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Article: My time in Australia before I jumped ship.

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    Apr 2013
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    My time in Australia before I jumped ship.

    10 Comments by Dave Francis Published on 18th January 2019 12:19 PM
    I'll be 76 years old & decades of my travels on a Royal Navy Auxiliary ship & and is it was yesterday had an argument with a water-tight door during a typhoon in the South China Sea? Trying to fight my way across the heaving ship & carrying a supply of coffee to the waiting officers & the stupidity on my part of trying to pass through a water tight door, without another Steward according to regulations? Another Steward found me, after wrecking my jaw and leaving my teeth in a pool of blood. Ended up in the infirmary & a helicopter rushed me to Kowloon, Hong Kong to a military hospital there? This was before the 99 year agreement, ran out & the Chinese took over. After about 2 months in the hospital and being great attention by a bunch of beautiful Eurasian, American & British Nurses I ended up on a transport to England.

    Still was healing and after a bunch of wrangling, I was let go from the Navy with an honorable discharge. My memory is not as sharp as it used to be, but I think it was 1956. I recall this, because I volunteered to give blood to the American Red Cross for the badly injured of Vietnam?

    I love my old Mum & her life was hard for her after the war, because my real Dad had been killed in Belgium, fighting the Nazi's. But she had this genetic experience she learned from my Grandmother. She still lived in the Victorian era and I learned many lessons about life? As in school, I was taught to be polite say please & thank you, clean my room; turn of my reading light at 9.00 and give up my seat to the elderly on a double Decker bus? I had a couple of jobs after my jaw, which was in pieces healed, but the sea taunted me? I had friends in West London, a bunch of chaps who lived nearby & George knocked on the door and showed me this quarter page ad? My attention was immediately drawn to P & O (Peninsula Steam and Navigational Company seeking passenger Stewards?

    We arrived at Aldgate East tube Station & headed from there to the HQ offices of P & O; or was it the Board of Trade or THE MERCHANT NAVY ESTABLISHMENT POOL. There were 4 of us. Clive Bradly; George Cliff & me? Well I had plenty of experience of making officers beds, serving their tables and keeping their quarters in tip top shape. Well strange as it seems, only I got the offer of a job and ended up somewhere on a training ship, learning the etiquette of serving passengers? I was there for about a month, being trained by some old guy who seemed to be a permanent ornament on the ship. Although I had the value of my previous experience, this was much more refined understanding of laying a plate setup and demitasse cups for coffee?

    I have moderate 'Dimentia' and my memory plays tricks on me, so I cannot be sure what ship I left Southampton on. It was however a Royal Mail Ship and we were heading for Australia and other countries. Being a newbie, my section was rather large.

    It was 2 sittings of 14, breakfast, lunch and dinner and not forgetting children's meals and afternoon teas? It was a hard slog, but I got to know the cooks and chefs and my helpers on our first voyage, stopping off in on many different countries?

    Cannot remember if it was P&O Oriana, Orsova, Oronsay, but it was bloody hard work and passengers can be as difficult as hell? I do remember balancing the peoples food under chock covers and being nearly 6'-3" seeing me coming through revolving door, many passengers fell into silence. Don't ever remember dropping a trayful of cuisine in any laps or making a mess? Usually I had a helper who assisted me with this big load, into the restaurant. Of course below deck I always seemed to have an altercation with bulkheads during bad weather.

    One of my first escapades in the many journeys across the Ocean, was my jumping ship in Australia? Now I think it was the Orsova, but I am not absolutely positive? Wherever we were going, one of the stopovers was Melbourne? At one of my tables was a cynical, upstart and bad temperament officer, surrounded by a group of families and single ladies. so he would make a point of diminishing my good nature, which I had always had? Trouble began at the dinner table when this Radio Office began giving me a hard time about--of all things demitasse spoons? Somebody, while I was away from my table sneaked the small coffee spoons away?
    Well--when I served coffee to the officers at the table, Mr Smart-ass decided to play me. I was tired after a long day and I wanted my bunk? Getting the attention of the passengers, especially the well dressed ladies, he demanded a demitasse spoon? Afraid, I lost it & dumped the tray and empty tiny cups in his lap and walked out. I had already served coffee and so nothing was hot, just a few cups with little drops of coffee.

    I knew I was in trouble and searched out the Union Convener, but was unable to find him. That night we were ready to dock in Melboune and has it happened I had in different sailings met many nice Australians and even Americans? Cannot go into the story but this family of a mother, two girls and their grandfather, was on their way to a property of land, North of Cairns. It was a huge package of land, that took half a day to drive from one side to the other. It was a very dysfunctional family as on my times of duty, the wife explained to her ex husband had brought this land for half-a-Crown an acre. Said, if I ever wanted a job, to find my way up to the Atherton table lands and live with the family, then go back with them to Santa Cruz, California. Margaret, the Mum took a liking to me, because she would contact me on the ship to get things she wanted, as her Stateroom Steward was slow and it took him forever to bring things she needed. This was just one of the high end passengers and her grandfather was extremely wealthy as I would find out later. The house in Santa Cruz overlooked 'The Hook' a famous surfing place. The family had left the ship at Circular Quay and was taking their good time, by taking a train--North! Of course I missed the family and the old boy, who turned out to own stocks and shares in the Ford manufacturing company. It was several ships later that I ended up at their huge house and spread? Not the house where the family lived, but the ranch house, with stables and all, with a frontage of Arizona Fossil stone. A huge driveway and indoor swimming pool, but that part of my early life is later.
    So onward we go with my story. At this point I had not been to America, but at night talking to a bunch of Stewards who became my friends, the USA always come into the conversation? I had already been in trouble with the ship, or you can call it that? Too much exposure to the sun, ended my up in the ships hospital? Never realized at the time, how to much sun could cause problems? For that I got fined 2 days pay, when standing in front of the Staff Captain and other officers after going back to work?
    Felt the punishment for the squabble with the Radio Officer would be even worse, so I decided to evacuate the ship, if I could get past the Custom authorities. So I told my good friend co-worker and giving excuse that things wouldn't go well from me, my co-worker gave up and said he would help me. What I did was put several pairs of pants on; levi's and same with shirts, a coat and several pairs of shoes. The old ships didn't pay that much, so I gathered what cash I had and vanished from the ship? I got stopped by the Customs and immigration agents, but all they were interested in, if I was English and what were the pills I carried in my satchel? They didn't seem they were that interested, after I told them they were just vitamins, herbs and other supplements?

    So many years ago, but it was a time when the British flag meant something and there were no terrorists and seeing my black British passport was enough to let me pass? If I had known at the time I could have brought my suitcases with me, that contained 35 MM film and camera; more clothes and other things.
    The dock offices let me exit & I looked back, as they sat drinking tea and talking. So now I was on the way and out of the shipping terminal.

    Thanks my friends from this old Merchant Navy and all those who have sailed the seven seas. My past history is not over, as these are the early days on the great ships.


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    Sunbury Victoria Australia
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    Default Re: My time in Australia before I jumped ship.

    Saloon cutlery brings to mind another story.
    On the Windsor in Cape Town up coast a winger tourist who we named the Maltese Falcon was arrested after shooting dead a drug dealer.
    He was later hanged in Pretoria prison, but that is another story.

    However the Southampton Police went to the home of his sister and brother in law to advise them of his arrest.
    They were invited inside and offered tea or coffee as they informed the sister of the position her brother was in.

    On return to the station one of the police mentioned to the saergent on duty how the china and silver ware used to supply them with beverages was all B&C stuff.
    A few days later after a search warrant had been issued the house, which ran a B&B service was searched.
    Not just silver and china but sheets, towels the lot, all from UCL.
    Obviously at the end of each voyage he would 'remove' some items in need, it was reported that on a number of occasions he had worked by.

    The brother in law and sister were charged and found guilty of possessing stolen goods.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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