Colombo – Ceylon

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Ceylon did not become Sri Lanka until 1972.

The country has had a chequered  history, from the Portuguese arriving in 1505, followed by the Dutch, when the king of Sri Lanka signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Company, in the hope that the Dutch would get rid of the Portuguese.

It was during the Napoleonic wars that France occupied the Netherlands, and made that country part of France, which caused concern to the British.

The British didn’t want France to have any influence in or around India, so they occupied the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. At the end of the Napoleonic war the British occupied the whole country, and it was they who called the country Ceylon.

Ceylon gained their independence from the British in 1948, but it wasn’t until 1972 that the country’s name changed to Sri Lanka.

Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, the first female Prime Minister in the world.
She was PM three times and it was during her second period in office (1970 – 1977) that the country’s name changed to Sri Lanka.

ColomboOn arrival we were moored to buoys in the harbour of Colombo (see above) and the labour came out to us in barges to load / unload cargo.

The small problem with Ceylon is that they have 26 public holidays a year, which consist of a mix of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim faith days.
One of the holidays is Poya Day which happens when there is a full moon they are entitled to a holiday, so little is done on the 12 full moon days in a year, plus it is not unknown for some to take the day off before Poya Day, so working cargo can be slowwww.

The slow speed of work gave us time to experience Colombo and enjoy the beautiful island.

One Sunday four of us hired a taxi to take us from the dock area to Mount Lavinia Hotel, which used to be the Governor’s house. The hotel was about ten miles out of the city and the drive would have been about thirty to forty minutes, due to traffic.

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An old picture of the Governor’s House taken around 1900 – it had fallen in to disrepair as it was no longer the Governor’s House.

The British Government sold the house in 1842 and it was bought by Rev. Dr. John MacVicar, the Colonial Chaplain and turned in to an asylum.

In 1877 the railway line was built along the coast from Colombo and it passed very close to the old building.
A developer saw the potential and restored the old building and added two wings and the building became The Mount Lavinia Grand Hotel. The hotel changed hands a few times until it was bought by Mr. U. K. Edmund in 1975 and is still in the family.

In 1957 it was used for a few scenes in the film Bridge on the River Kwai, the film was made in Sri Lanka (not Thailand) and the hotel ‘played’ a military hospital – oddly enough it was a military hospital during WW2.

Most of the British prisoners in the film were local Sinhalese made up to play British POWs.

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Above picture from the internet.

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The Mount Lavina Hotel is now one of my favourite hotels, and it took me thirty-eight year before I was able to return, this time with Maureen.

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The taxi dropped us at the hotel, and the uniforms may be a little more modern, but the ambiance of our arrival was the same.

 We booked a curry lunch; – at that time they didn’t have a swimming pool, why would you need one considering the location.

They owned the beach.

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At that time the hotel had facilities for day visitors, and we were able to get changed and be confident that our clothes & valuables etc would be safe. I kept some money in my pocket – just in case I wanted a drink.

Swimming in the waves can make one tried so I decided to take a walked along the beach away from the hotel and the distant city of Colombo. I came across a lady selling fresh pineapples, so I bought one, and found that the taste was out of this world,
I’d only ever had tinned pineapples in the UK, funny how some memories stay with you.
We had the use of showers and it was time for a pre-lunch beer, before entering the dining room for our lunch.
We ate under giant ceiling fans that moved slowly enough to cool, but not to make the food cold – all very ‘pukka sahib’.

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I took the above picture in 2014 and I don’t think it was all that much different than in 1968, I think that now they have air conditioning.

After lunch we sat on the lawn and chatted or just doze – the lawn has gone and it is now the swimming pool.

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Now guests have a choice . . .

I took the photograph at the beginning of this post from the end of the pool at Mount Lavinia Hotel.

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At the end of the day it was back to Colombo and the ship,

Loading tea onto a freighter. Colombo Harbour, 1960’s

loading chests of tea.

I can remember that the exchange rate between the UK pound and the Sri Lankan rupee was 14 to the pound and the black-market rate 25 to 27 to the pound. Today it is about 236 rupees to the UK pound.

Next stop Chalna in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh)

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chalna

 

 

 

 

 

Rule 303

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Breaker Morant

Rule 303 a quote supposedly said by Harry “Breaker” Harbord Morant at his court martial in 1902, he was found guilty and shot by firing squad on the 27 February 1902, 118 years ago this week.

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Morant was played by Edward Woodward

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The film was released in 1980.

We loaded the last piece of cargo in Karachi at 4.30 pm during which time the ship had been prepared for sea – the pilot was on the bridge and our mooring lines had been singled up (one line forward and one aft), time was of the essence after the trouble with the previous deck crew. Our next destination was Bombay (now Mumbai).

On arrival in Bombay was on the 24th February at 6.00 am, we were told to anchor in the explosive anchorage, we were to load 303 ammunition.

I’m not sure if the Captain was aware that we would be loading the ammunition before we arrived or if he found out as the pilot boarded. We were told of our cargo and that it was safe, but few of us smoked on deck – just in case.

We all knew of a tragic fire that took place in 1944.

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The SS Fort Stikine (7100 gt) had sailed from Birkenhead UK, in February 1944 and arrived in Bombay in April.
She was berthed in the Victoria Dock, and her cargo consisted of cotton bales, gold, and ammunition, which included around 1,400 tons of explosives. She also carried 238 tons of sensitive “A” explosives, torpedoes, mines, shells and a Supermarine Spitfire.

In mid-afternoon on the 14th April a fire in number two hold was discovered. The crew and dockside labour were unable to put the fire out, even after pumping 900 tons of water in the the ship. The water boiled due to the heat.

The ship was abandoned at 15.50 hr (3.50 pm), and sixteen minutes later it exploded.

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The ship was cut in half, windows were broken 12 km (7 miles) away. Later there was a second explosion which registered on a sensor reading in Shimia 1700 km (1020 miles) away, a town which is north of Delhli.

Showers of burning material set fire to slum areas, and two square kilometres (about a square mile) was set alight. Eleven other ships close to the Fort Stikine were sunk. Burning cotton bales fell all around and much of Bombay’s developed and economically important areas were destroyed by the blast.

Overall it was estimated that more than 800 people were killed and being war time, the explosion and aftermath were not made public until some time later. Some figures have the death toll as high as 1350 people. Of those who were killed 500 were civilians. Over 2500 were injured, sixteen ships were lost or heavily damaged (see below) and 80,000 people were left homeless.

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You’ll be pleased to know that nearly all the gold was recovered . . .

So this is why we didn’t smoke outside of the accommodation.

We loaded the ammunition safely, and we weren’t too bothered because we didn’t have any other explosive cargo on-board.

After loading other (normal) cargo we were told that we had to go to Chalna, which is  in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh).

Nothing is easy, because the relationship between Pakistan and India was not all that cordial in the 1960’s.
So now we had a problem – we had Indian ammunition on board and we were required to visit East Pakistan, but we couldn’t visit East Pakistan because we had a cargo of Indian ammunition on board.
Cable London!, and all we had to do was to remember the opening lines of Casablanca &  wait and wait and wait.

Finally, the powers that be came to a decision – carry the ammunition to Cochin and unload it to make room for tea out of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then sail for Chalna.

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Maureen & I visited Cochin (now called Kochi) in 2016 on a cruise ship and as soon as I saw the harbour I recognised the shoreline and the 1960’s flooded back in to my mind.

DSC05667rChinese fishing nets can be seen. Sometimes ‘Time’ seems to have stood still.
The picture is not very clear due to early morning mist.

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A clearer picture of the fishing nets from the internet.

At home I have four pictures on the wall of my dinning room – I watched the artists in Cochin paint the final strokes of the multicoloured painting – I’d already bought the three sepia pictures, and I could see the scenes that he’d painted – all are painted on thick paper.

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Three

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They always remind me of Cochin in the 1960’s . . . .

To end this post as I started with Edward Woodward, but this time he is singing Soldiers of the Queen after the execution of Breaker Morant, the piece of film also notes that their defence advocate died in 1945.

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Next stop Colombo in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mutiny?

What do people think of when they hear of a mutiny? Perhaps cinema’s effort to re-enact a mutiny helps us to think of –

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the mutiny on HMS Bounty, in April 1789 might come to mind. .

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or would it be the Indian Mutiny of 1857. .

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or a later mutiny aboard the Russian battleship ‘Potemkin’ in 1905.

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Perhaps fiction comes to mind ‘The Cain Mutiny’, and Captain Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart Cainemutinybook

 

We sailed from Bushire in Iran for Karachi in Pakistan oblivious of the future.

Our deck and engine-room crews were from Pakistan and mainly from Karachi and the surrounding areas.

So of course they would be expecting the opportunity of going ashore to see their families, once we were alongside and they were off duty. The system was that time ashore would be split between the crew so that we would always have enough crew on-board to man the ship.

The plan was to be in Karachi for twenty-four hours, it was to be a quick ‘turn around’, discharge and load cargo at the same time.

Of course, all the best plans can go astray if someone doesn’t do what is expected. Our agent in Karachi was supposed to arrange for shore side passes for all of the crew so that they could go ashore and see their families – he failed to arrange the passes, and even Pakistanis were required to have a pass to exit the dock or return to their ship. In the 1960’s security was not as ridged as it is now.

When the crew were informed that they were not allowed to go ashore because the passes were not available, they became very upset – and that is putting it mildly.

The Captain & the Chief engineer were told by the deck & engine-room crew, that if they didn’t receive the passes, they would walk off the ship, and she would not be able to sail.

I suppose a mutiny alongside is much more preferable than one in the middle of the ocean, at least the officers would not have to sail an open boat over 3600 nautical miles to get help, which Captain Bligh managed after the HMS Bounty mutiny.

The passes eventually arrived and as they were handed to the deck crew, who had been particularly aggressive, they were told to pack their bags and not to return to the ship, and that they would no longer be considered for a position on any British India Steam Navigation Company vessel.
I don’t know for certain, but I assume that their discharge books would be stamped DR – decline to report – which any future Captain hiring a crew would not entertain anyone with DR in their discharge book. A discharge book is the work record of sailors, and most would have VG or G stamped alongside the ship’s name – Very Good or Good, either is acceptable to allow a sailor to gain a berth and ship out again in a decent ship.

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The bottom of the Discharge Book is not clear so I cropped it and highlighted the title.

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The above is what the inside of a Discharge Book looks like  – ship’s name on the left, date and port of joining and date & port of the end of the voyage, description of voyage (British Coastal or Foreign), and report on ability (VG) & general conduct (VG).

The Pakistani seamen would have received at least DR in ‘conduct’, not sure what the stamp would have been for ability, considering they all left under a cloud of ‘mutiny’.

The engine room crew had not been as belligerent as the deck crew so the Chief Engineer decided to give the engine-room crew a second chance. The Captain would still have to sign all of the engine room’s crew’s discharge books at the end of the voyage.

Of course, we had to sign on a new deck crew before we could sail, this we did, and we managed to sail on time.

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Some years earlier, when I was a cadet, I’d stayed at the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi for eighteen days while waiting for a ship.
I’d signed off a ship because she was remaining in the Far East and I was to join a home bound ship, because I was due leave after a year or so out East.

I’d enjoyed my stay in Karachi, and the hotel was the first time I’d experienced a real ‘nightclub’.
I’d never seen a real floor show in a hotel or restaurant, except via the cinema, courtesy of Hollywood. The nightly show guaranteed at least one person in the audience.
Talk about being star struck, I was entranced with the nightly shows of singers or dancers during the evening meal.

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Another shot of the hotel – the picture was taken about the time I was staying there.

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The city at that time was a mixture of modern and traditional.

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In the early 60’s they still get around in a ‘garry’, which was the name of this type of horse drawn vehicle, and of course the tuk tuk.

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During the eighteen days waiting for a ship, the two things that I do remember about Karachi in 1964 was visiting the zoo, which I found to be a disappointment, because I saw a three-legged jackal (it wasn’t born that way), and I was not impressed with the poor conditions of the remaining animals.

I also visited a horse racing meet and noted a horse called Solomon Star, and in brackets (formally Woodland Star).
Never having been very good at gambling I thought the last horse to bet on would be an animal linked to me (Woodland) – so I didn’t bet on Solomon Star, but of course it romped home, thus confirming my lack of gambling skill.

The next tine I put money on a horse was in 1982 in Melbourne (Melbourne Cup) and I won $5, the last of the big betters. Haven’t had the urge to lose money since.

Karachi early 1960’s  check this small piece of film and note how they used to load certain cargo.

 

 

 

There are rivers and there are rivers

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You can sail the Danube or

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the Mekong

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or even the Amazon

for pleasure, and not have a worry, but I doubt that you would choose to sail up or down the Shatt Al Arab for your annual holiday.

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The map will give you an idea of where we were heading  – we bunkered (refuelled) at Abadan, then sailed to Basra (which is in the province of Al Basrah) Iraq for dates, and later to Khorramshahr  (Iran) for pistachio nuts.

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Shatt Al Aarab from the internet taken in the early 1970’s.

Shatt al-Arab, (which means the river of the Arabs in Iraq), but it is also known as Arvand Rud (Swift river) in Iran (Persia).

The river is 200 km (120 miles) long from the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris to the Persian Gulf.  Just above where these two rivers meet is thought to be the location of a well known garden – The Garden of Eden.

The pilot joined us at 4.00 am at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab and we made our shaky way upstream to Abadan in Iran. Being so light (empty of cargo and nearly empty of fuel) we didn’t have to worry too much about running aground, just the hope that the vibrations, caused by the propeller, would not shake us to bits.

The Shah had celebrated his coronation only three months earlier –

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At that time Abadan was an international cosmopolitan city, and the people appeared happy and carefree. Eleven years later the Shah had been deposed and the people were under Ayatollah Khomeini. How things have changed in the last forty years.

After a short stay in Abadan to bunker (refuel) our next stop was Basra in Iraq.

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Ships alongside in Basra.

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Basra was the end of the line for the British India Steam Nav Co passenger ships from Bombay (now Mumbai). The above shows one of the passenger ships arriving in Basra. The picture is off the internet.

We anchored in the river and waited for about five days to go alongside, why we waited so long I don’t have any idea, perhaps because the cargo wasn’t ready, or perhaps the berth was occupied, or the agent hadn’t ‘looked after’ the right people, but for us it was stinking hot, and a very uncomfortable time.
Once again we swapped old pieces of wood for uncut water melons – wood was valuable to the locals and the water melons a nice change for us.
In the evening, during the our ‘beer time’ it was melon pip flicking time to see who could flick the pip the furthest as the river was only about 37 metres (120 feet) wide at this point and we were not far off the river bank. Life at sea could be stimulating at times. . . .

Basra was the departure port for Sinbad on his third voyage. It is also renowned for being one of the hottest ports to visit. 50 c (122 F) on the Persian Gulf run.
This port is a destination that has never been on my return ‘bucket’ list, even though it used to be known as the Venice of the East, due to the canals.

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Venice of the East?

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Venice of the East

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This picture is off the internet of one of the Company’s cargo ships, very like the one I sailed in, alongside at Basra in the late 1960’s.

The reason for our visit to Basra was to load dates – it was harvest time.

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While we loaded the dates and other cargo, the only form of distraction in our free time, was the British Club, which had a swimming pool and a bar that sold cold beer.

Khorramshahr in Iran was our next port of call where we loaded bags and bags of pistachio nuts, as well as general cargo.

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Pistachio nuts before harvesting.

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As we know them . . .

There wasn’t much to do ashore and after our shift we would sit on the river side of the ship, drink a beer or two and see how far we could flick the shells of the pistachio nuts, I told you a life at sea could be stimulating . . .

Once our cargo was loaded,we sailed down the river to the Persian Gulf, and to our next port, which was Bushire, which is a port in Iran. I’ve indicated the port on the map.

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We were warned before we reached Bushire not to bother posting any mail because it would never reach the UK, because the locals would steal the stamps and throw away the letter.
We were told to hold our letters until we reached Karachi. A small thing to remember so many years ago, but for us, at that time, mail was important. The internet was 25 or 30 years in the future.

We anchored off Bushire and barges came out to us – so to speed up the process we worked three holds.
The problem was that the labour was paid 1/ 9d a day or in today’s money AUD $2.52 a DAY! (USD$1.70).
If there wasn’t a ship in port to load or unload they didn’t get paid.

The Iranian company that hired the ashore labour considered that they were being generous, because they knew that the labour would steal anything from the ship that was not screwed down.
We had to post two crew members down each hold to stop the labour breaking into the cargo. At times the ship’s officers had to threaten violence to the shore side labour to stop them broaching cargo (breaking in to the cargo).
Even so some of the crew lost various items of of clothing, cargo went missing and various large crates were broken in to and some of the contents stolen.
The officer’s accommodation had been locked down, and all windows and other openings bolted shut, which made the accommodation extremely hot when off duty.

Stealing cargo was a common occupation across the world and it was a constant battle with shore side labour to put a stop to the thefts, but the labour in Bushire had it down to a fine art.

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MV Juna 

I was 3rd Mate of the above ship during our ‘cruise’ to Basra & the Persian  Gulf.

A couple of years ago I visited Dubai on the way to Europe, and I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever stop over for a ‘holiday’ of four days in the Persian Gulf, but I did because we flew with Emirates Airlines. At least the bus stops in Dubai were air-conditioned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuwait

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The emblem of Kuwait

Kuwait is about 277 miles north of Dammam, or a short seventeen hour voyage, but far enough away for the weather to have changed for the worse.

We arrived off Kuwait at night during a wild storm with high winds and dashing rain that hammered on the bridge windows. The clear view screen was going flat out.

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The Clear View is a circular area of the bridge window that spins at high speed which doesn’t allow water to ‘grip’ on the glass. As the rest of the bridge windows might be ‘blind’ by sea spray or heavy rain the ‘Clear View’ is always clear for those on the bridge, a limited amount of visibility on this night was in great demand.

Of course, we had to arrive during the midnight to 4.00 am watch, which was my watch, so I had all the fun. We had tugs in attendance, which helped us to ease our way alongside, cargo ship in the 1960’s didn’t have side thrusters to ease a ship into a berth.

People don’t think that it can get cold in the Persian Gulf, but it can, and during my time in the tanker (62- 63) we had ice on the deck after a cold night. Admittedly it didn’t last long once the sun came up, but it was still cold if you were out and about.

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The above is Kuwait in the early 1960’s. I sent this post card home to my parents, so I was surprised that it came to light recently. Obviously, I am a hoarder of the old school.

Kuwait may be on certain people’s bucket list today, but in the mid 60’s it was not a holiday town, and foreigners were there to work, and not holiday.

The smell of oil hung over the whole area and just forty kilometres south of Kuwait was Mina al Ahamadi, which was my first port that I visited on my first ship in 1962, which was the tanker.

Due to its location Kuwait has been a crossroad for trade for thousands of years. Evidence has been found that there was a society living in the area 8,000 years ago. The island of Failaka, which is just of the Kuwait coast, is where the Mesopotamian people settled in 2,000 BC.

In 400 BC the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, colonised the area, and even today the remains of a Greek temple and fort can be seen.

In the fifteen hundred Kuwait was under the control of the Portuguese and they built a defensive settlement.

By the 1700’s Kuwait was part of the trading route from India to Basrah, Baghdad, and on to Constantinople. The British East India Company controlled the sea route from India to Kuwait.

Kuwait became a melting pot of nationalities,and was ethnically diverse & was known for its religious tolerance.

In 1899 Kuwait signed a treaty with the British, granting Great Britain the responsibility of Kuwait’s foreign affairs, and Kuwait became a British protectorate.

In the early 20th century during WW 1 Kuwait supported the Ottoman Empire (the Turks), so Great Britain imposed a trade blockade, which damaged Kuwait’s economy.

As the pearl trade declined a number of prominent families turned to smuggling gold from Kuwait to India, and some became very rich.

In the 1960’s it was not uncommon for sailors to take advantage of the fact that Kuwait was a ‘very’ dry State concerning alcohol.
This created opportunities for some to buy spirits on their ship and to hoard it until they reached Kuwait.
On anchoring to wait for the labour to come out to work cargo, small dhows would arrive at night to buy the liquor, via basket at the end of a rope lowered to the dhow. Of course is was cash in the basket before lowering the alcohol.
The cash was then spent in Kuwait to buy gold jewellery, which the ‘smuggler’ wore, around his neck or as bracelets or rings when he went ashore in Bombay.
He would sell the jewellery & have a good time with the profit, and any cash left over would be exchanged for various currencies, other than Indian rupees, using a foreign passport, and so began the circle once again.

Just to be clear I did not take part in this trade.

After WW1 Saudi Arabia attacked Kuwait, in what is now known as the Kuwait Najd War, which further damaged Kuwait. The Saudi’s wanted to incorporate Kuwait into Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia blockaded Kuwait from 1923 to 1937.

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The above map shows how precarious Kuwait was with Saudi Arabia, Iraq & Iran as potential aggressors. Kuwait is the white area on the map.

Kuwait suffered economically for years until 1938, when they found oil and things changed.
Due to the oil Iraq now claimed Kuwait as part of their territory and offered incentives in support of an uprising in Kuwait, which failed.

The oil revenue helped Kuwait to become the largest exporter of oil in the Gulf at that time, and major public works took place throughout the country.

In 1961 they became independent of Britain when the protectorate ended. Six days after they became independent Iraq resumed its claim that Kuwait belonged to Iraq, which was knocked back by the British, and later also by the Arab League.

The period from 1948 to 1982 is recognised as the Kuwaiti golden age of development.

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A close up of the earlier map – I’ve underlined with green Kuwait – also Abadan, and Basrah, which are both on the Shatt Al-Arab, Abadan is in Iran & Basrah is in Iraq.

After discharging our cargo we sailed for Abadan – we were virtually empty of cargo, our fuel was low and we were still on water rationing, so we had very little weight to allow our propeller to dig in to the water – everything on board shook as the engine struggled to drive us forward because only part of the propeller could be used. Talk about shaking . . .    Shake rattle & roll  it was not just the pots & pans, but the furniture, our bunks, the crockery, everything vibrated, and the vibrations were felt through our bodies, which was not a pleasant feeling because it was constant.

We sailed after lunch and took our time to sail the 120 km (about 70 miles) so as to arrive at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab just after midnight, where we anchored to await the pilot for the river transit.

Being on the midnight to 4.00 am watch I was on anchor watch – the pilot for the river transit was due to board us at 4.00 am.

 

Qatar – Bahrain Island & Dammam.

Everyday Life of Doha in the 1960s (5)

The history of Qatar can be traced back 50,000 years. Throughout history various empires controlled the peninsular on which Doha stands .

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Qatar is the purple bit which is a peninsular, not an island. Manama is the capital of Bahrain and not part of Qatar.

Qatar became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1872, and in 1893 the Ottoman administration imprisoned 16 Qatari leaders. Later a battle took place and the Ottomans lost.
It wasn’t until 1913 that the Ottoman Empire finally renounced sovereignty over Qatar and in 1916 the ruler of Qatar signed a treaty with the British under the Trucial States system. This treaty required the ending of gun running, slavery and piracy by Qatar.

Oil was found in 1938, but due to WW2 it was not exploited until 1949. Qatar suffered from constant unrest for some years and when the British decided to withdraw its military commitment to the area, Qatar became an independent State, it did not join the Trucial States which created the UAE.

We in the Juna arrived in early February 1968 and worked cargo – once again we anchored off and labour came out to us in dhows (see photo at the top of this blog) to unload into cargo dhows, shown below

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Qatar has become the country with the highest per capita income in the world and is regarded as the most advanced Arab state for human development.

They have gone from this –

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to this

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thanks to having the third largest natural gas reserves in the world.

We had one incident while at anchor, one of our engine room oil pumps blew-up and caused a problem for the engine room, which became covered in oil. One of the engineers was injured, but fortunately not seriously.

A short time later we sailed for Bahrain and this time we went alongside, which allowed us to at least walk around on solid ground that didn’t move all the time.

The one thing that sticks in my mind during our visit to Bahrain was that we could buy cold draught beer – called Red Barrel!

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The only place in the Gulf where you could get a cold beer, other than private clubs such as the British Club in Basrah.

Bahrain has belonged to quite a few empires, from the Persian Empire to the Greeks (who used to call the island Tylos), to the Portuguese, the Omani and eventually the British in 1820 when Bahrain signed a treaty of friendship with the British.

Once again it was the advent of oil in 1932 that brought modernisation to Bahrain, and in 1935 the Royal Navy moved its entire Middle Eastern Command for Bushehr in Iran to Bahrain.

Bahrain in 1820 was the first of the Trucial States, but when the Trucial States became independent in 1971, and they created the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain did not join this creation.

Via a referendum, controlled by the UN, Bahrain voted to become an independent country.

After independence the British moved out and the Americans moved in, and they took over the British facilities, which later became the HQ for the US 5th Fleet.

From Bahrain we sailed a short distance to Al-Dammām, in Saudi Arabia, it is also spelt  Damman with an ‘n’, one of my least favourite destinations.
When I tried to find information about Damman, which is what we used to call the port in the 60’s I failed, so I’ll stick with Dammam, which is the capital of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932, and the area around Dammam lived off pearls and fishing.

In 1936 oil wells were drilled to prove that there were commercial quantities in the Dammam area, and it was well #7 that proved the drillers correct that the area was sitting on a huge ‘lake’ of oil.
More wells were drilled all around Dammam in the 1940’s and 50’s that confirmed that that Dammam was sitting on top of about a quarter of the world’s oil.

A number of times a day one of the officers or a cadet would go on to the quay to check the draught of the Juna.

Each time I went the overpower smell of raw oil would fill my nostrils and take me back to my first, ship which was a tanker.

We carried oil from Mina a Ahmadi in Kuwait to Little Aden in Yemen, sometimes to Europe, and once in mid-winter across the Atlantic to Marcus Hook on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, followed by a back load from Venezuela to Germany.
It took years for me to be free of the taste of crude oil, particularly when I had a bad cough.

At that time the draught was measured in feet and inches – in the illustration below the top left picture shows 27 feet – each figure is six inches high and the gap between each number – 27 to 28 – is 6 inches, so the water level will tell you how much of the ship is underwater at the bow & stern (there were a set of markings at the bow and another set at the stern).

image1448

drat

The above picture shows feet & inches
Since I left the sea the markings are now all metric.

Dammam was ‘dry’, as in the lack of rain & beer, but it was hot, sandy and dry all day and every day, so I doubt that it will ever be on anybody’s ‘bucket list’.

We were only there long enough to unload.

Our next stop would be Kuwait, and their flag is shown below.

Flag_of_Kuwait

 

 

 

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date! (Excuse the pun)

680-white-rabbit

I’m late I’m late for a very important date.

We still had to call at Doha (Qatar), Dammam (Saudi Arabia), Bahrain Island, Kuwait and finally Basrah (Iraq), which is about 90 miles up the Shatt al-Arab from the Persian Gulf.
The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers meet and become the Shatt-al-Arab and in English this means The River of the Arabs, so if people refer to it at the Shatt-al-Arab river they are actually saying the River of the Arabs River, which is a little odd.
The Shatt-al-Arab marks the border between Iraq and Iran (which used to be called Persia).

I’ve indicated the places mentioned with a coloured line under the name, and I’ve also marked Dubai as a reference point.

Persian-Gulf.jpg

We arrived off Abu Dhabi at 6.00 am and once again we anchored, and the labour came out to us in boats and dhows.

A little about Abu Dhabi in the 1960’s.

Timeframe

The photograph was taken in 1963 by David Riley, who was working for the British Bank of the Middle East at the time.

Abu Dhabi is a small island a few hundred meters off the coast, and in the early ’60’s the only way to cross was via this causeway at low tide. The two petrol drums mark the beginning of the causeway. It wasn’t until August 1968 (after I’d left the area) that a bridge was opened.

Maqta-75  It was known as the bridge to nowhere, but the proper name is Maqta Bridge. The old causeway was called Al Maqta (which means The Crossing) hence the name of the bridge. It was a symbol that Abu Dhabi was joining the rest of the world.

Bridge

I took the above in 2017, and if you wish to read a more detailed post about the 2017 visit to Abu Dhabi please click on this link. The link post is more of the current situation than reminiscences of yesteryear.

airport

Abu Dhabi airport in 1968, in 1965 the landing strip was hard packed sand.

The cargo work went well and we hoped to make up for lost time until that evening we experienced another shamal, but this one was far stronger than the earlier shamal at Dubai in Dubai.
It whipped up sand and the combination of the wind and the sand would strip paint of parts of the ship. It was similar to sand blasting to remove graffiti in a city, and it you were unfortunate to be outside it was a very painful experience for any exposed skin.
All work had to stop as it was too dangerous to allow the boats carrying the labour to come near the ship because the wind, and the sea would smash the boats against the Juna and more than likely sink them.

For the next six days we worked cargo intermittently due to the shamal stopping and later beginning again. It was not a pleasant time for any of us, and we were still on water rationing.

During our off duty hours, the officers had the opportunity of taking a small boat out to try our luck at shark fishing. It was pleasant in the boat, just sitting and chatting while holding the shark line. The main thing that I caught was sunburn, but we did catch a couple of small sharks, well I helped to drag one into the boat. They were not all that big, perhaps just over a metre, (perhaps four feet).
On returning to the ship we gave the two sharks to the crew who cooked them that evening – the first non-frozen fish that we’d had in months.

For a number of reasons, we were now behind schedule and the captain decided after being anchored off Abu Dhabi for six days, that we would sail at midnight, (the seventh day) even if the cargo work was incomplete. We had to be in Basrah (Iraq) to pick up a thousand tons of dates during harvest time.

The Captain considered that if necessary, we would call at Abu Dhabi on our return.

Oh! the joys of cruising in the Persian Gulf when on water rationing!