“After the war – providing time allows – I shall rewrite the diary I have kept and so if possible make one book, which will be a memento and possibly a heirloom”.

This is an ongoing transcription of a diary written by my grandfather, Harry Richard Tothill, a 2nd Sick Berth Steward (later promoted to Sick Berth Chief Petty Officer) on HMS Roxburgh from July 1914 to July 1917.

I’ll add photos and scans of the journals later; if time allows I shall index the whole and make an ebook version.

I’ve censored one or two passages which give names and information that I guess families might prefer to be left undisturbed.

The Sick Berth:

“Every ship is fitted with a specially equipped “sick berth,” which is really the ship’s hospital, and all minor cases of sickness are attended to here, the more severe ones being sent to one or other of the naval hospitals, as opportunity offers. In the event of war the sick berth would be supplemented by an “operating theatre,” fitted up below the waterline, the doctors and their staff, the sick berth stewards, carrying out this work. These sick berth stewards are all properly qualified medical and surgical assistants, having to qualify at our naval hospitals before they can rise above the rank of “attendant.”

[From  http://www.royal-navy.org/lib//index.php?title=The_Ships_Company_(1914) ]

8 Responses to About

  1. Karen Dickson says:

    Hi, I’ve just come across these fantastic diaries and they are a such an interesting read. I have been researching my great grandfather who was a RM on Antrim during this time. So, although he was not on Roxburgh I have gained so much more knowledge of his whereabouts, and what was going on thanks to the references your grandfather made. In particular it was great to get the thoughts and feelings of someone away from their loved ones and how they felt about what was going on, on a daily basis. It gives me some idea of how my great grandfather may have been feeling. Is this in a book yet? I would certainly buy it if it is.

  2. Permission Request: Why Remember the First World War? (History Through Film), Student Book by Paul Turner

    The Education Division of Oxford University Press is preparing the above 64-page paperback textbook for publication in April 2014. The total print run expected is 2000 copies which will be sold for £14.50. This textbook is intended for Key Stage 3, 11-14 year-old History students, and will have an accompanying set of film clips and worksheets on Kerboodle (OUP’s online resources). The Student book will be sold mainly to UK schools.

    On behalf of the author and the publisher, I would like to request permission to reproduce the material detailed below in the STUDENT BOOK. I require non-exclusive English language rights throughout the World excluding North America for print and e-book formats.
    MATERIAL TO BE USED IN Why Remember the First World War?

    Roxburgh Diaries: 18 July 1917
    extract of 56 words
    “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.”

    • admin says:

      Hi Connie,

      This is a diary transcribed by the writer’s grandson (me) to honour the writer’s wish for publication. It’s in the public domain.

      It is, really, a war-long love letter from my grandfather to his girlfriend (who became my grandmother). Wonderful people, both – please be gentle with them.

      Good luck with your book.

      Best wishes,

  3. Dear Jim

    I am a member of the Edinburgh’s War Project Team. If you visit the website you will see what we are doing.

    As South Queensferry is included in the geographical area, we would very much like to include the diary entries covering Queensferry.

    It would be good if there was perhaps a photograph of your grandfather that could be included, and even if you would be happy for us to include more of the diary.

    Best wishes


  4. Andrew Edwards says:

    Dear Jim,

    I work for Made in Manchester Productions. We are making a short feature in English for DW International Radio http://www.dw.de and would like to use some of the entry


    as part of this. The feature will be made as a snapshot of life at Christmas 1916. We’re trying to include short extracts from diaries and letters from around the world and we’d like permission to use some of the above entry. We will use actors to bring to life the diaries/letters on air. We hope this short feature will help to conjure up for the listener a little of what life was like exactly 100 years ago.

    Can I take it from your response to Alistair here that as the diaries are in the public domain we can just assume it’s ok anyway?

    Please can you advise?

    Alas we’d need to hear today or tomorrow because of our deadline.
    Many thanks in any case.


    Andrew Edwards

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