Floating school – HMTS Dunera

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M/S Dunera in Malta

After a four month voyage in MV Chilka to East Africa, I was allowed ten days leave before the telegram arrived that I as to join MS Dunera in Venice.

Alitalia

Three days later I flew with Alitalia from London to Venice, via Milan.

Fortunately, ALITALIA didn’t live up to her acronym Always Late In Transit and Late In Arriving – we arrived on time, and I was met by the Company’s agent and taken to Dunera – she was moored alongside St Mark’s Square.

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Large passenger vessels are no longer allowed to berth alongside St Mark’s Square.

The above shows MSC Fantasia, at 137,936 gt, with 3,300 passengers –
MS Dunera was 12,620 gt with 834 students, in dormitories, and 194 first class cabins.
Is it any wonder the authorities put a stop to large cruise ships berthing alongside St Mark’s Square.
I think that berthing at St Mark’s Square was stopped in 2014, when the new cruise terminal opened. Now they are talking of banning large vessels in the Venice lagoon altogether, because of the vessel’s wash, even when moving very slowly, is causing damage to the buildings.

MS Dunera was a troop ship for the British Government, having been launched in 1937. She trooped to the Middle East, South Africa, Singapore and Australia between 1939 and 1941. In 1942 she took part in the Madagascar landings during Operation Ironbark, which has a link to me. During this operation my father was involved in the landings as a sailor aboard another Company troop ship named Karanja. It was only many years later that I found out about this long link of six degrees of separation.
MS Dunera was also the headquarter vessel for the US 7th Army during the invasion of Southern France in April 1944.

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HMT Dunera, as a troop ship.

In 1961/2 the British Government decided to suspend all sea going trooping and only to use air, which left several troop ships unemployed.

B.I.S.N.C had experienced operating school ships in the 1930’s, so they thought that they would reintroduce the concept in the early 60’s, and convert their troop ships to becoming ‘school ships’ – ships that specialised in taking school children on educational cruises.
In its first year as a school ship, Dunera carried over 10,000 school children around Europe to famous historical sites.

Once I’d stowed my gear in a cabin that I shared with three other cadets, I spent some time familiarising myself with the ship.

We sailed the following evening with a full compliment of British school children who had been flown out by chartered aircraft from the UK.

Our first day at sea was instructing the students about lifeboat drill, and how to put on a life jacket, which were different, but similar to today’s jackets. The main purpose in the ’60’s was to force ones head above water,. The current jackets do the same thing, but in a more ‘friendly’ fashion.

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1965

MusterDrill2

2018

Just a  little bit of trivia – the first life jacket was created in 1854 by Captain Ward who was  a British Royal National Life Boat inspector. He created it so that his lifeboat crews would have a better chance of surviving, considering that most of the time they only put to sea in bad weather, to rescue crews of stranded vessels.

The next job for the cadets was not as pleasant as chatting to the passengers and showing  them how to wear a life jacket – it was to chlorinate the swimming pool, before it could be used.

Pool

Picture thanks to John Coulthard, who also sailed in MS Dunera as Staff Second Officer in 1965. He joined MS Dunera the day I left.
As you see the pool was nothing like the fancy pools on offer by today’s cruise ships. I never heard of any complaints though, particularly when it was hot.

Our first port of call was Corfu – the photograph below was taken in 1965.

Corfu

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MS Dunera anchored off Corfu, or Keykyra in Greek.

The island didn’t have the facilities even for such a small (in comparison to today), cruise ships, so we anchored off and the motorised lifeboats were lowered, and it was the cadets job of coxing a lifeboat each full of passengers, and take them ashore. There was a small pier that we used to discharge the passengers safely. The ferrying began at 9.30 am and it wasn’t long before all of the passengers were ashore.

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Once again I am indebted to John Coulthard for the above two photographs.

As you see the ‘tender’ boat, (lifeboat) taking passengers ashore was nothing like the tender boat (lifeboat) of today, see below during our cruise earlier this year.

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A Diamond Princess tender ferrying passengers ashore in Nha Trang,  Vietnam.

At each port that we visited coaches were waiting for the students, with an English speaking guide, and the students were shown around the main sites, and had talks on the history and culture of each place visited.
The students knew that they had to pay attention, because they had essays to write, either during ‘lesson’ time on-board, or when they returned to their schools.
The big plus for the cadets was that we could board one of the coaches and visit the location for free. I took advantage of this facility in each port, because I knew I wouldn’t pay to return.
I was wrong, because fifty years later in 2015, I did return to some of the places that I’d visited while in Dunera.

When ever we took advantage of the free tour we had to make sure we were back in time to man the lifeboats for the return trip to the ship. The return trips in Corfu began at 3.30 pm the last boat from the shore was 5.45 pm and we sailed at 6.00 pm, for Itea.

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Itea and once again the passengers were ferried ashore.
Today they have a jetty that can take larger cruise ships.

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Both of the above were found on the internet – royalty free.

Cruise

Life on board to follow . . .

Road to Zanzibar

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It’s Always You
Bing Crosby sang it to Dorothy Lamour, in Zanzibar of course . . .

Christmas Day 1964 – we arrived off Mombasa and berthed alongside the Chakla, another Company ship. Also, in port was a BI passenger ship named ‘Karanja’ and this name had a family link for me. My father was on the first ‘Karanja’, when she was discharging troops in Operation Torch off North Africa during WW2.
She was bombed and sunk. Fortunately, Dad survived, but I wanted to see the replacement so as to tell Dad.

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Karanja that Dad sailed in during the war.
During peace time she operated on the India – East Africa Service.

hms-cropHMS Karanja in 1942 – after she’d been bombed, and is now on fire, and I can only assume that Dad was helping to fight the fires – she sank later.

Karanja

Karanja, that I saw in Mombasa.

The evenings over Christmas were spent along Kilindini Road, mainly at the Casablanca Bar and The Nelson Bar, very popular places that Christmas.

kilindini-tusksAt the top of Kilindini Road were the famous ‘tusks’.

During the Christmas period HMS Eagle and her support ships arrived in port. She was a Royal Navy aircraft carrier with a compliment of over 2500.

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                                The above shows HMS Eagle leaving Mombasa harbour.
Among the various Royal Navy crews were several bands, and these bands obtained permission to play in the nightclubs and bars of Mombasa.
To say that Mombasa, during the Christmas period of 1964, was a ‘jumping’ town is an understatement.

1965 – New Years Day and onward

I met a young lady who had a car – very unusual at that time, and she asked me to join her at a beach outside Mombasa called Nyali Beach, and she arranged to pick me up from the ship.

VW

Of course this sounded a great idea, so I agreed, and she did pick me up in a small VW car, known as a Beetle. It was battered and dented, but it moved. The picture is the closest I could find to illustrate the car (I think the young lady had a blue car).

Nyali-Beach

A girl , a car & a beach . . . what more could a twenty year old want?

Little did I know that it wasn’t for my charming self that I was invited, but my ability to pick the car up a little by rocking it or to push it – a lot! The car did not have a reverse (it was broken, and she couldn’t afford to have it fixed), so every time we had to reverse I had to get out and push it backwards. I have been very wary of invitations to go for a drive with a female ever since. The beach was nice, and the sun helped me recuperate after all the exercise of pushing a VW part of the way to Nyali beach.

Mombasa is an island, so we had to cross to the mainland to visit the beech. Fortunately the car didn’t breakdown on the bridge.

Nyali

We were in Mombasa for a fortnight during which time we change our Indian crew to a full African crew. We now had to learn Swahili instead of Hindi.
The Chilka was the first British ship to carry a full compliment of African crew. We managed to make the newspapers and the Mombasa Times ran a major story with photographs, unfortunately I can not find any pictures.

The one problem with the African crew was that most of them did not have any concept of a European winter. They had sailed ‘deep sea’ from Mombasa, but mainly to neighbouring countries or to India or the Persian Gulf. So, when we mentioned to some of them that they should consider something better than open toed sandals for a UK winter, they grinned with their large sparkling white teeth, as if they knew best.

Our new African steward was aware of the winter cold, and he had planned for such, but he told us that the deck crew would have to find out for themselves, because they will not listen to either him or us.

When they did arrive in London the deck crew had a grey pallor due to the cold, and they had so many layers of clothing on that they could hardly move. During their free time they spent most of it in the cinema, because it was cheap, and they could at least keep warm.

After leaving Mombasa our next stop was Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika, which had become independent in 1961. It was a very short trip, a matter of hours.

Tanganyika Territory or German East Africa before WW1, was transferred to Britain under a League of Nations mandate in 1922, later confirmed by the UN, which changed it to a Trust territory after WW2.
In 1961 the trust territory was transformed in to a sovereign state, and eventually became a republic within the Commonwealth.
In April 1964 Tanganyika joined with the Peoples Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba, to create the United Peoples Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which became the United Peoples Republic of Tanzania a few months later.

The city of Dar es Salaam still had that British feel, but I never felt as comfortable as I did in Mombasa.

Tanganyika might have changed its name to Tanzania, but at that time people still referred to it as Tanganyika. The economy of the place was not as strong as Kenya, and it showed.

Our time in Dar es Salaam was about three days. Not long enough to see much, because we had to work each day, but the town was a lot quieter than Mombasa.

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From Dar es Salaam we sailed for Tanga, which is a seaport on the northern tip of Tanzania, very close to the border with Kenya. Tanga, famous for its sisal, means ‘farm or cultivated land’ and gave its name to Tanganyika, which means ‘Sisal farm’.

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Sisal plant – the leaves are removed and dried to make the sisal that we know at home.

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Sisal leaves drying in the sun.

Tanga was the first German East African establishment, having been bought from the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1891.

Of course, we loaded sisal, after discharging, stone, heavy machinery and frozen food, including more ice cream. Two days was enough for Tanga, after which we sailed for Zanzibar, a favourite place for the slavers of old, and of course Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.

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Picture from the internet – it was taken in 1964

The Anglican Christ Church cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar stands on the old slave-trading market site.
In 1822 the British signed a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar to end slavery, but it took until 1876 before this trade came to and end. Of course, the trade carried on to a lessor degree by kidnapping children and selling them to ‘customers’ in the Persian Gulf. Slaves escaped to freedom as late as 1931.

David Livingstone (pictured below) estimated in 1857, that 80,000 thousand slaves died on the way to the Zanzibar slave market, and of those that lived 50,000 were sold to Sheikhs and rich traders in the Persian Gulf.
This slave market had nothing to do with the West African slave trade to America, which was outlawed by the UK in 1807.

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David Livingston

The altar, in the cathedral is supposed to be at the exact spot of the whipping post.

We loaded bag of cloves from dhows and barges using our own gear and the local labour for stowing the bags.

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Mtwara, in Tanzania was our next port of call. The town was a created town in the 1940’s for the export of groundnuts (peanuts), but the enterprise failed, and it was abandoned in 1951.
The town had been created to house 200,000 people, but when I visited Mtwara it had a feeling of being abandoned, with few people walking the dark sandy streets.

On leaving Mtwara it was back to Dar es Salaam, followed by Tanga, where I had an inoculation top up for cholera (another blunt needle). Not sure if it was the injection or the local beers, but I was not a happy chappy for a few days.

Our final East African visit was back to Mombasa where we anchored in the Mombasa Creek. The constant sound of insects and birds as we lay at anchored reminded me of the Edgar Wallace books and films that I’d seen and read.

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The Canoe song.
If you like Paul Robeson, click on the above link to hear him sing from the film.

 After a day and a half at anchor we moved alongside at the main port area, to load tea and coffee for the Sudan, and a present of flour from America for Aden.

Two days later our East African adventure was over, and we sailed for Europe via the Red Sea.

We arrived at Aden five days later around mid-night; anchored, and immediately gangs of labour came aboard to unload the Aden cargo. They worked through the night and we sailed at lunchtime.

It was two days to Port Sudan to discharge the Mombasa tea and coffee along with empty soft drink crates – no idea why they wanted empty crates. Strange how odd things like empty drink crates, stick in one’s mind from so long ago.

The export cargo from Sudan was Arabic gum (in bags, with plenty of tiny insects), ivory (it wasn’t illegal at that time), and groundnuts.

It was February, and as we got closer and closer to the Suez Canal the temperature became noticeably cooler. A very pleasant temperature for the Europeans, who were still in tropical whites, but for our African crew they began to complain of being cold. The Company had arranged for a supply of warm weather clothing for the crew and this was handed out.

The problem was that the clothing was of mixed sizes so some of the crew complained that they couldn’t move because their shirt was too tight, and others complained that their legs were cold because their trouser were too short. It became the cadets’ job to reclaim all the clothing and to make sure each crew member was kitted out with clothes that fitted, as best we could. This put a stop to a break out of fights over pieces of clothing.

Once in the Mediterranean all the crew appeared to put on weight – in fact they refused to take off any of their clothing because they were so cold, and they began to look like a gang of Michelin men.

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It took us a week from Port Sudan to Gibraltar, during which time the temperature had dropped from around 27 c (80F) to a cool 12 c (53F) and the crew were suffering.

Our next  port was Hull in the UK, and we had to transit the Bay of Biscay in winter – not a pleasant experience with heavy Atlantic swell causing us to pitch, roll and corkscrewing in a force eight.

The temperature kept dropping and by the time we reached the English Channel it was down to 6 c (42 F), the officers were now in ‘blues’ far too cold for shorts.

I paid off Chilka on a Sunday, while still at sea, with the grand sum of £20 in my pocket. I’d been away for about four months, so I didn’t expect a long leave. We docked in Hull on Monday morning, and by the afternoon I was back home in Birkenhead, which is across the river from Liverpool.

Yesterday and today –

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Chilka at 7,132 gt, a happy ship to see the world and experience different cultures.

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Credit for the photograph by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

A container ship alongside in Zanzibar in 2011, where is the ‘romance’ of going to sea if you are only in port for a few hours.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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A classic British film from 1958.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to sea

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In mid November of 1964 I received a telegram that ‘my services were required’ in London, because I was to join the Chilka – she was launched 1950 so she wasn’t too old.
I enjoyed my time in Chilka, because she was a very happy ship, and when I joined she was loading cargo for the East African coast.

I signed on late in the afternoon, and after unpacking I visited the ship’s bar for pre-dinner drinks. In the bar I met friends from HMS Conway – one was the first tripper who was with me on my first ship, the tanker, and another who was also in my term during my time at Conway. We had a very pleasant evening of ‘remember when’?

During the next eleven days, the ship worked cargo and I was on general duties depending on what the First Mate required. It was mainly day work, so I had the evenings free, which gave me time to visit London, rather than just the dock area.
Being cadets we did managed to visit a couple of very famous London dockland pubs near where the Chilka was berthed at KGV (King George 5th docks).

These docks were opened in 1921 and reached their peak during the late 1950’s early 1960’s just as containerisation began to grow. The docks eventually became uneconomical and closed in 1981, after which the London City Airport was built. Part of the dock was filled in to create the runway and passenger terminal.

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King George V docks in the 1960’s, as you see, the dock was huge.

rdhist6Loading cargo in the 1960’s was very labour intensive, and the introduction of containerisation put a lot of stevedores out of work.

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The 1990’s

All our yesterdays, times change, and after the heartache at the time, I think the locals today are better off than their predecessors in the 1960’s.

We sailed on the last Friday in November, in a rain squall. It was a dirty afternoon that turned in to an early cold and wet night as we made our way down the River Thames, to the open sea and the English Channel.

My watch was the graveyard watch – midnight to four am. As I climbed the ladder to the bridge, for the start of my watch, I remembered a line of poetry from John Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’ – ‘Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,’ but for us it was November, but butting down the Channel was exactly what we were doing that dark and wet Friday night. It’s funny how the smallest things come back to you years later.
The last verse of Masefield’s poem.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

PunduastormcropI took this photograph when I was 3rd Mate on another BI ship a couple of years later, I’ve included it in this blog as an illustration of butting down the Channel.

 

Zeebrugge & Bruges

I was sixteen when I made my first visit ‘abroad’ in 1960, I’d been asked to help a teacher  to look after a group of British school children while visiting Germany. We were to stay at Youth Hostels as we made our way up the Rhine by rail and returned via paddle steamer, Bismark
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Paddle steamer Bismark

Due to the very long journey from Birkenhead to Ostend, the group leader had booked us in to the Zeebrugge youth hostel, which was a short distance along the coast from Ostend. The one thing I do remember about Ostend was a particular coffee bar, which had a jukebox.
Jukeboxes were not new to us, but we’d never seen a jukebox linked to a TV screen. For one Belgium franc (well before the EEC and the Euro) we were able to play popular songs and watch the singer on the screen. This is the only memory I have about my first visit to a foreign city.

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As we entered Zeebruge harbour aboard Celebrity Silhouette recently, I found myself thinking of the Mersey ferry boats, Daffodil & the Iris in WW1, on St George’s Day 1918.

DSC02305rSunrise  Zeebruge Harbour earlier this year, pictures taken from our balcony.

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The entrance to the harbour can be seen (beyond the the immediate quay) where the British sank the two derelict vessels.zeebrugge_19180423

The two ferries took part in the commando raid to sink obsolete ships in the main channel at Zeebrugge, to prevent German U-boats leaving port. Although badly damaged, and with many killed and wounded, the two ferryboats managed to return to England, and eventually made their way back to Mersey.508715828Daffodil arriving back in the Mersey after emergency repairs at Chatham300px-HMS_Iris_II_1918_IWM_Q_55564

Above is the Iris on her return – both ships carried the HMS prefix during the raid., and both had a large number of shell holes. In addition the superstructure had been riddled with machine gun fire. The funnel of the Iris was kept as a ‘memorial’ for some time, but I not sure where it is now.
Eight VCs were awarded after the raid, unfortunately two hundred and twenty seven men were killed, and of those I think seventy are buried in the crematory at Dover. The whole operation called for volunteers and of the 1700 who volunteered eleven were Australian. Of the eleven, seven were decorated for bravery and some of their medals can be seen in Canberra.

Dover marked the centenary of the raid earlier this year. The link is a very short video.

In honour of their contribution to the raid King George V conferred the pre-fix ‘Royal’ on both Mersey ships, and they became the ‘Royal Iris’ & the ‘Royal Daffodil’. The second descendant of the ‘Royal Iris’ came in to service in 1951, and it was in the 1965, on this ‘Royal Iris’, that I danced with a young girl who would later become my wife, forty nine years ago.

My day dreaming suddenly changes as the Sapphire Princess crossed my sight to berth next door to us.DSC02308r

 

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Belgium navy ships berthed across from our berth. I wonder if they think of the raid on St George’s Day (23rd April).

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On to happier thoughts as we crossed the canal bridge leading in to Bruges, after the coach ride from Zeebruge. The drive was just over half an hour and once in Bruges I had the feeling of stepping back in time.

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Maureen & I were part of a ship’s tour and the guide, who was seventy, was full of anecdotes, information and jokes – a perfect guide.

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Very few cars but enough horse a carriages to keep the tourists happy.

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With two cruises ships in port the crowds were not as bad as I expected.

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Couldn’t resist taking a photo of the inside of this shop, it looked so colourful and inviting, selling Belgium lace and various other linen products.

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Belgium chocolate – the love of chocolate for the Belgium people goes back to 1635, well before Belgium as a country came in to existence. Our guide gave us an overview of why real Belgium chocolate is so expensive compared to to other brands of chocolates. Belgium chocolate is made from 100% coco butter, which means it does not contain vegetable oil.  He went in to a lot of detail, but the bits that stuck in my mind was that if I saw chocolate in Belgium at an inexpensive price, it was not traditional Belgium chocolate. Fortunately for me chocolate is a take it or leave it product – I seldom eat chocolate.

DSC02336rWe were in the old part of the town and making our way to the main market square. The central building with the cross on the top was built in 1713 as a place for destitute women – an alms house in English. It is still used today for the elderly of small means.

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The wall of one of the God houses – originally built by wealthy merchants for those who could no longer look after themselves.

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We passed another during our walk – built in 1330, and still in use.

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Narrow streets and follow the guide – our septuagenarian.

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took this because I liked the scene.

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Canal scene with a tourist boat.

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To get to the main market square we had to cross a very small bridge that had people coming towards us as well as those behind all moving forward.

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I stopped on the bridge for a photo and people flowed around me like water.

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I then managed to get to the other side of the bridge . .

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 . . . and then back to my original place – the tourist boats were very popular, but our choice had been for something other than a tourist boat.

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When I saw the crowd outside the hotel I thought what a lovely place to sit and have a drink, only when I got closer did I realise it was a long queue for one of the tourist boats.

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The whole area could have been a Disney set, but it was all real.

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More queues for boats – on such a beautiful day, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

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The main market square, which is the heart of Bruges, is just around the corner.

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The market square reminded us of Ypres, which is not surprising as Ypres is also in Belgium.

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Our choice over the boat trip – Belgium beer tasting. Must admit they were generous with the pouring – 150 ml in each glass. Of course Maureen couldn’t dink hers because it wasn’t gluten free, so being kind hearted I helped her out . . .

The first glass was 8% alcohol – and the guy in the red shirt (standing) gave us a chat about the beer and how it was made on the premises.

The next one, a different taste,was 6% and the final one, again a different taste, around 4.5% – a very pleasant lunch break. The brewery supplied cheese nibbles between the tasting of each beer to clean the palate.

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Just to show how kind I was. . . . a well balanced meal.

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After the tasting we had free time for a wander around the market square. The market started in 958 and is still going every Wednesday.
From November each year it becomes an ice skating rink and a Christmas market.DSC02398r

Plenty of cafes and restaurants.

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The statue in the square is of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck , the two heroes from 1302 who were involved in the uprising and massacre of the French occupying forces.
In retaliation the French king, Phillip IV, sent an army of 8000 troops, which included 2500 cavalry.
The civic militia was raised in Bruges, and the surrounding towns. When the two armies met the French sent in their heavy cavalry, but they failed to break the armoured and well trained militia.
The battle ended in a French defeat and many of the knights, including the French leader were killed. At the end of the battle the Flemish soldiers collected five hundred pairs of spurs, which is why the battle is called The Battle of the Golden Spurs. The spurs were offered to the church.

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Across the square from the restaurants is the Belfort Tower, which is a belfry.

There are 366 steps to climb to the top, via a narrow staircase (with two-way traffic), so you have to be fit and perhaps younger than me to complete the climb. I’m told that the view on a clear day is fantastic. The lower areas are 13th century.
The carillon of 47 bells weigh from 0.9 kg to 4,989 kilos per bell, making a total weight of all the bells of 27,500 kilos. Chimes of Bruges – is about three minutes and also includes views from the top.

We enjoyed our time in Bruges, and only wished we’d been able to stay longer. It is a town where we’d liked to have stayed locally for a few nights, to see more and to experience the area outside of the town. But we had to get back to the ship . . . .

Next stop Copenhagen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shimizu & Mt Fuji

 

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The photo was taken from our balcony as we approached Shimizu in Japan, we were very fortunate that it was a clear day. We decided not to do any excursions, because we only wanted to see Mt Fuji and from reading Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic web sites, I knew that if we couldn’t see it from the town, then there was little chance of seeing it even if we were half way up the mountain

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Of course, as we moved alongside I knew that we had a shopping centre quite close . . .

DSC01214rLike many of our fellow passengers we wondered over to the shopping area and the Ferris wheel. It was obvious that Shimizu was a popular place for private boats.

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DSC01233rThey do say that size doesn’t matter, but this one looked a fine vessel, not sure if it offered trips round the bay, or if it was a private yacht.

DSC01228rOf course talking of size – you can see the Diamond Princess alongside.

The  above three pictures were taken as Maureen and I took in the views from the top of the Ferris wheel – not expensive for a single rotation, but when we were at the top the wind strengthen and caused the whole structure to shudder & sway some what . . . ..

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Taken as our seats on the Ferris wheel reached the top.

DSC01221rAnother shot of the ship as we started our descent.

DSC01235rTaken from the ground level.

DSC01217rThe shopping centre, which was not all that large, also catered for the children.

DSC01201rEveryone seemed to be clicking cameras and they all pointed at Mt Fuji – we just couldn’t help taking more and more photographs. It seemed to hold a fascination for everyone.
DSC01252rAs we sailed from Shimizu I remembered an old Japanese sage saying, during my time at sea when on the Japanese coast. If you see Mt Fuji as you leave you will return to Japan – each time we sailed from Japan I managed to see Mt Fuji, except the last time when we sailed at night, so I was unable to see the mountain – this would have been in the late 1960’s.

I didn’t return to Japan until the late 1980’s, (by air) when working for another company, and didn’t see Mt Fuji during that trip – in future I think I’ll stick to a simpler use for old sage, and mix it with onion for stuffing a Christmas turkey.

MGI forgot to mention that our guide in Osaka, Toichi, took out his felt tip pen and created the above in Japanese script.

The top one is ‘Geoff’ and the bottom is ‘Maureen’. When we arrived home I showed the piece of paper to my grandson, who is studying Japanese at school (he’s thirteen).

He looked at it and shook his head and told me that he could only recognise the bottom three syllables on the left. He said they represent the sound of ‘more’, so I said how about Mau as in Maureen?

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong – fragrant harbour

 

41_Pt_I_Ch_6_The_Victoria_Harbour_viewed_from_Kowloon_1965How things have changed since my first trip to Hong Kong in 1963. Note the clock tower to the left of the picture, right on the waterfront, more about it later.

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I found this old advert, which also shows Hong Kong of the 60’s.

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We entered Hong Kong harbour via the Tathong Channel on the eastern side of the island.
It was early morning when Diamond Princess arrived, and the island began to wake.

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It was misty, early April, winter not long over.DSC00823r

I found the continuous tower blocks a little depressing, perhaps because my memory of the excitement of Hong Kong was of an earlier age. The population in 1963 was about 3.5 million and now it is 7.5 million so I suppose the growth in apartments was inevitable.

BOACThe cruise terminal used to be the int’l airport Kai Tak, which had a hair-raising runway to land on in the early 1960’s. As the aircraft came in to land, and if the passengers looked out of the window, they could see in to the local apartments.

China AirwaysNot everyone landed safely – China Airways missed the runway or couldn’t stop in time.

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Kai Tak in the 1960’s – when I flew out of Hong Kong I used to check the location of the various ships at anchor and to try to judge how much runway was left as we passed each vessel. Self torture I suppose.

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The old peninsular shaped runway is now a cruise terminal – at the end of the terminal they have a park called Kai Tak Runway Park . . . . . the above photograph shows the cruise terminal as we swung around to face out to sea for our night time departure.

Maureen and I had been to Hong Kong a number of times so all we wished to do was to visit the Peninsula Hotel for lunch. Well, I had the wild idea of having lunch there as a surprise, but once we entered I must admit I changed my mind.

DSC00875rI suppose I was a little ambitious thinking that we could have lunch at an acceptable price, particularly as I took this photograph a helicopter lifted from the roof – the only way to travel really in crowded Hong Kong.

DSC00876rcThe rest of us would have to put up with being met at the airport in a green Rolls Royce.

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DSC00846r.jpgI tried to capture the green of the Rolls, but the day was a dull and the gleaming ‘green’ duco didn’t show up in the photograph.

DSC00847rIt was late morning and many were finishing their breakfast, while others were having a pre-lunch drink. I ordered a beer and an iced-coffee for Maureen. To be fair they came with peanuts, chocolate thingies, and something else that I can’t remember. The bill came to over AUD $27, which wasn’t bad for such an establishment, and it gave us a chance to read the menu.
The cheapest thing that I could find for lunch was AUD $50 for a Caesar salad, and if you wanted chicken or prawns with the basic salad, that was extra . . . one can dream, perhaps one day. It was an interesting experience.

In 2007 I visited Hong Kong with my son – he’d won a draw for two economy tickets to Hong Kong, and during our trip we visited The Bar at The Peninsular, (it doesn’t open until 3.00 pm, so I couldn’t take Maureen).

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After we’d finished our drinks we left and I took a photograph of him walking down the stairs as we left the hotel.

History repeats itself as I took a photograph of Maureen coming down the same stairs.
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DSC00858rIt was a short walk to the Star Ferry at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

DSC00861rIf everything else has changed the Star Ferry seems to be stuck in a time warp.

DSC00862rStill the same system to come alongside – the ferry terminal is the same one that I remembered from the earl 60’s.

The The World of Suzie Wong is a movie that was made in 1960, but the beginning of the film is also an historic record of Hong Kong at that time, try and look beyond the printed word on the screen.

This piece of film is of how cargo would be worked in 1963. It is silent, but you will be able to see cargo ships moored to buoys in the harbour, and large cargo junks alongside working cargo.
We would be in port for several days and as soon as we were secure to a buoy the sew sew girls would be after us to do our laundry, and make tailor made uniform shirts and shorts – hence the title sew sew girls (although their card had ‘sow sow’, not sew sew) – I didn’t mean so so girls, which would have been very un PC.
I had a number of uniform shorts made in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bombay, and still have a pair of shorts that was made in Singapore – and I can still get in to them . . .

I mentioned the clock tower at the beginning of this blog, which used to be closer to the water than it is now.

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DSC00872rReclaimed land perhaps, but the area has certainly been ‘beautified’, I think it used to be a bus terminus in this area.

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I was very impressed with the metro – clean, very efficient and cheap.

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We sailed in the early evening.

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The new Kai Tak cruise terminal is large enough to take more than one cruise ship.

DSC00904rWe used our side thrusters to push off the wharf and begin the short transit to the open sea.

We returned to the open sea the way we came in, rather than via Victoria Harbour, which was the way we would enter and leave in a cargo ship of 7,000 gt –

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British India vessel Landaura that I sailed in when we entered Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, in 1963. I was nineteen at the time.
The Diamond Princess is 115,875 gt just a small difference in size.

 

DSC00912rFarewelling Hong Kong was a cold business in April.

DSC00913rA final shot of the blocks of flats before we disappeared inside the accommodation for a spot of warmth.