Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
September Sunday 1. Rosyth.
We reverted to 4 hrs during the forenoon & also received orders to have steam for 18 knots 2½ hours notice at 6-00 p.m. No one knows what for. We had divisions & church as usual. We have the new RNVR lieut-com. in place of Mr Wells. In the afternoon I wrote letters to Brenda & Edie & finished off my other letters. I received one letter from Eric & one from Brenda. The afternoon was nice & fine but it gets pretty chilly now. A new sub, one from the RNR turned over, named Bowen has joined the mess. He is not very big. I did a fair amount of study during the afternoon. Everybody is busy getting ready for the big shoot. We go out into the Flow on Tuesday. After supper I read a book & turned in. Fairly good news from the front. Leave was given in the afternoon. Don't think I will do too well in the next gunnery exam.
Monday 2. Rosyth.
We reverted to 4 hrs notice during the forenoon. I attended divisions & was up in the foretop all the forenoon telling Weedon how to do my job. In the afternoon I did some study in hydraulics & gunnery. We received from AC1 the programme for our written exams. We start on Monday & finish Thursday afternoon. I was paid £5 but don't know whether it will suffice. Posted all my letters home. No more mail. Australians captured Peronne. Canadians break thro the line. We had the pictures after dinner but they were pretty rotten. I turned in halfway through them. Much warmer & sunnier weather. Expect go to Scapa during the middle of the month. We ought to be on leave by then with my luck. I wrote to Poppy on her birthday. Very little naval news. None from here at any rate.
Tuesday 3. Rosyth.
We were excused all action stations. In the forenoon I was studying at gunnery. We weighed at 11-30 & went into the Flow I was in Y turret studying up things & also visited a magazine. We did sub calibre runs & aeroplanes practised attacks on our spotting top & did them remarkably well. I looked up hydraulics. We anchored till after supper & went out at night firing. Practised anti torpedo attack & battle practice with star shell against destroyers & it was a great sight. We packed up about eleven. I turned in at 10-00 & read till we anchored again. The weather has been very cold lately. Looks like a cold winter. Hindenberg line broken into & we are pushing the Huns right back but there is still a long way to go. No more mail. Received a letter from Harold. He was in the trenches & had a narrow escape in no man's land.
Wednesday 4. Rosyth exams.
We left the ship about 9-00 a.m. after having come in & moored again. We went to the Resolution. All the Canadas & a few others were there as well. We were divided into parties & had waiting positions. I first did the Gunnery Officer of the Resolution he was fair. I then did ammunition which was VG. Then silhouettes good, spotting table, I don't know how. We then had lunch & carried on again after 1-15. I did hydraulics VG and then sight taking fair. We then had tea and afterwards director good, and organisation fair & then lastly TS work and thus finished. It was a pretty stiff day from 9-00 a.m. to 7-00 p.m. We had to wait a solitary hour for our boat. I think I passed alright. We had the band for dinner & after I wrote up my diary. Sent a letter to Venns & wrote one to Harold. I am going to go all-out for the remaining exams. The advance still continues.
Thursday 5. Rosyth.
A better day but still very cold. We were painting ship and did not have any divisions or quarters. I was studying up rule of the road all the forenoon. It is much better studying up in the gunroom. No word of our results of our exams. I after lunch I did seamanship & a bit of gunnery & torpedo. I am not frightened of the written papers. The war news is still the same. We have an Australian lieut colonel DSO aboard but we haven't spoken to him as yet. After lunch I did the RF & then turned in. I'm going to send in a "bullet" to John Bull. One may unexpectedly get something. I am smoking too many cigarettes & will have to ration myself. General quarters tomorrow. No thoughts of Scapa yet. Had some chocolates in the mess today. Had to send in our records. We haven't any certificate of a our sub calibre run since we haven't done one yet.
Friday 6. Rosyth.
A very calm day and a fairly thick mist. We went to 2½ hrs notice about ten. No general quarters. I studied up seamanship all the forenoon. No mail. We are still advancing. We heard a report that we are made subs as soon as we pass seamanship and then pass any other exams that we failed in. Also the Navy Board want all our marks in every subject. No results of gunnery paper B. I was going to Edinburgh but for the notice so I didn't go ashore but studied up. We had a navigation dog watch lecture by Commander N. We all had a yarn with Lieut. Col. James DSO of the Australian army who is aboard us at present. He said he would suggest that we should go to France for four days & see the Australian troops. I would go like a shot. I after dinner I did a bit of torpedo & then turned in. I am reading a good book called the Lone Star Ranger.
Saturday 7. Rosyth.
Another calm day and & fairly sunny. I studied up construction seamanship & torpedo all day. I am almost ready for the exams. No result of our last gunnery paper. According to the AWOs we do 12 months as subs before being made lieutenants so I will probably be a lieutenant before I get home. Some say we are going to Scapa tomorrow but I don't think that is correct. I didn't go ashore although we were at 4 hrs notice. No mail. Still advancing. We have broken the Hindenberg line in a few places. Birdwood I hear is getting the 5 Army & Monash is a very good man for his job. The Chief Yeoman gave us a run through with a signal paper. He has been very decent to us. I finished my torpedo resumé & then finished a book before turning in. A fellow needs a bit of relaxation. I hope I pass in my exams alright. I don't know when we are going out into the Flow.
Sunday 8. Rosyth.
A nice day at first but the wind got up during the afternoon. We had divisions & church as usual. I was studying at seamanship & gunnery in the forenoon & in the afternoon. I received letters from Mother & some cuttings from Edie. All are well at home. I wrote a letter home. Not much news. We will have rather a busy time next week with exams. No word about a our leave yet. I after supper I turned in in order to get a good nights rest. We go out into the Flow tomorrow so it will mean a lot of vibration. No result of our gunnery exam. I haven't been ashore since docking. Got my boots soled. Weather is getting rather chilly of late. We have a new lieut of marines. I have limited my cigarette smoking but still I smoke too much.
Monday 9. Rosyth Exams.
We started today. The 1st BS went out in the Flow. It was a fine day. We did Rule of the Road & OOW in which I did fair. In the construction paper I did fairly well. It was a two hour & one hour paper. The motion of the ship ie the vibration was pretty rotten. We returned in the afternoon. We did organisation in the afternoon & it wasn't a very easy paper. There were eleven questions & no choice at all. After the exams I was studying up torpedo & navigation & I wrote a letter to Gladys. No more mail arrived but I got a very tender letter from Poppy. Not much war news. We advance a little everyday. No word from Harold yet. I think I will do fairly well in these exams. I ought to. Signals may mean a snag to me. Lieut. Colonel James left the ship. He left his card in the gunroom. We do our exams in the Captains fore cabin.
Tuesday 10. Rosyth Exams.
A rotten rainy day. We did our navigation paper I in the forenoon. It was a straightforward paper & I think I did fairly well. In the afternoon we did the second navigation paper & I also did fairly well in that. I then started to study up for the exams for tomorrow. I looked up sights & torpedo. I posted my two letters. There is a persistent rumour that we go to Scapa tomorrow. I hope we don't. We still have the left gun of Y out of action. We had the pictures after dinner. I went in about 10-00 p.m. & saw Charlie Chaplin in the "Vagabond" & then I turned in. The weather cleared up a bit towards evening. Our mail seems to have come to an untimely end as no more have arrived. I will put in my application for destroyers on Thursday afternoon. The Commander N said we did excellent in the navigation paper & guns told me I had passed in gunnery B.
Wednesday 11. Rosyth Exams.
We didn't go to Scapa as everyone thought. We have the left gun of Y still out of action. We did the gunnery exam in the forenoon & it was pretty stiff but I passed in it alright. In the afternoon we had a torpedo exam & that wasn't a very easy question. There weren't many standard questions in either. Guns was very decent & made quite sure that we all passed. After tea I studied up engineering & signals. We had the band & it was very good. I turned in about eleven. Everyone thinks we are going to Scapa tomorrow. I got a rough outline of my application from Chapman. The weather started to clear up. Not much news. Received a letter via Harold from Eric. No word from Harold yet. I don't think that any of us will fail. I don't think I have but I haven't done anything wonderful. I wish I could get up a couple of places.
Thursday 12. Rosyth Exams. Leave. Edinburgh
We did the engineering paper in the forenoon & that wasn't very easy. No standard questions in that. Still I passed that alright. Lovely day. We did signals at 1-30 & Sinclair saw that we were all right in that. I must have got over 90%. That was the finish of our exams. In the middle of signals Commander N told us that we could go on leave in the afternoon & we had to return on the 27th. Of course everything was a rush. I had my bag packed, everything stowed away in my chest, left everything in the transport position. My letters are being forwarded on. We got payed, I put in my application & we left the ship at 5-00 p.m., caught 5-52 to Grad. I sent a telegram to Leila & tried to send one to Poppy but didn't have time. I had dinner at 7-30 at the North British & caught the 9-30 to London. Had to travel 3rd owing to the trained being crowded. Too much of a rush.
Friday 13. Leave. London.
We arrived in London at 7-30 a.m. I didn't have much sleep. I caught the tube just a outside the Kings Cross station and arrived at Finsbury Park about 8-00, caught the tram and arrived at Highfield about 8-30. I had a yarn with Leila & Uncle & had a slap up breakfast. I then wrote a sixteen page letter to Mother & one to Poppy. It was very fine when I arrived but, cloudy in the afternoon. I played a couple of games of croquet with Uncle & got nicely settled down. We had dinner at 9-00 & as I was pretty tired I turned in early & soon got to sleep. I intend taking Uncle to a show tomorrow afternoon. The man from the Society for Prevention of cruelty to dumb animals arrived to make inquiries about the cat which was killed by a dog next door. Haven't been anywhere yet.
Saturday 14. Leave. London.
I didn't turn out till 10-00. It was raining all day so it prevented me from taking Uncle to a show. I wrote letters to Crooks & to Eric & Mrs Jenks a friend of a friend of Gladys. I sent the letter of introduction I had. I posted my letters to Mother & Poppy unsealed so I hope they get sealed up all right. I read all afternoon & evening & talked with Uncle. He is very good at telling yarns. He likes the Darvil Boy’s cigars that I brought him. I will go into the City on Monday. Until then I will have a good rest. It stopped raining in the afternoon. The French & Americans have advanced a fair amount. Almost back to the Hindenberg line. Nothing very much doing. They test the sirens for warnings of air raid every day at 1-00 p.m. There are plenty of searchlights each night. It is a bit too light for them yet awhile.
Sunday 15. London. Leave.
I had my breakfast in bed & did nothing all day. I am having a very good rest but it is a trifle monotonous. I wrote to Gladys & Harold & posted all my letters. I am reading a book "Count Hannibal" by Weyman. I will have to look for some enjoyment during the week. I bought a cigarette holder. Not much war news except that the Americans & French are advancing. I get very good meals here. Still there is no one at to go out with. No word from Hirst yet. I'll probably go to Edinburgh for a couple of days. Nothing to do but smoke & talk. Uncle hasn't quite recovered from the shock of the death of his favourite cat. We buried it yesterday. I went for a short walk with Leila to post letters after supper. The London reservoirs are just behind us. Turned in about eleven. Looking forward to getting appointed to a destroyer.
Monday 16. London. Leave.
I didn't get up till 12-00. I had a bath, had a emack (sic) of food & at 2-00 p.m. left & went into that the city. Got out of the tube at Holborn & went & visited Australia House. It is a beautiful building & a credit to Australia. Inside it is beautiful & has some magnificent photos. I went up on to the roof & had a good view of London & chatted to two Aussies till about four. I then went to the Waldorf but Hirst wasn't there yet so as I had a slight headache I returned home. I had a very good dinner & had a smoke. I turned in about 11-30. Uncle wasn't feeling too well. Leila & I had a good intimate chat. She is in a very similar position to Mother. It is not fair on her. I received a letter for Hirst addressed here. I bought a tie, comb & some toothpaste down the town. The vegetables I get here are a very good stimulant for my blood.
Thursday 17. London. Leave.
A much better day but a bit of a wind & we had a few showers. I got up about 11-00 & had a bath. I always have breakfast in bed now. After lunch and I went into the city. I walked up the Strand to Nelson's Monument. I then got a bus & went out west somewhere. Saw where Dickenson lives. I returned home about five & then had some dinner & went to "Going Up" 12/6 in the stalls. It was a very good show indeed. Started at 7-45 & came out about 10-30. All shows have to shut up at 10-30 nowadays. Tried to find the Australian Officers Club but could find it. There are thousands of Aussies in London. I intend it to visit the Dickensons some time this week. I can see that this will be a very quiet leave somehow.
Wednesday 18. London. Leave.
I got up at about 11-00 & had a bath. A fair day. As uncle wasn't too well he stayed in bed all day. Received a bill from Crooks for 10/9 as balance. I left home about three & went to Sloane Square & called on Dickie’s sister but she wasn't home. I went up Piccadilly looking for the officers club but couldn't find it so I returned home had some tea & went to "Shanghai". As luck would have it I met Thompo, Hirst & his brother so all of us went in together. Dorothy Brunton & Ivy Schilling were acting & it was one of the prettiest plays I have seen. Dorothy was very good. We all had a good yarn & when we got out side it was absolutely pouring. Thompo left & the rest of us made a dive for the Aldwych tube. They left me at King's Cross. I got home wet through as I could not get a tram about 11-30 & turned in. I'm going to dine with Thompo tomorrow perhaps. Letters from Hirst & Venns.
Thursday 19. London. Leave.
As usual I didn't get up till about 11-00. I sent money to Crooks & Venns & told them to send the goods here. I left here about 2-00, took the bus to the Bank & went to the Commonwealth Bank. I met Thompo outside it. I drew £5 & we then walked down to the Strand & had tea at the Waldorf. We walked to Piccadilly & I tried to get some brooches. We then went to the Australian Officers Club & it is a very nice place & one meets a lot of Aussie friends there. We had a wash & a very good dinner for 5/-. We went to "Fair & Warmer" & enjoyed it very much. I then walked to the Down St tube & got home about 11-30. The club is a very nice place & had a very good bar, a nice sitting & smoking room with a pianola & only charges 5/- for bed & breakfast. The 1st & 4th Australian divisions have reached the Hindenberg line. Hun counter attacks failed.
Friday 20. London. Leave.
I got up the usual time & had a bath. Read the "Times". Our forces are attacking again. Had to withdraw from Baku. Still advancing in Serbia. I received a letter from Poppy & one from Harold. He went through Peronne and & is now resting for fourteen days. I sent away two parcels that Leila made for him. I stayed in with Uncle while Leila went out. I played a game of chess with him. Left home about five. Took a tube to Down Street & called in at the Club. Had dinner with Thompo & took him to the Alhambra. Saw George Robey & Violet Lorraine in the "Bing Boys on Broadway". Both were very good & I thoroughly enjoyed the show. We walked to the Club & I took the tube home again. Met Colonel Ralph outside the Club. He remembered me & shook hands. I also saw an Australian VC. Didn't have any cash for a tram although I had £5 in my pocket.
Saturday 21. London. Leave.
Nothing doing today. Received my parcel from Venns & late at night the six photos from Crooks. I gave one to Leila. I left home about three & went to the Club & stayed there till about 5-30 but as Thompo was still out I walked down to Piccadilly & caught the tube. We have made a big advance in Palestine in which Australian Light Horse & the AFC played a prominent part. I arrived home about six & we had a fish supper at nine. Uncle took very bad & I rang up the doctor a couple of times. I turned in about ten thirty. The weather has not been too pleasant. Plenty of moonlight but no air raids. We are advancing slightly on the Western Front. Australians are in that to but Harold is resting. I may leave for Edinburgh about Tuesday. I want to see about my suit and other things.
Sunday 22. London. Leave.
A fair day but nothing doing at all. I got up about 11-30. In the papers today we have made a big advance & captured nearly the whole of the Turkish army in Palestine. Australian Light Horse & AFC figured prominently. We are also doing well on every other front. Uncle was doing much better today. I wrote letters to Mother, Edie & Gladys 24 pages in all & I was pretty tired of it all. I only went out once & that was to the station about a parcel & also to post my letters. I read a couple of books. I gave one photo to Leila. I think I will go to Edinburgh on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Nothing doing. At a good few Australians have been decorated. Cobby & Francis two airman who came over with us have got bars took the RFC.
Monday 23. London. Leave.
Had breakfast in bed and turned out about 11-00. In the papers it said that the Turkish army in Palestine was nearly all captured 20,000 prisoners. I stayed in with Uncle till 3-00 & then I went to the Club & received a note from Thompo. I then went & looked up the trains to Edinburgh & bought a couple of seats for the Lilac Domino. I met Thompo in Piccadilly & walked back to the Club. We had dinner together & then went to the show. It was a fairly good show but I didn't like any of the principal actresses & it spoilt the show for me. We walked back to the Club & had some amusing experiences with some females. We are thousands in London & then I caught the tube at Hyde Park & arrived home about 11-30. It was very clear & moonlight but no air raids. I have decided to go Edinburgh Wednesday morning. Wrote & posted letters to Eric & Brenda.
Tuesday 24. London. Leave.
I had breakfast about 8-00 & got up fairly early. I packed my bags & then said goodbye to Leila & Uncle. I left Highfield about 11-00 a.m. No words can express the way that they both made it a home for me. I went into the Club & booked a bed for tonight. I had lunch with Thompo, and then we went to the Bank & I drew out £10. I sent letter & telegram to Poppy. After that we went & did some shopping & knocked round a bit. Thompo didn't like the idea of leaving London & coming up with me to Edinburgh tomorrow. We had dinner at the Club. The Italian Cavalieri Band arrived in London. I met Jim Mumdy a great friend of Cranmer & Willies at the Club. We went to "Yes Uncle" & it was a tip top play & very laughable. After that we walked back to the Club & had a yarn & turned in about eleven thirty. Italy Day tomorrow.
Wednesday 25. London. Edinburgh. Leave.
I made Thompson get up at eight with me & we had breakfast. We couldn't get a taxi for some time so he said he wasn't coming. I got one later & we both went to the station. He tried to persuade me not to go but I left by the 10-00 a.m. for Kings Cross. I had a fairly good trip up. A beautiful day. We went via York, Newcastle, Berwick. We arrived in Edinburgh about 7-45 & I met Poppy near the station. I booked my luggage, had a bit of a brush up & then booked a seat in the YMCA. Afterwards we went to the pictures & I saw her home. Had a very nice time & missed the last tram. I got a cab & brought my luggage to the YMCA. I had a mattress in the lounge & got to sleep about 1-00 A M. It is very cold here. Heard that the fleet is up at Scapa damn it.
Thursday 26. Edinburgh. Leave.
I got up about 8-30 had a bath & breakfast. I left the club after breakfast & went to the station & inquired from the Transport Officer about my ticket. They referred me to the Coastguard officer in Queen Street. The fleet has gone up north. They sent me down to the Crescent. I took the 1-8 train & got me down to the Crescent about 2-00. It was a lovely day. I made inquiries & got a permit from them & also a new railway form from Edinburgh to Invergordon. I left Dunfermline by the 4-00 train & arrived at Edinburgh about 5-20. I couldn't see P so had a lonely evening. I went to dinner & afterwards went to a picture show. My train goes from here at 3-18 tomorrow morning. I got permission from the YMCA to stay in the club till 2-30. I obtained a couple of blankets & soon got to sleep. I arranged to be called at 2-30 & to have some biscuits ready.
Friday 27. Edinburgh to Scapa. Leave.
I got up at 2-30 & had tea & an egg & bread & butter. I paid my bill & walked to the station. I caught the 3-18 train. I got a fairly good seat & settled down. It was very cold in Edinburgh. I slept fairly well. I was measured for my suit at Gieves. We arrived at Inverness at 9-30 & I had breakfast. I met all of the rest of the boys. It started to rain and kept on all day. We arrived at Thurso about 4-00 p.m. & took the motors to Scrabster. We had a good tea aboard the St Ninian & left about 5-30. I had a good trip over although she rolled somewhat. We ran along side the Imperieuse about ¼ to 8 & we had some supper aboard the St Ninian. We had to wait in the mail drifter till ten before shoving off & we were almost the last ship to go to. When we got on board we procured some grub & after having eaten we all turned in. Luckily my hammock was slung. Not a bad night.
Saturday 28. Scapa.
I had a good lie in. In the morning I tidied up & reported to the Commander. We were called down to the Commander Ns cabin & told our results. I got 86% in seamanship ie a 1st class. 84% in navigation, 82% in gunnery, 79% in torpedo & only 59% in engineering. I got 77%. Farncombe & Thompson got firsts & also Feldt. No others in our squadron. Hirst failed in gunnery B. The 2nd BCS arrived & were in the Flow. We are now acting sublieutenants. I have been attached to the Commander N as assistant navigator. An epidemic in Flu has broken out on board. I have a cough & cold & have been up to the sick bay. I was quite bucked with my exam. I was top in seamanship. The Australias don't know their results. After being fumigated I had my pivot tooth replaced & turned in early. The Commander N congratulated us all. I have now to await my appointment.
Sunday 29. Scapa.
We were at 2½ hours notice all day & didn't revert. I rose at 10 to 6 and went & saw that the positions I am responsible for were cleaned. I had a bath & dressed. I have not been feeling too well having a cough & cold. We had church on of the QD & afterwards I wrote letters to Mother, Eric & Gladys & Harold. We had to put in a report about instruction of RAN mids & the Commander N discussed them up with us. Nothing doing in the afternoon. After supper I played bridge till ten thirty. We put the clocks back one hour during the night. There are plenty of cases of flu occurring each day. We are still advancing on every front especially now in Belgium & France. The 2nd BCS are still up here. I like the idea of waiting to be appointed & also of assistant navigator. Nothing much. Weather very squally & rainy.
Monday 30. Scapa. At Sea.
We were at 1 hours notice all the forenoon. I was told by the Commander N to show a Canadian officer round the ship which I did. We received the order to prepare for sea about 11-30. Cable officers went at 1-15 & I went up on the bridge. I had to keep a special chart of my own. It wasn't too calm. I went down & had tea at four. We altered course to SE about five. We received a signal with a couple of rendezvous in it & it looked very much like that we were going to Rosyth. I went down & had dinner at eight & was on the bridge when we altered course to south at 10-45. I then turned in. Very good war news. My cough & cold haven't improved at all. We have plenty of influenza cases down. The ship is fairly short handed as it is. Two or three went sick at sea.
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© Michael Calder February 2003