And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
Landaura – 9,750 dwt
Launched in 1946 and was named after a very small village in Chandigarh in northern India.
As much as I enjoyed my leave, I found that I had changed, whereas my Birkenhead friends had not, other than growing a little older. I had been given eight weeks leave, my friends worked during the day and our friendship had cooled because we no longer had anything in common.
Other than playing rugby for HMS Conway I was never a sports fan, TV was limited and I was bored so half way through my leave I rang the company for a ship.
I was hoping for a Calcutta to Australia & New Zealand run, anything but the Persian Gulf. I’d seen enough sand to last a lifetime.
and let’s not mention loading oil in Kuwait.
The Company agreed to my request for a ship and a day or so later I was on a plane for Kuwait. As ‘they’ say be careful about what you wish for . . .
I left Heathrow in a Comet 4 for Rome, next stop should have been Damascus, but we were diverted to Beirut, and finally we arrived in Kuwait.
On landing I was met in the arrival hall by a representative of the shipping agent and within minutes I had my bag and was through customs and immigration, while many other passengers were still queuing.
Outside I was escorted to a very large American car; (see similar cars in the picture below) the driver opened the rear door and indicated that I should sit in the back. The agent shook my hand and wished me a safe journey, which at the time I thought was a strange comment. After all we were only going to a city hotel.
The driver smiled at me, via the rear-view mirror, and put his foot down on the accelerator. Now I understood the agent’s comment, within minutes we were travelling at over one hundred miles an hour along a freeway to the city. At that time cars did not have seatbelts. I just hung on to the roof strap. Thirty minutes later we pulled up at the Bristol Hotel in a cloud of dust and sand. I was to wait in this hotel until my ship arrived into Kuwait.
It was mid-July and I only ventured out of the hotel in the early morning or late afternoon – it was the height of summer, and it was HOT & dusty. The hotel was ‘dry’ i.e they were not allowed to sell alcohol, so one couldn’t have a cold beer in the cool of the evening. I sent the above post card to my parents to let them know that all was well.
After about five days I received a phone call from the agent to let me know that I would be collected and taken to my new ship in the early afternoon, she was the Landuara.
What a difference between this vessel and the tanker. The tanker was just over two years old, and my latest posting was to a vessel that had been launched in 1946, two years after I had been born. Her deadweight was 7200 tons. She didn’t have any air-conditioning, cadets slept two to a cabin, and the cabins were not at all large, in fact the shared cabin was smaller than the single cabins on the tanker.
Landaura tramped from the Persian Gulf to China and Japan. She was old and unlike the Ellenga, Landuara did not have air conditioning and in the heat of August anchored off Basrah in Iraq, we did not have a choice but to sleep on deck. A large wet towel on the wooden deck and another wet towel to cover you in the hope that you would fall asleep before the towel dried out . . I have paid for this in later life with aches and pains, but at 19 you were tough and you would live for ever.
Our first port of call, after leaving Kuwait, was Basra, about 60 miles (100 km) up the Shatt al Arab. Many people refer to it as the Shatt al Arab River, but the Arabic meaning is Stream or River of the Arabs, so by putting river at the end we have Stream or River of the Arabs River, which is a bit of a mouthful.
In the evenings if we were moored in the river we would sit outside our accommodation and eat watermelon and hold pip-spiting contests across the river – we never reached the shore.
The melons were obtained via barter. Wood in Iraq was expensive and hard to obtain. Our ship used wood as dunnage when stowing cargo during loading cargo (well before containerisation), because it was inexpensive or a waste material from another process.
After we had unloaded cargo, we would always have plenty of dunnage left over, and we either dumped it at sea (many years before the PC brigade were invented), or we would reuse some of the dunnage for the next time we loaded cargo.
Our old dunnage had value to the local Arabs, so we would swap some for huge watermelons that grew along the banks – we were happy and the local Iraqi boatmen were happy.
After completing our unloading and the loading of export cargo (dates), we dropped down the river to Khoramshah, which is on the Iranian river bank, so we had to remember to refer to the Shatt al Arab as the Arvand Rud (Swift river), which is the Persian (Iranian) name for the river.
In Khoramshah instead of watermelon we swapped dunnage for pistachio nuts; we didn’t spit, but flicked the shells across the water. Iran, being the largest producer of this nut ensured we had a regular supply.
Eventually we left the Shatt al Arab / Arvand Rud and sailed for Bombay.
For all my moans of lack of air-conditioning Landaura was a happy ship and I enjoyed my time in her, but after four months I paid off in Hong Kong and the company sent me as a passenger in the P & O liner ‘Cathay‘ to Yokohama, Japan.
The ‘Cathay‘ arrived in Yokohama on the 23 November 1963. We were scheduled to arrive around 8.00 am and we had been told to expect brass bands and Japanese traditional dancers to welcome us as the ship moved slowly alongside the Yokohama pier.
I went to the main dining room around 7.00 am for breakfast and found many of the passengers in tears. I asked what had happened and was told of the assassination of President Kennedy. He had been shot about 3.00 am on the 23rd November Japanese time.
The welcome bands and the traditional dancers had been cancelled and a single Japanese lady in traditional dress stood at the bottom of the gangway to greet those who were disembarking. This lady pinned a man-made small cherry blossom badge to my jacket and wished me welcome to Japan.
It was an odd feeling to be in Japan at such a time and not knowing if the assassination was the first move in a new war. The Cuban crisis was just over a year earlier when the US & the USSR had a stand-off to see who would blink first. Was the assassination of President Kennedy the first move of a new conflict?
The Company’s agent met me and took me to where my new ship was berthed.
Chanda – Launched in 1944, 6,957 gt – she was the same age as me . .
named after a town in the Gondwana area of India.
Our first destination after we left the Japanese coast was China where we
visited Shanghai, Tientsin and Tsingtao, which was a memorable experience for this nineteen-year-old. (The next post will have details of my China experiences).
I was not sorry to leave the China coast as we sailed for Hong Kong with all its love of life. I sailed in Chanda for just under eight happy months trading between Japan, China and all ports to the Persian Gulf.
In late June 1964 I was once again paid off, but this time in Karachi in Pakistan to await a homeward bound ship, the Chakdara. I had been away from home for just over a year and was again due leave.
In Karachi I stayed in the Beach Luxury Hotel for sixteen days while waiting for my next ship. The hotel was very pleasant but as a lowly cadet my wages did not go all that far when I wanted a beer or two. The Company paid for the hotel and all meals, but all ancillary costs were on my account and at my wage of about AUD $15 a week there was little chance of drinking too much.
Baggage sticker from the 1960’s
Beach Luxury Hotel 1965