29th July 1917

At Devonport. This has been a wonderful day. I went on board at 6-30 a.m, arriving on board half-an-hour earlier than I anticipated having walked from home in 1 hour. There were very few men about when I arrived aboard, most of the men being asleep and laying about between decks in all sorts of positions, black and dirty just as they finished coaling at 9 p.m. last night. The ship was in a filthy condition and dockyardsmen were still at work. I don’t think the ship will leave tonight, judging by appearances.

Soon after arrival on board I was informed by Munday that I had to pack up and be ready to leave the ship after breakfast with the rest of the draft going to Barracks. At first I thought he was “pulling my leg” and went to the Ship’s Police to make sure that this was correct. I found such to be the case and so set to work on the difficult task of packing my bag. After so long in the ship, my gear was stowed in different convenient places most suitable for clothes, etc. and now that the time had come for my departure I had to get to work to get the articles together and to find room for them. Had I known that I was going to leave the ship I should have taken a lot of the gear home. Eventually I got my gear packed up, it amounting to a very full kit bag and three parcels, plus a hammock.

Having said farewell to the Fleet Surgeon, Chaplain, S. B. Staff and shipmates I left the ship with the other men at 10-45 a.m. All this hustle-bustle almost makes one forget that today is Sunday. On arrival at Barracks we had to go through the usual irksome procedure of being victualled, stowing bags and hammocks, etc, etc. This took until dinnertime when we were sent to D basement to get our dinner. The dinner proved to be the sumptuous meal of corned beef and boiled potatoes (sloppy and unskinned). I decided to go to the Canteen for something better but having to wait some time for that place to open I paid a visit to the Sick Quarters.  I met some members of the Staff I know and was kindly asked to dinner, an invite I readily accepted.

After dinner came some more routine business then we were free to go ashore. Very luckily I have been victualled in the Sick Berth Staff Mess instead of the usual “broadside” mess. At 4 p.m. I had a chance to go ashore in the motor ambulance so seized the opportunity. Home I went to you and how happy the news came of my departure from the Roxburgh after five years service. I have had some good and bad times in her, but have become a bit sick of so much of the same old style of routine. I was sorry to leave some good friends and shipmates but since my departure means so much to our happiness after the separations and bad times in the past I am happy to leave them, only hoping to serve with them in some future time.

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28th July 1917

At Devonport. Jude’s baby. Returned off leave at 9 a.m. The ship is in a “lovely condition” what with the dockyardsmen at work, coaling and ammunitioning ship, and men joining and leaving the ship, all going on at the same time. It was not much of a ship to return to I can assure you.

On reaching the Sick Bay other nice things came to light. Although I left the Sick Bay locked and secure (as I thought) it seems as if marauders have been at work, for all the sugar we brought home has been stolen, also the tea and sugar from the mess tin, tobacco and cigarettes have been taken from our lockers. No doubt the work of the care and maintenance party.

A S. B. Reserve attendant has joined the ship, for what reason no one here seems to know. My photography chum is leaving, also several other men, but up to now I am not.

Rumours in galore are going about with regards to the ship’s movements. Some say we are leaving tonight, others quote Wednesday as the day of departure. I hardly fancy the ship will be ready to go to sea tonight.

The ship is to be moved tonight at 6 p.m. to the North Yard so I think I will get ashore now that leave has been granted to men not coaling before the ship leaves this jetty.

5 p.m. Am going ashore until 7 a.m. tomorrow morning.

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20th July 1917

At Devonport. Coaling commenced early this morning and continued until dinnertime. The ship was moved from the buoy down to No. 3 Jetty South Yard at 1-30 p.m. thus causing a further delay. The care and maintenance party joined this afternoon.

5 p.m. All the coal is in and as I have my liberty ticket I am going home for the 7 days leave.

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19th July 1917

Arrived in thee Sound at 6-30 a.m. I turned out about 5-30 a.m. as I was unable to sleep and felt quite fresh. I felt the ship vibrating pretty much and knew that we were moving along at a good speed. I could not see the land owing to fog when I first looked out the port, but suddenly the fog lifted and disclosed Penlee Point about 400 yards away. Speed was immediately reduced and we entered the Sound very slowly. The anchor was dropped but our tug appeared on the scene and up came our “mud hook” instanter.

The Sound was full of steamers – big and small – one of the former from all appearances being a “Q” boat. I noticed the large liner that passed us at sea yesterday morning. We proceeded up harbour and moored up to No. 8 buoy – the same place as last time. Preparations for coaling were made but orders from the Captain – who had gone to the C-in-C  -were awaited. Fleet Surgeon informed us at 9 a.m. that a care and maintenance party was coming from the Barracks tomorrow.

About six of theconvoy came in to the Sound after our arrival, the rest proceeding to South and East Coast ports.

I dispatched a letter to Ma informing her of our arrival.

At dinnertime a great amount of curses and oaths were thrown at the Customs officer who came aboard and on the heads of any other person concerned, owing to the former stating that without permission from the Food Commissioners he could not allow anyone to land sugar even if it be duty paid. The officers and men vented their wrath over this you can bet and understand. It seems perfectly ridiculous that after men obtaining sugar from abroad and being willing to pay duty on it they are not allowed to take it home for the benefit of their folks – the Navy does not go on strike for war bonuses or extra money either.

Personally, I do not think the landing of sugar under such circumstances comes within the meaning of the Act, and a little elasticity could be allowed, and probably would be to meet such fair and square circumstances. I understand the Customs man is going to make application to his seniors for permission to let the sugar be landed. I can assure him or any other person concerned that if the sugar cannot be taken out by “fair” means it will be taken out otherwise. The men are quite desperate about the matter.

A diversion was caused after dinner by the appearance of an observation balloon in the air being towed by a destroyer. It struck us as being a fine method for spotting out U-boats. No doubt that is the idea.

Two vessels with American troops and nurses passed by cheering this afternoon – the troops and nurses cheered not the ships, understand.

The S. B. A. who took passage across left the ship today with the other fellows who joined us at Chesapeake Bay. This chap is a Socialist and agnostic (the two are incorporate) but a very decent fellow at heart. Needless to say our views did not agree, but we got along quite happily.

The Captain returned from Mount Wise at 3 p.m. Owing to the short time at our disposal for leave, one-third of the men after being paid and given liberty and railway tickets will go on leave until 9 a.m. on the 27th. The remainder are to coal ship this evening and tomorrow morning and proceed on leave p.m. tomorrow until the 28th, so giving 7 days leave to all.

I had previously decided in the event of leave being given to go with the second leave. Woods S. B. A. wished to go on first leave and so made ready to go tonight. On inquiry he was told that the S. B. S. had informed the Ship’s Police that he was going second leave. A mess-up was thus caused, and he other fellow (Munday) who was watch aboard found that he was down to go on leave tonight. After explaining matters to the Police a fresh ticket was made out for Woods so as to allow him to get away tonight.

I, all this time, had hopes of having a run home tonight until the morning. Judge my disappointment – more so because I remembered that it was Thursday and that I may have messed up Mother’s and Dad’s evening out y sending the letter this morning – when I found out that only men going on the first leave could go ashore. I accepted the situation with the best musterable grace, and then decided to get Munday away tonight as his liberty ticket had already been made out.

The men “fell in” at 6 p.m. and soon left the ship for their short respite, leaving the other fellows and myself to continue a rather unhappy existence midst the coal-duty atmosphere and surroundings now present. Never mind, tomorrow will soon come around and then I hope we shall go away from the boring old existence hereabouts – for seven days anyhow. After the rather melancholic journey of the past 17 days, to be in harbour is something of a pleasure although being so near home and yet so far jars on the nerves a wee bit.

Plymouth was not at all inviting this morning, but the weather was not a surprise since I remarked yesterday that as the wind was sou’-westerly and dirty the conditions Plymouth-way would probably be inclement. I know all about that rotten old wind at Plymouth.

9 p.m. The men have just finished coaling for today and are having their suppers. It seems rather rotten that coaling was not commenced before 3 p.m. when it really could have been started at 9 a.m. We do get some troubles to try us in this ship without doubt.


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18th July 1917

At sea. Rough seas have been experienced today and the ship has been rolling heavily. We have passed much wreckage and oil – the work of subs. no doubt. If one had cause to be anxious over danger then today would provide a fine opportunity for such a person.

The large transport Mantua passed us this morning going at a good speed. Three more destroyers joined up this evening when we were about 90 miles from Plymouth.

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17th July 1917

At sea. Destroyers appeared at 8-30 a.m. from various directions, nine in all ultimately joining up. We thought such a small number of destroyers for so many ships was ominous and matters have confirmed out thoughts. About 11 a.m. a notice was placed on the board which caused general disappointment since it stated that “Roxburgh will arrive at Plymouth at on Thursday morning”. We all had expected to leave the convoy as soon as the destroyers joined up and so arrive at our destination tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. It is said that a larger escort could not be spared at present – a poor outlook if such is the truth – so we have to accompany the convoy through a large part of the danger zone at a speed of not more than 10 knots since the ships are mostly of that speed. This sort of game is, to say the least, dangerous for speed is the one great defence against the U-craft. Disappointment more than thoughts of danger is uppermost in our minds. It is of no use “kicking up a dust” about such rotten management I suppose but if the ship does get “winged” it will be through absolute carelessness.

Fog and rain have been the order of the day.

I hear that at 4 p.m. we were 257 miles from Plymouth and we did so much hope to be in harbour tomorrow. Still as long as we reach there I suppose any old time will do.

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16th July 1917

At sea. “Loader” competition took place today. This particular prize-cum-efficiency-scheme is usually dreaded by our department since it is usually attended by sundry injuries to fingers (through being caught in the breech) and toes (owing to the dummy projectiles falling on them). Today’s comp. has gone off without any accidents but since there is a likelihood of more “loading” tomorrow one must not speak too soon.

According to a notice placed on the board we should meet our destroyer-escort tomorrow some 360 miles from Plymouth. Went to “abandon ship” stations this evening. This is our 15th day at sea.

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15th July 1917

At sea. Rain, fog and choppy sea in contrast to the sun of yesterday. No Rounds or Church Service. Went to a well-attended Holy Communion.

I heard the “wireless” working in the early morning and am told that the French destroyers have been sent for. At noon today we were two days run from the destroyer rendezvous.

Went to a well-attended and most enjoyable Evening Service.

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14th July 1917

At sea. We are now in the zone of submarine activity and the usual precautions are being taken. The ships have been zig-zagging all day. Some of the ships are going to French ports, the rest to East Coast ports. Most of the cargoes consist of copper, aeroplane parts and other necessary munition and fighting machinery.

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13th July 1917

At sea. G. Q’s this morning – usual spasms. A fair sea is still running and the ship rolls pretty much at times. It is said that we have got along very well so far and that we are some hours ahead of the time expected.

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