Let your mind wander, smell the salt, feel the ship’s movement, lift you face to the wind and relax and enjoy.
Having been a fan of the cinema since I was a child & I can’t help but visit the cinema when I travel.
In the 1964 I was in Moji , in southern Japan, when I found that I had time on my hands so decided to visit the local cinema to see Charlton Heston in Exodus.
As one would expect, none of the signs were bi-lingual, and few people at in that part of Japan spoke English, but how hard can it be to buy a ticket and sit and watch a film? I bought my ticket, and the cinema had plenty of seats from which to choose. I picked a good seat and waited for the film to start.
A tap on my shoulder and a very polite gentleman bowed and showed his ticket while pointing at my seat. It was obvious that he was indicating that I was in the wrong seat, so I bowed and moved to another seat. As the cinema filled I ended up bowing and moving a number of times while working my way to the front of the cinema, and very close to the screen. It was when I was asked to move once again that I realised that my ticket did not entitle me to a seat at all, but only to stand in the side aisles while watch the film with a few other unfortunates. It was very disconcerting to turn ones head to watch an arrow cross the screen, and to spend so long looking up Moses’ nostrils.
In 1965 I was in Port Sudan on the Red Sea, so once again I decided to visit the cinema, but this time to see The Great Escape. I’d seen it before but it was the only English speaking film I could find at that time in Port Sudan.
As I purchased my ticket I was given a choice of Stalls or Circle, and because the price difference was small I chose Circle. The lights dimmed as I entered, and I noticed curled wire between the Stalls and the Circle, and I thought what a good idea to add atmosphere to a prison of war film.
At the intermission the lights came on and I saw that the wire was barbed wire. It was then that I realised the wire had nothing to do with atmosphere for a prison of war film, but to keep the Stall patrons from leap frogging over the seats so as to sit in the Circle, once the film had started.
In September of 1967 I was a twenty three year old Third Officer on a cargo ship. She was ordered by the Ministry of War Transport in 1945, but was delivered to the company, for which I worked, due to the war ending. When I sailed in her she was twenty two years old (one year younger than me) and showing her age. She was a happy ship for the officers and crew, but she was still old. I kept the midnight to four am watch, and the noon to four pm watch – generally known as the graveyard watch.
In my youth I used to be a merchant navy deck officer. I started as a cadet and after passing the Second Mates ticket I was offered a job as Third Mate on an LST.
When I was interviewed for the position I asked what an LST was, and was told that it was a Landing Ship Tank. It was then that I found out that the Company had the contract, from the British Government, to supply officers for their LSTs in the Far East, Mediterranean (Malta), and Aden. I was being loaned out to the British Ministry of Defence, during the Indonesian ‘confrontation’ (Dec ‘62 to Aug ‘66) – it was never called a war, because this would have caused Lloyds insurance rates to sky rocket, and the Government had enough trouble on their hands.
The background of the ‘confrontation’ was that Indonesia objected to the creation of Malaysia, which included Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo, which was a Crown colony, and Sarawak, which was known then as British Borneo, and is now known as East Malaysia.
Indonesia used local militants, trained by the Indonesian army, to attack East Malaysia, which brought the British in to the conflict in defence of the new country. Later Indonesia committed regular troops to cross border attacks. Eventually Australia & New Zealand became involved.
My new posting was as Third Mate to LST ‘Frederick Clover’ – she was built as LST 3001 in 1945, and renamed ‘Frederick Clover’ in 1946.
Her displacement was between 2,140 tons and 4,820 depending on her cargo. She was flat bottomed for landing tanks and heavy vehicles on beaches. She had bow doors and a ramp as well as a secondary ramp within the enclosed deck to the main open deck, for driving lighter vehicles to the main deck
Because I was in the RNR (Royal Navy Reserve) I was put in charge of the oerlikon 20 mm AA gun, which was on the forecastle. The problem was, even though I was in the RNR, I’d never been trained in the use of ships’ guns, because I’d spent my time at sea in merchant ships in the Far East.
When I visited the forecastle to acquaint myself with my new responsibilities I realised that if we had to defend ourselves we would have to ask the Indonesians to return later, because the barrel of our gun was still in its wooden box bolted to the deck! I opened the box to reveal a brand new barrel covered in wax paper and grease. I couldn’t see us ever being in a position to have to use the gun. The other small problem was that we didn’t have any ammunition!
I reported back to the Captain who told me not to bother with the AA gun.
The following day we loaded troops and equipment for Borneo.
The above shows the main deck as we sailed up the Sarawak River to Kuching, on the island of Borneo.
Before sailing we’d been given special instructions to dump various secret cypher machines in the deepest part of the channel between Indonesia and Singapore.
The army did such a good packing job that the crates of secret machines floated away! We had to machine gun the boxes so as to allow them to sink. I had an army SLR (self-loading rifle) and it was good fun firing at the floating cases until they sank.
Frederick Clover was ‘old’, but even so I still had to sign the Official Secrets Act. Considering that Frederick Clover had been involved in the Korean War, as well as the creation of the State of Israel (1948), and possibly the Suez Crisis of 1956, I doubted that there was anything left of the LST of which a potential enemy would not be aware. She had two engines and our maximum speed was under ten knots. I have seen Chinese junks, with a following wind, over take us, but that is a secret.
Travel often pops up in various conversations and those who know me have suggested that I should put down some of my experiences. At first I was reluctant, because I didn’t think people would be interested in the travels of an unknown traveler. When my grandchildren started to ask questions I thought perhaps I should put a few things down before I get too old and forgetful.
Do you ever regret making a comment years ago, which proved how stupid and wrong you where when you look back over your life?
I was about thirteen at the time and ‘studying’ French. On the completion of the final examination the class results positioned yours truly second to bottom in a class of forty. I was not very good, nor was I interested in the French language. I can remember the teacher, when discussing my poor effort, asking what would I do if I ever went abroad. The thought of going abroad was so far out of my comfort zone that I remarked that ‘I’ll never go abroad’, which is why I decided on this title.
Having flown with nearly fifty different airlines I have finally found an airline that I would not wish to fly with, even if they offered free seats.
Rayani Air began services last Sunday (20th Dec). This airline is the first Malaysian Sharia compliant airline. Of course they don’t carry wine, which is not a problem, except they restrict the passengers’ choice. The lack of wine is important, but not my main consideration.
My main reluctance is that they offer prayers before take-off, which doesn’t give me the confidence that I normally have in the the guys and girls at the sharp end. If they need the help of the Almighty, and they are still on the ground, I think I’ll give them a miss.
Travel does broaden the mind, or so one would think. Two small incidents happened to me, each linked to the other, but thousands of miles apart in distance, but only a few months in time.
I was in Tokyo, on business, and the hotel in which I stayed had recordings of bird calls in the reception area to help sooth the tension of the guests arriving and leaving in such a busy city. Depending on the ambient noise in the reception area the sound of the birds would be increased or decreased, but the birds calls where always in the background.
Some months later I was in Cairns (northern Australia), and staying at a city hotel, which was popular with Japanese tourists. I was checking out and a Japanese tourist asked the hotel employee who was dealing with me, if the hotel could possibly turn down the sound of the birds. He complained that they woke him too early in the morning. The hotel employee’s face was a mask of confusion as he had no idea what the hotel guest was requesting. I was able to explain to the hotel guest that Australian hotels didn’t have electronic bird calls, and the sound of the morning bird chorus was real, and completely out of the control of the hotel. I don’t think the tourist was convinced of the truth of my comment. The hotel employee had a hard time keeping his face straight as he finalised my account.