Natural Phenomena & Events
..................... plus a personal view of things.
School Visit in a UK port
Cold - Anchoring in the sea off Marmara in a strong NE wind
directly from Siberia and the wind chill factor froze my face
and when it thawed all my fillings fell out.
Cold - Temperatures of minus over 25°F recorded in
the Baltic but it was a dry cold and was quite comfortable
when properly dressed for it.
Wind - Typhoons, hurricanes with force +12 experienced
but they were expected.
The worst wind experienced was in La Spezia at 2am a
sudden wind came with no warning like an express train
from force 0 to 12 in minutes and we were on a
Mediterranean moor "stern on" finishing our discharge and
very high out of the water. All twelve ropes/wires as well as
the cargo hose that was discharging oil at 140lbs pressure all
parted with one mighty twang !!
Water temperature - Steep thermo cline (water layers with
large temperature difference between the layers causes the
ships electrical echo sounder to give false under keel depth
of water information) when approaching Rackall. We were
look for a patch of 70 fathoms as a positional fix. We found it
but then the echo continued to show ever decreasing depth of
water until the echo vanished into the under vessel clutter.
All in a matter of minutes. How bad would the grounding be??
On rock, at full sea speed, no alteration in course would help
as we did not know where the patch was located and nowith time to reduce speed. In fact no grounding happened because just as quickly the apparent depth of water under the keel increased to the expected 70 fathoms.
18" step in the sea surface - Off Ushant a clash between tidal flows
Phosphorescent sea - On a dark night in the Persian Gulf, from horizon to horizon we could see:-
1.Expanding undersea clouds of pale green light explode into view
2.Large balls of phosphorescent light describe circles like underwater Catherine wheels
3.Pairs of "light tubes" in parallel formation approach the vessel at speed coming from one horizon and then passing directly under the bridge and continue to the opposite horizon
All this activity happened in total silence except for shipboard noises- very eerie
Most beautiful bird - Ocean albatross on the wing.
Unexpected location for a bird - Penguins on the Cape Town beach.
Ugliest bird - Brown pelicans.
Ugliest Insect - Praying mantis (10" long and bright green)
Noisiest insect - Bombay tiger when you stand on it unexpectedly ( you thought that you had stood on a pebble and then the shell cracks ).
-Crickets sing all night and are difficult to locate but to silence them throw a bucket of water behind the pipe covers where they hide and the water wets their legs, when they next rub their legs together to make a noise their legs are soggy and they are unable to continue their "song".
Thousands of spear blades standing upright in a calm sea what are they?? - seals on their backs basking in the sun off Cape Town.
European Poverty - Teneriffe people living in caves, you could see their brass bedsteads but they had to carry water in five gallon paint drums.
- In Aden seeing a man with elephantitis, his left leg did look exactly as it was the bottom part of an elephant's leg.
-In Bombay for the first time seeing a heavily deformed boy, stump legs propelling himself along the road by means of his rag covered knuckles on a tray mounted on small wheels and no one seemed to notice him.
Sobering moments - Seeing tankers that had been on fire or had exploded
Dromus (Shell) at Pulo Bukom
Atlantic Queen (Greek) at Swansea
Duffield (Huntings) at Curacao
Wave Victor (RFA) at Swansea
Oldest cars - On the harbour mole at Montevideo.
Oldest planes - Beira World War 1 "Bleriot" type and other string bags.
Rustiest ships - Russian whale catching fleet returning from the Antarctic.
My personal biased general view of National Characteristics
Germans - Mad keen on uniforms, but OK if when they first try to be assertive you put them in their place
they can be very good, but not as good as they thought they were (how else could we have beaten them in their national sport in 1918 and 1945).
Belgians - Difficult group of "job worth" officials.
French - They think that the world should all speak French and be proud of the privilege.
Americans - I never met an American, American. They are all Italian American, Greek American, Irish American etc. As individuals they are the most hospitable people and invite you to their home. American politics can cause intolerance, during McCarthy time any one who did not agree with you was a "pinko"
i.e. communist sympathiser hence all the immigration documentation we had to comply with when visit the USA.
When the Cuban missile crisis was in full swing they sent their navy out to Guantanamo Bay to try to intimidate us into not going into Cuban ports (at the same time of their trade embargo with Cuba, they were buying Cuban sugar that had been shipped to Mexico and railed to Texas as Mexican sugar. Cuban sugar was also transhipped via Haiti up to Canada for the New England states as best quality Haitian sugar).
Russians - The first impression was how large and manly the women were as they did repairs to the quayside with large stones carried by hand. The other sort were the translators and military majors who boarded the vessel to check our credentials. They were very well dressed in best quality leather boots and furs.
The officials at the time of the old war were convinced that all the countries with whom they shared borders were intending to attack "mother Russia" at the instigation of imperialist America.
Goods available in the shops for the public were very limited, there was no unemployment. Food and accommodation was heavily subsidised by the state. Abuse of vodka was a major problem. Martial music was heard on public address systems for hours on end ship/shore the general public were most friendly and eager to talk English to Valerie and me.
Colourful sunsets- west of Ceylon in the south west monsoon
Cleanest atmosphere- furthest south in the Australian Bight
Quietest place - Nantaali (Finland) in the winter
Hottest place- Djibouti in the Red Sea 145* F.
Difficult to breathe
Violent Thunder & Lightning - in Columbia over the Andes mountains - like a gigantic firework display and made radio reception very difficult.
Wettest-Monsoon storm off Indonesia. We were under the windlass cementing the anchor cable but the downpour was so strong that it washed the cement away and made it difficult to breathe.
Largest swell- in the South Atlantic from Capetown to La Plata. The swell was from directly ahead and was higher than the ship's bridge - say about 50 feet high.
Densest Fog- on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. We could not even see the maindeck from the bridge and with our steam whistle blowing every 2 minutes it got very wearing after a time.
Greatest visibility - due to refraction of light round the Earths curvature we saw Cape Aghulas light (South Africa) at a distance of 126 miles when it was only rated normally at 35 miles. We saw the actual light- not just the loom of it.
Another memory of the School Visit
The London and Overseas Freighters Ltd
1952 - 1965
Background to fifty memorable shipmates ( memorable even after 46 years )
This was the best of times to be at sea in the British Merchant Navy.It was a period of confidence in trade and the fleets were expanding .The number of available very experienced officers made for the best of training for new apprentices. The experienced officers did not get into trouble they had seen it coming and taken early and appropriate action to prevent unexpected close quarter situations developing. It resulted in a well formed and qualified rigid hierarchy where everyone was proud of being in the Merchant Navy.
Everyone wore a uniform, officers developed an allegiance to "their" shipping line, everyone had a position to fill based on their qualifications (appropriate Certificate of Competence issued by BOT Board of Trade)
When I was an apprentice it was the time of National Service conscription but Merchant Navy seamen were exempt from service as long as they stayed in the MN until they were 26 years old. Many young men with an engineering background went to sea in the Merchant Navy instead of doing two years service in the army, navy or airforce. They would spend up to the age of twenty six in the Merchant Navy where they would see the world and be better paid.
Experience. Everyone knew their duties and personal responsibilities -second officer, watch keeping navigation, chart corrections, cargo in port Third officer watch keeping navigation, lifeboat fire safety equipment, cargo in port.
The impression that the orientals had inscrutable faces is not true. When agitated due to the severe disappointment at being told that they were not being relieved the faces of the Chinese crew were very scrutable, being distorted with rage and no longer yellow but puce.
Although only seven years after the war, where all the senior officers had been watch keepers on British ships since 1939 it was very rare for any of them to tell stories of their experiences of 1939-45. On a world wide trading (tramping) tanker we were a small enclosed community away from home for very long periods which taught us tolerance and also made us find ways to overcome any local difficulties.
We were away from Head Office interference as even radio traffic was at a minimum unlike today where due to satellites, fax and email the Head Office can speak to the Captain any time of the day or night. There were times that we were out of communications for days due to the atmospheric conditions, or the port officials had the radio closed down.
At this time there was conscription of men into the services but the pay was low, so many engineering apprentices when they finished their time elected to got to sea and get paid to see the world, (but to avoid conscription they had to stay at sea until they were 26 years of age). Many of the age of 26 left the sea and took their pension contributions with them, but the shipping line contribution was kept by the MNOP Pension Fund for the Merchant Navy and over the years those that stayed in the pension scheme were to benefit from the retained Line Contribution in the form of an enhanced pension.
Captain Donald M Muir
I sailed with him from apprentice to Chief Officer he was from Leith and spoke with a strong accent. His wife was Maisie and they had two daughters (adopted?). His favourite football team was "Hibs".
When he was second officer on a Ben Line vessel in Hong Kong during the war he was captured and interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, but he claimed that at no time since then had be weighed more (when I knew him he was very gaunt in appearance).
On our first trip as apprentice he was very hard on us we worked from 07.00 to 18.00 or sunset whichever was the latest. We thought that we had done well if we got as far as Thursday before being told that we had transgressed by leaving a run in the paintwork called a "holiday" (there are only holidays allowed Christmas day Boxing day New Years day and Good Friday) so for that you will be working this weekend.But in later years we could laugh at anyone else who thought that they were giving us a hard time by comparison they were amateurs.
If we were having a party in a cabin he would visit by opening the curtain and if you said come in and join us he would smile stay for usually only one drink make his excuses ad leave and possibly later he would send a case of beer down. If, as did happen, engineers in particular did not ask him in but stared him out with no comment waiting for him to say something his usual quote was "I'll have nay parties on mah ship" and the bond would be shut for a few days thus making him very unpopular with the engineers.
In some ways Donald Muir was very enlightened in his man management he would tell junior navigation officers "Jesus Christ was infallible, the Pope may be infallible, I am no infallible - so check the courses on the chart!"
He was the first Captain with whom I sailed to give officers experience prior to being promoted of acting in the position to which they aspired eg Chief Officer to be on the bridge and manoeuvre the vessel for picking up pilot , Second Officer to berth the vessel from the focsle instead of the poop.
It was unbelievable for me to hear many years later that he and nineteen others had lost their lives when the London Valour on 11th October 1971 during a storm grounded and sank against a mole at Genoa. The subsequent Court of Enquiry held Captain DM Muir responsible. Knowing his character I found it incredible.
Captain Clem Wilson
Captain Clem Wilson was small in stature but his most remarkable feature was that his head was a spitting image of Clement Atlee the recent UK Prime Minister.
Chief Officer John Williams
Was not only a hard man on we apprentices but mean with it. We had worked one hundred and thirteen hours in one week which included tank cleaning between Lisboa and Gibraltar without the aid of the crew because it was a weekend and they would have been paid overtime and we were not. I was so exhausted that I slept for thirty one hours straight with no food/drink or even going to the toilet. The Chief Steward became concerned thinking that I was in a decline, he managed to get me on my feet, even if I did not know where I was and was rubber legged and had double vision.
Williams said we could have shore leave in Gibraltar, but we said that we had no money in the ship, he said "never mind I will give you some". He gave me £3 (we were paid £7.10.00 a month at that time) and I thought what a nice chap he was after all. That was until nine months later when we paid off I found that we had drawn £3 at Gibraltar according to our payslip and had therefore been in debt to the ship something which was not allowed.
His home was in Jersey, Channel Islands where his mother ran the Robin Hood Hotel.
He had at one time had his own small tanker working on the Chinese coast and rivers but the arrival of the communists Moa Tse Tung forced him to lose his ship.He had a Chinese wife called Mai Lai. She was a very small woman and spoke very little English but we felt that she would have liked to be allowed to speak to us sometimes. She was however able to barter on our behalf with the traders in change alley Singapore when we bought a few souvenirs to take home from our first trip.
Chief Officer George Putt
Had served his time with Eagle Oil and was a very good tanker man.
Second Officer Ian Coquhoun
Tall slim dark haired highlander who had a good sense of humour and a very good man at a party as he played the concertina very well. On Coronation day we were in the Red Sea and had a party. The next day Ian did not come in for breakfast, nor for lunch. Eventually we found the reason, he had lost his teeth! Several days later he found them in a chart folio which he must have been correcting on the night of the party. Years later I heard that he was working ashore on the Tees at a refinery .
Second Officer Stevens
Very long wavy grey hair and a large scar on the left side of his neck. The most remarkable thing was his speech impediment, a heavy stutter, but a very nice man.
Third Officer Norman Evans
From Swansea and his plan was to return home and become a Swansea pilot.He was a very strong swimmer and when I was encouraged to jump into the sea from the companionway when we were anchored in deep water off Sidon he said he would look after me, I believed him and jumped in. I was virtually a non swimmer but felt that the deep water was more buoyant than shallow water when Theo Iltsopolis jumped in close to and started to dunk me! I was going under when Norman Evans came to my rescue and fished me out. He then jumped back into the water and gave Iltsopolis a thorough dunking which would ensure that he knew what it felt like and would never do it again to anyone else.
Chief Steward Lewis
Allegedly he was "Bomber Kid Lewis" one time British Boxing Champion, but he got into trouble on the Pride because had a pistol in a leather holster which he showed us on leaving Palermo. But somehow it got lost and there was trouble with the authorities in Sidon, Lebanon, and he left the ship on our return to the UK.
Chief Steward Graham
An archetypal old Chief Steward of the worst type possible.
Chief Steward Shewan
A tall slim balding nice chap. His claim to fame with me was that he encourage Mrs Putt to have her photograph taken holding a shark (which we all believed to be quite safely dead) the shark had been caught hours earlier and was still and hung upside down on an awning spar. No sooner than they were both holding the shark and posing for their photograph than the shark went into convulsions leaping and biting in all directions. When it comes to the land speed record for standing long jumps we were unable to say who won the record Shewan or Mrs Putt.
The heart was later cut out of the body but was still pulsating hours later confirming the legend that it will beat until sunset out the body.
Chief Engineer "Frothing Freddy" Staincliffe
By reputation one of the most highly qualified engineer to sail for LOF. He was erratic and was known to throw darts across the apprentices' cabin and the darts ended up sticking in the wooden bunk side between the apprentices fingers!. He did help we apprentices to understand ships engines by showing us how to use a Planometer to calculate the engines performance, compression rating, slip for the day etc. He also allowed us into the engines crankcase to do labouring work for the engineers when they did major repairs ie changing piston of a Doxford at sea
We apprentices were also allowed to put water on deck. This was to help us later because we understood the time taken for engineers to leave the phone climb two flats to the boiler room and turn valves and the time it then took the water or steam (water hammer to be prevented) to fill the pipes and reach the location required on deck. Because of this experience we did not in later years when watch keepers phone down to the engineers with "why have you not got the water on deck yet" questions just after they had stopped turning valves, flown down two flats to answer the phone when they were already hot and tired.The result was that in later years we did not experience oil and water attitude problems where deck officers called the engineers "pig iron polishers" and the engineers called the deck officers "deck ornaments" or if in the tropics "snow drops". The engineers enjoyed our showing them how to recognise stars, navigate and take sights.
Chief Engineer Bill Boyes
A good happy engineer but unfortunately years later we heard that he lost his life by falling between ship and quay when returning from a run ashore in Houston or possibly New Orleans.
Junior Engineer Tony Heburn
His job title may have been Junior Engineer but was possibly the oldest engineer on board. He had served his time with Rolls Royce and was a very good card player. He would not gamble with people who could not afford to lose but he did show we apprentices how to play cards better. He and the Fourth Engineer were on watch together and after their watch would play cards with other engineers and the electrician who was not very popular with everyone, they all played cards and the electrician lost everything, all his personal gear, camera etc and even his radio, in the end they simply changed cabins.
Once we had been told that we were going to have a long voyage from Curacao to Singapore non stop, forty four days without a call in any port. What did the Fourth and Heburn do but "cut off" all their hair then at 23.45 hours Heburn took out his teeth and with a gurning face pulled he awoke the Third Engineer. The shock of being awoken to see such a face was too much and stayed with him for years. As their parting gesture to the electrician they nailed a flying fish on the underside of the electrician's settee just about at nose level. In time weeks after they left the electrician was about demented he had searched his stinking cabin from top to bottom without finding the source of the smell. When he got a radio message from Heburn, who was by then on another of the company's ships, in the message he asked if the cause of the smell had been found? When told no he gave the location of the flying fish and the cabin in time became habitable again.
Only with us a very short time. He was sea sick all the time from Tranmere to Palermo his wife was about to have a baby so he was discharged. We think that he only came to sea to avoid doing his National Service and stayed until he was 26 so as not to be conscripted.
Captain Fred Osler ( a remarkable escape from drowning)
His first command. He was immaculate and the only man that I saw wear Shantung silk whites. He seemed to always be pacing his deck in good weather and yet knew if the cook had spilt some fat in the galley and out of sight.He had a history in that he was on a merchant ship in Crete and when ashore he found that the Germans were landing by parachute nearby. What did he do but help himself to a .303 rifle and led a charge up the hill against the Germans and got himself mentioned in despatches.
Next he was on a ship that was part of a Russian convoy where his ship berthed in late summer and before the discharge was completed the ship was frozen in until the following spring. They then moved to a river loading berth and got frozen in until the following spring thaw when they sailed home.
Some year after we sailed together a report went around the fleet that a LOF tanker was in the Red Sea when the Radio Officer told the Chief Officer that a German Radio Officer had called him and insisted that they had the LOF Captain on board. At first the Radio Officer thought that the German was mad but because he was so persistent he thought that the Mate should be told it was now 06.00 hours. The Mate reluctantly called the apprentice to check the Captain's quarters but he was not there so a full search of the ship was made and no trace of the Captain could be found apart from his slippers by the starboard lifeboat.
At the enquiry that followed it appears that Captain Osler had at 22.30 hours dressed in his night attire and slippers had gone out on deck to threw his red lead sandwiches over the side and poison a few sharks, unfortunately he fell overboard and hit the water from a height of forty five feet and the ship was doing fifteen knots.
In the next few hours six vessel almost ran him down (the shipping routes being close together in the Red Sea) but they neither heard nor saw him. At 0200 hours a German Second Office went to the wing of his bridge to throw his red lead sandwiches into the sea and poison a few sharks when he heard a seagull shouting for help. Funny seagull speaking in English he thought. Then brought the vessel short round quickly and rescued Captain Osler whom they carried on to the Suez Canal.
The Enquiry decided that Captain Osler had been very fortunate:
1.Not having been killed by the fall
2.Been mutilated by the propeller
3.Rundown by passing vessels
4.Drowned through exhaustion
5.That the German Officer was so vigilant and professional
6.That Captain Osler had fallen into the sea after the sharks evening
feeding period and before their dawn breakfast.
Captain George Fox
A large bear of a man from South Shields and brother of the Fleet Commodore. His wife was religious and tried to get church services on Sunday mornings at sea, but they did not take off for some reason or another. George was a very down to earth good Captain.
Elsewhere on these pages is a description of strange events on board
after his death. (Click to read "American Eagle")
Chief Officer and later Captain CED Brierly
We first sailed together when he was Chief Officer and we were apprentices. He was different having been to Dartmouth Naval College in 1914 and had been at sea in the battle of Jutland. After World War 1 he came into a lot of money and lived like a lord in London but eventually the money ran out and he lived in a garret above Paddington Station.
In the 1920's Chris Brierly got a job selling paint in India but he was called to account for his poor sales record. His explanation was simple "Have your every tried to sell "Beefeater" paint in a country of Hindus?"
During the war he joined the Indian Navy and was posted to the "Quoin" Islands at the entrance to the Persian Gulf and checked all vessels which entered the Gulf.
At the age of fifty two he passed his Second Mates exam and at fifty four he passed his masters exam, which we believed was a remarkable achievement. His accent was immaculate and he was the only officer to speak to the apprentices in Latin he would enter the cabin and say Chris (who wants it) I would answer Ego (I do) and I would either find myself with an unexpected extra duty or perk as you never new which it would be. He always had in his cabin a large china statue of a Chinese man (of very similar physical appearance to himself) covered by children.
When I advertised for a sextant at home one response came from a man who brought a three foot brown paper parcel which contained an octant (circa 1806) it was made of ebony, brass and ivory but no glass (peep sight only). It was no good to me but on my return to the vessel I told Chris about it and he got me to buy it for him which I did and he very gladly paid me the £5 it had cost me (nowadays it would set you back thousands of pounds).
When he was Captain and I was Chief Officer he would confine himself to his bedroom for days on end and on one spell he stayed there for three weeks. Fortunately Mrs Joan Brierly was with us that voyage so I would let her know anything that the Captain needed to know and she would tell him when he woke up. This arrangement worked very well and to my mind Captain Mrs Joan Brierly was the best Captain I ever sailed with !!
Mrs Joan Brierly
Mrs Brierly had a history of her own. Joan was very well spoken and had been married to a doctor and lived in East Africa but her husband died and she had to come back to England. She worked for the BBC in London and was in charge of one of the three large typing pools. She met and married Chris Brierly in the early 1950's. On the ship she would encourage the wives to take typing lessons with her at the teacher and if a wife made a typing mistake she would smack them across the knuckles with a ruler to make the point. Despite this all the officers and the wives liked her. When Captain Brierly retired they went to live near Torquay where as Harbour Master he made more money from selling insurance to boat owners than he did as a low paid Harbour Master paid by the Council.
Second Officer E "Neddy" St Roas
Small in stature with two prominent cone shaped bumps on his forehead which made it look as if he was sprouting horns.He came from Cardiff and was a very popular chap and was known to play practical jokes (but he could also take them) eg we were in port working cargo when the Third Mate JAG Lewis at 23.45 hours awoke Neddy St Roas by putting an opened bottle of beer into his mouth so that Neddy woke up by nearly drowning and bug eyed with shock. I believe he got his extra masters and became a Superintendent for Bibby Line
Third Officer Mike J Rowley
I sailed with him more than once and he was always kind to the apprentices he even joined in with us when we went scrumping for dates in Fao (Iraq). He also joined in (when we were safely on board) when we started to howl like wolves to annoy the shoreside population of Pi dogs which when once started in their howling they continued for hours, much to the locals delight!!
The last we heard was that he and his wife had gone to live on a sheep station in New Zealand, possibly doing an occasional fishing trip off Chatham Island.
Third Officer K Wearmouth
I think it was him, but we certainly had one Third Officer on reading Dennis Wheatley's The Haunting of Toby Jugg and he was unable to sleeping without the light being on for a period of six weeks, big hairy sailor that he was!
Chief Engineering Hesketh Large noisy man with a small moustache.
Chief Engineer Thomas
Small slim very agile and full of fun ex Saint Line engineer but despite only having one kidney he kept it well irrigated with the amber liquid.
Second Engineer George Emmerson and wife Nancy
From Sunderland. He was small and always the life of the party and a good engineer with it, Valerie and I sailed with them several times and always enjoyed their company.
Third Engineer Sammy "The White Rat" Wilson
The first of many times we sailed together.He was almost albino which is how he got his nickname.
Fourth Engineer J "Jerry" Lee
Short stocky engineer from the North East he had a high forehead with his hair brushed up and back but another good party man full of jokes.
Captain W King Tall wavy blond haired older Captain very professional slightly remote.
Chief Officer AA Smith
Had during the war been torpedoed when on tankers on three occasions but each time got off without getting his feet wet, he stepped off the deck into the lifeboat.After the war he had a job with the Overseas Development Corporation and his job involved the packing of every plate, bolt and fitting, as well as the engine into cases that could be manhandled. These cases were shipped to Africa, then by rail to the railhead nearest Lake Nyasa, then by cart to the lake where he had to assemble the passenger ferry and run it on the lake.
He was married and lived in Bournemouth, he had a daughter called Penny of whom he thought the world, she had been born with a hole in her heart but had survived well. Later when he was master you knew instantly when any LOF vessel came over the horizon in daylight if it was Captain Smith's ship because he always had the mast truck painted with gold paint.
Chief Engineer Waterfall
He was the only Quaker with whom I sailed as far as I know. He showed me the black covered log book that had been kept by his grandfather who was the Master of a sailing vessel line the 19th century. It was a riveting read from my point of view. He wanted to leave the ship in Melbourne but was not allowed. Then he became ill and had to be left ashore.
Chief Engineer Bergenen
Norwegian relief Chief engaged at Melbourne to take the vessel as far as Freemantle where regular LOF Chief "Steamboat" Graham joined the vessel.
Captain Williamson An " little dictator " who caused us much merriment unknowingly.
1. He would not speak to anyone under thirty years of age.
2. He used to take morning sights from the main deck without advice if the horizon was woolly then go ballistic when he found that I had shut the chronometer box lid.
3. He believed in apparent time and the Second Mate had to change the clocks twelve minutes one night, seven the next, seventeen the next, a bit of a pain in fact he got most upset when the Chief Officer took off 1° for leeway without consultation. The mate had been watchkeeping for say twenty years.
4. The use of the telegraph was forbidden. This I believe was to have disastrous results on a later ship because his watchkeeper had not been confident enough to use the telegraph to prevent a potential emergency.
There was an interest on the ship in reading George Orwell's 1984 and with the way Captain Williamson was behaving it took us no time to claim that the other person was guilty of a "double think" at the slightest provocation or even a flicker of a smile and if a needle on a bridge equipment dial flickered we would burst into laughter because someone on the ship had just had a "double think". Looking back at it now Captain Williamson must have thought us mad.Williamson once hit his shoulder on the bridge telegraph and said that they were set at an awkward height for us normal sized people. Dave Butler and myself agreed as for us the handles were at groin level.
Chief Officer and later Captain G Douglas
Before the war he had been at sea in Stag Line and been off the beaten track by going to such places as Churchill in Hudson Bay. In the war his ship had been captured by a German raider and he had been transferred to the "Telemark" interned and later exchanged on the understanding that he no longer took an active seagoing part in the war. He spent the rest of the war as a compass adjuster in the Bitter Lakes.
Captain J Morgan
Large and with a swarthy complexion a great organizer of parties, for Falmouth nurses for example, where he kept the matron interested and let the young ones have their dance until the taxi came at midnight. The wives stayed until 2 am, then the real party and games continued until 7 am, then shower and breakfast a days work then same again. We were glad to get to sea in time.
Chief Officer Bill Jaeger
Another big man 6 ft 4 inches big with it and a large black beard, but what a poser "he knew the Bishop of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Buckingham Palace was "Buck House" a right little name dropper.
In later years he became President of a serious marine body.
Second Officer "Tug" Wilson
He was the first LOF apprentice but by the time I first met him he had developed into a man who seemed to upset people. This was unfortunate for him because I saw him upset the Chief Steward Shadforth who had been a semi professional boxer and "Tug" got a well overdue good hiding and no sympathy.
Chief Steward Shadforth
A quiet pleasant man, but when enough is enough !! Because of the "Tug" Wilson incident Shadforth got into trouble. Because of his boxing ability, he possessed a potentially lethal skill in his hands, and he had used it, even in a controlled manner, on "Tug" Wilson .
Third Engineer Arthur Priest
He was a New Zealander and was very keen on motor bikes he was also a name dropper and we got fed up of it and started to question his stories, but every time we did this he would whip out a photograph of say him and Geoff Duke, Isle of Man 500cc motorbike champion, looking at Arthur's motor bike. Another photographs was one of Arthur and John Surtees arm in arm. We just could not catch Arthur out in his stories.
Arthur was getting married from the "London Majesty" when in Falmouth dry dock. The bride had a five year old son who ran about the accommodation. One day he got out and on to the deck, then he fell down a ladder
and on to No 5 tank top lid. He was unconscious and had to be rushed to hospital where he was treated for concussion and recovered in a few days. Had the tank lid been open instead of falling 10ft he would have fallen 55ft and not been seen at the bottom of the tank.
Captain WB Blackmore
A pleasant man .His wife was ex WRNS and was an assertive woman . They had four sons who were lively, one of their alleged exploits was that when no one was in the house they were playing war and they ran into the living room throwing a water siphon cylinder into the open fire as if it was a hand grenade and diving behind the settee as they threw it. Next thing there was an explosion, the grate was blown out but they were unhurt!!
Captains "Lothian" Clark
A big bluff man who favoured a crew cut haircut. From the Robin Hoods Bay area,
not to be confused with :-
Captain RK Clark
Also known as RAF Clark because he spent time in South African during the war as an instructor of navigation for the RAF.
Nor confused with:-
Captain John Clark
He lived in Goole and had worked his way up the Spurling Pipe. That is he had started his career as a seaman and worked his way up, I think in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. He certainly had yarns about going to Korea.
John was the spitting image of James Cagney in appearance and always had a joke. John Moss R/O and myself Second Officer, were permanently in stitches with him, and tried to out do him. It made for a very happy trip.
Third Officer Lou Perthan
A very slim lad from the outskirts of London. He had a low tolerance for benzene fumes that came off crude oil cargo. On one occasion we were loading at Mena my attention was drawn to Lou Perthan's voice shouting marching orders to the apprentice he had with him on watch. When I went out on deck I could seen the apprentice marching up and down the deck with the 6ft long ullage stick at the slope arms position and equally drunk on the fumes. To be fair there was a problem taking ullages at No 5 tank as the ullage lids were set into recesses in the accommodation where the full blast of the fumes were impossible to evade when taking ullages.
They both had to be sent to the fo'cs'le head for some fresh air to clear their heads then return to the job in hand. After getting high on fumes you got the same headache you would have expected after a night out on the booze, but a lot cheaper!
Valerie and I went to Lou's wedding a little while after before we got married that was an adventure in itself. On the way back we were in London and I realised that I did not have enough money to get the rail tickets home so what to do, plastic cards not having been invented then. A bit of an embarrassment in front of the girlfriend.
I went to the Station Master's office at Euston and explained the problem. He gave me the money for the rail tickets and insisted we had money for a meal. I wonder if that would be possible now.
Third Engineer Ken Dagnall
He lived in Bebbington on the Wirral and we went to see them when on leave and the last we heard was that he had left LOF and got a job as Lloyd's Surveyor.
Chief Officer Geoff Baskerville
As a passenger we had a nurse going out to start a job out in Kuwait and as a result of the trip out on the Resolution sometime later they got married.
Captain J Dixon
Married and very presentable man, he wore his black hair smoothed down. He was polite and charming to all the wives on board. He organised trips ashore for them as a group frequently escorted by himself and he was at all times good correct company. As we were newly married I was protective and Valerie thought that I was jealous without cause.
Chief Officer Dickie Jeans
He came from Bournemouth and his wife was Jean Jeans and was well liked. which is something that could not be said of Dickie Jeans.
Third Officer David Holt
Fair haired lad whose parents had a bakery at the bottom of Deganway Hill.
Captain Mackenzie He had been on the North Atlantic for ever.
He lived at Wick and on our way from Hamburg to Newport News we went North about. He had made some kitchen cabinets for his home and in passing Wick he radioed ahead for a fishing vessel to pick them up when he stood into the bay, he had left a bottle or more in the cabinet as payment for delivery to his home. We could also see his wife on the headland waving a white tablecloth.
He knew the northern waters as no one else that I had sailed with did. He told me "do not allow for leeway at 14.00 hours when by then the ship will be a mile south of the line because by 15.15 she will be back on course and by 16.00 hours will be one cable north of the line". He was right because he knew the current strengths for each hour of the tide after the recent weather had had its effect
Second Officer Dave Witherick
He lived at Dachet near Windsor. He almost saw the joke when just after had to be circumcised and was on his first meal relief he saw the mate bring a banana out of his pocket and with the chartroom scissors cut the end off the banana before peeling it.
Radio Officer Murdo Riley and his wife Irene.
They lived in Dundee.Murdo had been on an LOF tanker trading down in Chile for some time and had married Irene a very nice person.
Second Officer L Young
He came from a well to do family, Pringle who owned a highly respected label of skirts for ladies called Goray which they sold from a high fashion shop in Edinburgh. He was smart and had been a pupil at Herriot Watt however we ended up having a fallout. The last I heard of Young was that he was Superintendent for Saguaney the Sun ships that worked for Alcan.
Chief Engineer Malcolm McGuire
He lived in Cardiff and was missing the top knuckle of one finger which he would drum on the table if making a point especially if it put people off. Malcy was the heart and soul of a party man, with him in the room everyone smiled. The Engineers had finished a long hard day in Skaramanga dry dock our Captain R Clark, Chief Engineer McGuire, Second Engineer Eckerman and myself Chief Officer with our wives went to a nightclub in Athens.
Malcy fell asleep on the semi circular bench seat around our table then suddenly he sat up bolt upright and looked at the exotic dancers who were waving their long highly coloured feather fans about, and said in a loud voice "my father was prosecuted for keeping chickens in better condition than that" then he slumped back to sleep.
At sea he was very good company and played quite a few practical jokes. When we were in Hong Kong changing crew a "love boat" came alongside and the girls worked their way up one alleyway of the ship and down the other. I refused their kind offer of entertainment however I knew that the Chief Engineer although very shy would love to have them entertain him in his cabin. They found his cabin and were most persistent and he had to get upset to get them to go away because that really not his way of life. He almost saw the joke and eventually forgave me.
Captain A Alexander and his wife
Captain Alexander joined LOF just after we had started on the Russian Cuba contract. His home was in East Grinstead and his mother lived in Simmons Town the ex naval base in Cape Province, South Africa.
His was a Royal Navy background and he had been badly injured in the war when serving in a county class cruiser. He suffered major injury to his chest and abdomen as a result of being torpedoed near Gibraltar and after a long time in hospital he was sent to the Isle of Man to a Stone Frigate where he was responsible for the training of young seamen entrants.
It took us some time to understand his terminology as he was proper Royal Navy and would call me Number One instead of Chief Mate he also would say that the vessel was "walking astern" instead of "had sternway" etc.
He had a very good camera which was only shown to myself and he was also very interested in any observations made by our watchkeepers about the size shape guns aerials number of men on deck or bridge of the many Russian or Cuban vessels which circled us when we were in their waters. When handing the ships drawings (of where we could mount guns on a tanker) and other of our documents to Agent/Consul Official as we went through the Bospheros he would also have unmarked mail in good envelopes.
Well it was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Captain Ward A memorable LOF Captain with whom I did not sail
A man with a large reputation. He had been a Captain with Eagle Oil a well respected company which had pioneered super tankers in the 1920's with 24,000 ton San Bernadino, San Fernando etc.
Although he had a large pension from Eagle Oil he found it hard to live on it. Therefore joined LOF and frequently his wife did a voyage with him.
Some remarkable natural phenomena
Meteors: When we were acting as a weather reporting ship we had several events recorded in the official Newletter that the Met. Office published.
Under water effects....
magnificent to see