Singe a King’s Beard


We sailed from Southampton the day after we’d arrived with a fresh group of students.
This voyage was to Vigo, again, and later Cadiz, where according to Sir Francis Drake he ‘Singed the King’s Beard’ .


Sir Francis Drake Singed a King’s Beard in 1587.


Drake’s original map, the pink arrow shows how he approached Cadiz harbour.



Spain at the time of our visit was controlled by General Franco, and had been since 1939 after the Spanish civil war, which began in 1936. When he was promoted to the rank of general in 1925, he was the youngest European general since Napoleon. General Franco died in 1975, he was eighty three.

For those who are interested you might like For Whom the Bell Tolls, which is a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s experience during the civil war.


The book was published in 1940, and turned in to a film in 1943, staring Gary Cooper & Ingrid Bergman. Click on the above link for the film’s trailer

On our arrival in Cadiz we didn’t singe anything except ourselves on the beach.


Cadiz in 1965


Maureen & I visited Cadiz in 2015 – a lot more tourists . . .


If Drake had joined us on this cruise he wouldn’t have recognised the fort, because he attacked the city in 1587, and the seven star fort was not built until 1598.


From the beach position.

Next day it was Lisbon, and we arrived at 6.30 pm, which was a great time to arrive, because we were able to see the night life, without having to chaperone any of the passengers.
Eventually some of us found our way to the Texas Bar. A bar that was well known by many who went to sea, and others who liked music.

Texas cropped

In the 1960’s this was the place to visit in Lisbon – how the mighty have fallen.

Tables were scattered around, and a small band played in what looked like the front half of a large rowing or sailing boat. Nothing strange in seeing bands in various gimmicky settings, but the ‘boat’ was half way up the wall, in the far corner of the room.

Texas Bar, Lisbon - Copy

In 1965 this place was jumping with music, and you had to push your way in.


I found the above on the internet – the players in the photograph are, I think, US servicemen, not locals, so they must have been off a visiting war ship. I only saw (listened to) local Portuguese bands, I didn’t know that they allowed visitor bands.

As the evening progressed the place filled and the noise level increased. The band had to play louder and louder.
The band did take requests, via the patron’s passing notes with the title of the music and  accompanied by folding money – of course.

It always happens – the band played the wrong song, and someone took ‘umbrage’ and tried to stand on a table to get at the boat, in which the band was playing. It was then that I saw barbwire wrapped around the side of the boat. Until it was pointed out to me it just looked part of the boat’s decoration to give it authenticity, as in fishing lines. The music critic couldn’t quite reach the boat, so he was saved from receiving some very nasty cuts. The barb wire is not shown in the above photograph

I asked a waiter if this was normal and he told me that they had to introduce the barbwire some weeks earlier to protect the band! So they had ‘elf an safety, even then . . .


A tired memory of more than fifty years later, but I have read that it still opens at 11.00 pm each day, but I don’t know if that is true or not.

We sailed the following evening, the cruise was nearly over – three and a half days and we will be in Tilbury. During the homeward trip we arranged a tug of war between the students and the first-class passengers. The students won and later all the officers attended a show put on by the students.
It was a good show and part of the show was a comic sketch about two cadets – both caricatures of myself and another cadet, because we had the most to do with the students.
It went down very well with the other officers and I even recognised some of my own foibles. Do I really walk like that??

This cruise was a short cruise, and we were soon back in  Tilbury Docks (London), at 08.00 am on a Sunday to disembark our passengers. We sailed ’empty’ at 6.00 pm for the Firth of Forth in Scotland to board a Scottish school cruise for the Baltic.

Should we or shouldn’t we . . .


Before we emigrated to Australia we lived in a small town (small for the UK) of about 11,000 people called Congleton, which is in Cheshire.
During the time we lived there we took part in the celebrations for the town’s 700 th anniversary.

I worked shifts for BOAC (later British Airways) at Manchester Airport, which was 50 kms from home.
We enjoyed our time in Congleton, and loved the location of our house, which was one of five that over looked the River Dane.

The above picture show the view from our bedroom window.


The above view is from our living-room window.
The above photographs are getting old.

Life was good until the interest rates went up to 18%, petrol climbed to stupid prices (I didn’t have a company car, so I was paying for my own petrol) and the weather could be a pain.

The whiteness of the above two photographs is the frost – not snow.


Come Christmas we had snow, which was fine and felt very ‘Christmas’, until you had to dig the car out and try to get to work – if the road was open.
At times only four wheeled drive vehicles were allowed out of the town.

So a decision had to be made, because the cost of living in such a beautiful area was killing us. We decided to move closer to the airport, but which airport?

Instead of moving closer to Manchester we decided to move closer to Melbourne airport in Australia, so we began the long process of gaining permission to emigrate. Which is another story.

After about a year we finally had permissions to emigrate.

It took us over a further year to sell the house, due to the high interest rates – we sold the house twice, but the first time it fell through because the buyer couldn’t secure the loan due to the interest rates.
Finally we sold, but we had to be in Australia by a certain date or else our Australian residency visa would expire.

We left power of attorney with our solicitor and flew out just in time. We paid full price for all our tickets, I was too old, at thirty five, to emigrate for £50.00.


 Our first Christmas in Australia on Chelsea beach in Victoria.

I was out of work for eleven days, and was offered three jobs. The best job interview I’d ever had was in Melbourne. I was taken to a pub for lunch by the State Manager & the Admin manager of an international courier company, and at the end of the lunch they asked when I could start.
I started the next day and was given a company vehicle as part of my package. At the end of my first day I left the office in the dark on a wet rainy Friday, driving a strange vehicle and I didn’t know the way home.
In the end I kept Port Phillip Bay on my right and kept going until I recognised the railways station near where we lived.

From then on we’ve never looked back, Australia is a great country.

Christmas past. . . .1962


BI vessel S.S Ellenga

As a first trip cadet – I’d been at sea for about three months – it was Christmas at sea – we left Mina el Ahamadi in Kuwait at 3.00 am on Friday 21st December – it would be Christmas at sea for the five day voyage to Little Aden in what is now Yemen.


We were not all that sorry to leave, because I doubt that an oil refinery in Kuwait would be on many people’s ‘bucket list’, particularly at Christmas time.

Even though it was Christmas at sea the watching keeping officers and crew still had to work on Christmas Day.


Christmas breakfast menu,  on board the Ellenga in 1962.

The one thing we didn’t worry about was being hungry – couldn’t fault the British India Steam Nav. Co for the standard of food.

Certain cruise ship today think that they invented breakfast menus  . . .

For those of us who didn’t have to work on Christmas Day,
after a beer or two we all had lunch.


A quiet afternoon for the cadets and at 7.00 pm it was time to eat again . . .

It was Christmas dinner!

Xmas62 dinner

Ellenga menu.jpg

Cover of the Christmas dinner menu – signed by the officers.

All the time were ‘eating’ we were steaming down the Persian Gulf towards the Straits of Hormuz


Coast of Little Aden, Yemen shot from Al Burayqah

The view of our destination – Little Aden- of course we were not allowed ashore. If for some reason we had to visit Aden, it was about a 45 minute road trip, and HOT!
The above is from the internet and thanks to Taff Davies in the UK.

Aden and Little Aden were still Aden colony in 1962 – the British having captured the area  in 1839 to secure the route to India, control the entrance to the Red Sea.and to dissuade pirates.
Until 1937 Aden was governed from India, but in 1937 it became a Crown Colony.
Its location is equidistant from Bombay (now Mumbai), Zanzibar & the Suez Canal, so it was a very important strategic location.


We now jump forward four years to 1966, when I experienced another Christmas at sea.

I’d passed my 2nd Mates ticket and had been appointed 3rd Officer in the Bankura.


BI ship M.S Bankura 6,793 gt, launched in 1959.

We sailed from Chalna in East Pakistan (the name changed after liberation to Bangladesh in 1971), after loading in the Rupsha River from floating warehouse type barges – the photograph below will give you and idea. We used our own derricks / cranes to load the cargo, After we completed loading we sailed for Colombo in Ceylon.


I was once again at sea for Christmas, but only have the dinner menu as a souvenir.
This time I was third mate in a cargo ship running between Calcutta to the Australian & New Zealand coast. The round trip would take us about three months, unless we were lucky and became strike bound in Australia . . . . for the dockers in Australia this was their main hobby in the 60’s.

Although I was ‘at sea’, we were not sailing the oceans at Christmas, but anchored in Colombo harbour in Ceylon, (now called Sri Lanka). We arrived on the 20th December and worked cargo until Christmas Day, which was a holiday, not just for us, but Colombo as well. While we at the buoys another of the  Company’s vessels arrived and moored at a buoy close to us. She was the Carpentaria.
I think we were left at buoys because it would have been cheaper than going alongside due to the downtime, because of Christmas.


 Carpentaria 7268 gt Launched 1949

We had company and a change of faces, and the ability to swap books. The Carpentaria carried eleven passengers so their Christmas was going to be ‘posher’ than ours, not that we had any complaints. The menu for our Christmas dinner is below



Front cover of the menu – once again signed by the officers.

I have a letter that I sent to Maureen detailing the high jinks that took place between the Bankura & the Carpentaria officers – but that is another story.



Transplanted Christmas

A friend of mine commented on an old post, (which I posted in 2015), about cooking a Christmas turkey that doesn’t dry out, so I thought I’d post the recipe again, because Christmas is only a few weeks away.


Christmas comes but once and year, & this is the only time my wife and I eat turkey.
Over the years we have experienced different ways of cooking the bird so that it doesn’t dry out.

The ‘must have Christmas turkey’ is a hangover from our time in the UK, before we emigrated.
Our Australian friends favour pork, ham or shellfish – prawns, oysters etc.
This coming Christmas will be our 38th Christmas in Australia, which for me, is three years longer than my UK Christmas’s.

The only ‘Pommy’ things that we have transplanted from our life in the UK is turkey at Christmas Mince pies and home made mince pies, from Maureen’s mum’s recipe.


and it has to be Roberton’s

The best turkey recipe that we have found was sent to me a few years ago by a HMS Conway friend, who is half Dutch and half English, and now lives in the UK.

The process is quite simple – cover the turkey in streaky bacon, and then foil.

Set the oven to switch on at 1.30 am Christmas morning, at a temperature of 70 degrees ‘c’ and set the timer for seven hours.

At 8.30 am increase the temperature to 180 degrees ‘c’ for three hours. This allows us to attend the 9.00 am service at church.

At 10.30 am remove the foil from the turkey – leaving the oven at 180 c – depending on your needs, the removal of the foil can be between 30 to 60 minutes, before the end of the three hour period.

At 11.30 am remove the bird from the oven and wrap it in plenty of towels (or you can use a small blanket), which locks in the heat, but doesn’t dry out the bird . The turkey will stay warm for hours, leaving the oven free for other food to be cooked.

Lunch can be served any time after the vegetables are ready – it all depends on your timetable.

We sat down for lunch at 2.00 pm and the meat was moist, tasty and very appetising – dry turkey is a thing of the past.



It takes time to get used to Christmas in Australia,

 Snow White Boomers

21st Birthday

E0702 KLENZE 9463

Acropolis by Leo von Klenze 1846

It was a short voyage from Istanbul to Piraeus, which is the port for Athens.  Once again I took advantage of the student tours and walked around the Parthenon overlooking Athens.

DSC04058rI took this photograph of Athens in 2015, the Parthenon was behind me.

Visiting the Parthenon was nowhere near as crowded in 1965 as it was in 2015, when Maureen & 1 and two friends visited.



How long will it be before the ruins have been worn away?


Naples, the port for Pompeii – 2018


A very interesting day with the students, and once again far less crowded than I experienced in 2015 ! The above photograph was taken in 2015.

From Naples our next port was Cagliari in Sardinia.  It was Palm Sunday, and the place was very, very quiet.

Cagliari 65

Piazza Repubblica in 1965.

I decide to go for a swim on Poetto beach, which was a beautiful beach of fine white sand, backed by white sand hills.


Part of the beach area – found this on the internet, which was taken in 1965.

I wonder if anyone else remembers this beach in 1965? Due to the removal of the cassoti (beach huts) in the 1980’s from the beach, and the failure to stop sand erosion, the beach had to be rebuilt using sand from dredgers.

Poetto cassoti

Cassoti or beach huts – picture from approx. mid 60’s.

The problem was that the new sand was not the fine white sand of old, but different coloured sand. I believe they are having the same erosion problems today and the ‘new’ sand is being washed away.


The beach today showing the encroaching cafes etc – downloaded from the internet.

After my swim I felt peckish and decided to buy a ham roll as I walked back to the wharf to re-join the ship.
I purchased my ‘lunch’ from a shop with a window full of different meats and bread sticks & rolls. My Italian was nil and the shop assistant’s English was as fluent as my Italian. I mimed and asked for a ham roll pointing at what I thought looked like ham. He handed me a dry bread roll with thin meat in it, all wrapped in paper. One bite and I realised it was not ham, but prosciutto. At that time, I had not yet come to appreciate this type of dry-cured meat.
While walking along the street from the beach I had been ‘adopted’ by a dog that wouldn’t leave me alone, so I thought why not give him the meat? It’d save it going to waste, because I didn’t like the taste of the meat, or the dry roll.
The dog sniffed the meat and bread & refused to eat any of my lunch. He looked at me, turned and trotted back towards the beach. Obviously, the dog had better taste than I did.

I arrived back on board to find a pile of mail waiting for me – I’d forgotten it was my birthday, and I had a number of cards from the UK wishing me Happy birthday for my 21st.

We sailed at 11.30 pm and three days later we sighted Gibraltar. This time I was going to make sure that I would have a look around.
I did manage to get ashore and check out the ‘Rock’, but would have liked longer; we sailed at midnight.


Gibraltar, captured from the Spanish in 1704, by Anglo – Dutch forces.

 Two days later we arrived in Vigo, after a rolling trip from the Atlantic swells as we sailed along the coast of Portugal. The ship’s movement kept most of the younger students very quiet.
We were only in Vigo, which is on the northwest coast of Spain, for a short stay.
Our next port of call was our last for this trip.

Southampton and the chat, yet to happen, with a certain father in Christchurch about his daughter’s visit in Istanbul.

We were alongside in Southampton by 8.00 am and wished everyone who was leaving a safe journey home – many of the students were in tears as they left the ship.

On the internet there are web pages created by ex-students, who have now reached retirement age, and their experience of the Dunera or one of the other school ships,  made such an impression that it stayed with them all their lives.

A later cruise in MV Uganda the link is a short five minute ‘we remember when’ of people who experienced a school ship cruise aboard M/V Uganda.


Above is M/V Uganda during her school ship period.

Dunera as a school ship is just over a minute, but it will give you an idea.


Each dormitory had a badge and a name, this one was Sir Edward Pellew 1757 – 1833, a very famous sea officer during the Napoleonic wars.

170px-Sir_Edward_Pellew  Sir Edward Pellew in uniform

The following day we were welcoming a new group of students, as we prepared to sail at 3.00 pm for Spain, starting with life jacket drill. . . . .



That’s Entertainment . . . . .


The holiday has started for some . . . the beginning of another cruise for us.

In addition to our normal duties on board, plus ferrying passengers ashore in the lifeboats, we were expected to help entertain the students in the afternoons, during sea days. Most afternoons were free for the students, lessons being held in the morning on sea days.


This photograph & the one below are thanks to John Coulthard

I made sure to stay away from the girls with hockey sticks, out of respect for my ankles.


I preferred frog racing – much calmer . .

In the evenings we were expected to be around in full uniform to dance with the students – always a pleasure to comply with certain orders.
Curfew for the students was 9.00 pm.

If we extended our stay in port, while at anchor, we would have a ‘regatta’ – teams of students would man the lifeboats and ‘row’ them around the ship in a race. The only difference is that they didn’t use oars, because the lifeboats had ‘Fleming Gear’, which is a handle by each seat so that the passenger pulls the handle back and forth and a shaft drives a propeller.


The above shows the white bars, which are ‘jacked’ back and forth to drive the propeller.


The race is on . . . we cadets would dress up as pirates and shout at our ‘rowers’ – a popular film at the time was Ben Hur, which has a number of scenes of slave rowers, rowing to the beat of a drum.
So we tried this to get everyone in time . . . sometimes it worked, but . . .

On one particular cruise it was a Catholic school cruise with many younger students – ten or eleven to fourteen years old, and the teachers were the nuns. The nuns used to take part in many of the games and also the boat race. I had three nuns in the bow of my boat and my ‘crew’ were finding it hard to move the boat fast enough with the dead-weight in the bow. As a pirate I used to carry a whip, which I could crack while shouting pirate slogans such as ‘Row you swabs! faster, faster!’ and other such niceties.

The nuns, dressed in their black habit ‘uniform’ and a smaller version of the cornette, the traditional nun’s head gear, (something like the headgear in this picture),nun

were enjoying the sail until I cracked my whip and shouted for them to ‘Row, sisters!’
I was quite surprised when all three bowed and grabbed a handle and started jacking it backwards and forwards. We increased speed, but not enough to stop us coming in last.
Later I was called to see the Captain and ‘asked’ not to become too enthusiastic when shouting at the nuns, because they were also on their holiday. I could take a hint.

Also during sea days we were expected to give half hour talks about the happenings on the bridge while at sea, these talks were to both first-class passengers and students. They began at 9.30 am and went on until 4.00 pm, with a short break for lunch. The groups were quite small because we couldn’t allow too many at one time, because this would interfere with the operation of the bridge. In today’s world one would not be able to get anywhere near the bridge.

This part of our duties was nerve racking until you had your patter down to a fine art. The jokes always raised a laugh, the questions were nearly always the same, and it became enjoyable being able to speak to so many people from all walks of life.


All BI deck & engine room crews came from India. The catering staff for the Europeans were from Goa, because they were mostly catholic, which helped, because we didn’t have the religious food restrictions due to pork or beef.

I found the above photograph on the internet to give an idea of a ship’s bridge in 1965 compared to today.
Today’s bridge is all enclosed with repeater computer controls at the centre, and on each bridge wing.
In 1965 we didn’t have computers, satellite communications, and we definitely didn’t have Satnav or GPS. We used our eyes, and took bearings of prominent points of land. A bearing of the right-hand land mass and another on the left, and where they cross on the chart that’s where you were . . . this system has worked very well for centuries.


We did have primitive RADAR – compared to today’s RADAR – and an echo sounder, and a lead line for obtaining how deep the water was close to land. At times we used the echo sounder, and then cross checked with the lead line!

The Dunera had the ability to go forward or astern, plus the experience of the Master in taking her alongside without the help of thrusters – perhaps a tug to nudge her alongside.
How times have changed, the Dunera bridge wings were open to the elements, whereas today the bridge is air conditioned, and you don’t need wet weather gear to go on watch.

Today the officer on the bridge controls the engine, whereas we used to use a telegraph to communicate with the engine room.


We moved the lever to what speed we wanted. This action was mirrored by the repeater in the engine room, and the duty engineer would acknowledge the order by working the engine room repeater telegraph and mimicking the order back to the bridge. A simple system that worked well.

I digress, during the bridge chats with the students and passengers I was nearly always asked how we found our way around the ocean. Light heartedly I used to refer to the log that was streamed aft, which was used to estimate our speed.

The idea was that the ‘rocket’ shaped item, which is called a rotator, would be towed behind the ship and spin so registering our speed. The rotator would be spinning below the surface on the end of a rope. It did look as if the rope was running out from the ship in to the water. Passengers had been shown or told of how the system worked.
So, tongue in cheek I would say that the end of the rope was tied to the quay in Southampton, and when we wanted to go home, we just hauled the rope in until we reached home. Most people just laughed, or at least smiled – except one elderly lady believed me, and later was speaking to the captain about how we found our way home . . . . . I was called up by you know who, and told to change my punch lines.

The student dormitories were male or female and we had security staff that patrolled the ship at night. The head of security was called Master at Arms, who wouldn’t stand for any messing about from the students, or anyone else.

The students ranged from eleven years of age, to late teens and early twenties. I did sail with a Swiss school cruise where some of the students were a little older than me. The Swiss cruise sticks in my mind because the Swiss girls bought all the Old Spice after shave from the ship’s shop thinking it was perfume.
For me it was very disconcerting to dance with an attractive girl smelling of after shave. I had to remember to use a different brand of after shave for myself, just in case she thought I was using perfume!

Old spice

The one thing I can say about my time in Dunera, is that I was never board . .


Istanbul or Constantinople?


Once again my fellow cadets and I joined the excursion ashore to see this time the sites of Istanbul.

We visited St Sophia’s  (pictured above) – the first church on this site being built in 360 AD, the second church was built in 415 AD, the third church was opened in 537 AD and remained a church until 1453 when Constantinople (Istanbul) fell to the Ottomans, and St Sophia’s became a moscue.
In 1935, thanks to Kemul Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the building became a museum.
St Sophia might be better remembered by many people, because it was used in the making of the James Bond movie ‘From Russia with Love’, you can watch the scene from the film.

We also visited the Blue Mosque, which is not blue on the outside,


but due to over 20,000 blue tiles inside the mosque.apc9vvdlhlr11Beside the historic sites of old Istanbul, the one thing that does stick in my mind about my visit to Istanbul was that I nearly sold one of our passengers.

The coach party that I had joined was given free time to enjoy whatever we liked as along as we were back at the coach meeting place at a certain time. We were warned not to wander off on our own, but to stick together in little groups.
Angela, one of the girls on the coach had taken a shine to me (it must have been the uniform), and she had made sure that she was in my small group.
I asked what they wanted to do and Angela, who was I think eighteen, wanted to see the Grand Bazaar, but she was reluctant to go on her own. The coach party had already visited the bazaar, but my small group consisting of myself, another cadet, three girls, and a male student, wanted to return to purchase souvenirs.
The bazaar was crowded – as it nearly always is – so one had to be careful with our wallets and bags, and also of a number of strange characters.
DSC01610-Istanbul-Grand-Bazaar-crowds-HHolter-618                                    Found this on the internet, so it’s not from 1965.

The girls found the leather area, and started to try on various jackets and to chat to the stall holders.
While at one of the stalls, a middle aged man came up and started to squeeze Angela as if she was a piece of meat, using just two fingers. He squeezed her arms and around her waist.
I moved forward and told him to stop what he was doing, at which point he asked me in broken English, how much. It dawned on me that he wanted to buy her! I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t!
At this point I stated that he must be joking and called the stall holder to help translate. He spoke to the ‘buyer’ sharply in Turkish and pushed him away with much waving of arms.
Fortunately, Angela laughed off the whole episode as a joke, but I think she was glad that she was part of a group, and not on her own.

As foot note to the story – some weeks later, after Angela had flown home, we docked in Southampton, and in the mail waiting for me, I received an invitation from her to a birthday party at her father’s home. Her family lived on a converted MTB on the Avon River in Christchurch.


There were a number of converted MTB boats (see picture above), all converted after WW2, perhaps the owners were history buffs. Both above and below pictures are from the internet.
The picture below illustrates the MTB being converted, but it was not the boat that I visited.


I arrived on board and was introduced by Angela to her father. As we shook hands he said to me – ‘I believe that you had the opportunity to sell my daughter in Istanbul?’

I tried to apologise and say how sorry I was to put Angela in to such a situation.

At the end of my babbling he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, with a ‘smile’ in his voice – ‘The next time you have the opportunity to sell my daughter, take her mother as well!’

I was lost for words as I tried to look shocked, at the same time I could not stop laughing.

We planned to sail from Istanbul in the early evening. Lines ashore were singled up, the pilot was aboard, and the order was given to raise the anchor. We had dropped it during the manoeuver of going along side. If the wind had strengthened it might have inhibited our efforts to leave the wharf, so by hauling on the anchor this would assist us to move clear of the wharf, regardless of the wind’s effort to keep us alongside.

The clank, clank, of the links being hauled through the hawse pipe could be heard on the bridge as I updated the log book.

Suddenly we heard shouts and two strikes on the forecastle bell indicating a light on the port side. The Captain moved quickly to the port wing of the bridge, followed by the officer of the watch and the pilot. I picked up my log book and stood just inside the door of the bridge, on the port wing. I could see a very large well-lit vessel getting closer and closer. One glance was enough, it was a floating restaurant, heading towards us, but the problem being that the restaurant didn’t have power.

What had happened was that our anchor had fouled the restaurant’s under water moorings, and we were dragging the restaurant towards us by raising our anchor. It took some time for us to leave the wharf and sail very slowly towards the restaurant paying out our cable to allow the restaurant to easy back to her normal mooring position. Once our anchor cable was vertical it was easier to slowly gently haul in our cable link by link. Fortunately, we were able to raise our anchor as well.

Farewell Istanbul, as we sailed for Piraeus, which is the port for Athens.