Swan of the East

While researching Prince of Wales Island (now called Penang) for the sequel to Ice King (aka Triangle Trade) I came across details of the German cruiser SMS Emden, which had links to Penang.

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Triangle Trade

Maureen often says that I am more interested in the research than the act of writing, which to an extent is correct. Little things started to come together so I thought – how about a blog.

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Karl Friedrich Max von Müller was the son of a German colonel in the Prussian army.

In 1913, at the age of forty, he became a captain in the Imperial German Navy and took command of the light cruiser SMS Emden.

images-1He was posted to the China station and using his initiative he shelled Nanking, because it was in rebellion. For this action he was awarded the Order of the Royal Crown. (Third class).

200px-Prussian_Order_of_Crown_3rd_Class_with_Cross_of_GenevaOn the brink of WW1 the Emden was anchored at Tsingtao, which was a German naval base in China. I sailed in to Tsingtao in 1963, and it was still a naval base then, but this time for the Chinese.

Von Muller took the Emden to sea on the evening of the 31st July, 1914.

On the 4th August Emden captured the Russian mail ship Rjasan, which was the first vessel to be captured by the German Imperial Navy in WW1.

The Emden met up with the German East Asia Squadron commanded by Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee who had decided to take his squadron across the Pacific and around Cape Horn in to the Atlantic.

Von Muller persuaded the Admiral to allow a loan raider to attack merchant ships in the Indian Ocean – the Admiral agreed.

As an aside Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee defeated the British 4th cruiser squadron at the Battle of Coronel in November 1914. A month later he decided to attack the Royal Navy at the Falkland Islands, but the British surprised him and his squadron was destroyed. He was killed as were his two sons (serving in other ships of the squadron.)

In Germany he was considered a hero and several ships were named after him, including the ‘pocket battleship’ Admiral Graf Spee, which was scuttled after the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939.

300px-Bundesarchiv_DVM_10_Bild-23-63-06,_Panzerschiff_-Admiral_Graf_Spee-Admiral Graf Spee 

Back to SMS Emden – in the next three month Von Muller captured fourteen merchant ships, and became known as an honorable enemy of the allies. He was daring and did his best not to cause injury to civilians. His attacks required the British to stop merchant ships sailing between Singapore and India.

The British tactics reduced the targets for the Emden, so in September 1914 Von Muller sailed in to Madras harbor at night (now called Chennai) and attacked the oil tanks.

Bombardment_of_Madras_by_S.S._Emden_1914Within thirty minutes the oil tanks were ablaze and causing explosion that damaged vessels in the harbor. SMS Emden sailed before the harbour defense guns could train on  the raider.

The following days she added six more vessel to her score.

On the 16th September 1914 the Royal Navy in Singapore advised the Admiralty, London, that they were sending HMS Yarmouth and HMS Hampshire to hunt down the Emden.

HMS_Yarmouth_(1911)   HMS Yarmouth – note the number of funnels.

   In the mean time SMS Emden added a false funnel to disguise herself as HMS Yarmouth.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_137-001329,_Tsingtau,_SMS_-Emden-_I_im_HafenSMS Emden photo taken in 1911 in Tsingtao.

SMS Emden approached Penang harbour at 4.30 am on the night of the 28th October 1914.

Its silhouette, with the fourth false funnel, gave the impression that HMS Yarmouth, was coming in to port, but once in the harbor, and before he opened fire, Von Muller ran up the Imperial German Navy battle flag.

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He spotted the Russian cruiser Zhemchug at anchor. She was in Penang for repairs to her boilers.
SMS Emden opened fire at three hundred yards (270 mtrs) by firing a torpedo, and followed this with gun fire. The torpedo and the gun fire struck the Russian, and she was soon on fire. Von Muller ordered a second torpedo, which hit the Russian’s ammunition causing a huge explosion as she sank.

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Russian cruiser Zhemchug.

German_postcard_of_the_Battle_of_Penang_1914A German postcard  of the battle.

A French cruiser and destroyer opened fire on the Emden, but they were inaccurate. The firing was enough for Von Muller to order the Emden to retreat.

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A newspaper reporter from the New York Times wrote that she watched the battle of Penang from near the hotel, which would have been the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, where Maureen & I have stayed. I took the above photograph when at the hotel, which shows the entrance to Penang harbour. The anchorage is to the right of the picture, where the battle would have taken place.
The map below is from the report of the New York Times correspondent who witnessed the battle.
At this time, 1914, the USA was still neutral, they didn’t become involved until 7 th December, 1917, which is ironic considering the 7th December in 1941.

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On leaving the harbor the Emden spotted the French destroyer Mousquet, which was coming off patrol and unaware of the Emden’s attack on Penang.

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Postcard of the French destroyer Mousquet.

Von Muller opened fire and sank the Frenchman, after which he rescued thirty five sailors and one officer from the water. He later stopped a British cargo vessel SS Newburn and instead of sinking her he handed over the French survivors on the understanding that the Newburn would take them to a neutral port in Dutch Indonesia and that they would no longer be involved in the war.

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I took the above picture from the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. I think the area to the left of ship in the photograph would have been close to where the Mousquet and the Emden  fought their battle.

SMS Emden sailed south to re-coal from her captured British ship Buresk after which she  headed for the Cocos Islands. Von Muller wanted to destroy the radio station, in the hope that this would cause the British and Australian navies to leave the Indian Ocean to protect their line of communications.

On the night of the 8/9 th November Von Muller arrived at the Cocos Islands and sent a shore party to disable the wireless and the undersea cables. Fortunately the station staff had seen the Emden and managed to get off a message that they had seen a strange ship, before the Emden jammed their transmissions.

A convoy of Australian troops ships was not too far away, and the allied commander ordered HMAS Sydney to investigate.

StateLibQld_1_120860_Sydney_(ship)HMAS Sydney

As the Sydney approached the Cocos Island the Emden opened fire and scored hits on the Sydney with her fourth salvo.

 The Australian ship replied with her heavier guns and soon the SMS Emden was so damaged that Von Muller decided to beach her on North Keeling Island to save the lives of his men.

SMS Emden Image 3The Imperial ensign still flew over the beached ship, she had not formally surrendered. Captain Glossop  of the Sydney signaled a number different ways, including plain language because he knew that the Emden’s code books had been thrown overboard, to try and see if the Emden was ready to surrender. The Sydney fired again and hit the stricken ship before the ensign was pulled down and white sheets hung over the side. The Germans burnt their ensign rather than allowing it to fall in to the hands of the enemy.

Captain Von Muller had captured twenty seven ships for the loss of one civilian life.

Karl Friedrich Max von Müller was captured and ended up in a PoW camp in England. Earlier in his career he had been attached to the East Africa Squadron where he suffered from malaria. The climate in England didn’t agree with the malaria, so he was sent to Holland, under compassionate grounds, as an exchange prisoner, for treatment. In October 1918 he was repatriated to Germany – the war ended in November.

Von Muller was awarded Pour le Mérite (For Merit) (also known as The Blue Max)

200px-Blue_MaxThis was awarded to particular people for excellent service in the military. The military version of the award was stopped in 1918, but the civilian award is still in use – similar to the British OBE

Karl Friedrich Max von Muller died suddenly in 1923 at the age of fifty – weakened by malaria.

Swan of the East was a nick name given to the ship in Tsingtao, because of her sleek lines.

220px-Emden-gun-3One of the Emden’s guns can be seen in Hyde Park in Sydney

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HMAS Sydney’s mast can be seen when taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly – it is on the north shore of Sydney harbour.

All of the photographs, except for the two that I took, have been taken from the internet to illustrate a paragraph etc.

Rafts that just about float . . .

We were advised that we would not get wet when rafting, because we would be sitting on small seats that would keep our clothes from being wet. That was a joke!

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We watched as the rafts were being created from poles of bamboo. The rafts are floated down river carrying the ‘dry’ tourists and dismantled at the end of the experience, only to be brought back up to the top and reassembled.

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Didn’t matter how hard I looked I could not see a seat. Our mini-bus guide advised us to leave our cameras and anything else that we did not wish to get wet in the bus and he would look after everything. I left everything except the shorts & shirt that I was wearing, for once I could see in to the future . . . . .

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Each raft could take four people and we had to sit down and balance the ‘raft’ so as not to be tipped in to the water. Of course as soon as we sat down, and all four of us were on board, the water came through the cracks between the poles. A local ‘boatman’ poled the raft in to the middle and guided it down the river.
Other rafts followed and a competition began between the ‘boatmen’ to see who could cause the largest splash by using their punting pole, to make sure that all the passengers were soaking wet.
It was all in good fun, and the passengers on each of the rafts joined in to create bigger and bigger splashes.
On the way down we realised that we were passing the same place where we’d crossed the river on the back of Jennifer the elephant. Fortunately she was not around.

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Further down the river we could hear rushing water and realised that we were approaching rapids.

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The water becomes choppier and any thought of keeping dry was forgotten. The experience was great and we all enjoyed ‘going over the top’.

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At the end of the ‘run’ we climbed the riverbank to be met by our guide and driver. The hot sun was very pleasant as we attempted to dry our clothing and ourselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter seeing a number of elephant ‘eggs’ at Jennifer’s crossing point a cleansing ale or two was needed to make sure that we didn’t catch anything  from the splashes etc . . . .

We managed to dry our shirts somewhat, but only until they were just damp, and we squeezed as much water as we could from our shorts, but the drive back to the hotel was uncomfortable because the mini-bus air-conditioning, which was very efficient.

Next time I’ll take a hotel towel, or two, and a change of clothes, or just raft in swimming trunks, regardless it was great fun.

Because my camera was not waterproof I didn’t take any photographs, so all of the above pictures, except for the last one, were downloaded from the internet, and the last one is thanks to a friend who was with us at the time.

 

 

 

Elephant walk

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During our holiday in Chiang Mai in Thailand we decided to have a ride on an elephant –  to be honest the tour that we paid for was a for water rafting, which included a ride on an elephant.
Having ridden on an elephant at Chester zoo, when I was a child, I expected something similar – a slow walk around a large circle, or something similar. Wrong!

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Each elephant carried two people, plus the handler who sat across the animal’s neck. For the record ours was called Jennifer, and whenever Jennifer felt hungry she would stop and help herself to a bunch of leaves or large twigs to chew on, during her walk around the area.

The elephant handlers had four animals, the above photograph is of one of them ahead of us as we approached the river.

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Jennifer caught up with the lead animal and wanted it to get a move on – there must have been something on TV that she wanted to see. Maureen and I are the couple at the back – Jennifer’s handler is the guy with the orange shirt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJennifer was quite happy now that she was out of the river.

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We crashed through the undergrowth – and we went where ever Jennifer wanted to go . .

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Follow the leader . . .

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She wanted a snack . .

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Bon appétit, Jennifer.

We had to dodge the larger branches as she ripped them from bushes, waved them around her head, as we ducked, and she chewed on the best bits.

When we returned to our starting point we were encouraged to feed Jennifer with bananas. The trip on the elephant was about 40 minutes  – we realised later that we’d crossed this river on Jennifer as we rafted our way down stream.

IMGP2011rdon’t bother peeling them I like green bananas . . .

IMGP2014rMaureen talking to Jennifer, while offering bananas, the problem was Jennifer didn’t understand English – she was tongue Thai’d . . . (they get worse as I get older).

Baby elephant walk

Birkenhead and all that . .

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

The translation of the moto is 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 new comers 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, Oxten 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 Oxten, 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.

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Lakes

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Lake house

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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 very impressed with Joseph Paxton’s design of Birkenhead Park, and this influenced his over all 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.

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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 didn’t 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 very 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 didn’t 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.

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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 ship yard 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. Lairds 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 didn’t 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.

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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 bult 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 1959 and never saw what happened to his world class ship.

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

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.

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It took eighteen month 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 theater 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.

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

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

Llangollen, music and boats

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Llangollen to me means two things, beyond the beauty of the town of course, – the international music eisteddfod and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, so when we visited the UK for our self drive, self catering holiday with our Australian friends, Llangollen was on the list.

In 1943 the British Council organised for members of governments in exile (remember WW2 was in to its fourth year) to attend the 1943 National Eisteddfod, which was held in Bangor, North Wales.

It was such a success that the following year an international music festival was held, and again it was successful. In 1945 it was suggested that an international choral festival be added to the 1947 Welsh National Eisteddfod, but this was rejected because arranging the National Eisteddfod was a big enough job on its own.

W.S. Gwynn Williams – a well known Welsh composer, click on his name the for one of his most famous works, who was born in Llangollen, along with George Northing, the chairman of Llangollen town council, drummed up enough support from the local people that planning for an International Eisteddford would take place in Llangollen in 1947.

In June 1947 things looked like there were not going to work out as planned because the French rail workers had gone on strike, and the organisors were worried that many of the European musicians would not be able to attend.

The first to arrive was the ladies’ choir from Oporto, they arrived by bus. The Hungarian workers’ choir completed their journey by hitch hiking from Basle, because of rail strikes.

The eisteddford was brought to a close with a concert on the Sunday evening featuring Sir John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra.

In 1949 the first German choir took part and the organisors were worried about the reception that the Germans would receive only four years after the end of the war. When the train carrying the German choir arrived at Llangollen station the town’s people welcomed them with tea and cakes. The railway station can be seen on the right hand side of the above picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe river in both pictures is the River Dee that flows, via Chester, in to the Irish Sea.

I have a personal link with the National Eisteddfod because my mother was a member of the Birkenhead Welsh Choral Society, and they sang at one of the eisteddfods, and I believe won.

BWCSThe badge of my mother’s ‘uniform’ for the completion.

Badge

The badge used to pin the cloth badge to her blouse.

Mum

The shield and certificates can be seen, but I am unable to read them even after ‘blowing up’ the picture. When I was younger I am sure I was shown her medal or some commemorative item, but for the life of me I cannot find it, which isn’t surprising after moving to Australia!

My mother is front row, fourth from the left. She was born in 1909 and moved to England when she was twelve (she didn’t speak English until she moved to England). In 1925 she would have been sixteen and the competition was held in Pwllheli. I mention this because of the cost of getting there from Birkenhead, very few had cars. The other thought is that in 1929 the eisteddfod was held in Liverpool, which is a ferry ride across the River Mersey from Birkenhead.

The Welsh National Eisteddfod has been held in each of the traditional Welsh counties, as well as most of the major Welsh cities, except for St Asaph – don’t ask me why . . .

As a foot note – when I was about thirteen or fourteen I was in my school choir (in Birkenhead) and we used to sing in concerts and the occasional  international competitions.
One year my choir was asked to host a German choir, and I had a German boy, of similar age to me, staying in my home for about a week. It was an interesting week because he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German, and the only other language left was Welsh (Mum), which was of little help.
I can remember him now; we wrote to each other as pen pals, but at that age writing letters was a pain, and it eventually stopped. I often wondered how his life panned out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other interesting point about Llangollen is that it is not all that far to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is down river from the town.

Pontcysyllte Aquaduct
Llangollen Canal
North
Aerial
Canals
Water
TransportIt is not a railway bridge but a canal on piers to carry the water and the canal boats over the River Dee. There are 18 arches, the canal is cast iron, it took ten years to build, it was opened in 1805, and it is 126 ft (38 mtrs) high, which makes it the highest navigable aqueduct canal in the world. The above picture is off the internet.

2008-06-10 183r.jpgFrom the beginning of the ‘bridge canal’.

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The above two pics show the ‘pool’ where the canal boats wait for their turn to cross.

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A canal boat on its way through.

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Don’t look down to the River Dee.

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Keep going, and hope the canal doesn’t spring a leak . . .

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Get moving . . . . . . . .

A number of the above pictures are thanks to KI, one of our traveling companions.

 

 

Llandudno, Cymru (Wales)

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A few years ago Maureen & I and three other couples had a seven week holiday of self catering, self drive around the UK. We hired a mini-bus and stayed in farms and apartments – all self catering. We were a mix of three ex Poms, three Australians, a New Zealander and a Russo – German. One of the places that I wanted them to see was Llandudno.

Llandudno has a Great Orme & a Little Orme.

P5152254rLittle Orme – picture taken from the Great Orme.

Both headlands are of limestone and the names are said to be linked to old Norse, rather than Welsh, and in English mean sea serpent. The word ‘orm’ is thought to be translated in to English as ‘worm’  – serpent??

The headlands are now mainly nature reserves. On top of the Great Orme is the Summit Complex,

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which is a pub, restaurant, amusements centre etc. It used to be the Telegraph Inn from where messages would be relayed from Holyhead to Liverpool of the arrival of sailing ships. It was rebuilt to become a hotel in 1939, and then taken over by the RAF during the war and became a radar station.

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The old lamp for the lighthouse.

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In 1952 Randolph Turpin (the boxer who beat Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951 for the World Middleweight title) bought it, and when he was in financial difficulties with the taxman, the Llandudno council stepped in and took over the building.

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The above five pictures were taken by KI one of our Australian companions.

Funny how things come back to you, but I can remember the huge interest in boxing at that time when Randolph Turpin won – I was seven, and the Festival of Britain was in full swing.

Festival_of_BritainEveryone seemed to know Turpin’s name even the people who didn’t have any interest in boxing.

In the Summit Complex they remember Turpin by naming a bar after him – Randy’s Bar – see above photograph. Sadly, Randolph Turpin shot himself in 1966.

Tramway

To get to the summit without walking, you have to use The Great Orme Tramway.

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Single track for most of the way, with ‘passing sections’.

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Near the top.

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Coming down gave us some great views of Llandudno with all the B&Bs and hotels along the sea front.

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A wide ‘prom’ could accommodate many walkers without getting in each others way.

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The town is also famous for its pier. It is 2,295 feet of cast iron lacework. The original pier was built in 1858, but was damaged in a storm in 1859. It was repaired and used for sixteen years before being upgraded to the present pier. I can remember as a child passenger ships sailing from Liverpool to Llandudno packed with holidaymakers. The ships would berth at the end of the pier, as there is deep water.

FerryLlandudno pier is at the bottom of the picture.

Pier

It was pleasant to walk to the end for the fresh air.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntrance to the pier.

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The inclusion of slot machines as amusements (see pic below) did devalue the experience. A sign of age on our part I suppose.

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We did find something that we were sure we wouldn’t have found in Australia . .

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A touch of yesterday for many of us – during the 40’s I had two stuffed dolls on my bed, a sailor doll and a gollywog doll and never for one minute thought either of them as un-pc. For the record I also had a lion doll, in to which I would stuff my pajamas each morning. No animals were injured in the operation, because he didn’t come from a zoo.

Trivia linked to Llandudno – for my Australian readers.

Billy Hughes, Australia’s 7th PM,

Hughes15-16his parents were Welsh, although he was born in London. He was seven when his mother died and he was sent to live with his Aunt in Llandudno until he was 14, after which he moved back to London. He emigrated to Austraia in 1884 at the age of twenty two.
Marconi (of morse code fame) lived in Anglesey between 1900 & 1918 and it was from Anglesey that the first wireless morse message flashed around the world to Australia. The first message, in morse, was to the PM of Australia, William (Billy) Morris Hughes. There are suggestions that Billy Hughes and

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Lloyd George (British PM during WW1, who was also Welsh – above picture) sent messages to each other, in morse, but also in Welsh, so as to keep them secret during the 1st WW.

200px-Alice_LiddellAlice Liddell.

She and her family holidayed in Llandudno in 1861.

Her father liked the place so much that he bought a house for his family’s use during the holidays. It was called Penmorfa,

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and the family often had guests staying. A close friend of the family, Charles Dodgson, is said to have stayed with them, and he often used to tell Alice stories. He told one where he used the daughter of the house as the heroine of one of his stories. Later the story was written down and published.
Charles Dodgson didn’t wish his name to be used as the author, so he used another – Lewis Carroll. Alice, of Alice in Wonderland was based on Alice Liddell, while she was in Llandudno.

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The original cover and a later cover.

alice-in-wonderland-ladybird-book-disney-first-edition-gloss-hardback-1987-3211-pThe cover that we all know from the Disney studios.

In November of 2008 a developer demolished Penmorfa House to make way for apartments – locals tried to save the old building, but . . . .

To quote Alice . . .

 It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.

The White Rajah

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James Brooke (29th April 1803 – 11 June 1868)

The picture is from a painting by Sir Francis Grant in 1847

Sarawak, the name brings forth ideas of head hunters and ‘daring do’ from comics that I read in the 1950’s.

Little did I know that one day I would sail up the Sarawak River to the town of Kuching on the island of Borneo.

Sarawak had been James Brooke’s & his descendants fiefdom since about 1841 – until . .

In April 1942 the Japanese captured Sarawak, and for three years they ran the place as part of the Empire of Japan.

The Japanese surrender to the Australians in 1945, and Sarawak became a British Colony.

In May 1961 the PM of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, put forward a plan for a greater Malaysia, which included Singapore, Sarawak,  Sabah & Brunei. In 1962 eighty percent of the population of Sarawak & Sabah voted to join Malaya to create Malaysia, along with Singapore.

Indonesia and the Philippines didn’t like the creation of Malaysia. So Indonesia  encouraged discontent with the communists of Sarawak and trained them in military tactics, and also supplied armed ‘volunteers’ to causes problems for Sarawak and the newly created country of Malaysia.

The fighting began in 1963 with infiltration forces from Indonesia in to Sarawak. By this time the British were involved in support of Malaysia, who had only gained independence from Britain a few years earlier in 1957.

Later Australia & New Zealand became involved in support of Malaysia.

Knowing little of the details that I know now, I flew in to Singapore to join LST (Landing ship tank) Frederick Clover in April 1966. The company, British India Steam Navigation Co, held the contract to man various LSTs based in Singapore, Malta, Aden etc and I’d drawn the straw for Frederick Clover, based in Singapore.

If you wish to see other photographs of the LST and why I fired a machine gun click on the highlighted letters.

CloverFrederick Clover, alongside in Singapore, her bows open to accept military cargo for Borneo. The photo is old and not very clear.

meAs you see she was an old ship, built in 1945. The captain’s chair had to be lashed down to make sure we didn’t lose it in a strong wind. My hair isn’t moving because our top speed was 10 knots . . . .

3rd mateAt least we had a compass. Although we could have found our way to Borneo using the echo sounder by following the empty beer cans from our previous trips. At that time being Green meant you were sea sick, not environmentally aware.

TroopsWhile we were alongside in Kuching the ‘Auby’ moored astern of us. She was to take a Gurkha regiment back to Singapore. The Auby was a cargo ship of about 1700 tons , with facilities for a few passengers in the for’d accommodation. I can only assume the soldiers traveled as ‘deck cargo’. The Auby carried about 31,000 troops in and out of Singapore during the ‘confrontation’. The picture is not all that clear but the troops can be seen formed up on the quay.

In 2011, Maureen & I attended a reunion in Singapore of cadets from HMS Conway Training College, so after the reunion I thought it would be an ideal time to take Maureen to Kuching and a spot of ‘I remember when’ for me.

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While in Kuching we did a river cruise in a small boat, which allowed me to photograph the quay, (see above), which I think is the same one in the photographs showing the Gurkha troops.

IMGP3782r  Our boatman and his boat that we used.

We stayed at the Pullman Hotel, which overlooked the town.

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IMGP3766rThis one shows the Sarawak River

Kuching is also known as Cat City – there are a number of anecdotes as to why Kuching got its name. It used to be called Sarawak until James Brooke arrived by sea and asked his guide the name of the place, while pointing to the small town. The local guide thinking that James was pointing at a cat, answered ‘Kuching’, which is the Malay word for cat i.e ‘kucing’.  Against this story being true is that the local Malays who live in Kuching call a cat a ‘pusak’

Another story is that the town is named after a river called Sungai Kuching, which means Cat River. Another idea is that it is named after mata kucing, which is a fruit grown in Malaysia, Indonesia and the northern parts of Australia. The name means Cats Eye.

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The mata kucing fruit looks like a lychee.

So with a name like ‘Cat’, Kuching turned itself in to a tourist attraction by becoming the Cat City.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe above cat statues are outside our favourite restaurant.

IMGP3786rcThe James Brooke on the water front.

IMGP3955rIt is also a bar, and you do not have to order food.

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Of course we ordered lunch – Laksa – beautiful, and for me a cold beer helped it down.

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The following year we returned to Kuching with two other couples, and it wasn’t a hardship to revisit many places again.
During one evening in the James Brooke restaurant I overheard an accent that I recognised – it was a Liverpool accent. The four men having their evening meal worked as contactors for an aircraft company and flew around the world fixing problems. Because Maureen originated in Liverpool it didn’t take long for us to get chatting.

I asked one fellow where he lived on Merseyside and he told me Birkenhead. I mentioned that I came from Lower Tranmere in Birkenhead, and we then swapped details of the exact area. It turned out that he knew where my childhood street was, because he lived quite close.

The following night we met him again and he said that he had phoned his father in the UK, who was retired and still living in Lower Tranmere, and told him of meeting me. It turns out that his father was our milkman, and he used to deliver milk to my home when I was a child. Talk about a small world.

During my remember when holiday I couldn’t understand why the river never dropped as the tide turned.

FrederickCloverDressed overall for the last voyage to Singapore before the ship would be sold.

Generous meals, as the guest of various army units, helped to break the boredom of being in an out of the way port. We were not there to make a profit through trade, but in support of our own troops, a huge difference.

When we heard that the ship was to be sold on our return to Singapore, we decided to have a farewell dinner along with a number of army officers. Tables were booked at the local Chinese restaurant and all the ship’s officers left the ship, leaving just a watchman. It was a quiet night with little river traffic so we felt a single watchman was enough. The majority of the crew were allowed shore leave, because they would soon be out of work once we reached Singapore.
The evening went well until we returned to the ship and found her lying at a strange angle. What had happened was that the tide had gone out and the river had dropped causing the ship to settle in the mud. Being flat bottomed she would have settled upright if the watchman had slackened off the mooring lines – he’d not done so, and Frederick Clover was lying with a very large list away from the wharf – her mooring lines were bar tight with the strain.
There was little that we could do but wait for the tide to turn and raise her back to normal, which fortunately is what happened.

So during our holiday I asked why I hadn’t seen the river drop as the tide went out – it was all down to a barrage that had been built at the mouth of the river in the late 90’s, which controlled the flow of the river. The gates would be opened each Friday afternoon to flush out any rubbish etc.

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They do have the facility to allow small fishing boats to enter the river – which means that they must have a lock system.

At least I wasn’t going mad, because I was sure that the river would drop as the tide changed.

WhiteIf you are interested in Sarawak and the island of Borneo, but don’t wish to read a great tome, try the above book, which is an easy and interesting read.

The wife of the third Rajah, Sylvia Brooke,  who wrote her own autobiography in 1970, also wrote a synopsis of the life of James Brooke, which was bought by Warner Brothers film studio.
Errol Flynn wanted to play James Brooke, but in the script that he wrote, after reading the synopsis, he had James Brooke arriving in Borneo with a young woman dressed as a boy.
Sylvia Brooke refused to allow Flynn’s story to go any further, because there wasn’t any ‘love interest’ when Brooke arrived in Borneo. According to Sylvia Brooke James Brooke was the first white man to set foot in Borneo – which I find hard to believe.

Finally when Somerset Maugham visited Sarawak, it was suggested that James Brooke’s life would make a good film, but Somerset Maugham said, no it wouldn’t, because there wasn’t any love interest.

James Brooke’s life was full of love, he inspired love and felt love, so perhaps it is time for the right actor to take up the challenge and recreate The White Rajah.