Ice Cold in Aden.


chilka2M/V Chilka

The Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar behind us and Chilka heads for Almeria on the southern coats of Spain.Almaria

From memory it was a small town with few attractions for the cadets, but we loaded over 2000 barrels of grapes in to our freezer chambers destined for Mombasa, in Kenya.
Chilka was not a freezer ship, but a dry cargo vessel, with some freezer / chiller cargo space.

At the same time, we were unloading bags of cement. Each day during the passage from London we tested the bilges for water, and at each test we found that we were dry, which was unusual, because we always had some water in the bilges. On arrival in Almeria we began to discharge the bags and found that the cement had been contaminated with water and had set hard. The noise of jackhammers was soon heard as we completed the discharge of cement.


Our next port was Malta where we berthed near the BISNC company school ship Devonia. This vessel had been a troop ship and had been converted to carry school children around Europe on educational cruises.
The Devonia cadets where known to all of us cadets in the Chilka, so that evening it was an ‘educational’ down the Gut as it is locally known, or as its correct name Strait Street (Strada Stretta, in Maltese) – which was a famous bar area of Malta in the 1950’s & the early 60’s. We were only in Malta for the one night and sailed the next day for Port Said to join the southbound convoy through the canal.
The British had helped Malta to be free of the French in 1800, and Malta had asked to be a sovereign nation within the British Empire – this was granted at the end of the Napoleonic war in 1815.
Malta was given complete self rule after WW2, in 1947, and she was considering the idea of being part of the UK, or have dominion status in the same way as Australia, Canada & New Zealand, but later decided on becoming an independent country, which took place in September 1964, and at the same time she joined the Commonwealth.


Found this on the internet which gives a good idea as to how narrow Strait Street (the GUT) is . . . .GUT

It was a popular place with the Royal Navy, and as we were dressed in ‘civvies’ we stood out some what.

Two days after clearing Port Tewfik, which is at the southern end of the Suez Canal, we were off Port Sudan, and within a short time alongside the wharf.

Port Sudan was a dusty town to say the least, but they did have a picture house, which I visited on my first evening ashore, to see ‘The Great Escape’, because it was the only English-speaking film available.


I’d seen it in the UK, but viewing it in Sudan was a completely different. I had the choice of ‘Stalls’ or ‘Circle’, so for the price I chose the ‘Circle’, which was just as well. Between the Stalls and the Circle area there were rolls of barbed wire to keep ‘Stalls’ patrons from cheating the system and sitting in the Circle, and I thought the barbed wire was to enhance the realty of the film. . . I should get out more.

great escape

From the internet, he was not watching the film with me.

Next day I was invited by the second officer to try out his aqualung off the reef that shielded the port. We borrowed a small boat to get to the reef.
I didn’t have any idea as to how to use an aqualung underwater, so the whole exercise was quite exciting. He explained what I had to do, and how to breathe normally under water, and the experience, for me, was out of this world to be a part of the under-sea creature environment.


I’d been down about ten minutes when the sun over my right shoulder ‘went out’ as if a cloud had passed in front of the sun. The problem was that I’d not seen a cloud in the last two days, so looked up to check what had caused the ‘cloud’. It was a large shark. I didn’t have any idea what type of shark it was; all I knew was that I was in his area and he was bigger and stronger than me. Fortunately, I was able to swim ‘backwards’, while watching the shark, and as soon as I touched the coral reef I felt safer. I don’t know if it is true that a shark would not get too close to a reef in case it damaged itself on the reef, but at the time I trusted this thought, and eventually made my way in to the coral reef’s shallow area, where I was picked up in the borrowed boat. After this episode I only went snorkeling near a reef.

Aden, one of my least ‘favoured’ ports of call was our next stop. We worked cargo at night because of the heat and the nature of the cargo – ice cream and cheese. I’d never seen a cargo unloaded so fast as this cargo during the night. The labour must have been on contract that any loss of ice cream would have been a penalty or perhaps they had been promised an ice cream on completion.


At the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Aden became an important coaling station on the route to India and also as a base against pirates. It seems that not much has changed in the area with regard to pirates since 1869.

Abdel Nasser of Egypt, in late 1963 called for a Pan Arabist cause, which partly ignited the Aden Emergency with the throwing of a grenade in late 1963 at British officials at Aden airport. The grenade killed a woman and injured fifty others. An anti-British campaign had begun using mainly grenades. The two main anti- British groups were the NLF (National Liberation Front) and FLOSY (Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen).
The requirement to keep law and order brought in more and more troops, which is why we had so much ice cream to unload that night.

ICE CREAM - Lyons Ice Cream Poster

My British readers will remember this advert from the mid 60’s.

The British withdrew from Aden at the end on November 1967, the Suez Canal had been closed by Nasser on the eve of the Six Day War, (5th to 10th June 1967), and then it became the demarcation line between the Egyptians and the Israelis forces. This contributed to years of disruption to the Yemeni economy and Aden in particular.

It appears they are still fighting among themselves over fifty years later.

From Aden we set course for Mombasa, in Kenya. Unlike today we did not have to worry about pirates as we sailed down the Somalian coast.

For the movie buffs, I borrowed the title of a film for this blog, with a slight, alteration,


A classic British film from 1958.







A Diamond that fades . . Pt 2


The normal high standard of Princess cruising has, in my opinion, slipped somewhat, but for us it started last year when we sailed in the Majestic Princess from Rome to Singapore.
We have completed a total of nine cruises, seven of which were with Princess, so I think we can judge when standards are falling. It makes me wonder if Princess has a new CEO.

This latest cruise to Japan was a cruise that I really wanted to do to show Maureen a ‘foreign’ country outside the norm. The language and the signs could not be worked out, unlike Europe or ex British colonies in Asia.


We didn’t realise that this was an advert for a game.

DSC01296rWe had lunch in this restaurant – more of this guy in another blog

My disappointment began soon after we sailed.
While changing for dinner on our first evening I switched on the TV to watch the news – neither of the two screens worked. A sign on one screen informed us that there was a technical fault. This technical fault went on and off for days, and in the end every passenger received a $50 credit – it was onboard money to be spent onboard.
Princess was hoping that the TV system would be fixed in Darwin.
The system was never up to scratch for the whole cruise. There was always something not quite right.

When you watched a film, and you wanted to save where you were up to, sometimes the system would remember the position and other times you had to fast forward to reach the point that you wanted.
None of the news channels worked in Japan and we were informed (via the TV screen) that it was due to Japan blocking the signal . . .

Our next problem was the cold water tap in our bathroom – it only gave out hot water. I complained three times, but it wasn’t fixed, so each night we placed glasses of hot water in our fridge to cool down for the morning.
We also bought cold water in bottles at $3.50 a bottle, which we wouldn’t have done if the cold-water tap had worked, because the water is potable.

After leaving Darwin the Crooners Bar ran out of Peroni beer (the Italian beer).

PeroniA day later I found out that I could get it at the Outriggers Bar. A small detail, but why not make sure all bars carry stock that is listed on the menu. A few days later I bought the last can of Guinness in the Explorers Lounge. This time I couldn’t find Guinness in any other bar – why?


A couple of days later I was told that they had run out of Grolsch, a Dutch beer . . .


The next one to ‘go’ was Fat Yak

Fat YakMaureen doesn’t drink alcohol, but occasionally she likes a small Champaign, which we have bought during past cruises in small bottles.

KorbelWhen I asked for a single small bottle of Korbel (187 ml) I was told that they had ‘run out’ and that the only Champaign available was in a 750 ml bottle, which was too much for Maureen to drink on her own.

More and more items were ‘running out’ so the question is, why didn’t Princess restock in Darwin – checking stock and replenishing when required is simple, regardless of quantity, every household in Australia does it most weeks. It’s not rocket science after all.

While focused on the bar area – we started the voyage with peanuts for nibbles when buying a drink.
After about a week or so the nuts stopped (they’d run out), and the nuts were replaced with bhuja mix.
Several days later this nibble ran out and were replaced with rice nibbles.
Not a killer in the scheme of things, but don’t you think someone would anticipate a certain amount of consumption with 2700 passengers?
Small things, but who is planning the consumables?

Maureen, being a coeliac is gluten free, so at breakfast in the Horizon self-serve area she ordered GF toast, which is always available on cruise ships.
The GF toasted bread was presented after ten minutes. The ‘toast’ was as hard as a rock and shattered when Maureen tried to bite in to it.
Oddly enough when GF bread was ordered in the dining room in the evening, Maureen asked for ‘well done’, yet when it arrived it was lightly toasted and a perfect consistency and didn’t shatter when handled.
Why the difference?

We did dine once in the dining room for breakfast, but this simple meal took 90 minutes from start to finish. I didn’t wish to waste my morning from 8.00 am to 9.30 am every day, so we used the Horizon buffet area, which allowed us to control the times.

A week before we reached Japan we ran out of marmalade, and I was told that an orange coloured spread was marmalade, one look and I commented that I can tell the difference between apricot jam and marmalade.

On previous Princess cruises I used to buy a ‘drinks package’ at around AUD $55 a day, (May 2017), and this allowed me to drink soft drinks & water, as well as alcohol.
The cost of a drinks package on our latest cruise was AUD $89.60 per day!
This is approximately 63% increase in prices in less than a year. Considering the cost of most drinks, without duty tax or GST/ VAT is very small, why the jump?
I didn’t buy the drinks package, nor did I deny myself during the recent cruise, and my daily drinks bill was around $53 / day, which included the 15% compulsory tips (for my convenience, of course).
Maureen’s soft drink package was AUD $7 a day, which was one and a half glasses of her favourite mocktail. That’s more like it!

Azamara cruises and Celebrity cruises often include a drinks package with their cabin prices, but if Celebrity doesn’t include the free drinks, passengers can purchase an alcohol package at a daily rate of AUD $45 / day.
Princess’ ‘nickel and diming’ program comes to mind. This is not my comment, but one made to me by an American passenger during our recent cruise.

Finally, the Princess wine package – which I only found out about a short time before arriving in Japan. Each evening I would buy a bottle of wine for dinner, and on average I’d consume half the bottle and the remainder would be saved by the steward, for the following evening. The cost of a bottle was between AUD$29 and $31, they had more expensive wines, but too expensive for me.
The wine package was explained to me that for a set amount of $161 I could buy a Silver Package, which allowed me seven bottles, which worked out at $23 a bottle. A good deal as far as I was concerned, but I wish they’d told me earlier.

Reverse wine

We’d become friendly with a couple from Yorkshire in the UK, and they decided to buy the Gold package, which allowed them to buy more expensive wine (up to $45) at a discount. Half way through their purchase time the Diamond ran out of wine between $31 and $45, and they were offered the cheaper wine as a replacement.  Our new friends were not happy.
Later we found out that the Japanese consider cruise wine around $40 a bottle to be a steal, because foreign wine is far more expensive in Japan. The next cruise was going to be a Japanese coastal cruise, and the Japanese would buy the ship’s expensive wine to take ashore.
I am not suggesting that Princess were holding back certain higher priced wine, but it appears that the Diamond had run out of another consumable.
Our twenty-two-night cruise came to an end in Yokohama and the vessel was prepared for an influx of Japanese tourists for the first Japanese cruise of the season.

We bought a back to back package, which means we were staying onboard for the first seven-night Japanese cruise.
The bar menus were changed to reflect USD prices and the drink description was now in both English and Japanese. Various Japanese beer was also listed, only it took two days for some of the bars to be stocked with Japanese beer other than Asahi.

AsahiThey sold Asahi on draft only in one bar, but you could only buy it in half pints, but you could buy draft Heineken in pint glasses, why the difference?
When I asked I was told that I could only buy draft Asahi in half pints . . . . I suppose I could have bought two half pints, but by this time I was fed-up with Princess Cruises policies.
I was told that this is how the Japanese drink their beer, and that it was a Japanese cruise – the small detail was, that of the 2700 passengers only about 500 were Japanese, and the majority were westerners or other Asian nationals, but mainly Americans, Australian & British. Who am I to argue with a barman.

SapporoI did manage to get a few cans of Sapporo, but never saw any Kirin although it was on the drinks menu.

As for the food during both cruises –  in the main dining room I suppose the best that can be said, is that it was uninspiring, and often repeated itself.

DSC01704rI can not remember what this starter was called, but from memory it was rice stuffed inside a tube, of what, I don’t know, but I thought it very bland.

DSC00972rThe menu choice was limited to fish, chicken or meat (not both), and pasta, which is one food group that I don’t like. Pasta of sorts seemed to be on the menu most nights. Cheap and easy.


Sweet in the main dining room – layers of ice cream, looked fancy, but still ice cream.

For lunch time in the Horizon Buffet, the choice was wider for the main course, with daily choices of beef, pork, lamb and chicken as well as various fish dishes. The main negative with the Horizon was the pudding or sweet dishes. Rice milk pudding and custard, sago pudding and custard, sometimes mixed with chocolate sometimes plain, bread and butter pudding and custard (with and without chocolate), jelly and small cakes.


Small tarts, cakes and jelly – I should have photographed the sago . . .

The last time I had sago pudding was after the war, during school dinners, when the British Government tried to give every pupil one hot meal day during the time of rationing.
I tried each of them for old time sake, and they were better than school dinners, but to have one or the other everyday was taking nostalgia a little too far.

Quite a number of Australian and Americans were doing a back to back cruises. As time went on more and more passengers that we met in the lift, around a bar or during various waiting periods for shows or trivia, complained about the food, lack of drink choices and the overall drop in service. These comments were not solicited by me, but just came out of the blue.

One American lady, who was an ‘Elite’ passenger, and had sailed with Princess on fifteen cruises and never even considered any other company, told me that the Japanese coastal cruise was her last with Princess, because of the food and overall drop in standards.

From what I heard I was not the only one dissatisfied with Princess Cruises.

The one positive aspect of the cruise was the attentiveness of the staff. Many people commented that the staff were the best part of the Diamond Princess, but that the land-based management had managed to destroy customer loyalty.

Footsteps of Seven Pillars

DSC08824rSunrise over Aqaba

DSC08827rIn the distance Israel, behind us Saudi Arabia, and further to the left of Israel is Egypt as we came alongside Aqaba.


Aqaba is in the Kingdom of Jordon, and Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein is their King, having become King on the death of his father, King Hussein, in 1999.

Princess Cruises offered a number of shore excursion in and around Aqaba, from scuba diving in the warm waters of the gulf, to an all day tour to Petra, which would be over nine hours. Knowing our limitations and having read about some of the problems due to the heat of visiting Petra, we chose to do the shorter tour of Wadi Rum, which was about five hours.
Wadi Rum is also known as The Valley of the Moon, and considering the next suburb of where we live in Sydney is called Jannali, which is an Aboriginal name for Place of the Moon, our choice was obvious.
Wadi means ‘valley’ & Rum mean ‘elevated’.

Wadi Rum was the area where the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, with Peter O’Toole, was partially made, as well as the recent film ‘The Martian’ with Mat Damon.

For me, the dominant feel of Wadi Rum was Lawrence of Arabia – I’d seen the film and read of his exploits.

lawrence-of-arabiaThomas Edward Lawrence, 1880 – 1935

DSC08838rIt wasn’t long after we had driven out of Aqaba that we came across camels.

DSC08839rWe stopped at a small railways station for a ‘photo op’ and the single line reminded me of the film, and when I turned around . . . the train engine fitted the scene, because it was used in the film.

DSC08840rc  if Peter O’Toole had stood on the roof of the train I wouldn’t have been surprised.


As I took the photograph of the engine I thought the area was deserted, until I turned and saw a modern train coming towards me – it was a working line!


DSC08847r.jpg  It was real, not a film set.

DSC08852rThe meeting area for our desert transport was more upmarket than the railway station, with a few shops and toilet facilities. The large rock face in the background is called the Seven Pillars, which was the inspirational name that Lawrence used when he wrote The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’.

DSC08854rNothing flash about our desert transport – the utes made the Aussie’s feel at home. I whispered to Maureen to grab one with a roof covering, how ever flimsy, to keep us in the shade. Each truck carried six passengers in the back – hanging on was the object of the trip once the truck started to move.

DSC08856rIf I’d have heard John Wayne shouting ‘Head ’em up move ’em out’ I wouldn’t have been surprised.

The Seven Pillars right in front of us.


We are off – how fortunate that we had picked the lead truck so that we didn’t have to worry about sand in our wake.

DSC08862rThe scenery was spectacular as we bounced over the ground – they didn’t have any roads across the desert.

DSC08870rcWe reached a sand hill and were told that if we climbed the hill the views would be magnificent.

DSC08872rIt didn’t look all that hard so I started to climb, Maureen stayed with the trucks.

DSC08876rIn the very soft sand each foot step was energy sapping – and my new pacemaker started to work overtime.

DSC08877rNearing the top – gasp, gasp, keep pumping  . . .

DSC08879rcMade it ! and the driver was correct the views were just great.

DSC08880r Looking back to our convoy of trucks.

DSC08881rI tried to capture the distances and the depth of beauty – the isolation, the quiet and as Lawrence himself said, the desert is clean.
Gazing across the desert reminded me of the book ‘The Phantom Major’ by Virginia Cowles, about the creation of the British SAS during WW2 and how the Long Range Desert group ferried the SAS to their targets. Maureen’s uncle was a member of the LRDG, so our desert ride gave us a very small idea of what he experienced. At least nobody was trying to kill us – well, not with bullets.

DSC08885rOff again until we came to a camp with camels. The offer being USD $15 per person to ride a camel to the next stop (about twenty minutes by camel). Quiet a few took them up on the camel owner’s offer.

DSC08892r        The rest of us climbed back in to our trucks for a more ‘comfortable’ ride.


I couldn’t stop taking photographs as we bounced along.

DSC08898rA cup of tea at a Bedouin camp – as you see the latest addition to the Bedouin camel is blue (on the right of the picture).

DSC08900r  Small glasses of tea were offered – brewed using the open fire. Cardamom seeds were added to the drink after it had been brewed. The seed gave the drink a distinctive taste which was not unpleasant. Of course they had various articles for sale.

DSC08903rcOutside carved in to a rock was a sculpture of the King of Jordon and also Lawrence.

DSC08906rI don’t think the artist had seen Lawrence . . .

DSC08907rThe rest of our group arrived safely and the camel handler started back for the next load of tourists.
Once we were all together and the ‘camel’ group had tried the tea we were off again at high speed so fast that as we shot over to tops of sand hills we were nearly airborne. It was quite exciting as long as you didn’t think of H & S, lack of seatbelts, lousy springs and teeth shattering landings, and of course there wasn’t anyway that I could take photographs. Both hands were busy being ‘white knuckles’ as we hung on to our truck.

DSC08913rBack on the flat ground again and we suddenly came to a tent hotel – welcome, cold drinks, tea, biscuits, and local music.

DSC08914rDining area


Lights for an evening show.

DSC08919rBackground Arabic music.

The whole experience was stimulating and enjoyable, and I am glad we picked the five hour tour because that was enough for us with the heat and the ‘bounce’.

As much as I enjoyed the film Lawrence of Arabia the actual attack on Aqaba is – to be kind, artistic licence – because the attack shown in the film is untrue.

The main battle for Aqaba took place at a small block house called  Abu al Lasan, which is between Aqaba and the town of Ma’an. The Arabs captured it, and few days later the Turks recaptured the blockhouse.
Later the Turks attacked an Arab camp and killed several Arabs.
Auda abu Tayi heard of the Turkish attack on the Arab camp and lead his own attack against the Turks. Lawrence was with him during this attack.
The attack was a success and three hundred Turkish soldiers were killed before Auda could control his troops. A further three hundred Turks were captured. The Arabs lost two killed and a few wounded.

While this battle was going on the Royal Navy arrived off Aqaba and began to shell the town.

A combined  force of about five thousand, which included the troops under Auda abu Tayi (leader of part of the Howett tribe)  &  Sherif Nasir (Faisal’s cousin), again with Lawrence advising, infiltrated the defence lines of the Turks around Aqaba, and approached the gates of the town, at which point the garrison surrendered without a struggle.

Regardless of the true battle, I do like the film’s attack of Aqaba, even if it was made in a Spanish riverbed, rather than Wadi Rum. The town of Aqaba, shown in the film, was recreated by the film company exactly as Aqaba was in 1916 – 300 buildings, the army camp, including parade ground, a quarter of mile long sea wall, etc all of the ‘real’ towns that were considered were too ‘modern’ for 1916.

If you get a chance to visit Jordon, visit Wadi Rum.


Birkenhead and all that . .

500px-BirkenheWhere there is faith there is light and strength

The translation of the moto above.

My father’s family have lived in Birkenhead since around 1870, after moving from St Albans in Hertford via Derby. My mother’s family were relatively newcomers having moved from Caernarvon in North Wales in 1921. I was born in the same terrace house in Lower Tranmere, Birkenhead in which my father was born. The house was built around 1870.

Birkenhead was an amalgamation of four boroughs in 1877 – Birkenhead, Tranmere, Oxton and Claughton-cum-Grange and the seal of Birkenhead was created from the four seals of the original towns.

The single lion and the crosier is from the Massey family of Birkenhead who founded a monastery in 1150. The oak tree is from Tranmere, and the dual lions from Oxton, and I think the blue ‘star’ symbol is from Claughton-cum- Grange.
On the top you will see a blue lion with his front paw on an anchor, which symbolises how Birkenhead depends on the sea and shipping.

Odd facts about Birkenhead – particularly with connections to the United States of America.

In 1847 Birkenhead opened the first public funded civic park in the world. It was designed by Joseph Paxton. The idea of a public park came about in 1841 when the town bought 226 acres of land, which was marshy and grazing land on the edge of the town.

1280px-Birkenhead_Park_-_The_Grand_EntranceMain entrance to the park.




Lake house


Quiet spots

The above park pictures have been taken from the internet – all of mine are black & white!

Frederick Law Olmsted, an American landscape architect, arrived in Liverpool in 1850 to stay in the north west of England. During his time in England, he visited a number of parks, including Birkenhead Park.
In 1858 he and Calvert Vaux won a competition to design a new park for New York, which was to be called Central Park. He was impressed with Joseph Paxton’s design of Birkenhead Park, and this influenced his overall design of Central Park.
Birkenhead Park was also the template in 1872, for the design of Sefton Park in Liverpool

Central-Park-New-York-CityCentral Park NY

conservatory-waterBoat lake Central Park

Central park is nearly four times the size of Birkenhead Park.

In 1860 an American, George Francis Train, visited Liverpool to try and persuade them to build a tram network – Liverpool did not respond to his idea, so Mr Train crossed the river to Birkenhead, and they listened, and opened the first tramway in Europe, which was from Woodside (which is on the river bank) to Birkenhead Park. It was horse drawn.



The above two pictures are to illustrate the horse drawn tram – both were taken by me in Victor Harbor, South Australia, this Australian service began in 1894.

Mr Train told Birkenhead council that if the service was not a success, he would return the streets to their original state, at his own cost. He did not have to spend any money.

In 1828 William Laird and his son John started a ship building company on the banks of the River Mersey at Birkenhead.

In 1839 he built the first screw propelled steamer, the Robert F Stockton, which was a tug for use on the North American Waterways.

They were successful at building iron ships and one of the best customers was the East India Company. Relations with China began to deteriorate so the Company wanted war ships to protect their China trade.  Laird built the Nemesis, which was 184 foot long, 29-foot beam, 6- foot draft and 660 tons. She was armed with two pivoted mounted 32 pounders, four six pounders and rocket launchers. She had 120 hp steam engine as was the first iron ship to round the Cape of Good Hope. She was a paddle steamer.

The 'Nemesis'   Nemesis, (Goddess of retribution).

HEICo_steamer_Nemesis Nemesis wreaked havoc amongst the wooden junks of the Chinese navy during the First Opium War. The first rocket that she fired hit a large junk and caused it to blow up with a huge explosion. The Chinese did not stand a chance against such modern weapons.

In 1848 they built the 1400-ton paddle frigate HMS Birkenhead for the navy. She became famous when she was being used as a troop ship and was wrecked off South Africa in 1852.

The_Birkenhead-TroopshipHMS Birkenhead

She didn’t have enough lifeboats for all of the passengers, so the troops stood in their regimental lines so as to allow the women and children to get away in the lifeboats.

Only 193 of the 643 people on board survived and the soldier’s bravery gave birth to the call ‘ women and children first’ when abandoning any ship. This became known as the Birkenhead Drill. All the women and children survived.


Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem in their honour and part of it is below

‘To stand and be still
to the Birken’ead Drill
is a damn tough bullet to chew’.

Some years later the Confederate States of America ordered an iron clad ship from the same shipyard in Birkenhead –

CSSAlabamaCSS Alabama

1050 tons, 222 foot long, 31-foot 8 inch beam, 17 foot 8 inch draft, single screw, with 6 x 32 pounders, 1 x 100 lb cannon and 1 x 68 lb cannon, BUT none of her armaments were on the vessel when she was handed over to the Confederates because of the British neutrality Act. Laird’s were legally able to build and sell the ship without arms. She sailed to the Azores where she was handed over and then rigged with her armaments. Her decks had been built with reinforcements to take the cannon.

QaYtGJwHer moto was – ‘God helps those who help themselves.’

She burned 65 union ships (mainly merchant ships) but did not harm the crews but put them on neutral ships.   Eventually she was sunk by a Union vessel off the coast of France. In 1984 the French navy found the resting place of the Alabama in 200 feet of water off Cherbourg, France.

Birkenhead was not always building ships because sometimes ships were run aground to be broken up.


SS Great Eastern

Brunel’s Great Eastern, launched in 1858 and was the largest ship ever built. 18,915 grt, 692 feet long, 82 feet wide with four decks built to carry 4000 passengers non-stop to Australia from the UK. The world had to wait until 1899 before a longer ship, RMS Oceanic was built, and 1901 before a heavier ship was built RMS Celtic, 21,035 grt.

 The Great Eastern never carried passengers to Australia, but did carry them to America, before becoming a cable laying ship.

Later she was used as an advertising ‘hoarding’ and sailed up and down the River Mersey advertising Lewis’ Department store. I suppose it was ‘fortunate’ that Brunel died in 1859 and never saw what happened to his world class ship.


The Great Eastern was beached between Rock Ferry and New Ferry not far from the Laird’s shipyard.

Great_Eastern_SLV_AllanGreen  Her stern is towards Rock Ferry and her bow points to New Ferry, although many comments state that she was broken up at New Ferry.

Behind the Great Eastern’s stern (which is not shown in this photograph) is HMS Conway.


It took eighteen months to break up the Great Eastern, it was far larger and stronger than the breakers had imagined, and it is thought that they made a big loss on the job.

Finally, to end on the park again –

War_memorial_BirkenheadThe Birkenhead war memorial in Hamilton Square has my uncle’s name inscribed up on it – he is buried a short distance outside Ypres in Belgium, having been killed in action in 1917 – he was nineteen.

DSC00214r  Albert Edward01He signed up at seventeen, and just before he left, he and his parents visited a show for the troops. It was held at a theatre across the road from the main entrance to Birkenhead Park. I believe my father would have been with them – he would have been six years old at the time.

aaki_wmOpening day for the park in 1847.

Program 01.jpg


I found the program among some old papers of my father’s. As you see the theatre is reopening on Good Friday, 2nd April 1915, only a hundred and two years ago tomorrow (Good Friday).

The theatre was later renamed as the Park Cinema, before being pulled down in 1938 and replaced with a more modern building called the Gaumont Cinema.

Napier, the Art Deco Capital of the world.

dsc07794rApproaching Napier.

NAPIER – So named after Sir Charles Napier 1782 to 1853.

The Hawks Bay earthquake of 1931 flattened Napier, and killed 161 people and injured thousands. The local newspaper at the time wrote that the town had been wiped off the map.


I took a photograph and this photograph, which was on a large poster showing what used to be at this location. I believe it used to be a church.

dsc07860rThis is what is there today – still a church, and a garden of remembrance.

The landscape changed for ever. Near Napier there had been a large lagoon called Ahuriri Lagoon. The land around Napier rose two metres and the bottom of the lagoon rose 2.7 mtrs, which cause the lagoon to drain away and became dry land. Today this land is home to an airport, industrial areas and farmland.

beforeBefore the earthquake – picture from NZ Encyclopedia.


After the earthquake – picture from NZ Encyclopedia.

One of the first jobs was to clear the dead fish from the lagoon as the water receded – the stench must have been terrible.

During the quake fires broke out and the water lines burst, so the fire brigades were limited in their fight against the fires, and many buildings were destroyed.
Fortunately, a Royal Navy vessel, HMS Veronica, was moored off shore so she sent crew members to help the town and acted as the communication centre by contacting the authorities in the Wellington (the capital) and letting the world know of the disaster. The crews of two merchant ships also gave help to the town.
Later two additional Royal Navy ships sailed from Auckland with emergency supplies of food, tents, medicines etc.
The history of the rebuilding of Napier has the feel of a novel. The authorities appointed two men to oversee the clearing away of the damaged structures and to start rebuilding quickly. They realised that the population was falling as people moved away to find shelter or jobs etc and the only way to stop the population decline was to start rebuilding quickly.


The rubble from the town was pushed out to sea to create this shore side garden and recreational area. Skating areas, put-put golf, music and some beautiful gardens. A great memorial to those who perished.


dsc07817rThe town was rebuilt in the art deco design and fortunately has not been allowed to change. There were moves to pull down certain buildings and to build ‘new’ 1960’s style, but the local historical (Art Deco0) society managed to block most of these moves.



My memory of Napier of the mid 60’s was that every building was painted white, but when I saw the town recently, I thought my memory had played tricks because all of the buildings were painted in pastel colours of the 1930’s. Note the street sign, which is in the characters of the 1930’s.

Maureen and I had decided to do a guided walk offered by the art deco society of Napier and during the short intro chat, the guide mentioned that the buildings used to be all painted white in the 60’s, which pleased me that my memory was not at fault.


Main shopping street – photo taken late afternoon as everybody started to drift off home.

dsc07811rcBertie Wooster would have felt quite at home.


The locals take being in the part very seriously, which added to the enjoyment of our visit.




The boy was real when this statue was made – he is waving at his mother.


The model for this was not a ‘model’ as such, but a local lady of some standing in the community. Our guide pointed her out to us and mentioned that a year or so earlier he had completed a few small jobs for this lady’s home. She still lives in Napier and is now in her late eighties.

dsc07824rMany of the shops are dated from the 1930’s – our guide explained about the lead lining in the glass, the type of wood and even the ‘in go’. Double frontage windows i.e windows on both side of the entrance door.


The ‘in go’ for the shop above – i.e the area between the pavement and the actual shop door. When I was a child most shops had an ‘in go’, but I didn’t know what it was called then, but it was an area where you could stand and look in, before deciding to go in, and speak to a staff member.

dsc07842rTheater built in 1938 and later expanded to the right, but I was more interested in the original frontage. Our guide had the key so in we went,

dsc07843rRemember this type of lighting in the foyers of cinemas in the 40’s & 50’s? This was well before multiscreens had been ‘invented’.


A better view of the ceiling in the foyer of the theater.

Some years ago the management realised that the carpet had reached the end of its life, so they decided to replace it, but they wished to keep the art deco theme. They found a clean piece of the original carpet and sent it to Australia where a carpet manufacturer copied the design of the 1930’s and now they have a new carpeted foyer à la 1933.


 An unusual art deco building – the two flags are New Zealand and Germany and the owner of the building, Mr Hildebrandt, being an immigrant, wanted to show the friendship between his old home and new home and that he arrived in Napier by sea.


Mr Hildebrandt’s building in on a corner, and the design is carried all around.

For the old Conway readers I found something that I just had to photograph,


The art deco building above had been designed with a nod to a ship, such ‘naval’ designs being common in the 1930’s.

With the zoom on I took the next picture.


New Zealand Shipping Company, a company in which many old Conway’s sailed . . .

To quote from Napier City Council Art Deco web page –

Art Deco expressed all the vigor and optimism of the roaring twenties, and the idealism and escapism of the grim thirties.

Its decorative themes are:

Sunbursts and fountains – representing the dawn of a new modern age.
The Skyscraper shape – symbolic of the 20th century.
Symbols of speed, power and flight – the exiting new developments in transport and communications.
Geometric shapes – representing the machine and technology which it was thought would solve all our problems.
The new woman – revelling in her recently won social freedoms.
Breaking the rules – cacophonous jazz, short skirts and hair, shocking dances.
Ancient cultures – for oddly enough, there was a fascination with the civilizations of Egypt and central America.
All of these themes are represented on the buildings of Napier, most of which are still standing today and are lovingly cared for by their owners.

Maureen & I walked the main street before taking the Art Deco walk, and we must have had our eyes closed, because we didn’t see anything until the guide pointed out the various styles and shapes. His talk was fascinating and he had the ability to bring all that jazz to life.

If you ever manage to get to NZ, make sure Napier is on your bucket list.

I managed to get some picture of the inside of a few buildings (point and click through windows etc), but I don’t want to bore readers.

Bridge on the River Kwai


bridge1In 1945 the Americans bombed the real bridge on the river Kwai. The centre parts of the bridge (the flat bits) are new, and the original part of the bridge has the curved sides.
We could walk on the bridge; it is a rail bridge only, and not available for road transport.

imgp1899rThere was a wooden bridge built about one hundred meters up river from this bridge, and that bridge was used while the prisoners built the metal bridge, which was #277 of over 600 bridges built to accommodate the railway. Later the wooden bridge was used again after the bombing of this bridge.

Before we caught the train to Numtok, which is now the end of the line, we visited the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery – a very emotional place as you walk passed thousands of plaques, which list the name, rank, regiment, age and date of death.



Lest we forget the 6,982 Australian, British and Dutch prisoners.

imgp1845rThere is another cemetery a couple of kilometers away with a further 1693 prisoners.

One hundred and thirty three Americans also died on the railways, but their bodies were repatriated back to the US.

It is estimated that half of the 180,000 Asians, (Malays, Burmese, Thais, Chinese etc) who were forced to help build the railway, also died, but they are not buried in these cemeteries.

Our destination, by train, is Numtok – the line used to go to the Burmese / Thai border, but after the war the line from Numtok to Burma was ripped up. I have heard that there is a very small possibility that the missing line might be reconstructed.

imgp2890r The notice tells us that the station is the River Kwai Bridge, but it is Kanchanaburi, with a thriving market on the platform area to keep the tourists happy.

imgp2893rOur train has arrive.


Open windows, open doors and ineffective fans trying to keep us all cool. On looking down I was able see the sleepers and track through cracks in the floor. Not something I was used to on European or Australian trains, but all part of the ‘adventure’.imgp2909rThe line is a single line track so if you miss the train you have to wait for it to do the round trip.

imgp2913rWe are about to cross the viaduct, which was built by the prisoners in seventeen days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the end of the line – Numtok.


imgp1887rThe Wang Pho viaduct – hand made . . . in 2016 it is 73 years old . .


One dead prisoner for every sleeper of the 415 km railway –

They only had elephants to help, because they didn’t have any earth moving equipment.


Along side the viaduct was a large cave. This cave was used by the POWs as a ‘hospital’ it is now a Buddhist Temple in remembrance.


The correct name for the River Kwai is Khwae Noi, meaning small tributary, which merges with Khwae Yai River to create the Mae Kong River.

Pierre Boulle, a Frenchman, who had experienced great hardship after being captured by the Vichy French on the Mekong River, wrote a novel called ‘Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï’ – The Bridge of the River Kwai, which was later made in to a film, which became a great success.

poster-bridge-on-the-river-kwai-the_02It was such a success that people flocked to Thailand in an effort to find the Bridge of the River Kwai. The river didn’t exist, but the Khwae Noi did . . . .so in 1960 the river was renamed Kwai, which helped the Thai economy considerably.

The other small detail is that the film Bridge on the River Kwai was made in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) not Thailand.

It’s an odd world – on checking a few facts for this blog I came across Lt Col Philip Toosey, who was the real Colonel in the camp that built this part of the railway.
He was nothing like the Alec Guinness character who collaborated with the Japanese – I believe Alec Guinness was not happy portraying this type of character.
Col Toosey had his men commit as much sabotage as possible, and I heard that he even collected termites and spread them around the wooden bridges in the hope that they would start eating  . . . .

At the end of the war, during the war trials in Japan, Col Toosey spoke up for Sgt Major Saito, who was second in command, (he was portrayed as a Colonel in the film), because he treated the POWs better than many of the guards. Saito respected the Colonel and later they corresponded.

Over two hundred Japanese were hanged for war crimes, and a large number of others spent many years in gaol.

Saito said that Col Toosey showed him what a human being should be, and this changed his life. On the Colonel’s death in 1975 (he was 71), Sgt Major Saito travelled from Japan to pay his respects at the Colonel’s grave side. Not until Sgt Major Saito’s death in 1990 did his family realise that he had become a Christian, because of Colonel Toosey.

After the war the Colonel returned home and worked in Liverpool, UK.

The odd bit for me is that Col Toosey came from Birkenhead, which is across the river from Liverpool. He lived in Upton Road and went to school at Birkenhead Park High School.

I lived about a hundred yards or so from this school, and between 1956 and 1960 I used to deliver newspapers for the news agency in Upton Village. My delivery area included all of Upton Road to Bidston hill, I just wondered if I used to deliver to the Colonel’s house.

The Magnificent PC

Earlier this week my son & I went to the latest Hollywood effort of the Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai (1954)

The Magnificent Seven (1960)


Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966)


Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)


The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972)


The Magnificent Seven (2016)


The latest version for me is so politically correct that it is a pure Saturday afternoon matinee film of my childhood. The hero shoots the bad guy’s gun out of his hand, the goodies never miss with hand guns, and use rifles that fire such distances with such accuracy that it brought back my ability when I was a six-year-old cowboy – I never missed either.

The most noticeable influence for me was the politically correctness of the film.

The leader is a black American (Yul Brynner in the 1960 film))

His off sider is white American (Steve McQueen – 1960 film)

We have an ex sharp shooter form the civil war with ‘problems’ of using his gun to shoot people. He’s not all that keen on Mexicans,

So we have a Mexican, who is not sure of his skills. (Robert Vaughn in the original 1960 film)

We also have an Asian knife thrower (I think James Coburn is the closest in the 1960 film, but he wasn’t Asian).

This time we have something new, a ‘red’ Indian (Comanche) called Red Harvest who is painted red . . . .

Even the baddies have a red Indian, just one, out of what seems to be hundreds on the baddies side.

Don’t let’s forget the leading lady – according to her she has more balls than any man in town as she sets off to look for the Magnificent Seven to help reclaim the town, which is being threatened by a bunch of white Americans. (Mexicans in the 1960 film)

Of course the town people are frightened and only our heroine and one other has the guts to leave and to look for the ‘seven’.

Our heroine is taught how to shoot and uses her new skills to great effect right up to one of the final scenes. The feminist movement should be happy with her character.

Plenty of gun play, bows and arrows, knife throwing, explosions, and not one horse is shot or injured, only the riders – and they are bad guys so they are fair game.

The film has so many ‘tokens’ that I think it has covered everyone who might be offended.

We attended the lunchtime session at 12.50 pm, which allows pensioners like me to have my lunch at 10.30 am, so as not to miss the film. Many other patrons had the same idea, because I think my forty year old son was the youngest person in the cinema. The cinema could seat about two hundred people or more, but I doubt that the cinema would cover their costs, because there were only fifteen people in the whole place – pensioners $8.50 and my son paid $21!

Based on the audience it was obviously a popular film . . .

Silverton movies and all that . . .

The Silverton Pub.


As soon as I saw the local pub I recognised it from various films.


Mad Max 2


A town like Alice  – Australian min-series from the book by Nevil Shute.TownLikeAlice


Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,
to name three that I’ve seen, and I couldn’t count the number of TV adverts.

Outside was parked an ‘INTERCEPTOR love child’ from the Mad Max film.

As you can see it was hot and dry, so we had to go in for a cool drink from the barman behind the corrugated iron bar.


My wife and I were the only customers -the two people you can see were staff.


We carried our drinks outside – more corrugated iron, but under the shade it was quite pleasant.gaol1

The local gaol has been turned in to a museum, which focused on the surrounding area. What we thought would be a quick visit turned in to a much longer visit, because of the large number of exhibit rooms, and the display items outside at the back (beyond the wall in the picture). It was a fascinating visit. We were there about an hour and a half.

In the gaol museum we asked about the Mad Max II film and a local told us of the view from Mundi Mundi Lookout (another double name). From this lookout we could see the flat plain where some of the exciting scenes from the Mad Max film were shot. Where we stood seemed to be the only ‘high’ ground in the area. I say high, but it was only a few feet higher than the surrounding land.DSC03624r


Not a cloud in the sky.

For more information about the making of Mad Max II at this location, just click on the link.

Although it was very hot, it was a dry heat with low humidity, which was not as unpleasant as  the same heat in Sydney, which would have had a high humidity.

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