Memories of my time on the LONDON PRIDE.
The discharge port was Alexandria, we were berthed near "civilisation" which in this case was not what we wanted as the political situation was a bit naughty - we did not go ashore because of continuous rioting and anti British feelings were high. This did not stop us from trading, both the 3rd mate and myself wanted watches. We did a bulk purchase 2 watches for £4.00 the third mates cost £2-10-0 and mine£1-10-0. This watch was to be on my wrist for years non stop- chipping, tank cleaning, sleeping by then the face had lifted and unreadable but still kept good time. I sold the watch in the Suez canal for 10' . I had had real value for money to get equal value say a Rolex would have to be in good working condition for 160 years
.From Alexandria we went to Mena to load and back to Stanlow to discharge, a very short voyage, 10 days in port, 48 at sea doing 13,135 sea miles.
Stanlow behind us this time we did head for the West Indies this time Curacao Bay before going to Punta Cardon in Venezuela to load. The customs/army were very officious all unused clothes had to be put in the ships bond. We were however given shore passes which we took delight in handing to the army patrols that stopped us on the road to town - upside down and they didn't notice, they could not read, neither did they know how to care for their rifles - all very dangerous, we walked along dusty roads to an adobe built "town", they did have however a bull ring - but no activity when we were there, then back to the Shell club along the cactus/sage edged road - all very hot dry dusty, we had a rum and coke at theShell club to kill the smell of gas which seemed to be everywhere we went.
This voyage was going to be a long one to Pulo Bukom but this time we were to call in at Durban for bunkers and fresh water. Before reaching Durban whilst in the South Atlantic we were to CROSS THE LINE, this being a happier crew it was going to be done properly, we made rope wigs, wooden razors, combs, hats of chart paper. Tridents choppers the full regalia and a 40 gallon drum almost full of "smear" - consisting of old paint many colours, soft soap, oil, grease. Then at the appointed hour Father Neptune and court appeared in their finery, the proclamation called, court in session and despite our protests that we had crossed the line before we were to be initiated - well we tried to escape, climbing masts anywhere to escape, hiding in lifebelt boxes didn't help either - all were in turn caught and done, we were really ill with laughter battered, bruised and covered in "glory" we were each like the proverbial greased pigs by the end and then with hoses played on us to get the smear off we would fall over nearly drowning in time, however we did get clean - but a good time had been had by all.
It was around this time that the 4th engineer and junior a 50+ year old man decided that a long voyage was a good time to cut off all their hair so that next time when it grew it would do so strongly, so with no prior warning on 8-12 at night they shaved their heads and at 1 bell the junior minus his teeth went to call the watch, he awoke the Lecki in a subdued light and pulled grunning faces at him without saying a word. The shock was enough to set the Lecki into hysterics caused by the shock of being woken by a living gargoyle.
When we did get to Durban we were to have an overnight stay in port because port officials said we were overloaded by
11 inches. The Chief Officer claimed it was due to the vessel sagging - but either way we got up to the Mission to Seamen and got some reading material.The discharge in Pulo Buko was unusual, we part discharged each tank, loaded another grade back into the tanks and had air blown in to mix the cargoes, then off we went for our shortest voyage across the straits to Singapore, in with the cargo ships when berthing we took a little paint off the stern of a Blue funnel ship - oh the shame of it - I was told to get into best uniform and take a letter from our captain to the Blue funnel captain - all had to be very correct., The letter was accepted and no repercussions resulted but we did later meet the cadets of Glen line and blue funnel ships and we saw over our first cargo ships and they saw over their first tanker.
Being a tanker we had hardly any timber on board so we took out opportunity to liberate what must have been at least 2 tons of teak like timber - the Chief Officer had thoughts we might build a small boat - but we never did.
The cargo work was delayed due to our having to stop every time a cargo vessel came in to berth or leave, neither were we allowed to discharge at night. For us marvellous we could get ashore. The Captain and Chief Engineer went to the races one day complete with the largest pair of binoculars we had on the ship.
From Singapore we went to Ras at Tanura and loaded for Thames Haven where we were to go on our first official leave in 18 months, the last voyage we had 18 days in port, 91 days at sea and covered 25,772miles.
Total distance on this ship 124,239 sea miles.
LONDON PRIDE 1952
I joined ship at Rock Ferry by launch having been taken there from the ship agents office S.C. Chambers in Liverpool .There were 5 masters tickets and 1st & 2nd mates on this ship due to officers waiting for transfer to other ships.
My first job was to go to Liverpool with Alan Mitchell the other 1st trip apprentice to buy reading material for the officers, we had to go in uniform despite the weather being very hot.Whilst in port discharging the mates were fooling about, throwing a crow bar to each other, as it hit the deck it caused sparks and the game brought to an abrupt end!!
On passage from Rock Ferry top Palermo for dry dock the weather was fine but especially across the bay we were rolling heavily and both Alan and I felt queasy, but not actually sick despite having sausages for breakfast. The first job we were given was holy stoning life belt boxes. The electrician was seasick for 7 days and very ill. His wife was expecting twins and on reaching Palermo he was flown home, as was Hepworth who was going to join a new ship as Master.
When anchoring off Palermo small boats came out and the men had long poles with a hoot at one end, they hooked onto the main deck rail, swarmed up the pole and vanished into the crew accommodation oft whilst we were all on stand by duty, they started to steal from all unlocked cabins until discovered and chased on the ship.
Palermo dry-dock was quite an experience, three Esso "T 2's in port so we had ship visits and nights out ashore, but our ship was the only one where we apprentices had to parade before the Chief Officer for inspection before being allowed ashore - "In uniform" , the Esso boys were not first trippers and went ashore in civvies, at inspection before going ashore on the first night , the Chief Officer made us each read out loud page 168 of the ship masters medical guide. This page had a colour picture of what the result of VD looked like. Not that we had any intention of fvisiting the "bars" and it was obvious that by going ashore in uniform we declared our first trip status and the local wild bunch left us alone. We were most interested in going to the fairground and trying the ice cream which was readily available much better than that available in the UK and at a price we could afford on our princely salary of £7-10-0 per month. We did notice the poverty the locals would trade anything for soap, especially life buoy old torn work shirts,. empty bottles or paint tins, brass nuts and we had to make sure that dockers did not steal ropes, they did steal lifeboat biscuits and barley sugars before we could stop them -
at night whilst ashore we were offered bottles of Chianti for our handkerchiefs. I bought a 126 size camera for £1-10-0 which was which lasted me for years.
Whilst still in Palermo our Chief Steward Kid Lewis who was a retired boxer with a big reputation lost a revolver from a box in his cabin, this caused quite a stir and "kid" Lewis went on the bottle immediately afterwards, remaining high for the rest of the trip.
After dry dock we went to load crude oil at Sidon in Lebanon we were loading at sea mooring from tanks high on the coastal hill . The local customs caused a problem over the count of cigarettes, they also took 2 lobsters from the fridge which were being kept by the Captain for a special occasions. The Chief Steward was in real trouble by now with a customs fine over the cigarettes pending, no fuss could be made over the lobsters.
The loading was done by gravity, at a rate of 2000 tons per hour which was quite fast for a vessel of our size, but before loading we had had a further disaster, we had an overflow whilst discharging - but as it was clean ballast it was not that serious except that a new discharging procedure had to be worked out by the Chief Officer to reduce the excessive trim by the stern of the old procedure.Having left Sidon we had an uneventful passage to Heysham were we discharged the cargo to complete our first voyage Chief Officer:- Cooper, and 2nd Officer Paterson left to join new ships whilst we were at Heysham.
Heysham to Mamanol in Columbia was uneventful and we started to get to know the new 2nd officer: Stevens and older man with flowing silver hair, unfortunately he had extreme St Vitus dance which made life difficult for him.
The arrival at Mamanol was to us dramatic - we were in Francis Drake/Captain Morgan country - we could see the Caragenan Nunnery on top of the hill were 50 nuns threw themselves off a cliff rather than wait for Captains Morgans crew to break into the building - as we entered the bay we passed an island which was leper colony and had a small fort to protect the entrance to the bay. The loading was very slow and we had the locals in dug out canoes alongside, selling us sticks of bananas for a bar of life buoy soap - we were told by the crew to keep the bananas in our wardrobes until the ripened - but watch out for tarantula spiders and snakes . I also spent time negotiating for a stuffed alligator - 2 ft long the final agreed price being 5 shillings.
Andecun thunder clouds were impressive.
The next port was Curacao - Willemstad, where to enter the lagoon we passed through the town and a bridge on pontoons had to be swung to let us in, once in the lagoon weanchored and for the next 3 days in daylight only we used ships gear to load our cargo hold with drums - during the smoke's and lunch time the locals did barefoot sambas on the drums all very colourful and full of atmosphere - we heard local fables and history of seizes of the island and local customs - people wearing shoes were charged a fee for crossing the pontoon bridge - barefoot no charge but people would borrow shoes for crossing the bridge !! - The were many coastal schooners on the quays bringing fruit and trade from other islands.
The town of Willemstad very Dutch style buildings in pastel shades of whitewash with white window frames and corner bricks and false front tops. The people were dressedin very colourful print dresses and shirts, the wharfies wore cut off long trousers only and varied in colour from almost white to very dark , they all sang calypsos frequently.The coastal vessel berths were full of aromas but the lagoon smelt strongly of petroleum, especially noticeable when flushing the shipboard toilet. The water was black and gave off a very strong naphthalene smell.
During the voyage to Pireas our working pattern had become established, the normal day started with our being woken at 0630 with tea and toast brought by our goanesse steward, we washed and dressed and by 0650 the work was mostly chipping, scrapping and painting but as a special education in seamanship we spent 6 weeks doing nothing but life boats, chip, scrape, clean wire falls, wire brush, change wires end for end, check stores, wash paint and splice, then more splices - every davit on the ship. We started work at 0700 until 0745 wash and change into uniform for breakfast, 0830 changed back to work clothes work until 10.00 then coffee break being back at work by 10.10 no later. Alan one day had the "runs" and stopped chipping 10.00 and did not start until 10.13 . The Captain wanted to have Alan go to the Captains cabin to explain - the reason given was not satisfactory - said the Captain "You sleep in your own time, you eat in your own time so by God you go to the toilet in your own time - or words to that effect.
We were being introduced to painting , and as the Chief officer told us "Runs and curtains" (too much paint) only allowed in the theatre. There are only 3 holidays in the year Christmas day, Boxing day and Good Friday so no missed spots in painting allowed. If we were guilty of either of the above crimes we lost our weekend and had to work Saturday afternoon and Sunday as well as our usual Sunday dog watches on the wheel, when the Chief Officer would question us on our correspondence course, he used to shut the wheel house doors and smoke Burmese cheroots and blow into my face until I was "green" if the steering became unsatisfactory your were told that the wake was either "Like a snake with hernia" or "Are you trying to write you name in the ocean son? " Apprentices are the lowest form of marine life, lower than a molluscs stomach! The normal run of things developed that if we got to Thursday before losing the weekend we considered it a moral victory but we always worked the weekend.
Lunch meant finish chipping 1200 wash and change, eat, change and start chipping 1300 hours exactly. At 15.15 we had tea and toast, 1700 wash and change uniform, eat, change, start work 1800 until 2000 - report to the Chief Officer. The rest of the day was our own as long as we did our studies/correspondence course, cleaned the cabin, washed our work clothes - but steaming in engine room, feed pump overflow buckets and soogie moogie or trailing overside on end of rope overnight - but clean and pressed working clothes were needed Monday and Thursday and failure meant lost weekend, as would studies not up to scratch or if the paint we made up was not to the Chief Officers liking.
The Food was very important to us as to all apprentices the memories are of a record 42 days consecutive when we had dried apricots at least once a day, mostly twice, but as they had not been soaked long enough they were wrinkled brown leather in appearance and always weevils - always and no disguise was possible even if the apricots where fruit compote for breakfast or fruit and custard for lunch. There was however another daily feature - curry- and being starved curry became the staple diet - at least the weevils were not as visible.
When we got to the cabin at 20.00 we would find a double round of sandwiches wrapped in grease proof paper and it helped to keep the cockroaches at bay. The sandwiches would not have tempted even cockroaches however as they were invariably of tomato puree or red lead as we called it amongst other things - it was inedible even for us, it became a ritual to go to the ships rail, throw them overside, the action being termed poisoning the sharks.
The other staple of our diet was Polony sausage - it was alright if on cut out the gristle spots, but for sheet frequency on the menu we were convinced that the Chief Steward had bought 40 gallon drums of the stuff on board each on coiled full of the stuff.
The other delicacy we were introduced to was "B.P. Chicken" on Sundays we all had chicken always leg without exception and we were told that British Petroleum had developed a breed of chicken with 100 legs - we could believe it - almost. The Chief Steward was subjected to a feeding allowance at this time of 4s 8p per man per day therefore corned beef - desert chicken or herrings/kippers - North sea pheasant were a luxury and the eggs available in the ports we visited were minute. The one really good thing was that fresh bread and rolls were baked each day this was great as long as one didn't have Australian flour which made dark and poor bread.
Ice cream on the ship was unheard of for this period although some 18months later we won an ice bucket and handle which as apprentices we turned for the cook - payment was the lickings and minute quantities could be made at the expense of a lot of work.The ship at this time was alive with cockroaches to an unbelievable extent, they were even in the ships radio room in amongst the valves. I killed over 150 under the chartroom settee and mat, but someone had a bright no doubt very old remedy - mix equal proportions of sugar and borax and spread in dark warm areas. The result was dramatic, it seems that within a week the ship was clear- a real success.
We then only had a pair of crickets to contend with, they were keeping us awake, we could not get at them to kill them even when we found their hiding places so we worked out the next best thing their legs need to be dry to make the noise, so we throw a bucket of water to flood their hiding place - this kept them quiet until we got asleep and eventually the cooler weather saw them off.
Pireus being our discharge port we had a stern on or Mediterranean mooring which was new to us, we took only one day to discharge the drums using a dead man guy - anchor cable was used to centre the derrick over the hatch and steam guy to take the derrick over the barge with the drums, a guy parted and one of the Greeks was hurt.
We did however get ashore, but had to be body searched before leaving the jetty, there was a strike in the morning because Greece wanted Cyprus and there seemed to us to be anti British feeling but not enough to stop us getting to Ammonia-Athens by bus and train so that we could go and see the Acropolis - the climb up the hill was very impressive the stones seemed to ooze history.
The next port we were due to load at was Ras at Tanura in the Persian Gulf so we had to go through the Suez canal, all bustle hanging and canal searchlight on the bow, bumboats were trying to sell souvenirs, vegetables, prawns, Gilly Gilly men (fortune tellers) conjurers came onboard as did the 2 canal boars and their men. Efforts had to be made to keep thieves off, they would try and buy old mooring ropes or paint from the Chief Officer and failing that they would try and steal them. There were also companies who came on board to offer their services to paint the ship over side from stern to stern, caulk all wooden decks and others supply labour for engine room dirty work, cleaning bilge's/boiler cleaning.
The passage down the Red sea was very hot to us and humid it was like breathing sparking champagne when we rounded Perrin island into the Indian Ocean and the temperature dropped about 15 deg in less than an hour.
The port of Ras at Tanura was a jetty type with which we were getting familiar, we did manage to get to the "club" very much of the American influence, air conditioned with plenty of soft drinks etc. as per PX but on our financial resources it was out of the question to purchase almost anything - but we could listen to the piped music.The return via the canal was uneventful but our discharge port was going to anything but that ... we were going to Lisbon !
Before arriving in port the apprentices were allowed a big decision - do you work 8 hours on 8 hours off or 6 on 6 off - we elected for 8 on 8 off as we would be in for only a short time and it was some time since we had seen civilisation.
The discharge started with lightening into a barge and having completed my first cargo watch I went ashore with others by launch to see the sights - beautiful squares, but a few stamps for my letters, the back on cargo watch, then we were moved to a berth to complete our discharge, the American 6th Fleet was in and as we had met a few chaps the previous time ashore we decided to meet up against, especially the 3rd mate who could play the saxophone rather well, we went to a nigh club and the gang took over the band stand and their job, the 3rd mate was very attracted to a hostess in a green dress, the "band" were very popular and kept on playing Blue Moon - then back on cargo watch, which had become a problem due to faults/difficulty in discharging.
Ashore next time we went by taxi and told the driver to pick us up at the same spot at 8pm - he failed to turn up to take us back to the ship so we got another taxi so that we could be back in time to go on cargo watch. On completion of the cargo watch I was too tired to eat and went to my bunk but before I could get asleep all hell broke loose3 police cars with sirens blaring armed officers on the running boards on both sides, full speed up to the gangway, ship under arrest, rifles bayonets at the ready - Complaint laid by the taxi driver from the previous evening, those involved may be arrested - Long discussions with the Captain and 2 cases of whiskey lighter in the stores peaces was restores, but I was the called up to the Captains cabin to stand like a boy in "When did you last see your father" were you ashore with the 3rd mate last night" -"Yes sir" then what a dressing down was to follow I was convinced that I should have to leave the ship within the next hour and walk home in disgrace -
Later found that I could in fact finish the voyage subject to being of good behaviour no record would be made on my indentures, whilst in port we had a shoreside barber visit and even I had a haircut for 1'3 as compared with the usual shipboard rates of 50 player cigarettes , others paid in the rate of 2 tins beer, at this time the stop chest also carried sweets Cadbury chocolates in 1lb oval cardboard tins and large round tins of Quality street toffees - all these were ship currency but I digress.
On completion of discharge but before ballasting we were told that a Shell T2 was being towed into Gibraltar and we were required to go to her and take off her cargo. Mad panic in order - We had a limited time to clean tanks, now it was coming up for a weekend so Alan and I were told that we would do the tank cleaning with help from the pumpman only. This involved getting the Butterworth machines from the carpenters stores, heavy brass garden sprinkler type of operation, connect up to long lengths of rubber hose, and lower into empty tank after fitting free end onto deck service line, fix bracket at dect, set length of hose to 10ft below deck, set up pumps to discharge washings get engine room to put on hot water on deck. Allow hoses to wash for 3/4 hour lower to 20ft repeat , lower to 33ft, Start next tank, stop completed tank, lift machine to deck by hand and repeat on next tank, each tank having 2 machines running at a time.
This work physically exhausting for 2 x 17 year olds but we staggered on Sunday the Serang and Tindle came out and helped us - unpaid, they could see we were getting the staggers, we worked on through the night tocomplete the work, Sernag and Tindle turned in and we were after all hoping to get paid overtime at 1/3 per hour.
As we came into sight of the Rock the cleaning was completed, Alan said your turn to report to the Chief Office I'm off to my pit, I found the climb up the ladders to the bridge very hard genuinely had to use both hands to pull myself up to the bridge and give my report before getting permission to turn in - no need to stand by for entering port. Having fallen into my bunk I slept without interruption for 32 hours.
The Chief Steward woke me as he feared to allow us to sleep longer without food, drink or going to the toilet- But long sleep had been essential as in the previous 7 days I had had a total of 13 hours maximum sleep.On waking I was confused, difficult in hearing and my co-ordination was definitely out, my understanding was slow, but after a while it came together and we visited the ship Theleomus which was transferring her cargo into us. The Chief Officer asked me why I was not going ashore, I have no money in the ship Sir ! Oh never mind that said he, But I don't want to get in debt to the ship Sir - Oh forget it have £3/0/0 here take it" Thank you sir I said thinking he was not the rotten b....... I had taken him for after all. We went ashore and had a quick look around Gib, returning to the ship with the Chief Officer's Chinese wife Mai Lai. The Chief Officer was said to have interest in the Robin Hood Pub run by his mother in the Channel Islands, he had met his wife whilst owner/captain of coasters on the Chinese coast but had lost the coasters to the locals or sold them - either way supposed not to be "poor" I had at that time thought him generous - only at the end of the voyage many months later did I find on my pay slip - sub at Gib £3-0-0 . At least I had got a combined cigarette case and lighter for my father which I could not otherwise have done. After loading we proceeded to Philadelphia for discharge this was my introduction to American banana splits at 20c or 25c and also milk shakes which cost 20c these were a meal in themselves.
The next run was down to Willemstad, this time to load for Singapore Pulo Bukom, this was a non stop voyage of 11,588 miles taking 42 days after the last of the West Indies islands we saw no land until a day or so before Singapore - we were a long way off south America but noticed the discolouring of the sea where the Amazon emptied into the sea. W e then were on the same chart for 3 consecutive Sundays when we did our dog watch steering and check on studies, during the week we chipped scraped, redlead, whitelead, gloss white the full admid ships accommodation. Alan and I working overside on rolling ship with no platform and soon got fed up of using life lines, the crew did the funnel.
The only real laugh was that the Captain lost his expensive watch over the side when he was chipping the side lights. We did not even see South Africa just the clouds everywhere the land should have been then another 3 weeks across the Indian Ocean. On arriving near port we realised that we had done 15 weeks, 7 days a week 7am to 8pm OR sunset which ever was the later e.g. one day a securing dropped deckhead eau de nil paint on the Captains wooden deck. when I reported work completed at 2000 hrs I was told by the mate oh no it hasn't you and Alan can Holy stone the paint clean off the Captains deck, this we did finishing at 2300 hrs. I was let off one day however in this period I had a temperature of 102 deg according to the Chief Steward, feeling a "bit" off and as it was a Sunday I was allowed to sort out the ships library instead of working overside but had to do my usual dog watch, lucky for me it was a Sunday.
Now we were approaching port after 42 days the Chief Officer after 42 days the Chief Officer asked if we would like to do day work whilst in port - Would we !! Yes Sir!. Alright all you have to do this morning is end for end the falls on 2 lifeboats, this is quite a job as the securing on the drum end is done in a confined space. and requires on crossed over turn in 3 turns working away from the outside and the tail of the wire bolted into place and all end up with equal tension on the wires or the lifeboat would not travel outward evenly. Hot, tired hands which were cut to ribbons not having stopped for lunch the Chief Officer came up to inspect the job, it was to his satisfaction, it was Saturday afternoon, get washed and ashore the boat goes soon, having quickly washed and changed the Chief Officer said we had missed the last ferry to Singapore. I was of the opinion he was not sane and had other work he could give us to do. I went into the ships smoke room and shut the door quietly and sat down to think. I had had enough this was the last stroke he would pull on me, then what suitable surprise could I give him when he went on watch one 4am?
Shortly afterwards the Chief Officer came in and said there was a later agents boat going and as his wife was going to Singapore we could go too 'very kind - well his wife was - she took us up Change Alley bartered on our behalf in Chinese with the Chinese, we walked around the town taking in the sights especially the army who were fully occupied with the end of the communist troubles. The launch trip back to Pulo Bukom was memorable by the shoals of fast moving Garfish which we disturbed and the sight of the Dromus berths which had fairly recently been blown up. The evenings of the next day of so we walked through the local village, shops, seeing house built on stilts over the sea, the mosque and also we went up the hill to the Shell club for which we had to be in Best whites to have permission to enter.
The orders were to go up the Gulf to load, On the way we saw many flying fish, but being in ballast and high out of the water non came aboard, when on our way loaded to Singapore with decks close to the water we had collected quite a few, even having some cooked for breakfast, they were herring like in taste. We also tried to cure some and varnished them with their wings in the full spread position.When loading at Mena-al-ahmad I had to go over the stern on a rope ladder to read the draught and to my surprise I saw the tip of one of our propeller blades was missing. The Captain, Chief Engineer etc. were interested indeed explained our reduced speed, rough running on the last passage but we could nothing until dry docking, which would not be for another 7 weeks.
Spezia in Northern Italy was our discharge port, again a stern on berth 2 anchors out 2 wires 8 ropes aft stern discharge which against back pressure of 110 lbs meant frequent checks for leaks on the line over the after accommodation. we were almost finished the discharge 4-5feet in the top tank when at 2am a big blow come on and snap went all our moorings and the cargo hose. This trashed all over the place like a mad elephants trunk.- oil bent rails, broken ropes all over the poop fortunately no one standing about and no galley fire in use. The tug which was on constant stand by assisted as the gale increased from force 10-12 and we were blown out to the bay our engines going full astern . Having anchored as usual I reported ready for work in the morning and was told that we should "Paint the Air temp machines". But it is pitch black sir. Dec. 1st. Well you have torches don't you - do it. Later we were told to wash the deck heads. Gale force 10 freezing conditions, we tried standing on the stools but both they and us were blown along the deck watched by the Captain in his warm cabin.
We started to drag our anchor and had to go forward to weigh anchor and find a safer anchorage, but how to get forward in gale 11 condition, almost on ones stomach, face 1 foot off the floor , pull oneself forward along the flying bridge. We got to the lee of the windlass and with engines 1/2 and full ahead we got one anchor up successfully but in getting the other up the 1.1/2 diameter steel drive shaft bent and we had to use engine at full speed to drag to an anchorage in the lee of a mountain then wait for repairs to be carried out when the wind died down, this meant another ship got on the berth to discharge and we got ashore each evening. We went to the fair where I did well at shooting. I also got a silver trinket box for my mother from a "posh shop in town". During the day we did really skillful jobs like polishing the brass treads off the companion way and brass-oing the cargo valve labels.
We next went to Tripoli in Lebanon to load for Heysham at which we arrived on the 28th December, we were however both given 10 days unofficial leave, this meant we got home for New Years eve whilst the ship went to Cardiff for dry dock.This voyage was good for in port time having 40 days against 169 days at sea and during this period of almost 9 months we
did 50,156 sea miles.
In January 1953, I received telegram from the Captain to return to the ship in Smiths of Cardiff dry dock, as instructed I replied with a telegram that I would rejoin at the appointed hour, but due to some error either in my telegram or Captains understanding of it he thought I had indicated that I was rejoining later than instructed so that on boarding I was whisked up to the new Captain for a dressing down, which was what I got before being able to open my mouth and explain that as I had arrived as instructed no disrespect had been intended by me. This was a poor start to being underthe new Captain. A very small man in stature but extremely fierce, physically he bore an uncanny resemblance to Clem Attlee. We had nights out with new officers e.g. dance at Sofia gardens.
Our orders were to proceed to the Persian Gulf for orders, but as we were running short of water we went to Bahrain, here we took on water said to be from wells out at sea. The Chief Engineer would not use the water for his boilers because of the salt content so we used it for drinking and washing, it was terrible, at first we all had side effects of kidneys feeling red hot and for a few days some suffered from double vision. Then we were alright, possibly we had finished that water, or it was dumped over side or even diluted with the remainder of our clean Cardiff water. The cargo we picked up was from Ras at Tanura, the cargo was from the U.S Navy and great play was made of sealing the sea valves by their shore
representatives, when loading was nearly completed I went over the stern on a rope ladder to check the after draught, and directly under me was an unpleasant sight, two very long water snakes and it seemed about 200 small water snakes and in the belief that the venom of water snakes was particularly potent it was certain that I was not going to fall in their midst if I could help it! We stopped at Pulo Bukom for bunkers and we were able to get to the village shop, quite famous to tanker types it was called Nina Mohammeds, full of eastern curries, carvings, carpets, joss sticks, jewellery, embroidered work, radios, cameras etc. The shop was noisy with clatter, eastern music and the air laden with spices perfume, very different from North Wales shops.
The run up to Osaka was eventful in that this was the first time I had been in the South China sea and seen the charts which had large areas which were designated as being uncharted - keep out. As we were abeam of the Philippines we ran into a Typhoon which was very fierce, we rolled heavily took heavy seas on board. So much so that green seas went down the engine room ventilators drenching first trip juniors who thought we were sinking, they got a bit excited climbed out of the engine room and were furiously hammering on the main deck storm doors to open them and escape before the 2nd engineer overtook them and stopped them, if the doors had been opened then the after crew accommodation would have become flooded very quickly and we would have been in real trouble.
As we approached Japan we came under U.S. air cover, they were still active in Korea and we were under constant surveillance until we docked.The approach to Osaka was also not without incident, in that there was only a narrow swept channel that we could use, the other areas were still mined areas left over from World War II. As we came to a bend in the channel we had just overtaken one coaster when an outgoing vessel arrived at the turning point at the same time as ourselves, the bridge was quite tense as we passed VERY close to the ship and tried to maintain our course within the channel.
Osaka at the same time was a wild place being R & R town for Commonwealth troops doing their bit in the Korean conflict. The crew wanted to get the girls on board but the security guard in a sentry box at the foot of the gangway would not let them so the crew trooped down the gangway and lifted the sentry hut and all to another position at the stern of the vessel resulting in a very irate Japanese guard.On the watch ashore it was quite a site to see the paper and wooden houses in the dock vicinity. There were some very large rats running about in daylight. The evenings were spent in the "Chidori" - a night club with some Aussis, fun and games being the order of the day, the proprietors were a nice old couple and we were taught by them the correct for of address when speaking basic Japanese.
The girls having come on board, against the Captains instructions caused some fun. I had volunteered to do extra cargo watch to let the other apprentice go on the town and when the 2nd mate saw me he asked me how things were going. I said fine but that instead of the single red light on the masthead indicating that we were loading/discharging explosive cargo we should have all the Christmas tree red lights on in view of the extra activity going on. This upset him considerably until I explained what I meant. It however soon became self evident even to him that the party was going with a swing. I was draining #5 centre immediately aft of the midship accommodation when "splosh" and again and again. I was being bombed with French letters filled with water by a Greek apprentice engineer that was doing the voyage - OK so he missed - but at 2am I made two similar bombs and with my friend the 4th engineer we crept outside the Greek engineers cabin, we quietly opened the port hole and lobbed our bombs on to his bunk, it happened at a critical moment, the bombs burst the Greek apprentice and his Japanese girlfriend also exploded. All hell let loose, murder was definitely on the Greek's mind as he came out to find me, he was bellowing like a bull and only the arrival of the third mate saved me. He wrestled the Greek until he was subdued for the rest of the voyage, the Greek was very cool towards me but then he had not fitted in with any of the officers from the day he joined. I just happened to be the last one he fell out with.
The following morning after breakfast I was heading for my bunk when the other apprentice came in to the cabin in quite a state. The Captain was doing a full ship inspection to get the girls off the ship, where could he, the other apprentice hide the girl. I didn't know or care. I had been on my feet working non-stop for 36 hours. Oh put her in my wardrobe I said. She started to protest, he put his arm around her waist to push her in, she span out of his grasp, leaving him with her shirt in his outstretched left hand. As the girl was in mid spin who came to the door, The Captain, definitely an embarrassing moment, but I was so shattered I simply rolled over and went to sleep.
The next loading port was Miri on Borneo, here we loaded out at sea, the work boats that tended us had the best wicker work fenders that I ever saw. The pilot /loading masters were Pukha Sahihs and I remember the 3rd engineer reporting how they had hired a jeep and driven right round the island, he was upset when I got a chart to show him where we were and the improbability that his claim was true. There were also claims that they had met and stayed for a while with Dum-Dum a legendary girl whowas said to be dumb and had quite a history dating to the time of the Japanese occupationWe had hopes of staying for a few weeks in Japanese waters possibly a run or two to Korea but it was not to be - we felt that we had earned our
150% war bonus, but by some well organised quirk of management we only did the one trip and therefore did not qualify.
We discharged the Miri cargo at Pulo Bukom, then on our way up to the Gulf for orders, but the tank cleaning was memorable, after the norm Butterworthing we did a hand wash which meant climbing along the stringers with a hot Butterworth hose bucking under pressure. We wore sandals and shorts only, a sack wrapped over ones arms the hose was then locked under the arm. The water at 180 deg 180lb pressure was tthen used to blast the mud/rust off the stingers, later the same procedure done along the tank bottom. The fumes from the disturbed sludge could make you "drunk" quite easily - when you started to sing you were brought out of the tank for a spell. Miri crude sludge was unusual because it was white like condensed milk compared with the usual pitch black of other crude oils.
When tank washing was completed we went into the tanks with wooden shovels and galvanised buckets to get out the thick sludge which was heaved upon deck by rope and thrown overboard down a wooden shute, this work was always a filthy job . At the end of the day we would get washed in a bucket of kerosene before having a shower.The bonus of this tank cleaning was that the Chief Officer would give every man 1/2 - 1 tumbler full of rum to get rid of the fumes. This ration was above the usual 1/2 tumbler per week which we received.
There were no orders for us when we arrived in the Persian Gulf so we anchored off Bahrain light vessel. A day or so later we went to Mena Al Ahmadi to load, and heard that someone in our London Head office had been given the sack for losing us a day charter.
The discharge port was Liverpool - Stanlow/Ellesmere Port this brought much joy to the troops, My parents visited the ship with some difficulty in finding us as by then we had moved from Ellesmere port to Stanlow, they were very impressed with the accommodation and the care taken by theCaptain for our well being.With being paid off I had enough money to buy a blazer and have a trip to New Brighton and off to a dance at Owen Owens 3rd floor. All very civilised.The voyage was only 109 days of which 33 in port 76 at sea and we had covered 28,494 sea miles.
On leaving Liverpool on a Sunday evening in May was enough to raise a lump in the throat, we were going down river past the Pier Head alongside the Royal Iris ferry - she had crowds on deck singing, dancing, sunning themselves and listening to music which even we could hear - both ships going on a cruise but they would be home in time for supper. We had had some crew changes whilst in port, for instance we had a new Chief Engineer, his reputation had come before him, he was said to be a brilliant engineer, very highly qualified but unfortunately quite mad. He however was the only person on board shaped like a coconut, coconut head as well, close cropped hair cut and green teeth. He never cleaned them his nick name was Frothing Freddy 2. He would on this voyage earn his reputation flying into frenzy with the engine room staff, or anybody for that matter. One evening when we were turned in but the other apprentice had his radio on Frothing Freddy came in to tell him to lower the volume. Alan was a bit slow answering, but his hand was over the edge of the bunk F.F. threw a dart at his hand, fortunately it stuck in the timber between Alan's fingers.
We had a passenger on this voyage Lady Cynthia Page - a lady of mature years, sunglasses and very expensive looking fur coat, she was coming with us to Curacao - West Indies. Unfortunately as we passed the Pier Head we got a change of orders to go to Berne Near Marseilles, on ourway there we went almost into Gib harbour purely for her benefit. She was to leave us as soon as were arrived in France to fly to Curacao.
To get to Berne we had to go up a river/canal through a town and a lifbridge raised to let us pass so that we could go to the loading berth. There were fridge engineers waiting for us as our main fridge had broken, in fact they came aboard and turned 1 valve and all was again in service!! One minutes work.
When we were loading all the deck officers had gone ashore except for the Chief Officer and myself. I realised that the pumpman and I would have to do the loading as the Chief officer was suffering from the DT's - he sent the quartermaster to fetch me and asked me "are you m'Bagpipe"? No sir - Well Mr Marmalade then? - No Sir. Oh your no use to me then and rambled on about snakes and bright lights. Well I told the quartermaster to stay within hearing and let me know if the Chief Officer was ill and likely to hurt himself, but I had to go back on deck and continue the loading.
I had by this time been at sea one year only, before that I had only seen tankers on the horizon from the farm in Wales but during the year at sea had learnt the mechanical operational requirements and the procedures precautions to be taken, but as yet I had not learnt how to calculate what ullages were required from the information gained by taking cargo temperatures and Specific Gravity of the oil.
MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS REMEMBERED.
Chief Steward Graham when we were in Port Said awaiting transit had the Chief Steward of the London Enterprise over for a visit. I had the job of getting him back to the Enterprise, but first had to stop their party, they had a 7lb picklejar
unwashed, full of rum, they were drinking direct from the jar and trying to finish it in one session - they failed but what a mess and smell combined with cigar smoke.
Mrs Putt had grave doubts about having her photograph taken holding the fin of a shark we had caught and hung upside down over the poop awning rails, the Chief Steward persuaded her in the end and he held the other fin - no sooner had the photograph been taken then the shark went berserk (we thought it had already died) it lashed all over the place, bending
almost double with teeth snapping wildly.
Another shark was caught when we had engine breakdown at sea - walking from forward I thought I could see someones trousers hanging over the poop rail - it wasn't it was the sharks liver.On the poop I later saw a lump of meat jump into life pulsate and stop - slide in the blood and a few minutes later repeat the performance - it was the sharks heart out of the body for at least 1/2 an hour then gives rise to the old sailors belief that a sharks heart beats until sunset.
The crew wasted no part of any sharks caught.The skin was used as sandpaper. Teeth for necklaces Backbone for a walking cane. Meat was eaten.
Oil was forced from the liver and combined with raw lemon juice the Greek apprentice poured direct into the eyes to help vision being the Greek myth - all it did was give him very painful eyes.
Tony Heburn - 50+ year old junior engineer served time with Rolls Royce and was a chauffeur for them he was a brilliant card player - so good he won the electricians worldly goods, radio, camera, cash etc. and simply
swapped cabins in the end. He was kind to us taught us not to gamble, only betting for quality street toffees, showing us how some people cheat persuaded us never to gamble.
Colquhour - tall Scott - great fun and a help with studies, in the hot evenings would sit on the rail and play reels etc. on his mouth organ for hours and tell us how to do highland dances. On theCoronation Day going down the Red sea we had a party next day he was late for breakfast and we realised he had lost his teeth he was much embarrassed for a full week
until he found them in a chart folio.
Sparks (Radio Officers) really do go bonkers - on this voyage one really did start talking to ventilators and was not too upset when someone was in wait below deck at the other end of the ventilator answered him to continue the
2nd Mate coming on watch at midnight when vessel in loaded condition heading towards Suez Bay could not understand the red glow everywhere and getting brighter. When he was going up the gangway to the bridge on the port side he was blinded by the red light at his level and very very close - he then realised it was the Newport Rock light and the ship was almost on top of it.
It was too late to keep away from it, but ast it came abeam hard to port and proceed towards the anchorage, this was done successfully - but next morning we checked the chart and reading the draught there was no way
it could have happened, the ship should have been hard aground according to the depth of the water shown on the chart: Lucky "Lifetime 3ird mate we had".
The Captain liked a liquid diet and as we apprentices were getting changed for breakfast we could hear the Captain buzzing the pantry to his "tiger" - we soon cracked the code and verified it, because as we went down for breakfast the tiger would take the captains tray up to his cabin.
The code was something like:-
One long buzz = bottle of Gin
Two longs = 1 case of beer
two short = 1 bottle orange squash
This was every morning- a Long/long long/short short musical buzzer.
Columbia - large flocks of pelicans diving for fish close inshore the birds looked dirty. grey, untidy, grace less mis shaped bundles of feathers - ugly but what good fish gatherers.
SHARK FISHING "TANKER STYLE" Ship stopped
1 butchers meat hook
3 fathom seizing wire
12 fathom point line
1 heaving line or heavy point line
1 1/2 leg of lamb.
Close non- pointed end of butchers hook, bend on seizing wire, make other end last to point line which preferably has metal thimble at eye splice the other end of point line secured to poop bits or on winch drum end. Bait hook and lower till meat just visible under water.Wait until pilot fish in vacinity then pay attention.
Give gentle motion to meat when being circled by shark but make sure line free to run and no one standing in bight,
As shark approaches to take meat let go and stand clear.The shark will charge about furiously - allow to do so until it tires do not take line in hand, you could go over the side and the shark you see will not be alone.
When the shark tired and the line is "up and down" use winch to haul up until only the tails is in the water.
Make a running noose around the point line and work down over the sharks head and fins, pull tight when near the tail.
Use winch to heave tail up, slack bait line until shark is inverted and allow to thrash around, then allow further 1/2 hour when shark is still. The weight of unsupported intestines pushes down on the heart to kill the shark.
Haul shark on board and hang upside down over awning strut .Remember even when dead the shark can still maim the unwary - the shark will after disembowelling and heart out thrash about with snapping jaws and if they close on you - ugh.
Having killed and cut up your shark cut up and throw pieces over the side, other sharks will fight for the pieces. This gives opportunity for them to be shot with the ships .45 Colt if the are near the surface and you get a brain shot, the sharks will then attack their new victim.
Neptune & Helpers
London Pride with dry cargo facilities added after I left her