Bay of Bengal

Bay_of_Bengal_map

Upon sailing from  Colombo we cleaned ship – the crew hosed down the decks and all rubbish was thrown overboard (well before it became un pc), the smell of the land fell away and we could unlock our windows and doors, we were free of petty thieving and the smell of industry, our destination was Chalna in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh).

Each cabin had two doors – an outer door that was a thick solid door that was only closed when in port, and an inner door (only a couple of inches between each door) which was a louvered door. When opening the main door we could lock it open by the use of a hook attached to the bulkhead in the passageway.

door

The door was similar to the one in the picture, but on the ships in which I sailed our inner door was not full height, but about three quarters high of a standard door, and the slats could be moved to allow more air in to the cabin or to close it off completely.

One seldom locked the inner door so if one wanted to sleep or a quiet time, we would hang a bath towel over the top of the door and people would respect your privacy. We never locked our cabin doors when at sea because we felt that trust of ones colleagues was paramount.

The feeling that the ship is ours again after being in port is a definite feeling of ownership.

Once again, I was on the ‘graveyard’ watch – mid-day to 4.00 pm and midnight to 4.00 am, I loved that watch – peaceful, and particularly at night one felt in total command.

There are certain nights that I can remember and the short voyage from Colombo to Chalna has been in my mind for a long time.

The weather was perfect – cloudless sky, about 29 c (84 f) with a light breeze that took the sting out of the sun. The waves were small with very few white caps, and the flying fish were – flying, and visibility must have been about twenty miles.

Sunset was dramatic with shades of blue green yellow orange purple grey and red beams that reflected off the sea. As the sun set the sky became silver as the moon took over from the sun.

DSC05144c

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera at the time of the sunset but have used the above which I took during a cruise. of course the sunset was not during my watch times, but later when we would sit outside – feet on the lower bar of the ship’s rails and a beer in hand and all was well with the world.

rails

The gives you an idea, but the deck space on a cargo ship was a small area and we didn’t march around the ship for exercise as people do on modern cruise ships.

As we approached the coast of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) we were looking for the light vessel that warned of sand banks and other dangers.

Calshot_Spit_light_vessel

This is not the Chalna lightship, but I posted it to show those who may not be aware of a light ship. The lightship would be moored at a designated spot, and its light would flash at night in a certain pattern to warn vessels of danger.

We arrived off the lightship at around 5.00 pm (1700 hrs) and anchored and waited for the pilot to guide us up the Pasur River the sixty miles to Chalna.

Once again we waited and waited and finally, we heard that the agent didn’t even know that we were due in to Chalna. The added problem was that the date that we arrived was the 12th March, and we had to be out of the river and in to the Bay of Bengal no later than the 14th March because the water in the river might drop so low that we wouldn’t be able to cross the bar (sandbanks) at the mouth of the river.
I must admit that there were times when I was glad I was not the Captain, and this was one of them.

When the pilot did arrive to guide us up the river we could only cross the bar at high water, and when we sounded the depth we had less than two metres (seven feet) under the keel of the ship as we crossed the bar in to the river.

We moved up the river in the evening and moored to a buoy off Chalna.

Chalna at that time was the main seaport in the area (second only to Chittagong) having been created in 1950, but due to difficult currents in the Pasur river it was decided in  1954 that the anchorage should be moved nine miles south towards the river mouth to a place called Mongla although in the 1960’s it was still referred to as Chalna, but now it is known as Mongla, due to the port’s expansion.

Chalna

Warehouse style barges came out to us and using our cargo derricks we unloaded / loaded cargo. I took the above picture in 1968.

The flat land on both sides of the river were just mangrove swamps, the main town of Khulna was thirty-two miles further up river, which was the regional administration centre. At our anchorage the river was about five miles wide.

We were due to load 1500 tons of cargo and so had five gangs working flat out because we had to leave the river while we had enough water to cross the bar at the river’s entrance.

We managed to load our cargo and cross the bar, although we were later than expected, the water was deep enough for us as we entered the Bay of Bengal on the 16th March.

Destination Trincomalee in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), a destination which is on the north east coast of Ceylon.

Trinco

One of the finest harbours in the world, which was of great importance to the British during the colonial period. It was a safe harbour, and an ideal base to protect the Coromandel Coast, which is the south eastern coast of India.

Coromandel_coast

 

The light brown area marked on the east coast of India is the Coromandel coast and I hope you can see the pink dot on Sri Lanka, which indicates Trincomalee.
Madras (now called Chennai), marked on the Indian coast with a pink dot in the light brown area, was an extremely important port for the British during colonial times.

In 1812 Britain order a couple of frigates to be built in India, due to the shortage of oak in Britain during the Napoleonic wars. The ships were built in Bombay (now Mumbai) out of teak.
One of the ships was named HMS Trincomalee after the battle of Trincomalee in 1782.

HMS_Trincomalee_at_Hartlepool_2010_(800x600)

Launched in 1817, and is still afloat in Hartlepool ,in the UK after major renovations.

H.M.S._Trincomalee,_Hartlepool_Maritime_Experience_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1605081

Considering where she was built note the figure head.

As we sailed to Trincomalee we heard that the labour in Trinco (as Trincomalee was called) were on strike, which meant that we would not be able to load our cargo of tea.

The Company asked if we could make Fremantle without stopping for fuel – we could, but it would be a ten day voyage from our location in the Bay of Bengal, and we had enough water for fourteen days, so as long as we didn’t hit any inclement weather we should be able to make Fremantle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rule 303

220px-Breaker_Morant

Breaker Morant

Rule 303 a quote supposedly said by Harry “Breaker” Harbord Morant at his court martial in 1902, he was found guilty and shot by firing squad on the 27 February 1902, 118 years ago this week.

Edward

Morant was played by Edward Woodward

film

The film was released in 1980.

We loaded the last piece of cargo in Karachi at 4.30 pm during which time the ship had been prepared for sea – the pilot was on the bridge and our mooring lines had been singled up (one line forward and one aft), time was of the essence after the trouble with the previous deck crew. Our next destination was Bombay (now Mumbai).

On arrival in Bombay was on the 24th February at 6.00 am, we were told to anchor in the explosive anchorage, we were to load 303 ammunition.

I’m not sure if the Captain was aware that we would be loading the ammunition before we arrived or if he found out as the pilot boarded. We were told of our cargo and that it was safe, but few of us smoked on deck – just in case.

We all knew of a tragic fire that took place in 1944.

220px-SS_Fort_Stikine

The SS Fort Stikine (7100 gt) had sailed from Birkenhead UK, in February 1944 and arrived in Bombay in April.
She was berthed in the Victoria Dock, and her cargo consisted of cotton bales, gold, and ammunition, which included around 1,400 tons of explosives. She also carried 238 tons of sensitive “A” explosives, torpedoes, mines, shells and a Supermarine Spitfire.

In mid-afternoon on the 14th April a fire in number two hold was discovered. The crew and dockside labour were unable to put the fire out, even after pumping 900 tons of water in the the ship. The water boiled due to the heat.

The ship was abandoned at 15.50 hr (3.50 pm), and sixteen minutes later it exploded.

smoke

The ship was cut in half, windows were broken 12 km (7 miles) away. Later there was a second explosion which registered on a sensor reading in Shimia 1700 km (1020 miles) away, a town which is north of Delhli.

Showers of burning material set fire to slum areas, and two square kilometres (about a square mile) was set alight. Eleven other ships close to the Fort Stikine were sunk. Burning cotton bales fell all around and much of Bombay’s developed and economically important areas were destroyed by the blast.

Overall it was estimated that more than 800 people were killed and being war time, the explosion and aftermath were not made public until some time later. Some figures have the death toll as high as 1350 people. Of those who were killed 500 were civilians. Over 2500 were injured, sixteen ships were lost or heavily damaged (see below) and 80,000 people were left homeless.

220px-Bombay-Docks-aftermath3

You’ll be pleased to know that nearly all the gold was recovered . . .

So this is why we didn’t smoke outside of the accommodation.

We loaded the ammunition safely, and we weren’t too bothered because we didn’t have any other explosive cargo on-board.

After loading other (normal) cargo we were told that we had to go to Chalna, which is  in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh).

Nothing is easy, because the relationship between Pakistan and India was not all that cordial in the 1960’s.
So now we had a problem – we had Indian ammunition on board and we were required to visit East Pakistan, but we couldn’t visit East Pakistan because we had a cargo of Indian ammunition on board.
Cable London!, and all we had to do was to remember the opening lines of Casablanca &  wait and wait and wait.

Finally, the powers that be came to a decision – carry the ammunition to Cochin and unload it to make room for tea out of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then sail for Chalna.

DSC05671rc

Maureen & I visited Cochin (now called Kochi) in 2016 on a cruise ship and as soon as I saw the harbour I recognised the shoreline and the 1960’s flooded back in to my mind.

DSC05667rChinese fishing nets can be seen. Sometimes ‘Time’ seems to have stood still.
The picture is not very clear due to early morning mist.

a2b6d8f6c8774d1151dfb200a8fc35ca

A clearer picture of the fishing nets from the internet.

At home I have four pictures on the wall of my dinning room – I watched the artists in Cochin paint the final strokes of the multicoloured painting – I’d already bought the three sepia pictures, and I could see the scenes that he’d painted – all are painted on thick paper.

One

Three

Four    two

They always remind me of Cochin in the 1960’s . . . .

To end this post as I started with Edward Woodward, but this time he is singing Soldiers of the Queen after the execution of Breaker Morant, the piece of film also notes that their defence advocate died in 1945.

Map

Next stop Colombo in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auckland & all that . . .

 

004r

We anchored off Auckland and I could see the lights of the city as I stood my watch from 8.00 pm to midnight. We finally berthed at 6.30 am and worked cargo all day.
Everyone on board knew that Maureen was flying out to see me, and they thought that she was from a very wealthy family to be able to fly around the world for a weekend.
In the end I couldn’t let my shipboard friends believe that she was anything but a normal Liverpool girl, who was fortunate to work for an airline, which allowed her to take advantage of discounted tickets.

The following day I stood my deck watch and late afternoon raced out to the airport to meet Maureen. The aircraft was an hour and a half late!
I’d booked her in to a small hotel in the city, because the ship didn’t have accommodation for visitors. The following day I introduced her to my friends and it was party time!

The day after I managed time off and Maureen & I went sightseeing around Auckland.

29c5707a3ab4153cfce557b3b2b3065a

I don’t know what Mount Wellington looks like now, but in 1966 it was a beautiful park and with great views across Auckland from One Tree Hill.

onetree

We also visited Albert Park, plenty of time to talk as we walked. The large flower ‘clock’ that always gave the correct time.

clock

Flower Clock Albert Park, Auckland

All too soon our short time together was over, and Maureen had to fly back to Melbourne.

At that time Auckland didn’t have aero-bridges to board the aircraft. One had to walk to the plane and hoped it wasn’t raining.

002r

Maureen about to board her Qantas flight.

For those who are interested, the aircraft is Qantas’ first L-188C Electra (Lockheed), which arrived in Sydney in 1959 for the Qantas fleet.

After I left the sea I worked for TNT in Australia, and this aircraft was chartered by TNT to carry freight from Stansted to Cologne in 1994.
In 1998 the aircraft was sent to Coventry for a major overhaul, but was found to require too much work, which was uneconomical, so she was broken up for spares and completely scrapped in 2002.

In all Bankura was in Auckland for ten days, after which we sailed for Brisbane, followed by Singapore via the Great Barrier Reef, Port Swettenham, Penang and finally Calcutta.

In Calcutta, after discharging our cargo we went in to dry dock.

the-kolkata-dock-20171127031924

The above is a picture of Khidipore Dock, taken a few years ago – as you see there is a smallish vessel in the dock.

Kid

The above gives you a better idea of how Bankura would have looked – the ship above is not the Bankura.

We had four days in dry dock and various job were allocated by our captain – I was given the responsibility of about two hundred workers who were to scrape the ship’s hull below the waterline and remove all traces of sea life (barnacles etc) and seaweed.
The work went on twenty four hours a day, and the workers were ‘challenging’.

All our crew were Indians or Goanese, and I had great respect for them and their work ethic, but I must admit the labour supplied to clean & paint the ship were a very different type of Indian worker.
One of my biggest gripes was to make sure they didn’t steal everything that was not too heavy to move, or screwed down.
Paint brushes, tins of paint, cleaning tools and so on – I wouldn’t have minded if it wasn’t so obvious, but most of the labour only wore shorts or a small lungi (a type of sarong) and sandels, which had few places to hide a five gallon tin of paint!

It was an experience, and at the end of the four days I wasn’t really sure if I’d won or they had . . .

At least once the paint was dry we were able to flood the dock, so making sure that they didn’t steal the ship.

View_Hooghly SouthOf GardenReach1960s

We moved out in to the river (the Hooghly)  to load cargo. The two ships in the photograph are British India Steam Nav. Co vessels, the same company as Bankura.
The white one is a liner and the other a cargo ship.

As you see the river is used for everything, and along the banks there were ghats.

A ghat is a set of steps that lead down to the river allowing people to either wash themselves, their clothes, or if the steps are in front of a temple for religious purposes.

Ahilya_Ghat_by_the_Ganges,_Varanasi

Ahilya Ghat by the Ganges.

old2

Taken about a hundred years ago, so little had changed by the time I visited Calcutta.

I enjoyed my time in India, having visited several cities including Calcutta, (now Kolkata) Bombay, (now Mumbai), Madras, (now Chennai), Cochin (now Kochi), Goa, Tuticorin and Bhavnagar (not sure if it was this name in the 60’s) in the State of Gujarat, and have always found the locals to be polite and friendly.
As a memory of India I have four original paintings of Cochin scenes hanging on my dining room wall. I watched the painter create them, which has added the pleasure of owning them.

Of course when I say I enjoyed India, I do not include my four days at the bottom of a dry dock in Calcutta as enjoyable :- o)

We moored in the river and loaded cargo and sailed for Chalna in East Pakistan.

We hove to so as to pick up the pilot for the passage up the Pussur River, but the pilot refused to come aboard unless he was met by an officer when stepping on to the deck.
Usually pilots were met by a cadet or a Sukunni (helmsman or senior crew member).
All pilots were shown to the bridge, but in many cases they made their own way because they knew the ship and the captain, and didn’t require an escort.
But this particular pilot had obviously remembered the days of the Raj and wanted a ‘piece’ of the old traditions.
He knew he would get his own way because time was money, and we had to cross the bar at high tide, so I was to meet and greet the great man.

Of course, we always tried to make our pilots welcome. Tea, sandwiches and cake would be waiting for him on the bridge.
Later a small present, in the form of a bottle, would be given to warm his evenings at the end of his piloting duties, just to show our gratitude for a safe trip. Everything was always very civilised and friendly, so to be held over a barrel on a point of etiquette was not the best way to make our Captain a friend of this pilot.

After loading cargo we sailed back down river, but this time with a different pilot and the atmosphere on the bridge was a lot warmer. It was to be Colombo in Ceylon, for Christmas.

Chinsura1

Paddle steamer Chinsura  on the Pussur River, in 1966. (Picture off the internet)

 

 

 

Christmas past. . . .1962

Ellenga

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.

gettyimages-105217986-1024x1024

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.

Breakfast62rc

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.

Lunch62

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

strait-of-hormuz-chokepoints

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.

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.

CCI11102015

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

 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

Cropped

Cover

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.