From: Clive Spencer, Tauranga, New Zealand
Thank you for publishing my letter about the SS Hawkinge in the May edition. This edition also contained a feature about Robinson’s Stag Line Limited of North Shields. Having myself served in ships owned on Tyne-side, I found this account particularly enjoyable.
Anyway, here is something that you may get a good laugh out of. Many years ago a British tramp ship happened to be occupying a berth at a Canadian port adjacent to where one of the Stag Line vessels was secured.
According to a yarn prevailing at the time, the two apprentices aboard the tramp were of the opinion that the stag on the funnel of the ship ahead of them was incorrectly represented. Consequently, one dark night, and appropriately armed with a pot of white paint and a couple of brushes, they surreptitiously boarded the Stag liner. Somehow they gained access to the stag insignia on either side of the funnel upon which they daubed large and correctly placed phallic symbols.
I have no idea regarding the outcome of this nocturnal foray, but as being resourceful as they customarily were, I should imagine that the apprentices got away without repercussions!
From: John Hall, Walmer, Kent
I was intrigued by Captain Kinghorn’s article in your October issue. I joined Blue Star in December 1947 and sailed from London on my first trip in January 1948. I was, so far as I know, the only cadet to be taken on without having first attended a sea school, a concession as my father, Captain James Bennett Hall was the senior Master at the time of his demise on the Melbourne Star on April 2nd 1943.
I last met Percy Hunt in February 1951 when he appointed me 4th officer of the Brasil Star, which filled me with joy as my salary went from £6.10 a month to £26.10, riches beyond my wildest dreams!!
After obtaining Second Mates in 1952 I joined the Oregon Star, as 3rd Mate, the Master being Captain Tallack. Michael Bernard Millington Tallack was First officer of the Avila Star when she was torpedoed on June 12th 1942. He was awarded the OBE and the citation in the London gazette of November 24th read inter alia “the First officer, who had been among the last on board, made a most creditable boat journey and brought many to safety”.
In January 1953 I joined Austasia Line a wholly owned subsidiary operating in the Far East, being 3rd Mate of the inaugural vessel, the Malay. Michael also joined arriving some little time after me. My wife and I met him occasionally in Singapore, and he later, I believe, joined a Chinese owned Company. Michael was a character!
After ten years in the Singapore Harbour Board, and a further five in the Ben Line, my family and I returned to the Dover Harbour Board, but that is another story.
Your magazine is most entertaining, keep up the good work!
From: Dave Menzies, Kempston, Bedford
I read the interesting article by John Lane on HMS Worcester with a lot of interest.
My late father Kenneth Menzies was on Worcester 2 before the war & I was on Worcester 3 1956-59.
The article was full of interest, especially the changes such as the end of hammocks being replaced by bunks.
From memory, these changes & others were driven forward by the Captain Superintendent Captain Gabbett Mulhallen, who from memory was ex British India from 1957 following Captain Steele VC.
Not only were the hammocks removed, but the decks were varnished inside to make cleaning easier.
The old practice of ” Coaling Ship” was stopped when Worcester 3 was converted from coal to oil, fuel.
I also had a special outing to a Naval Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral attended by the Queen Mother & was made interesting at the end when the recession came to a shuddering halt as the big doors were stuck, so we ” “recessed” out of the side door.
I too remember Chief Officer Donner & recently unearthed my school report. I was not a genius either but got there in the end.
The Worcester training certainly stood me well later in life although maybe not appreciated at the time.
I still have my late Father’s HMS Worcester sea chest. In his day you bought them, in mine they were hired, so I used his still, with his name on the side.
It also carries on the side a painting, of a penguin, as some called me that, because of my feet!
Yes Nick Case, I knew it was you, but have happy memories.
From: Maurice Tate, by e-mail
In the excellent article about Vlasov in the October issue, mention is made of ‘Wooster victory’ being converted into an immigrant carrier.
In my late teens I lived in Cape Town and was a frequent visitor to the docks (no tight security in those days). I well remember on one of visits seeing ‘Wooster victory’ berthed with no passengers being allowed ashore, which was unusual then. The reason being that she was carrying a full complement of Jewish refugees from China, Shanghai I think, to Haifa. I believe resettlement of Jews from China had been organised by the UN. This was probably in 1950.
Conditions on board were rather poor, especially for such a long voyage from China to Israel via Cape of Good Hope. Presumably as at that time, where there was lot of tension over the establishment of, what was the new state of Israel, it was not possible for the ship to transit the Suez Canal.
One doesn’t normally associate Jews with China, but it seems there was actually a very large number, especially in Shanghai, mostly they moved from Eastern Europe.
This also made me remember that the problem of illegal immigrants is not just a new one. A couple of years later, when I had started work as an agency clerk, I was too regularly board passenger vessels of the Portuguese company CNN’S. They operated a service from Portugal to Lourenco Marques, which called at Cape Town to bunker, and sometimes to load a small amount of cargo, usually only calling for a few hours.
Passengers were usually allowed to go ashore. However the passengers included a substantial number of third class passengers, many of whom were labourers who had been working in agricultural activities in Mozambique, for which they seemingly were poorly paid.
Many of them wanted to work in South Africa where they could earn more money in better conditions. However, the South Africans didn’t want unskilled immigrants and would not accept them. As a result, many of them did not return to the vessels after their trip ashore.
Matters came to a head when on one call something over 90 persons went missing. The vessel was heavily fined by the immigration authorities, and, as a result of this, such passengers had to be confined on board during subsequent port calls. For sometime afterwards the authorities occasionally located some of the people and returned a portion of the fine that had been paid.