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Article: My Days in the Merchant Navy

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    My Days in the Merchant Navy

    22 Comments by Dave Francis Published on 17th January 2019 02:43 PM
    My days in the British merchant Navy are long gone, but I often dream of my time in the Royal Navy on a auxiliary vessel and after a bad accident, I took employment on the great passenger and then Cruise Ships? After living in the Northern Territories of Queensland, Australia I eventually ended up marry a United States citizen, as she didn't want to live in England?

    At 75 years old, I still dream about the sea, the fresh, clean air and the tranquil ocean most of the time. Many vessels I sailed on from Banana boats, to the older passenger ships as the 'Orsova' of the P & O shipping Lines. Even in my time went on luxury cruises around the world. Once worked on a luxury yacht to the Galapagos Islands and always as a Steward. I left the docks in Circular key in Sydney on a German Lloyd Ship. Stood of the coast of Panama, waiting for cargo over one month on a German rust bucket. Even had the opportunity to work on a Holland American Line ship & of course the great Queen Elizabeth II

    I miss many of my friends who were in Hotel Services on Princess Cruises, such as the Pacific & the Island; where I met my future wife. Somebody will remember me from the marriage at the Ventura Club. in San Fernando Valley. I had placed a notice on the bulletin board, offering anybody who would like to join the the party and the address? Two buses turned up for the reception and some for the actual party. With my wife's family & friends and a good portion of the crew, plus the Captain, his wife, Chief radio officer, staff Captain and regular officers, purser, purserettes and a whole host of crew members was a count of 150 ships crew. It certainly was a night to remember & my Mother in Law, who is a very well known realtor, broker & property owner paid for it all.

    I had always been a utility Steward, a waiter, a cabin steward, a stateroom steward, bar manager & even an accommodation supervisor on many different ships. On the old Royal Mail Carriers I carried heavy kegs of beer to bars; painted Christmas art of Father Xmas & Reindeer's on the glass around the areas on board. Cleaned out dirty fridges on German ships for Customs & even carried dead bodies to empty fridges on storage flaps. On one ship I was crew entertainment officer and counted the money from the slot machines and spent it on tours for crew members and also arrange General Knowledge quizzes for members of the crew of which they won money prizes or a Booby prize.

    So much more of my travels, but most of all I miss the Camaraderie of the boys and girls. For a while, I was able to keep in contact with many of them, but I guess like me their up in age and many are not around anymore? Being retired is not fun, I still help out my nephew when he works on family properties, but my Mother in Law (90) & my spouse (70) forbid me to climb ladders. Cannot stand sitting at home all day, but right now I am visiting my ancestors on the Ancestry Website? I have been working on it, for over 2 years and made a bunch of mistakes. One family member was the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire? in fact I am not a true Englishman, but a Norman?

    The dreams of the sea and all the places I have been, which I would think makes me a World traveler. Even after leaving the Merchant Navy Me and my wife honeymooned in Hawaii and went to England to see my family? Mum and StepDad are gone now; my real Dad died in World War 2.

    Even in the remaining years of my life, I still dream of leaving Southampton and the rumble of the engines. The early years of 10 stewards in in bunks on the 'Reina Del Mar' of locating a quiet space under the bridge, to read a book and sunbath. Sitting in our cabins drinking tea or paying the Night Steward to make us Steak & Chips?

    But most of all I miss all my friends.

    Dave Francis.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    I know exactly your thoughts and what you are missing, we were lucky as at least we have done it. As your remarks about not being true English, that would apply to almost all of us, we are mostly mongrels !!!, lol kt
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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    You should enjoy your retirement Dave,
    If I had known retirement was so good I would have retired 50 years ago.
    Enjoy it.
    Cheers
    Brian

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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    Well done mate, now time to enjoy your retirement.
    We do ours now by taking as many cruises as we can, now with Princess Cruises.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    So many on this site know exactly what you mean. All our memories of the wonderful people we have sailed with and experiences that we've shared.
    We saw a wonderful and exciting world at mostly young ages during the "Golden era" of the Merchant Navy.
    Thanks for a very well written article. T.B. R811047

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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    Great post Dave, very refreshing, and hope you continue the story. Guess it ties in with a lot of us at the time, many adventures. Some of what you say brings on memories for me, stuff buried in the depths of my mind, regards kt
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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    Hi Dave .
    Though I was on deck I was with you every step of the way on your adventures, There will never be a time like that again which is so sad for the youth of today.
    I am looking forward with anticipation to the rest of your tale.
    Cheers Des

    flag.gif Go you good thing

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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    Dave, like a number on site I did my time as a winger.
    Yes tables of ten and two sittings, bloody hard work when we look back. But would we have it any other way, not on your life mate.

    Memories that can never be taken away from us no matter how hard any one may try.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    Yes likewise as John but a wee bit earlier i guess ? As a Winger then did 2 sittings of Fourteen on the UCL Liners and as said damn hard Yakka,plus the Kids Teas,the Scrubouts,Porthole Cleaning,Beer and Linin carries in early Morning before one was actually fully awake and all te little chores in between.
    I doubt in these days if Lads like us would be able to cope with all that.
    But again as said we would not change it for Quids,well most anyway!
    We had it all in the Palm of our hands so t speak,something that unfortunately i guess will never be seen again in the light that we had it anyway!

    Great Story indeed and wish that there were many many more such ones here on site!

    Amazing that there are not,with so many old hands on deck,but i guess like me i am not realy cut out to be a Writer,if i was i would most probabaly have made a Motza by now with all my life's adventures.
    Cheers and Thanks
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website

    R697530

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    Default Re: My Days in the Merchant Navy

    Noted ,Eighty- eight today Ken. Congrats!.
    Beats me by almost a Year.
    I remember ,a few years ago, via the Postings on this grand Site, We were Qm's together on the Cunarder Ascania.
    Testing your memory now. My Watchmate was a wee Scotsman from Belshill nr.Glasgow.Have a photo somewhere of us on Firewatch. in one of the Alleyways. Also someone else we all would have known .was the then Night Pantryman who made-up the Sarnie's ,for us ,and the returning from Shore,revellers. FOR a very reasonable Dropsy.
    That was my first Cunarder. Wish in many ways ,had known of them earlier.On pay from being accepted ,at The Office,for instance. Didn't get that with many outfits!
    Another newy to me.is Being in the warmth of the wheelhouse ,doors closed ,with the junior Mate. He'd be engrossed mainly with working out the weather conditions.While the Senior Mate.Would be out on the Stb'd Wing.Heavy gratecoat etc.Occasionally coming in ,almost wih ice dripping from him.A quick coffee rub of the hands together.Then back out ,like a good one.
    Mythinking was .Who in hell would want to be a Senior Mate,with Cunard.This particular Mate,was also a Doctor of Icthology. Did have a good sense of Humor though Did have a number of Jewish families returning .to Southampton my first Trip.Very noisy and disturbing children. He said something like."Put a Gangway out,and sign,Jump!.A genuine concern of his ,was the fact that if we didn't get into So'ton on the Friday.If delayed.it would have meant ."We''l be stuck with them TIL Sunday .As Saturday's their Sabbath, and can't change their Abode.

    Back to the Night Steward.
    Being one of those horrible Wharfie's. That John in a Daze (The instant Ozzie )professes to know so much about'
    I was picked -up. for Storing .The prestigious Q.E.2.Half of Melbourne,just about, Had lined the Bay ,for Her arrival.In conversation with her Bos'n at the gunport door.we knew the same people .His Brother ,and a former watch mate from my Q'm' . Q.Mary . days .He later went Bos'n of Her
    On going on Board,first person i met was one of the two Tourist class Deck-Stwds. I worked with as Deckman. Lunch time .We all adjourned to the Crew Bar.The Barman changed ourdollars into.Pounds.who's the Barman ?
    Our former Night Pantryman .of the Ascania
    P.s. Re Ascania.
    My 2nd Trip, About 2a.m. Just relieved the Wheel.

    We'd taken the shorter course, via Belle Isle Straits . to Quebec.The Mate of the Watch.Nicknamed Tiny.about 6-4 in height,.Rushed in ,out of the Fog. 'Hard A Stb! Within mins. looking out the Open door.and Portside windows was this small Mountain of a Berg drifting by not too far off.
    Don't know if you ever recall that incident Ken.
    But I'm always reminded of it ,when the inevitable remake of the Titanic ,comes round. I think more of the Lancastria , or the german Ship sunk in 1945 in the Baltic. Which each had a much greater loss of lives.
    Last edited by Evan Lewis; 21st January 2019 at 06:32 AM.

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