Gold Ribbon Banner
Friday, July 19, 2019
RMS Durban Castle
My life at sea started at an early age, I was born into a large family, I was the sixth out of ten children. During the war, with air raids every night in 1945 my mother up and left all 10 of us. My father was working abroad as an engineer and when he came home all of the younger brothers and sisters were put in the care of the Shaftesbury Homes. I was sent to Fortescue House school in Twickenham and spent the next four and a half years in care.
Whilst there, I became aware that part of Shaftesbury Homes was the Arethusa Training Ship, this was my first brush with a seafaring life. I was determined, as soon as I was old enough, to join the Arethusa Training ship. This ship was run by the Society for boys who wished to go to sea in either the Royal or Merchant Navy. I knew then, at an early age, I wanted to go to sea, then at last reaching the age of fourteen and a half years I was sent to join the Training Ship Arethusa. On January 15th, 1951, I joined as a boy rating. It was a nice sunny day and my first sight of the training ship, as I walked up the road, was the four yellow masts towering above the tree tops. Looking over the River Medway, I remember the excitement walking on board this famous ship with her proud history, then putting on my uniform for the first time and then becoming part of the ships company. Life onboard was one of strict discipline, but fair, and I soon settled in to the ship’s routine. We were taught seamanship, morse code, semaphore flag signaling, knots, splices, rope and wire as well as normal schooling. Sports played a large part of life onboard ship and I also joined the band which was quite nice because every weekend in the Summer the band would attend local fetes and fairs, marching and playing, it was great fun.

Every six weeks we would carry out ships maintenance which included painting, cleaning, ships rigging and, on the shore establishment, the swimming pool and our normal school work at that time continued. I will always remember my time on the training ship with fond memories.

Then on September 4th 1952 came the time for me to leave the Arethusa. I had to choose whether to join the Royal or Merchant Navy. For me there was no contest – the Merchant Navy was the road I chose. The chance to see the world after six years in care was exciting, and I shall always be thankful for the care I received in the hands of the Shaftesbury and Arethusa Homes. On my leaving day, I was given a small suitcase with a sports jacket and trousers, oil skins and a ten shilling note. I was taken to the Royal Group of Docks in London where, having got my discharge book and identity card, Mr Saddler of Shaftesbury Homes took me down to the Docks and at the bottom of the gangway pointed up to the Quarter Master telling me to report to the Chief Officer. I looked up at this beautiful Lavender coloured ship, RMS Durban Castle, and what a wonderful sight she made. As I went up the gangway, half way up I turned around to say something to Mr Saddler and there was no one there. I realised then that I really was on my own. As I walked to the top of the gangway the ship was being loaded with general cargo and passengers luggage. The smell of the docks, the spices will always remain with me.

Having reported to the Chief Officer I was put to work on the bridge looking after the wheel house and cleaning brass work and making sure that everything was ship shape.

The next day we got ready for sailing, I hoisted the Blue Peter and saw the boat train coming down to the Quayside and lots of passengers boarding with their cabin luggage. The pilot came on board and hatches were battened down, tugs made fast fore and aft. The pilot took us out to the river and then on down to Gravesend. It was a start for me of a lifetime of adventure.

Kevin Wells We set sail for Gibraltar going down the English Channel through the Bay of Biscay. When we stopped at Gibraltar a small amount of cargo was unloaded for the Royal Navy. Around the ship were small bum boats selling an assortment of goods and souvenirs. At 1700 hrs we set sail entering the Mediterranean and altered course for Marseilles at which we arrived at 0800 hrs the next day. An aromatic scent of wine and pine trees is one I shall always remember. We stayed overnight unloading cargo and passengers, taking on new passengers and set sail for Genoa.

I remember a really busy port with two or three Italian liners moored next to each other. The bomb damage from the Second World War was still very much in evidence. It was a shame such a beautiful port had sustained so much damage. We set sail in the early evening for Port Said. On the way we passed the Island of Stromboli which was erupting and we could see smoke and ash rising into the sky on a lovely sunny day.

Two days later we arrived at Port Said to await transit through the Suez Cannel. Waking up in the morning and looking out of my porthole, I saw endless sand dunes very close, which was quite amazing. It took us 12 hours to reach Port Suez going through the Bitter Lakes. We then entered the Red Sea and made for Port Sudan. We arrived there a day later and when the dockers came onboard to unload cargo I stared in amazement at the native dockers, at the way they were dressed in rags and their hair plastered with camel dung with big ivory combs sticking out, which they used for combing and scratching their heads. All the dockers had masses of flies swarming around their heads; it really was an amazing sight.

The next day we sailed for Aden where again there was a small group of boats around us where you could buy lots of souvenirs, cheap watches, cameras etc. We also took on bunkers that would last the ship until we were back in the UK.

On leaving Aden, we rounded the Horn of Africa going south to Mombasa where we stayed overnight. I remember we were only allowed shore leave if we went in pairs because of the Mau Mau Terrorists. Seeing the Kenyan Policeman at the dock gates wearing his red Fez hat and smart uniform he looked very impressive. We unloaded cars, general cargo, some passengers disembarked and new passengers came onboard.

We then sailed to Tanga and then on to Zanzibar with its wonderful spices. The island was very pretty and we anchored so that cargo was unloaded into barges.

There was no crew leave on this occasion. We left the same evening for Dar-Es-Salaam which surely was one of the most beautiful harbours I have ever seen. The ship entered a narrow entrance into a lagoon where we dropped both anchors and the stern was moored to palm trees on the shoreline. We stayed overnight and left the next day to sail to Biera and then on to Lorenço Marques.

Our next port of call was Durban in South Africa and what a change that was. Even if you went surfing you had a whites only beach and shark nets all along the bathing area. I remember we had a ride in a rickshaw with a large Zulu in all his finest headgear. He looked very noble and I was impressed. When we came into the harbour I remember seeing hundreds of African prisoners all chained together with leg irons building a new breakwater. I felt so sorry for them, the guards had rifles and whips.

We then left Durban to call at Port Elizabeth and then on to East London and our final port in South Africa was Cape Town. I could never forget the lovely view of Table Mountain with a layer of cloud across the top.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - January 2015 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Boudicca

Most Popular

  • Oil Leak Survey of WWII British Tanker Wreck +

  • Tragedy of the “Stellar Daisy” +

  • Six LNG Carriers Join BP Fleet +

  • Saint Brandan - "Vital Spark of the South Atlantic" +

  • Museum Says ‘it’ is the End of the Line for ‘Her’ +

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Crowds Tribute to the Last Tyne +

    Annie Blaker The last of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s famous Tyne class lifeboats was launched for the last time at her Read More
  • Clyde’s Vital Role in Onshore Windfarm +

    Clydeport Clydeport has played a vital role in the building of the UK’s largest onshore windfarm on Eaglesham Moor, just 20 Read More
  • Museum Says ‘it’ is the End of the Line for ‘Her’ +

    Scottish Maritime Museum The Scottish Maritime Museum, at Irvine, has abandon hundreds of years of maritime history and tradition and decided to stop Read More
  • Six LNG Carriers Join BP Fleet +

    BP Partnership Class Six new 173,400 cu m capacity LNG carriers have joined the fleet of BP Shipping, of London. Read More
  • Warehouse Boosts Import of Forest Products +

    Freight A new £17mn warehouse is to be built at Liverpool by the national logistics provider Jenkins which specialises in paper, Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Changes in Tolls for Using Panama Canal +

    MSC Pohlin The Panama Canal plans to modify its tolls structure for all types of ships “to better serve the global maritime Read More
  • Largest LNG Carrier Sails From West to East +

    Al Safliya The largest LNG tanker to use the Panama Canal since it was expanded less that three years ago passed through Read More
  • Oil Leak Survey of WWII British Tanker Wreck +

    Coimbra Wreck The US Coast Guard were evaluating a plan to remove oil from a tanker that was sunk in the Second Read More
  • Line Sells Long Beach Container Terminal +

    Long Beach Container Terminal The Hong Kong shipping group Orient Overseas (International) Ltd (OOIL) is selling its Long Beach Container Terminal, California, to a Read More
  • Terminal to be Extended After Record Year +

    Viau Montreal The Viau container terminal at Montreal, Canada, is to be expanded so that it can handle 600,000 teu a year. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • “Prelude” Makes its Debut With First LNG Cargo +

    Prelude The first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has left Shell’s floating LNG facility Prelude some 475kms north-east of Broome Read More
  • Special Navigating System to be Fitted to VLCCs +

    AR Nav Following two-ship trials, augmented reality (AR) navigation systems are to be installed on 21 very large crude oil carriers (VLCCs) Read More
  • Work Starts on Hybrid Series +

    Grimaldi Hybrid In China, construction has started at the Jinling Shipyard on the first of the Grimaldi Group’s new hybrid roll-on, roll-off Read More
  • Tragedy of the “Stellar Daisy” +

    Stellar Daisy The very large ore carrier Stellar Daisy, 266,141dwt, was owned by Polaris Shipping, of Seoul, South Korea, and had been Read More
  • Line’s Special Offer to Help Clean Up the Seas +

    The Ocean Cleanup The Singapore shipping company APL is providing free shipping for the non-profit Ocean Cleanup organisation that is working to develop Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Fourth Dreadnought Named HMS “King George VI” +

    Dreadnought Class UK News The fourth member of the new Dreadnought class of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines will bear the name Read More
  • US Navy Orders Flight II Landing Platform Dock +

    LDP30 American News The contract for the construction of LPD30, the first Flight II Landing Platform Dock of the San Antonio Read More
  • US Navy Seeks Faster Ship Delivery +

    FFGX Rendering American News The future frigate program for the US Navy is getting fully underway and some idea of the urgency Read More
  • HMS “Dragon” in £75 Million Narcotics Seizure +

    HMS Dragon British News Whilst on patrol in the Gulf, the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon seized and destroyed ten tonnes of Read More
  • New Generation of Enterprise Confirmed +

    USS Enterprise American News On 31 January, the US Department of Defense announced the awarding of a block buy contract with Huntington Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Oscar Goes to Italy +

    Oscar Wilde Irish Continental Group has entered into a bareboat hire purchase agreement for the sale of its 1987-built Oscar Wilde to Read More
  • CalMac Heritage +

    Columba I include a fine poster and artist’s image of the famed Macbrayne paddler Columba. Read More
  • Russian Adventure +

    Ocean Adventurer To the North East Coast and arriving at Aberdeen for the first time for many months, I witnessed a passenger Read More
  • Further Delay for LNG Powered Glen Sannox +

    Glen Sannox The drama surrounding the much delayed new ferries for Caledonian MacBrayne continues to rumble on with the latest, not unsurprising, Read More
  • Pentland Ferries Loses Appeal +

    Hamnavoe Scotland’s Pentland Ferries has lost its appeal against Scottish government state aid for ferry services between the mainland and the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • The Green Band of Marstal +

    Bessie Ellen The Danish Maritime Museum had the schooner Bonavista built on the island of Aero at Marstal and this year they Read More
  • Norweigan National Day +

    Thorodd I was in Montrose on the Norwegian National Day, 17 May, when its independent constitution from Sweden was confirmed in Read More
  • Port of Aberdeen Fifty Years On +

    Aberdeen Harbour Extension Project When I first arrived in Aberdeen in 1968, I couldn’t believe my luck. Read More
  • Thames Tributary Barges +

    Lady of the Lea Most of the rivers flowing into the Thames had their own barge type. Read More
  • Dry Rot and Dry Dock +

    HMS Victory For some time Victory, the 110gun ship of the line, has had trouble with dry rot and is in danger Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Lifeline Cash for “Waverley” Agreed +

    Waverley The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) has announced that it will provide immediate funding to support efforts to “Save The Read More
  • Viking Glory Celebrates Keel Laying +

    Front Altair The construction of Viking Glory is proceeding on schedule. Read More
  • The Majestic River Rhine +

    MS Charles Dickens In September of this year, my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful Riviera Travel river cruise on the majestic River Read More
  • What Next in the US-Iran Saga? +

    Front Altair Over the last year, the escalating trade war between the US and China has created many headlines, not least in Read More
  • Modus Expands Fleet of Hybrid Autonomous Vehicles +

    Saab Seaeye Modus has placed an order with Saab Seaeye for the next vehicle in its Hybrid Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (HAU V) Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Every Ash Cloud Has A Silver Lining +

    The ash cloud crisis continues to cause uncertainty as we see sporadic closures of airspace and cancelled flights, and this Read More
  • Damen Group Superyachts +

    Amels With 25 projects underway, business is booming for Amels, the Dutch luxury yacht builder. Read More
  • Singer Andrea Bocelli Trades Up in Size +

    Stella del Nord Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian tenor and song writer whose work spans both popular music and classical opera is a Read More
  • Plans for Greenock Terminal Approved +

    Greenock Ocean Terminal Plans have been approved for an iconic building on the banks of the Clyde at Greenock to welcome cruise ship Read More
  • Leixoes Cruise Terminal, Gateway to Porto +

    Leixoes Cruise Terminal With the growth of the cruise industry, many ports worldwide have been active in developing or improving their port facilities. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Suez Canal

The Creation of the Suez Canal - Part Two

IAt the end of 1858, the company’s Works Committee convened for the first time. It included an impressive assembly of Read More
Mv Saint Brandan

Saint Brandan - "Vital Spark of the South Atlantic"

In 1876, James Gardner commissioned a small vessel to transport quarried stone from Ballachulish to Glasgow. He also opened an Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Mercury

Tribute to the "Mercury"

In the summer of 1968, the training ship Mercury in the Hamble River closed down after many years of training Read More
SS Eastern (2)

MT Arthur Foss

“The last vessel to escape Wake Island before Japanese forces captured the island” Read More
  • 1
  • 2