History in Kent => Life Writing => Topic started by: CDP on December 10, 2014, 03:22:13

Title: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 10, 2014, 03:22:13
If anyone is interested in my " memory jerkers " at the end of this article, just ask.

My adventures as a P & O Engineer.

I completed my apprenticeship at Sheerness Royal Dockyard, 28th August,1949 and joined the P & O as an Engineer Officer on 29th August, 1949. My idea at that time was to see the world at someone else’s expense and I eventually left the P & O as a Third Engineer in complete  charge of the watch.
 In 1954, having served on RMS Strathaid, a straight turbine engine, the RMS Stratheden, a turbo-electric engine and the RMS Maloja, a reciprocating engine with a Baur Wacht turbine with a cylinder diameter of 108” and a generator built around the propeller shaft which had been removed.
 I was born in 1928 and the Government said that because our Education had been so disrupted by the war that our year was to be exempt from National Service and the Home Guard.
I wonder if Dr.Diesel, who invented the diesel engine and was mysteriously lost(?) overboard, had not been so killed(?), would the Diesel Engine be more popular than it is today?
Altogether I made 13 trips to Australia (and back!), I suppose equivalent roughly to 13 times around the world, stopping at Suez, Bombay, Colombo, Freemantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and, on occasions, France and Italy, but never once did I meet Captain Neptune, I was either on watch or hiding in my cabin behind locked doors.
On these large passenger liners we would carry a Chief Engineer, one Second Engineer, three Fours, three Thirds, 6 Junior Engineers,  6 electricians and three Refrigeration Engineers with the watch or duty system of 4 hours on watch and 8 hours off, 4 to 8, 8 to 12, 12 to 4. On one trip I was getting 4 hours sleep per day, there were too many parties. During rough weather, fog approaching or leaving port, we were required to work 2 hours before our watch and 2 hours after the watch, this was very trying. On one trip we were called before our watch as we were approaching Australia and we waited ages and rung the bridge to enquire what was happening and the reply was “ Sorry, but we have lost Australia, we can’t find it“.
An interesting fact was that the cost of fuel oil in Aden was the same as water in London. The Egyptians then charged duty on the oil being loaded and also charged extra for open decks. The P & O then installed removable shutters to enclose these decks.
As we carried the Royal Mail to Australia, it must be carried on the fastest ship and, at times, a smaller boat would approach us very fast, slow down to run alongside us and then it would shoot ahead under cover of darkness, not being able to show it was faster than us.
When the ship was passing between Sheerness and Southend, I would always slow the pumps that supply the air to enable the fuel to burn properly and release three large puffs of thick black smoke in the air to let my future wife know that we were on our way. At sea we were not allowed to make black smoke as the smuts went all over the passengers sunbathing on the top deck. On one trip the bridge rung down to the engine room and the third engineer answered the phone, the Captain said “Cloughton, will you please stop smoking“, to which Cloughton said “ sorry“ and dropped his cigarette and stamped on it!
I was very short of sleep on one trip so I volunteered for the 8 to 12 watch which nobody liked because that was when the parties were best. When I came off watch I would have a shower and then go to the night watchman and have a cold beer. there would always be a few passengers and we always had a laugh and a joke.One day I was walking along the deck with the Chief Engineer and I stopped to talk to one of my late night drinking pals, when we left the Chief said to me "do you know who that is?" and I said "my drinking friend" .He then replied and said he is Menzies the Australian Prime Minister. I was on deck with Menzies when we arrived in Freemantle with the boats all decked out with signs such as “Go back Menzies” and “We don’t want you here“, etc. We both had a good laugh at that…

Recip, turbine, turbo-electric explain each !!
Difference between a ship and a boat.??
and beer French Rugby Team.
West Indies Cricket team Ray Lindwall.
British sailors on islands for one year, no shore leave.
Queers Wilson twins.
Collision with Steel Age.
Bar chits thrown overboard.
Difference in the ships leaving UK to Aussie streamers band etc
Steward hoses down shoreside passengers.
Orcades and Len Parsons and caviar.
D.T.s. eating lino.
Stabbing of Junior Engineer.
Jessie Mathews.
Burl Ives.
Stowaway and Sharks.
Alan Guinn and shore bar.
Ray Watson as stowaway.
Lifeboat sailed to Southend.
Three ships Strath, Aird and even and Maloja.
Chasing Whales.
Boiler burst, planks alight.
Nuns and Paddy.
Hello you old bast.
Pukaki and Tutara in Melbourne.
Ship sunk in dry dock.
Flood victim there/back London.
Paddy and his gun u.c.force.
Hitch hiking in Aussie.
Strikes in Aussie, break open one packing case, carry message, toilet seats, whiskey.
Emergency button at dance with Alan Guinn.
Gin 3/-, squash 3/- a bottle.
Stromboli and friend.
Bottle gin /day and 200 cigs /week.
Different girl friends, blondes, with child, old one, young ones.
No decorations at all in room.
Dr when we require jabs. Lost records.
Catholic priest on board for Lourdes.
Boil on leg +gin.
2nd Eng a right one, sheet over his head, worked us every day esp day and half.
Black market gold, gems, etc.
Luna park – too wet on tight rope.
Funeral at sea.
2nd Engineer and time off.
serang and tindall 10% to serang.
TV sets but no electricity.
One in 1st class and one in 2nd.
Hurricane at sea Cocoas Islands.
Gun running friend, off ship by stretcher after 3 days, Raja`s wife in dining room samples food.
Stowaway transferred at night.
Migrants buy at Aden, sell later.
Straights of Messina.
Table tennis ok - snooker ??
Flying fish landed on a steward`s bare stomach whilst asleep.
Paddy and nun.
My torn shirt.
Women overboard, search ship.
Bum boats in Port Said.
Menzies go home.
Maloja to scrapyard & lifeboat kitted out.
Souvenirs, Maloja spoons, desk set, etc.
Left sea and return to work, paid stamp.
Amount of leave, me, no shifts in London.
Engineers pulse in time with the engines.
Harry Smith engagement off.
Ernie Foster wedding.
Hitchhiking in Aussie, no fires allowed.
Menu and food.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: peterchall on December 10, 2014, 08:02:28
Difference between a ship and a boat.??
A mariner acquaintance told me “Ships we are, boats we carry”. Is that right?

Most of the others look intriguing. Let’s start with:
British sailors on islands for one year, no shore leave.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 10, 2014, 12:48:50
Ships carry boats               (as in lifeboats )
But boats can't carry  ships


Obviously a shortened version below

The ships Deck Officers and Engineering Officers often/nearly always, had a girl friend in the First Class and a girlfriend in the Tourist section .
On this particular trip we had as passengers about 100+ sailors returning to England after a 1 year posting on a smallish island with no female company at all and when they saw the £10 Poms (as they were called) they went ballistic These sailors had loads of back pay etc and THEY were buying the passengers drinks.

Although we were very friendly with these sailors we were glad when the 6 week journey back to England was over and life returned to normal.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: Sentinel S4 on December 10, 2014, 22:07:07
I would guess that the Recip with the turbine meant that, like the Titanic and sisters, you had a low pressure exhaust turbine on the centre shaft. Were they three or four cylinder triples or quad expansion? The Oracle was Cunard.. 'nuff said. I really do understand the Engineering bits, as will Howard for sure. Just bring it on please, I find this fascinating.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 11, 2014, 11:23:22
I think that I posted this before. Ah !, I may have just located it. Very poor photos.
The MALOJA was called the largest up and downer in the world.
The diameter was 108", we would climb inside the cylinder to clean and check.
There were 4 cylinders, 1HP, 2LP's and 1IP.
It also had a Baur wach generator fed from the LP exhaust.
It also had a generator built around the prop. shaft to save energy, not used, dismantled.

The Engine room of the Maloja  b) looking on top of the hp cylider and a) looking at the valve gear. My friend is shown to compare the size.
The photos were taken with a Brownie Box Camera, approximately 1950, I hope that they are " lookable"!!


The Strathaid was a Turbo Electric and the Stratheden was just a straight Turbine, if my memory serves me correctly, as they say.
A junior engineer was very unfortunate because his pulse kept in time with the revs. per minute of the main engine, 80 RPM most of the journey. This was very noticeable when we approached a port and changed the engine speed.
 Doctors were unable to help. He left the sea after one trip !!!!!
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: peterchall on December 12, 2014, 19:49:01
CDP, I thought you would be inundated with requests for ‘Memory Jerkers’ - they all look interesting. So time for the two missed from the list so far, please:
”and beer French Rugby Team.
West Indies Cricket team Ray Lindwall”

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 19, 2014, 11:53:39
The French Rugby team, all burly, hunky type men whose second best hobby was playing Rugby were with us on one trip Aussie to UK and we were very pleased when we arrived at their port and we said goodbye to them.
We did part the best of friends after many battles to see who were the winners in the passenger conquests. Even now it brings tears to my eyes, the lonely nights etc .....................
Title: Re: Working 1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 19, 2014, 12:29:29
We were taking the West Indies cricket team from Aussie to the UK plus Ray Lindwall who was going to play for Lancs (or was it Yorks?).
Constantine, their Captain, brought on board many cases of Jamaica rum as his father had a rum plantation in Jamaica and the whole team would often meet in my cabin to have a party.The team were not keen on the deck officers coming, they preferred our parties as we "work hard and play hard ". When we arrived in the UK I think Constantine had about one crate of rum left.

One day they challenged us to a game of Deck Cricket.
A long net is placed down one side to stop the ball going over into the sea, there is no wicket keeper, and three lines are drawn to mark the  length of the pitch and are also markers for,one, two or three runs across the pitch. The pitch is say 8ft(?) wide.Two fielders are placed at these marker lines and these have to stop the ball (if they can).
The two fielders nearest the batsman, called the suicide fielders !!! They were not keen on this position.
When Ray Lindwall  bowled me. I really whacked the ball much to his surprise and his second ball I never saw coming and he smiled and said,  "You are out".
We used a proper hard cricket ball also !! hence suicide fielders. not a job for the faint hearted.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 01, 2015, 21:04:07
On one of my trips to Australia, when we were in Columbo Harbour approaching the berthing spot, I was on deck with a young lady passenger and a ship came very close to us.  Jean said " That is my daddies ship The Steel Age ".and we watched as it came closer and closer- and even closer to my ship,  the Strathaird, and then BANG WE HAD COLLIDED.
It appears that the electric motors were not synchronised with the Propeller shaft and although the Bridge screamed out Astern,  Full Astern, Emergency Full Astern, it was no good and we hit the ship.
Our ship had a soft collision bow that took most of the impact but we hit the other ship mid ships by the Bridge.
We often used our Ward Room for our drinks and no cash changed hands, it was all signed for by chits and settled up at the end of the trip.
On this particular trip, the steward who worked in our Ward Room, had a big row with the bar bosses so he decided to drink his troubles away and some hours later he threw all of our bar chits over the ships side into the sea and all records of our (heavy) drinking were lost. We were pleased .

I remember another trip ,we were leaving Australia .We always had a big band or two ,playing all the usual sad songs (Now is the hour etc,) and all the streamers with the passengers trying to hang on to each other as long as possible, and all the tears and waving goodbye, when a drunken steward turned the fire hose onto the quayside drenching everyone. The Captain sent 3 burly men to restrain him but he thumped them all and a big battle then took place and they finally subdued him and locked him up for the rest of the trip back to England.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 02, 2015, 13:53:54
On one trip we had a Junior Engineer who rather fancied himself as a Casanova, so one day, to keep him quiet we suggested that he tried to get his wicked way with one of the nuns who was travelling on board.
There was a group of about 15 novice nuns who every day would form a crocodile line and walk around the deck for 5 or 6  times each day being lead by the Mother Superior. So Paddy (an Irishman of course !! ) studied this, waited by one of the corners where the nuns turned, walked up to the last nun in the line and said something to her and they both went off to his cabin. We were amazed !! .The nuns soon then realised that one of the group was missing and raised the alarm thinking that she may have fallen overboard. All hell (if that is the correct term to use here !!) was let loose with the nuns wanting to turn the ship around, so some of us went quickly to Paddy's cabin, banging on the door shouting "Let her out Paddy" etc.
When it all calmed down Paddy said that he only asked the nun to sew some buttons on his shirt as he was not able to do it himself having a bad hand and she agreed to help him out.
When we asked Paddy what really happened, he just smiled.

The ship would often have Gala Evenings, everyone dressed up, ate well, and this was always followed with a dance lasting till the earlier hours of the morning with all the Ships Officers signing autographs for nearly all of the passengers, AND I DANCED WITH JESSIE MATHEWS.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 04, 2015, 16:16:34
If Only ???

Walking through Bombay market one day in 1950 ish, I was approached by a smartly dressed Indian who asked me if I was from the Strathaid, the ship in the harbour. It is very strange how they can not only see that you are a stranger but what country you are from because when they approach you to buy any special postcards from them!! etc., they are always correct in the language they use.

This man wanted me to take a small parcel containing gold (which is not hallmarked in Ceylon) and take it to Australia where a man would collect it from me and give me a parcel with Black Opals (which are not allowed to be exported from Australia) to take back to Ceylon.
There I would be given a bag of sapphires plus other rare stones, these are mined in Ceylon, to take to England.
In England I would be given a bag of sovereigns to take to Ceylon, etc. etc, and repeat this again.
It would all be collected and delivered to me on the ship.and it was all using their money and no risk to my money, I would make £200? every time we docked in Colombo and after one or two trips I could use my own money and join them in the scheme. It was making a lotta money in each country.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 06, 2015, 12:18:41
One day I went ashore in Sydney to visit a friend of mine.  After a very pleasant 15 minute Ferry trip across the harbour to Manly, I called at her house and her mother said she was across the road talking to a friend and I was to go across. I went to the house which was having a party and they welcomed me to join in and the guest of honour was Burl Ives. We all had a lovely sing song, etc and he sang a lot of his songs also.

On one trip I was friendly with a girl whose g.father was one of the original gold miners in Kalgoolie, Western Australia, if I have spelt it correctly, and he or his son had 5 sons and 5 daughters. When he retired he gave the sons the shop, the post office, the hotel, the library  etc, etc, and he gave all his money to the girls and this girl decided to go to England She had been selected also to sit at the Captain`s Table by virtue of her past history.
One day I was late getting to the dining hall ( we ate in the same room as the passengers but had a separate long table near the exit in case of emergencies etc.) and when I was at the bottom of this long winding staircase she looked up and said in a VERY loud voice " Hello  you old bast.....  where have you been?" There was a deadly silence for a few seconds with the whole sitting turning to see what was happening. I just smiled, waved to her and carried on !

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 06, 2015, 13:07:48
In a previous post I mentioned the Casanova Engineer on the ship. We all had various pictures and souvenirs around our cabins but he had none because he said any girls invited to his cabin would look at these pictures and say such things as "That is nice/pretty, what is that or where is that from?", and according to "Casanova " That was wasting time.
He also removed all of his chairs from his cabin because he would say the only place that they could sit down was on the bed, and that was half the battle !!!

On another trip, when we were in the Colombo market, I was asked if I wanted to earn some easy money.
The task involved transporting birds from Colombo Zoo to Taronga Park Zoo in Australia. All feeding material, written instruction, etc. was supplied and if any of the birds died, that was acceptable. It was all legal with all custom etc., permits, papers being  supplied.
I declined but a friend said that he would do it. BUT, one day it was very hot crossing the Equator that he forgot about the birds,opened  his cabin door and lost the lot.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 08, 2015, 15:27:52
The ship was in port and I had just completed my evening shift , 8pm to 12 midnight and having a well deserved  shower when the bathroom door opened and in walked an old friend of mine from Sheerness, Ray W.
Some months before this Ray was courting a girl from Sheerness and he decided  to be a £10 Pom. and save some money.  Way back in the 1950's   you paid only £10 to sail to Australia and if you returned to England  before two years you must repay the total return fare to  the Australian Government.
Ray had worked  in the outback  for about 18 months in a very small farm and had saved a huge pile of money but he was longing to return home to marry his girl friend. After talking this over I wondered whether we could stow him away on our ship back to England hence saving him a lot of money.  We had a meeting with a lot of the other Engineers ( and a few bottles of gin !!)and we thought that it would be fun to try it out.
The next day Ray returned with his gear, we spruced up the spare Pilots cabin, explained to the Indian cabin boys, so there was no problem  with his sleeping and eating. Everyone was helpful and we all enjoyed the fun of seeing if we could get away with it.
The ship knew that something was happening as at every port the ships loudspeaker called out  "Would Mr.R please go to the Pursers Office " someone had spread the word but  he joined in with all of our parties and was never officially discovered,  And of course there was no real Customs in Australia then. and England was very lax as he walked out with about six or seven of us.
Just before he married he came to my house and asked me to destroy any photos of him  at our parties, which I  did.  My lips are now sealed but he did really enjoy it all.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 11, 2015, 14:55:51
On another trip we sailed through a load of flying fish, they were very pretty to watch and the decks were full of the passengers watching this sight with lots of ooohs and aars, but one of the stewards was asleep in his bunk and one of these lovely coloured fish flew through his porthole and landed on his chest flapping away. The shock was such that it affected his mind and he was put ashore at the next port of call and was taken to the hospital.

One of the Engineers drunk too much Gin and he did not want to go to sleep because he had little tiny men about 3" tall with Tridents that  kept digging in his toes and feet.

Another Engineer, again with too much gin, started to eat the lino on the floor and he would see little people chasing him at night.

And yet another Engineer was stabbed by an Indian engine room crew member and was sent to Bombay hospital and we heard he was only fined 10 rupees.

On watch one night on the Strathaird, my engine room natives were attacked with sticks, hammers, etc. by another engine room watch who were from a different village. The headman of all the natives was usually a huge strong man who walked around with a three foot length of wood about three inches in diameter and he would use it on the crew. He was the Serang, the bossman, and the men from his village would have to pay him 10% of their wages if they wanted a job on the ship, they either wanted a job or not (all unofficial of course !!) He would employ the Tindals who were the next boss down. This practise was accepted by all, obviously this is not so now !!

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 20, 2015, 22:44:01
I was on the last trip of the RMS Maloja  people who had sailed on her referred to her as the MaloYa and all  the others called her the MaloJA ) when we sailed her to Inverkeithin ? to the breakers yard in Scotland with a skeleton crew and food for 2 weeks in case we were storm bound etc !  This time we semi  unofficially took another P and O Engineer, who lived at Southend, with us because he had purchased one of the lifeboats and wanted to sail it from Scotland to Southend. So on the journey  to the breakers we kitted his boat out with all the best spares from all the other lifeboats, he was very pleased! His lifeboat was really loaded and the weather was good, he contacted us later to say thanks, we had saved him pounds and he enjoyed his trip with us. The few chaps on board this last trip spent most of the time searching the ship for any keepsakes such as clocks, cutlery (all Mappin and Webb),  etc. etc., we were unable to find any safes though!! We sent our gear and contents back by train, it was too heavy to carry.


Just so that you thought our life was an easy one .When I  joined my first ship as a Junior Engineer I was alloted to work " day work " i.e. from 7 in the morning until 5 in the evening. One of the first jobs was to repair a broken down water converter, which converts sea water into fresh water. We had problems with this repair, we started at 7am worked all through that day and night and until 6pm the following day without a break. One chap mildly complained to the 2nd Engineer and was told to shut up and get on with it. He quoted " Safety of the ship " which means that we must do as we were told. We had another 2 of these machines standing by but we had to do as we were told. All of the lathe tools had been sent ashore for repair and had not been sent back to us, so I had to soften the square files, cut and make new tools and then re-harden them. This engineer was a  proper !!""£$% as we were supposed to have Saturday and Sunday off each week, but for three months we were all working flat out (I did manage to have one Sunday morning off when I  managed to slip away to Church but I was grumbled at for that). This engineer would always sleep in a large chair with a sheet over his head and whoever turn it was to wake him up received a mouthful as he was very  embarrassed when woken up. He always drank a lot.
One day I had a very large painful boil on my leg and it was very difficult to move around, and I told the boy who woke me up that I was unable to work that day. A few minutes later the 2nd Engineer came to see me, full of sympathy, and we talked for a few minutes and he asked for a gin and then poured me a very large gin and said "do you take water with it" (there was no room for any water in the glass). He then shouted out that as I had walked over to the desk to pour the gin, " You can walk, therefore you can work, get below".

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 23, 2015, 11:31:39

We met up with the " Orcades ", an Orient Line ship, in Australia and I knew that a friend of mine from Sheerness was a storeman on this ship so I walked across the dock to where it was berthed but I  was turned away by the seaman on the gangway, so I returned to my ship and changed into my uniform and then returned to the Orcades and received a very smart salute and he gave me the instructions where  to see my friend Len. He was very pleased to see me and took me to the food store to show me all the food in the store room. He then invited me to select something that I would like so he opened up a largish container of Caviar. .I did not like it at all !!

At night we would see many ships racing past us because as a Royal Mail Ship (RMS ) we must be the fastest ships to carry the Mail, so they were not really allowed to be faster than us and pass us !

In Sheernes Dockyard I worked on the Royal Navy ship Loch Akinaught ???? converting it for the New Zealand Navy and then it was  renamed Tutara (or was it Pukaki ?) and I  was walking along the dockside in Melbourne, saw this ship and suddenly I saw some of my N.Z.friends from Sheerness Dockyard. We immediately made contact and I was invited on board. Sorry but that is all I remember after a very long stay on board. I think they managed to take me back  to my ship.

When the ship was in dry dock in London and being fumigated, no one was allowed aboard for 2/3 days and we would hoist the Jolly Roger, the Skull and Crossbones, to warn people. It was quite amusing to hear the comments from passing people.

One of the Engineers had been in the Ulster Constab. and always carried his gun with him, (the Customs etc. were very different in those days). One evening we had a party in my cabin and Paddy (obviously) had a lot to drink and was half asleep sitting on my bunk, someone banged on the door, Paddy jumped up, pulled his gun out and said "Who the """""" hell is that and fired his gun. Bang it went and we all ducked and ran for the door.
Another day we all went ashore and on the way back to the ship I said to Paddy "Do you always carry your gun?" When he replied "of course",  I asked him if he could hit a street lamp. He fired three shots, missed the light, but all the house lights came on in the street so  we quickly made a run for our ship.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on June 24, 2015, 20:51:44
My ship RMS Maloja was in the London King George 5th dock for repairs. I was returning to the ship by train after a night at home (I thought that no one would miss me so I had  sneaked off home.  We were not allowed to work on the ship (Union rules) and I happened to look over a man`s shoulder in the carriage, to read in his Daily Mirror that "The RMS Maloja had sunk in dry dock in the repair yard complete with a picture of the ship leaning against three dock side cranes, all on the front page of the paper. I thought how can a big ship sink in a dry dock.
After the repairs on the ship have been completed the 2nd Engineer must sign a form stating that he has checked all the water cooling pipes/valves and it is safe to flood the dry dock. This he had done but he had failed to check a very large 4 foot diameter pipe at the side of the ship`s engine room that supplied cooling water for the main engine. This is a very large gate valve and takes forever to open or close. When water started to pour through this large hole to flood the engine room ....PANIC ... we realised that the dock was filling with water with the 2nd Engineer frantically shutting off this valve which he finally did with the water almost up to his neck. The salt water meant that we had to strip the main engine etc to remove the salt from the bearings etc., etc. and everything in the engine room had to be stripped down and cleaned as salt is very corrosive.

Every port that we arrived at after this event, the 2nd .Engineer was invited out to lots of dinners etc. and he made headlines in all of the local papers as "The Engineer who saved the ship", not realising that he was the man that caused it !!

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on July 14, 2015, 12:22:24
On one trip to Sydney I met a Sheerness lad Harry Smith, who was the same entry in Sheerness Dockyard as myself and after a few beers he asked if I would do him a big  favour when I arrived back home. I replied of course and he asked if I would go to Queenborough,  to his girl friends house and tell her that he has found somebody else in Australia and so the engagement was off. When I arrived back  home I went to Queenborough, knocked on the door of Harry's (ex) girl friend`s house as I had previously phoned and asked to see her and was invited in as an old friend.

When I  broke the news to her she cried her eyes out, her (rather large ) father came rushing into the room and was going to hit me  kill me ??)?? After what seemed years  they both calmed down and said the wedding arrangements were all in hand, the cake, the guest list, the catering, the bridesmaids, etc, etc.and what a rotten fellow Harry was. .
We all parted as friends. I left the house rather quickly just in case she was wondering how she could use her wedding dress etc!!  I hope that she realised that I was only the messenger.

On a more pleasant note, via my mother`s !!! friends, I was asked four or five times to carry wedding gifts to / from Sheerness /Australia as they knew that I would look after the cake, cards and gifts, etc and they would be sure to get there safely. This I  managed to do and received many thanks, it was a pleasure .
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on July 20, 2015, 21:24:02
One trip to Sydney and I managed to have a long weekend off work so I made contact with some previous £10 Poms and Aussies in a Youth Hostel Group and we hitch-hiked using cars, buses, etc and hiked up to a mountain Hostel and we had a perfect weekend, Each little group designated a cook and we were only allowed to take a fork each. When eating our food we were told to be very careful as there were lots of birds, mainly Kookaburra's, who would swoop down, grab our food and " laugh" at us from the tops of the trees .We were not allowed to share our food with anyone if they lost theirs to the birds.
As Australia had had no rain for months and with bush fires all around us and water being very scarce, no bonfires were allowed in case they then became out of control. We talked to the Warden and he agreed that we could have a fire but we must put the fire out ourselves and we had to watch it all the day and night. So we sent all the girls away at the end of the night and did as we were  told.
Our little group sang songs around the camp fire, one of the lads showed us his magic tricks, another was a very good singer, another knew lots of (clean) jokes, the weather was perfect and we had a lovely time, going to bed about 3 o'clock each day. One lad had a withered leg and he was more acrobatic than most of us, he would toss his crutch away at the very last minute and complete very clever  and complex movements. He taught us all a lot about life that night!!
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on July 30, 2015, 20:13:54
I well remember the Cocos Islands which are halfway between India and Australia, because the ship being a Royal Mail Ship (RMS Strathaird,) it would deliver the mail to this Island.This could  involve dropping the barrel of mail into the sea where it was immediately picked up by two outrigger catamaran boats,These were very small vessels each manned by six natives from the Island who paddled like mad to catch this mail before it was swept away.
But this day we were caught by a very severe hurricane/typhoon and the skipper decided to carry on to Australia and not to chance dropping the mail, but fifteen minutes later he changed his mind and swung the ship rapidly around and headed back to the Cocos Islands.
This rapid action caused some very large waves to smash windows (not portholes !!) on the top deck and the ship was swamped, really swamped with sea water and it cascaded down the stairways into the bows of the ship .One lady was in tears and asked us to save her two babies who would be in one of the flooded cabins, we rushed down the stairs with the water cascading on the top of us as we fought the waves to save her two daughters. We reached the cabin, burst open the door ready to save these babies and there were two 17 year old girls sitting on their bunks reading their books and they asked us what we wanted. So our good deed fell flat.
One of the catamarans came in too close to us and their mast was caught up in our railings and as our ship rolled it turned their vessel over and it sunk. Then catamaran No.2 came close to us and as the stern of our ship banged into the water it swamped their vessel and that  sunk. We hurriedly "saved" all 12 men and we took them to Australia and they enjoyed their forced holiday.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: Dave Smith on August 01, 2015, 13:01:53
Very interesting re Cocos Island. As it's only 9 sq. miles, I would have thought not enough inhabitants to warrent " post"! However, a very famous "tin can mail" (exactly as you describe) did occur on a regular basis in Tonga (with philatelic interest), but that is Pacific Ocean.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on August 13, 2015, 21:39:35
One evening we went to Luna Park, the prime Amusement Park in Sydney Harbour. The main entrance was through a very large mouth painted on the very large piece of wood at the entrance, so large that it can be seen on most postcards of the Harbour. We were looking forward to the Show of the Evening with a tight rope walker being very, very active, very high up on the wire rope. It then started to rain which held everything up for about an hour but the rain kept coming. The audience started to be very vocal, having paid money to see this show and the manager appeared saying it was too dangerous for the tight rope walker and to prove he was right he sent a man out who ran up and down the slippery wire cleaning the wire with a rag. The manager then reported that the cleaner said that it was too dangerous. The audience failed to see the logic here and booed and so we all got our money back.
Every trip out/ then back to Australia the ship would organise various contests for the passengers to pass the time away. After each table tennis contest I would ask the winner if we could have a match, I met a lot of people this way. I had thought about being a £10 Pom myself at one time. Another engineer, Paddy and myself had planned to hitch-hike around the world but, as they say, "The best laid plans ..."  but I decided to leave the sea and settle down with my future wife and Paddy continued our journey. He continued to follow our original plan, we had collected loads of names and addresses of passengers from all over the world who said we could stay with them for free on our trips. His first stop was at Freemantle where he worked on a sheep station and the nearest town was an airplane trip away, so he saved a huge amount of money. He then moved to Adelaide, bought a car ready for the next move on, but first he went to work on a fruit farm, subsequently married the owner`s daughter and now owns this very large farm and that is as far as Paddy got !!!!!!
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on August 20, 2015, 14:36:55
Every trip out/ then back to Australia the ship would organise various contests for the passengers to pass the time away. After each table tennis contest I would ask the winner if we could have a match, I met a lot of people this way. I had thought about being a £10 Pom myself at one time. Another Engineer, Paddy, and myself had planned to hitch hike around the world but as they say "The best laid plans ..."  but I decided to leave the sea and settle down with my future wife and Paddy continued our journey. He continued to follow our original plan, we had collected loads of names and addresses of passengers from all over the world who said we could stay with them for free on our trips. His first stop was at Freemantle where he worked on a sheep station and the nearest town was an airplane trip away so he saved an huge amount of money. He then moved to Adelaide and bought a car ready for the next move on, but first he went to work on a fruit farm, subsequently married the owner`s daughter and now owns this very large farm and that is as far as Paddy got .!!!!!!

  Funeral at sea.
One of the saddest events that I was involved with, I had to help with a burial at sea of the ships plumber. He died in his sleep and I was asked to be one of the witnesses.
 The burial at sea took place at early sunrise before the passengers were walking about and in the secluded part of the ship at the stern. All the ships officers not on duty were invited to attend and we lined up in our allocated places.
The body was brought in and very carefully placed on a board covered by the Union Jack and after the prayers by the Captain the board was slowly lifted up at the end and the body slowly slid from the board into the sea to land with a splash never to be forgotten.

On another never to be forgotten moment, one of the ship`s passengers was a very high ranking Indian and he had bodyguards and about 6 ? very lovely young girls/ladies to keep him company. Every day he would line these girls up in a row and he would walk up and down in front  of them and then select his companion for the day then she found a sun lounger for him. At meal times in the main dining hall, before the meal was started the ladies would offer their food to this man who would choose a small piece of food from each of the ladies plates and they would politely wait until he started to eat before they began their food.
One day on the deck I saw the most attractive girl in his group, her beauty was startling and her eyes were very beautiful and I must have looked at her too long because one of his guards came over to me very, very angry with me for looking at this girl. I thought he was going to hit me, or worse?  I made my excuses and left !!!!

Another passenger was very interesting to talk to, he claimed to have been detained in most jails in various countries and had been involved in all types of crime, although he said that he would never get involved in either the white girl traffic or gun running. He had a lot of tales to tell us but sadly he was taken very ill and within three days could only move one hand and was taken off the ship in London on a stretcher.

On one trip the Captain decided to go through the Straits of Messina instead of circling Sicilly and all of the local boats decided to come and see if this big ship could go through the Straits without colliding with and sinking any of their craft. We twisted and turned with the ships siren sounding nearly all the way. Although there are Rules of the Sea, these people ignored them and appeared to test our Captain's seamanship! but our passengers really enjoyed the battle and talked about it for days. And to complete a very pleasant memory, we circled Stromboli twice, that lovely volcano a few miles away, I was settled in a deck chair with a large blanket over my knees on the poop deck at the very back of the ship where no lights were allowed. Never to be forgotten, the eruption of Stromboli! the volcano.

At the height of my time at sea I was drinking a bottle of  gin every 2/3  days and smoking 200 cigarettes a week, that was when a bottle of gin cost three shillings (and a bottle of squash was also 3 shillings, so it was cheaper to drink the gin - I  think that logic is sound !!) I acquired quite a taste for gin and alka seltzer and gin with Andrews Liver Salts (oh! the good old days).
One game we would play was called Bones.
We would all sit in a circle with our glass and bottle then working clockwise we would start counting from 1 to 100 and every time the score came to a number 7, or any multiple of 7 or a seven in the answer etc. you must call out "Bones". No thinking time was allowed and we then  speed up calling out the number. When 100 is reached we then work backwoods to the number one, any mistakes meant a (large) sip of your bottle.The record was 2 games  (I think).
Such a silly game !!!!

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on August 21, 2015, 21:31:48

Please don't think that we always had an easy life , here is one example of hard work .
Our thinking was Work hard and so play hard
One day ,one of the main water tube boilers sprung a leak  inside the boiler at the back end .
It had to be repaired  if left the boiler  could explode .
We opened up the front of the boiler and  waited until it had cooled down a little and placed a large thick plank of wood on the floor as we had to walk on this very hot boiler floor  ,bent over , to get at the leak ,and the plank burst into flames , the engineer who was at the back rushed out with his  overalls on fire and gasping for fresh air ,
We waited another half hour and the next plank did not ignite so we tried again . In the meantime we had constructed a fire proof type Fearnaught  overcoat complete with hood ,used some tubing and a compressor to supply air and this was fixed to the back of the overcoat .We could only work about a minute ,if that , at a time before the heat and lack of fresh air made us  retreat , two engineers passed out during this repair  the Chief Engineer  kept shouting at us to hurry up !
 Hence " Work hard > Play hard "
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: Sentinel S4 on August 22, 2015, 08:09:27
This is very interesting and I am enjoying your time at sea very much. How did you repair this tube? In a conventional boiler you could have capped the tube, we had to do that a couple of times on the Romney, but that is not an option for a water tube boiler.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on August 22, 2015, 12:05:20
Sentinel S4
Because the boiler water was on the outside of the tubes and the leak was at the contact point with the main structure, we had to bevel out by rolling a tool on the outside of the tube end, if that makes sense. I am a maths teacher at heart and English is a no no for me .!!! Maths runs in the family.      (Google W.G.Penney  Atom Bomb, we both had the same g.father).
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: Sentinel S4 on August 22, 2015, 16:41:43
Oh it was a Scotch or a Wet Back Scotch then. I have rolled a few tubes myself, not pleasant when the boiler is hot.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on August 25, 2015, 12:39:16
This ship had six of these monster water tube boilers, four always working and two being cleaned and repaired by us, they filled the Boiler Room. It was hot !!!
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 07, 2015, 20:19:58

After passing the Entrance Examination for the R.N.Artificers I was placed 203, I think, and only 350 places were available.The exam was sat by over 2,000 boys from all over England, but sadly I failed the Medical (I was declared Medically Unfit by a team of seven  Doctors). But, I was only slightly colour blind and my left eye was slightly weak. I had wanted to be an Engine Room Artificer but it was decreed that I would have been a danger at sea not knowing the colours on the watertight doors, as the colour denoted when these doors should be shut or left open in rough weather etc.
 My thinking at that time was to see the world at somebody else’s expense and I thought the Royal Navy would be ideal for that. So I decided to try another route via the Dockyard. I read “Better sight without glasses” and many similar books and also played a lot of table tennis to exercise my eyes - winning a few medals on the way playing for the Bethel Club, the V.C. Club and, for a short while, with the St. Paul`s Blue Town Club. Playing  with and against Roy Ballard, Bert Townsend, Eric Neave, Joan Porter, Joyce Green, John Quint and his sister Joyce to name a few.
I once had a game of ping pong (!) with Kent`s non-playing Table Tennis Captain. He had a wooden leg so I thought this will be easy, his leg squeaked every time he was caught out of position but he beat me easily and I thought I had really played well that day.
 But I did represent Sheerness playing against the Italian P.O.W.’s at the Victoria Club one day. We fielded a team of nine and, as I was the weakest link, played my match first. We collected quite a lot of money for Charity that day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves trying to make ourselves understood. But we did learn to count up to twenty one in Italian.
The medical examination for the dockyard was a little different from the Royal Navy Medical. The Surgeon Commander called me in, I entered the room and he said “Oh! You are not deaf then“ and ticked the form on his desk regarding deafness, and then said “Please sit down“, which I did. He then said “You can see the chair then“ and I received another tick, and so it went on. I coughed at the right place and I passed A1.
I started my 5 year apprenticeship as an Engine Fitter in Sheerness Dockyard on 28th August 1944 and completed it August 28th 1949. There were 12 Engine Fitters in my year, Brian Buckwell, Harry James,  Alan Taylor, Harry Smith, Ted Smith, Ken Kirkbride, Billy Edwards, Sammy Phillips, Bert Lowe, Peter Pearson and Peter Castle.
The first 12 on the examination list (the brainy ones) opted for electrical apprenticeships, the next 12 (also very, very brainy) chose Engine Fitting, the next 12 (rather a dumb lot !!) opted to become Shipwrights with the remainder being offered the lesser trades. (No offence meant !).
Our Dockyard training was the best in the world, without a doubt, and envied by everyone.
My Indentures were signed on 20th October, 1944. They stated, among other rules and regulations, that during the period of  our apprenticeship we were not allowed to marry nor to be guilty by word or action of any immoral, indecent, irregular or improper conduct or behaviour whatsoever…….. etc.etc.
Of course one lad had to test this out and was married during his apprenticeship aged 20, after asking the Captain of the Dockyard for his permission and also receiving a telling off. We all then received a lecture on naughty marriages.
The first year of our apprenticeship was employed in making and using our own tools e.g. chisels, all types of engineering tools, spanners, scrapers etc. and repairing small pieces of engines, and pages and pages of theory on different types of engines and machinery,  etc. The remaining four years training was spent on the various machines, the lathe, the driller, the miller, the planner, the Pearn and  working on refrigerators, welding, the foundry, the boilershop, the coppersmiths shop, the gun gang, lifts and cranes and the engines and auxillary machinery of submarines, destroyers, small motor boats, in the fitting shop, in the dry docks and afloat in the harbour.
I also worked at the Navy depot, R.A.B in Hope Street collecting and collating all the Dome Teaching Equipment from all over England. This was a system whereby the whole of the inside of the huge building was a huge domed screen and the whole apparatus inside was worked by a cinema projector and cams, planes would appear in the distance and swoop overhead to disappear in the distance.
 Model anti-aircraft guns were connected to the sighting mechanism and a film was taken of your accuracy in shooting down the planes (I shot down two spitfires, one Wellington bomber and three Junkers when I tried it out).
 I worked also on the B.Y.M.S (Brookland Yard Mine Sweepers – U.S.A.) at Queenborough, also at Barton Point on various guns.
No wonder a  Dockyard Apprenticeship was the envy of the world.

We were under the guidance of Mr. Frank Stuart Flaherty  (F.S.F.) a lovely gentleman but sadly for him whenever we found any scrap metal from the Fitting Shop Dump stamped with a  “F.S.” (Fitting Shop) we would take it to Frank after stamping another “F“ on the originals (making it F.S.F.) with “Is this yours sir, we have just found it“.
We also tied thunderflashes to the top of his tool box so when he opened the lid it was accompanied by very loud bangs, he took it all in good fun.
Ken Kirkbride was handing out apples to us one day and Frank came to see what we were doing, he was always wary when he saw us congregating together, thinking we were planning something (usually we were) Ken gave him one of these apples and he came back in a few minutes and said to Ken that was a lovely apple, Ken then said it ought to be it came from your garden last night (laughter from all).
One of the lads had a large ball of oily cotton waste and started it smouldering, removed the screws holding the top of Franks toolbox (we had spent hours trying to open his padlock) and put the smouldering waste inside and screwed the lid back. When Frank opened the lid  he must have thought a genie was about to appear. He never did work out how we were able to open his very secure lock on his toolbox. His other padlocks had been very easy to open.
Everybody attended The Dockyard School, the first year was divided into First Upper and First Lower.
We had school on two whole days and three evenings or was it one whole day and two evenings ?
We had fun with Alan Taylor the Teachers pet.  We were waiting for the teacher to arrive for one of the lessons and as soon as we heard him coming along the corridor we made a grab for Alan and threw him out of the window. He then arrived late through the front door looking very sheepish. After a few times coming in the class late - he was not the Pet for long.
Another lad, Alan White, an Electrical apprentice and “pet to be“ would be turned in his chair to face the door and only released when the teacher was just about to enter the room with the teacher saying “Stop playing about White! turn around and stop being silly“.
Mr. Norrie the headmaster was a typical Scot. Alan White dropped a threepence piece on the floor which was promptly grabbed by one of the lads who placed it on Mr.Norries desk at the front. When he came into the room he saw the money and asked whose it was but no one  replied so he said he was going out to get a book and if it was still there when he returned it was going in his pocket. Some of us held Alan White back and we exchanged the threepence piece for three pennies, Mr.Norrie returned, pocketed the money and carried on with the lesson as if nothing had happened.
At Christmas we would have a lovely time celebrating. The Inspectors etc. left us alone. We would have a sing song sitting on a set of four torpedo tubes with some of the older lads swinging the tubes round and round.
Sheerness Dockyard was renowned, among other things, of making the best torpedo tubes in the World. Incidentally, shortly after the War the Boilermakers shop tried to make a dustbin to compete with Industry. It cost approximately £30 to make (the average wage was about £5  I think).
We all had to suffer an Initiation from the older apprentices which was intended to make us all equal and certainly stopped anybody feeling superior. Details will be sent in a plain brown envelope to any one interested.
The Sea Trials after a ship`s refit were the most enjoyable. We would put to sea and have a very enjoyable time while the ship was  being tested and passed as O.K. Sadly we were not  allowed to submerge during the submarine trials but we were allowed on the conning tower to use the “Pigs Ear", the submariners toilet, and so we could watch the other boats going by.

On 29th August, 1949 I joined the P and O as an Engineer and an Officer and a Gentleman! to serve on the liners going to Australia. This I did for five years.
It was interesting  to note that I was doing exactly the same work that the R.N. would not let me do and without the discipline.
The apprenticeship showed us how to improvise which was very useful at sea when we were miles from any shop.

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: DaveTheTrain on December 07, 2015, 21:51:42
I think these stories are great CDP.  I assume the Pearn was a cylinder boring machine for steam cylinders?   P.S.  I just did the maths and worked out you started your apprenticeship 71 years ago. That is 39 years before I started mine. An incredible fact, well done.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: conan on December 08, 2015, 18:42:59
CDP You'll be pleased to know there's still the remains of one of the dome trainers left

Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 10, 2015, 10:10:28
That was very interesting Conan .The dome teacher at Sheerness was constructed ( hidden ? ) under a very large rectangular iron sheeting building  about the size of a large detached house which is now the site of a local sailing club and now completely dismantled .
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on December 10, 2015, 10:25:19
DTT re the Pearn boring machine, it always amazed us apprentices that the Fitting shop had 50+++++ lathes to turn, or remove metal from the outside of a job but only one Pearn machine to bore a job to bore and remove metal from the inside of a cylinder.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: DaveTheTrain on December 14, 2015, 20:42:46
DTT re the Pearn boring machine , it always amazed us apprentices that the Fitting shop  had 50+++++ lathes to turn , or remove metal from the outside of a job but only one Pearn machine to bore a job to bore and remove metal fro the inside of a cylinder

Very true CDP.  I think it is like that in many places, it is certainly true of some of the preservation workshops I have been in.  Boring machines are so unusual that when one pops up on ebay it gets some prettty frenetic bidding.  I don`t think I am going to part with mine in a hurry.
Title: Re: Working ?1949 TO 1954 in the P & O
Post by: CDP on September 07, 2016, 16:25:59
Re Old Boys Club for the Tech. school: whilst I was teaching a few of us went to see the the Head, Mr.Barnett, with the idea of starting up an Old Boys Association because the school was about to shut and a lot of boys and teachers thought it was a good idea. After explaining, he said "over my dead body!!" and told us he would never allow it and no amount of discussion !!!!!! would ever change his mind. And so it was.