Considering the current pandemic I thought I would throw in a comment or two about a visit to Fremantle to load cargo for the Middle East, but before we could leave port a number of us had to have our vaccinations updated. This happened periodically to protect us from ‘catching’ something dangerous from yellow fever to smallpox.
For the record I’ve been jabbed in Liverpool, HMS Conway (North Wales), London, when I was a cadet in M.V Dunera, Singapore, New Zealand, Dubai & Australia.
I always had a glass of beer afterwards to make sure I was still waterproof. (The older we become the worse the jokes).
This time is was TAB (not the Australian betting system), but protection against typhoid and paratyphoid A and B infection, and another smallpox inoculation. I realised that it was all for our own good, but I often wondered if the needle was also used for sewing buttons on a shirt . . .afterwards my arm ached and for some reason it put me in to a ‘bad’ mood, and on returning to the ship I realised that I was not the only bad tempered crew member ! The mood change lasted until the following day, after which all was back to normal.
During my off-duty time I’d catch a train to Perth, which took about 40 minutes.
Fremantle was ‘quiet’, except for a few pubs.
The above is from https://westonlangford.com/license/ a website that is a full of old Australian train pictures.
Upon reaching Perth I was surprised to see trolley buses, because they had passed into history in many UK towns – and in 2020 being reconsidered as a ‘cleaner’ form of public transport. History repeating itself I suppose.
The above picture shows the trolley buses parked outside Perth Railway Station.
The visit to Perth and Fremantle as a ‘tourist’ in the late 1960’s was entertaining and interesting, and an easy run ashore at least I could understand the language – well most of the time.
We still stood ‘watches’ so because I usually had the ‘graveyard’ watch Midnight to 4.00 am, I was on ‘nights’, which was from midnight to 8.00 am, because we worked cargo during the night.
I was not the only crew member awake, we also had the duty engineer and his crew in the engine room, because our engine produced power for the cargo lights, the deck equipment and of course the ship’s accommodation.
In addition, the helmsman who was usually on the bridge with me when at sea, was now in charge of the gangway during the night.
We sailed in late May for Colombo Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). I can remember that as we sailed from Fremantle, we kept turning the TV aerial to maintain a good reception and we managed to just finish ‘Till Death Us do part’ before the signal became too weak. I doubt that this program would see the light of day in today’s PC world.
I took over the bridge watch at midnight 31st May and read the Captain’s night orders, stay 15 miles off the coast of the Cocos Islands, which are close to halfway between Fremantle and Colombo.
Ceylon is the small island that can be seen at the southern tip of India, and Cocos Island is the red circle indicated.
The Cocos Islands are in the southern hemisphere and is only five metres (16 feet) above sea level.
Being so low, and mainly coral, they did not give a good signal return when using the radar, which is why I was to stay far away from the islands.
The islands were discovered by Captain William Keeling in 1609, who was British and in the employ of the East India Company. He came from Southampton
The islands have been called the Cocos Islands, the Keeling Islands, the Cocos–Keeling Islands and the Keeling–Cocos Islands, but now just the Cocos Islands.
The islands were annexed by the British in 1857 and later became the responsibility of the Straits Settlement Governor.
The Straits Settlement consisted of Penang, Singapore, Malacca, Dinding (which is in Malaysia now), and Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, which is about 845 km (525 miles) from Cocos Is.
Later Cocos Island became important because in 1901 it was a cable station for the underwater cable that started in London and connected Australia to the UK.
In WW1 a landing party from the German ship SMS Emden landed on Cocos Is. to cut the cable. The locals managed to send out a distress call and the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney was sent to investigate.
SMS Emden in 1914 (SMS = HMS, in the Royal Navy)
A battle took place and SMS Emden was damaged so much that she was beached, after which HMS Sydney chased the Emden’s collier.
After the collier scuttled herself, the Sydney returned to the Cocos Is. and saw that SMS Emden was still flying her battle ensign, which implied that she was still willing to fight. The Captain of the Sydney signaled Emden to surrender and to lower her flag. The signal was sent in plain language so there would not be misunderstanding.
The SMS Emden failed to reply so HMAS Sydney fired two salvos, at which point the German flag came down and a white sheet indicated their surrender.
The crew of the Emden burned their battle flag rather than allowing it to fall in to the hands of the Australians.
If you would like to know more of SMS Emden click on this link which I posted in April 2017. https://silverfox175.com/2017/04/
In WW2 it was thought that the Japanese would occupy the islands, but they didn’t, but the Cocos Is. did receive shell fire from a Japanese submarine.
After the fall of Singapore, the island came under the control of Ceylon.
Later in the war the islands were used by the Royal Air Force so as to bomb enemy locations in South East Asia.
After the war the islands once again came under the control of Singapore and in 1955 the islands were transferred from British control to Australian control.
In 1984 a UN monitored referendum was held for the people of the islands to choose their future – they chose to become part of Australia.
The above is the current flag of the island, and the population estimate in 2019 was 555.
It was a calm night, with clear skies, so I was able to get a faint signal on the radar, which gave me the distance, so I duly wrote this information in the ship’s log.
2 thoughts on “Take the needle”
Maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t go to sea ! – I remember having a Yellow Fever jab at Conway, and being unwell soon after. – Sick bay checked my temperature and time since jab, and considered there was nothing wrong, but found it interesting that as a kid I had to sweat out a Tetanus jab that the administering Doctor got most concerned about. – Probably I have a weird blood type !
I notice that your watch was again the midnight to four a.m. – Was this by choice or just ‘luck’ of the draw ?
I remember reading about the Emden / Sydney face off, but had forgotten the location at Cocos Islands !
Again, Thanks Geoff. Most interesting as usual !
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Morning Mike, I am still have holes jabbed in me – recent ant-flu injection and on Thursday they took sample of blood so had to check water proofing . . . I warned you about the jokes :- o)
Depending on how many watching keeping officers on the ship – the 2nd mate might well do the 8 to 12 so that he can take the noon sight, 3rd mate on the 12 / 4 and mate on 4 / 8, but with four watch keepers the 1st mate would be on days, 2nd mate 4/8 but would also do the noon sight with the junior 3rd on the 8/12 and the more senior 12/4. I quite liked the 12/4 because it was usually free of interference – most captains slept from midnight on wards and often they had afternoon naps :- o)
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