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.

devonia_mta

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.

the_gut__valletta__malta_by_triathlonjohn

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.

Great_escape

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.

great escape

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.

port-sudan

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.

emergency

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,

IMG_2787

A classic British film from 1958.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeward bound

chakdara-07

Chakdara

We loaded tea in Trincomalee for five days before sailing to Madras.  I stayed on board this time because I was not going to be accused of not being aware of our sailing time.

Our next leg took us from Madras to Aden, which is across the harbour from Little Aden – at least we could walk in to the town at Aden. The trip from Madras took us eight days during which time I did my best to teach one of the teenage passengers named Annette, how to play chess.

adenPart of Crater City Aden

Aden is located at the southern end of the Red Sea, and is part of the Arabian Peninsular. It has been a very important trading port and strategic point for hundreds of years. It was captured by the British in 1839 to stop pirates attacking shipping in the area and to protect the route to India. Crater city’s name is due to the town being built inside a dormant volcano.

At that time there was an independence movement that began with a grenade killing one person in December 1963. The British had promised independence, but in the meantime British troops were sent in to keep the peace.

aden-1967

aden-harbour

We anchored off to work cargo.

The Company required all cadets to complete regular study after we had completed our ‘watches’ or day work, depending on the day. Any extra curriculum activity, such as teaching someone to play chess in the evening outside the accommodation, had to come out of sleeping time. I didn’t get much sleep.

From Aden we made our way to Port Taufiq at the southern end of the Suez Canal – you can see the town and canal below. We were waiting for a north bound convey to join, so as to transit the canal.

pt

suez-canalThe above illustrates how a ‘convoy’ transits the Suez Canal

On the voyage from Aden to the Port Taufiq the dogs went off their food. I wasn’t surprised, because if I’d been given stir-fried or stewed vegetables for as long as they had, I’d have gone off my food.
So in an effort to encourage them to eat we gave them a curried meat dish. They both gobbled this down and the started to howl and run a round the deck. Obviously the curry was too strong. Then they started to drink and drink and drink. We had our comeuppance later as the dogs lost control of their bowels, and we had the unpleasant duty of clearing up the mess. Fortunately we were able to apply high-pressure fire hoses to the area, and blast it clean with salt water.

After transiting the canal at night we anchored off Port Said. Worked cargo for a few hours in to dhows, and then set course for Marseilles in southern France.

While in Marseilles we were allowed ashore. An interesting town steeped in history. It is France’s oldest city, having been founded by the Greeks over two thousand years ago.

It was a short taxi ride from the berth to the old port, and we were soon walking the old cobbled streets and drinking in the sites of the area that the ancient Greeks would have known. It wasn’t long before we’d forgotten that we were only visiting for a short time. The aroma of food wafting from the pavement cafes, mixed with the smell of Gauloises cigarettes is a lasting  memory of Marseille.

220px-gauloises_caporal
I even went as far as to buy a packet of Gauloises cigarettes as a change from the British & American cigarettes that I smoked at that time. In 1964 Gauloises hadn’t yet reached the stage of adding a filter to each cigarette so it wasn’t long before I was coughing myself to death with a burned throat. I keenly shared the Gauloises with the other cadets so as to reduce the number I had to smoke. The thought of throwing them away never occurred to me. My upbringing, that I was never to waste anything, wouldn’t allow me to throw them away.

We enjoyed our time in Marseille and ended up back at the old port area for a meal and a few drinks.
The bar that we visited for our meal and drinks had two sliding doors at the front that sealed the bar from the street when the business closed for the night.

While we were in the bar we met up with three cadets from another ship and realised that we had friends in common in the BI fleet. Around ten thirty in the evening, I and the other cadets from my own vessel, decided to go back to the ship. We left the bar to look for a taxi.

We’d left our ‘new’ friends in the bar, and they were a little over the top with drink, and had started to become noisy. I was glad to leave. Suddenly we heard a noise from the bar and we saw the barman shoving the remaining cadets out in to the street. Business had been quiet and I think the barman wanted an early night. His English was very limited, and none of us spoke French – déjà vu for me, because I’ll never go abroad, so why learn French.

As the barman shoved the last cadet in to the street he pulled the sliding doors closed. The cadet turned and pulled them open – the barman closed them again while shouting abuse.
This open / closing procedure went on for about five more times until, finally, the barman poked his head out, and shouted at one of the drunken cadets. The cadet shut the door on the barman’s neck and he slid quietly down the rubber seals to the floor. The door was not forcefully shut on the man’s neck, but just enough to cause him to gasp, and to try and haul the doors open, by doing so he lost his footing and slid to the floor.
Fortunately, at that moment, a taxi arrived, and my friends and I climbed in and gave the driver our wharf number. As we pulled away from the old port area the peaceful night air was shattered by the sound of hee haw – hee haw of police sirens. Someone had called the cops.

The following day we sailed from Marseilles for Gibraltar.

gibraltar
The Straits of Gibraltar are only about eight miles wide from Africa to Europe. The Straits were originally known, in the ancient world, as the Pillars of Hercules. Once through the Straits and clear of the southern part of Portugal, we headed north.

It was during this phase of the voyage that one of the dogs gave birth to a number of pups. The nuns knew that the dog was pregnant, and had hoped that it would not give birth until after it had arrived in the UK.
After the pups had been born (about six in total, I think) it was explained to the nuns about the cost of six months in quarantine for each pup. They were devastated, because they only had enough money for the two adult dogs.

One morning, in the Bay of Biscay, when my colleague and I arrived to feed the dogs, only one pup could be seen. We never did find out what happened to the other pups.

Fortunately the Bay of Biscay was calm so we made good time to the English Channel, and finally to the mouth of the Thames, where we picked up the Pilot for the last part of the voyage up the river Thames to the Royal Albert Dock in London.

Three days later I signed off Chakdara and went home for some leave. This time I’d been given eight weeks, and I managed to fill them all, without becoming bored.

Homeward Bound – trivia pursuit – Paul Simon wrote this song on Widnes railway station in 1965. For non-British readers Widnes is a town located in the Northwest of England.