Scrimgeour's Scribbling Diary

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by Seaweed, Jul 4, 2014.

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  1. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Alexander ('Toby') Scrimgeour went to Osborne in 1910 and in the summer of 1914 left Dartmouth to join the Fleet as a midshipman, appointed to the cruiser HMS Crescent. In the August her round of flagshowing was interrupted by the Kaiser and she was sent as flagship of the Northern Patrol. In the winter she sustained enormous storm damage and her company transferred to the Armed Merchant Cruiser, ex-Allan line liner, HMS Alsatian. The AMCs were hugely more effective as being more weatherly and able to stay out for five weeks between coalings as opposed to seven days. In late 1915 in order to brush up for his exams Scrimgeour was transferred to HMS Invincible and the far smarter and more expensive live of the Battle cruiser force.

    He had been keeping a personal diary since his Osborne days and continued this, quite illegally, throughout his war. Recently discovered and edited, this book is fleshed out with his letters home and extracts and sketches from his Midshipman's Journal from the Northern Patrol. The free criticisms of his seniors make interesting reading, as does the intimate snapshot of Gunroom life and of partying ashore (and on board) and the author pining for his girlfriend who seems to have played him along a bit.

    If you think you've seen heavy weather, try the pre-Dreadnought HMS Albemarle shipping it into the foretop in the Pentland Firth and having her entire bridge washed away. No end of vignettes like that; sometimes the Northern Patrol account seems a bit dreary and repetitive, but the value there is that that is exactly how it was.

    Scrimgeour's Scribbling Diary: The Truly Astonishing Diary and Letters of an Edwardian Gentleman, Naval Officer, Boy and Son: Alexander Scrimgeour: Books

    His later Journal and diary went down with this clearly clever and very promising young officer at Jutland.
  2. Ah yes, the evil Joko. :) I wonder what became of her?

    I thought his notes about the colliers telling such as the Cameron*, "wide holds, good derricks", or the Cameroff*, "single derrick". They took in 1400 tons and he was quite vocal about how much of a chore it was even to the extent of calling it "an evil no landsman... has experienced"

    * Ficticious names.

    It's an interesting diary if you have an interest in the time, particularly the details about his freetime ashore. He didn't think much of Lady Beatty, did he? He sais the anchorage "stinks" of her boats, etc, and he calls her convalescent home for sailors "Lady Beattys home for lost dogs or sailors or somesuch". So not a fan.

    I'd not read the book from start to finish, rather I'd cherry-picked areas so I was unaware of the Albemarles incident: you can't fault him for the duff information at the time but he has the death-toll as a startling 20. I'm glad in reality the final total was a less dramatic 5.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  3. I read this a few years ago (recently published must mean 6 years ago!) - there was a remainders bookshop in Oxford with about 50 copies knocking them out at £2 a throw. I found it quite moving overall. Big sense of wasted potential, and interesting to see all of this from the dark blue perspective rather than the trenches.

    What I'd actually like, given the family have got them and refer to them in the preface/introduction, is the release of his BRNC diaries from before the war. He was a decent writer with a good eye, so the age 13-17 years down in Devon would be interesting. The only reason they weren't included in the first cut was space and the desire to tell just the war bit. Unfortunately I suspect from the remaindering that sales of this volume weren't great. Maybe they could put them online, or someone at the NRS or Naval Historical Branch (assuming, that is, it still exists) could have a word?
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  4. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    I too would have loved to read his Osborne and Dartmouth diaries however juvenile they were, as they would still be a worm's eye view of great value.

    Much of what is happening outside his ship is of course necessarily second or more hand, but the value there is to see what he THOUGHT had happened even if the real case turned out to be different.

    Not long ago a friend of mine was moaning about how his family, before he got in the loop, had got rid of all his late father's letters home from the Grand Fleet. What a read they would have been.

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