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Thread: The N-3 cargo ships, colloquially known as 'the Jeeps'.

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    CATERHAM, Surrey
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    Default The N-3 cargo ships, colloquially known as 'the Jeeps'.

    In 1942 the production of the N-3 small freighters escalated in the shipyards of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, and for the next two years were being launched at the average rate of ten per month. In the early spring of 1943 the Walter Butler Shipyards had an order for 17 of these ships for the War Shipping Administration and the Company president, Robert Butler, suggested a five-ship launch for May. The idea was enthusiastically embraced and a member of the staff suggested making the launch into a big PR exercise, a morale booster for the workers and the War Effort, and they decided to ask the Canadian Government if the world famous Dionne Quintuplets could each launch one of the ships. The girls were just 9 years old, and this would be the first time that they had been out of Canada. The girls and their mother arrived by rail on the 8th. of May and the five ships were all lined up on the slips ready We drited for launching the next day.
    Before the launch they entertained the 15,000 strong crowd with a chorus of songs, sung in Quebecois, to honour their mother's birthday. It was an unprecedented success, Millions of American and Canadian people listened to it on their radios, and in the following months would see the theatre newsreels of the launches with bottles of champagne. The ss Moses Gay was not one of the five ships; she was launched two months later in July.

    The N.Z.S.Co./ F.S.N.Co. had their own pool, so I had never been back to Dock Street since the first time I was registered there.
    As much as I loved the Aussie/NZ trips, after I left the Somerset I had decided that I wanted to see some of the other parts of the world.
    So I went down to the pool at Dock Street to see what was going. I was approached by one of the clerks who said he was looking for someone to fill a Deckhand's AB vacancy on the Moses Gay (about which I knew nothing whatsoever). I said I wasn't interested as I was looking for a Foreign Trade ship. He practically begged me, and promised me that if I would oblige him for one seven-day trip, I would be able to sign off when we returned to London, (although Home Trade Articles were binding for a period of six months). He said that he would fix (in retrospect it was more Fit...) me up with a good ship. Well, I thought, it would be an experience (?!).
    When I first saw the Moses Gay I had some misgivings, but, "It's only seven days!"
    The ship was covered in coal dust and our first need was to have a wash down. Unfortunately, there was not enough pressure in the hoses and instead of washing it away off the hatch covers, it was just swirled around. With black-rimmed eyes and coal dust in our ears and nostrils we went below. Then came shock No,2. Hot water would only be available in the washrooms between 1600 and 1800 hours. At other times, we could take a bucket to the galley to get some hot water, ......if you could find a bucket !! The coal dust was everywhere; we could feel it gritting between our teeth, the messroom table was costantly washed down but the dust could still be felt beneath our hands as we ate. There was no warmth in the steam heating pipes and it was turning cold There seemed to be an understanding that we did not have to do much work, just look-outs and on the wheel, four hours on and four off. We steamed up the coast for twelve hours and and suddenly, the engines stopped ! We drifted back over our course for six hours, it was getting dark, and lokk-outs were doubled. I was wondering that if we drifted long enough, "would we hit Southend Pier?" Then the engines were re-started, and we were off again. There were two more stoppages, each one shorter than the one before we finally reached Hartlepool. I have only a hazy recollection of what happened there because I slept most of the time. On the morning we went to stations I realised that the hold was full of coal; apparently, our coal cargo had been discharged and it had been replaced with more coal. Then, back down South, without stopping; some remedial work had been effected on the engines while we were in dock. Into the Thames estuary, and a while later we stopped and dropped the anchor. We were not anticipating that and there was some concern that we might be diverted to Antwerp. We made a united front and informed the Mate that we were leaving; it seemed that we had all been roped in by the same guy at the Pool. The Mate said that he had informed the Captain and that the Captain "Wasn't very pleased". The Captain did not show himself and it dawned on me that in fact, I had not seen him since I joined the ship ! I got the feeling that these circumstances had occurred before, and that he was resigned to the situation. We lowered the Jolly Boat and six of us piled in and rowed to the beach. We left it in the care of a friendly fisherman who said that he would notify the Coast Guards. We hiked to the station and..... Home sweet home ! My mother was not impressed by the black ring around the bath when she emptied it !
    The next morning we all met at the NUS office and accompanied by the Rep. went round to Dock Street. Before we even attempted to explain ourselves , we were told by the staff (with sympathetic grins) to " sit down over there and we'll sign you off ------ unless you want to go back ?" When it got to my turn I said to the guy, "Now, where's this ship you promised me ?". "Right here he said, lovely job, good Company (Royal Mail Lines), the ss Balantia (ex Samfaithful), new ship, all mod. cons,, bound for the Spanish Main." "Yo Ho, me heartys" I thought, that'll do nicely., (and it was a great trip). We never had any worry that we would be in trouble for breaking articles under those conditions; There was no Health & Safety Excutive in those days, you know!

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    Default Re: The N-3 cargo ships, colloquially known as 'the Jeeps'.

    Interesting read,


    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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