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Article: My time on norse lines “betwa”

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    My time on norse lines “betwa”

    13 Comments by Jim Procter Published on 5th November 2019 01:31 PM
    MY TIME ON NORSE LINES “BETWA”
    I would start by saying that this was all a very long time ago, my first sailing as a young boy so I apologise for any technical mistakes and any inaccuracies in dates as this is all being written from memory. I had lots of photos and even 8mm cine film converted to video but they were lost in the mist of time (or really they are now in someone else’s loft where I have no access to any more!!!)
    I joined MV Betwa in West India Dock on a very cold and wet early January in 1954. I had recently finished my education at a Nautical College and was not yet 17 and yes wet behind the ears! As they say. I had had the various jabs before I left home but was dismayed to find that as they were not Board of Trade approved I had to have them all again(my arm hadn’t recovered from the first lot!!) The ship was almost finished discharging sugar and a couple of days later we set sail for Liverpool. We set sail down the Thames during the night and as the only apprentice on board at the time found myself on the bridge taking notes of engine movements and bouys when abeam. I very quickly found out that the Nautical College learning and the practical night time sailing were rather poles apart however it was exciting and I enjoyed that first experience.
    After docking in Liverpool a huge floating crane called “The Mammoth” moored alongside us and the next day was used to load four 96 ton castings one each in the bottom of hold 1,2 4 & 5. They were bound for Port Kembla in Australia as half of 8 that were going into one huge press to stamp out car bodies for the newly built Holden Car Factory. We then began to load a huge mix of general cargo and ended up in Swansea where we loaded huge rolls of tin plate again most likely for the car plant. Finally 2 huge steam locos were loaded on to the deck one each side of holds 4 & 5 completely filling the deck each side. On the foredeck on each side of 1 & 2 holds were 2 Underground type trains destined for the railway from Freemantle to Perth. I do have a photo of the ship arriving in Sydney without the Freemantle trains which had already been discharged.(I will attempt to add the picture with this post.
    We travelled through the Suez Canal which had recently been foolishly given to the Egyptians by Anthony Eden and the rules had been tightened. Everything had to be recorded. A new anchor added on the Stb. Side had been replaced but no one had got the number from under the shank. Fortunately for me 2 other apprentices had joined before we left both smaller than me so in turn we had to go over the bow as we steamed full ahead and chip away the rust to read the number. The first one didn’t get the number the second one did (I heaved a huge sigh of relief as my turn was next) After mooring at the head of the Suez Canal we had all the exacting inspections from the new owners after which the usual bum boats came along side with the wares. After we sailed on the Casap...or Bosun as we carried a crew of around 40 Indian crew had a big smile on his face and told me he had done a great deal for some Red Lead Paint about a month later I was assigned to check all the paint and when we opened his big deal Red Lead Paint on putting a stick in it only went about 6 inches in......the rest turned out to be sand!! (Very angry Casap) However...somehow there always seems to be a however....over a year later when we passed through the Suez again the guy sold it back to the same bloke who sold it to him and not only that but made a profit!! Back to the first Suez passage....we travelled in convoy to Great Bitter Lake where we anchored in order to allow the northbound convoy to pass, but when the pilot asked to drop the starboard anchor which we duly did....it just went...not shackled on to the main anchor chain (obviously not attached in London) the other 2 apprentices were rather pale as they had been under it banging away with chipping hammers. We eventually moved south down the rest of the canal and were soon away again in the Red Sea.
    Australia after the war was still experiencing lots of worker unrest and while we were there we ended up in lots of strike action which was fine for us as we had lots of great shore time. Eventually we ened up in Melbourne where we were to be dunaged out to carry grain. The day we arrive the carpenters went on strike for nearly 8 weeks...again great for us except when it was time to go we felt rather comfortably settled in as we had all made some good friends there. We moved on to Geelong where we loaded 10,000 tons of grain as a free charity offer to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). When we arrived in Colombo the grain was all in bags and as it was relief food it was just of loaded onto the dock to be used straight away..... Yes you may have guessed it I was back there over a year later and apart from what had been stolen the rest was rat infested and rotten and still where it had been unloaded.....So much for Free Aid!!!
    We moved on to Calcutta where our regular business was of transporting Jute(Gunny) Sacks from India to the West Indies. We used to mostly sail from Calcutta to Trinidad non stop without sight of land....8 weeks rather sole destroying. Once in the West Indies however things rapidly improved as we used to go to all the islands delivering the Gunny Bags unloading was always very slow and it took on average a month to clear the cargo, our main destination was Cuba and I think I most likely went to every port in Cuba in my time on the ship. This was before the Revolution and I have to say it was always our favourite destination (nuf said)
    We sailed to Galveston in the US where we arrived 2 days before Christmas and were adopted by a big family while we were there. From there we moved on to New Orleans and arrived the day before New Year...as a Jazz fan this was perfect for me. We loaded coal for our return to the UK which ended my first run on the Betwa after over 13 months of being away it felt strange to be home again........You have no idea how green England is after over a year away anywhere else.
    Part 2 available if neededAttachment 29337
    Last edited by Jim Procter; 5th November 2019 at 01:56 PM.

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    Default Re: My time on norse lines “betwa”

    There were usually strikes when the cricket was on the radio but the best one Sydney dockers was going on strike for embarrassment money for unloading toilet pans,

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    Default Re: My time on norse lines “betwa”

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry Sullivan View Post
    There were usually strikes when the cricket was on the radio but the best one Sydney dockers was going on strike for embarrassment money for unloading toilet pans,
    Not only Sydney, experienced the same strike in Wellington NZ in the 1950's, you did feel for the poor souls.

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    Default Re: My time on norse lines “betwa”

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Cloherty View Post
    Not only Sydney, experienced the same strike in Wellington NZ in the 1950's, you did feel for the poor souls.
    Back in 70s we were discharging lube oil into road tankers in Wellington docks, also we were discharging drums but if it started to rain or even hinted at rain, work would stop.
    As far as I can remember it was great for us as it was out of the dock gate and straight into town.

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    Default Re: My time on norse lines “betwa”

    Melbourne dockers would go on strike just so they could have one.

    But in Sydney in about 64 there was to be a Rugby test match played during the day.
    Dockers wanted half day off to go see.
    Shipping companies said no, so strike.

    Eventually a compromise, loud speakers on the docks so they could listen while they worked.
    Right said the union, that is great.

    Come match time, all stopped work, sat down with a cold one and di nothing else for the day.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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