PWSTS Forum for Old Boys, Family and Friends

Members Login
Username 
 
Password 
    Remember Me  
Post Info TOPIC: Union Castle


Prince of Wales Sea Training School

Status: Offline
Posts: 311
Date:
Union Castle
Permalink  
 


Reserved for those who sailed with Union Castle

__________________
Forum Management Team
Prince of Wales Sea Training School Society
www.pwsts.org.uk


PWSTS Forum Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 44
Date:
Permalink  
 

done a couple of trips in southampton castle 1977

__________________


PWSTS Forum Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 153
Date:
Permalink  
 

  

    kenya castle    01/10/60- 09/12/1960

__________________
J S RAE


PWSTS Forum Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 2064
Date:
Permalink  
 

 

I did two Round Africa trips on the Braemar Castle in 1958. We left KGV London then had calls at Rotterdam and Las Palmas before heading down the west coast of Africa with anchored stops at St Helena and Ascension Island. It was then CapeTown and all ports up the east coast then homeward bound via Suez, Genoa, Marseilles and Gibraltar. The Union Castle passenger boats had a distinctive Lavender coloured hull which may or may not have had something to do with the high percentage of openly homosexual/ queer/transgender/gay people employed as stewards. Many had special shipboard names, there was Larry the Lamb, Mary Queen of Scots, and Lancashire Hot Pot, but there were many others that I do not readily recall. There was a fairly young deck crowd so we were always a little scared of them, although to be fair there was never any problems and they were a lot of fun. Somehow we believed if we spent too much time with them we could turn, which was a frightening thought for a young fella.


Our accomodation was in four berth cabins, starboard side in the focscle. It was so cramped we had to take it in turns to get dressed. And we were situated close to the hawse pipe so when they dropped anchor the rattle of the anchor chain running out was enough to wake the dead. In heavy weather when the bow plunged into a trough the anchors swung out then clanged against the bow when the ship rose up again, probably didn't move much but enough to ring like a bell in the focscle.


The voyage was broken into 3 parts so that the three watches, 12 to 4, 4 to 8, and 8 to 12, could be rotated at Cape town and maybe Mombasa or Suez. This was supposed to make it fair for everyone although I always thought whoever got the 12 to 4 on the coast was hard done by.


Eating was cafeteria style where you queued and got stuff put on your plate, as usual I ate everything and was grateful for it. There was a large bin as you left the mess room and this was for food scraps, bones etc then the used plates went off for washing. The black labourers who came on board around the East African coast would scoop whatever they could get out of this bin into what appeared to be rusty tin cans. They ate this. They also ate from a dust bin like container of brown mealy stuff which they brought on board. Whilst working on deck or in the holds they had their own boss man. When they were pulling on a rope or moving some heavy cargo he would start the chant, then they would all give a heave in unison with the sounds of a hissing steam train working up to a crescendo before the next heave. Only in Africa.


Apart from tying up and letting go there seemed to be very little sailor type work to do. Around the African coast we stopped at a lot of ports where we arrived in the morning and left in the evening. This was hard work as we also worked watches at sea during the night. But compared with life on a working cargo boat this was like afternoon shift at Butlins. We spent a lot of time washing down the decks on the 12 to 4 each night so when the passengers got up in the morning everything was shiny bright and all the debris was washed away.


On one occasion during the 12 to 4 an elderly female passenger died. As we were only about 6 hours from port there was no chance of slipping her over the side. Our task was to remove her from the bottom bunk in a tiny inside cabin to a slab in the little hospital. Neither I nor my mate had seen a dead body before. So this was an entirely new experience. She was lifted out of the bunk wrapped in the bottom sheet. We then had to double her up to get her out of the very small cabin. This compressed her stomach and she gave this almighty burp. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. For a few seconds it was quite frightening, bearing in mind it was in half light at about 2am, with us whispering so we didn't wake  other passengers.


During daylight we washed or painted the funnel and the mainmast, which kept the female passengers engrossed. The rails were painted using mutton cloth dipped into lead based paint then applied with our bare hands. During the night watches we would swap a man in the crows nest every hour. This meant climbing up the foremast and tapping on the trap door to gain entry to the oval shaped, open topped, container fitted to the mast. The man already up there would stand to the side so the trap door could be opened. The idea was to keep a lookout for ships and any other flashing lights, advising the bridge by the phone, or by rings on the bell, one for Starboard, two for Port and three for dead ahead, ( I THINK!!!) . Stretched across thwartships was a canvas hammock and the danger was that you fell asleep on balmy nights. But it was a very unpleasant place to be in wintery weather with rain and sleet blowing directly into your face. Also climbing that mast at night in rough weather was a bit daunting. For a couple of days coming up the Channel in winter the seas were crashing over the focastle head so it was impossible to get to the foremast without risk of being swept overboard in the bubbling froth. On those occasions we did lookout watches from the wing of the bridge. As I understand it, lookouts always had to be outside and not in enclosed places. With sleet and snow driving into your face it was impossible to see much further than the bow, it was worse than fog because of the pain in the eyes facing the wind. I recall the snot freezing across my face and frost forming on my eyebrows. I don't think I ever saw anything anyway. Maybe it was something to do with insurance.


An unusual incident occurred at a South African port. One of the crew had been ashore and spent a long time drinking brandy. I don't know what he got up to but there was a confrontation with a local policeman, then some severe violence with several more policeman en route to the ship. When he got on board it must have been at seven bells lunch as there was just a few of us in the mess room. There was a lot of swearing and plates thrown at everybody. Most hit the bulkhead and shattered all over the place. One of the East Enders from the galley got close enough to him, whipped up a chair and rammed the legs of it into the madman and forced him off his feet into a fitted table. At this point the South African cops arrived, with help from the crew this guy was taken away. That was a very quick end to the story. By the time the main group arrived for lunch all the debris was cleared and routine was restored as though nothing had happened.


This ship also had a crew pub, the Pig & Whistle, but not a lot of use if you were working watches. Homeward bound at Las Palmas in the Canaries the passenger pool was emptied and the pool space was loaded with boxed tomatoes for the London markets. These Union Castle passenger boats ran like clockwork, they had a published schedule and you could set your watch by their arrival and departures.


On one of these trips we had a couple of ratings who had never been to sea before but were in their twenties. They were called Utility Deck Hands or something similar. Anyone else hear of them? It seemed strange at the time because there was not a lot of work around and certainly not much choice.

Stu-



-- Edited by stuhogg at 09:11, 2008-12-05

-- Edited by stuhogg at 00:51, 2008-12-06

__________________


PWSTS Senior Master

Status: Offline
Posts: 3151
Date:
Permalink  
 

That, Stu was a great post & I very much enjoyed, very real and of much reflection of times gone by.

Bob0


__________________


PWSTS Forum Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 26
Date:
Permalink  
 

joined capetown castle 9th jan 1947 as edh did one trip bill biffen

__________________
W G BIFFEN


PWSTS Forum Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 623
Date:
Permalink  
 

The union castle company had the (privilege) of employing me to take their ship (kenilworth/castle) to sea then back to the albert docks !!!!!Thanking myself on its safe return.!!!! in my discharge /book it made reference to the fact that I was far too experienced being a ex (pwsts/boy) that perhaps I should join another company who could perhaps find my talents has a very good seaman a asett to there company.!!!! that always stood me in good stead when there was mass unemployment in the uk (post/war) never did get to the front of the dole queue, But in my mind always was the thought (Im the best Im a ex pwsts boy)!!!!! even to day its the same .!!!! But its never ever got me any further than this site!!!!!!!.is their anyone out there that could help ?????....admiral/creeper....................

__________________
patrick sullivan


PWSTS Forum Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 17
Date:
Permalink  
 

was in DURBAN CASTLE,RHODESIA,KENYA,HOME TRADE RUN TINTAGEL CASTLE xmas was fun on these ships.

__________________
john tippett


PWSTS Forum Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 235
Date:
Permalink  
 

I joined the Dundrum Castle (she caught fire and sank in the Red sea 2nd.April 1943) 27/9/41

An old tramp of the Union Castle Line only 5,000 tons with a maximum speed of 7 knots, with each ship I seemed to be going down hill and I was beginning to think that I would soon have to do something about it. Anyway we loaded up with war supplies and set off in convoy bound for Bombay after a week the convoy broke up and we headed for Cape Town on our own. All went well until we received a raider warning and headed for the west African coast at all possible speed , the poor ship nearly fell apart and somehow managed 8 knots. We reached Walvis Bay in South West Africa and stayed there for a week until the German Raider had moved to another part of the Atlantic. From there we went to Cape Town and then onto Durban where we refilled our bunkers with coal before setting off for Bombay. After unloading we set off for Port Louis Mauritius where we loaded sugar before going back to Durban for Coal, water and stores after which we headed for home arriving back after an uneventful voyage on the 1-4-42 when the ship paid off.

EJ



__________________
E. J. Ford
Page 1 of 1  sorted by
 
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.

Tweet this page Post to Digg Post to Del.icio.us


Create your own FREE Forum
Report Abuse
Powered by ActiveBoard