Before the Internet, Websites, Blogs and eNewsletters presented themselves to an unsuspecting world, the arrival of the monthly passenger shipping company in-house Staff magazine, was a highly awaited and anticipated event.
Shipping companies normally would charge their pursers department with the responsibility of producing this well read document. It wasn’t just the organ for the Chairman of the company to communicate with staff ashore and at sea on a regular basis (although that did happen!), it equally allowed crew lists for the various vessels in the fleet to be perused to ascertain where past and present friends were serving. The activities of the various shore offices and related agencies also contributed monthly reports to the publication. They also featured many interesting articles highlighting events of note pertaining to the company in question. P&O’s “ABOUT OURSELVES“ was a ‘good read’ in that regard as was the ‘The British & Commonwealth Review’ of the Cayzer Group.
The June 1967 copy of the latter magazine featured, on their front cover, a picture of a Rally Car with the driver and his navigator sitting on the bonnet of their Ford Corsair, alongside the bow of the RMS Windsor Castle berthed in Capetown. The inside page threw more light on the reason for that particular front cover. “Ken Chambers and Eric Jackson pose for a last photo before His Worship Mr Walter Gradner, waves the starting flags at the commencement of the Windsor Castle/Corsair race.”
Was this the precursor of a Jeremy Clarkson type prank that feature in Top Gear TV programmes? Possibly, the copy within the Staff magazine related to the front page is more revealing.
“SHIP/CAR RACE ENDS IN A DRAW”
After a nightmare race from Cape Town, the Ford Corsair 2000E, driven by Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers, arrived on the dockside at Southampton at 6am on the 22nd May, just 40 minutes before the Windsor Castle berthed.
The Mailship left South Africa on the 10th May for her normal 11 and half day run home, sailing at a speed of 22.5 knots and calling only at Las Palmas. Meantime, the Corsair’s route was fraught with difficulties. The car suffered a damaged Dynamo, a broken speedometer cable, a broken battery, a punctured petrol tank and numerous punctured tyres and the drivers were frustrated several times by red tape. They had to fly 1,000 miles over Niger when certain documents were left in a supporting car held up in the Congo and they lost 12 hours when they missed a river ferry by 30 minutes. They hired a dugout canoe to paddle two miles across river to persuade the ferry to return, but were held overnight for illegal entry and were unable to return to the car until morning. Road blocks in the Congo delayed them about 6 to 8 hours. Roads there are gradually being lost again to the jungle and at one point, they drove straight into a 30 foot by 6 foot ditch and were in water up to their waists. Local inhabitants pulled out the car and after spraying the engine with damp inhibitor, the drivers set off again.
Back in England and on the last lap, they were stopped by the police for having registration plates obscured by sand and mud. “We told them it was Congo mud, cleaned it and they allowed us to carry on”, said Mr Jackson.