Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
October Tuesday 1. At Sea. Rosyth.
I got up at five thirty. We altered course to west about 5-42 & started zigzaging. A boy died in the night from influenza. I had breakfast at 8-00 a.m. & wound chronometers. I then worked up my position for 10-00 a.m. We sighted May Island about ten thirty. I was only four miles out. We took some time getting into the river but anchored & moored by 1-45. I then worked out the tides for this place. I was feeling rather ill by this time so I went up to the sick day. I had a temperature of 102º & pulse 100 so they turned me in. I turned in in the surgeons old cabin. We have 140 cases of it on board & are in strict quarantine. I wasn't feeling at all well & during the night was rather sick. A lot of cases are being sent to the hospitals ashore. Nothing to do in bed.
Wednesday 2. Rosyth.
A little bit better but still have a temperature. I get no food except a glass of milk & that powdered. I received a nice parcel from Mother & Gladys. I was very sick in the night. Very monotonous in bed. Had plenty of visitors. Allowed an egg for supper. Very good. I get plenty of sleep.
Thursday 3. Rosyth.
Much better today. Temp almost normal. Tons of papers arrived from home. I am getting eggs for my meals. Feel very dizzy on my legs when I stand up. I read & sleep mostly all the time. A lot more cases have occurred. I am gradually getting to like my bed. We took Lens & Armentiers in our advance & the Australians are doing very well in Palestine.
Friday 4. Rosyth.
A setback. Pulse normal but temp up again. Felt very seedy especially in the afternoon. No mail from home. I got slightly better towards the evening. Am sending my suit to Gieves shortly. Had a very good sleep. The weather is still cold & windy so they say.
Saturday 5. Rosyth.
Nothing doing. My temp was normal in the forenoon but went up again during the middle of the day. I get a glass of port before lunch & at dinner. My cough & cold increased slightly. We advanced on all fronts. Nothing much to do in bed. Don't get much to eat. One case from the ship died in a hospital ashore. The cases are decreasing. Received two letters from home from Mother & Gladys but no more.
Sunday 6. Rosyth.
My temperature was once more normal so they decided that I could get up for lunch which I did. I had nearly all of the gunroom in to see me during the day. It was blowing a real gale so they said. I felt very giddy when I got up. I read mostly all of the afternoon. I see Germany has asked for an armistice to talk about peace. In the afternoon I received a telegram from Leila saying that Uncle was dying. I can't get down I am afraid. I visited some of the patients during the afternoon. Have now plenty of reading matter. The marine tailor sewed on a pair of second-hand stripes on my No. 2 jacket & they are really well done. I sent my No.1 coat & a letter to Gieves to have stripes sewn on. I turned in again directly after dinner, read a bit & soon got to sleep. My temp was normal again at the evening.
Monday 7. Rosyth.
My temperature was again normal but I still have a touch of bronchitis. I didn't get up till lunchtime. An Australian mail arrived. I received letters from Mother, Gladys, Eric & Edie. I answered them all in the afternoon. The weather is still very cold & breezy. As we were having the pictures after dinner I got permission to go to them. Nothing more about the armistice. I think the Flu is dying down. I didn't wait up to the end of the pictures but turned in at ten o'clock. My temp was again normal in the evening. I have been feeling very homesick during the last few days. This life is no good to me. Farncombe I hear is going to hospital. I had a look at the marks we go (sic) in our exams. I received another letter from Gladys. I posted all my letters as well as one to Lylie this morning.
Tuesday 8. Rosyth.
I had my breakfast in bed. My temperature was normal so I was allowed to get up & go to the gunroom. I got a couple more letters from Brenda & Gladys & I wrote to Brenda & Poppy. The weather is still cold and blowy but we go out firing torpedos tomorrow. The German Peace note fell through. I am not allowed to go ashore just yet. I haven't received my new suit from Gieves yet & things are getting serious for next Sunday. I still have a touch of bronchitis. I came out of this illness rather well. I am not going to do much work till I am sent away. I turned in quite early after dinner. I'm going to try & stick to that cabin if no one else gets sick. We were going to have our bustup tomorrow but Hirst has gone sick. I posted my photos. No news. All quiet on the Western Front.
Wednesday 9. Rosyth.
The ship weighed & went out to fire torpedos. We went right out past May Island. The wind got up to its usual ferocity & prevented any torpedos from being actually fired. I got up about ten. I haven't been at all well since I got up. I feel absolutely knocked out & fed up with everything in general. I can't stand the life & wish I were out of it. We returned to our anchorage about five. We had the band for dinner & they played all of their new selections. I turned in about nine thirty. I won't be fit for duty for a couple of days. No suits from Gieves yet. I am gradually getting used to smoking again although they still taste rotten to me yet. The new fleet surgeon arrived on board. I wish I could get appointed away as soon as possible. The rest of the acting subs are keeping OOW but I will try & get out of it.
Thursday 10. Rosyth.
I had my breakfast in bed as usual. I was still placed on the sick list. The new fleet surgeon seems alright. I received a letter from Gieves. The new order about making paymasters, surgeons & naval instructors executive has come out. We are still advancing on all fronts. Two act-subs had to go to a torpedo control course at the Vernon. Due to the fact that I was on the sick list I was barred from it. Thompson & Watkins are going & start on Monday. In consequence they passed the champagne & port & we had quite a wild night songs & drinks. I am very sore about not going. The number of cases of flu are decreasing. I am gradually back to being able to enjoy a smoke. Nothing much to do. I felt a little better today but not quite fit yet. No more letters. I had rather a good mail this time.
Friday 11. Rosyth.
A very nice sunny & calm day. As usual I had my breakfast in bed & the Surgeon Commander said I could have another day on the sick list. I received a letter from Leila saying that Uncle was to be buried today. I wrote a sympathetic letter to her at once. I received my new uniform from Gieves. It is not so bad but hasn't got Australian buttons on it. I received a letter from Mother with an account of Grandpa's resignation. In the afternoon Thompson & I went ashore. We had a good walk and had tea at the Queensferry Arms. We only have about 100 cases of influenza now. I returned to the ship by the 5-45 boat. Over 600 lives lost at sea. We are still advancing on the Western Front. Shadwell did me out of my cabin & I had to turn in my hammock again. Thompson & Watkins and are leaving the ship tomorrow.
Saturday 12. Rosyth.
Another beautiful day. I have started to send my Christmas mail & also sent one to the Bank. Sent 5£ to Mother for Christmas. All of the snotties & myself were commissioned by the Commander N for swinging ship. I said goodbye to Thompson & Watkins who left today. I was down in the LCT till 2-00 p.m. & as the tug couldn't pull us round we packed up & had lunch. I went ashore with Richardson at 3-45 landed at the dockyard & we walked round to North Queensferry where we picked up the boat & arrived back about 6-15. We all went to our station again but as the ship swung the wrong way again we packed up till tomorrow. After dinner I played bridge & packed up at ten. Larkins went sick with the flu & consequently I am the only original left. We are still advancing on all the fronts. It rained a bit during the night.
Sunday 13. Rosyth.
Another nice sunny day but a bit chilly in the open. I wore my new uniform. We had divisions & church on the QD. They are building the stages for our aeroplanes. We went to our stations whilst the ship swung & finished at last about 3-00. I continued my letters to Mother & Gladys. After quarters I made out tide tables for the next fortnight. They haven't got me for watch keeping yet. We are removed to restricted quarantine today. After supper I wrote letters and turned in early. Hope to go to Edinburgh tomorrow. Fairly good news from all fronts. Big loss of life at sea. Otranto rammed & sunk besides other vessels. Not much other news. No word from Harold. I am back as assistant navigator again.
Monday 14. Rosyth.
A nice day. We went back to strict quarantine due to new regulations just out. We have to get less than ten cases. I was doing jobs for the Commander N all day in fact I am fairly hard worked. I wrote & posted letters to Gladys & Eric & Edie, my Christmas mail. In the afternoon I was working at deviations. We have refused the German armistice. We had the pictures after dinner. They weren't so bad. I turned in about eleven. We go out in the Flow tomorrow. Very little news. A report has been circulated that Beatty told Doughty that an action was imminent this week & we were to try & get as efficient as possible. Consequently we had GQs & controls in the forenoon. We were at 2½ hours notice till just after lunch. Our flu cases are decreasing. No word from Harold yet I have got three Christmas cards to send home this year.
Tuesday 15. Rosyth.
Cable officers went about 8-15 & we went out & anchored off Burnt Island. During the forenoon I did some work for the Commander N. We weighed again about 12-15 & went out into the Flow. It was a very nice day. I was up on the bridge a good part of the afternoon. We did some firing & came back and anchored about five. We weighed again & all of us went into the Flow to have a destroyer attack. The skipper chewed me up a great deal but it wasn't my fault. We fired star shells but the destroyers got the best of it. I had to make notes on the runs. We came to anchor again about 11-00. It was fairly chilly on the bridge. I sent three Christmas cards home, one to Mother, to Gladys & to Edie. I couldn't get any more cards. I turned in about 11-15. We are gradually getting rid of influenza. Hope to be out of quarantine shortly.
Wednesday 16. Rosyth.
I got up at 5-00 & we weighed & proceeded back to our berth & moored at 6-45. I was pretty tired at the end of it. I was doing work for the Commander N all the forenoon. I received a letter from Harold in which he says he is resting for 90 days. All the Australians are now I think. Hirst & I went ashore at 12-20 to South Queensferry. We were removed to restricted quarantine. We had tea at the JOC & had a walk along the beach. The weather isn't so bad but decidedly chilly. We returned to the ship by the 5-45 boat & I had my hair cut. We had the band this evening & afterwards I played bridge till 10-00. I then turned in. I haven't heard any further word about the next TC course. I hope it comes off this week. I am fairly tired of the ship. We have been advancing in Belgium but not much in the south.
Thursday 17. Rosyth.
A nice morning. I had a good lie in. Have had a headache all day. Have had one for some time & I haven't got rid of my cough & cold. I have finished a lot of work for the Commander N. I went ashore at 12-20 & went to Edinburgh. I was measured for a great coat. Will run into £9 at least. Nothing doing the rest of the day. It was drizzling most of the time. I went to the pictures & returned to the ship by the 6-18 train. In the papers we were reported to have captured Lille & our troops in Ostend. Hope it is true. I received a letter from Thompo & he told me he was having a fine time & told me the routine. He advised me to go on the next if I could. I'm taking some medicine for my cough. After dinner I played bridge and turned in about ten. Life at present is fairly care free & not so bad but I would like to go on this course.
Friday 18. Rosyth.
A rotten Day. Raining & muggy. We are out of quarantine now. I had rather a bad headache all day. In the forenoon I finished a lot of work for the Commander N. I didn't go ashore but did some more work. Played bridge after tea. We are painting ship. Nothing much to do. No letters. We are advancing on Bruges & Lille & Ostend are evacuated. We haven't accepted the peace proposals. After dinner I played bridge & turned in about 10-30. No word about the TC course so I suppose it will be next week. This action hasn't come off yet either. We were reported to have been at Bruges by the evening papers. They have almost finished our aeroplane landing but none know how the guns will recoil. Nothing at all exciting.
Saturday 19. Rosyth.
A drizzly day & muggy. I went to sick bay & took medicine for my cough. We have only three cases of flu now. I didn't report to the Commander N but had a day off & played bridge. I still have a rotten headache. I wrote letters to Mother & to Thompo, Brenda & Harold. In the dog watches I had a bath & shave. We are reported to be at Bruges & Zeebrugge. We will soon have cleared the Belgian coast. After dinner I played bridge with Ratcliffe & others & turned in about ten thirty. Nothing exciting has been happening. Beaty's action hasn't come off yet. No word about at TC course. Life still goes on in the old routine. Weeden returned & went on sick leave again. So far we have had four deaths from influenza. It seems to be raging on the beach & in South Africa pretty strenuously.
Sunday 20. Rosyth.
A fair day. We had divisions on the QD and church on the mess decks. Another case died of flu ashore making our fourth. I had to plot a couple of positions on the chart for the Commander N. After lunch I wrote letters home & then was up on the bridge till after four swinging ship. Received a letter from Gieves with the account for my coat. They said I was not on their books. Afterwards I had a game of bridge and then tidied for supper. Not much news. No action this week. Hope to get appointed away next week. I played poker after dinner & then turned in about ten. The army still advances and have reached the Dutch frontier in many places. Ghent may fall shortly. I have managed to dodge watch keeping so far. I don't want to do it.
Monday 21. Rosyth.
I got up at six & we unmoored. It wasn't a bad day but fairly cold. I was allowed to have breakfast after we weighed at 8-30. We went out into the Flow & did inclination runs. We then went to GQs about twelve. I had to arrange for mids to take OOW duties & was allowed to do work for the Commander N in the gunroom. At GQs we fired two rounds of 6" & two barrage firing with the Oak. A pretty rotten show. I could follow the paths of the 6" when we fired. We returned & finished mooring about 3-45. I had to attend the navigation dog watch lecture by the Commander N to assist him. It was an awfull sweat. Our provisional appointments arrived on pay. I think we get 10/- a day from the 15th September. The "Voyager" was a alongside & we had the pictures. They weren't too bad & we had a Charlie Chaplin.
Tuesday 22. Rosyth.
I had a good lie in but I was grabbed for ammunitioning ship. I had charge of striking out the shells. We changed our lyddite for shellite & took in about 90. We were going at it all day. During the afternoon a hand in Y shell room fell back & clutched at a lever which worked the grab with the result that he got the grab in the stomach. He was hoisted up on deck & taken to the sick bay but he died soon after it. We packed up about six. The St Vincents did their orals in the Ramillies except Shadwell who lies very ill in bed with pneumonia. A good few ships are in quarantine with the flu. We received our provisional appointments which I answered. Had a chat with the Canadian sub & he showed me his pistol a German one, a very nice weapon.
Wednesday 23. Rosyth.
We are expecting to go to Scapa any day now. Nothing much doing. We are going out for a torpedo training run tomorrow. I did work for the Commander N in the forenoon and afternoon. The three of us subs who were on board got our marching orders. We were told to report on board HMS Excellent by p.m. Sunday so we hoped to leave the ship on Friday. I must say I was very glad to hear of it. We intend to have a bust up tomorrow night. We had the band and it was very good. As we expected to go out tomorrow at 4-00 a.m. I turned in a very early. I put down a call for four. I wrote letters to Harold, Poppy & Thompo. I received a letter from him and he seemed to have gone the pace last weekend. I won a £1 from Shaw on my bet that I would go before Monday.
Thursday 24. Rosyth. Edinburgh
I got up at four and we started to unmoored. At about 4-30 we received a signal to negative weighing & go to 2½ hours notice. Then we got orders to put on a our slip. I turned in again after five & turned out at 8-00. We all expected to go to Scapa straight away. We went to 2 hours. I took Dickinson & Vertue for navigation & had to see that the bridge was cleaned for the visit of the MPs from Allied countries who arrived about midday. Farncombe arrived back. The Commander let us all go on leave & we were quite surprised. I packed my bag & chest said goodbye to the Captain, Commander & Commander N & left the old ship at 3-45. She was a good old ship. We took our chests, arrived in Edinburgh, had dinner & left by the 9-30 for London. Had my coat changed at Gieves. Thus ends my time with the G. F.
Friday 25. London. Appointment.
We arrived in London about 8-00. On second thoughts I had my chest placed in the Portsmouth train. I then had breakfast at the Charing Cross Hotel & Larkins & I took a taxi to the Club where we had rooms booked. I left the Club about eleven & went out to Finsbury Park to Leila's. She was looking very well. I had a good lunch & then Leila & I went out to Kensal Green cemetery where we visited Uncle’s grave. It was covered with wreaths. I bought a pair of gloves for £3/3. I left Leila about 3-30 & came back to the Club where Larkins & I had tea. We then played billiards & had an early dinner. I like this Club tremendously. We then went to As You Were & it was a tip top show. We arrived back about 11-00. We met Beetles of the flying corps & had a yarn. At the club Newman & Thompo turned up & we sat yarning till about 12-00.
Saturday 26. London. Appointment.
Not a bad day but a big mist over London. I got up at 9-00 & had breakfast at 10-00 & met Nurse & Showers who were also going to do a gunnery course. Larkins & I went round to the Bank where I drew out £5. We had lunch at the Club & then played more billiards & Burnett & Esdaile strolled in about 3-00. They are also going to do the course. Watkins also strolled in. Then six of us took a taxi & all got in & went to the Strand Palace where we booked a box at "Yes Aunt(?)". We also ordered a table at the Trocadero. We went back to the Club & left again about six & had a good dinner at the Troc. We went up to the bar & Burnett & I managed to coax the others away & we went to the show. It was very good and they made up a verse about us much to the delight of the audience. I went back to the Club & the others turned up later.
Sunday 27. London. Portsmouth.
I got up & had a bath about 8-30 & then had breakfast. Afterwards we all went for a walk in Hyde Park & Rotten Row. It wasn't a bad morning. I then wrote long letters to Mother & Eric & posted them. Afterwards I went with Thompson & we had tea at the Blue Bird. It is a very nice place. We then went back to the Club & had a drink & then I packed my bags & four of us caught a taxi & went round to Victoria & caught the 6-55 to Pompey. I had a nice seat & arrived in Pompey shortly after ten. We caught a taxi & got to Whale Island about 11-10. As there was nothing to eat we were told our cabins & given a rough idea of our syllabus & I then turned in. I haven't got any white trousers or sweater so I will have to go to the station & get them tomorrow. Not bad weather. It is a three weeks course.
Monday 28. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
I got up at 7-00 & had a bath & read the papers before breakfast. Internal troubles in Germany & Austria. I had breakfast at 8-00 a.m. sharp. Not bad food. At 8-30 we got our gaiters & then went down to the drill shed for prayers. The Commander G had a look at us. We have to work Saturday forenoon so it means no long weekend leave. We did 4" semi-auto stripping till 10 to 12 with a 10 minute stand easy at 10-30. After lunch we did drill at the gun from 12-50 till 3-40. I had tea at 4-00 & then went ashore, opened my chest at the station & got out some gear that we want here. I then went to Gieves bought a sweater, scarf & flannel trousers and then came back. We have dinner at 7-30 & after playing billiards I turned in about ten. In the place of servants they have Wrens here & they are very good. Plenty of work to do.
Tuesday 29. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
I got up at 6-45 & had a bath. I then went down to the parade ground where we did field training from 7-20 till 8-00. At 10 to 9 we had divisions & prayers & then we marched up to the west battery where we did 2 pdr pom-pom stripping. Lunch at 12-00. At 5 to 1 we did drill at the pom-pom & packed up at 10 to four. I didn't go ashore but played billiards, read up my drill book & wrote letters to Gladys & Harold. Haven't had any replies from Harold yet. My servant forgot to send my washing away so I'll have to get up to my chest again. Life here is not very exciting. It gets dark almost as soon as we finish work. I won't be surprised if I get my appointment shortly. After dinner I played snooker & turned in & read my drill book. Have only seen my servant once.
Wednesday 30. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
The same are old routine. Up at 6-45 & drill. I went round to the sick day at 9-00 & the surgeon Commander tapped me all over & gave me some medicine to take for my cold. We did a 3" HA stripping & drill in the forenoon and some more 4" semi-auto in the afternoon. I went ashore in the afternoon, went to Gieves arranged about seeing my chest and found that they have not sent down that I had opened an account with them so I will have to pay as I ago while at Portsmouth. I returned to the ship about 6-00. After dinner I went to a show given by the RAF. It wasn't much. In there I met Greening, who is a Gunner doing his course. We had a yarn. He wants to get back. I turned in about ten. The weather has been quite fine. I wrote a letter to Poppy & one to the Bank.
Thursday 31. HMS Excellent. Portsmouth.
Same routine. I received a big Australian mail. Eric saw in the Bulletin that we get six weeks leave at the end of two years service but I don't think it is correct. In the forenoon we stripped down the pom-pom again. Three more subs from the "Tiger" joined up with us. In the afternoon I put in my travelling expenses sheet & got £1/4 for the trip. I received an amended provisional appointment with a seniority 1st September which I acknowledged. We stripped down some training year in the afternoon. I went ashore & took my suitcase & went to Gieves store & got out some gear from my chest & tidied it up a bit. I was wet through by a mist on the way back. After dinner I played poker & lost a little & turned in about ten. My cough & cold are still the same.
Next month >>>
^ back to top ^
© Michael Calder February 2003