I found the feature concerning Bank Line, in the November 2018 issue of Sea Breezes, very interesting.
In particular, the picture on p49 of MV Inchanga. This was my home for nearly three long years and my short story may interest readers.
Aged 16 years, I joined her in Liverpool one dark and gloomy day early in February 1945. She was one of the three “white ships” built by Andrew Weir and Co for the Indian African trade in the mid-30s. Naturally, she was painted in wartime grey overall and nothing to smile about.
We were a DEMS (defensively armed merchant ship) with the following wartime additions: Flying bridge wings: 1 Oerlikon quick firing AA gun, each side. Aft end of boat deck: 1 Oerlikon, as above, each side. Poop: 4” gun, said to have been Japanese relic, interestingly, the breech flew open after firing each round. Poop: Rocket gun firing multiple rockets simultaneously. An A frame overhung the bows to trail anti-mine paravanes - never used during my service. A small diameter tubing (approx 4” diameter from memory) circumventing the ship which constituted the de-gausing equipment to neutralise magnetic mines and in constant use. It was an apprentice’s job to check this daily.
Our supernumerary crew were: 2 x RN ratings ie, lxRN PO, Ix RN AB. I x DEMS Army Sergeant. Plum jobs, Inchanga was a cargo passenger ship! Ship’s crew made up the rest of the “defence team”. I was delighted to man an Oerlikon. Finally, all lifeboats, probably only 8 in number, were slung outboard ready for quick launch.
Note: at that stage of hostilities, we were not called upon for action, just occasional practice where I learned about the faults of the 4” gun, but a memorable experience.
My first voyage was eight months spending V J Day in the mid Indian Ocean and thereafter, Inchanga reverted to her pre-war assignment – backwards and forwards between S Africa and India, Calcutta of all places, transporting immigrants from India to S Africa. I eventually transferred to Comliebank and came home in time to take my 2nd Mates Ticket. I was chastised by the Marine Superintendent for not joining again, but he could not see my point when I said that the only times that I went on the bridge during my three year’s apprenticeship was to scrub the chart room deck, explaining this was no training for a budding deck officer!
Oh yes, I spent numerous hours on the wheel when an Indian quartermaster was ill – much preferred to chipping rust. I regret this is longer than I expected, but there are not many of us around who remember WW2 and I hope it might be of some interest to readers. Yes, I passed for Master but married and swallowed the anchor at an early age.
R J BIZZEY