No letters for some time. No more from home. We are allowed to go to theatres after 5-30 p.m. now. The flu is abating in some districts. No other news. It looks as if the wet weather has set in now for the winter.
Monday 4. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Did drills as usual & started our second weeks work. Two lieutenants joined up with the class & we have thirteen in it now which constitutes rather a big class. We stripped down a 4" Mk V & 4" CPII in the forenoon. It started to drizzle & later in the day to blow up. The Earl of Medina is a lieutenant here. In the afternoon we did drill & so finished our time in the west battery. Some of the crowd went to a theatre party but it was too blowy for me. I read part I of the DGOs & then had a bath after which I read till dinner. After dinner we had a sing song in the anteroom the pay sub playing the piano. I turned in at 10-30 & read till 11-00. The cod liver oil that I am taking is doing me a lot of good. I feel fairly fit. Received a note from the Bank. I am going to write to the Admiralty asking to go to Harwich or Mediterranean.
Tuesday 5. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Melbourne cup day. A nice day today only very chilly & I felt it on the parade ground this morning. I went over to sick day but the surgeon commander was too late in coming. We were further lectured on control by one of the long course officers. In the afternoon we went over to the north battery and did spotting table for destroyer runs & it passed the afternoon quite successfully. I didn't go ashore but read part II of the DGOs. I received a letter from Harold & he said it was impossible for him to get leave till a year was up. The terms for Austria's armistice were given. They are pretty severe. We are pushing the Germans back of the Western Front. After dinner we had a short sing song & then I played billiards after which I read & turned in. No appointments arrived.
Wednesday 6. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Same routine. Not a bad day but chilly in the forenoon. I went over to the sick day but the surgeon did not arrive. We were lectured by the lieutenant on destroyer work in general & sighting. In the afternoon we were over in the north battery where we did spotting table opening fire out of range. In the dogs I watched a rugby match & had a bath & after dinner I went over to the weekly concert in the canteen. It was an exceeding good one. I turned in after having a good game of billiards. The Germans are sending a delegation into our lines to discuss peace terms so the war will probably be over shortly & I hope for leave then. I would much sooner prefer to be afloat when peace is declared. No more mail but expect parcels to arrive any day. We do our exam in spotting table tomorrow.
Thursday 7. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
A nice sunny day & beautiful weather for November. In the forenoon we did sights & analysis theory. After lunch we did an exam run over in the north battery. Mine wasn't bad. Afterwards we did high angle gun drill in the racquet court at a Zepp they have rigged there & it was very instructing & realistic. After tea I went out & had a game of snooker. We were playing in the dark most of the time. The war news concerns peace & the naval mutiny at Keil. We ought to see the war over before the month is out. Germany is full of revolution now. After dinner the band played in the anteroom. It played for dinner but I didn't go much on it. It was the C in C's band. I played billiards & we had a bit of a sing song afterwards and I turned in about 10-30. We go out in the Vestal tomorrow. I hope it's a nice day.
Friday 8. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
A rainy forenoon. We went out in the Vestal at 8-30 & went out between the Isle of Wight & Portsmouth. There was a rotten swell on. We had to take on OOQ, in the TS & control officers & we all did our shoots. The director was rotten & the firing very erratic. A terrible spread for range & deflection. It cleared up beautifully in the afternoon. We fired 4" full calibre. We got back about 3-30 & after tea I had a game of billiards & went to a theatre with one of the RNR subs here. We had something to eat & went to the Hippodrome. It wasn't a bad show. I got back about 10-15. The German delegates arrived in our lines today & were given 72 hours that is till 10 a.m. Monday to accept them. I think that they will. I sincerely hope that we will get some leave after it. W M Hughes created a row owing to the Dominions not being represented.
Saturday 9. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Germany still discussing our armistice terms. Our fleet expected to anchor off Constantinople today. We did our analysis exam today. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. A lot left to go to London for the weekend. I hope they don't keep us here next weekend. I didn't go ashore in the afternoon but read & wrote a letter to Mother. I played billiards after tea & then went ashore with Larkins & Nurse & had dinner at the Café Royal & went down to South Parade Pier & listened to the band on the Pier. We went into the town & there was a terrific crowd outside the Town Hall waiting for peace to be declared. The Kaiser & Crown Prince abdicated & our armies are pushing on. The different parts of Germany has been forming republics. I had to walk back to the depôt & turned in about eleven.
Sunday 10. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Not a bad day. I got up at a ¼ to eight and after breakfast went across to the sick bay. We all then marched to Church. I don't mind it at all. I wrote letters to Edie, Brenda & Gladys & posted them. In the afternoon I read & played billiards. After supper Nurse & I went in to Portsmouth. There was a big crowd outside the Town Hall but nothing exciting. The German emissary was delayed so it won't be till tomorrow that we will know about it. There is a big revolution in Berlin but it is orderly. On the way back we bought some real good chocolates. After reading a bit I turned in. Hope to be back in Aussie early next year. I will have a good time. The German Emperor & Crown Prince have gone to Holland. We have reached the outskirts of Mons.
Monday 11. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Click on the diary to see the original entries for 11 & 12 Nov
The usual routine. We did SA in the drill shed. About 10-00 a.m. we all fell in outside & the Commander G told us that Germany had signed the armistice. At noon all of the sirens & whistles kicked up a terrible noise. We all fell in on the QD, Captain Back told us hostilities had ceased & we sang God Save the King, gave three cheers for the King & the Padre said prayers. They gave us a make & mend. Portsmouth was crowded & full of joy. Everybody singing & dancing. I went down to Southsea met a couple of others & we knocked round together. Had tea at the Mikado & dinner at Toderdalls (sic). A very merry evening. We had fizz for dinner & met a lot of Yanks. Afterwards we went down to Southsea & met three topping girls. Mine was very pretty & we had a real good time. I managed to catch the last train home. It seems that the armistice was signed at 5-00 a.m. this morning. I hear London was frantic. Received mess bill & a few letters.
Tuesday 12. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
A very nice day & we carried on the usual routine. The armistice terms came out & they were splendid. Too many to state here. Half of the fleet is to be handed over & a lot of guns & territory. The Kaiser & staff have fled to Holland. Fighting ceased yesterday on all fronts at 11-00 a.m. We did director all today & I went ashore at 5-30 p.m. with Wickham. We went to Gieves & I told them to have my chest at the station on Friday. We had dinner at Todderdalls (sic) & then took a taxi to Southsea. I met my little bit at 8-00 & had a nice time although it was cold. I missed the last tram & had to walk all the way back. It was a good hours walk. I arrived back 11-30 & turned in dog tired. Lighting restrictions have been removed. The King & Queen have been given a tremendous ovation & are very popular. Germany wants to open peace terms as soon as possible. Fighting in Berlin.
Wednesday 13. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Nothing much in the papers except the revolution in Berlin & the popularity of our King. I didn't go down to drill as I was too tired with the result that they took who were absent. Three of us had to go before the Commander G at 10-30 & he gave me work in the dog watches. We did Hendersons gear in the forenoon. We were told that the Admiralty had extended our course till the Wednesday. However we get long week end leave. In the afternoon we inspected the gear. At 5-15 I had to go down to the foot bridge & inspect liberty men. I was down there till 6-30 as a punishment. It wasn't so bad. We were let off very lightly. After dinner I went over to the pictures & came away at nine. I had a good game of billiards before turning in. I booked two seats for a theatre. The weather has been nice & fine but moonlight nights.
Thursday 14. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
A very nice day but a decided wintry chill. We did Henderson in the forenoon. I received my watch & bill from Desbois of London. In the afternoon we did spotting table & rangefinder. I put in for weekend leave. I went ashore at 5-00 a.m. & got two seats for a theatre. After dinner I waited patiently from 6-45 to 7-45 for my little friend to turn up but it was all na poo (sic) & I had to go on my own. I was terribly disappointed. I arrived in the show at half time but I enjoyed what little I saw. I returned about ten very disappointed with the evenings work. However I wrote a letter & hope for better times. I turned in shortly afterwards. Not much war news. The Koenigsberg has put to sea with delegates to meet Beatty. Still celebrating in London. Billy Hughes kicking up a row because Australia was not included in the peace terms.
Friday 15. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
As I received a letter from Miss Living saying that she was ill I postponed my visit to London. We did spotting table and director & tilt test in the forenoon. It is very fine weather for November that we are having but icy cold. In the afternoon we were told all about Lewis guns. The Koenigsberg met David Beatty today. Most of the fellows went up to London but I didn't. Nurse & myself went down to Southsea after dinner but it was too cold to do anything. We returned about ten & had a game of billiards. My watch seems to be keeping correct time. Very little war news. A Handley Page flew over London with 40 passengers. They are arranging for a Paris - London Service. Everybody is now looking forward to the General Election. I suppose I will have to stay at the Club in London.
Saturday 16. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Had a good lie in & we did no work in the forenoon. It was a very hard job to keep warm as the fires weren't lighted till 11-30. I went through my DGOs & looked through my sketches. After dinner Nurse & I went ashore and knocked round Southsea. We returned for dinner. I wrote letters to Mother & Eric & posted them. After dinner Showers & myself went down to the dance. It was packed & crowded out. Whilst there I almost fainted. I don't know what the matter is but I recovered on sitting down. We returned about 10-30. I heard that my letter of last Thursday reached its destination all right. After yarning for some time I turned in about 11-00. The Hun fleet which includes all of the latest ship & cruisers have to leave at 5-00 a.m. on Monday & go to Scapa. I wish I were in the fleet to see them.
Sunday 17. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
I didn't feel very well in the morning. I slept in till ¼ to nine thus missing my breakfast. I attended Church Parade. It was a thanksgiving service for peace. My birthday, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. I stayed in all day. I wrote letters to Gladys & one to the Bank & to Harold. I received two letters from him, one containing an Aussie. He didn't tell me much news except that he was well. I played billiards after tea & turned in about nine & read up my drill. The Hun fleet have to proceed to sea unammunitioned at 5-00 a.m. tomorrow. They will then be escorted to Scapa. No word from a my Southsea chum. The only thing that is keeping me up is the thought of getting back to Australia, otherwise I am sure I would break down.
Monday 18. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Nothing exciting. We are occupying the evacuated territory. Very cold on the parade ground. We haven't had any snow yet. We attended divisions and then went to W Battery & did 4" stripping. Farncombe joined up with the squad. In the afternoon we did 4" drill and after stand easy we went aboard the Orcadia & wasted some time looking over her. We passed the Marshal Soult the 15" monitor. No news & no letters. I didn't go ashore as it was too cold. After dinner I had a game of billiards & as I wasn't feeling too well I turned in and read up some drill. The Hun fleet doesn't surrender till Thursday morning. We are going to try & get the Kaiser from Holland. No war news. Hope to get a bed at the Australian Officers Club in London on Wednesday.
Tuesday 19. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Still chilly and fine. We do one exam this afternoon. We attended divisions & then went to the W Battery & did 2 pdr pom-pom all the forenoon. Received £5 from the Bank. Found I only have a balance of £ 10. Expected it to be much more. In the afternoon Lieut. Lane took us in Lewis. I didn't know much about it as a matter of fact. We then did pom-pom & I did all right in that. I didn't go ashore but had a bath & went right through the director gear & sketches. I yarned till about 9-30 & then turned in and read. We all go on leave tomorrow. Will have to get my chest up to London. My pivot tooth came out again. It is an awful nuisance. We do our written exam tomorrow & hope to get off fairly early.
Wednesday 20 HMS Excellent. London.
Not a bad day. We didn't receive any drill in the morning. I received a PC from Kathleen. It came too late. We did our paper in the big class room. I did fairly well & finished early. We received our pay to date. I received £6. We also received our travelling warrants and food tickets. In the afternoon we did pom-pom, 4" & stripping & finished a little after three. I packed, returned all my gear & had tea. I paid my mess bill close on £4. We got taxis at 4-15 & left Whale Island. I caught the 4-55 train & saw my chest was put on. A fog came down as we were going up & we were ½ hour late. Nurse & I took a taxi to the Club & we were very lucky in getting beds & something to eat. Collins is appointed to the Spencer & Esdaile the Redgauntlet. 20 Hun submarines were handed over at Harwich.
Thursday 21. London.
Got up about eight thirty had a bath and breakfast & then walked down with an Aussie to Piccadilly where I had my hair cut & my pivot tooth put in. Had lunch at the Club & then went out to Finsbury Park. Found Lylie (sic) up & and doing well. Stayed for tea & dinner. Am going to stay at Highfield tomorrow. I left about eight & on arriving at the Club was threatened to be made tight but I got out of it alright. Turned in about ten. Today the Hun fleet surrenders to the Grand Fleet. I do curse my luck for being out of it. Still it can't be helped. No letters have arrived for me. Will probably get my appointment next week some time. Met a couple of friends at the Club. It is a very rowdy place there. Have rather a bad cough & cold & don't feel at all well.
Friday 22. London.
Not a bad morning. Full particulars about the surrendering of the Hun fleet. They are all at Rosyth at present. It is one of the greatest disappointments of my life not being there. The Campania collided & sank. Larkins & I went down to the station & I arranged for my chest to be taken to Finsbury Park. I left the Club at noon & arrived at Finsbury Park for lunch. I had a bad cold so didn't go out again but wrote a letter to Mother and read. No letters for me or any appointment. A big mist came down during the evening. I turned in early & I think in a few days I will be OK again. The departure of mails is now being announced. There was a photo of the Furious in all of the papers. The Hun fleet is going to Scapa very shortly. I would like to see it. My chest arrived here alright. Had to pay £ 1 to the porters. Will cause a lot of trouble getting my gear to the destroyer.
Saturday 23. London.
Another misty day. Feeling very much better. The doctor came & he examined me & said I was perfectly sound. No appointment yet. I didn't go out all day but wrote letters & read. I did go out in the afternoon & bought some collars & a tie. Not much news. Don't know whether any others have got their appointments. I posted my letters after dinner. As I have always said, there will be a big social revolution shortly & at present the labour party are becoming cheeky. The lights were cut off the Albert Hall last night. The mist became very much thicker in the evening. I ought to be quite well by Monday. I would love to be able to see some of the surrendering now taking place in the fleet. We are advancing into the Germany.
Sunday 24. London.
A very thick dense mist but I'm told nothing like the London black fog. I had breakfast in bed & then we all left here about 11-00 & by tram etc went to Miss Living’s father's house in Plaistow. We had dinner there & chatted all the afternoon. We left about 7-00. I wrote two letters when I got back to Edie & Brenda & turned in about nine thirty. I read for a while in bed. I will call in at the Club tomorrow. No mail today. Very little news. Not very cold in London. 28 more submarines were handed over. I suppose by the time I get there they will all have been handed over. 98 have already been handed over. There is still a part of the main fleet to come over yet.
Monday 25. London.
Felt much better. No appointments yet. Am afraid I will miss all the doings up north. Had breakfast in bed & then a bath. I left home after lunch and went into the Club. Met Larkins who had received his appointment to a V boat at Glasgow. I went with him to St James Park whilst he made arrangements. Saw all the captured guns. We then went & had tea at the Trocadero. After that we went to the Club. As I knew no one there I returned home early & was almost wet through. Our mine sweepers have left for Keil to sweep a channel making preparations for the Huns to go to Scapa. The Yarra & Torrens are at Constantinople. I had a read & turned in very early. Rotten mists are all over London. Packed my bag in case I get my appointment. No war news. Hope I go to a Rosyth destroyer or to the Mediterranean to one of ours.
Tuesday 26. London.
Another very misty day. I received my books & a certificate saying I passed at Whale Island but no appointment yet. I went a message for Lylie and then I went into the Club for tea. Had a game of billiards & then met Larkins & Hirst. Hirst is going to a cruiser called the Dauntless & Larkins to the Vampire. We had a long yarn & had dinner at the Club after which we tried to get into several shows and at last got into "The Boy " by sharing a box. It was a very good show. I left them at the tube and arrived home about eleven. Larkins should have gone to his destroyer today but he stayed behind. All the Huns have gone to Scapa & more submarines are being handed over. The mail went out today & I heard that an Australian mail has arrived in London. Feeling much better on the whole but still have a cold.
Wednesday 27. London.
A misty & rainy day. I had breakfast in bed & stayed in all morning. No appointment yet. I went & got some cakes for Lylie after lunch & then went into the Club. I played billiards with Larkins & then we went to the Troc for tea. I stayed & had dinner at the Club & we went with Hirst to "Soldier Boy" it was very good indeed. I got home about 11-15 & turned in. Both of the others are going to their ships tomorrow, I wish my appointment would come. Received a letter from Harold. Not much news. He is to occupy the evacuated territory. Very little war news. The 4th BS are going to Keil, wish I were with them. This leave is doing me a lot of good but still I am feeling out of it.
Thursday 28. London.
Another misty rainy day. No letters. Got up about ten thirty. Went out & got some cigarettes & a paper. Left here about two & went to the Club. Played billiards all the afternoon with a doctor at the Club. Arrived home again about 6-30. Received my seamanship note book from Wauhope. Hirst & Larkins have left. I went to Australia House to inquire about my appointment & food coupons but they didn't know anything about it. Met Mr Seely & a brother of Lylies who stayed to dinner. I turned in about ten. I am reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" again. Am getting fed up with London. Running short of cash. Can't afford any more shows. I will leave as soon as I get my appointment.
Friday 29. London.
Nothing doing today. I went down for some cigarettes & read mostly all day. I went to the Club in the afternoon as usual & played billiards & read the papers there. Very little news. Misty rainy day. No appointment or letters. Was home for dinner & turned in about eleven. No Fleet News. Probably the 4th BS have gone over to Keil. Wish I could have gone.
Saturday 30. London.
A dull day. I got up about eleven but didn't do anything exciting. In the afternoon I went down the town to do some shopping for Lylie & then walked to Stoke Newington & obtained some emergency rations. Stephen a cousin of Lylies came about six & we had tea and then played whist till 9-30 when he left. No appointment. Going to see Clemenceau & Foch arrive tomorrow. Weather not too cold but drizzly at times. My cough & cold a bit better but am afraid that it will stick to me all through the winter but I hope to be back in Aussie before the winter is out. My mail must be waiting for me at the ship. Wouldn’t mind going to the Mediterranean.
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© Michael Calder February 2003