Manuscript diary of the purser of the Royal Navy Armoured Cruiser HMS Cornwall, describing Mediterranean and Baltic tours of duty (while Captain W. R. Hall was spying for Britain)

[Purser's diary, Royal Navy Armoured Cruiser HMS Cornwall, under Captain (later Admiral Sir) William Reginald Blinker Hall (1870-1943), future Director of Naval Intelligence; golf]
Publication details: 
1 January to 17 December 1909
SKU: 11591

Manuscript diary of the purser of the Royal Navy Armoured Cruiser HMS Cornwall, describing Mediterranean and Baltic tours of duty (while Captain W. R. Hall was spying for Britain), with descriptions of golf and other sports and recreations. 'Letts's No. 46 Indian and Colonial Rough Diary Giving Half a Page a Day. 1909'. 12mo, 161pp. Good, on aged paper, in worn boards. Diary proper consists of 210pp., with entries on three-quarters (159pp.) of them (few entries for periods of leave), preceded by two pages with lists of family birthdays and of books read. A few childish scrawls throughout, not affecting text. The author (whose family is from Staines, and who trained at the Royal Naval College, Osborne, Isle of Wight) is intelligent and cultured (among books read are Erskine Childers' 'Riddle of the Sands' and 'Ras Plata' by 'Lieut Makharoff I.R.N. [Semenoff]'). HMS Cornwall was a 9,800 ton Monmouth-class armoured cruiser, launched in 1902 and sold for scrap in 1920. Her captain in 1909 was William Reginald 'Blinker' Hall, future Director of Naval Intelligence, who, unbeknownst to the author, was conducting intelligence missions throughout period covered in the diary. The ship's movements in 1909 were: Algeciras and Gibraltar (1 January), Algiers (12 January), Alexandria (19 January), Cairo (21 January), Malta (12 February), Algeciras and Gibraltar (25 February), Plymouth (3 March), 'Christiana [Oslo]'(22 May), Malmö (2 June), Copenhagen (4 June), Arhus (13 June), Fredericia (16 June), Kiel (22 June), Sonderburg (7 July), Apenrade (9 July), Bygdo (18 July), Christiana (6 August), Aarhus (7 August), Warnemunde (11 August), Memel (13 August), Libau (18 August), Reval (24 August), Danzig (2 September), Swinemunde (7 September), Stockholm (24 September), Nyborg (6 October), Spithead (14 October), [author on month's leave in Staines from 6 November,] Devonport (6 December). At the time of the diary the Cornwall served as a cadet training ship, which may perhaps explain the emphasis on sporting activities. However the author's enthusiasm for golf goes beyond the call of duty, and he contrives to play the game from Alexandria and Helouan in Egypt to Marsa in Malta to Kitzeberg in Germany, as well as Mount Batten and Tavistock in England. The diary also records inspections of the ship by the German Kaiser and King and Queen of Norway. The following extracts convey the tone: 1 January: 'Coaling Ship. Went over to Algeciras by 12.20 steamer and after luncheon at Reina Christina had a good walk out to waterfall & cork woods. Country reminded me much of Platea. Back to Hotel to tea, and to Gib[raltar]. by 5.30 p.m. steamer. Dined on board - Ship clean & 1200 tons of coal in.' The following day he pays the ship's company. On 3 January there is 'Church on Quarter Deck', with Sir Edward Carson on board. He calls on the Bakers, and meets Mrs Baker for the first time: 'I like her - very jolly & natural & think they will get on excellently'. The following day 'Played Bedford Regiment at hockey and drew with them but we had a weak team. Paid Quarterly Allowances.' And on 5 January 'Played Garrison at hockey & beat them 4 goals to 1. Paid Savings.' On 7 January 'Left Gibraltar 2 p.m. for Algiers having the Governor - General Forrestier [sic] Walker and his sister (?) on board. Sea as smooth as a mill pond and sunset very fine indeed.' In Algiers on 12 January: 'Tennis at Bradleys in afternoon and dance at Excelsior in evening given by Mrs. Hay Newton, Mrs. Arthur & Baroness de Vivier. Miss Arthurs coming out & V-r was making the running for all he was worth. Danced till 3 a.m.' 14 January: 'Lunched at French Admiralty - Contre-Admiral Arago. Very enjoyable party & fine old Arabian House. Talked French by the yard - An At Home on board - 3 to 5.30 p.m. about 150 people English & French. Ten of us went to Opera after dinner, having been given Mayors & Governor General's boxes'. The following day the ship leaves Algiers and he 'Issued clothing.' On 16 February they meet P&O SS Mongolia, 'in which Mrs. Hall was supposed to be travelling'. Being mistakenly told that she is not on board, 'Captain at once increased to 95 Revs - 15 knots - in order to get to Alexandria on Tuesday - day early - and find out reason'. Reach Alexandria, 19 January, finding a squadron of four Russian ships in the harbour. He interviews 'coal contractor', and then goes with two friends 'to Sports Club where we played tennis [...] disappointed with Club. Miniature golf with grass of rolled mud round football ground and six tennis courts of which only two (cement) at present playable'. A few days later he is in Cairo, and playing golf in Helouan. He and his friends see the sights, hire donkeys and visit Old Cairo. On 30 January 'Landed with Padré, Goldsmith & Vaughan for tennis at Ramleh. Played Goldsmith singles, giving 15, & was beaten 6-4 & 7-5. Played 4 setts [sic] of doubles, G. & I v. Padré & Vaughan & won two each. To Club & then off by 6.45 pm boat to dinner.' On succeeding days he plays more tennis, and watches a 'match between our Cadets & E.T.C. at Rugby Football'. On 6 February he plays in a rugby match, followed by hockey ('beat them by 4 goals to 7. Our team was distinctly superior'). The following day he calls on Consul General Gould, and finds them 'all in garden playing tennis with Cadets. Did not stay long & P. & I afterwards trammed out to Sidi Gaber, walking from there to Ramleh. A stream of carriages on the road - much like Bois de Boulogne on Sunday - & some very fine houses out at Ramleh'. 13 February: 'Landed with Wix at 1 pm & out to Marsa for Golf, which was much interrupted by rain. We played 12 holes & then gave it up. After tea watched Rugby Match between our Cadets & Cumberland in which we were easily victorious, our Cadets being superior in all departments of the game. Walked back to Valetta & off to ship to change into uniform & dine. After dinner landed for Opera Lucia di Lammermoor which I should have enjoyed better if the theatre had not been so beastly cold. Supper at Club & off to ship about midnight'. The following day the Commander in Chief, Admiral Curzon-Howe [Sir Assheton Gore Curzon-Howe (1850-1922)], comes on board 'to walk round the ship and stayed to church with Lady Curzon Howe'. Has 'Pearson of Cumberland on board to lunch & played golf with him afterwards but rain was very annoying interrupted our game a good deal'. The five days between 15 and 19 February all have references to sporting activities. 15 February: 'Were to have played Egmont at hockey but there was some muddle about the ground and the game fell through.' 16 February: 'Out to Marsa with Wix at 4 p.m. to watch Football Match - Cornwall v. Bacchante, in which we were beaten rather badly. The Bacchante's team was too heavy for our Cadets & we had Grant crocked in the first 10 minutes. After the match walked back to Valetta, got my hair cut at the Club & then off to shift into dinner rig. dined with Hayward at Club & played billiards afterwards. Off to Ship at 12-30 a.m.' On 17 February the Cornwall plays the Bacchante at hockey: 'They beat us 2 goals to 1 but it was a good hard game and very enjoyable'. 18 February: 'Out to Marsa at 3.30 p.m. with Pearson to watch Rugby Match - Cornwall & Cumberland V. Fleet which the Fleet won by 13 points to 4. Lapage, playing for cruisers, had his collar-bone broken early in second half & his absence made itself severely felt afterwards. Hayward on board to dinner & had some music afterwards.' 19 February: 'Feeling seedy and head-achey - partly the weather & I suppose partly overfeeding. Went out with Pearson to Marsa in afternoon & played golf. Beat him 7 & 5 in the 15 holes & he beat me 2 & 1 in 9 holes afterwards. Played over new part of the course for the first time & thought it was a great improvement.' On 5 March, at Plymouth, the ship is inspected by Admiral Fawkes. The following day the Admiral makes a presentation at Portsmouth College, where the author meets 'lots of old Obsborne-ites'. While in England he takes Berlitz German lessons, and plays occasional golf (at Mount Batten and Tavistock). There follows a long gap in the diary 'while the ship was at Devonport as there was nothing of special interest to put down & nearly everyone on leave'. On 10 May he 'Returned to Ship by midnight train after most enjoyable 4 weeks ashore. Lots of golf, gardening, croquet & played tennis for first time on new court.' In the next few days plays golf at Mount Batten and Tavistock, writing on 15 May: 'Ashore at 2.30 p.m. & over to Mt. Batten with Egerton. Had a good game but greens were very hard and rough - play not bad on the whole. I was driving well & got some good shots thro' the green with his brassie. I got a good mashie shot after my first had rolled back to the bottom of the cliff at the 2nd. Also holed out & mashie shot at the 18th.' 18 May 1909: 'Had the disagreeable experience of missing money from my cabin, having left Goldsmith & Padrés pay on my desk while I was at lunch. Luckily not very much - about £3.' The following day he comments on the playing of the ship's new band: 'I cannot say that it made a very favourable impression at first hearing'. A tour in the Baltic begins with the ships arrival in 'Christiana' [Oslo] on 22 May, and the entries become longer, with descriptions of the locality and of sporting activities. 22 June: 'Arrived Kiel 8 a.m. & passed by German Fleet to a buoy opposite the Yacht club - quite a good billet. Prince Henry of Prussia returned Captain's call at 1 p.m. & Captain lunched with him. P. & I landed 3.45 p.m. & walked out to Bellevue Hotel where we had strawberries & cream & a bottle of Santerne. Had to remain there 2 hours as it came on to rain like the very deuce - thunder lightning & all the rest of it. Off to dinner. Two Naval Cadets came off after dinner to call on the Gun Room & were made to dance a <?> They went thro' with it like sportsmen but am certain they thought it a mad proceeding'. The following day: 'The [German] Emperor arrived in Hohenzollern at 3 p.m. & all ships were manned, salutes fixed & three cheers given as he passed down the line. Dull rainy afternoon but the affair was most impressive for all that. Afterwards Smith & I went to Kitzeberg to Golf & dined in Kiel afterwards. [...] Prince & Princess Henry of Prussia lunched with Captain.' On 24 June: 'German Emperor came on board to inspect ship at 11 a.m. & stayed for an hour. Present[ed] Captain & W. R. with signed copies of his photograph & was altogether most amiable.' On 1 July there is an 'At Home' on board the ship, 'about 150 people'. On 28 July the 'King & Queen of Norway with Prince Olaf come on board to inspect Ship'. 29 August finds the ship 'At sea making for Gothland Id. where we are to do cannon tube practice'. On 7 September he finds Swinemunde 'simply swarming with mosquitos. Coming in we thought the people were waving handkerchiefs at us, but understood afterwards that they were all driving off these little brutes.' He is home on leave from 6 November, and four days later 'attended with Clem a political meeting at the Town Hall when the prospective Conservative Member for the Uxbridge Division - the Hon. C. H. Mills was presented to his Staines supporters. He is very young - only 23 - [...] Sir Edward Clarke made a very sound and very eloquent speech'. He is 'Back to Devonport from leave' on 6 December, and the following day 'Captain Hall turned over to Captain Ley [James Clement Ley (1869-1946)] in forenoon & left the Ship at 2 p.m. to take over command of the Natal at Portland. Gave me very excellent confidential report & certificate'. On 13 December he is back playing golf with Peile at Mount Batten '& was beaten 3 and 2 - wind very cold'. The last entry, on 17 December, again finds him playing golf with Peile, 'who beat me 4 up & 3 to play. Heavy fog to start with but weather cleared up after a short time.'