Ras al Khaimah – Trucial State

It appears that I have a post out of sequence – after Muscat the post should have been Ras al Khaimah, and then Dubai – please accept my apologies. Too many readers have already read the ‘Dubai’ post to change the sequence.

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Ras al Khaimah from a painting in 1809.

Ras al Khaimah has been inhabited for over 7000 years, one of the few places in the world where this is the case.

The coastal area was also known as the pirate coast. In the 18th century Ras al Khaimah became a major maritime force and had control of areas in Persia and Arabian coast, and frequently came in to contact with British trading vessels.

War broke out between the rulers of Muscat and Ras al Khaimah in the 18th century and in 1763 the ruler of Ras al Khaimah sued for peace.
The peace was later broken in 1775, and the ongoing war brought Ras al Khaimah up against Muscat’s ally, Great Britain.

After a series of attacks by Ras al Khaimah against Sindh (which is in what we now call Pakistan, which did not come about until 1947), the British Authorities in India decided that the raids had to stop.

The British mounted the 1809 campaign, which destroyed much of the Ras al Khaimah fleet, and put a stop to the raids. The British withdrew and it was not until 1815 that a treaty was agreed, but this was broken in 1819.
The British returned and again defeated the ruler of Ras al Khaimah, and the treaty of 1820 put an end to piracy and slavery & removed the ruler of Ras al Khaimah.
This act began the creation of the Trucial States, which has morphed in to the United Arab Emirates that we know today.

The Trucial States name came from the principal sheikhs in the Persian Gulf area that had signed protective treaties with the British – it was known as the ‘truces’ hence the name Trucial States.

Abu Dhabi – 1820 to 1971
Ajman – 1820 to 1971
Dubai – 1835 to 1971
Fujairah – 1952 – 1971
Kalba – 1936 – 1951, when it was re–incorporated into Sharjah in 1952
Ras al Khaimah – 1820 – 1972
Sharjah – 1820 – 1971
Umm Al Quwain – 1820 – 1971

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The above gives you and idea as to how close each of the sheikdoms are to each other.

The first cargo of crude oil left Abu Dhabi in 1962, Dubai commenced exporting oil in 1969, so when I was in this area from 1962 to 1968 it was very different than what you see today.

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The foreshore of Ras al Khaimah during my time.

 

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We anchored off and waited for the dhows to come out, obviously we didn’t require the aide of a tug. I don’t think Ras al Khaimah had any tugs because they didn’t have a port.

Work began as soon as the dhows arrived and within a short time it was night – we were surprised that that work didn’t stop. Being on the mid-night to 4.00 am time seemed to drag as there was little that I could do except watch the labour unloading.

It was about 1.00 am when the wind began to increase.

With a sandy or mud bottom we wouldn’t have had a problem, but the bottom where we had anchored was coral and the flukes of the anchor were unable to dig in to the coral.
I spent the next couple of hours wondering the ship and peering over the side to estimate if we were dragging our anchor.
If we had anchored off a more ‘sophisticated’ coast line I would have taken bearing to confirm or not, if we were dragging.
Off the coast of Ras al Khaimah, the land was a black mass to the west of us, without any lights or navigational points that I could have used.

Fortunately, near the end of my watch, the wind dropped, and I felt easier that I hadn’t woken the captain . . .

I was back on duty the following afternoon, and I think the Captain and first mate were ashore, when I sighted a motor boat approach the ship.
Aboard this boat were a number of well-dressed locals in a mix of European dress and Arabic traditional robes. Our gangway was down to allow the labour to board.

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The picture will give you an idea.

The motorboat hooked on to the gangway and I was asked permission if they could come aboard.
A Lebanese interpreted introduced me to a gentleman is robes as Sheikh Abdullah, (as he was known to the locals), who was the nephew of the then ruler at that time of Ras al Khaimah,  Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad Al Qassimi. (February 1948 – 27 October 2010).

Sheikh Abdullah was interested in the ship and wanted to practice his English, so I showed His Highness (which was his title, as he was the equivalent of a prince), and his interpreter around the ship, after which I invited him to the bar, which he accepted.
In addition to his royal title he was also the Minister of Education for Ras al Khaimah.

It was an interesting time for me as we spoke of many subjects (excuse the pun), all in English, and occasionally the interpreter jumped in with a quick translation for the Sheikh.

We spoke for a couple of hours and he spoke of the history of his country, and that his family had ruled the area for over 600 years.

He spoke of his ancestors raiding Persia, India and defeating the Portuguese. He also told of his people sending the fleet out against British merchant ships, which caused the British navy to arrive and take over his country.
He assured me that his people no longer attacked British merchant ships, which was nice to know considering I was part of a British merchant ship’s crew.

He didn’t feel any discontent with the British, who had been involved with his country for eighty years, and I think he considered the arrival of the British to be more positive rather than a negative move, because it helped his country to expand their horizons as far as trade, education and modern devices.

As our chat drew to a close he told me that they expected to be drilling for oil within five months, which would change his country once again.

Unfortunately for the Sheikh, we now know that the drilling failed to find any oil. This meant that R.A.K (the abbreviation for Ras al Khaimah) did not become a second Dubai, but it did allow his country to go down a different path, and they have now become popular as a destination for what the area used to be before the glitz of Dubai.

What Ras al Khaimah has also become is a major producer of pearls and ceramics.

R.A.K used to be a major supplier of pearls and had been for a couple of thousand years at least. The Trucial State coastline around 1810 had 3000 pearl boats and by 1900 the number of boats had become 4500.
The pearls didn’t stay in the Gulf area but were exported to Bombay (Mumbai), which was the world centre for trading pearls.
In 1917 the Bank of England considered that a gram of Gulf pearl on the Bombay market was the equivalent of 320 grams of gold or 7.7 kilos of silver.

The inflation of the pearl market was such that Cartier bought a building in New York, for a two-string pearl necklace, valued at that time for about $1.2 million. The same necklace in the 1940’s was sold for $157,000.

All of this started to fail with the discovery of oil, why risk your life diving for a pearls when you can earn good money in the oil industry in other areas of the Trucial States, plus the creation of the Japanese cultured pearls had expanded considerably. The last Gulf pearl fleet sailed in 1949.

If you can’t beat them join them – in 2004 a pearl farm was established in Ras al Khaimah.

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In addition to pearls R.A.K Ceramics is now a global ceramic brand.

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Leave the city behind and go back in time . . .

In 1971, R.A.K joined with other Trucial States to become part of the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

Our next port of call was Dubai, but due to my error I’ve already posted the Dubai blog.

 

 

Flies, sand & water rationing . . . .

We sailed from Ras Al Khaimah for Dubai, which was a very short ‘voyage’ of about 112 km (70 miles) or about four hours at a very economical speed.

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Dubai Creek in the 1960’s.

As you see the creek was too small for a deep sea ship to use, so we anchored off the coast once again, and waited for the dhows to come out to us. Click on this link to see how the cargo was handled, which was very labour intensive in Dubai Creek in the 1960’s

After we’d anchored the sea started to get rough due to a sudden squall, and the wind increased (called shamal by the locals) so we didn’t see any dhows for two days. It was a  hot wind  that brought flies & midges that infested everywhere, and not just outside, but also inside our accommodation. The result was short tempers and a lot of hand waving – today we would have called it the Aussie salute

To cap it all we were running out of water, so we had to ration what we had left. Water was available from 7 to 9 am, Noon to 1 pm & 5 to 8 pm. We were not sure how long we would be at anchor and the water boats could not get out to us during the poor weather

At that time desalination systems for cargo ships was unheard of, we just got used to the different taste of water from around the world, a bit like tasting different beers from around the world, but not as enjoyable.

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Another shot of Dubai Creek in the 1960’s.

We did have a fight on board between two of the crew, I put it down to the conditions at the time.
It happened when I was on anchor watch, so I kept out of sight just in case it became ‘nasty’ at which time I would have interceded. I considered it better to allow the fight to happen now, rather than to fester and perhaps become a major problem later.
My concern was in case a knife was drawn, but it started like a girl’s fight at school with a lot of slapping and hair pulling.
It upgraded to a little wrestling, but neither looked like they were getting hurt and eventually the heat and the flies won, and they both gave up fighting and disappeared below to their accommodation.
We had an Indian crew, and they didn’t drink alcohol, so I didn’t think it was an alcohol fueled fight.
During my time at sea I only saw two ‘upsets’ – this one, and another were a Chinese cook became upset at another Chinese crew member and went for him with a meat cleaver. That one was stopped immediately.

Just to show the changes that have taken place in Dubai –

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Note the clock on the monument . . .  1968

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The same clock in the same position today.

Oil was found in Dubai in 1966 and the first cargo of oil was exported in 1969, so when I was there, the richness of Dubai that we know today was in the future.

Dubai Airport 1971

The above photograph shows the new expanded Dubai airport, which was opened in 1960, and the first runway was compacted sand and could only take DC3s – in 1965 a second runway was built, which was tarmac – and the first passenger jet landed in 1965.

Before the original compacted sand runway was built the only way you could arrive by air was in a flying boat of Imperial Airways, later BOAC,  & later again, British Airways.

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Imperial Airways flying boat – top speed was 160 mph.

In 1938 they offered four services a week from London, and when the passengers went ashore in Dubai they were taken to the BOAC Jetty, and this jetty was still called BOAC jetty until it was demolished in the 1980’s.

Eventually the wind dropped and the dhows came out to us to unload cargo and sail / row their dhows back ashore and up the Dubai Creek.

The change in weather conditions also allowed the new first officer to come out and to take up his duties. It turned out that I’d sailed with him when I was a cadet in Dunera just before I sat my 2nd Mates exams.

The original first officer had been promoted to captain and his new command was anchored not far from us – happy families – my ten pound a month extra for being a temporary 2nd Mate didn’t last long.

Our next stop would be Abu Dhabi.

 

 

Bombay to Muscat

We sailed from Bombay (now Mumbai) for Muscat (which is in Oman), and we planned for a few changes.
The first officer was due to leave us when we arrived in Dubai, and the second officer would be moved up to first, and I was to be the second officer – all very temporary, but for me it was worth an extra ten pounds a month, (about £178 in today’s money), until the new first officer arrived, and the second and myself move back to our own slot.
We were hoping that the new first officer wouldn’t join us for some months, the extra cash would help with the bar bill.
It was the 6th January 1968, and I was on the midnight to 4.00 am watch when we entered a huge shoal of flying fish. I’d seen this type of fish before and even eaten one or two when the Chinese crew cooked them, but this time the sea was full of them as it they were being chased. I shone an Aldiss lamp on the water only to see the whole area around the ship covered in flying fish.

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To avoid predators flying fish accelerate to 60 km per hour (37 mph) before launching free of the water. Upon opening their wings they can glide over 183 mtrs (600 feet) or more before they enter the water to repeat the exercise if necessary. They glide about 1.2 metres (4 feet) above the water.

I only wished that I had a camera to record such a site, which lasted for over one and a half kilometers (about a mile), before we sailed out of the shoal. I just wondered what was chasing them, and why where there so many.

I entered the chart room to check the chart in case our location would give me a clue as to why there were so many flying fish, when suddenly the quartermaster rushed in and asked me to look ahead.

The quartermaster was also the helmsman, but at the time we were on autopilot, so his duty was as a bridge lookout.

‘Flashing lights Sahib, starboard side!’ and pointed ahead through the chart room window and to starboard (right hand side) of the bow.
I followed him out onto the wing of the bridge and looked where he was pointing. I felt my heart give a jump, the whole area was covered in flashing lights, at that moment the lookout in the bow rang one stroke on the fo’c’sle bell, which was the signal to warn me that he’d seen a light to starboard.

My first thought was that we were about to enter a large fishing fleet and we didn’t have enough time to alter course as the fleet ahead stretched across our bow.

Local fishing boats were made of wood and propelled by oars or sail and would not have shown up on our radar. Plus, native fishing boats were renowned for not showing lights until a large ship was quite close, guaranteed to give the OOW a heart attack.

My mind was racing, how many would we sink as we ploughed through the fleet.

All of the above thoughts flashed through my mind as I studied the lights, when I realised that the lights were not of a fishing fleet, but bioluminescent.

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The above & below photographs gives an idea of bioluminescence at night at sea.

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Most deep-sea animals produce some bioluminescent light, but the phenomenon isn’t relegated to the deep: one of the most common sightings occurs at the surface of the ocean. Many small planktonic surface dwellers—such as single-celled dinoflagellates—are bioluminescent. When conditions are right, dinoflagellates bloom in dense layers at the surface of the water causing the ocean to take on a sparkling sheen as they move in the waves at night. (The above is quoted from https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/fish/bioluminescence).

The night was moonless & cloudless and the stars in the clean atmosphere of the ocean appeared to reflect off the water, so adding to the illusion of a fishing fleet. I must admit that I was not the only one who was expecting us to plough in to a fishing fleet. The quartermaster turned to me with a big smile and said, ‘All’s well Sahib’.

A comment with which I heartily agreed.

As the ship broke through the water it created white foam, that turned a deeper and deeper green until at the top of the wave that we created it became emerald, like icing sugar on a cake.
The ocean area that had not been disturbed with our passage was a sea of flashing green and white lights.

As we passed in to a clearer area I shone a light to see if the luminescence was still around – it wasn’t.
I wrote a report of what had happened, taking in to account barometer readings, temperature, state of the sea, wind strength and direction and cloud cover etc, at that time many merchant ships reported the weather at their location to assist in forecasting weather ashore.
The first successful weather satellite was launched in April of 1960, and it wasn’t until 1965 that meteorologists produced the first global view of the Earth’s weather, so the reports from merchant vessels at sea were a great help to meteorologists.

We arrived in Muscat the following afternoon.

Muttrah Oman before 1970

Muscat, Oman in the late 1960’s was very ‘old school’ – we anchored in the harbour and dhows came out to us into which we unloaded cargo.

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Larger dhows for cargo carrying

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This is an old picture of Muscat harbour, (1903) but it hadn’t changed all that much when I visited in January 1968. We anchored near Fort al-Jalali to work cargo – I suppose in times gone bye I could have said that we anchored under the guns of the fort.

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The fort is still there – originally built in the 1580’s by the Portuguese to protect the town from attacks made by the Ottomans. It was twice captured by the Persians in the early 1700’s.

For most of the 20th century the fort was a prison, and was closed as such in the 1970’s. It is now a museum.

Muscat harbour

An old map of the harbour and at the centre of the ‘star’ is where we anchored. I still have a small sketch that I made at the time, of where we anchored and the above fits the bill well.

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The old town in the distance.

During our stay we all tried our hand at fishing – part of our crew were Chinese and they caught about twenty-five fish, and one was very large and they had real problems in landing it on deck.

The fishing equipment was all ‘home made’, ships rope with a hook on the end and a bloodied piece of meat.

Those of us with a more sensitive nature used the pull tab off beer cans and sometimes this worked, as the fish saw a silver item in the water and thought it was a smaller fish.

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I used to like supplying the bait for those who used the ‘pull tab system’, via of course  . .

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The Chinese fishermen did catch a large ray and they had a fight on their hands, but the ray won, it broke the line and swam off with the hook.
The Chinese answer was a thicker piece of rope and a bigger hook.

DSC06223rThe fort was still there in 2016 when Maureen & passed through Muscat on our way to Dubai.

We sailed from Muscat at 6.00 pm on the 8th January 1968 for Ras al Khaimah in the ‘Trucial States’, as the various sheikdoms were called in 1968.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MV Juna – Christmas 1967

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There comes a time that when you are offered something and it sounds great, you should be careful – but I wasn’t careful and agreed.

As MV Juna reached Fremantle in Western Australia I agreed to supervise the loading of freezer and chiller cargo, on the understanding that once is had been completed I was free to do whatever I wanted while in port.

I felt in a good mood as it was late December, and Christmas was just around the corner, so I agreed to the 1st Mate’s offer.

We arrived on Sunday 17th December in the evening, and of course being Sunday, we had to wait until the morning before work could begin.

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I started at 7.00 am on Monday, just as the shore labour came on board. We were to load deep frozen meat, ice cream, vegetables, butter and yoghurt into freezers, as well as cheese in to the chiller. Most of these items were for the Persian Gulf.

The stowage plan had been created so I didn’t expect too much trouble, and I anticipated that the whole job would be about two working days.

The plans of mice and men – we had two freezer/ chiller holds and I was up and down the vertical ladders to the various decks all day to sort out problems, and to change the stowage plan, because not all of the cargo was available at the correct time, so I had to improvise taking in to account the ports of discharge. There was no point in stowing ice cream for Bahrain behind ice cream for Kuwait – if our first port of call was Bahrain.

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All through the first day nothing went right – cargo delayed, ringing suppliers & transport companies, making sure the freezer doors were closed as we waited for the next truck load. Making sure the cargo was frozen solid before it was loaded – I must admit I was not particularly polite to our agents who had arranged the cargo – I didn’t get to bed until 6.00 am Tuesday.

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The above diagram is not of the Juna, but hopefully will give you an idea of what I am mean.
Using No 1 or 2 as an examples the upper tween deck and the lower tween deck of both holds had large freezer chambers, and to get to each, one climbed down a vertical ladder attached to the inside of the hold.
You held on to the ladder with both hands as you climbed up and down. I was responsible for the freezer cargo in both ‘tween decks of No 1 & No 2, a total of four areas.

We worked both holds at the same time, and I was up and down the ladders several times an hour, so it didn’t take long to become tired, and I had to be careful not to make mistakes when climbing the vertical ladders.

After going to bed at 6.00 am I was woken at 8 am and again at 9 am with questions, and in the end  I left my comfortable bed at 11.00 am frustrated at the constant questions considering each gang had an experienced supervisor.
Of course the labour changed shifts every so many hours and went home, which required fresh instructions for the new supervisors.

The second day progressed, and I returned to my bed at 4.00 am on the third day – fully clothed and with my shoes on.

I passed out cold.

I was twenty three and reasonably fit, even though I smoked at that time – I considered it my duty to smoke, because cigarettes & alcohol were duty free.
A carton of 200 cigarettes was about 9/- (9 shillings or about 45 p – about £12.21 ($15.25 US) in today’s money.)

I was up and about at 10.00 am and worked through to midnight, by which time I didn’t know what day it was or what time it was . . .

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We finally finished loading the freezer / chiller cargo at 11.00 am on Thursday, it had taken us 75 hours to complete the loading, the original plan was 48 hours, and I’d been on duty for 60 of the 75 hours, and at the end I had a whole 24 hours to myself, before we were due to sail.

I slept most of my off-duty time, so next time I will consider any offers more carefully.

All the above pictures are from the internet to illustrate how we loaded freezer and chiller cargo in the mid 1960’s.

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Today the container is packed at the freezer works and is lifted in one piece on to the ship and plugged in to a power supply.

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To illustrate how far transport has come; the above container was created to carry sushi!   Both above pictures are off the internet.

I wasn’t the only one working long hours during our stay in Fremantle. The First Mate had suggested various cargo work for the other officers, and the cadets, everyone worked flat out for the entire period of loading. We loaded dry cargo as well as the freezer cargo.

We sailed for Bombay (now Mumbai) on the 22nd December, and once again I had the ‘graveyard watch’ midnight to 4.00 am and mid-day to 4.00 pm, my favourite watch.

It was going to be Christmas at sea, and New Year’s Eve at sea, before we would arrive in Bombay.

Each ship in which I’ve sailed, except for the LST, had a small bar where the officers would congregate when off duty.

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Obviously when the above was taken it must have been Christmas time, but I’ve blotted out their faces because I don’t know how to get in touch with the officers in the photograph. This was not the bar in the Juna, but another Company vessel.

Each bar had a unique name – Stagger Inn, (the bar of MV Carpentaria) is one that comes to mind, Coolumbooka Inn,  Coolumbooka River supplies water for the town of Bombala in NSW Australia, and the name of the ship in which this bar is located was MV Bombala.

You’d think I could remember more than two, but . . .  the one thing I can remember is that in every officers’ bar / saloon a portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth was prominent.

For other Christmas’ at sea I kept the Christmas Day menu of our main meal, but for some reason I can’t find Juna’s menu.
Watches still had to be kept and so those who worked day work (mainly the cadets and  the First Mate & Captain) could enjoy Christmas Day, but for those of us who stood watches, we had to be circumspect as to how many drinks we consumed.

At that time we didn’t have a breathalyser system on board, and this system of checking car drivers had only just been introduced in the UK, in October 1967.
It was up to the Captain or First Mate to decide if anyone was unfit for duty, and if they did decided that one was not fit to stand his Watch you were finished as a deck officer with British India Steam Nav. Co.

If you were an engineering officer, the final decision would be made by the Chief Engineer but logged by the Captain.

On New Year’s Eve all the deck and engineer officers were invited to the Captain’s cabin for drinks, and if you were on the 8 – 12 watch (i.e 8 pm to midnight & 8 am to noon) the party could  well be still going when you left the bridge.
Being on the midnight to 4.00 am watch, I left the celebrations about 9.00 pm to get a couple of hours sleep before taking over the Watch on the bridge, which was just before the New Year came in – and by ten minutes passed midnight I was sure to have a number of visitors to keep me company, other than the helmsman.

In the middle of the ocean one could be as noisy as one wanted to be and not upset the neighbours,

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and even in ‘a lonely sea and sky’ we would never use fireworks, because ‘fireworks’ (distress rockets) were only to be used at sea, when in distress.

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Sea Fever – by John Masefield
“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.”

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HMS Conway in the River Mersey.

John Masefield, who, I am pleased to say, was also an old ‘Conway‘ and he was in the old ship from 1891 to 1894, and UK poet laureate 1930 to 1967. In addition to writing poetry he also wrote twenty-three novels.

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John Masefield 1878 – 1967

 

 

MV Juna née Cornwall

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My new ship MV Juna, launched in 1951, 7583 gt, and built for Federal Steam Navigation Co. under the name of MV Cornwall.
She was prone to engine trouble and had been in Sydney for extensive repairs after which she was transferred to British India Steam Navigation Co and renamed MV Juna in August of 1967. I joined her in November 1967.

Both companies were in the P & O Group at that time, so moving vessels between companies was nothing new.

I arrived in Perth W. Australia, at 4.00 am and took a taxi to the ship, which was in Fremantle, the seaport for Perth. When I boarded it was about 5.00 am and of course the ship was quiet and everyone was asleep. I found the cabin area that was used as a ‘hospital’, locked myself in and went to bed.

Less than three hours later I was awake and getting dressed because I had to ‘sign on’ because the ship was about to sail for Sydney. At least I was given the rest of the day off as it appeared that I was number one spare!

I had quiet a pleasant time during the ‘cruise’ to Sydney where the current third mate was leaving. I’d sailed with the 2nd Mate on the African coast a few years earlier when he was 3rd Mate, plus I knew the purser having sailed with him before on the Japanese coast.

‘Juna’  was clean and well built, but had a tendency to roll her way across the Great Australian Bight.
She had been built to have air-conditioning, but this vital (for us) piece of equipment was never installed, and I wasn’t looking forward to the Persian Gulf.
At least all the equipment on the bridge worked correctly, and we had a new radar set, that worked! The joy of it all . . .

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The reddish dot on the left is Fremantle and the blue dot on the right is Melbourne and the curved coastline between is the Great Australian Bight.

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Beautiful when calm, but a dangerous place in a storm.

Magnificent Great Australian Bight and Southern Ocean.

One can drive from Melbourne to Adelaide along a road called The Great Ocean Road – very dramatic, and very popular with overseas visitors as well as those of us who are lucky enough to live in Australia.

Ocean birdOut at sea, away from the land, I never tired of watching the albatross.

Loch Ard

In 1878 the iron clipper Loch Ard was sailing from London to Melbourne with luxury goods, as well as everyday items. There were fifty-four people on-board including seventeen passengers.
It was winter in Australia, on the 1st June 1878, with fog and sea mist all around, as they kept a look out for the Cape Otway light

The captain thought he was fifty miles to seaward, but instead he saw breakers dead ahead, he tried to alter course away from the danger and make his way out to sea, but the waves washed his ship on to the rocks of Mutton Island. She sank within fifteen minutes of striking the rocks.

Mutton Island is at the mouth of a gorge and only sixty meters off the shore.
Only two people survived, eighteen year old passenger Eva Carmichael, and crewman Tom Pearce, who was nineteen.
Pearce made it ashore and as he staggered up the beach he heard a woman cry out for help, so he went back in to the sea and managed to rescued Eva Carmichael.
The gorge was named after the ship in memory of those who died, and is now known as Loch Ard gorge.

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Tom Pearce
Tom Pearce returned to England, completed his apprenticeship to become a ship’s officer and eventually gained command of his own ship. He died at the age of forty nine and is buried in Southampton.

 

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Eva Carmichael
Eva Carmichael later married Captain Thomas Achilles Townsend, who had migrated to Australia. The couple later returned to live in Ireland.

Over the years there have been a number of novels linked to the Loch Ard tragedy, and one fictional account became a TV hit in the 1980’s as All The Rivers Run  starring Sigrid Madeline Thornton.

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I’ve seen the series and read the book, on which the series was based. I enjoyed both.

 

We arrived safely in Sydney –

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The opera house hadn’t yet been finished

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but they had fast ferries across the harbour.

Where docked in 1967 is now a very chic area that I think twice about if I was to visit one of the restaurants in this area. The finger wharf that we berthed alongside has been converted into very expensive apartments – how time have changed. In the 1960’s few would live anywhere near where deep seas ships docked.

Our next port was Melbourne, we are on our back to western Australia, before sailing for Bombay (now Mumbai).

Bourke st

A touch of yesterday Bourke Street 1967 – Melbourne still have their trams.

Melbourne was where Maureen visited her aunt & uncle before flying to Auckland to see me in 1966. I couldn’t visit Melbourne without introducing myself to Maureen’s family.

I was given a very warm welcome and in the evening Robbie (Maureen’s uncle) took me to his local pub, and over a few beers we talked of life in Australia compared to life in the UK. Robbie and his wife had emigrated in 1951 out of pure frustration.

They were married, but due to the housing shortage, particularly in Liverpool after the bombing during the war, they were unable to find a house or flat where they could live together.

Robbie had been in the British army in north Africa and had joined the LRDG (Long Range Dessert Group), which was used to ferry the new regiment called the SAS, to within range of enemy airfields and fuel dumps.

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The above photograph is off the internet and not one of Robbie’s – it is to illustrate the LRDG.

Robbie spent four years in the desert, which was where he met Australians, and became interested in migrating.
The Australian attitude to life fitted well with Robbie’s, so after a few frustrating years of not being able to rent / buy a house he thought he’d be better off in Australia, so he and his wife became £10.00 Poms, his daughter was born in Australia.
He didn’t return to the UK until 1976, when he and his wife & daughter stayed with Maureen & I in Congleton, Cheshire, for three weeks.
It took quite a few beers to get just a brief outline of Robbie’s adventures during his years in the desert, and his time with the LRDG.

Phantom Major

If you are interested in the link  between the LRDG & the SAS, may I suggest this book. It took me many years to find this copy, because I’d given my original to Robbie.
The book was published in 1958, and I found this copy in 2015 in a small second hand book shop called ‘Chapter Two’ in Stirling, which is a small town in S. Australia.
Everything  comes to him who waits :- o)

books

                 The above picture from Chapter Two book shop web site in Stirling.

After searching second hand book shops for many years looking for The Phantom Major which is about David Stirling and the beginning of the SAS. I found it in a book shop in Stirling!

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
so said by P.J. O’Rourke, who is an an American political satirist and journalist.

From Melbourne it was Adelaide, across the Great Australian Bite to Perth in Western Australia.

Cornwall

MV Cornwall, during her time with Federal Steam Navigation Co.
before becoming MV Juna for British India Steam Navigation Co.

 

 

 

 

 

The last voyage of the Pundua – part three

We arrived safely in Moji, and when off duty, I was free to walk around the town.
It was 1967 and the lack of English language signs was noticeable, considering that all of the other Japanese ports (about five or six) that I’d visited, had some western symbols, even if it was only a neon Coca Cola sign.

The map below shows the Inland Sea of Japan – it stretches from the green circle on the left to the right-hand side of Shikoku. Each time that I’d sailed this sea it had always been calm.
When we left Moji we sailed between Honshu & Shikoku under the advice of a pilot.

green

The green circle on the left is Moji and the larger of the two green circles on the right is Kobe, which was our destination, and across the bay from Kobe is Osaka.

I worked the night shift in Moji and we sailed for Kobe in the afternoon of the the next day. The transit time was about eight hours.

Torii at Itsukushima Shrine

Temples in the water of the Inland Sea.

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Calm and peaceful – the above two pictures are off the internet to illustrate the calmness of the Inland Sea.

I always liked Kobe, because it was an exciting town, with a good choice of bars and restaurants.
To order food in the restaurant we would take the waiter outside and point at the models of the dishes in the window. I’d never seen plastic models of food before, but it made life easy, because my Japanese was limited. I could get around via taxi, and use a bus and order a beer, but ordering a meal in a restaurant was beyond my ability.

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Even the lettuce was plastic

One of my favourite bars in Kobe was Clancy’s Bar.

clancy

It was owned and run by Clancy (of course), who was an Australian and he’d remained in Japan after the war.
Clancy was a large man and wouldn’t put up with any troublemakers. Any problems and you were out on your ear.

We were in Kobe for a day and a night before moving across to Osaka, which is a short twelve miles (19 km) ‘voyage’.

Osaka was an eye opener for me, due to the large underground shopping centres, which contained restaurants, cinemas, cafes, car show rooms and thousands of people shopping or eating (but not when they walked – very bad manners), it was an underground city.
The neon lighting and flashing advertising wasn’t any different underground as it was ‘up top’.

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Underground shopping centres are common today, but in 1967 I’d never experienced this type of shopping in the UK or anywhere else.  The above pictures are off the internet and are much later than 1967.

A day or so later we were in Nagoya famed for the crockery industry – tea sets, dinner sets. We didn’t load cargo in any of the ports that we visited, but only discharged our cargo.
From Nagoya it was Yokohama for a couple of nights before sailing once again via the inland sea for Moji.

We were as empty as any ship can be, and we were high out of the water and the propeller thrashed the sea as it pushed us south. The problem being that only half of the propeller was in the water, which caused us to rattle and bang day after day, and the shuddering shook the whole ship so much, that to try and write the ship’s logbook during a watch was a challenge.
It did cross our minds that she might shake herself to bits before we reached Hong Kong.

tramp3

Found the above on the internet to give you an idea of a ship empty and her prop out of the water.

Our reason for visiting Moji again was to load 2500 tons of cement, in the hope that the propeller would be under water for the crossing to Hong Kong, where the ship was to be sold – the idea of Pundua being scrapped in Japan had changed  . . .again.

We reached Moji safely.

While we were loading the cement, I had a few hours off so decided to go to the cinema to see the Ten Commandments, because it was the only film I recognised.

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The above is the Japanese version of     Moses

I bought my ticket and entered the cinema and took a seat in the middle far enough back that I could easily see the screen. The shows were not continuous as they were in the UK at that time.

After a few minutes I was asked to move by a very polite Japanese man who kept bowing and showing me his ticket.  I presumed that he had booked the seat in which I was sitting.
During the next five or six minutes I had to move several times because I was always in the wrong seat, and none of the cinema staff or the patrons could speak English, so I kept moving.

I ended up joining a small group of people near the front who were standing up waiting for the picture to start. This was when I realised that I’d bought a ticket that entitled me to watch the film, but standing up, I was not entitled to a seat!

I was so close to the screen that I had to keep swiveling my head, if I wished to see where an arrow had gone once fired from one side of the screen. Plus looking up Mr Heston’s nose for 220 minutes was not my idea of a day out.

Obviously the soundtrack had sub-titles in Japanese – one set down the right hand side of the screen from top to bottom, and the other along the bottom of the screen. I assumed they were different languages, Japanese from top to bottom & Chinese along the bottom. Perhaps this was to save issuing a Japanese, and a separate Chinese version (for Taiwan & Hong Kong) of the film, so saving money. I doubted that it would have been released in the People’s Republic of China anyway.

Most of my ‘standing’ group did find seating on the steps at the side of the cinema, very close to the screen. This was my one and only visit to a Japanese cinema.

As soon as we were finished loading we sailed as quickly as we could and headed for Hong Kong – why the speed you may ask – another typhoon was on our tail Typhoon Gilda, and we had to try and out run it for the shelter of Hong Kong harbour.
Thinking back, it was odd that we had the confidence to try and out run a typhoon at our top speed of under 10 knots.
There is a web site that makes interesting reading about Gilda (click on the name) as to what happened to the people who were ashore during the storm.

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Picture of Gilda taken from the internet –

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The track of Typhoon Gilda – the islands on the left pf the picture are the Philippines, and where Gilda crosses land, it is the island of Taiwan – in the picture Hong Kong is to the left of Taiwan Island, and the larger green piece of land is China. Our course from Japan would take us down the Taiwan Strait, which is between Taiwan and China.

The sea was rough, but not as bad as on our voyage to Japan. We bounced around quite a lot which was also due to the lack of cargo, but we did manage to out run Typhoon Gilda and reached Hong Kong harbour and shelter before she struck Taiwan in force.

Once in Hong Kong we anchored off the island and began to strip the ship of equipment and stores – the ship had been sold, but the stores belonged to the Company.

We also helped out by having several parties so that we didn’t have to unload the champagne, wine, spirits and beer from the duty-free area. I must admit that we worked particularly hard with certain commodities to help out the Company.

The Pundua was sold to Jebshun Shipping of Hong Kong, and during one of the days that the new owners were checking over the ship I was approached and offered a job as 2nd Mate of the now Shun On, which was the new name of the Pundua.

My initial reaction was that I felt flattered, and then another thought passed through my mind. I had a 2nd Mates ticket and was sailing as 3rd Mate, and after I gained my 1st Mates ticket I’d be looking to sail as 2nd Mate – this was the norm for British registered ships & seamen.
So I asked which ‘trade’ did they anticipate using the Shun On, perhaps the Persian Gulf or the Japan to China trade.
I was told the salary which was VERY good, and then I was told that the Shun On would be running from China to Vietnam with ‘supplies’.

This is when I completely lost interest, particularly as the United States Seventh Fleet was operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, and would not take it kindly of anyone supplying the northern part of Vietnam.

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The red circle is Hong Kong & the green dot is approximately the location of Hanoi, so you can see why the US 7th Fleet considered the Gulf of Tonkin to be so important.

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The 7th Fleet was jokingly called the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club . . . . .  I turned down their generous offer to become a 2nd Mate.

The following day the Pundua was no more, and I left Shun On in a motor launch, which took me to the airport. At that time Hong Kong airport’s runway ‘stuck out’ into the harbour.

I flew out of Hong Kong via MAS – Malaysian-Singapore Airlines, which, at that time, was a joint venture between the two countries.

Singapore Airlines, as we know it today, did not come about until 1972, when the MAS split due to conflict of direction for the future.

MSA_Comet_Groves

Malaysian- Singapore Airline Comet Four at Hong Kong Kai Tak in 1966.

It was this type of Comet that I took from Hong Kong to Singapore the following year. I arrival in Singapore around 2.00 pm, and was met by our agent and taken to the Ambassador Hotel to await the BOAC flight BA 712 to Perth in Western Australia.

Oddly enough I’d flown BA 712 from London to Singapore a couple of years earlier to join LST Frederick Clover.

It was a night flight from Singapore to Perth and I had a very chatty Italian sitting next to me who wanted to tell me his life story in broken English. I was polite, but during one long story I fell asleep it had been a long day.

 

 

The last voyage of the Pundua- Part two

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Uniform button from a BISNC uniform – we still wore the Company’s uniform even though the ship was sailing to Japan to be scrapped.

british-india-cap-badge

Of course, we wore our caps when required, mainly in port when we were duty officer. I did sail with captains that required the officer of the watch to wear his cap, even in the middle of the ocean.

After Penang our next port of call was to be Port Swettenham on the west coast of Malaysia. This port was the main port for the capital Kuala Lumpur, and the port’s name was changed in 1972, to Port Klang.
Today, Malaysia also has an administration and judicial centre called Putrajaya, which is also considered as a ‘capital’.
During the 1960’s we would contact Port Swettenham by radio via the code name ‘Klang Exchange’.

Before 1880 Klang was the capital of Selangor, but in 1880 the capital was moved to Kuala Lumpur, as a more strategic location.
Kuala Lumpur means “muddy confluence” as it is the location of where two rivers meet, and one of the rivers was named Klang River. During the opening of the tin mines near Kuala Lumpur in 1857, it was considered that KL was the furthest point up the Klang River that one could send supplies by boat.

In September 1882, Sir Frank Swettenham was appointed as the Resident of Selangor and he instigated a rail link from KL to Klang, because ships were becoming larger and they could not navigate the shallow waters of the Klang river, which caused problems for the export of tin.
Nineteen and a half miles of track was opened in 1886, and in 1890 the track was finally extended to Klang.
Sir Frank still had a problem, because as ships became larger the Klang river was now too shallow for these modern vessels to navigate up the river to even the town of Klang. It was decided that a new port was required at the mouth of the river, and when completed in 1901 the new port was called Port Swettenham.
Sir_frank_swettenham

Sir Frank Swettenham – March 1850 – June 1946 –

He married Vera Guthrie in 1939, she was forty nine when they were married.
She died in 1970.

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Sir Frank in his younger days.

After a couple of days we sailed from Port Swettenham for Singapore – we sailed at 7.00 am, but we knew were were not due in Singapore until 6.00 am the following day – so we reduced speed and crept down the Malacca Straits.
The distance is about 225 nautical miles and we had 23 hours in which to make the journey, so even at our top speed of ten knots we’d be lucky to get there to meet our schedule. I think the Captain went at full speed and he allowed for the current slowing us down.
From Singapore we went sailed for – Port Swettenham – and arrived on a Saturday. Why does this stick in my mind you might ask – because I was roped in for a game of cricket.
If I was to write the sum of my football knowledge on the back of a stamp I’d have plenty of room for my knowledge of cricket. This game on Sunday went from 1030 am to 5.00 pm in the tropical heat of Malaysia.
We lost of course, and I cannot remember ever spending such a boring day. I’ve never liked ‘bat & ball’ even as a child.

Port swet

Port Swettenham in the 1960’s

It must have been a holiday weekend because the following day I was again shanghaied in to playing football this time against a Ben Line ship (Ben Line was another British shipping company, who operated at that time from the UK to the Far East. I’m not sure if they are still in business.) but this time we won 3 – 1.

There was talk of a return match the following day, but as luck would have it, I was working!

Eventually we sailed for Hong Kong, which was at least a week’s sailing for us. There is always a silver lining because during the several days at sea between Port Swettenham and Hong Kong I managed to finish

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in English of course.

We worked cargo in Hong Kong and made ready for our five-day run to Moji in southern Japan. We sailed at lunchtime on the 15th October 1967. A memorable day!

On the afternoon of the 16th October the weather had become quite wild because we were heading for the outer rim of typhoon Carla, which was later designated as Super Typhoon Carla, a category five typhoon, with wind speeds of 157 mph (252 km/h).

Clara

I found this on the internet of Typhoon Carla

Later we heard that this typhoon dumped 47.8 inches of rain in 24 hours in the Philippines, and the following day 108.2 inches on Taiwan in 48 hours, Oct 17 – 19th, killing 250 people and leaving 30 missing.

Storm 2

I managed to get a few pictures before the light faded. At that time my camera was a pure point and click with little refinements. We were about to meet the typhoon.

storm1

Pundua was old, and we could feel every shudder as she was struck by another wave.

Punduastorm

The light was fading

Punduastorm2

The waves appeared to be getting larger . . .

By the evening the sea was very rough and we were shipping water over the fore deck and pitching and rolling at the same time. (known as corkscrewing).

The following day (17th October) I was on the 8 to 12 watch and so reported to the bridge.
I just wore uniform shorts and shirt, and flip flops, because wearing shoes seemed pointless with all the water around.
I entered the bridge via the inside staircase and stepped into ankle deep water on the deck of the enclosed part of the bridge. Visibility was down to less than three hundred yards, and the clouds seemed to blend with the ocean.

The wave height was estimated at about 30 feet (9 mtrs) and getting worse, and the wind about 45 mph (72 km / hr) whipped up spray from the crest of the waves, which didn’t help with visibility.
All we knew was that we were not making any headway through the water. We only had a vague idea of our location because we couldn’t see the sun and our ancient radar system had died, so we didn’t have any idea as to how close or how far we were from land

The waves and wind smashed our navigation lights, and the hatch cover on number one hatch was slowly being blown to pieces. We had heavy wire ropes on the forecastle, which were used as mooring lines, but these had been washed down on to the main fore deck so powerful were the waves.
Wooden covers of the aft hatch, near the crew’s quarters, had been smashed by the waves, but there wasn’t anything that we could do to secure the damage, it was too dangerous. I jammed myself in the corner of the bridge to stay upright.

Our captain sat in his tall chair looking out ahead – he’d been there all night.

I checked the chart and saw that there was a note attached giving our estimated position that was to be used if the radio operator had to send out an SOS due to our sinking and abandoning ship. A comforting thought as I added my comments of the weather in to the log book.

At 10.00 am on the 17th we had to turn out and secure the steering gear down aft. The strain on the steering gear, as we tried to keep the Pundua’s head in to the waves, caused a huge strain on the rudder (the system was manual steering, we didn’t have auto pilot), so we posted a man down in the steering area to warn us of any further problems with the system.
Every four hours we had to tighten very large nuts, which were part of the steering gear and due to the constant movement, started to come loose.

At noon I was relieved and went below – my cabin was a shamble, due to the constant violent movement of the ship everything was either broken or scattered, and of course everything was soaking wet. With the driving rain and the constant battering by the waves none of our cabins stood a chance of being waterproof. My cabin was one deck above the main deck.

There was little chance of sleep during off duty hours.

At 8.00 pm I was back on the bridge for my watch – the weather had got worse. The waves were estimated at 50 feet high (15.2 mtrs) & the wind was over 70 mph (113 km/h), in fact the wind was so strong we were unable to estimate the speed over 70 mph. Remember we were supposed to be on the rim of the typhoon.

Staggering down aft to check the steering gear was a life-threatening exercise.

The storm never let up for the next day and a half and during the night of the 18/19th October the storm began to ease.

We hadn’t hadn’t been able to fix our position in three days, because of the lack of sun & stars, and we only had an estimated position (more of a gut feel).

At 6.30 am on the 19th October we saw land about five miles away! The problem was that we couldn’t identify the land, but we managed to turn around and headed back out to sea as the land might be China, Formosa (now Taiwan), or anywhere, because getting too close to unknown land would be dangerous because we didn’t know which chart to use.

At 8.00 am when I took over the watch the waves had dropped to about 25 feet and the wind to about 30 mph, the movement felt quite ‘pleasant’, compared to the previous day.

Later we were able to identify the land that we’d seen and we worked it out that to be in the position we were to see the land, we’d crossed rocks and a reef and recrossed the same reef and rocks when we turned to steam away from the land. One might say that the devil takes care of his own . . .

Later in the day we managed to get a shot at the sun and to work out our position. We were only 200 miles away from our position of three days earlier. We should have been 700 miles closer to Japan, but we’d been blown (pushed?), and failed to make any headway. We were  500 miles from our scheduled position.
The voyage from Hong Kong to Moji, at our speed, would have taken us five days, it had already been six days since leaving Hong Kong, and we had an estimated further four days to go.
We joked about our report to head office, Pundua five days late on a five day voyage.

On the 26th October we arrived in Moji which is at the southern entrance to the Inland Sea of Japan, the entrance is via the Kanmon Straits. See the map below.

map

The pink do marks Moji, but today is appears that the town has been swallowed up by surrounding towns, and on later maps is hard to find.
Today you can cross the Straits via ferry, or drive across the bridge or use the tunnel, which can be via train, car or even walk at its narrowest point.
As soon as we docked the agent came aboard – our favourite person if he has mail, but the most hated if he is empty handed.
I received mail from Maureen & my parents, and while sitting quietly reading (we were waiting for the labour to arrive to unload the cargo) my cabin door burst open and my steward dashed in holding letter in his hand and said to me –
‘Sahib, Sahib, you have a letter from your Queen!’
A letter addressed to me had been mixed with the Captain’s official letters, and the steward had been told to take this letter to me. Being an official looking letter, it managed to confuse my Goanese steward.

stamp

I copied the above from the internet to give you an idea why my steward was confused.

The real letter was addressed to me c/o the Company, and it was from the British Admiralty.
When I left Conway to go to sea I joined the RNR (Royal Navy Reserves), but as most of my sea time had been out East and around Australia, I had not reported for any training in the UK. When I was on leave I was not keen to sacrifice my leave, not even for Queen and Country.
Little did I know that I could have had my leave and still attended training with the Royal Navy.
The Company would have released me for the required training time & I’d still be on full pay, that’s how ignorant I was at eighteen, because I was never told of the ‘system’.

People assumed that cadets would be aware of the system. Well I wasn’t aware, and they were now after me for not completing any training in the last five years.

After some thought I decided to resign from the RNR, my resignation was accepted, and the clerks in the Admiralty were very happy, because this helped to keep their files in order.

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         The Company flag & distinctive black funnel with two white bands.

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The above is a photograph of the first Pundua to join the fleet – launched in 1888 and broken up in 1920.
She was 3305 gt – besides being a passenger ship, operating between Colombo (Ceylon) to Tuticorin (southern India) she was used as a troop ship during various wars.
She carried troops during the Boer war, other troops to Shan-Hai-Khwan during the Boxer uprising in China, and from India, the Meeerut Regiment, which was an Indian regiment, to France in WW1.