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Article: The Bars of Bone

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    The Bars of Bone

    12 Comments by David mullins Published on 2nd May 2022 11:58 AM
    To my mind Prince Line, part of the Furness Withy Group, was one of those shipping companies held in high esteem by Manchester seafarers. The majority of the fleet were small 3 hatch vessels with good accommodation and better than normal food. Their main routing were numerous ports in the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Lebanon. The appeal of these voyages was due to the reasonably short haul and return to their home port of Salford.
    I joined the Cyprian Prince in Salford sometime in 1961. We sailed light ship to Barry in South Wales to load munitions for the French army in Algeria.
    The delivery contract was for the delivery of two shiploads of munitions to what was then Bone, now renamed Annaba, some 422 kilometres from Algiers.
    Upon arrival in Bone the shore gang immediately commenced unloading in the presence of numerous armed French troops surrounding the dock area.
    The weather was hot and most of the crew took the opportunity to nip ashore for some ice cold beer. The ship, as most other British ships of that time did not have AC, and ice cold beer in an air conditioned bar was most appealing. Bone appeared to be a typical North African port, busy, dusty but peaceful. The only unnatural aspect of the scene were the armed soldiers scattered around the dock sector during the munitions discharge.
    On completion of unloading we cast off and headed for the Straights of Gibraltar routing back to Barry for the second consignment.
    Fully laden with the second shipload we once again headed south for the Med.
    Just prior to arrival in Bone, we were all informed that, following demonstrations in Bone there had been a further uprising with both the FLN and the OAS terrorist groups and a decision had been made to prohibit any shore leave whilst we were discharging the arms.
    Due to the upheaval, the shore gang were not in a position to commence the download for the next 2 days.
    The weather seemed to be getting hotter and the accommodation areas were becoming like ovens. The hardest part to bare was that, within 200 metres or so from where we were, were some lovely air conditioned bars but even more significantly, we still had local money from the previous trip in our pockets.
    Leaning over the gunwale, looking longingly at the area beyond the dock gates, my mate and I wondered what the chances of getting caught if we nipped ashore once it was dark. There didn’t seem to be too much happening apart from some distant bangs and the occasional gunshot.
    As darkness fell, activity within the dock area subsided as dockworkers made their way home.
    There were 2 dock gates within 100metres of each other with a guard on each. We noted with interest how the 2 guards would leave their posts to chat to each other. This was our ticket to those beers and as quietly as possible we crept towards the dock gate and onto the main drag.
    Sat in the first bar with 2 ice cold larger beers we congratulated ourselves on our expertise and cleverness sat there in the cool surroundings, unlike those other poor souls on that seagoing oven.
    After several glasses of the amber nectar we suddenly aware of a strange change in the mood and atmosphere in the bar staff and customers. There was now an uneasy feeling in the air. This was apparent in the nervous faces which had now developed in almost everybody as all attention was now focused on the street window. The bar became silent then suddenly all hell broke loose as the lights went out and the bar staff started shouting and gesturing everybody to the door.
    The metal window shutters were dropped and my pal and I were forcibly pushed out through the entrance door.
    We stood in the bar doorway for a few seconds in an effort to understand what the hell was going on. Crowds of locals were flowing in the same direction down the street and peering in the direction they were coming from, we saw an armoured car with many French paratrooper running alongside it with fixed bayonets. A machine gun on the armoured vehicle was spasmodically firing rounds into the air. That was enough for us as we joined the crowds of running Arabs in the street. “ told you we should of stayed on the ship” I shouted to my pal who was now white faced with staring eyes.
    After possibly several hundred metres the flow of the crowds suddenly stopped and commenced scattering in all directions. A barricade had been set up and more paratroopers were chasing and snatching individuals. My pal and I took shelter in a shop doorway in an effort to get our breath and think what to do.
    We’d been there perhaps 2 or 4 minutes when a squad of paratroopers passed by the doorway. One of the soldiers spotted us and raised his bayoneted rifle towards us. “ English, English” we shouted with our arms nearly touching the doorway ceiling.
    We were both taken to a military building where we were handed over to the Algerian police who after removing our shoelaces, promptly threw us in a filthy sticking cell.
    The following day the “Old Man” appeared at the cell door with a face like thunder. After one of the most ripping off sessions I’d ever witnessed, he informed us we would be kept there for the next 2 days until the ship was leaving.
    The Algerian police fined us £50 each which in those days was a fortune.
    On our return to The UK we thought we’d better leave the Cyprian Prince.
    Oh! The trails and tribulations and learning curves of young British seafarers.

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    #1. Hi David, I was in Bone, I think it was 1959 or early 1960. An old woman dressed from head to foot in black came up to me and spit right in my face, cursed me in Arabic, and moved on. She may have thought I was a Frenchman. I've mentioned before in a previous forum about 'Charlie's Bar' in Bone, being bombed just shortly after we'd been in there drinking. The FLN were in the habit of fire-bombing the 'Bars of Bone' and other cafes in Algeria.

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    Cannot remember the Bar name but could well have been Charlie,s ??
    When in the French Foreign Legion, had an occasion to be at the Port of Bone think if memory is correct it was 1961 just before the Legion was pulling out of Algeria!
    At that time in December of 1961 there was some trouble in the Port , but i was not involved so not sure as to what it was about!

    There was a big Steel Works i Bone as i recall ??
    So much has happened in my life , that at times it is very hard for me to re collect all the details, but Boy! have i had some life!!!
    Cheers
    Senior Site Moderator-Member and Friend of this Website

    R697530

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    I was on a Papayani boat running London - Med and the two ports Oran and Algeria were on the list we regularly called at, i remember the same, no shore leave, used to sit on board with our issue of cans, and watch and listen for the explosions. Dangerous times there.
    R689823

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    Wow! What a small world, fancy having contact with somebody who was also there sixty one years ago. Strangely though, I still have a clear picture in my mind of the French paras as they led / dragged us away. Initially I thought they were wearing jodhpurs then realised they were huge leg pockets on the thigh section of their trousers.

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    Never went to Bone ( thank god), but I was in Tunis 1952 when
    there was a lot of unrest,got marooned in a small bar after the curfew
    Spent an enjoyable night watched over by two huge policemen wearing
    fezes, first time I had tasted frogs' legs washed down with anisette.

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    Great story and thanks for sharing. I am an ex-SS&A engineer and sometime around 1976, when a J/E and on leave, I was sent to the Malvern Prince in Sharpness to help with an up-coming drydock. However, the next day we were told the dry-docking was postponed so they sent me back home. Never did get to sail on a Prince Line ship.

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Featherstonhaugh View Post
    Great story and thanks for sharing. I am an ex-SS&A engineer and sometime around 1976, when a J/E and on leave, I was sent to the Malvern Prince in Sharpness to help with an up-coming drydock. However, the next day we were told the dry-docking was postponed so they sent me back home. Never did get to sail on a Prince Line ship.
    Adrian, did you ever come across Terry and Peter Earle during your time with SS&A?

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    I sailed on two of Prince line vessels: The Chiltern Prince and The Malvern Prince. The accommodation was very impressive for a small cargo vessel. Prince Line had an air of being very special and always looked very smart.

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    Default Re: The Bars of Bone

    #1 Hello again David. Sailing out of Manchester did you know a Bob Clow? Bob was a Master Mariner with Manchester Liners, a bit of a hard case was Bob. His son David is a pal of mine. I sailed with Alex Clow, Bob's brother (Second Cook and Baker) with Silver Line. The Clow family were Blackpool people. P.

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