17th August 1915

Off Hebburn. Now that the men know that the day of departure is near at hand those suffering from various ailments are beginning to roll up for treatment and we are having the usual busy time after such holidays. This morning about twelve fresh cases came for treatment and we were very busy. To make matters worse General Quarters was practised. It does seem so strange after such a long time away from the old routine. I can see we are going to have a pretty busy time in the near future, for a lot of work has to be done preparatory to the inspection by the Admiral of our Squadron. At 1-30 p.m. the ship was turned around so that the bows which had previously been turned up the river are now pointed seawards. I think this points surely to our leaving here tonight. I was going to write to Mother this afternoon, but have learnt that no further communication is to be held with the shore and so no letters will be sent or received today.

The ladies and male friends of men on board have been frequently on the shore this morning and afternoon and from their none-too-happy appearance I should think they were undergoing that inward struggle which the time of departure brings about. Many of them, no doubt having been told by their sailor-friends that we should probably go out about 6 or 7 p.m. have remained on the bank since after dinner and have not as yet gone for tea.

7 p.m. Preparations are being made to go to sea, so we are to leave this place at last, the place from which during the past two months we have gone on two very happy excursions and as many minor ones. I am sorry in a way that we are leaving, but knowing that we shall have to go sooner or later, I am quite resigned to the old existence we shall have to go back to. All the old sounds of preparations for sea have returned and they recall past times when we have gone out on patrol duties – the last of which very near ended disastrously for us.

8 p.m. The forms of the people on the bank are now becoming hard to distinguish but the various calls emitting from the people proclaim their presence and determination to see the ship go out. I wonder what the thoughts of the wives, Mothers and sweethearts are, perhaps apprehensive in view of the “affair” of June 20th. Are they to be blamed? I think not. Perhaps there will be times in the future days when you will be of the same turn of mind and I can hardly blame you if you do.

8-30 p.m. It is dark and no longer can we see the people on the beach; now has come their hour of discontent. The tugs have taken the ship in tow and we are leaving behind so many people and scenes which have for the past two months been so dear to us. We leave them with cheers which are answered nobly considering how really unhappy they must be feeling. It is too dark to see anything ashore so I am going to write a letter to Ma so as to catch the first mail ashore in the morning. This will be the first short and formal letter to have left me during the past happy months. Poor old Mother will guess what has happened and will feel disappointed when the short and formal letter reaches her.

I can just judge what you will feel like when you receive your first censored letter. But I suppose you would say with your characteristic unselfishness “We must be thankful for having been able to correspond so decently for two months, under war conditions”. I only hope you will be repaid by not having to wait long for a long letter.

10 p.m. We have just arrived outside the entrance to the Tyne and speed is being put on. I have taken Ma’s letter down for censoring. As I came along the Upper Deck I looked out to sea, and saw a low vessel with no lights dash by us. I learn on enquiry that it was a t. b. destroyer, which with three others are escorting us around to Queensferry.

I have thought of the Tuesday night of 2 weeks ago, and how different and how far away it was spent – you will recall perhaps the walking race we had against Time. I have also thought of the last time we came away from this place – in January. Wonder when we shall come here again to give leave – but I must not be greedy. Well, it is back to the old life we are now going I suppose, but there is some consolation in knowing that it could be worse.

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