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, Trafalgar day, 1890

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).

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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)

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                 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.