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Thread: The Sinking (well almost) of the Shell Tanker mv Helisoma

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    Default The Sinking (well almost) of the Shell Tanker mv Helisoma

    I had only been at sea seven months when I joined the Helisoma bound for Singapore from the Gulf.
    Before we had a chance to say 'Boogie Street here we come', we were politely informed we were going
    to Vietnam. 1968 was not a good year for tourism in Vietnam.

    Since the war zone bonus was quite good none of us jumped ship. We bravely entered Vietnamese waters and came back safe and sound.

    The second trip(all about two weeks long) was much the same, no dead bodies to be seen but no shore leave either, no complaints there.

    Then came the third trip OMG. We anchored in the Da Nang Bay, waiting to be offloaded into barges.
    It was a saturday night, about the end of November, and I turned in for the night slightly inebriated.
    The explosion occurred about 2o'clock in the morning. I slept through it but I was told the ship seemed to lift out of the water.
    Apparently a VC had swum out and put a limpet mine on our port bow, blowing a massive hole in the for'rard tank. We went down by the head and stayed in that position for about three weeks, unable to move. There were no cases of constipation during that time.

    As we waited patiently for the US Navy to rescue us, we were sitting ducks.
    One of the engine room crew went insane and tried to swim ashore to fight the VC.
    Not a good idea as the Yanks were about to drop depth charges in the water, a regular feature every evening before dusk.
    They brought him back to ship where he was handcuffed to the bed in the sick bay.

    A few nights later a US gunboat thought they had spotted a diver near the ship so started firing machine guns into the water. Watching this from a half laden tanker was seeing your death being created in front of your eyes. These yanks were really trigger happy and had no idea of the danger they were putting everyone in including themselves. Only dead fish came to the surface

    Eventually the divers put a temporary membrane patch over the hole , pumped out the water in the tank and the ship came back on an even keel. A wooden patch replaced the first one and we set sail for Singapore.
    On the slow journey back fights started breaking out amongst the crew, the mooring ropes disappeared over the side and the Captain, Capt Baker was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
    For those who were not already sacked were given the choice of going home if they wished. Most of us took that option.
    I think we all went insane to some degree.
    I must have done because my very next ship was a BP tanker the 'British Guardsman'.

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    Mick,I think all men on Shell tankers went mad in the end. I spent a year out there in 1953/4. You've met me,look at the state of me.

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    Well thanks for that it puts my mind at rest as I thought that it only happened to me. Going mad that is. Shell tanker Hinea same story there abouts with out getting blown up.
    The crew slowly got less and less and after twelve months I think there were only unlucky 13 left of the origanal ratings from all 3 departments. The officers did not do as well and when we finally paid off in Singapore less than half of the entire crew went home. From the 12/8/69 to 19/8/70 first and last trip with Shell. But some good times were had and did visit some places that you can now only read about in books. Thanks Mick for the memory good and bad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Hawken View Post
    Mick,I think all men on Shell tankers went mad in the end. I spent a year out there in 1953/4. You've met me,look at the state of me.
    http://www.merchant-navy.net/forum/i...es/biggrin.png

    We are not really mad Colin, we are becoming mentally younger:

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    Cool Latirus

    Hi There.
    Did just the one short trip on the LATIRUS,signed on at
    Swansea,signed off at Elmsmere Port.
    Dave Williams(R583900)

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    #5 Weekly boat man then were you? We reckoned if you were away for less than nine months,that's what you were. They were rough old ships but we had some fun. Especially the month in dry dock in Hong Kong.We were originally suppose to have gone to Melbourne. It so happened that the whole of Australia was on strike,which seemed to be a regular occurence in the Fifties. Nobody really complained about it. Hong Kong was much cheaper anyway.

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    Default Weekly Boat Man.

    Hi,
    That is a new one on me Colin,not worth unpacking for less than nine months.

    Idon't think that I'd be to happy being relieved every six month,young and single,I loved all of it except the Hindsia,bailed out of her as soon as I could.

    Len Mazza,R621945.

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    Default Helisoma

    Hi, was on Helisoma at the time but sure it was Nha Trang we were anchored. According to yank that came o/b next day it was a floating type of explosive. They use to attach them to plastic containers on a line. Good job it was a long line or none of us would have survived. Regards Jim Egan (AB)

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    There were many of us in Shell who did the Vietnam run. I can also remember going through the Suez canal in convoy and seeing Israeli tanks on one bank close enough to see the faces of their crews.
    Some of us in Shell have also been in war zones that did not appear in the newspapers so the war/conflict never "existed" in the public mind.

    Unlike our naval or military colleagues we have no campaign medal to show for our efforts.

    Maybe, in many years time the government will relent and issue them to our children? Who knows.

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    Default Tankers.

    Well Chaps,

    I was in Tankers from 1957 to 1962, Eagle Oil Shipping and Shell when they took them over, and I enjoyed every minute on my time in them. Good Times.

    John Albert Evans

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