Monthly Archives: December 2019

ON THE HOOGHLY Chapter 12

CHAPTER XII

Scenting a tow—On the Chittagong run—A leg of pork—The James and Mary shoal—The loss of the Swallow—Loss of the Mahratta—Turkeys from Chittagong.

AFTER going through the False Point cyclone I was put on board the barque Cynosure at 10.30 on September 24th. I see from the pocket-book that the captain’s name was Semple and that she was drawing fourteen feet. We sailed into Saugor and anchored. This vessel was bringing a cargo of horses from Australia, and as was usual with such a cargo there were windsails rigged over each hatch to send a current of air down below.

As we sailed through the Gasper Channel I sighted a sailing vessel hull down to the westward. I had never before seen a sailing ship in such a position, for the Western Channel had not been used in my time or indeed for many years past; so I concluded that the captain had mistaken his position and that on discovering his mistake he would haul his wind on the starboard tack and stand down again, but as we came to anchor I saw that he was standing to the westward close hauled; evidently he had sighted us and decided to come in our direction, for he wore round and stood straight for us although between us stretched for miles the Long Sand, parts of which would be dry at low water. We could do nothing to help him for he was hull down and would not have been able to read our signals. I watched him through my glass, knowing that the course ho was steering was bound to put him ashore, and when I saw the courses being clewed up and the topgallant halyards let go I knew that he had got there. The ship was the

167 158

ON THE HOOGHLY

Star of A lb ion with a cargo of coal. She became a total loss, but the crew were taken off.

On the following day we sighted a smoke to the northward, and as it might be a tug I had the windsails taken down so as to give nothing away, for the tug would put up the price if he knew that we had a cargo of horses which it was important to put on shore as soon as possible. It was a tug, the Retriever, Captain Hamer. We offered him a thousand rupees for the tow up. Before replying Hamer steamed right round us and as he passed to leeward and the pungent odour of the stable struck his nostrils he cried out, ” You’ve got horses aboard.” It was useless to deny the fact, and the barque had to pay accordingly. We could not make a start that day, so Hamer said that he would go and have a look at the ship ashore on the western edge of the Long Sand. He had to make a long detour to get to her, and when he came ahead next morning told me that the captain of the ship would not engage him.

In the following year (1886) I became special pilot for the little Chittagong mail steamers. This meant taking the steamer down the Hooghly and going on with her across the head of the Bay of Bengal to Chittagong and there awaiting the return steamer, which I took up to Calcutta where I stayed until the next mail steamer left.

Chittagong is situated a few miles up the Kornafuli river and is a picturesque collection of small hills on which the bungalows of the residents are built. At that time each bungalow stood on its own hill. There was a small club where I usually stayed, but I was frequently invited to put up with one or other of the hospitable residents. The European population was small, consisting of the Commissioner, Mr, David Lyall, the Collector, Mr. Manson, the Judge, Mr. Hardinge, Magistrate, Mr. Douglas, Superintendent of Police, Mr. T. Orr, and the various gentlemen in charge of the commercial houses. They were all very friendly and sociable and I retain many happy memories of my year on the Chittagong run. CHITTAGONG

159

In the morning everyone went for a ride on his or her pony. After breakfast the Government officials went to their Courts or Kutcherries and the business men to their offices. In the afternoon tennis or racquets, followed by whist at the club until dinner. A very regular life, and a pleasant one. On one occasion, when I had to wait several days for the next steamer, I went up the river in a steam launch and stayed a couple of days with C, Murray, at that time Superintendent of Police at Rungamuttee in the Chittagong Hill Tract. Mr. C. Gairdner, head of one of the business houses, accompanied me. The morning after our arrival we went out on elephants to a snipe jheel, and shot for a couple of hours, Gairdner, who was a fine shot, getting most of the bag. It was in August and hot. I recollect how I enjoyed being drenched with cold water from earthenware chatties when we got back to the peelkhana where the elephants were kept.

The tea-planters of the district used to come in to the club, and were, like all tea-planters, very good fellows. I stayed with several of them at different times and very much appreciated their kindly hospitality. My visit to Mr. Higgins has perhaps impressed itself on my memory more than any other. His garden was some little distance up the Kornafuli and I had to charter a boat to get there. I took my ship boy with me—although a ‘ boy,’ he was about sixty years old, and had been Mr. Smyth’s servant on the river for many years.

Mr. Higgins was a great shikarry and had I don’t know how many tigers to his credit. He organised a shoot for my benefit, and with the garden coolies beat a piece of jungle, which was expected to contain some game. Standing together in the open, Higgins suddenly whispered, ” Look out! I think they’ve put a tiger up.” I looked out at once, but could not see any tree to climb, and felt quite unable to share his evident pleasure at the prospect of meeting the King of the Jungle on foot—or his disappointment when a pig came out, which he bowled over. 180 ON THE HOOGHLY On leaving I was presented with a leg of pork wrapped up in some sacking. The coolies carried my things to the boat, and when the boatmen, who were Hindus, asked my old boy what was in the parcel, he replied, ” Having” which means ‘ deer.’ The boatmen took his word for it and carried the bundle to the boat. The old fellow chuckled as he said in an undertone, ” Ha. Kala Having ! ” He was very pleased with himself and kept chuckling at intervals at the thought of having duped the boatmen who would not have touched a pig at any price. We had the pig cooked on the steamer on our way across the bay and I did not think very much of it.

It was during my year on the Chittagong run that I witnessed the loss of the British India Company’s steamer Makratta on the James and Mary shoal. This shoal derived its name from the Royal James and Mary, a ship which was lost there on September 24th, 1694. The accounb of the tragedy was conveyed to the Court of Directors in a letter from Chuttanuttee dated December 19th, 1694 :

” The Royal James and Mary arrived from Sumatra in August, 1694, and coming up the Hooghly she fell on a bank on this side Tumbolie Point, and was unfortunately lost, being immediately overset, and broke her back with the loss of four or five men’s lives.”

Tradition averred that this dangerous shoal and quicksand had been formed at a time when the river Damooda broke its banks, and instead of flowing into the Hooghly at Ooloobaria, as it had done from time immemorial, cut a fresh channel for itself across-country and came into the Hooghly again abreast of Fultah Point, some fifteen miles lower down, in close proximity to the mouth of the Roopnarain river. The silt brought down by the Damooda, and the cross-current created by its outfall caused the shoal to form. A glance at the accompanying sketch will show the positions of the eastern and western Guts of the James and Mary. The former, scoured out by the ebb tide, had always SAND

™«qraph Sna,o„

-BACK OF

•••HOWSHHY.

HOOGHLY SAND

SKETCH OF JAMES C. MARY CROSSIN& from charts of June iqas *he atTDnA show direction of flood tide

8/S^ r 162

ON THE HOOGHLY

a deeper navigable channel than the latter, which frequently shoaled up until there were only two or three feet of water there at low water.

Hauling into the eastern Gut when bound up on a strong flood tide entailed a certain amount of risk. There was the chance of being set on to the Muckraputti Lumps, which meant disaster, or of taking a violent sheer when passing from the strong flood into the slack tide under Hooghly Point, which might result in the vessel grounding on the Point.

A sailing vessel coming up through the eastern Gut on a flood tide under sail, with a south-west wind, would always have her head yards braced sharp up on the port tack, so that they would be flat aback if she took a run for the Point. And the same at Fultah Point a little higher up, where one also passed from a strong tide into a slack. Deep-laden vessels generally waited until the flood tide had eased before attempting to haul into the eastern Gut. The flood tide, however, set fair through the western Gut, which was quite a safe bit of navigation, provided there was sufficient rise of tide to float the vessel over the bar.

The Muckraputti Lumps are quicksand and swallow anything which comes to rest on them. Many vessels lie there, piled one on top of the other. Steam has robbed the James and Mary of much of its danger, but danger there will always be until perhaps at some future date the Damooda may again burst through its banks and flow into the Roopnarain, when conditions may possibly be altered for the better.

Commander William Lindquist, of the Hon. East India Company’s Bengal Marine, Marshall, Vice Admiralty Court, Malta, has left an autobiography, in which he says : ” I n the month of June, 1822, I was put on board the barque Swallow, drawing sixteen feet of water, to take her from Balasore Roads to Calcutta. The wind was fresh and fair and I had a fine run to Diamond Harbour, where I anchored for the night. The next day, at half-flood, weighed, and THE SWALLOW

168

having rounded the Hooghly sand, bore away to cross the James and Mary shoal, a dangerous part of the river, which had proved the grave of many fine ships, since Admiral Watson took his squadron up the Hooghly in 1757. I was on the poop trimming sails, spy-glass in hand, about, or a little more, proud and elated than Palinurus when conducting the Argo into Colchis. The breeze had fallen light, but the tide was strong, and to avoid being carried up the Roopnarain (another branch of the river) I bore away too soon and struck on the bank called Muckraputty lump, which formed the other side of the channel, and thus by giving Charybdis too wide a berth encountered Scylla. The ship struck forward, hung a few minutes, turned right round, shot off into deep water and went down head foremost, colours flying, royals standing, and all in less time than I take to write this account of it.

” There happened to be on board as passengers a Mr. Sheridan, Quartermaster of His Majesty’s 13th Regt., his wife and six female children, and how we managed to save them has ever seemed to me a mystery. However, we did manage to get one of the quarter boats down, and the whole family with a couple of sailors into it, but they were not more than fifty yards from the ship when she sank.

” All the rest of us went down with the ship. Three men, good swimmers, struck out for the shore, but when we mustered on the bank they were missing, and must have been devoured by sharks or alligators.

” The ship went down as I have stated, and then surged up to the surface, starboard side uppermost and keel out of water. I found myself overboard in an eddy, whirling into the poop cabin windows, when I seized hold of the footropes of the spanker boom. The Captain of the ship, in the same eddy, caught hold of my legs, and trying to extricate myself from his grasp I gave him a kick in the mouth and knocked his front teeth out; but he held on notwithstanding, and so did I to the footrope, by means of which we both clambered on the wreck. A row-boat came and took 1«4

ON THE HOOGHLY

us off the wreck, landed us on the bank, and then on to Calcutta.”

Commander Lindquist tells us that he was born on Christmas Day, 1800, so he was twenty-two years old when the Swallow was lost. He mentions that when he joined the Pilot Service there were twelve brigs and a hundred and fifty officers of various grades. On joining the Service he was attached to the brig Cecilia. Two of his sons and two of his grandsons became pilots on the Hooghly.

To revert to the Mahratta. This steamer belonged to the B.I.S.N. Company and was running between Calcutta and Chandbally, a small port situated in Balasore Bay, carrying Indian passengers. There were two or three steamers on that run at the time, the best-known being the Sir John Lawrence. They were not piloted by members of the Bengal Pilot Service. Their commanders passed an examination on the river, and were permitted to pilot their vessels. To proceed to Chandbally they did not use the Eastern Channel but took a route of their own through the Western Channel. The Mahratta was piloted by Mr. Allen, who had been in charge of one of the tugs. There was a brisk passenger trade between Calcutta and Chandbally, and the steamers always looked pretty crowded.

I was bound up in the S.S. Euphrates, Captain Brown, on June 23rd, 1887. It was, I think, the day after the moon, perigee springs, and the flood tides were very strong. On leaving Saugor I sighted the Chandbally boat going up ahead of me and made out that she was the Mahratta. I had timed my departure from Saugor so as to arrive at the James and Mary with sufficient rise to admit of my using the western Gut. As we passed Diamond Harbour the Mahratta was about two miles ahead. With my glass I picked up the semaphore at Hooghly Point and, from the water which was showing, estimated that by the time I arrived at the western Gut there would be about two feet more than my draught. I was watching the steamer ahead LOSS OF MAHRATTA

165

of me, and as I approached Luff Point noticed that she was going to use the eastern Gut.

Almost immediately I saw her take the ground on the Muckraputti Lumps and capsize, her funnel touching the water. We went to stations, rang the engines to stand by, and stood by the anchor, and I told the captain that I would turn round below the Mahratta, and take up a position from which our boats could reach her. We turned from Hooghly Bight and headed for the Waterloo Wreck buoy which was nearly under water. So strong was the rush of tide that, steaming full-speed ahead, we barely held our own. We dropped the anchor and gave her fifteen fathoms of chain, keeping the engines going half-speed ahead.

From the position wc had taken up the tide set fair to the wreck, and we sent all our boats away, with orders to take all the people off the wreck, land them at Hooghly Point, and then, when they saw us turn to proceed up, they were to pull towards the middle of the river and we would pick them up while going through the western Gut. We had on board as passengers the crew of a sailing vessel who had been paid off at Chittagong and were going to Calcutta. They asked if they might help, and manned one of our boats, all of which fetched the wreck without difficulty; but I was unable to watch their proceedings, my attention being required by the steamer, which kept sheering about in the strong tide and eddies and I had to use the engines and helm to keep her in position.

Three other inward-bound steamers came up and turned round to render assistance, but on finding that our boats had rescued all the people turned again and went on their way through the western Gut. Among them was the S.S. Arcot, another B.I.S.N. Company steamer, who lowered one of her boats and sent it away to the Mahratta, and when later on we picked up our boats as arranged we also picked up the Arcofs boat and hoisted it up under one of ours. The chief officer of the Mahratta wa& H. S. Brown, who was 166

ON THE HOOGHLY

on the Worcester with me. He was always known afterwards as Muckraputti Brown. He commanded several of the B.I.S.N. Company’s steamers and became Port Officer at Madras, where I met him when homeward-bound on retiring in 1913.

The Arcot, which had turned to render assistance and had left one of her boats behind, was lost at the same place a few months after, as she was hauling into the eastern Gut. Her steering gear went wrong and she piled up on top of the wreck of the Mahratta. In her case there was no loss of life, but a number of the people on the Mahratta were drowned. We took off about a hundred and twenty of them.

Amongst other vessels lost on the James and Mary were the S.S. City of Canterbury on January 17th, 1897, and the Overdale on July 3rd, 1897.

While on the Chittagong run I was frequently commissioned by my friends there to bring them things from Calcutta. The ladies would want articles of milliner}’, and the men would ask me to procure something or other which was not to be bought in Chittagong, where shops were not too well stocked. On one trip I became very unpopular on the steamer because of a rather strong gorgonzola cheese which I was conveying to a friend who had a craving for that particular delicacy. The weather was hot, and the gorgonzola in addition to the ordinary smells of the steamer was rather too much for some of the seasick passengers, of whom we generally had a few ; for it was a rough passage across the head of the Bay in the south-west monsoon, and the vessels were small and lively.

The cheese was carried on deck and slung to the awning boom. Once when we were carrying a large crowd of Indian passengers in the ‘tweendecks we encountered unusually heavy weather on the journey to Chittagong. We shipped quite a lot of water and the hatches had to be battened down. I felt sorry for the people cooped up in the hot and stuffy ‘tweendecks. It was bad luck that we MR. MAC’S TURKEYS

167

were also carrying several jars of eggs in the same part of the ship, and that the lashings carrying away, the jars got smashed and the eggs mixed up with the passengers. When the hatches were opened on arrival at the mouth of the Kornafuli, the ‘tweendecks contained an omelette of the most horrible description.

There was brisk competition at that time between the B.I. Company’s steamers and those of the Asiatic S.N. Company. They each offered inducements to the Indian passengers to ship with them, gradually lowering their passenger rates one against the other. They kept on reducing their rates, until at last the Asiatic offered to take passengers from Chittagong to Calcutta for nothing. The B.I. capped this by not only taking them for nothing but by giving each passenger a bonus, in the shape of a chicken, which was handed to him as he boarded the steamer. The story ran that the Asiatic Company’s agent telegraphed to the head office at Calcutta, ” B.I. giving fowl; shall I offer turkey ? ” But this was refused as being too expensive.

Turkeys did well at Chittagong and I was asked by one of the Senior Pilots to get a couple for him at Christmas. The Port Officer’s wife very kindly promised to get two for me, and to send them on board the steamer before it sailed. I was staying with the Superintendent of Police that trip, and after dinner joined the steamer, which was leaving the next morning. They told me that a coop with two turkeys had come on board for me. In the morning I had a look at them and saw that they were two nice birds, but not so nice as another pair which had been brought on board by one of the passengers, a Mr. Mac something. His were very fine birds indeed, and I remarked to the captain what beauties they were and much bigger than mine. The captain did not like Mr. Mac, and said :

” You tip the topas and ask him to feed your birds well. I should not be surprised if they put on a lot of weight between this and Calcutta.”

He also remarked that Mr. Mac being very stingy, would 168

ON THE HOOGHLY

probably not tip the topas properly, and that his birds in consequence would suffer from neglect. I did as he suggested, and told the topas, who looked after the livestock, that he would get a rupee if he took good care of my turkeys.

On arrival at Calcutta I was surprised to see how the birds which were in the coop labelled with my name had improved, while the pair at which Mr. Mac was looking gloomily had certainly gone off. He seemed to be a rather cross-grained and suspicious sort of person, and grumbled at the topas for not feeding them up better. He even suggested that the birds had been changed, at which the topas was very indignant, as was also the captain, to whom he confided his suspicions.

But there was no blessing on those birds. The friend for whom I had executed the commission was very pleased with them and told me that his man was extremely clever at fattening turkeys by pushing balls of meal down their throats. He must have overdone it on this occasion. Two days before the anniversary on which they were to grace the board the faithful fellow, with tears in his eyes, broke the sad news to his master that they had both died.

That night there was feasting and joy in the servants’ quarters. It was not known whether they were feasting on turkey or holding revels on the proceeds of their sale.

On the Hooghly – Chapter XI

CHAPTER XI

Boarding the Cherbourg—I am nearly drowned—Tales of the cyclones—The colonial bishop—My first cyclone—The Cassandra loses her cable—A dreadful night—Heavy loss of life—The Godiva —the loss of the tug Retriever—Mr. Newby T. Wawn and Abdul” Not too much soda.”

AFTER my very enjoyable trip to the Terai I went back to work again. Things were still pretty slack, but not quite so bad as they had been and I managed to make some sort of a living, getting one or two vessels a month. I was chumming at this time with W. Mackintosh, of Mackintosh, Burn and Co., J. B. Warwick of the same company, and H. Wellard of Kerr Dodds, in a top flat over Solomons the opticians, where we were very comfortable and happy together. The missing leaves of that pocket-book if I could find them would make mention of the schooner Ruth Topping, the barque TJmvoti, and the little twin-screw steamer Medina belonging to the British India Company, for I very well remember piloting those vessels amongst others. But the first entry which remains concerns the Busheer, and reads as follows :

” September 8th : 3rd day of springs. Put on board S.S. Busheer, Captain Johnson, at 15.15. 19.0, Anchored at Saugor. September 9th : 7.0, Turned and proceeded.

7.40, Sighted nine feet at Kedgeree Semaphore. 7.50, Ten feet. 7.55, Eleven feet. 8.10, Twelve feet. 8.20, Thirteen feet,” and so on all the way up. “We passed Atcheepore at

11.42 with twenty-one feet showing at the semaphore, and got to Garden Reach at 13.15 with the ebb down.

My next record in the old book reads : ” September 15th: 3rd day of neaps. French barque Cherbourg, draught

144 NEARLY DROWNED

143

19 feet 6 inches, from Calcutta in toAV of tug Columbus.” I have good reason to remember that trip down the river, for I was nearly drowned while boarding the vessel in Garden Reach. There was very strong freshet in the river, the ebb tide running as much as seven or eight knots an hour. After dinner, about 8.30, I took a dinghy from the ghdt at Kidderpur and proceeded down to Garden Reach where the Cherbourg was lying in the stream ready to leave in the morning. As we pulled out from the ghdt I noticed strong eddies by the mooring buoys, past which the tide was rushing with a good deal of noise.

The Cherbourg was lying off Garden House Point, a bad spot in which to anchor in the freshets, because of the eddies, but the harbour master had not been able to drop any lower as there were two other ships anchored just below the Point.

The dinghy wallah turned and headed the tide just ahead of the Cherbourg, but we were swept past the vessel without being able to catch hold of anything. We pulled close in to the southern bank, where we found an eddy tide which was running up the river, and were soon in a position from which we could have another shot at getting on board, and this time I was determined not to miss her. As the dinghy swept along the vessel’s side I grabbed hold of the manrope by the side of the rope ladder ; but the dinghy shot from under my feet, the manrope being wet slipped through my hands, and I found myself in the water. I went under the harbour master’s boat and on coming to the surface again found in my hand one of the boat’s fenders, which I must have clutched as I went under.

My first idea was to strike out for the southern bank, but when I heard the sound of the water rushing past the mooring buoys at Muttcabrooj moorings, and thought of the line of eddies which would certainly be there, I altered my mind and decided to keep out in the stream. An attempt to take my jacket off nearly finished me, for I went under and found it very difficult to get to the surface

K 146

ON THE HOOGHLY

again. The two ships which were anchored below the point went by in a flash. I decided that my chances were practically nil, and that I was finished. Strangely enough this did not distress me, my sensation was rather one of relief that all the bother of life was over. Suddenly I heard the voice of the dinghy wallah calling. My philosophic resignation was gone immediately, and I yelled to him to come. It was very dark and I could not see the dinghy at once, but I swam in the direction of the voice, and when the dinghy wallah offered me the end of his boathook I seized it eagerly, climbed into the boat, and got rid of a lot of muddy water which I had swallowed.

As we were making our way to the shore we met the harbour master’s boat which had been sent to my rescue and to which I transferred myself, belongings, and servant, and was soon put on board the Cherbourg, where I relieved the harbour master, and spent the night watching the steering, for owing to the eddies the vessel was sheering about all over the place and I feared she would part her cable.

Referring again to the notebook. It says: ” 3.30, Started to unmoor “—which means that she was moored with two anchors down because of the violence of the current. The next entry is : ” 7.0, Turned and proceeded.” The tug Columbus, Captain Stone, had come ahead after we had hove short, and we had passed hawsers, picked up, and catted the anchor, and were off. ” 8.15, Abreast Atcheepore. Crossed Moyapur Bar with twelve feet up, bad eddies below Devil’s Point” (they must have been unusually bad or I should not have made a note of them). ” 10.15, Brought up at Fultah, the serang having shown 13 feet best track Nynan.”

What happened was that as we towed through Fisherman’s Point anchorage a steam launch blew his whistle to attract our attention, and showed us a black board with the news about Nynan, which is a bar just above the James and Mary shoal. I learnt subsequently that on the previous MYg FIRST CYCLONE

147

day the sailing ship Argomene, in pilotage charge of Mr. Newby Wawn, had grounded in Nynan, very nearly capsizing. She got off on the night’s tide and towed down below the James and Mary, but her grounding had caused the bar to silt up.

It was rather a business turning round after reading the notice on the blackboard, for we were flying down with a strong ebb tide, and by the time we got round were below the anchorage, where the channel was none too wide. Stone, the tug master, was one of the best and turned me beautifully.

We waited there, hanging on to the tug and with our anchor under foot, until the tide had risen. ” 12.45, Turned and proceeded. 13.45, Eastern Gut 12 feet up and slack water. 14.15, Diamond Harbour Custom House abreast. 17.15, Came to at Kedgeree, near the Upper Dredge buoy in 8 fathoms with 35 fathoms of chain. Rode a quiet tide. September 16th : 6.0, Turned and proceeded. 9.25, Lower Gasper Light.” And that is all ib says, but I probably got on board the brig about one o’clock and have no doubt that I was glad to get there.

After my exciting time in boarding the Cherbourg there was more excitement waiting for me at the Sandheads ; for in September, 1885, I went through my first cyclone, on board the p.v. Cassandra. The old hands had spun us many a yarn about the cyclones they had been through and of the ships which had been lost in them. There was the story of the two Bengal pilots who were returning from furlough in the days before the Suez Canal, when everyone travelled round the Cape. They were passengers on one of Green’s ships, and as they ran up the Bay of Bengal their knowledge of local weather conditions told them that they were running into a cyclone. With some diffidence they acquainted the captain with their opinion and suggested that it might be wise to heave-to until the weather looked a little less threatening. But the captain of one of Green’s ships was rather a dignitary, and this particular captain did 148

ON THE HOOGHLY

not want any outside advice. He said that when he wanted their opinion he would ask them for it. Some few hours later when they ‘ got it in the neck ‘ he did ask them what they thought he had better do. But there was then nothing to be done but see it through, and they were dismasted and very nearly lost.

There was the story of the other dignitary, a colonial bishop, who was passenger in a sailing vessel under similar conditions in the Bay of Bengal and who, in the height of

THE SOLE SURVIVOR

the tempest, managed to make his way to where the skipper stood under the lee of the after-deckhouse and asked him what he thought of their chances. On receiving the reply that their only hope was in the Deity, he cried in his agony, ” Good Heavens ! Is it as bad as all that ? ” Another man told how several days after the Midnapore cyclone, when he was in charge of a sailing vessel, they rescued an Indian who was floating on the roof of a hut, who told them that he had originally been one of five on the roof. From his plump condition they reluctantly concluded that he must have eaten the other four.

From these and other talcs of the same kind I gathered that a cyclone was rather an awful experience. I was now EASTERLY WEATHER

149

about to see for myself whether it was as bad as they made out.

It was the 21st of September. We had had easterly weather for some days and, as always with easterly weather, there was a strong set to the westward. The glass was not particularly low, somewhere about 29.30, but was falling slowly all the time. I was on the Cassandra, of which Mr. Barnet was still in command. There were, to the best of my recollection, five other pilots on board besides myself, amongst them W. Kendal, P. Paulson and C. Collingwood, senior. With easterly weather and a strong current running to the westward it was impossible to keep on the pilot station under sail, and the Cassandra, which was acting as buoy brig and taking pilots out of outward-bound vessels, was anchored a couple of miles south of the Eastern Channel Light.

About mid-day wc sighted a smoke to the northward, which proved to be the country ship, Merchantman, towing out. At 14.0 the boat was sent away to her, and as it had difficulty in fetching back, because of the strong easterly set, we had to trip the anchor and drift until we could pick it up, when Mr. Paine, Mate Pilot, came on board and said that Captain Mourylion of the Merchantman did not like the look of the weather and wanted our opinion as to whether it was cyclonic or not. The opinion of the pilots on board was that it was just an easterly gale, and we signalled that opinion to the ship. She cast off the tug, made sail on the port tack, and the tug proceeded upchannel.

As the afternoon wore on the weather grew worse, the easterly squalls increasing in violence and the current to the westward becoming stronger. The glass began to fall more rapidly, and a succession of low, ragged-looking clouds kept racing across the sky. As the Cassandra was dragging her anchor we paid out more chain, until we were riding with a scope of sixty fathoms. Some five fathoms or more of it would be seen stretching tautly ahead as we lifted to an 150

ON THE HOOGHLY

extra large wave, to disappear the next moment as the brig buried her nose in a churned-up mass of foam. It was obvious that if things got much worse there would be a likelihood of the cable parting, and I asked the older men whether in that case, with the strong westerly set which was running, we should be able to weather False Point. They pointed out that the current setting into Balasore Bay would have to sweep down south past False Point and would probably carry a vessel clear of the Point.

With the dense mass of cloud overhead it became dark early. We slung our cots to the beams in the ‘tweendecks and turned in, but the brig was rolling heavily as well as plunging, and every now and again the cot would bang up against the beams in a way which made getting to sleep a matter of difficulty. I don’t know whether any of the others got any sleep, but I know that I did not, but lay there listening to the howling of the wind and the noise of the chain on the windlass as she surged back to some extra large wave.

Suddenly the brig’s motion became easier, and I heard the officer of the watch sing out that the cable had parted. On going on deck I found all the others there, discussing whether it would be advisable to heave in what was left of the cable, or slip it and make what sail we could without loss of time, in view of the importance of getting south as much as possible and clear of the tails of the sands. The pin was knocked out of the shackle, the cable slipped, the lower topsails loosed and sheeted home, the fore staysail set, and the brig brought to the wind on the port tack. She lay right down to it, putting the lee rail under, and almost immediately the lower foretopsail blew away ; but the lower maintopsail hung on for some time before splitting and blowing to ribbons.

The squalls now were of intense violence, and the noise of the wind deafening. It was impossible to raise the head above the weather rail, where the spray and rain struck the face like a charge of shot. The lascars, although excellent THROUGH THE CENTRE

151

seamen, and good boatmen in ordinarily hard weather, are apt to throw up the sponge when things look really desperate, and from the forepeak came a dismal chorus of ” Allah! ” which did not tend to make matters more cheerful. But on that, as on subsequent occasions, I found that the serang, tyndals (boatswain’s mates) and two or three of the men refused to take it lying down, and kept on deck. Towards daybreak the weather eased up a bit, the squalls became less violent, and the pilots assisted the few men who were still working to get two lower topsails from the sail locker and bend them. The wind was still easterly and the problem of weathering False Point still our chief concern.

As daylight came in the wind fell light and we found ourselves in a very heavy, confused sea which appeared to be breaking in all directions. A cast of the deep-sea lead brought up sand on the arming, and we fixed our position as somewhere west of the Ridge. It was very thick and murky. The wind died right away, and we lay tumbling about for some little time before we got it, again from the westward and stood back for the Station. In the afternoon a ship hove in sight to the southward with her foretopmast gone, and we put a pilot on board her. I cannot remember her name, but we learnt that she had been through the centre of the storm off False Point and had picked up the second mate of the Merchantman, the only survivor of that vessel, which had foundered. This officer became an Assistant Harbour Master at Calcutta and some years afterwards fell overboard from the steam launch Enchantress in Garden Reach and was drowned.

The Cassandra had not felt the full violence of the storm as she was some distance from the centre when it struck the coast. We lost no spars or boats and got off very lightly with the loss of a couple of sails.

On the next day, September 23rd, the ship Viscount appeared to the north-westward and we took Mr. Goodwin, Master Pilot, out of her. She had left Saugor on the 21st 152

ON THE

HOOGHLY

in tow. but the w eather had become so bad while towing down the Eastern Channel that the tug had to cast off. The Viscount made sail and stood across the tail of the Eastern Sea Reef. Beiiii, a very smart ship she managed to survive, but they had had an anxious time beating about in Balasore Bay and had narrowly escaped disaster amongst the sands.

Shortly after we had taken Mr. Goodwin out of the Viscount, a small German schooner, the Franz, hove in sight to the north-west and Mr. Skinner, Mate Pilot, was taken out of her. He also had had a very bad time and some hairbreadth escapes.

We learnt aft era ards that the centre of the cyclone had passed over False Point, accompanied by a storm-wave fifteen feet high which, after submerging and drowning everything at Hookey Toll ah. the small station on the inner side of Dowdeswell Island where the Port Officer and the Customs Authorities resided, rushed inland with great velocity to a distance of about twelve miles, and the whole country thus far was completely inundated.

The loss of life on shore was appalling, being by the official estimate nearly 5,000. At False Point the Port Officer, Mr. Douglas, together with his wife and four children were drow ned, the body of Mr. Douglas being found under some bushes some way inland. Of the Customs Authorities all were drowned save two.

The barque Tewkesbury, lying at False Point, lost the master, boatswain and four of the crew, washed overboard by the storm wave. All the buildings al Hookey Tollah were washed away exccpl the refuge house, •which with a few coconut trees were the only objects left standing.

The aspect of the whole of the harbour had changed so completely that the place could Imnlly be recognised when the British India Steamer Goa entered the harbour shortly after the storm.

The tug which had towed the Viscount to sea had been able to get back again to Saugor and was more fortunate LOSS OF THE ” RETRIEVER”

158

than the tug Retriever in the cyclone of May, 1887, which after towing the ship Godiva to sea was lost with all hands except one fireman. The ship Godiva left Garden Reach on the morning of May 23rd, 1887, in tow of the Retriever and in pilotage charge of Mr. Newby T. “Wawn. They anchored at Saugor on May 24th. On the morning of the 25th, when the tug came ahead to pass hawsers, Captain Hamcr, who commanded her, remarked that he did not like the look of the weather; but Mr. Wawn decided to proceed as the glass was standing at 29.50 which was not a very low reading for the time of the year. They took in tow and left Saugor at 7 a.m., passing the Lower Gasper at 10.30 by which time the wind had increased to gale force from east-north-east and the glass was falling rapidly. At 12.15 the tug was cast off and the Godiva stood down south under lower topsails. The glass was then standing at 29.10. There was a high sea running and it was blowing hard from the east-north-east. The Retriever stood over to the eastward and was soon lost to sight from the ship in the blinding rain. That night the centre of a cyclone swept over the Sandheads. The Godiva weathered it safely, made the station again the following day, and discharged her pilot, Mr. Wawn. Of what happened to the Retriever after casting off the Godiva and standing to the eastward the only account is that given by a fireman, the sole survivor, who was picked up by the inward-bound P. & O. steamer Nepaul on the morning of the 26th when making the Pilot Station.

When they sighted the man he was clinging to a plank, and the weather being too bad to permit of a boat being lowered, they had to manoeuvre into position to drift down on him, then a lascar was lowered with a rope and succeeded in getting him on board. So bad was the weather al the time that while turning round to pick him up they lost sight of him during a heavy squall and made sure that he was gone. But when the squall had passed they sighted him again, and watched him and his plank being rolled over and over by the breaking seas, and were filled with 154

ON THE HOOGHLY

wonder at his extraordinary tenacity and endurance. Their astonishment was increased when they learnt that he had been buffeted in like manner for many hours.

“When he had sufficiently recovered to give an account of his experiences they gathered that the Retriever’s engines had been kept going until past midnight of the 25th, when the engine-room skylight was smashed by a heavy sea which filled the engine-room and extinguished the fires. She became unmanageable, gradually filled, and went down with all hands except the fireman. I was told that he was a small, weakly-looking man, not at all the sort of person to stand much knocking about, but he must have possessed marvellous powers of endurance and great vitality. Fortytwo people were lost with the Retriever, six Europeans and thirty-six Indians. These were the master, the mate, three engineers and one passenger, eighteen deck hands, and the same number employed in the engine-room. Captain Hamer was a very skilful tug master, one of the smartest among a smart body of men, and he was much regretted by the pilots—as was also the tug. It was replaced by another and more powerful Retriever to deal with the larger and heavier sailing vessels then coming to the port.

After coming to anchor at Kulpee or Mud Point, the pilot and leadsman of a ship would sometimes be invited to dine on board the tug, which would probably have put the net over as soon as her anchor was down, and caught a supply of fresh chingrees or bumalo. I recall one such occasion on the first Retriever and listening with great interest to Captain Hamer’s account of a fight he had had with Chinese pirates, when in command of one of the opium brigs which used to ply between Calcutta and the far East. A tuft of black hair hanging from a nail in his cabin was a souvenir of the combat.

The pilot of the Godiva, Mr. Newby T. Wawn, was a stout fellow in every sense of the word. He was quite the heaviest man in the Service. I do not know how much he weighed, but he must have been well over twenty stone. MR. NEWBY WAWN

155

Like the majority of fat men he was placid and amiable. Having spent a great many \ears on the river without proceeding on leave to Europe, he decided soon after the loss of the Retriever to take a rest and renew his acquaintance with the Old Country. There was no difficulty in obtaining leave or securing a passage; but he was faced with the serious problem of lacing up his boots. He had not seen his feet for many years. He knew that they were there, because he could see their reflection in his looking-

2^Q .

MR. NEWBY WAWN

glass, but he was unable to reach them, and they had to be attended to by Abdul, his faithful ship’s boy, who dried them after the morning bath, and put them into socks and shoes, which he removed again in the evening when his master retired to rest.

After careful consideration, Mr Wawn decided that Abdul would have to go to England with him, and accompanied by Mrs. Wawn and the faithful Abdul he took his 156

ON THE HOOGHLY

departure. When he reappeared, after an absence of more than twenty years, in his native village, his unusual proportions excited much interest among the juvenile population, who followed him about with awe and wonderment when he took his walks abroad, Abdul, who was a good-looking lad, claimed almost as much attention from the girls of the village, who swarmed round him (according to Mr, Wawn) likefliesround a pot of jam, and it became necessary to ship him back to Calcutta, much to his master’s regret. Mr. Wawns feet then became the care of Mrs. Wawn, until they returned to Calcutta.

In spite of his size and weight Mr. Wawn managed to climb in and out of the boat and up the ladders of inward-bound ships and steamers with remarkable agility. I recollect, however, that on one occasion he had a nasty fall when trying to climb on board the B.I.S.N. Company’s S.S. Manora. It was in the evening and dark, the Manora lay to on our weather quarter, and we saw the boat reach her. A few minutes afterwards her captain hailed us through his megaphone that Mr. Wawn had fallen into the boat and was injured, and would we send another pilot. As soon as the boat got back to our gangway we all helped to hoist the injured man on board. It was no easy task, but at last we landed him on the rail and then carried him to one of the settees. His eyes were closed and he lay quite motionless. Mr. Bellow, who had helped to carry him, said sadly,” I think he’s gone.” I said,” Would you like a little whisky, Ncwby ? “

His eyelids trembled, and he murmured, ” Not too much soda,” and we knew that we had not lost him.

He declared that the manropes wc-re greasy and slipped through his hands. In falling he had landed on the secunny, who really was very badly damaged.

SPEYBANK/DOGGERBANK – SAGA

Courtesy of http://www.netherlandsnavy.nl

The Doggerbank story

Introduction

Some time ago, I was reading in K.W.L. Bezemer’s book “Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Koopvaardij in de Tweede Wereldoorlog”, and I came across a chapter dealing with the mining of the freighter Mangkalihat, near South Africa. This chapter especially drew my attention because the mine doing all the damage was laid by a ship I had never heard of before. Most of us interested in naval warfare know the story of the German raiders, disguised merchants with heavy guns marauding the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. They laid mines off large ports, adding more ships and tonnage to their score. However, this was not one of them, although her history was closely related. The British freighter Speybank, owned by the Bank Line in Liverpool, was captured by the German raider Atlantis, and was subsequently brought to France by a prize crew. There, she was converted to auxiliary minelayer. Renamed Doggerbank, she made a daring sortie to the waters of South-Africa, where she laid her dangerous cargo. Surprisingly, I found nothing worth mentioning about this ship or her history on the Internet. 

Schiff 16

In the evening of January 31 1941, a lookout aboard Atlantis reported a mast on the distant horizon, soon followed by the vague silhouette of a merchant ship. An hour later, the British steamer Speybank lay stopped in the vast area of the Indian Ocean, awaiting the German boarding party to take over the ship. Atlantis under captain Bernhard Rogge lay further away, with her guns ready to counter any opposition on the British side. However, the captain of the Speybank had soon come to the conclusion that trying to escape would be suicide, as his ship could not begin to match the speed and firepower the German raider boasted. A whaleboat brought 17 of the British crew to the Atlantis, while the Germans quickly took command of the ship. The ship had been enroute from Cochin to New York with a cargo of tea, valuable manganese ore and teakwood. Kapitän zur See Rogge immediately realized the value of the cargo, and ordered the ship to a safe location for the time being. The Speybank had a full store of supplies and sufficient fuel to make it to France. 

On March 21 1941, Atlantis rendezvoused with the Speybank for the last time, as captain Rogge had decided to send the ship with its valuable cargo to France. The raw materials in the holds would be put to good use in the German industry. He decided to put the ship under command of an young officer named Schneidewind, from the blockade runner Tannenfels. Schneidewind [1], who knew the waters of Asia well, proved to be a capable officer. He navigated the Speybank through the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic, and finally arrived safely in Bordeaux on May 10. Immediately after arrival, Schneidewind suggested that the German Navy convert the Speybank to auxiliary minelayer. The idea of laying mines near distant ports must have intrigued the higher naval officers, they decided to accept Schneidewind’s decision. The fact that Speybank belonged to a class of 18 ships came in handy, not only because it would be easy to disguise her as one of the sisterships, but also because the disguise could be changed time after time without rousing suspicion. The ship was converted to carry a total of 280 mines of various types, and in addition, she could act as U-boat-supplyship. Her specifications were then as listed below:

NameSpeybank ( later Doggerbank )OwnerAndrew Weir & Co, GlasgowDockyardHarland & Wolff Ltd., Clydebank (No. 686 G)Dimensions128,1/133,7 x 16,41 x 7,8 mMachinery2 Harland & Wolff 6-cylinder diesels for 2300 hpSpeed11 knotsFuel1030 tArmament1 x 102 mm L/45
2 x 20 mm
155 type EMC, 55 type EMF, 70 type TMB mines
50 torpedoes for U-boats

Schiff 53

After her conversion, Speybank was commissioned as Doggerbank, and she received the codename “Schiff 53”. The Kriegsmarine staff apparently appreciated Schneidewind’s enthusiasm, because he was given command of the Doggerbank. Under her captain, the ship was quickly prepared for her new task, and on December 17 1941, she took on 280 mines in La Pallice. By mid January 1942, she was ready to set sail. Escorted by the submarine U-432Doggerbank left France for the Southern Atlantic. British ships were usually painted black or grey with a yellow superstructure. The crew started to make the ship resemble an innocent freighter, with fake corrosion as the finishing touch. The name Levernbank painted on her hull was meant to fool the nosy British patrols. Fortunately for the crew, no ships or aircraft were sighted, and by late February, Doggerbank had arrived in the warm South Atlantic to carry out Operation Kopenhagen.

Operation Kopenhagen comprised the laying of a minefield near Capetown, where many shipping lanes converged. Ships from Australia and New Zealand arrived here to make the final leg to Britain, while important troop convoys passed through the area enroute to the Middle East. Doggerbank, unlike a normal minelayer, wasn’t equipped with mine rails on a lower deck, which meant that all mines had to be hoisted to the main deck. For operation “Kopenhagen”, 75 of them were prepared, disguised as deckcargo. Schneidewind decided start the operation during the nighttime hours of March 12. Carefully, the Doggerbank approached the target area on the 12th. Things almost went wrong when in the late afternoon, an aircraft was sighted. It hailed the ship, asking for name and destination. Schneidewind ordered to signal “Levernbank from New York via Recife to Capetown”, waved a few times with his hat and then left the bridge. His resolute performance worked and the aircraft was apparently satisfied with the answer. Later that evening, a small ship was sighted, which was easily evaded. Sixty mines were laid in the early morning of the 13th. 

Schneidewind decided to retreat though the normal shipping lanes around Cape Good Hope to avoid suspicion. The idea was to lay more mines near Cape Agulhas for operation “Kairo”. Around 1945 that evening, a warship appeared on the horizon, flashing signals with a red light. Schneidewind himself thought it was a Birmingham-class cruiser, but it was in fact the older HMS Durban, enroute to Simonstown for repairs. The signal the cruiser flashed was the standard “NNJ” signal, ordering to hoist the secret letters for identification. Naturally, the Germans didn’t know this signal and simply didn’t send a reply. After coming closer, the Durban asked “What ship”, to which Schneidewind replied “Levernbank from New York to Durban, good night”. Again, his bold answer worked, as the Durban steamed on and disappeared in the dark. 

The action led to Schneidewind’s decision not to hoist more mines to the main deck, but to lay the 15 available and then to disappear as soon as possible. After laying the mines, the Doggerbank steamed south with maximum speed. Even though the British were still unaware of Doggerbank‘s presence, the region was apparently intensively patrolled. In the morning of March 14, lookouts aboard the minelayer reported a large passenger ship in the distance. It was in fact the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cheshire. Schneidewind initially made the mistake of trying to outrun the Cheshire, which raised suspicion aboard the British AMC. Schneidewind then ordered his ship to steam directly towards her foe on an opposite course. As the liner approached, it signalled “What ship”. Schneidewind replied with “Invernbank from Montevideo to Melbourne”. Immediately afterwards, the red ensign and Invernbank‘s callsign were hoisted. Cheshire again asked “Where from” and “Bound for”, to which Schneidewind replied with “Montevideo” and “Melbourne”. Satisfied with the answer, Cheshire signalled “I wish you a happy voyage”. Doggerbank replied with “Many thanks, same to you”. Cheshire then quickly disappeared. After his third narrow escape, the captain decided not to take a chance and disappeared southward. Shortly after, an increase in radiotraffic led to Schneidewind’s conclusion that his minefields apparently had made their first victims. Unfortunately, he was right.

Doggerbank’s successes

The first ship to fall victim to Doggerbank’s mines was the Dutch SS. Alcyone (4534 tons, built in 1921), enroute from Hull to Bombay and Karachi. Her cargo of military stores consisted, among other things, of 1600 tons of aircraftbombs and 9 aircraft stored on deck. Around 0130 in the early morning of March 16 1942, a violent explosion shook the ship and caused a list to starboard. Captain J. Lucas ordered the crew and passengers to make their way to the lifeboats. No distress signals could be sent due to the malfunction of the equipment, but luckily, all passengers and crewmen made it to the lifeboats safely. The last man to leave the ship was, of course, the captain, who found a large crack in the upper deck near No. 3 hold. As the three lifeboats moved away from the ship, the survivors could clearly see the Alcyone sinking bow first. The time was 0155, 25 miles west of Capetown.[2]

The sudden loss of the Alcyone caused confusion in Capetown, as no U-boat movements in this area had been reported by the Admiralty. Captain Lucas thought his ship had been torpedoed, but his statement did not convince the local Senior Naval Officer. The real cause was soon revealed, when the British Trentback reported that it had observed an unexplained explosion. A second report came in about a drifting mine, and then a British tanker even managed to pick up one with her paravanes. Needless to say, the Royal Navy immediately began concentrating minesweepers in the area, but the results of the sweeping were not very encouraging, and more ships would be lost.

The British ship Dalfram (4558 tons, built 1930 and owned by United Steam Navigation Co. Ltd) hit a mine on May 2 in position 34.10 S – 17.49 E. She had departed Capetown independently the same day, with general cargo from New York to Alexandria. Despite the damage, she made it back to Capetown under her own power. There, her cargo was discharged and dockworkers immediately started with the repairs. Both Dalfram and Alcyone were hit by mines in Doggerbank‘s first field. This minefield would soon make its third victim.

The Dutch steamer Mangkalihat (8457 tons, built 1928) under captain P.G. van Striemen was originally the German Lindenfels, captured in the Netherlands East Indies. Recommissioned under the Dutch ensign, she was now enroute from New York to Capetown with a full cargo of stores, among other things, 2400 tons of explosives. Approaching Capetown, the distress signal of the Dalfram was heard. Van Striemen ordered to increase speed, which would allow the ship to enter the swept channel during the day. Suddenly, at 0715 in the morning of May 4, an explosion jolted the ship, followed by a large column of water. Yellow smoke appeared from No. 1 hold. The engine was stopped and the crew were ordered to prepare to abandon ship. Speed was of the essence, as No. 1 hold quickly began to take on water and the ship was rapidly settling by the bow. However, No. 2 hold appeared to be undamaged and the captain had hope he could save his ship. Around 0722, the Mangkalihat started to pick up speed.

Some time later, the armed trawler Tordonn (314 tons) came to assist the battered ship, and captain Van Striemen immediately asked the trawler to take on a portion of the crew as a precaution. 63 men were then transferred to the small Tordonn, while a skeleton crew tried to keep the Mangkalihatgoing. The main concern was that the bulkhead between no. 1 and 2 holds would collapse under the force of numerous tons of water. Around 1240, the ship able to moor at Capetown. This story would most certainly have had a different ending if the 2400 tons of explosives had ignited.

Inspection by divers later revealed there was a hole of 9 by 5 metres in the bow. The repairs to Mangkalihat were difficult, as no large drydock was available, and it was questionable if she could make the trip to Simonstown safely. Fortunately, the Dutch engineer Van Overbeek had the novel idea of constructing a pontoon, sliding it under the damaged portion of the hull, and thus lifting the bow of Mangkalihat out of the water. This piece of engineering proved to work out extremely well, and the “Cape Steel Construction Company” was able to begin repairs shortly before Christmas. She made her first trip in April of the following year. ( It is quite ironical that a former German ship in Allied service was damaged by a former British ship in German service !)


To return to the Doggerbank, Schneidewind had been sent to the southern Atlantic to await further orders. Finally, they came and Doggerbankwas sent to carry out the second part of Operation “Kairo”, the laying of another minefield in addition to the 15 already there. In the night of April 16 and 17, Schneidewind laid 80 type EMC mines south-south-east of Cape Agulhas without being discovered. Again, the British were shocked to learn of a new minefield, which quickly resulted in casualties, when troop convoy WS-18 ran into it.

The destroyer-depotship HMS Hecla (10850 tons) was hit by a mine amidships, which put her steering gear out of action and opened the lower compartments to the sea. The light cruiser HMS Gambia managed to take her in tow and safely brought her to Simonstown, where it took some 18 weeks to repair Hecla. 24 (perhaps 25) of the crew were killed during this disaster.

Later that day, the transport Soudan (6670, built 1931, owned by Barclay, Curle & Co. Ltd in Glasgow) carrying 8000 tons of stores (including 400 tons of TNT) from Glasgow to Freetown and Durban, was hit by one of the mines. She succumbed to her wounds, fortunately without casualties to the crew of 77 crew or 10 gunners. Inspection revealed that the explosion blew the bottom out of No.2 hold, where the TNT was stored. Without exploding, the explosives simply disappeared in the ocean ! [3]

Although Doggerbank apparently still had mines on board [4], her role as minelayer now ended, and she was sent to Japan. Before proceeding, Doggerbank met the German raider Michel and the supplytanker Charlotte Schliemann in the South Atlantic. In position 29.19 S- 19 W, she resupplied Michel with stores and relieved her of 128 prisoners on June 21 [5]. The ships stayed together for a week, after which Doggerbank steamed to Jakarta, later to Japan. She finally dropped anchor in Yokohama on August 19 1942. After a period at the dockyard, the ship was loaded with fats, fishoil and 7000 tons of rubber. For the second time in her career, Doggerbank became a blockade runner. 

The Atlantic

The strategic situation had changed since her first run through the Allied blockade in 1941, as the United States were now actively involved in the war. U.S. cruisers and destroyers started to search for raiders and blokkaderunners, together with the overworked ships of the Royal Navy. Their searches became more and more succesful, intercepting many German ships before they even came near friendly territory. The losses of these ships meant that the cargoes that did get through, were more valuable than ever. Doggerbank‘s captain had managed to fool the British a few times, and it was hoped he could do it again.

In the spring of 1943, the tonnage war in the Atlantic reached a climax, when German U-boats managed to butcher convoy after convoy. In addition, boats were sent to more remote areas to sink independent ships. U-43 [6] under Oberleutnant Schwandtke was part of the Tümmler-wolfpack, deployed near the Canaries. In the evening of March 3, 1943, Schwandtke torpedoed a ship which he identified as a Dunedin Star-type ship. He could not suspect he had sunk the Doggerbank, close to completing her journey through the Indian Ocean and Atlantic. Doggerbank had left Yokohama on December 17 1942, and she was steaming about 1000 miles west of the Canaries, when she was hit by three torpedoes. Only fifteen of the crew made it to a small boat, without water or food. On March 29, the Spanish tanker Campoamor found the boat after 26 days with only one remaining survivor, Fritz Kürt. He was taken aboard and brought to Aruba, where he told about the tragic fate of Doggerbank and her crew. According to Kürt, the fifteen men on the raft were quickly reduced to only six after the boat had capsized, including Schneidewind. The captain committed suicide after shooting four of his crew at their explicit request. The number of casualties totalled 364.[7]

This concludes the Doggerbank story, but I feel I have to add a side-note to this story. The German high command was apparently very upset about this case of mistaken identity. The pages concerning this sinking were removed from U-43‘s log.Notes

[1]: I have found virtually nothing about this man, except that he was the first mate and his first name was Paul. More info is appreciated.

[2]: In this special, I will go deeper into the Dutch ships, primarily because my source focus on the Dutch Navy and merchant navy. I have only been able to find pieces of information regarding the British victims, and their experiences will therefore be described only briefly.

[3]Alcyone, Mangkalihat and Soudan all carried explosives, but apparently, this did not have any effect on their fates. This is quite remarkable.

[4]: The Doggerbank jettisoned the 55 EMF mines on May 28 after a message from SKL indicated this type proved to be defective.  

[5]: The 124 prisoners were from the following merchants, all sunk by Michel:

Patella (British) 54 men
Connecticut (US) 16 men
Kattegat (Norwegian) 32 men
Lylepark (British) 22 menThe tanker Charlotte Schliemann later added another 68 men from the British Gemstone and the Panamanian Stanvack Calcutta, both victims of the raider Stier.

[6]: U-43 was a type IX submarine, completed in August 1939. She was destroyed by a carrier-based aircraft from the USS Santee on July 30 1943 with the loss of all 55-crew. Oberleutnant Hans-Joachim Schwandtke was still in command at the time and went down with his ship. (source: Uboat.net)

[7]: It appears the Doggerbank carried about 200 injured survivors of the supplytanker Uckermark and the raider Thor. The first accidentally blew up in Yokohama, Japan on November 30 1942, taking the Thor and a prizeship down with her. More information about Fritz Kürt and the tragic fate of the survivors can be found in the booklet by Hans Herlin titled “Der letzte Mann von der Doggerbank”. The English translation is titled “Survivor”.German ranks and names of ships are in italics         

The repair to Mangkalihat

Sources

Bernhard Rogge “Schiff 16” (Dutch translation “Onder vreemde vlag”)
K.W.L. Bezemer “Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Koopvaardij in de Tweede Wereldoorlog”
L.L. von Münching “De Nederlandse koopvaardijvloot in de Tweede Wereldoorlog”
Hans Herlin “Der letzte Mann von der Doggerbank”, Heyne Verlag, 1979
Thanks to Don Kindell, Dan Muir, Peter Kreuzer and Captain George Duffy for providing additional details

Thanks to Jon Balson for proofreading this article.

ON THE HOOGHLY – story

CHAPTER X

Christmas on the brigs—Mr. Pei Ho Jones—The adjutant and the soap—Escaped leeches—’ What happened at the inn’—A visit to the tea-planters—Life in the Terai—Tea-planting and tasting—A plague of fleas—The overloaded elephant—An earthquake.

I KECOLLECT all sorts of things which happened during my year as mate, and recall especially our jollification at Christmas. We used to keep up Christmas in good st)’le. The brigs were dressed with all the flags in the signal locker, and we did ourselves well in every way. In the evening the captain told me to brew punch, giving me carte blanche as to liquor. I mixed all sorts of spirits and wines and added a bottle of beer, a lemon or two, a lot of sugar, and a kettle of boiling water. It was voted a very excellent brew, only one man complaining that it was rather weak.

Under its mellowing influence Mr. Pei Ho Jones related the tale of the ‘ Painful Happenings at the Inn.’ Mr. Jones had been a sailing master in the Navy before becoming a Hooghly pilot and had seen service on the Pei Ho river, hence the sobriquet. He was a quiet, elderly little man with a rosy complexion and a white beard. An old bachelor, he lived when ashore in a room at the Great Eastern Hotel in Calcutta. He had had many strange experiences which he related in simple language and with the minimum allowance of adjectives. He would tell his story of the adjutant and the bar of yellow soap, for at that time the adjutant (a large bird like a magnified stork, now practically unknown) was very much in evidence in Calcutta, where he assisted the municipality and the jackals in their arduous task of scavenging.

I

120 180

ON THE HOOGHLY

Mr. Jones told how on one occasion, when about to drive in a gharry from the Great Eastern Hotel to the Port Office, he was pestered by a hawker who pressed him to purchase a bar of yellow soap, and went so far as to thrust the bar of soap into the gharry, saying, ” Six annas, Sahib.” Mr. Jones was usually a person of equable temper, but on this

MR. JONES GOING TO THE BATH

occasion, being a bit off colour and rather irascible, he flung the soap into the road and told the gharry wallah to drive on. As he drove away he saw the adjutant, which was standing gloomily on the stone lion that adorns the arched entrance to Government House, suddenly pull itself together, swoop down into the road, bolt the bar of soap, and return to its perch on the lion, followed by yells of execration from the infuriated hawker. Mr. Jones pro- MR. JONES

181 ceeded to the Port Office, and having studied the latest reports of the river, and discussed the news of the day with his friends in the pilots’ room, drove home again to the Great Eastern.

THE BUBBLING ADJUTANT

As he approached the hotel he found the road blocked by a dense crowd of people staring up at the lion over the entrance to Government House, where the adjutant with uplifted beak was blowing a continuous sticam of the most beautiful iridescent bubbles. . . .

Mr. Jones had other tales to tell. There was the one of the crocodile and the elephants at Moulmein, and the story 188

ON THE HOOGHLY

about the leeches. He had been appointed to take down a French barque, which he had joined in Garden Reach at about ten o’clock at night, and was told that the captain and his wife had retired to rest in their cabin. As the weather was very hot Mr. Jones directed his boy to make up his bed on the saloon table underneath the skylight, which was open. In the middle of the night he was aroused by voices, and heard exclamations of horror and distress proceeding from the captain’s cabin, the door of which suddenly opened and a man and a woman without any clothing emerged hurriedly, waving their arms about and talking volubly about some misfortune which had occurred to them. By the glimmering light of the oil lamp Mr. Jones observed that they were both covered with black knobs about the size of walnuts.

It appeared that they were taking a large jar of leeches to a doctor friend at Mauritius. By some mischance the jar had been upset, and the hungry little creatures had pounced joyfully upon the captain and his wife, who were sleeping with nothing on because of the intense heat. They were going to pull the bloated little animals off, but Mr. Jones implored them not to do that, pointing out that a pinch of salt would cause the blood-suckers to relinquish their hold voluntarily, and having discovered the salt cellar he helped them to apply it. He said that they both seemed very subdued all the next day, as though the leeches had rather taken it out of them.

But on this occasion Mr. Jones told us the story of’ What happened to him at the Inn.’ He had only just returned from long leave to England and we asked him if he had anything of interest to report. He had. It appeared that shortly before returning lie had spent a few days at an inn on the south eoasl, which had been recommended to him as being an ideal spot lor anyone in search of a little rest and quiet. He arrived there in the aflcvnoon and took a stroll round the neighbourhood, which he described as picturesque and restful. WHAT HAPPENED

AT THE INN

188

At dinner he had a little table to himself. There were other little tables occupied by the guests of the inn. Amongst them he noticed a quiet-looking, elderly couple. The lady, a thin little woman with a somewhat careworn expression, the gentleman was of stouter build, and his rubicund face and generally congested appearance proclaimed the ‘ good-doer.’ Mr. Jones was not feeling sociably inclined and sat in the lounge by himself after dinner studying the papers while he consumed two or perhaps three whiskies and sodas—he was not quite sure of the exact number, but he was studying a new brand and always liked to do things thoroughly—before retiring to rest. As he approached his bedroom he noticed that outside the door of the room next to his were two pairs of shoes, one male and one female. He concluded with his usual astuteness that his next-door neighbours were probably a married pair, but in any case a pair, and proceeded to make his toilet for the night. This he explained to us was a nightgown. Pyjamas were all very well on the Hooghly, but for real comfort and freedom give him the old-fashioned nightgown. He turned in, and under the influence of the new brand was soon sleeping soundly.

Now Mr. Jones had been quite right in concluding that the people next door were a pair. They were, in fact, the very couple which he had noticed in the dining-room, and the husband was unable to sleep, owing to an acute attack of indigestion following the liberal helping of roast pork which he had stowed away. This attack, instead of passing off, became more violent, and it was soon obvious to the sad-face d lad> that if she was to get any sleep at all something would have to be done about it. She was a woman of resource and hud faced similar situations. She knew what to do and she descended with a sheet of brown paper to the kilchen to search for the muslard pot. The servants had all retired for the night, there was no one to help her. But she knew where to look for such things as mustard, and having discovered the pot, very soon concocted a good 184

ON THE HOOGHLY

strong mustard plaister with which she ascended to the corridor. It was in darkness, her candle having gone out, but she knew her way about and was soon inside the bedroom.

She was surprised and relieved to hear her husband snoring loudly. But having taken all the trouble to make a mustard plaister she was not going to waste it. She groped her way to the bed guided by the musical notes of the sleeper, carefully turned down the bedclothes, very carefully lifted the nightgown without awakening the patient, applied the plaister where it would do most good, crawled into bed, and was soon in the land of dreams.

Mr. Jones said that somewhere about one a.m. he was awakened by a burning sensation in the region of the abdomen. Half-awake he tried to recall what he could possibly have eaten which would have affected him so unpleasantly. Becoming wideawake he sat up in bed, and became aware that he was not alone. By the bedside on a little table was his candle and a box of matches. He struck a match and lit his candle. The intruder at the same moment came to life and, looking at him with round-eyed horror, backed away off the bed and towards the door. Mr. Jones tore the burning torture off his stomach, Avaved it in the air and thundered, ” Is this your work, madam ? ” She was gone, and Mr. Jones heard the key turned in the lock of the next room. For the information of any of us who might encounter similar trouble, he said that salad oil and crushed arrowroot was a soothing dressing.

The tale was sympathetically received, the punch was ladled out of the large soup tureen, and we drank to Mr. Jones’ health. Other stories were told until the brew was finished, and one of the younger members danced a pas seul to a banjo accompaniment with the soup tureen on his head. From the dimculty we had in arousing the pilot of the turn some two hours later, when an inward-bound steamer came to us, I was led to believe that in my haphazard mixture PROMOTED TO MATE PILOT

185

of alcohols I had accidentally stumbled upon a strong narcotic.

The year as mate came to an end and in due course I passed my exam, and became a Mate Pilot. There were rather too many of us to share the small vessels of less than 800 tons which we were entitled to pilot. This meant long

^£^

THE MUSTARD PLAISTER

spells at the Sandheads with very little to occupy our time beyond watch-keeping at night and reading the papers and magazines which arrived every week from England.

I have a dilapidated pocket-book which belongs to that period. Most pilots kept pocket-books in which they noted down the rate at which the tide rose and fell on different days of tide and at different seasons of the year. It was very important to know this, for if, for instance, when proceeding down on a falling tide the semaphore near the bar which had to be crossed showed a rise, which if added 180

ON THE HOOGHLY

to the amount of water known to be on the bar at low water gave, say, two feet more than the vessel’s draught, by referring to the pocket-book, and seeing that on a similar day of tides the water had fallen at the rate of so many minutes to the foot, it wo\ild be possible to estimate whether it would be safe or not to proceed.

So when I became a pilot I started to keep a note-book, and I still have the remains of it. Unfortunately the early pages have disappeared and the first entry concerns a small British India Steamer, the Busheer, which I took up the river in September, 1885. But I know that I had been piloting vessels of all sorts for many months prior to that, and had paid a visit to the tea-planters in the Terai.

As I have already said, work for the junior pilots was very slack in 1884. Spells of two or three weeks at the Sandheads, waiting with half a dozen other mate pilots for the little ships of our tonnage which were none too numerous, were the order of the day, and I had one long spell of over a month. I decided that it would pay me better to take a month’s privilege leave on full pay, and in the early part of 1885 accepted an invitation from a tea-planter to spend a week or two with him in the Terai at the foot of the Himalayas.

I had met several planters in Calcutta, where they came for a little rest and recreation after the labours of the teamaking season, and had found them a nice, cheery lot of men. So when E. C. Gilliam, of Burra Chenga, suggested that I should come up and spend a fortnight with him, I jumped at the offer and put in an application for leave, which was granted. The arrangement was that I should meet Gilliam, or ‘ Blobs ‘ as he was known to his friends, at Kurseong, whence he would conduct me to Burra Chenga. I travelled light, my kit consisting of a suitcase and a banjo, caught the train at Scaldah, and arrived in due course at Siliguri, where I changed into one of the little carriages of the Darjiling and Himalaya Railway. Having seen nothing but flat country for some seven years, I was AMONGST THE PLANTERS

187

very much impressed by the mountain scenery as we steamed up to Kurseong.

On arriving there I was handed a note from Gilliam, who regretted that he had been unable to get away from the garden and asked mc to make my way down to him on the following morning. I should find an elephant waiting to take me over the Balasun river and a pony waiting to take me to his garden. I put up at the hotel for the night and started early the next morning to march down the hill, accompanied by a coolie carrying my baggage.

We found the elephant waiting at the crossing, and a nice-looking little black pony waiting on the farther bank. I asked the sayce if the pony knew his way home, and on being assured that he did, climbed up and gave him his head. After trotting along for a mile or so the intelligent animal turned off through a plantation of tea bushes and halted outside a bungalow where I dismounted. A man took the pony and told me that the sahib was in the teahouse but would be in directly, so I sat down in the verandah where a khitmagar promptly brought me a whisky and soda.

After a few minutes a big, red-faced man in riding-kit came in and joined me. We chatted about the weather and my walk down from Kurseong. I thought he was a visitor, and said that if he wanted to see Gilliam I believed he was in the tea-house. He replied, ” I don’t think so, for I have just come from there.”

It then dawned on me that possibly I was in the wrong bungalow and asked him if I was at Burra Chcnga. He said, ” No, this is Chota Chcnga and my name is Helps.” Apologising for the intrusion I blamed the pony who ought to have known his way to his own stable. But it appeared that the pony had originally belonged to Mr. Helps and had been sold by hiin to Gilliam. Mr. Helps proposed that I should stay with him for a day or two before moving on to Burra Chenga. I thanked him but thought that I had better be getting along to Gilliam, who would be expecting me. The pony was brought round again and this time 188

ON THE HOOGHLY

managed to deliver me at the right address, where Gilliam was amused to learn of my mistake. His bungalow was situated on a small hill, overlooking the tea which stretched away on either bide. Like all the other bungalows which I saw in the Terai it was surrounded by a wide verandah and was very comfortable.

The life on the garden interested me greatly. In the early morning we rode round the estate and saw the people at work. In one place they would be hoeing and cleaning the bushes of weeds, in another an army of them, mostly women, would be plucking the leaf which they placed as they gathered it into large baskets carried on their backs and held in position by bands across their foreheads. They were all hill-people, short and broad, with thick legs. They were mostly clad in blue, with a red handkerchief tied round the waist or neck, and were a merry, good-tempered crew, who responded cheerily when Gilliam, who spoke their language, addressed them jokingly. The rest of the morning would be spent in the tea-house watching the various processes to which the leaf was subjected in preparing it for the market. I learnt that it had to be first withered, then rolled, left to ferment, dried in a sort of oven, then sifted and classified, and finally packed in lead-lined boxes and despatched to the market in Calcutta.

Tasting the tea was a serious business. A row of little china pots with lids was arranged on a long table. The different classes of teas were infused in these pots for five minutes. The liquor was then poured into small basins and left to stand for a while, the tea leaves shaken out of the pots into the lids which were then placed wrong side up on top of the pots, and all was ready for the sahib to come and form his opinion as to the sort of tea they were making.

To form this opinion, he took a mouthful of the concoction, held it for a moment, spat it out, had a good look at the bowl to see whether the liquor was creaming properly, and noted the colour of the tea leaves standing in the lid. If it was not to his liking there was probably some- A PRACTICAL JOKE

189

thing to be rectified in one or other of the various processes through which the tea had passed.

When the pluckers came in with their leaf each basket was weighed and the coolies received payment for what they had plucked in excess of the regulation weight which they were expected to pluck. This was paid on the spot in dhuliapice, which were simply small chunks of copper without stamp or device of any kind. In the afternoon the planters visited each other, compared notes as to the sort of tea they were making, and discussed the various blights which affected the bushes. These I gathered were ‘ red spider ‘ and mosquito blight, both very much dreaded.

Tea-making was in full swing and Gilliam was very busy. He had just sent down his first ‘ break ‘ or batch of chests for that season and was anxiously awaiting a telegram from the agents, who had promised to let him know what prices his tea had fetched at the auction. A couple of days after my arrival I had been making a sketch of the pluckers at work, and on returning to the bungalow for tiffin found Gilliam looking blankly at a telegram which had just arrived and which he handed to me with a suppressed groan. It read : ‘ Average nine annas, not equal to samples.’ ” What do they mean,” he cried, ” by not equal to samples ? ” Tiffin was a dismal meal; I could think of nothing to say to lessen the blow.

Shortly after tiffin, as we were sitting gloomily in the verandah, a neighbouring planter rode up and asked if Gilliam had received any news of the sale. On being shown the unpleasant telegram he was full of sympathy. ” I can’t understand it, Blobs ; for you told me that you were making quite good tea and expecting to get really good prices.” Shortly after, two other planters rolled up, who were followed by others until nearly every man in the district was present, and the servant was kept busy opening bottles of Pilsener, which was the favourite form of refreshment at the time. They all expressed the greatest amazement at the bad news, and were full of sympathy for poor 140

ON THE HOOGHLY

Gilliam, and hoped that he would not lose his job as the result of the poor stuff he had sent up to the market. After this had gone on for some time and a vast amount of beer had been consumed they suddenly with one accord burst into a prolonged roar of laughter. The whole thing was a merry practical joke, and the telegram had been sent by a confederate in Calcutta. The real telegram from the agents arrived shortly after and we learnt that the average price realised was, if I recollect aright, thirteen annas, which was quite good.

This little episode was very typical of the life and the men in the Terai as I found them. They were a cheery, happy-go-lucky crew. The place was very unhealthy and life very uncertain. They worked hard and lived hard, consumed a good deal of Pilsener together, and were happy enough when not bowled over by malaria. The place which had the worst reputation for this ailment was a garden called Nuxalbari and while’ T was staying with Gilliam the manager of Nuxalbari died of malaria. I attended his funeral at Kurseong, to which place we rode on ponies. His name was Orr and he was a brother of the policeman at Chittagong with whom I sometimes stayed when special pilot of the Chittagong steamers.

Coming back from the funeral, which was attended by all the planters of the district, I found myself riding alongside of Hilliard, a well-known character w ith a great reputation as a practical joker. We were chatting quietly together when suddenly without any warning he seized my pony’s bridle and pulled me over the khud on to a narrow track running steeply down the hillside to the westward. It was done so quickly that I was unable to protest, and it was all I could do to keep from going over the pony’s head. He dragged us along as fast as he could, yelling with laughter all the time, and at last said that I was going to stay the night at his bungalow, where we eventually arrived. He sent word down to Gilliam that I would come along in the morning, and we spent a cheery evening together. He was A PLAGUE OF FLEAS

141

quite a character and I was told many stories of his eccentricities.

After a fortnight with Gilliam I spent a few days with Sharpe at Mechi, and then with Feltwell and afterwards with Sandys at Panighatta. It was a most enjoyable time. The more I saw of the planters the more I liked them. Each man was a little king in his own territory, and seemed to rule his subjects very wisely, and well. It was, of course, to their interest to keep their coolies well and contented, to take a paternal interest in their comfort and welfare, and to smooth out any little difficulties or disagreements that might occur amongst them. They had their little trials to put up with, and I may mention as an instance the occasion when I rode with Gilliam to call on one of them who was being worried by a plague of fleas. We found him living under canvas in his compound, the bungalow having been invaded by millions of fleas. I stood at the door of the sitting-room and listened to the tap, tap, tap of the insects as they sprang about merrily on some newspapers which had been spread on the floor. The planter called one of his servants and told him to stand in the room for a minute. When the man emerged his legs up to the knees were black with fleas. The planter appeared to take the unpleasant visitation very philosophically and said that the fleas would all be gone in a day or two.

I was sorry to leave the Terai when my month’s leave came to an end. The day before returning I was one of a party at Mechi, Jimmy Sharpe’s place. We spent a merry afternoon playing poker to an accompaniment of Pilsener. Amongst us was C. F. Daniels of Tirrihana, an ex-naval officer. Although a comparatively small man, he was possessed of unusual strength and must have had a very tough constitution. After the poker party we all rode to Gilliam’s place, and as we passed the dry bed of a watercourse filled with large stones and boulders Daniels gave a whoop and proceeded to ride down it at breakneck speed, regardless of consequences to himself or his pony. We 142

ON THE HOOGHLY

jogged along to Burra Chenga, and as we were riding up to the bungalow Daniels galloped into our midst, cannoned off one of the paity and crashed into a tree which brought him and his mount to the ground. He seemed rather shaken, so Gilliam put him to bed. The party then broke up and I went on with Sandys to Panighatta where I was to spend the night. After dinner, while sitting with Sandys in the

DEPARTURE BY ELEPHANT

verandah, Daniels rode up apparently none the worse for his spill arid asked for the elephant to cross the river ; but we learnt next day that he had two broken ribs.

There was a big gatheung at the farewell breakfast at Sandys’ bungalow and a good many of the planters turned up to see me olf. The elephant was brought out and most of the paity chmbed on to its back, which was so overcrowded that one passenger fell oil m mid-stream. I made sure that he was gone lor good, and was leheved to find as we climbed up the farther bank that he was clinging to the elephant’s gnths and all was well.

Conditions in the Terai have changed very much since AN EARTHQUAKE

148

then. I am told that manj’ of the gardens have gone out of cultivation and reverted to jungle. Before leaving I met the man who replaced poor young Orr at Xuxalbari and remarked what a strong, healthy-looking person he was : but in the following cold weather, when looking on at the sports meeting at Ballygunge, I sat next to a stranger of emaciated appearance who I discovered in the course of conversation hailed from the Terai and gave me news of my friends there. I enquired how the new man at Nuxalbari was getting along. He looked surprised and said that he himself was that person. So changed was he by repeated attacks of malaria that I had not recognised him.

It was in the Terai that I experienced my first earthquake. I was staying with Feltwell at the time and we were enjoying our early cup of tea in the verandah of his bungalow when I heard a rumbling noise and found everything shaking. I said, ” That sounds like a traction-engine. I did not know you had one up here.” But Feltwell shouted, ” It’s an earthquake ! ” and ran outside where I followed him. It only lasted a few seconds and did no damage.

On the Hooghly – 9

CHAPTER IX

A cargo of coconuts—The Master Pilots—The Chinese guest—I pass for First Mate—Lascar crews—The two widows—Livestock on board—Collecting marine fauna—The bag net—Stewed anemones—Drinking the specimens—Modelling in mud.

HAVING served my year as second mate and returned to the river again for a year as leadsman, I shortly afterwards had the novel experience of piloting a small Indian brig. As on the occasion when I was given the Johannah Kremer to pilot, the station was almost denuded of pilots, there being only one or two of the senior men, who were not at all anxious to board the Hosalee Dede.

It was the north-east monsoon, and a small brig had been in sight for a long while, without arousing much interest or anxiety, as she slowly worked her way to the Sandheads ; the opinion being that she was what was termed a pariah brig, or native craft, which would find her way to Kedgeree and there pick up a native pilot, who would work her up to Calcutta. There were a good many such vessels at that time, and they appeared, together with the Arab dhows, at the commencement of the north-east monsoon. However, this vessel, the Hosalee Dede, hoisted the pilot jack and hovc-to close to us. Nobody wanted her, so she was offered to me, and I was quite glad to have a vessel of any sort to handle.

When I boarded her and took charge she was under topsails only. I soon had all sail on her, but found that she was very tender and heeled over quite a lot. I asked them what cargo they had and they told me that she was full of coconuts from Car Nicobar, whither they had gone with Chinese tobacco which they exchanged for coconuts,

116 THE “HOSALEE DEDE”

117

and the Rajah had made his subjects do the loading. We worked up to the Intermediate on that tide, but had to take the topgallantsails off her as she leaked badly above the waterline when heeling over. The seams in her upper works were quite open, and the pumps were going all the time. I had no knife or fork and had to use my fingers to eat the curry and rice which the crew lived on, and very good it was, too.

They did all they could to make me comfortable. I slept on deck at night, as I did not fancy the cabin, but woke up feeling rather warm, and found that in their anxiety lest I should catch cold or get a chill they had piled all sorts of dubious-looking cloths and rugs on me. We worked into Saugor on the second day, the pumps going all the time. After we had anchored I made a sketch of the captain and, as they seemed interested, drew all sorts of fabulous animals for their amusement, dragons, winged tigers, and things of that sort. I heard one of them explaining to the others that such beasts were common in Belat.

At Mud Point the captain decided to engage a tug which was coming down singlehanded looking for a job. We were leaking badly and the crew tired out with continual pumping. The price he had to pay was Rs. 600. When I asked him if he could afford it, he replied that they had 300,000 coconuts on board and that the market price would be about Rs. 60 a thousand. Not a bad profit on the Chinese tobacco, for which he had paid very little. We towed up to town the next day. She paid pilotage on fifteen feet owing largely to the water in her hold. I quite enjoyed the experience, and liked the people. When she departed she must have been taken down by one of the Kedgeree men, for I heard nothing more about her. I think she only came to the station for a pilot because she was leaking so badly.

No other similar stroke of luck came my way during the year on the river before going up to pass for mate. I was kept busy heaving the lead in vessels of all sorts, shapes and 118

ON THE HOOGHLY

sizes, and with pilots of varying personality. I was now sufficiently adept at the craft to be able to distinguish good work from bad and to appraise each one of my temporary masters at his proper value. The general level of efficiency was fairly high and even. There were, however, several men in each grade who stood out from among their fellows as being better equipped with the essential qualities of nerve, coolness and resourcefulness in emergency.

Mr. A. J. Milner, who followed Mr. Daly as Senior Branch Pilot, was certainly one of them. He had joined the Service in 1852, when the work of the port was practically all sail, and like most of the men of his time could make a sailing vessel do everything but talk. He was equally good with steam. But he was not popular with the leadsmen, as he kept the lead going all the time, merely calling the leadsman in for meals, and indeed was probably not very popular anywhere, for he was dour and unsympathetic. But he was a fine pilot, and also a good judge of a horse. I have already mentioned Mr. W. H. Lindquist, the special pilot to the

P. & 0., who was in the same class as Mr. Milner.

Among the Master Pilots I would have given the palm to

R. Rust, S. Ransom, J. Christie, F. T. Rayner, but there were many others almost equally good at the work. W. Kendal, for instance, who was one of the licensed pilots, was a very fine seaman and probably as good with a windjammer as anyone afloat. I recall an occasion when he was sailing a laden vessel up the river in the south-west monsoon and had an altercation with Captain Hamer who was then commanding the tug Battler and wanted the job of towing the ship up. As there was a fine southerly breeze Kendal was all for sailing to Calcutta and making a little extra over and above the pilotage. As they ran up from Mud Point to Kulpee the Battler kept close under their stern and occasionally hailed them with the suggestion that they should take his hawsers. At Diamond Harbour the wind fell light and Hamer, ranging alongside, again repeated his request. His exact words were, ” Well, what’s it going to HONOURS EVEN

liD

be, eggs or young ‘uns ? ” I remember this because the conversation which ensued was of such a lurid description that the matter had to be settled by a court of enquiry. I forget which of the two called for a court, but I know that it sat to investigate the circumstances of the quarrel. Strong language had been used by both parties, but experts considered that Kendal had shown greater originality, some of his expletives being quite new to the Hooghly and

BRANCH PILOTS HUDSON AND R. RUST

probably acquired by him during his sea service. The court considered the case very carefully, and as a result both parties left without ” a stain on their character.”

Christie was for some time special pilot for the China mail steamers, and, his wife being in England, he lived in a flat with E. F. Hudson and Mrs. Hudson. The latter was a very good manageress and kept an excellent table. With them also lived Frank Collingwood, who later on, as a Branch Pilot, was in command of the brig Fame in the cyclone of November, 1891, when the Coleroon was lost. i20

ON THE HOOGHLY

He was a big, burly man, a confirmed bachelor, and quite a good fellow.

In the course of his journeyings to andfromPenanginthe China mail steamers Christie had made the acquaintance of several important Chinese, and amongst them Hong Ke, a Chinese gentleman of wealth and culture, whom he held in high esteem. This gentleman being in Calcutta on some matter of business, Christie invited him to tea in the flat, and introduced him to Mr. and Mrs. Hudson. Seated in the drawing-room they were quietly enjoying the sandwiches and other delicacies which Mrs. Hudson had prepared for the occasion when Collingwood, who had been down the river, suddenly appeared in the doorway. The only Chinamen he knew anything about were the Chinese bootand shoe-makers who had rows of shops in Bentinck Street, and on catching sight of the great Hong Ke he shouted in his breezy manner, ” Hullo, John, makee one piecee boot ? ” to the mortification of Christie, who, when he told the story afterwards, used to say, ” There he stood, in the doorway, rolling his great stupid head, and grinning like an idiot. I felt so ashamed.”

Many of the pilots with whom I hove the lead at this time would let me look out and take charge of the vessel for quite long stretches of the river, especially when bound up on board of a steamer in ballast. They generally, however, relieved me as we approached the James and Mary’s. I remember one occasion, though, when we were going up on a strong flood tide and the pilot came along to the bridge, that I asked him to let me ” take her across the Gut,” and being a good-natured soul he said, ” All right, carry on,” thereby adding greatly to my sense of self-esteem, a very necessary quality in a pilot’s make-up.

Having finished the year on the river I went up for first mate. The examiners were Christie and Rayner, who declared themselves satisfied with my knowledge of seamanship and of the river. Shortly afterwards I was appointed to the Cassandra. MY YEAR AS MATE

121

I spent my year as mate very happily on the Cassandra. She was commanded by Mr. J. Barnet, an extremely nice man to serve under, good looking and well made. He left the management of the crew and things generally to his mate, and interfered very little. We had a good serang, Ejut Ali, and a good crew of lascars, who gave no trouble. As I look back I realise what wonderful fellows they were. The boat would be hoisted out, sent away and hoisted in again perhaps several times in the course of the night, with possibly quite a long stiff pull in a choppy sea. They might be drenched with salt water or rain ; but never a complaint and always ready for the next job.

I recall two tragic incidents. The first occurred shortly after I joined the Cassandra.

We were lying in the moorings refitting, and the men weTe working aloft, reeving running gear and bending sails, when a lascar fell from the fore yard, landed on the norman pin (an iron bar which fitted into the windlass) and bounced off on to the deck. He was very badly hurt and only lived for a few minutes. The widow, accompanied by two children, came on board about half an hour after the accident. The second mate, the four leadsmen attached to the brig and I, being young and impulsive, immediately made her a present of all the money we had in our pockets. I forget the amount, probably not very much, for we were never overburdened with wealth. She departed calling down blessings on our heads. But almost immediately another woman came on board and introduced herself as the real widow, declaring by all the gods that the first lady was an impostor. What was to be done ? We were cleaned out and there was no possibility of recovering the cash, which had disappeared for ever.

The second case was that of a man who fell from aloft a few days after we had gone on the station after a spell in town. It was blowing hard and the foretopsail was being reefed, when a man suddenly fell backwards off the yard on to the fore brace, which broke his fall, and thence to the 122

OX THE

HOOGHLY

deck. He had no broken bones, but had evidently received some internal injury, and died that evening. A couple of days after, orders came down to send him up to town as he was charged with the murder of a woman. The men who were with him on the yard were convinced by his exclamation before he fell that the ghost of the dead woman had appeared to him. They were all very superstitious and firm believers in bhuts or ghosts.

As mate I kept watch during the day alternately with the second mate, and came on at four every morning, relieving the pilot A\ ho had kept the two to four watch. As a rule the Eastern Channel Light was in sight somewhere to the northward. If I could not pick it up I would run up until I sighted it, and then bring her to the wind again. In cruising we kept on the port tack as much as possible when the tide was running ebb, until the Light bore about east-north-east, and then went round on the starboard tack until the Light bore about north. The mornings always felt fresh and invigorating and it was pleasant to watch the day breaking. At six the crew were turned out to wash decks. The sheep, of which we had perhaps a dozen or more, were also washed at the same time, and the coir mats on which the sheep stood in their pen were towed overboard until they were sweet and clean. On either side, fore and aft, were hencoops stocked with ducks and fowls, and forward of the sheep-pen lived the geese in their pen.

At six the pilots began to appear on deck in their pyjamas ready for their cup of coffee and a biscuit, and we rigged up the bathhouse, a square canvas tent with a perforated metal disc in the roof through which the hose was played on the man bathing. Everyone had to be properly dressed for the day by eight o’clock.

Mr. Barnct had a small collection of books which he put at my disposal and I made the acquaintance of Lubbock, Darwin, Haeckel, Buchner, Lyell, and others. I always read for an hour after breakfast. COLLECTING MARINE FAUNA

128

and then wrote up the books and attended to any correspondence, interviewed the butler and kept account of any liquor consumed. There was always plenty to do. During my year the Cassandra had one spell of six months on end at the Sandheads owing to extensive repairs to one of the other brigs, and I did not find the time drag at all.

The Chinsurah was condemned and a new iron brig, the Sarsuti, came out from England. She was a very strong little vessel with a high rail, always very hot in warm weather and slow, but would stand up to any amount of wind, in fact she was at her best in hard weather, and was comparatively comfortable then. When a brig was considered no longer fit for service as a pilot vessel she usually continued her career as a lightship. These were fitted with three masts and carried quite large crews for vessels of that class. This was to enable them to work back if blown off their station in a cyclone. The Chinsurah was probably not considered sound enough for service as a lightship and became the headquarters of the Calcutta Naval Volunteers. She was moored just below the memorial known as the Pepper Box.

During my year as mate of the Cassandra the brigs were supplied with small trawls with which to collect specimens of marine fauna which might be living on the bed of the sea at the Sandheads. We were also given a supply of methylated spirits and some glass jars in which to preserve anything we could dredge up. The specimens were to be handed over to the Calcutta Museum. This was an entirely fresh interest for us and the officers of the brigs embarked on this new field of research with great enthusiasm. We had always fished with large surface nets for shrimps, bumalo and pomfret when lying at anchor in calm weather ; generally in the north-east monsoon, and the crew were keen fishermen with hand lines and got to work as soon as the anchor was down, pulling up catfish to add variety to their curry and rice. 124

ON THE HOOGHLtf

The surface net was a large bag tapering off in a long tail, with an opening at the end which was tied up before the net was put over. This bag net was mounted on a couple of spars lashed together in the form of a cross. The vertical spar had a heavy bit of kentledge attached to its lower end to keep it down, and to its upper end was lashed a tackle from the main yardarm with which to hoist the net over the side and to lift it when we wanted to collect its contents. When in the water it was kept in position by three guys, one from each arm of the cross and one from the lower end of the vertical spar. We caught all sorts of things besides the bumalo and chingrees which swarmed on the surface and were a very welcome addition to our ordinary fare.

The net was hauled up at the end of each watch at night, the tail of the bag pulled on deck, unfastened, and the contents emptied into a dekchi or large metal dish, from which the crew ate their curry and rice. The catch was cautiously inspected by the light of a lantern, for there were nearly always one or two snakes to be seen mixed up with the rest of the collection. These snakes were, as a rule, about a yard and a half long and marked with black and yellow bands. I believe they were poisonous, but they were sluggish and dazed, out of their native element, and I never heard of anyone being bitten by one of them. Most of the haul would consist of shrimps and bumalo, these latter being what we valued most, for when properly cooked they took a lot of beating as a table delicacy, and we could not get them in Calcutta. We also caught little silver fish which made excellent whitebait. Occasionally a small shark found its way into the net, and would be knocked on the head and thrown overboard, for the sailorman shows no mercy to the shark, his natural enemy. We also got little fish which blew themselves up until they looked like small balloons.

With the small trawls with which we were now supplied we dredged up all sorts of curious creatures. Sea spiders, a A NEW DISH

125

queer-looking thing resembling a yam or sweet potato, but evidently an animal of sorts, for its viscera was visible through its transparent skin, we caught also small black bodies which looked like the indiarubber teats of-a baby’s feeding-bottle. These last puzzled us, until I put one into a tumbler of salt water, when after a little time it expanded into an oblong anemone opening out at one end as a blue and white flower. If while it was expanding it was touched with a penholder or pencil, it would constrict in the place where it was being touched, and one could regulate its shape very much as one chose.

It struck me that these little black things, nicely boiled and served with a white sauce, would make quite an attractive-looking dish, and I suggested to my commander, Mr. Barnet, that we might try them. He raised no objection, and as Mr. Branch Pilot W , a great authority on gastronomy and an expert exponent of the culinary art, happened to be on board at the time, I arranged with the cook that the succulent dainty should be served up that day at dinner, and that the dish should be placed in front of me. My place at mess was opposite the captain, next to whom was seated Mr. Branch Pilot W , a big man with a florid complexion, who had a very good opinion of himself and of his own importance. When the dish was uncovered it did not look at all bad, the little black things showing daintily through the white sauce, and it immediately caught Mr. W ‘s eye.

” What have we here ? ” he exclaimed. ” Mushrooms ‘( Or are they truffles ? “

I told the butler to take the dish to Mr. W thai lie might help himself, which he did liberally and took a good mouthful of the new delicacy. I watched him closely, but instead of the pleased expression of a gourmet who has discovered a new and delicious dish his face became a deep crimson and his eyes expressed horror and fear. He hastily made his way on deck and audibly got rid of the unwelcome morsel. 126

ON THE HOOGHLY

When he returned to the festive board he was in a very nasty temper.

” Mud,” he shouted. ” Mud and sand. Where did you get the infernal stuff ? “

He was right, for I tasted one very gingerly and it was as unpalatable as it could be. He took a lot of pacifying, and needless to say the dish did not again appear on the menu.

We sent up to the museum quite a large collection of specimens as the result of our dredging operations. The mate of the Sarsuti, the other brig at the Sandheads at the time, was distressed by the manner in which his commander would jam all the different specimens together in one bottle. Said he bitterly:

” The old fool has spoilt a lovely lot of spiders by jamming them in with a lot of sweet potato. He rams them in with a fork and breaks all their legs off.”

I had no trouble of that sort and was allowed to arrange the specimens as I chose. In a short time there was a wellfilled row of bottles and pickle jars hanging under the awning boom, and amongst them an extra large jar which contained a fine snake, for I thought the museum ought to have one.

On coming on watch one dark morning at four a.m. I thought I saw a figure standing on the skylight and touching the specimens. Approaching cautiously I was horrified to find a gentleman who had had his grog stopped, busily engaged slaking his thirst from the snake jar. When I remonstrated with him he said that had I been possessed of any delicacy of feeling I would not have noticed what he was doing. I apologised for my lack of delicacy and pleaded in excuse my anxiety for the safe preservation of the specimens, which had been collected with a good deal of trouble and would certainly deteriorate if they were deprived of the spirit in which they were being preserved. I also promised him a glass of whisky if he refrained from touching the specimens. Fortunately he departed during the course A SAD DISASTER

127

of the day and I had no more trouble with the collection, which is possibly still in the museum.

It was about this time that a ship arrived at the Sandheads which had lost all the apprentices, six in number, while rounding the Cape. The hands were aloft reefing the topsails, when one of the apprentices lost his hold and fell overboard. The ship was hove-to and one of the boats put out, and manned by the apprentices. They pulled in the direction in which their companion had last been seen and were soon lost to sight from the ship, as a heavy rain squall came on just then, and when it had cleared off there was no sign of the boat anywhere. The captain cruised about in the locality until nightfall and then very reluctantly abandoned all hope and continued on his voyage. I cannot be sure of the name of the ship, but to the best of my recollection it was the British Yeoman which thus lost all her apprentices.

I cannot be certain either of the name of a vessel which came in with her poop completely gutted by a sea which had washed away all the after-cabins, and with them the chronometers and navigating instruments. Their only chronometer was the mate’s watch. One of the apprentices had a sextant and some books which, being in the forward deckhouse, had escaped, and with these they had managed to navigate the vessel to the Sandheads.

When catting the anchor one day on the brig I collected some of the black clayey mud which came up with it and found that it was quite serviceable for modelling. I had made friends in Calcutta with Mr. Purchas, the Deputy Mint Master, who sometimes invited me to dinner. He had living with him Count Von Langa, the artist, who designed the coins and medals at the Mint, and whose work I much admired. I had looked on while he amused himself by making a portrait in clay of Mr. Purchas, and I decided to try my hand at modelling with the black mud. It worked quite well and I made several medallions in low relief, which the sitters were kind enough to consider good 128

ON THE HOOGHLY

likenesses of themselves. Whether they were so or not, I got a lot of amusement out of it. Amongst others I did heads of C. CoUingwood, senior, and W. T. Wawn, who was himself fond of working in water colour and generally had some little sketches of effects on the river to show me when he came on board.

On the Hooghly

(A regular Bank Line experience visiting Calcutta)

Here is a fascinating true account of a Hooghly pilot working the river over 100 years ago…..

CHAPTER VIII

The Sunderbunds—Cyclones—The refuge houses—Loss of Mr. Shaw—The wreck of the Mokussir—Beasts in the jungle—A terrible journey—Guarded by a tiger—The rescue of Mr. Ewin and Mr. Allen—A snake at a picnic—Domestic quarrels overhead—Mr. Mackinnon obeys orders.

AFTER completing a year’s service as second mate of a brig a leadsman went on the river again for a year. He then passed for mate, and having served a year in that capacity went up for his exam, for Mate Pilot.

I have mentioned the sudden death of Mason on board the Karamania, which came as a great shock to me. We had been fellow-cadets on the Worcester, had joined the Service together, had always been friends, and I thought a great deal of him.

The loss of Shaw was also a distressing event. It occurred in the Sunderbunds whither he had gone as a guest in one of the steam launches of the River Survey Service.

The Sunderbunds is the name given to the low-lying land, covered with thick jungle and intersected by innumerable creeks, through which the mouths of the Ganges pass to empty their water into the Bay of Bengal. At the time of which I write the Sunderbunds, or at all events that portion of them lying to the westward, of which I had any knowledge, were uninhabited except by deer, tiger, and a few woodcutters.

Cyclones in recent years had swept over them, flooding and drowning everything. I had been told by the captain of a sailing vessel how, after the great storm of 1874, his ship having anchored on the way down at Mud Point

104 CYCLONES

105

anchorage, the mate had gone ashore in one of the boats and returned with more than a hundredweight of silver ornaments which the boat’s crew had collected from the corpses piled up on the eastern bank of the river. On the opposite bank at Kedgeree all had been drowned by the storm wave except the tidal watcher, whose duty it was to show the rise of tide at the semaphore. He had noted and shown high water, and had watched the tide fall a foot or more, when to his astonishment it suddenly began to rise again. This was something so startling to him, such a A thing having never before happened in all his experience, ^fchat he thought the end of all things had come, and bolted to the nearest tree and climbed it. He was the only person at Kedgeree who escaped drowning.

While on the subject of cyclones, I may mention that years afterwards I met a man on a tramp steamer who had been second mate of a sailing vessel which had been totally dismasted in the Backergunge cyclone of 1876. His vessel drifted up north before the southerly wind which sprang up after the cyclone had passed. On the second day they saw what appeared to be a line of breakers to the northward, but on heaving the deep-sea lead could get no soundings at fifty fathoms. As they approached the apparent line of breakers, they found that it was in reality a long line of floating debris, which had been carried out to sea with the backwash of the receding storm wave which had submerged the Sunderbunds to a depth of twenty feet in places. The broken water, resembling breakers, was caused by myriads of sharks fighting over the corpses and carcases of cattle, which stretched in a long line as far as the eye could see from east to west. My informant told me that it took hours for the ship to drift clear of the floating mass of corruption and that the captain made the men wear bunting soaked in a strong solution of carbolic acid over their faces as a disinfectant. They drifted into shoal water where they anchored, and were eventually picked up by a tug and towed in. 106

ON THE HOOGHLY

At intervals along the face of the western part of the Sunderbunds there were, and probably still are, houses of refuge for the benefit of shipwrecked people. These were built on piles and reached by means of a ladder, to protect the temporary residents from wild animals. These refuge houses were regularly visited by the launches of the Survey Service, which replenished their stores of food, water, etc., which were as regularly stolen by the woodcutters. It was on one of these periodical visits that Shaw became a passenger in the launch together with another leadsman, F. L. Puttock. Having inspected the refuge houses the launch anchored in one of the creeks, and Shaw, Puttock, and one of the youngsters of the Survey Service decided to bathe off a spit of sand at the mouth of the creek.

As the tide rose the waves kept washing them off the spit of sand, so they decided to swim across to the other side of the creek, which was more sheltered. The young Survey officer could not swim, and Shaw took him on his back. Half-way across the creek Puttock said, ” Let me have him now.” So Shaw transferred him to Puttock, who struck out for the beach, leaving Shaw to follow. Suddenly Puttock heard Shaw cry out, and on turning to see what was the matter saw him throw up his arms and disappear. He had been seized by a crocodile. The creeks were full of them. Shaw was very much missed as he was a general favourite. Puttock went down in the Coleroon when she was lost with all hands in the cyclone of November, 1891.

During my stay in the Service I can recall one occasion on which a refuge house proved useful, and that was when the Mohussir was lost. She was an Arab vessel, barque rigged, and left Calcutta in tow on May 1st, 1882. Besides her crew she carried several Indian passengers, men and women. Mr. Ewin, Mate Pilot, was appointed to take her down the river, and Allen was the leadsman.

When a pilot received an order to take away an Arab vessel he was handed at the same time thirty-two rupees in cash, with which to provide himself with food, it being LOSS OF THE ” MOHUSSIR “

107

taken for granted that he would not care for the diet of the Arabs, or care to feed with them. Sometimes the pilot’s idea of laying in provisions was rather jieculiar. and I recollect an occasion on which a leadsman arrived at the Sandheads very hungry, and complained bitterly to his brother leadsmen that the pilot with whom he had made the trip down had only laid in a case of gin and a tin of biscuits. But as a rule the pilot would lay in some tinned things, eggs, bread, etc., and live quite comfortably. I hove the lead down once in an Arab where we had a very good round of spiced beef, the remains of which we took to the brig where it was much appreciated; for on the brig we only got chicken, duck, or mutton, all very excellent, of course, and beef was a luxury.

To return to the Mohussir. All went well on the first day. She got to Mud Point and anchored there for the night. The next morning they weighed and proceeded down in tow as far as the Intermediate Light, situated midway between the Lower Gasper and Eastern Channel Lights. There Mr. Ewin decided to cast off the tug and work out under sail. The wind was south-westerly. He made sail on the port tack and stood over to the westward until he shoaled on the head of the Eastern Sea Reef, when he wore round on the starboard tack. The flood tide was making and they just held their own, gradually getting over to the eastern side of the channel towards Saugor Sand. In the Eastern Channel the water shoals gradually to the westward, but deepens on the eastern side, on the edge of Saugor Sand, and then shoals quite suddenly. Since casting off the tug the breeze had freshened a good deal.

As Mr. Ewin was considering the advisability of going on the other tack the parral of the maintopsail yard carried away. (This is the band which goes round the mast and keeps the yard in its place.) Mr. Ewin squared the mainyard, put the helm down, hove-to, and sent some of the hands aloft to repair the damage. At the same time his 108

ON THE HOOGHLY

attention was drawn to the fact that a good deal of water was finding its way below through the forward hatch. With the freshening breeze she had been shipping some water. He went forward to see about it and superintend the proper battening down of the hatch when he suddenly realised that the vessel was going through the water, and on looking aloft saw that the after-sails were full. He ran aft and found that the nacoda, or Arab captain, had put the helm up and run her off the wind. Mr. Ewin put the helm

H. V. ALLEN

down and brought her to the wind again, but the mischief was done.

She grounded almost immediately on Saugor Sand, and began to bump heavily. Each succeeding wave picked her up and lifted her farther on to the sand. The tide was still rising and she would float for a while and then start bumping heavily again. She was an old wooden vessel and it was obvious that she would not stand this treatment for long without breaking up. The nacoda and crew put the boat out and left the vessel. They offered to take the pilot and leadsman with them, but said there was no room in the boat for the passengers. Mr. Ewin and Allen refused to leave the passengers, and Mr. Ewin’s servant elected to remain. The Mohussir continued to drift and bump, until they got right across Saugor Sand and into Lacams channel. Mr. Ewin and Allen managed to let go the anchor and she brought up. THE MOHUSSIR SINKING IN L\CAMS CHANNEL THE SUNDERBUNDS

109

On taking stock of the position they saw that the vessel could not remain afloat much longer. The hammering she had received had started some of her timbers. Several spars had fallen from aloft and the deck was a confused tangle of sails, spars and gear. She seemed to be settling rapidly, and there was no time in which to try to make a raft, so they lashed the passengers to anything which would float, making use of hatches, hen coops, casks, and one or two old lifebuoys which were on the poop, and committed them to the waves. They were busy lashing the servant to a hen coop when the Mohussir went down under their feet, taking the boy down with her, as they had not had time to cast off the deck lashings.

They kept themselves afloat on bits of wreckage but there is no doubt that they would have shared the fate of the wretched passengers, none of whom was heard of again alive, had it not been for the roof of the deckhouse, which broke away as the vessel settled, floated to the surface, and served them as a raft. On this, aided by wind and tide, they eventually drifted to the Sunderbunds and landed on Bulchery Island, worn out and suffering intensely from thirst. They decided that their only chance of survival lay in marching to the westward until they reached one of the refuge houses.

On the sea face of the Sunderbunds thick jungle comes down nearly to high-water mark. Swarms of little red crabs are to be seen at times, which when disturbed vanish into their burrows. At certain seasons queer-looking trails lead up from the sea. These are the marks left by turtles which have crawled to above high-water mark to lay their round yellow eggs in holes which they dig with their flippers, leaving them to be hatched by the sun.

The numerous creeks running down to the sea are inhabited by crocodiles, which are said to attain a length of thirty feet and at half-tide may be seen lying on the mudflats, slithering into the water if disturbed. Curlew and all sorts of waders pick up a living on the mud, and jungle fowl 110

ON THE HOOGHLY

live in the bushes. L»eer are plentiful, and although personally I have only seen spotted deer, cheetal, there arc sambhur to the eastward. Tiger are there to live on the deer, pig also are to be found, and large lizards of the iguana kind. But on landing the impression one receives is of loneliness and desolation.

One of the older members of the Service told me how he had once, when on a shooting trip to the Sunderbunds,

UP A CREEK IN THE SUNDERBUNDS

chanced on a creek where, lying half-hidden by vegetation, was the stern of some old ship of long ago, which may have been washed up a century before.

Another tale was of a coolie ship winch had been wrecked on the Sunderbunds and how the survivors had made their way along the coast feeding on roots and shellfish until they had been found by a rescue party. At the crossing of the creeks the coolies had been reluctant to swim over for fear of the crocodiles, and the pilot (I think he was Mr. Matson, but am not sure) had always to go first and give them a lead. He was never touched, the crocodiles attacking the last men who swam over. NO. 3 REFUGE HOUSE

ill

There are evidences that, in the past, attempts have been made to inhabit this low-lying region of swamp and jungle. At Middleton Point, near Saugor Lighthouse, the foreshore having subsided, the encroachment of the sea in washing the jungle away laid bare the remains of former villages. The brickwork of a well was exposed in one place, and some metal ornaments were picked up. Saugor Lighthouse is surrounded by a high bund to protect it from inundations, and by a stockade to keep out wild animals. ‘ Or at all events such was the case at the time of which I write.

Mr. Ewin and Allen in their attempt to make their way westward had to traverse several creeks, and as the former was unable to swim, Allen had to swim across with him on his back. No easy job, for Ewin was a big, heavy man and at the first creek lost his head and nearly throttled Allen, who threatened to leave him unless he could control himself and not grip so tightly. They crossed two or three creeks without being attacked by the crocodiles, and at last when they were nearly played out arrived at No. 3 Refuge House situated on Bulchery Island. There they found some water in the tank, a supply of biscuits, and some tinned provisions. Allen’s body was nearly raw from exposure to the sun and salt water, and he was glad to rub himself over with the fat from a tin of Australian mutton. The relief of being able to lie down and sleep in security was great, but while sleeping Allen was several times attacked and bitten by rats.

They decided to remain where they were at No. 3 Refuge House, as they did not feel equal to the fatigue of struggling along the coast to the next one to the westward.

Whilst there they were visited several times by a tiger, who came and lay down underneath them, but, of course, could not ascend the ladder which gave access to the hut, and they were inconvenienced by the stench from a dead body, which lay only a few yards away. It was probably one of the unfortunate passengers of the Mohussir. Dread of the tiger prevented them going down to bury it. 112

ON THE HOOGHLY

As soon as the loss of the Mohussir became known in town one of the survey launches was sent down to search the refuge houses for any survivors. It was only by great good luck that the two were found, for after visiting Nos. 1 and 2 houses the officer in charge of the launch decided that it was no use going farther east, and was about to abandon the search; but the engineer, Mr. Gomez, a brother of Madame Gomez, the celebrated singer, persuaded the officer to continue the search as far as No. 3, where they found Mr. Ewin and Allen. Years later, when special pilot of the Rangoon Mail steamers, Allen was lost overboard in heavy weather off the Alguada reef.

I chummed for some little time, in a small bungalow at Kidderpur, with Shaw, Allen, and a German named Dreyer who was curator of the Museum and very well informed on all manner of subjects. He had served in the FrancoPrussian War as a lieutenant in one of the Westphalian regiments and had many interesting things to tell us about the campaign. He was a collector of Hymenoptera, commonly known as wasps, and one Sunday I accompanied him on a collecting expedition to the Botanical Gardens.

There were a good many of his little pets about, and he seemed to be doing good business with his butterfly net and killing bottle, when we heard cries of alarm from a nearby thicket. On investigation we found that they arose from a picnic party, which had been disturbed by a snake about four feet long which had started to crawl across their tablecloth. I hit it with my stick, and Dreyer told me to pick it up, as he would like to take it to a confrere at the Museum who was interested in Ophidia. While carrying it over my shoulder the reptile, which had only been stunned, became lively and twined itself round my leg. I gave it another whack, which kept it quiet, but it was still alive when we got back home and Dreyer placed it in a box for the night. He had said he thought it a harmless variety or I should not have handled it so cheerfully ; but on the following evening he mentioned casually that his friend the Ophidian expert AN ILL-SUITED COUPLE

118

had pronounced it to be a snake of the most venomous description.

When the chummery at Hastings broke up, Shaw, Allen and I took the ground flat in a large house, and were joined by Mackinnon, another Worcester boy who had come out to the Service. On the floor above lived a solicitor and his wife who did not hit it off very well together, and in the top flat lived a gentleman who was a partner in one of the large business firms.

We had not been long installed when we felt called upon to interfere in the affairs of the people who lived just above us. Prolonged screaming proclaimed that something had gone wrong there, so up we trooped in a body to enquire into the disturbance. The wife declared that the husband had hit her. The husband ordered us to clear out, but could not very well tackle the three of us, Shaw especially being a very powerful young man who played forward at Rugger for Calcutta. I pointed out to the others that owing to our youth and inexperience we were obviously unfitted to advise or lecture a married couple, but that the gentleman on the top flat, an old married man, was the proper person to deal with the situation. So we sent a servant up to ask him if he would kindly step down, which he did. We explained the case to him, and asked him to be so good as to tell the husband how he ought to behave in that capacity. The husband’s face was an interesting study of stifled and futile rage as the old gentleman told him how wrong it was to strike any woman, especially his partner in life, and when he had finished we told the husband that if he did such a thing again we would send Shaw up to thrash him.

But we doubted afterwards whether the lady was really deserving of much sympathy ; for about a week later, while we were at breakfast, the solicitor appeared in his pyjamas with a request that one of us would lend him a pair of trousers, his wife having hidden all his, and he had an important case on at the High Court in half an hour.

H 114

ON THE HOOGHLY

Again we trooped up to his flat and told the lady that she would alienate our sympathy unless she immediately restored the missing garments. She did so with a very ill grace, and we wished them both good morning.

About ten minutes afterwards we were disturbed by a crash in the hall and found that she had got him in the small of the back with a flower-pot containing a croton as he was hurrying downstairs to go to Court. It had bowled him over and the hall was full of mould and broken flowerpot, while over the balustrade leant the lady, laughing like a fiend. We brushed him down, saw him off, and returned to our own quarters impressed with the difficulties and risks of married life.

Mackimion, who had joined us, turned up one day full of importance. It appeared that a young cousin, MacC , Chief of the Clan, had just arrived from England, was staying with another cousin, the MacT , in Calcutta, and was dining with us that evening. The spread would have to be worthy of so important an occasion. As usual we were all more or less stonybroke, but we mustered sufficient cash to purchase a gallon jar of whisky, with which we filled six old whisky bottles bearing diverse labels. These made an imposing show down the centre of the dining-table and we were able to offer the MacC his choice of a varied selection of Highland dew. The evening was a great success. The various brands were all sampled, and in the small hours we escorted the Chieftain to the residence of his cousin MacT , round whose bed we ranged ourselves crowing like cocks until, boiling over with rage, he turned us all out, and I have no doubt gave the MacC a good dressing down, for he appeared to be a bad-tempered little man.

I recall another incident connected with Mackinnon when he was keeping an anchor watch at the Sandheads. The brig was lying near the Light, riding to the ebb tide, over which a French barque was slowly coming in under sail before a light southerly breeze. The commander of the OBEYING ORDERS

115

brig, Mr. W. O’B. West, was dozing in a long chair on the quarter deck, other pilots were doing the same on the comfortable settees, and everything was hot and peaceful.

When the French barque was about a mile away Mackinnon roused the commander and told him that the vessel was getting close. Annoyed at being disturbed, Mr. West said, ” ALL right. Call me when she hits us,” and dozed off again.

The barque continued to come along until her jibboom was over the taffrail and knocked the flagstaff away as she put her helm over and ranged alongside the brig’s quarter.

As the flagstaff went with a crash, Mackinnon said :

” I think she’s got us now, sir.”

The commander fell out of his chair, rushed to the rail and told the Frenchman what he thought of him.

All was now confusion and excitement, but there was no damage done except to the flagstaff, and the boat was sent off with a pilot. Mackinnon adopted an attitude of injured innocence and pleaded that he was merely obeying orders. But the commander in a violent outburst characterised him as an idiot of the most sanguinary description.

Please leave a comment to get more chapters……

An ERNEBANK Shipmate crosses the bar……….

H Barber second from the left….. An Ernebank excursion to ” The Mother” , a volcano top in Rabaul. Left to right: Doug Christie: HBarber:3rd Engineer:Alan Rawlinson

Captain H Barber has recently died after a long and successful career and retirement. We were shipmates back in 1953 on the above ship – the Ernebank. I was a junior apprentice, and Harold was the 3/0, his first Bank Line trip. And what a trip! ( See the article titled ” Around the world in Coronation year 1953). The Officers were a particularly wild bunch and as we went from Cuba to Japan, the shore trips got wilder and wilder. I recall Harold as a pleasant and friendly shipmate who baulked at some of the escapades that were dreamed up, like climbing a mountain in spikes in Rabaul. However, all ended well, and Harold went on to pass for Extra Master’s and to be a senior Master on a range of Bank Line ships, new and old. I have nothing but fond memories – R.I.P. Harold.

by Alan Rawlinson (site owner)

Another tribute from Tim Phillips

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Captain Harry Barber.

As a young apprentice I sailed with him on the Forthbank (The voyage that hit the bridge in Rotterdam)

and  can clearly remember his stoic and professional handling of such a dramatic incident. 

As the “old man” he was greatly respected by all of the crew and saw us all through some very trying times.

Many times during my  career and still today, when I have been faced with difficult events,

I often think back to Harry and take great solace in the way he managed these things.

Condolences to the Barber family, and RIP Harry

Tim Phillips

Hapag-Lloyd Ghana Ltd

Managing Director

DACEBANK under way….

Dacebank was launched in 1979. She was the third of 6 ” Fish”class sisterships. She had 8 years only in the fleet, before becoming the ANNA L under Greek ownership in 1987. ( Her sister RUDDBANK completed at the same time, had only 4 years before being sold on) Blue Star Line had her on charter for 3 years and named her WASHINGTON STAR. She reverted to Greek ownership in 97 and became the ARIS K, and in 1999 went under the Chinese flag as the PARADISE.

CONGELLA – 10 Years as a Bank Line vessel.

A fascinating ship history. Built in 1914 by Blohm and Voss, Hamburg for the Hamburg America Line and named SECUNDUS. Under the German flag for all of WW1. Then ceded to France and owned by 2 companies before sailing under the USA flag for Barber S.S. Lines as the MINDORO. Became the CONGELLA when purchased by Andrew Weir in 1933, and served for 10 years before being sunk by the Japanese…. ( see below)

The 18 amazing sisters of the Inverbank class…….

These are the 18 vessels of a single order made in 1924. Fate dictated that 9 would be lost, mainly in WW2, and the other 9 would each serve well over 30 years each.

The ones lost were: Birchbank; Cedarbank; Alynbank; Elmbank; Weirbank; Larchbank; Oakbank; Speybank; Springbank, plus the Forresbank which was wrecked in the 50’s. The long term survivors were: Inverbank; Glenbank; Comliebank; Clydebank; Nairnbank; Levernbank; Myrtlebank and Olivebank.

Most of the photos are taken in Capetown and the sampson posts aft made the ships easily identifiable. The ships were built at Govan in Scotland, and they were twin screw with 2 x 6 cylinder oil engines made by the builders.

A strange thing was that conditions on board these ships were quite primitive with no mod cons, but they had an appeal to those that served on them which is hard to explain. Maybe it was the endless wandering around the world, and the long voyages of 2 years or more that made it feel a reasonably comfortable home once settled in. Whatever it was, the surviving ships were always greeted warmly when spotted in some far flung outpost. We were maritime gypsies and those ships remaining in the fleet in the 1950’s are remembered fondly by those that sailed on them.

………SEA GYPSIES

A fascinating article and a glimpse into the world of sailing craft in the Far East.

Sea Gypsies and Pinisi of the Laut Java

By Geoffrey Walker

CONTINUE READING BY CLICKING ON THE ‘ DOWNLOAD BUTTON’

By Geoff Walker, Master in the China Seas, and author of ” A Tramp For All The Oceans”.

On the " white ship" ……… INCHANGA

An extract from the book – ” Any Budding Sailors”?

The author and fellow apprentice at the Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon.

The ‘ Inchanga ‘ had broad wood sheathed alleyways dominated by very wide cowl ventilators serving the cargo decks below.  It was possible to lean into the cowl,  like boys do,  and even without doing that, the whole area often had a wonderful spicy aroma which I can still conjure up writing this 66 years later!     The reason was that we carried bags of spices like cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and assorted herbs which gave out a lovely rich perfume.       It gave those ships a distinctive smell, and those wide alleyways were somehow more like those on a really big passenger liner.  At sea between Africa and India or Ceylon it was the practice to erect a wooden framed make shift swimming pool for both passengers and officers to use,  and it just about served its purpose, but with some unique features brought about by the weather.   This type of pool facility would give the modern cruise ship owner a nightmare, or maybe a fit of the giggles.   Situated just in front of the bridge structure, and close to the ships side, any rolling motion would tend to slosh the water straight over the side!        At 16 years of age this constituted fun, but I don’t believe anyone was ever washed out with the water despite the danger.   Being watched by the bridge personnel above was a bit off putting, but they were just ogling the ladies in bikinis.  

Continued….

WAR BURMAN of 1919

This ship was built as WAR BURMAN by Caird & Co, Greenock. Name changed at launch to BURGONDIER (Lloyd Royal Belge). In 1926 she was sold on to Buenos Aies Gt Southern Rail Co. who renamed her AZUL. In 1935 she became the DAVID DAWSON., and in 1937 the PENTELI under the Greek flag. Yet another change in 1939 when she took th name of BROCKLEY HILL. Sunk by U651 in the Atlantic when fully loaded with grain.

Steamer TYNEBANK and her charmed life throughout WW2..

This ship was on the stocks in S Shields during the depression years of 1934, and was built very slowly, by John Readhead. She led a charmed life sailing all over the globe for the 6 years of WW2 unscathed. In 1955 she went to a HK company and became the INCHJURA for a further 4 years trading.

TYNEBANK (Br)  4,651 tons, built 1934

Departure                              Convoy                    Arrival           

Rosario, Sep 23, 1939                    Independent                    Buenos Aires, Sep 24, 1939          

                               Independent                    Montevideo, Oct 1, 1939          

Buenos Aires, Oct 1, 1939                    Independent                               

Montevideo, Oct 2, 1939                    Independent                    Freetown, Oct 19, 1939          

Freetown, Nov 8, 1939                    SL.8 (Freetown – Liverpool)          Liverpool, Nov 27, 1939          

Liverpool, Dec 16, 1939                    OB.54 (Liverpool – Dispersed)          Cardiff, Dec 18, 1939          

Cardiff, Jan 5, 1940                    Independent                    Milford Haven, Jan 6, 1940          

Milford Haven, Jan 12, 1940                    OB.70 (Liverpool – to OG 14)                               

Passed Gibraltar, Jan 18, 1940          Independent                               

                     OG.14 (to AT SEA – Gibraltar)                    Passed Gibraltar, Jan 19, 1940          

                               Independent                    Port Said, Jan 27, 1940          

Suez, Feb 8, 1940                    Independent                    Calcutta, Feb 26, 1940          

Calcutta, Mar 3, 1940                    Independent                               

Madras, Mar 6, 1940                    Independent                    Cochin, Mar 15, 1940          

Cochin, Mar 15, 1940                    Independent                    Colombo, Mar 19, 1940          

Colombo, Mar 21, 1940                    Independent                    Durban, Apr 5, 1940          

Durban, Apr 7, 1940                    Independent                    St John Nb, May 7, 1940          

St John Nb, May 8, 1940                    Independent                    Boston, May 11, 1940          

Boston, May 11, 1940                    Independent                    New York, May 12, 1940          

New York, May 15, 1940                    Independent                    Philadelphia, May 16, 1940          

Philadelphia, May 17, 1940                    Independent                    Baltimore, May 19, 1940          

Baltimore, May 20, 1940                    Independent                    New York, May 22, 1940          

New York, May 31, 1940                    Independent                    Halifax, Jun 4, 1940          

Halifax, Jun 5, 1940                    HX.48 (Halifax – Liverpool)          Liverpool, Jun 19, 1940          

Liverpool, Jul 11, 1940                    OB.182 (Liverpool – Dispersed)                               

                               Independent                    St John Nb, Jul 24, 1940          

St John Nb, Aug 1, 1940                    Independent                    Corner Brook, Aug 4, 1940          

Corner Brook, Aug 12, 1940                    Independent                    Sydney CB, Aug 13, 1940          

Sydney CB, Aug 16, 1940                    HX.66 (Halifax – Liverpool)          Liverpool, Aug 31, 1940          

Liverpool, Sep 17, 1940                    OB.215 (Liverpool – Dispersed)                               

                               Independent                    Montreal, Oct 2, 1940          

Montreal, Oct 12, 1940                    Independent                    Sydney CB, Oct 16, 1940          

Sydney CB, Oct 17, 1940                    HX.81 (Halifax – Liverpool)          Oban, Nov 1, 1940          

Oban, Nov 5, 1940                    Independent                    Clyde, Nov 6, 1940          

Clyde, Nov 17, 1940                    WN.40 (Clyde – Methil)          Methil, Nov 20, 1940          

Methil, Nov 24, 1940                    FS.344 (Methil – Southend)          Southend, Nov 26, 1940          

Southend, Dec 9, 1940                    FN.355 (Southend – Methil)          Tyne, Dec 11, 1940          

                               FN.365 (Southend – Methil)          Methil, Dec 24, 1940          

Tyne, Dec 24, 1940                    FN.365 (Southend – Methil)                               

Methil, Dec 26, 1940                    EN.47/1 (Methil – Oban)          Oban, Dec 30, 1940          

Oban, Dec 31, 1940                    OB.267 (Liverpool – Dispersed)                               

                               Independent                    Capetown, Jan 31, 1941          

Capetown, Jan 31, 1941                    Independent                    Durban, Feb 5, 1941          

Durban, Feb 7, 1941                    Independent                    Aden, Feb 24, 1941          

Aden, Mar 17, 1941                    BN.20 (Aden – Suez)          Suez, Mar 25, 1941          

Port Said, Mar 26, 1941                    Independent                    Alexandria, Mar 27, 1941          

Alexandria, Apr 3, 1941                    Independent                    Port Said, Apr 4, 1941          

Suez, Apr 7, 1941                    BS.23 (Suez – Dispersed)          Port Sudan, Apr 11, 1941          

Port Sudan, Apr 14, 1941                    Independent                    Suez, Apr 18, 1941          

Suez, Apr 19, 1941                    Independent                    Port Sudan, Apr 22, 1941          

Port Sudan, Apr 22, 1941                    Independent                    Suez, Apr 26, 1941          

Suez, Apr 29, 1941                    Independent                               

Port Sudan, May 1, 1941                    Independent                    Massawa, May 3, 1941          

Massawa, May 5, 1941                    Independent                    Suez, May 9, 1941          

Suez, May 13, 1941                    Independent                    Massawa, May 17, 1941          

Massawa, May 19, 1941                    Independent                    Suez, May 23, 1941          

Suez, Jun 1, 1941                    Independent                    Aden, Jun 7, 1941          

Aden, Jun 9, 1941                    Independent                    Beira, Jun 24, 1941          

Beira, Jun 25, 1941                    Independent                    Lourenco Marques, Jun 28, 1941          

Lourenco Marques, Jun 30, 1941          Independent                               

Capetown, Jul 14, 1941                    Independent                    Port Elizabeth, Jul 18, 1941          

Port Elizabeth, Jul 23, 1941                    Independent                    Aden, Aug 9, 1941          

Aden, Aug 9, 1941                    Independent                    Port Sudan, Aug 13, 1941          

Port Sudan, Aug 15, 1941                    Independent                    Suez, Aug 18, 1941          

Port Said, Aug 20, 1941                    Independent                    Alexandria, Aug 21, 1941          

Alexandria, Aug 31, 1941                    Independent                    Port Said, Sep 1, 1941          

Suez, Sep 3, 1941                    Independent                    Aden, Sep 8, 1941          

Aden, Sep 11, 1941                    Independent                    Calcutta, Sep 27, 1941          

Calcutta, Oct 13, 1941                    Independent                    Colombo, Oct 19, 1941          

Colombo, Oct 21, 1941                    Independent                    Durban, Nov 8, 1941          

Durban, Nov 14, 1941                    Independent                    Capetown, Nov 19, 1941          

Capetown, Nov 20, 1941                    Independent                    Rio De Janeiro, Dec 5, 1941          

Rio De Janeiro, Dec 6, 1941                    Independent                    Santos, Dec 7, 1941          

Santos, Dec 10, 1941                    Independent                    Montevideo, Dec 13, 1941          

                               Independent                    Buenos Aires, Dec 16, 1941          

Montevideo, Dec 16, 1941                    Independent                               

Buenos Aires, Jan 8, 1942                    Independent                               

Montevideo, Jan 12, 1942                    Independent                    Rio De Janeiro, Jan 16, 1942          

Rio De Janeiro, Jan 26, 1942                    Independent                    Freetown, Feb 12, 1942          

Freetown, Feb 21, 1942                    SL.101 (Freetown – Liverpool)          Belfast Lough, Mar 15, 1942          

Belfast Lough, Mar 19, 1942                    BB.150 (Belfast Lough – M Haven)                    Cardiff, Mar 20, 1942          

Cardiff, Apr 9, 1942                    Independent                    Milford Haven, Apr 10, 1942          

Milford Haven, Apr 11, 1942                    OS.25 (Liverpool – Freetown)                               

                               Independent                    Montevideo, May 12, 1942          

Montevideo, May 22, 1942                    Independent                    Buenos Aires, May 23, 1942          

Buenos Aires, Jun 3, 1942                    Independent                    Capetown, Jun 21, 1942          

Capetown, Jul 25, 1942                    Independent                    Lourenco Marques, Jul 31, 1942          

Lourenco Marques, Aug 9, 1942          Independent                    Aden, Aug 23, 1942          

Aden, Aug 23, 1942                    Independent                    Suez, Aug 31, 1942          

Suez, Sep 12, 1942                    Independent                    Aden, Sep 21, 1942          

Aden, Sep 23, 1942                    Independent                    Durban, Oct 7, 1942          

Durban, Oct 11, 1942                    Independent                    Rio De Janeiro, Oct 31, 1942          

Rio De Janeiro, Nov 23, 1942                    Independent                    Trinidad, Dec 10, 1942          

Trinidad, Dec 19, 1942                    TAG.30 (Trinidad – Guantanamo)                    Guantanamo, Dec 24, 1942          

Guantanamo, Dec 24, 1942                    GN.30 (Guantanamo – NYC)          New York, Jan 1, 1943          

New York, Jan 4, 1943                    SC.116 (NYC – Liverpool)          Loch Ewe, Jan 28, 1943          

                               WN.389 (Loch Ewe – Methil)          Methil, Jan 31, 1943          

Methil, Jan 31, 1943                    FS.1027 (Methil – Southend)          Middlesbrough, Feb 1, 1943          

Middlesbrough, Feb 19, 1943                    not reported                    Blyth, Feb 20, 1943          

                               not reported                    Tyne, Feb 25, 1943          

Blyth, Feb 25, 1943                    not reported                               

Tyne, Mar 2, 1943                    FN.957 (Southend – Methil)          Methil, Mar 3, 1943          

Methil, Mar 3, 1943                    EN.201 (Methil – Loch Ewe)          Clyde, Mar 6, 1943          

Clyde, Mar 14, 1943                    KMS.11G (Clyde – Bone)          Gibraltar, Mar 24, 1943          

Gibraltar, Apr 11, 1943                    KMS.12G (Clyde – Bone)          Algiers, Apr 14, 1943          

Algiers, Apr 24, 1943                    MKS.12 (Bone – r/v WITH SL 128)                    Gibraltar, Apr 26, 1943          

Gibraltar, May 6, 1943                    Independent                    Melilla, May 7, 1943          

Melilla, May 8, 1943                    Independent                    Gibraltar, May 9, 1943          

Gibraltar, May 22, 1943                    MKS.13G (Gibraltar – r/v WITH SL 129)                               

                     SL.129MK (r/v SL 129/MKS 13 – Liverpool)          Loch Ewe, Jun 1, 1943          

                     WN.436 (Loch Ewe – Methil)                    Methil, Jun 4, 1943          

Methil, Jun 4, 1943                    FS.1133 (Methil – Southend)          Southend, Jun 6, 1943          

Southend, Jun 16, 1943                    FN.1049 (Southend – Methil)          Tyne, Jun 17, 1943          

Tyne, Jun 27, 1943                    FN.1057 (Southend – Methil)          Methil, Jun 28, 1943          

Methil, Jun 29, 1943                    EN.249 (Methil – Loch Ewe)          Loch Ewe, Jul 1, 1943          

                     ON.191 (Liverpool – NYC)                    New York, Jul 15, 1943          

New York, Aug 2, 1943                    Independent                               

Hampton Roads, Aug 7, 1943                    UGS.14 (Hampton Rds – Port Said)Port Said, Sep 2, 1943          

Suez, Sep 4, 1943                    Independent                    Aden, Sep 10, 1943          

Aden, Sep 10, 1943                    Independent                    Colombo, Sep 20, 1943          

Madras, Oct 13, 1943                    Independent                    Calcutta, Oct 17, 1943          

Calcutta, Nov 8, 1943                    Independent                    Aden, Nov 27, 1943          

Aden, Nov 28, 1943                    Independent                    Suez, Dec 3, 1943          

Port Said, Dec 5, 1943                    Independent                    Alexandria, Dec 6, 1943          

Alexandria, Dec 7, 1943                    GUS.24 (Port Said – Hampton Rds)                    Gibraltar, Dec 17, 1943          

Gibraltar, Dec 19, 1943                    OS.61 (ex OS 61/KMS 35 – Freetown)                    Dakar, Dec 27, 1943          

Dakar, Jan 8, 1944                    OS.62 (ex OS 62/KMS 37 – Freetown)                    Freetown, Jan 11, 1944          

Freetown, Jan 13, 1944                    Independent                    Lagos, Jan 18, 1944          

Lagos, Jan 30, 1944                    LTS.9 (Lagos – Freetown)          Freetown, Feb 5, 1944          

Freetown, Feb 11, 1944                    SL.149 (Freetown – r/v WITH MKS 40)                               

                     SL.149MK (r/v SL 149/MKS 40 – Liverpool)          Loch Ewe, Mar 6, 1944          

                     WN.554 (Loch Ewe – Methil)                    Methil, Mar 9, 1944          

Methil, Mar 9, 1944                    FS.1386 (Methil – Southend)          Immingham, Mar 10, 1944          

                               Independent                    Hull, Mar 11, 1944          

Immingham, Mar 11, 1944                    Independent                               

Hull, Apr 27, 1944                    FN.1340 (Southend – Methil)          Methil, Apr 29, 1944          

Methil, Apr 29, 1944                    EN.377 (Methil – Loch Ewe)          Loch Ewe, May 1, 1944          

                               ON.235 (Liverpool – NYC)          St Johns NF, May 15, 1944          

St Johns NF, May 18, 1944                    WB.87 (St Johns NF – Sydney CB)                    Sydney CB, May 21, 1944          

Sydney CB, May 22, 1944                    not reported                    New York, May 26, 1944          

New York, Jun 5, 1944                    NG.439 (NYC – Guantanamo)          Guantanamo, Jun 11, 1944          

Guantanamo, Jun 13, 1944                    Independent                               

Macoris, Jul 3, 1944                    Independent                    Guantanamo, Jul 5, 1944          

Guantanamo, Jul 7, 1944                    GN.143 (Guantanamo – NYC)          New York, Jul 14, 1944          

New York, Jul 17, 1944                    HX.300 (NYC – Liverpool)          Liverpool, Aug 3, 1944          

Liverpool, Aug 18, 1944                    ON.249 (Liverpool – NYC)          New York, Sep 2, 1944          

New York, Sep 23, 1944                    NG.461 (NYC – Guantanamo)          Guantanamo, Sep 29, 1944          

Guantanamo, Sep 29, 1944                    GAT.163 (Guantanamo – Trinidad)                    Trinidad, Oct 5, 1944          

Trinidad, Oct 7, 1944                    TJ.47 (Trinidad – Rio)                               

                               Independent                    Capetown, Nov 5, 1944          

Capetown, Nov 11, 1944                    Independent                    Port Elizabeth, Nov 13, 1944          

Port Elizabeth, Nov 19, 1944                    Independent                    Durban, Nov 20, 1944          

Durban, Nov 24, 1944                    Independent                    Tamatave, Nov 30, 1944          

Tamatave, Dec 5, 1944                    Independent                    Mauritius, Dec 8, 1944          

Mauritius, Dec 15, 1944                    Independent                    Colombo, Dec 27, 1944          

Colombo, Jan 17, 1945                    Independent                    Durban, Feb 4, 1945          

Durban, Feb 15, 1945                    Independent                    Colombo, Mar 5, 1945          

Colombo, Apr 11, 1945                    Independent                    Lourenco Marques, Apr 27, 1945          

Lourenco Marques, May 7, 1945          Independent                    Colombo, May 24, 1945          

Colombo, Jun 20, 1945                    Independent                    Mauritius, Jul 12, 1945          

Mauritius, Jul 22, 1945                    Independent                    Reunion, Jul 23, 1945          

Reunion, Jul 25, 1945                    Independent                    Mauritius, Jul 26, 1945          

Mauritius, Aug 3, 1945                    Independent                    Colombo, Aug 15, 1945          

Colombo, Sep 6, 1945                    Independent                    Tamatave, Sep 19, 1945          

Tamatave, Sep 29, 1945                    Independent                    Majunga, Oct 3, 1945          

Majunga, Oct 11, 1945                    Independent                    Nossi Be, Oct 12, 1945          

Nossi Be, Oct 23, 1945                    Independent                    Aden, Nov 3, 1945          

Aden, Nov 4, 1945                    Independent                    Suez, Nov 10, 1945          

Port Said, Nov 13, 1945                    Independent                    Havre, Dec 3, 1945          

Havre, Dec 13, 1945                    Independent                    Swansea, Dec 15, 1945          

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

                               Independent                    St John Nb, Jul 24, 1940          

What an itinerary – how often might she have been in the crosshairs of a U boat in all her meandering…?

FIRBANK

A rescue of Vietnamese refugees in 1978 when on charter to EAC as SIBONGA

Some of the children rescued

The boat hoisted on deck

NOTE: This rescue was 1978, and in 1979 the same ship, with Captain Healey Martin picked up 1002 survivors from 2 boats, an incident which hit the world headlines. A 40 year reunion was held recently. ( See the articles and reports elsewhere on this site)