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David Dickinson's Memories
The early life of an Orient Line Cadet Purser!
do I begin? I was born in June 1936 at Woodford Green, Essex where we
lived for the next few years until a nasty man dropped a bomb not far
away and ruined our front windows! That required a hasty move with my
mother and sister, first to Mansfield and then Worcester, with my
father staying at home. These years were fairly uneventful, starting
primary school and watching the Yanks going through with their convoys
before D Day. A shout of 'any gum chum' usually resulted in sweets,
biscuits etc. being thrown down to us hungry children!
the war I returned to Woodford Primary School then high school until
1950 when we were sent to boarding school, which I hated! The only
consolation was I was very good at sports, maths, French and German. I
left school in 1953 with no job thoughts except I wanted to travel. At
this stage we moved to Highams Park, London E4 where we had a guest
house which had permanent guests. One of these worked for Woodhall
Duckham and I got a job in the site office. After about three months
the chief engineer offered me an engineering apprenticeship. It sounded
interesting but I told him that I had written to several shipping
companies looking for a job! Ironically the next day a letter came from
the Orient Line asking me to come in for an interview.
booted and spurred I went up to London and was shown into this large
boardroom with me sitting at one end of a very long table and at the
other end was three, to me, very distinguished gentlemen (one of whom
had an eye patch). All very unnerving and after many questions
they said they would let me know!
next day a letter arrived in the mail confirming a position of cadet
purser! I had no idea what a cadet purser did but I accepted! My next
move was to visit that well established merchant navy tailor, Miller,
Raynor and Haysom, to be fully kitted out as per the required list of
early January 1954, fully dressed as a cadet purser, I went by train to
Tilbury Docks and boarded ss Otranto and proceeded to the purserís
office. The first statement said to me was ďWe don't go ashore in
uniform, unless on official business so next time come in civvies and
incidentally where have you been?Ē What a welcome, apparently they had
been told I would be joining on their arrival. The purser, EL French,
who was known as Froggy but not by cadets, officially welcomed me and
introduced me all round. As it was nearly lunchtime we adjourned to his
cabin for a beer before lunch. My first ever beer but obviously I must
have liked it as I havenít stopped drinking it since (some 63 years
later!). At lunch a second beer and I was then told I might as well go
back home as they were going into dry dock that afternoon and to come
back in a few days time. When I got home later that afternoon, slightly
light headed, my father couldn't believe I had such a good job! All
that would change of course.
on board I started learning the ropes and the priority was finding out
what a cadet purser did, which in retrospect, was just an office boy,
running here and there at the whim of the other staff, using the Banda
machine which used blue sheets where the colour could run (this was a
predecessor to the Roneo machine). All the passenger and crew lists
were done on this plus the cargo manifests etc. Soon after the ship
sailed we ran off the first passenger list, which of course had to be
updated after every port. Copies had to be available for the agents and
officials at each port of call.
departed from Tilbury and sailed down the Thames to the English Channel
and then into the Bay of Biscay that evening. Fortunately I had been
across the North Sea a couple of times and wasn't sea sick! I watched
us depart and suddenly felt free! That night dinner was in the office
because of the work that had to be done but I did find out that I would
be dining in the forward restaurant and would have a table of
passengers. As I understood it, all deck, pursers, medical and
entertainment officers were allocated a table. The engineers had a
wardroom but the senior ones also had a table in one of the two
restaurants. Our passengers were mainly migrants coming out to 'enjoy'
a new life down under, they were known as the '10 Pound Poms'. On this
voyage we would also be picking up migrants at Naples and Kalamata in
cabin was a single (although on a later voyage I would share one for
part of the trip) and it backed on to the shop. Accordingly it was one
of the very few that had hot water, a point not missed by my colleagues
who came in the morning for hot water for a shave! Nearly all the
cabins had a small tank above the basin which was filled with cold
water every day by the stewards. As the most junior officer I had to
ensure my cabin was always unlocked as the office key was kept on the
sofa in case it was needed during the night. Also, as I found out, I
was the first called when cables came in during the night. If that
happened I had to go up to the office and decode them. After a time I
got to know message prefaces and would not decode them until morning.
One five letter code was XOKIY which meant 'please pay passenger'. The
company used to accept funds for passengers at the London office and
the purser would make the appropriate payment. However, when ever one
was addressed to the Captain and had a special preface, it would need
instant decoding (and of course the further away we got from England it
was usually later in the night). When done it was enveloped and I had
to go up to the bridge and deliver same to the officer of the watch
whose decision it was to decide whether to wake the Captain up or not.
was at 0800 hours and here I met my first sitting table companions for
the voyage. One or two were missing because of the rough seas in the
Bay. The voyage to Sydney took over 30 days and the company had 30
different menus for those days although the breakfast one rarely
changed except when we picked up fresh fruits etc. Lunch and dinner
changed every day and had added extras depending on what had been
picked up at a port of call. As this was a one class ship voyage the
menu, whilst interesting, was small in comparison to those of our first
class ships. Interestingly, even though we would be picking up migrants
from Italy, Greece and Northern Europe they would generally have to
'enjoy' English food with a French influence.
that day was again with my first sitting passengers and as I understood
it later that the 'officer' was expected to buy the first bottle of
wine. I didnít that day. The afternoon was free to have a kip or
sunbathe but as there was no sun sleep was the answer and a 1600 hours
restart in the office. This time it was preparing the daily 'Good
Morning' sheet showing the activities for the day and noting land
sightings plus advertising the noon mileage sweep which proved to be
very popular with the passengers guessing the shipís run over 24 hours
(run from noon to noon and announced by the bridge).
those days there was nothing like the activities we see nowadays on a
14 day cruise. There were lots of deck games, quoits, deck tennis,
sometimes cricket plus some indoor activities. The fancy dress night
was always a major event and for days prior the entertainment staff
were helping passengers with their designs. Bingo was another prominent
activity and well supported. Late afternoon the pianist always played
in the lounge and at night we had dancing. cadets had to be off decks
by 2200 hours unless he was the duty officer!
On a later voyage I was the sportís AP and it was one of the best roles as you were out on deck most of the time helping with the various games and competitions. That evening I went to second sitting dinner to meet my other table companions. I learnt fairly early on that the officers tended to have drinks etc. before dinner, either in a cabin or at a bar. As a cadet I was only allowed to buy beer, wine at dinner, soft drinks and cigarettes. As a non-smoker my bar bill included lots of cigarettes as I wasn't allowed to buy spirits. This was of course a problem when you were with passengers but the friendly chief bar manager helped me out! They were an interesting group, some returning Australians and future ones! I did buy the wine that night and was in bed by 2200 hours!
these migrant voyages we sometimes had up to 500 children under the age
of 12! They were reasonably well looked after, but if they broke free
they were always seen running round the ship getting into all sorts of
mischief. They had their own meal times and menus. At this stage we
still had to call at Naples and embark more migrants and their families
and then on to Kalamata. As most of the passengers didnít have
passports, but documents of identity, they werenít allowed ashore.
Shore leave for us was therefore limited.
leaving London and Sydney we were given the 'Berthing Book'. This was
prepared by the relevant office depending on the voyage being
undertaken. It was supervised by a female assistant purser (FAP) and
was a large book that had every cabin listed, and number of berths. It
included way ports and indicated where the passenger was disembarking,
for instance, if it was Naples it would show vacant unless somebody was
joining later in the voyage. Each way port would have been advised of
the vacancies and would have advised London and then the ship would be
advised if they had sold that cabin/berth. Outwards as a migrant ship
we rarely had vacancies but there were some full fare paying
passengers, usually on the upper decks.
ex-London passenger list was the basic and for each port
additions/deleted were an addendum and given to the port agent. Yes, he
was met by the cadet who relieved him of the bag of mail he was
hopefully carrying and any official papers. Generally he went to the
Captain first and then the purser. If he had staff they went to the
purser and the chief engineer or chief steward (for on board supplies
etc.), wherever relevant.
had rounded Gibraltar and now Naples. I remember being on deck keeping
an eye out for the pilot launch and was therefore able to watch us come
into port. To me it was a magnificent entrance with Mount Vesuvius in
the distance and the odd navy ship, colourful fishing boats and so on.
My first of many visits to Italy over the next 60 years! I was reminded
of a, probably Aprophrical, story concerning the end of the war when a
war ravaged and rusty frigate came into Naples and the crew manned the
decks to salute the Admiral on a US aircraft carrier which had the
slogan 'Second to None'. As the frigate went passed and the appropriate
salutes were made it was noted that the frigate had put up a sign 'HMS
was fortunate that I had to take some papers to the agent's office and
naturally I got lost! I did however have a good wander round the city
which was still a lot of rubble from the war and although the people
seemed happy many were cleaning streets etc. I donít remember having a
pizza but I did see plenty of lovely fruits and some food smells that
afternoon we embarked Italian and other European migrants, many were
obviously very poor with perhaps one suitcase between the whole family.
In the early days, after the war, many Italian males came to Australia
on their own and their families came in later years. It was interesting
to note that most of the embarking passengers here had the same contact
address i.e. KWPR, Cooma NSW. They were going to work on our great
Snowy River hydro electric scheme which was started in 1949. Several
dams were built on the Snowy River which started high up in the Snowy
Mountains in the most southern part of NSW. I'm sure if such a scheme
was mooted today we would never get the relevant states and federal
governments to agree which is unfortunately what is happening to many
of our larger infrastructure ideas toady.
sailed late afternoon for Greece and another migrant pick up. In the
office we were updating all our lists, the mail was sorted and
delivered to the relevant officers with the passengers coming to the
letter bureau to see if there was anything for them. If I remember the
crossing was uneventful. Somewhere along the way we changed
into whites but as it was January it probably wasnít done till Port
another new country, Greece, but unfortunately I didnít get to go
ashore. I did start to notice that this great new fruit appeared at
meal times plus other fresh produce, including fish and vegetables.
Rationing of meat and butter didnít end in England until July that year
(1954). We used to get our butter and meats from Australia and New
Zealand as the ships had very large refrigeration spaces so these items
had to last over 3 months. I think we used to have 3 refrigeration
engineers and of course we were not air-conditioned. Portholes were
opened and scoops in place to catch the fresh sea air. That was okay if
you were on the higher decks but it had to be a very flat sea otherwise
the scoops would 'catch a wave'.
had no problems in Greece and soon we were on our way to Port Said.
Here the only people allowed ashore were those with passports so the
majority of our passengers still hadnít been ashore! The local
police/immigration people always came aboard without pens, rubber stamp
pads etc. plus ink for the pads so we always had to supply same. No
doubt they were sold once they got ashore! Our local
agent always brought on the crew lists of all the ships that had passed
through since we had last visited. They didnít mean much to me then but
on later voyages they were always interesting reading to see which
ships colleagues you knew were on. It was here that all the bum boats
came alongside and offered their various goods and fruits with
passengers throwing their monies down and the baskets being hauled up,
there were always lots of young boys diving into the water retrieving
coins before they sank to the bottom. Up on deck we had the Gully Gully
man performing. I suppose in this day and age with all the high
security on ships passengers donít have the same opportunities? It was
a night time trip through the Suez Canal and and on to Aden all the
time getting hotter and hotter and with no air conditioning! Always
plenty of cold beer though.
the meantime we were now in whites, deck competitions had started,
fancy dress items were being made, card games and bingo being played
and of course dancing in the evenings. These were 5 week voyages from
London to Sydney and there wasnít the variety of extra entertainment
like there is nowadays on cruises. From time to time there were film
shows and the cadet learnt how to run the 35mm projector, you had to
make sure you didnít miss the appropriate switch to the other projector
and you had to learn how to fix a broken film (which always seemed to
take too long followed by the suitable cheers from the audience).
now I had got to know most of the officers by name, but became very
friendly with the junior engineers who had a lot more experience than
me but were closer to my age. Some of these I am still corresponding
with and others who have sadly passed on I still exchange Christmas
cards with their widows, many of whom I have met. Some did go on to
hold more senior roles. We therefore often got together after the
office closed and before dinner. Then after dinner we advanced to the
dance floor to try our luck. Unfortunately for me the more senior
officers seemed to get the best girls and I was still under 18 and had
to be off decks at 2200 hours! I was however a good dancer, so didnít
do too badly on the dance floor and being very agile did very well at
going under the low bar. I loved the swing music but we werenít
officially meant to dance those types of dances, but if senior officers
werenít present, doing the Charleston and jiving was great. Yes, I was
still learning on the job and as you know there were regular Captainís
inspections where the purser was always present of course with the
cadet holding on to his coat tails taking appropriate notes and making
sure relevant people knew what had to be done and so on. Sometimes the
surgeon joined the procession.
it was the passenger accommodation being inspected the leading
accommodation steward was also there. Some pursers wore white gloves
and would rub their hands along ledges and around toilet bowls! Woe
betide any bedroom steward (BRS) if a dirty cabin was found. If it was
other parts of the ship then the relevant head would be there. I was
certainly learning more about a purserís responsibilities which were
far greater than I had originally thought. He had responsibilities for
the passengers' well being, the crew which ran the various departments,
the entertainment which often fell under the staff captain's role,
finances, stores and ordering same, the menus were always presented to
him by the chef the day before so they could be printed. Yes, we did
have a printer on board. From time to time there were special menus for
special nights. The forthcoming dayís entertainment was planned and the
daily programme was 'Banda' printed by the purserís office and ready to
be delivered to passengers' cabins with their 'wake up' cuppa! If there
were shore excursions at the next port of call these were also listed.
The excursions were sold by the purserís office. Each port of call had
a special 2-4 page leaflet which was delivered to each passenger, it
included a map showing where the ship would be berthed and nearby
duty I had from time to time was doing the rounds after 2230 hours with
a deck officer and the master at arms. Generally to see if it was all
quiet and peaceful below decks. We rarely walked on the upper decks as
it wasnít quite our job to catch those lingering behind stanchions or
couples star gazing. Naturally walking the crew decks could sometimes
be a problem but we never had to use that old navy term 'show a leg' to
see if a lady was in the cabin (or hammock in the navy days!) The
best bit was where we adjourned to the night pantry manís area and he
made us a sandwich. A sandwich was two slices of bread with a nice
chunk of cheese or a slice of ham (this is of course what you got in
those days in both England and Australia in comparison to what is
available today!). Then off to bed and hopefully not being woken up
with a cable for the Captain.
We were now in the Arabian Sea heading for Aden which was a British colony. A bit of history as I am sure many of the later seadogs would not have visited Aden. It was in 1839 that British East India Company landed royal marines at Aden to secure the territory to protect its shipping from pirates etc. It was declared a free port and was a fresh watering hole and coal for the earlier vessels and fuel oil for later ships. It was under British control until 1967 when the last to leave were the Royal Marines by the end of that year. Mail was often dropped here for P&O ships to India and the Far East and picked up on the return journey for the UK.
where the smells of the East permeated the ship long before you saw
land. I was allowed ashore here for my first glance of an Arab country
at ground level. We anchored off shore and various barges came
alongside with fuel, water, stores and mail. This was a duty free port
but I had little money to spend as my wage was only £16.00 per month.
At this time the Japanese were getting into the export business by
copying major successful brands so you had to be careful as you could
buy a Parker pen for about £2 if I remember correctly but the fakes had
a full stop after the P so they said they werenít copying, it was so
small that you wouldnít notice it. Those passengers who were allowed
ashore of course ended up with a fine collection of silks plus a lot of
junk as well.
were now on the long leg across to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) which was a
British colony until about 1967. It is 5 degrees above the equator and
very warm. We were going to Colombo the capital and passengers were
going to be allowed ashore. I canít remember if those on the British
travel card were allowed. There were to be shore excursions and I was
going to accompany one going to do a city tour ending up at the Galle
Face Hotel for lunch and a swim. The only advice I was given was that I
didnít lose my list of passengers and make sure I didnít lose any of
them and always check the bars and beach. This was the first of many
tours I did during my 33 years with Orient Line and then P&O.
You anchor off again in Colombo and again the various barges came alongside with fresh water, fuel and lovely and interesting fruit and vegetables plus a wide variety of fish. The bum boats came out of course and I think before we sailed there was a concert of Ceylonese musicians and dancers. We did have a similar show at the Galle Face Hotel. To me this was a wonderful hotel, not having seen anything like it before. All passengers successfully re-boarded the barges and we returned to the Ship.
Lankaís iconic landmark, the Galle Face Hotel, is situated in the heart
of Colombo, along the seafront and facing the famous Galle Face Green.
One of the oldest hotels east of the Suez, the Galle Face Hotel
embraces its rich history and legendary traditions, utilising them to
create engaging, immersive experiences that resonate with old and new
generations of travellers alike. No visit to Sri Lanka is complete
without staying at this majestic hotel, built in 1864 and recently
restored back to its former glory. I extracted this from the hotels
we would cross the equator and with most passengers not having crossed
before the numbers for King Neptune would be limited, but the cadet
purser was on the 'dunking' list. A few children were included as well
as a selection of adult passengers. All relevant passengers would be
given a certificate that they had crossed the line.
did mention earlier that every cabin had a water tank above their cabin
basin and the showers were fresh water but the baths salt water. The
ships desalination plant was stretched but not as bad as on the return
voyage where Australians seem to want 3 or 4 showers a day. I know in
our household we had a bath a week, same at boarding school!
long section of ocean between Colombo and Fremantle was often hectic
with passengers getting ready for the fancy dress evening, making
costumes. The kids also had a fancy dress parade during this time. Many
activities were played out and others ran during other parts of the
voyage such as race meeting night which was run by the purserís staff.
A casino night was held, card competitions, different deck sports (I
donít think we played cricket on Otranto although we had the space).
All the various events built up to various presentations where
passengers received a prize from cups to teaspoons to sailor dolls,
miniature life belts etc. The farewell dinner before Fremantle was a
special event and the Captain sometimes said a few words. The Fremantle
departing passengers were packing up and the crew sorted their baggage
There was a brief break to this long sector of the voyage as we passed Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands. I canít remember but I think we dropped mail at Christmas Island and picked up same that was brought to the ship by the natives boats. They did have their own stamps which I think we sold at the letter bureau. Christmas Island is some 950 km NE of the Cocos Keeling Islands. It has been an Australian territory since 1958 with its main population being Malays. It was discovered on Christmas Day 1643 but only settled in the late 19th century. Phosphate was the main industry but the plant has now closed. During the Second World War the Island was taken over by the Japanese in 1942. Presently it's known as a detention centre for boat refugees. The Cocos Keeling Islands, some 2750 km NW of Fremantle was first discovered by Captain William Keeling in 1609 and finally settled in 1826. They are a group of Coral Islands which for over 100 years were ruled by the Clunies-Ross family. Their main crop is copra which is exported to SE Asia and Australia. The military took over the Islands during both world wars where it became home to thousands of military personnel. The battle between HMAS Sydney and the German raider SMS Emden took part off these Islands and the Emden beached on the reef at North Keeling Island. During the Second World War it was a strategic staging post between Australia and India and was bombed by Japanese forces. The Islands became an Australian territory in 1955 and the main population is mainly Malays and Chinese. Only two of the 27 islands are populated. In 1943 Qantas began a non stop service across the Indian Ocean between Perth and Colombo via Cocos Keeling. They flew 5700km and averaged 27-30 hours in the air! A circumnavigation of both group of Islands broke the long sea voyage.
at last and we passed Rottnest Island picking up the pilot through Gage
Roads finally and arrived alongside at Fremantle. We met the agent (an
Orient Line employee) with mail etc. which had to be sorted before
passengers disembarked. Also embarked was a Doctor whom every passenger
and crew member had to pass in front of baring ones arms for
inspection. I canít remember what he was looking for but it was a long
process and nobody could go ashore until all passengers were cleared.
Not much to see looking over the deck to Fremantle, just a lot of
wharf. After I had done my usual duties of welcoming the
officials I had to go onto the wharf and supervise the disembarking of
passengers. I cannot remember ever going into Perth, but did manage a
walk around Fremantle once. Ironically enough, after I swallowed the
anchor in 1957 I became Passenger Manager WA in 1970 and was situated
in Perth. I was appointed there to boost P&O and Orient Lines non
shipping business. Old time staff members couldnít understand why I
didnít live between the office and Fremantle. Very few passenger ships
calling! Fremantle hadnít changed much until when it won the right to
host the Americas Cup in January 1987.
afternoon, I helped with embarkation and met my first group of our
Australian passengers. In those days Orient Line had the right to carry
passengers between Australian ports, which was forbidden by mainly
foreign flagged migrant ships. The bad news was that duty free was over
and drinks were a higher price! Perthís population became approximately
20+% pommy migrants! Life in the bureau continued as normal as I have
said earlier routines didnít change much. Port Adelaide our next port
of call. Here the local trains came down alongside the wharf. It was
interesting to note that the ends of each carriage had an open
platform, just like the wild west trains. I did manage a ride on one of
these to have a couple of hours in Adelaide and first chance to see an
Australian City. I loved the fresh fruit juice bars the likes of
which I had never seen before!
couple of days later and we are picking up the pilot at Queenscliff and
the agents further down Port Phillip Bay. At this time there was
Station Pier (and still there today) and Princess Pier. I canít
remember which one we berthed at. Public Transport was easily
accessible. A very large number of our migrant passengers disembarked
here and found themselves being transported to migrant camps well out
of the city and often to semi isolated country locations. I was lucky
here as the harbour master, an old friend of my Bibby Line uncle
invited me to lunch at the Melbourne Club (the no1 Gentlemanís Club in
Melbourne having a very select and strict membership code), I was
picked up by his chauffeur and taken to and from the club. As a 17 year
old I never knew such premises existed and had to be very careful of my
Ps and Qs!
Melbourne, at that time, we were usually in port 3 days. Remember we
carried a lot of mail and general cargo. We usually sailed about 1600
hours and it was 2 days to Sydney. Another farewell dinner, tearful
goodbyes, last minute exchange of addresses, come and see us when you
are next in Sydney and so on!
Sydney at last! What a magnificent sight it is going through the Heads
and seeing the Harbour Bridge in the distance with the morning sun
glowing against the metal. I couldnít get over all these houses coming
right down to the waterfront. Why didnít I have a camera? The slow sail
up the harbour, the tugs picking up their lines, taking us under the
bridge to 13 Pyrmont. I have been fortunate in my life as having
visited over 80 countries but coming in to Sydney Harbour tops the lot!
days we had 8 days in Sydney, restoring, discharging and loading cargo,
possibly a few days leave. For the time ashore, whilst the Pyrmont
Hotel was just up the road, it was 6 pm pubs closing time. If you were
on gangway duty it could be pretty hectic with many drunken crew coming
back trying to sneak their lady friends on board. Doing the lower deck
rounds those evenings could be quite harrowing, especially for a young
man who still hadnít been to a pub! Fortunately the master at arms and
a couple of quartermasters together with a deck officer they managed to
control it all.
I was given 3 days leave and went to visit a couple from my old school
who hosted me at the special dinner the school gave those leaving. I
hadnít met them before and they drove me to their house which was near
Cronulla, which is south of Sydney and was on Burraneer Bay. It was 5
bedrooms, very spacious living area, a swimming pool and tennis court,
a motor boat at their own wharf and lovely gardens. I was spoilt
rotten, especially for a lad who had lived through the war. They
came to Australia before the war and had established a paint
in Sydney I did manage to get ashore and enjoy myself especially
enjoying the fruit juice bars. Being on £16.00 a month didnít leave me
with a lot of surplus cash. Closer to sailing the purserís office
became a hive of activity getting ready for embarkation, ship
inspections, loading lots of cargo, stores (frozen meats for over 3
months), fresh fruits and vegetables and all the other food stores
required to satisfy over 1400 passengers and crew. Australian beers
were loaded but I donít think much Australian wine was. The ship
carried lots of French and German wines. I mentioned earlier that my
cabin was abutting the shipís shop, running lengthwise and there was a
porthole almost next to the hold and I found out, by the smell, that
they had loaded sheep skins which I had to 'enjoy' for the next few
weeks! It wasnít very pleasant if one was entertaining!
day! All the purserís staff very busy and embarkation was very chaotic
unlike today for shipís departure. The greatest number embarked at
Sydney, their friends carrying cartons or eskys of beer and trays of
eats. This was typical of Australian departures for many years to come.
The bars werenít allowed to be open. Then the rush to get the visitors
ashore. When I got back on deck I couldnít believe the sight of all the
streamers being thrown from the ship to their friends and relatives
ashore. There were vendors wandering round the ship selling streamers
also ashore. My job here was to go to the radio room and play the range
of nautical sailing records such as Anchors Away, Rule Britannia and
the Maori's Farewell. This last one was played as the streamers broke
as the ship pulled away from the wharf, tears streaming from motherís
and friends eyes as their loved ones were off to the big wide world,
especially England for a working holiday. England was still called home
by many Australians. The ship swing round, the tugs take up the slack
and we're off to go under the bridge, through the Heads and turn south
for Melbourne again.
am reminded of a story of a chap throwing a streamer and hitting the
young lady standing next to him. He apologised saying ďif your heart is
as soft as your bosom my name is AnonĒ (to protect the
innocent!). Her reply ďif your old fellow is as hard as your
elbow my cabin is A21Ē. Time was limited before you reached the bridge
but if you were successful then you could claim to be an 'Under the
Bridge' club member.
a surprise I had when I went to my table for second sitting dinner!
There were 6 ladies and only one gentlemen. It turned out the ladies
were all trained nurses and were going to further their experience in
England. That night, over coffee which was held in one of the lounges,
I suddenly found I had a lot of new friends in junior engineers etc.
who wanted to join me and the ladies! At least I didnít have to buy a
drink that night. Interestingly two of them eventually married girls
from my table, one couple ending up in Rockhampton and the other in
Auckland. I kept in touch over many years since. They were a very
bright and cheerful group and made the voyage home a happy one. Two or
three times I managed to go ashore with them. One funny instance after
we left Australia they were in a group getting their fancy dress items
together and I joined them. I can still remember one of the girls
asking who had the Durex! I blushed as I only knew them as things the
Barber sold and were used by men! But she was referring to what we
called in England 'sticky tape'.
It was a very happy time going home, with my 'fan club', knowing the purserís office routine much better and my role in it, and knowing the ports of call, we added Marseilles on the homeward voyage. Many of the Australians disembarked at Naples or Marseilles and either toured Europe from there or went overland to London, their new home. I managed a break in both Athens and Marseilles. We were now getting towards the Bay of Biscay, after rounding Gibraltar, and some rough weather before heading up the English Channel and into the Thames for Tilbury! This was now early April but where was the sunny weather? I found Tilbury rather depressing after Australia and the wonderful weather we had (after all it was summer when we visited). My role here was making sure the passengers disembarked safely and I said fond goodbyes to 'my girls' and in fact I did catch up with them in what was called in those days 'Little Australia' also known as Kensington. There was the Down Under Club where they sold Aussie beer, had dancing and you could catch up with ex passengers. Also in those days Australian banks and Australia House had mail rooms and people had mail sent there as they often didnít have a fixed addresses, they also had Australian newspapers. I always visited these banks, Australia House and the Down Under Club when I was home on leave.
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