Second Mate’s Ticket

I’d been released by the Company to attend Liverpool Technical College to study and to take my Second Mates Foreign Going ticket. This was when I would find out if my shipboard studying, via correspondence course, had been successful.

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I think this is the old building that I attended on Hunter St. Liverpool, but If I’m wrong perhaps someone will help me out.

How times have changed, because we were all ‘adults’ taking the cramming course, we were allowed to smoke in the lecture halls & corridors.
Considering the tragic fire at the Henderson’s Department store in June 1960 one would have thought smoking in such confined areas would have been forbidden.

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Eleven people died in the Henderson’s fire. It was the type tragedy that everyone on Merseyside knew where they were that day. The fire changed the law in the UK with regard to fire safety laws. The Office Shops and Railway Premises Act was amended to be brought in to line with the Factories Act, which gave fire brigades the power to inspect for fire safety and to make requirements for means of escape, and provisions for fighting fires and structural fire separation.

It was the worst fire in Liverpool since the bombing during WW2.

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Henderson’s was an ‘up market’ department store – the above shows the original building. The building was rebuilt and re-opened in 1962, but finally closed in 1983.

The course for 2nd Mates consisted of several papers – ship construction, navigation, chart work, seamanship, cargo stowage, ship stability, mathematics, English, plus an oral examination given by a real ‘old’ sea captain who might have completed his time in sail. We also had to pass a first aide course, firefighting course, radar course, to name just a few extras. All of us would already have our helmsman certificate & lifeboat certificate.

The first aid course was with the St John Ambulance, and it was required because a British ship with less than 99 people aboard was not required to carry a doctor. If you became sick or injured it was usually the First Mate who would deal with you and he would expect you to hold the manual while he looked at your wound and compared it to the photograph in the book. I still have a copy of The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide, which I bought ‘just in case’ – published by Ministry of War Transport in 1946, at a cost of 3/6d. I bought it second hand, but can’t remember how much I paid.

 

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Make sure nothing is missing if you have to open someone up . . .

Pic02Does it remind you of Ikea – this goes with that, and make sure you don’t have anything left over when you’ve finished.

St JohnI also still have my St John Ambulance First Aid book, 1961 edition, which cost of 4/- and a revised edition dated 1964, another 4/- worth of medical knowledge, which fortunately I have never had to use.

After three months of ‘cramming’ we sat our paper examination, because the orals were at the end, and we had to pass both main sections.

It was late on a Friday afternoon when I had my oral exam. Not a good time considering that the examining captain might have been examining prospective candidates all week, and might be tired.

During the exam I was checked for my knowledge of ship handling, ship stability, and what I would do in certain circumstances.
Unfortunately my weak spot was Morse code. I had a model Morse tapper at home and had practiced using it, but I was not very good at all.

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My hand was shaking so much with nerves, that when I grasped the key-tapper I found it hard to tap out the actual letters and not add extra dots or dashes. I grabbed it and banged out the message in front of me, the light, for the examiner to read my message, was behind me and above my head.
When I finished the examiner looked at me and said ‘ Whenever you are ready.’ I thought I’d finished, but he’d not been looking at the light! – but at my file.
Eventually he stopped my examination and told me to go home and practice my Morse code, and to come back on Monday.
If he failed me on Monday, I would have to go back to sea as a cadet for a minimum of three months, on cadet’s wages. I was not happy.

The weekend was spent banging out Morse messages, and on Monday I showed up bright and early.
As I walked in the examination room, he showed me an array of flags and asked for their meaning. Flags I loved, and knew them all, and I was good at semaphore  – he then asked a few other questions and told me that I’d passed!
I looked blank, and he asked, ‘How was your weekend’, and in the same breath stated that he bet I spent the whole weekend practicing Morse.
I agreed that I did, and as he shook my hand, he said ‘Thought you would’ and smiled.

I think this captain’s name was Captain Rose, and he had one glass eye due to a war wound. I’d heard stories of students looking at the wrong eye (they should have looked at the real eye) , which caused the students problems – I don’t know if this is true or not.

There is an old story of one cadet at his oral’s examination who was told to imagine that he’d lost power and his ship was closing on a rocky shore. He was asked what he would do . . .

“Drop my starboard anchor, Sir.’.

The examiner said that the wind was so strong that he was dragging his anchor – what would you do?

‘Drop my port anchor, Sir’

The wind and storm were still driving him ashore.

In the end the cadet dropped seven anchors, at which time the examiner asked where he was getting all his anchors.

The cadet replied – the same place you are getting your wind.

He was sent back to sea for three months on cadet’s wages.

I managed to spin the study time out so much that I had Christmas at home. Besides passing my second mates ticket, I also met my future wife Maureen, which was another reason that I managed to spin the time out to have Christmas at home.

During study time I was not paid by the company because technically I was no longer an employee. We were expected to have put money aside while at sea, which was virtually impossible on our low wages.
So I had to go on the dole . . .which was an experience, because I was not available for work due to being at college, yet I’d paid in to the system since I was sixteen and was not in work . . . . so every Friday at 11.00 am (I think it was 11.00 am) I queued with others who were also studying at the college, to draw the dole.

I, and many others, were paid £4.00 a week, and a class mate, who was from Nigeria, was also in the queue, and on our first ‘pay day’ he was paid £6.00 a week. So as we all walked to the pub for lunch, we asked the Nigerian why did he receive £6.00, and we only received £4.00.
His answer was that he received the £4.00 as we did, plus £1.00 Commonwealth allowance for being away from his home country, and £1.00 because he was black.
By this time we were in the pub for lunch, and his comments brought the house down with laughter, because we never expected his particular answer about the final pound.
From then on the ‘black’ £ always bought the first round as we toasted Harold Wilson, with our thanks for lunch, he was the Prime Minister at the time.  skyphotos_east_africa

By mid-January 1966, I’d completed interviews in London for a position as 3rd Mate with BISNC, after which I was appointed to the passenger ship ‘Uganda’. This ship, with her sister ship, SS Kenya, operated a regular passenger service between the UK and East Africa.

I thought it a little odd that I would be posted to such a prestige vessel after just passing my 2nd Mates. Passenger ship positions were not normally offered to brand new 2nd Mate ticket holders.

I joined her in London dry dock, and was told that I would not be sailing with her, but that I was more of a caretaker 3rd Mate as she finalised her time in dry dock and moved to a wharf to load cargo for her outbound voyage to East Africa. I stayed with her for ten days before being sent home to wait until called – at least I was being paid!

Just a little about SS Uganda

SS Uganda was converted from being a liner, to becoming a school ship in 1967, I think she replaced my old friend SS Dunera.

In 1982 Uganda was requisitioned for service to the Falklands during the what we now know as the Falkland war. She was requisitioned half way through a cruise, so all the students and teachers were disembarked in Naples.

She then steamed to Gibraltar to be fitted out as a hospital ship.    image005

During her time in the Falklands she was known as ‘Mother hen’, and treated 730 casualties, including 150 Argentinian soldiers who were prisoners.

On her return to the UK she was laid up in the River Fal . . .9a3c3255f7856ddcd4bacd6ddc032445 (1)

She sat rotting for a year, and in 1986 P & O, the owners of Uganda, decided that she should be scrapped, and they sold her for this purpose, which took place in Taiwan.

I was at home three weeks waiting for another ship, and finally I was called to London to join Nuddea.

Nuddea

SS Nuddea – launched in 1954 for the UK to Australia run, 8,596 gt.

We didn’t go ‘foreign’, but coastal work around the UK. There was a little bit of excitement while in London docks when a fire broke out in number six hold. It was soon put out, after which we went to the pub – any excuse.

The coastal work was constant – working cargo then on to the next port and so on and so on.

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Eventually we arrived in Liverpool, so I was able to see Maureen again.

The Nuddea had been to Australia and had a cargo of milk powder for Liverpool. The shore gangs came on board and started to unload. Working in the hold the shore labour would load bags of milk powder in to slings.

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                                                    This picture is to illustrate what I mean.

At a signal the winch driver would haul the loaded slings out of the hold to deck level. He then dragged the full slings to the ship’s side and the bags were deposited on the wharf. By dragging the bags along the deck he ripped the bottom layer of bags and the contents were spilling all over the deck, down the side of the ship and on to the wharf. As officer of the watch I remonstrated with the winch driver that he had to pick the cargo up higher, so as to avoid ripping the bags. The winch driver objected to me telling him what to do and walked off the job. Work on the ship came to a halt!

I waited in the ship’s office for work to recommence. It didn’t. The union rep came on board and wanted to see the First Mate.
The First Mate entered the office to speak to me after the union rep had left and asked me to apologise to the winch driver for asking him to lift the bags higher.

‘What happens if I refuse to apologies?’ I asked, because I considered that the dock worker was not doing his job correctly, and he was damaging our Australian cargo.

‘Liverpool will close, and every ship in port will stop work’, was the answer.

At that time containerisation was in its infancy and many cargo ships used either their own derricks to load / unload cargo or they used shore side cranes.

I didn’t have a choice, so I apologised and the labour returned to work.

Shortly after this incident, I paid off the Nuddea, because I’d been given a little leave prior to flying out East to begin my two and half year ‘Eastern Service’.

BISNC had about half their ships based out east (Bombay, Calcutta or Singapore) and the other half based in London. The London based vessels were referred to as the Home Line service. The Home Line ships would sail from the UK to East Africa or India / Persian Gulf.
The Eastern Line ships would sail anywhere from the Persian Gulf to New Zealand or China, without returning to European waters.
Eastern Line ships had a very different feel to the Home Line based vessels. Eastern Line were more relaxed, and we never had to worry about an unscheduled visit from anyone from Head Office.
Many of us replaced our off the peg British uniforms with tailor made shirts & shorts, which were made in Bombay or Singapore.
The shorts & shirts were made for the tropics, and worked very well in the humidity. I still have a pair of shorts made in Singapore in 1966, and before you ask, I can still get in them . . .

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The wrong type of material for the tropics – the material was fine for European waters.

The Lighthouse

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That house so tall and stark and bare,

Stands for all of them out there,

Without that house and friendly light

Would mean a ship is lost this night.

To see the light flash thro the rain,

Means Old Lucifer has lost again.

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The wind it howls along the shore

To freeze them all, both rich and poor,

No amount of wealth will pay

The price those men will give today,

Without that light they will be

Lost at night upon the sea.

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The rocks just wait to grab a hold

Of any ship that is too bold,

For many ships must have been

Along that coast and had not seen

The flash of warning in the night

From that lofty house with its great light.

Homeward bounder.

Thirty six hours after disembarking our first Baltic cruise students we embarked another full complement for our second cruise to the Baltic.

For this cruise our first port of call was Stockholm; what a beautiful interesting city.

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We arrived off the coast of Stockholm during the night, and picked up our pilot and sailed quietly through the archipelago of the many islands that stretches 80 km offshore.

By sacrificing some of my night’s sleep I was able to make out, what I believe was the distant northerly lights of the Aurora Borealis. We hadn’t reached the man made lights of Stockholm and the night was free of light pollution. When it is full summer, which means hardly any ‘night’, it is very unusual to see the Aurora Boreslais.

The above picture is from the internet to try and illustrate what I saw, but I saw the ‘light’ well before we reached the light pollution of Stockholm.

Dawn came up before 5.00 am, which ended any further chances of seeing the Northern Lights, but instead we had the city of Stockholm waking for a new day.

During the tour of the city we visited the Vasa.

Vasa

The Vasa was a sailing ship that sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage just 1400 yards in to her voyage.
Her guns were removed in the 17th century and she was left to rot until she was found again in the late 1950’s.
She was salvaged in 1961 and placed in a special building where the ship was sprayed with a chemical to stop her rotting away in the air. The mist in the above photograph is the chemical spray.
When I saw her in 1965 we were able to walk around the outside of the vessel on a special suspended catwalk.
Today, if you wish an update of the Vasa click on the link for the blog about our visit in 2018, it was a wonderful experience.
The image of the ship had been in my mind for over fifty years and in 2018 I was fortunate to revisit the Vasa.

We stayed overnight is Stockholm and sailed the following evening for Leningrad.

On arrival in Leningrad (now called St Petersburg again) at 6.00 am, we were greeted by hundreds of school students, dressed in gym wear, running around a large concrete area alongside to which we berthed. We were not in the cargo area of the port, nor where we in a cruise area, (if they had one in 1965), so I assume that because we were carrying so many students, we berthed at a special wharf to maximise the propaganda aspect of our arrival. We felt sorry for the gymnasts because it was quite cold at 6.00 am, even in May.

The athletic exhibition carried on for about an hour, after which the athletes left the area in a disciplined manner.
After about twenty minutes I think most of our students had left the viewing deck, partly because it was cold, but more likely for their breakfast.

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The flag of the USSR in 1965 – one didn’t feel welcome, and the cold war was still on going.
The Cuba missile crisis with the US was only two and a half years earlier, in October 1962

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The current flag, which is less threatening . . .

Later in the morning a fleet of coaches arrived to take our students on an educational visit around Leningrad.

As the students disembarked, I noticed that many had bulging pockets, but thought nothing of this as they were ‘children’ around thirteen or fourteen and many kids carried junk in their pockets. It was only later that I found out that some of the Scottish students had already completed a cruise a year earlier and had visited Leningrad. This time they had come prepared with their pockets full of ball point pens, Bic Biros we used to call them, which they sold to local Russians for a very fat profit. I don’t know if they received rubbles or dollars for the pens. Others had common cheap items, pencils, rubbers (erasers if you are from the US), bought cheaply from the likes of Woolworths in Scotland. I had a lot to learn from these Scottish ‘students.’

Bic

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As an aside – in 1965 the French ministry of education approved the Bic Cristal for use in classrooms.
In 2006 the Bic Cristal was declared the best selling pen in the world after the 100 billionth was sold.
When I was at school we were not allowed to use ‘ball point’ pens on account that it would ruin in our handwriting. We could use fountain pens or the pen & nib and dip it in to an inkwell – for those who are younger than fifty years of age, you might not know what I am talking about . . .

Once again I scrounged a seat on the students bus and went ashore for the tour, and of course we all visited the Winter Palace, which was a fascinating place and the Russian guide was able to bring the whole tour to life. She did such a good job extolling the virtues of the Tsar I wondered if she really was a communist.

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The Palace Square of the Winter Palace.

After we left the Palace we made our way along the river bank to the bridge called Troitskiy Bridge near Liteyny Avenue. The bridge is now called Trinity Bridge, and was opened in 1903, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of St Petersburg (Leningrad in 1965).

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Trinity Bridge

The bus stopped and we exited the coach to hear more about the sites of Leningrad. Towards the end of her talk I asked if there was a toilet nearby and the guide waved her hand in the general direction of Liteyny Avenue. I crossed the road and looked for the international signs of a gent’s toilet. Not seeing one I entered what I thought was a commercial building thinking that the toilet would be on the ground floor. The existence of guards on the door was not unusual, so I just walked in as if I knew where I was going. I found the toilet and entered the gents and stood on the high step near the urinal and then noticed that due to the low separation wall and the high step all the men could see into the ladies toilets, which was a little disconcerting as many were occupied.

As I came out of the gents, I was grabbed by two security guards and frog marched to the door and thrown out, with what I assumed was great abuse, but the abuse was all in Russian and wasted on me.

On returning to the coach I commented to our guide on my experience and she went white. She immediately made sure all her passengers were on board and ordered the driver to drive quickly out of the area. It appears that I had wandered in to the ‘Big House’, which was a euphemism for the KGB building in Leningrad!
I have my doubts that it was the KGB Big House, but after she told me what she thought, I was still glad that the bus was speeding away from the area.

The wide boys of Scotland must have passed on their entrepreneurial spirit to me, because I managed to swap a ball point pen for the red metal cap badge off one of the guards on the dock gates. I’d bought a ‘fur’ hat in Philadelphia when on the tanker (Ellenga) and I’d always wanted the red badge to attach it to the front of the American hat to create a ushanka (which mean ‘ear hat’ in English) – now I had one! I still have the hat, but have miss placed (lost) the badge.
Ushanka

The main difference between my hat and a real ushanka is that the ear muffs on my hat clip together, rather than being tied as per the Russian picture.

Isn’t politics a stupid game  . . when I was at sea I carried three main ID documents – passport, discharge ‘book’, and a seaman’s card.

ID card

On arrival in China I used my seaman’s card and not my passport, because I knew that the American authorities were not happy to allow anyone to visit the USA with an entry visa for communist China in their passport. You’ll note that the card is red – how convenient.

Discharge book

In the USSR ( Russia) I used my Discharge book  when landing in Leningrad, because the Chinese and the Americans didn’t like a Russian entry stamp in ones passport. The blue discharge book also has a place for my ‘Christian’ name, which is very un-PC in today’s world.

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I still have my discharge book with the USSR stamp for my visit in 1965.

The daft thing is that all three countries the USA, China & the USSR knew which book to stamp so as not to cause offence to the other  . . .

I used my passport when going ashore in the US, which at that time, didn’t require a visa.

We sailed at midnight for Copenhagen. I’m pleased that I saw a little of Leningrad, but can’t say I was unhappy to leave. Copenhagen was a huge difference to Leningrad with the multi-coloured buildings, Tivoli Gardens and an open and happy feel to the city.

The negative feeling of Leningrad returned in 2018 when Maureen and visited St Petersburg (Leningrad). It was something that I just can not put my finger on . . . I suppose the guide we had in 2018 said it best, that they look forward to summer for nine months of the year, and then spend three months being disappointed.

Next stop was Grangemouth on the Firth of Forth in Scotland where I paid off the Dunera  and dragged my suitcase on and off trains for the next nine hours. The suitcase didn’t have wheels in those days, so had to find a trolley & lifts at each station that I visited. . . .

My first train was from Grangemouth

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Grangemouth station just a couple of years after I waited for a train.

to take me to Falkirk . . . .

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so as to catch another train to Edinburgh,

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followed by another to Preston . . . .

Preston

and finally another to Liverpool . . . . .

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where I had to walk half a mile dragging my case to the underground metro system for the train to Birkenhead Park, which was the nearest station to my home.

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Birkenhead Park station in 1965.

All of the above trains station pictures have been taken from the internet for 1965 or ’68 for Grangemouth
Liverpool Lime Street is now part of the underground system, but it wasn’t in 1965. At least I didn’t meet Maggie Mae.

I left the ship at 7.30 am and it took me until 4.30 pm to reach home 410 km away (255 miles) which equates to an average speed of about 46 km / hour or 28.5 mph.

Today I can fly from Sydney to Bangkok (7,532 km), in the same time. . . . .

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and in a lot more comfort, now that’s progress  . . . . .

 

1965 Baltic Cruise

 

Dunera Tilbury

Dunera at Tilbury in the early 1960’s

We sailed without any passengers from Tilbury (London) to Edinburgh in the Firth of Forth in Scotland, for a cruise of Scottish students to the Baltic.

Our first port of call was Kristiansand on the southern tip of Norway. I did miss the heat of the Mediterranean, even in May the outside temperature at night was cold. We arrived at 8.00 am and held a regatta for the students – think pirates again, but this time without the nuns.
At noon we sailed for Copenhagen, arriving at 8.00 am the following day.

I loved our visit to Copenhagen. As a cadet I scrounged a seat on the tour bus (free of course), so had to stay with the  group to make sure I returned to the Dunera on time.

TivoliFound the above which is a 1965 advertising poster for the Tivoli Gardens.

The Tivoli Gardens was a ‘must’, over twenty acres of not just gardens, but also a giant fun fair and amusement park. It was opened in 1843 and is still going strong. I would have liked to stay longer, but the tour moved on to the Little Mermaid.

 

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1965

I was a little disappointed with the position of the mermaid, because I thought she would be in a park with great views across the water. It was difficult to take pictures of the statue without having the backdrop of cranes, warehouses and shipping industry. At the time I had a Kodak Brownie 127, which was a point and click, and you had to get the film developed, which cost money, so you were very careful as to what you photographed.
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Things have changed, today (2019). She keeps losing her head, and when it is replaced it is not the same.

Mermaid

In 2014 (taken from the internet) she was still facing out to sea.

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Instead of facing out to sea she is now facing the tourists, I took the above in 2018.
The power of tourism I suppose.

The statue is very close to the shore and as long you want a close-up you can zoom in & miss out the background of industry.

I remember a church that we visited, Church of Holman,

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but the memory of the sailing ships hanging from the church’s ceiling has stayed with me over the years.

sailing ship

The picture is from the internet – but my memory has it that there were more than one hanging from the ceiling . . .but. . . . it was interesting to read of the link between the church and the sea.
The main part of a church is a nave, from the Latin navis, which means ship, and this has passed down to us as navy or naval. A Christian life is a journey with our Pilot (Jesus) helping us to navigate through life. The Danes have linked the sea and ships to Christ in a much stronger way than many other Christian countries and the hanging of ships in various churches brings this home.

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The world council of churches uses a boat afloat on the sea of the world with the mast in the form of a cross as their symbol.

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Prince Frederik & Princess Mary of Denmark latest twins were Christened in this church.

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The white line across the picture is actually a row of  white umbrellas along the fishing wharf.
The colourful Copenhagen buildings, which were ( & still are I think) restaurants and bars, and in 1965 some still had cannon balls embedded in the walls. They had been fired from Nelson’s ships during the  battle of Copenhagen in 1801 in the Napoleonic war. There was a second battle of Copenhagen in 1807, but Nelson was killed in 1805  at Trafalgar.

Our next stop was Gdansk in Poland. In the late 18th century Poland was divided by the great powers, and in 1793 Prussia took Gdansk, and from 1871 became part of Germany, when Germany became a nation state.
After WW1 Poland was independent again it was decided that Gdansk should become a semi-independent city, which became known as Danzig. When Germany invaded, 1st September, 1939, they annexed Danzig.
In 1945 the city was captured by the Russians, which was when it became part of Poland.

Under the communist system Gdansk (as it was now known) became very important for their ship building industry.

When I arrived only twenty years after the end of WW2 in 1965, I found Gdansk to be a very dour place, giving off an impression of grey dull architecture and the feeling of a black and white photograph with little, if any, colour; so different from Copenhagen.
The Second World War was still a living memory for the Polish people, followed by Russian style communism, so staying alive, and keeping out of trouble was upper most in their minds rather than prettying up their buildings and streets. At that time it was a gaol sentence for anyone who wrote a negative article about the government.

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A photograph off the internet to try and give the feeling of the place in 1965.

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Aerial view of Gdansk (Danzig) in 1965 – photograph found on the internet.

Once again we cadets took part in the shore excursion, but we were really looking forward to the evening as we had plans.

In the evening, I and some of the ship’s officers who had visited Gdansk previously, took the opportunity of visiting a ‘night club’ called ‘George’s Place’. To us, the name didn’t seem to be all that exotic.

The club was in the basement of a warehouse. To get there we walked along a very quiet dimly lit street, which had a badly broken pavement, until we reached the entrance of George’s Place, which was a nondescript green door at the top of three grey concrete steps. The wall around the door was chipped red brick that seemed to have been there since the late 1800’s.
After knocking we were allowed to enter and followed the ‘doorman’ down a steep wooden stairway to the club.
The club was more restaurant than ‘night club’, with just a very small dance floor and a quartet of musicians playing American style music. We had our meal and where sitting around chatting to some local girls when one of the girls introduced us to a small group of uniformed Polish soldiers who were celebrating a birthday.

One of the soldiers stood and toasted us in vodka and black current juice. We had to return the toast, which was followed by a further toast to our Queen, Queen Elizabeth, and of course none of us knew who was in charge of Poland, so we toasted the Polish people, and the evening went on and on via toast after toast. I’ve never had this mix of vodka and black current juice since.

Among the local girls that we met that evening, one of them was named Helen and she was very attractive, and I took a shine to her. We danced and sang along with our new Polish friends and at the end of the evening Helen and I promised to write to each other.

Sometime later, when I was back in the UK, I received a letter from her asking why I never mentioned that I was in the Royal Navy Reserve, (RNR) because she had received a visit from the Polish (Russian?) security services. This bothered me, because I hadn’t even mentioned that I was in the RNR to anybody on the ship, and the only person who would possibly know about my link with the RNR would be the Captain of Dunera, because it was on my file, but I doubt that he would have mentioned this to anyone.

I wrote back that being a member of the RNR was not a secret, and the subject never arose during our chats. I never heard from her again.

The following morning we sailed for Gothenburg and arrived forty eight hours later.

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At that time Gothenburg was a very quiet town and after the tour of the city with the students, three of us did our own tour, which was a giant flop.

The following morning we sailed for the Firth of Forth the cruise was over.

Forth bridge

Photograph, which was taken in 1965, is from the internet.

 

 

 

A weekend away

 

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Not long after we arrived home from our South American cruise, we were ‘invaded’ by the family, who wished to celebrate our Golden Wedding. We never turn down a party particularly when we don’t have to prepare anything :- o)

During the party we were presented with a voucher for two nights in the city at a major hotel, which included breakfast each day, afternoon English tea, and Happy Hour (which was actually two hours) in the evening – PLUS a voucher to Aria Restaurant, which is one of the top restaurants in Sydney. Aria overlooks the harbour.

Friday – Saturday and late check-out Sunday

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Sofitel Wentworth Sydney

We’d been booked on the Club Floor, so it was fast ride to the appropriate floor to check-in.DSC05551r

Our room

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View from our window.

Once checked in and we’d unpacked, we decided on a short walk to the harbour, which was only a ten minute walk away.

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Explorer of the Seas – Royal Caribbean, alongside Circular Quay.

DSC05558rcThe Bridge of course – who doesn’t photograph the bridge :- o)

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and of course the Opera House

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The Old Customs House, opened in 1845, but is now used for various exhibitions. It ceased to be used as a customs house in 1990 and was converted to what we see today. Inside is a miniature model of Sydney and you can get a better idea of Sydney’s layout.

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City model at 2 mm to the metre

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Back for afternoon tea – help yourself to sandwiches / cakes etc and waiters bring you a selection of teas or coffee.

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This was one way to put weight on . . .

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The Club Lounge at 5.30 pm – just the place until 7.30 pm.

We met a couple from Brisbane and the chat just flowed and the time passed quickly. Once again help yourself to the food and waiters bring the drinks – all very civilised.

It had been a long day so we had an early night.

Breakfast was in the Club Lounge – all the normal things that one expects in a first class hotel.

It rained heavily over night (the first in weeks) – so as we left for a walk around the the Rocks & Darling harbour we borrowed a very large umbrella from the hotel – just in case.

We walked to Darling Harbour to view the converted areas which used to be wharfs and are now shopping centres and restaurants. What a change since my first arrival when I was at sea in the 1960’s.

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Across the harbour is the Maritime museum and alongside was the James Craig. When Maureen & I moved from Melbourne to Sydney in 1985 the James Craig was just a hulk as gangs of volunteers worked on her restoration.

Launched at Sunderland in the UK in 1874 and named Clan Macleod. She sailed around the Cape Horn twenty three times during her twenty six years before being sold to J.J. Craig in 1900 for the trans-Tasman trade. Her name was changed in 1905 to James Craig,  She was laid up in 1911 because of competition from steam ships. She became a copra hulk in Papua New Guinea,
At the end of WW 1 she was refitted and had a new life due to the shortage of ships. But by 1925 she was back to being a hulk, this time for coal, in Tasmania. In 1932 she was abandoned and was beached during a storm.
In 1972 volunteers re-floated her and she was patched up enough so that could be towed to Sydney, which happened in 1981. Restoration took place and she was relaunched in 1997.

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She is now a fully operational vessel (picture from Sydney Heritage website) and anyone can, (for a fee), have a day at sea in her from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and the fee includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. One of these days . . .

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The Strand in Sydney centre, all old world type shops, which trade normally, they are not tourist shops, but are worth a visit for something different.

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Same cruise company but a different ship – Quantum of the Seas.

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I told you :- o)

 

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Looking up at the Opera House roof/sails.

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Every time I look at the ‘sails’ I am reminded of a Spanish soldier in the middle ages.

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Admiralty House – (just in the trees) opposite the Opera House,

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Fort Denison aka Pinchgut – originally a small rocky island.
In the early days prisoners were sent there with little to eat or drink – hence Pinchgut.

Much of the island was quarried for its sandstone, which was used to create were the Opera House now stands – aka Bennelong Point. In 1857 8000 tons of sandstone was quarried from Kurraba Point (Neutral Bay) to create the fort.

A one o’clock gun is still fired from the fort, which began in 1906. It wasn’t fired during WW 2 after 1942 so as not to alarm the people.

Our walk was a large circle that took us back to the hotel to change for dinner at Aria Restaurant.

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View from our table overlooking the cruise ship that was alongside.

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Maureen studying the menu – GF of course.

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Another view from our table

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I needed a strong dink as I studied the wine list prices . . . .

We had a late check-out on Sunday, so decided to walk through the Botanic Gardens, which were very close to the hotel.

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It was a beautiful day, with little wind as you see with the lack of white caps.

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One last photograph as we walked back to the hotel to check-out, the weekend was over.

But what a great present!   Thanks kids :- o)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andes

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We flew with KLM’s Boeing 777-300ER (ER = Extended range) from Buenos Aires to Santiago in Chile, so as to connect with the Qantas B 747 to Sydney.

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All went well until we reached the Andes when I realised that I’d left my camera in the overhead bag, and I was sitting in the centre seat of three in economy.
If I asked the passenger next to me to move, so as to allow me to find my camera we’d have missed the Andes and more than likely on landing approach to Santiago, so I used Maureen’s phone.

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I am unable to ID any of the mountains . . .

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I clicked away like mad, but many are uninteresting so I’ve just picked five.

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As a passenger looking out it was quite spectacular, as you can see we had a beautiful clear sky.

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Santiago, Chile, we were in transit at the airport for two and a half hours.

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The flight from Santiago was fourteen hours, and after crossing the dateline into the following, day we arrived home.
I never get tired of photographing the view of Sydney harbour.

 

A collage of the ‘Paris of the South’

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I thought I’d just post a collage of photographs of Buenos Aires, without too much ‘chat’.

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The yellow bus is a Hop on Hop off bus, worth the money even if it is only used to get around from one photo opportunity to another.

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Part of the main square of the city – Plaza de Mayo

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Still within the square

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Don Quixote at the intersection of Avenida de Mayo and Avenida 9 de Julio, it was a gift from Spain in 1980.

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A small area of Avenida 9 de Julio

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Cafe Torton, which is a famous cafe that opened in 1858.

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In the UK I had a hobby of painting 20 mm metal soldiers and I recreated quite a lot of the Battle of Waterloo – I gave everything away when we emigrated . . .  :- (

I took the above picture, during a visit to a Sunday market. I was tempted to buy a small squad . .  but didn’t.

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Rhodochrosite is the national gem stone of Argentina, and all of the above jewellery is made from this stone – this stall is one of the market stalls.

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Rhodochrosite

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The above reminded me of Penang – bottom right shows the covers of a few of the market stalls.

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I was impressed with many of the wide clear streets.

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Which one is John, is the far one Ringo, that’s not Paul surly . . .

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I just liked the building – no idea of any details.

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A beautiful day – National Congress Building

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Different – I wonder if the lawn is on the roof . . .

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A distant shot that I had to crop – the Russian Orthodox church, opened in 1904. There are about 170,000 Russians or of Russian decent, living in Argentina.

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The hop on hop off bus drove through this new area of the city , which appeared to have as much heart as that of a dead lettuce – boring.

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A major shopping street

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No idea what this building is called, I just liked the look of it , so I took the photograph.

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Clicked this one because I liked how the old is reflected in the new . . .

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If you are going to have a demo have a big one – workers marching because they can not find work.

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Different colours for different unions (I think).

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For all the shouting and drum beating it was quite peaceful – but we didn’t hang around – just in case things changed.

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I saw this and thought that’s for me  . . but Maureen disagreed  . . .

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We stopped on a corner and began to study our maps, when this policeman approached and asked if he could help. We didn’t realise, but we had stopped outside the Israeli embassy, and he was an Argentinian guard protecting the embassy.
His English was excellent, so what started as request for directions ended up as a long conversation of places that we and the guard had visited overseas, and life in general. A perfect gentleman and a credit to Argentina, for his consideration of ‘lost’ tourists.

He never took his eyes off the area around the embassy, even when he was chatting to us. Note the bullet proof vest, and he had a carbine and a pistol on his hip. He made one feel quite safe.

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This is a sort of cathedral I suppose . . .

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It is the ceiling of a shopping centre.

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Fountain and coffee bar

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Maureen and I stood near the information desk and we looked up at the ceiling area, which I think was the base of an escalator, it was very highly polished copper.

I took a photograph of us reflected in the copper – you can see us near the top of the picture. I have the camera pointing at the ‘ceiling’ so what you see in the photograph is of our reflection.

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I rotated another picture of just me taking my own picture in the copper ‘mirror’ – I’m on the left. I rotated the original picture horizontally before posting.

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The only way to end a spot of site seeing . . .