Newsletter April 2019

Snowbow and Maritime Memories News Letter April 2019

Here’s hoping that this News Letter will be able to lift you from the depths of the ever plunging madness of the Brexit negotiations, and carry you back into the much nicer world most of us knew and enjoyed just a few years ago.  So, read on and we will tell you all, including great news for all you hundreds of people who have asked if we can arrange more exciting cruises.  Here’s just a little reminder of the many fabulous cruises we have taken thousands of you on all over the world.

The wonderful MV Discovery

Oh, that brings back such wonderful memories, and soon we will have more great cruises for you to enjoy, plus we have new DVDs in production and so many other fascinating things to tell you, so pour a little drink, click on the link and read on!

So many times I wish we could just turn back the hands of time to the days when the world was a far nicer place to live in.  For me personally, the 1950s/60s were my favourite decades, a time when we had so much so much we were proud of including our country, whereas today, pride is almost a forgotten word, and sometime I think that all we have left is the total insanity of our parliament!   

Life was so much more enjoyable back then and we also had so much more freedom to enjoy it with, a freedom that then we just took for granted, but oh how we would like to have it all again.   A great example of this for me was when berthed in a great port such as London or Liverpool, kids would often come riding their bikes along the busy quaysides, weaving in and out of the busy swinging cranes and Dockers, as they handled imports and exports from the lines of ships that stretched for as far as the eye could see. Some of the Dockers even took their kids to work, and not just on the quayside but even down the ships’ holds… Imagine the reaction of the old ‘elf and Safety people if they saw this happening today, but back then we didn’t even give it a second thought… Yes, we were so lucky to have had so much freedom back then, and wouldn’t it be nice if we got even just a little of it back again.   

Those docks were busy back then, but you had to be a bit careful when it was a peasouper or else, straight in the old drink! Yes, those old peasoupers were real fogs weren’t they… couldn’t even see your hand if you put your arm out in front of you, and yes, I witnessed a few wobbly seafarers drunkenly wobbling off the edge of a quayside in the fog and into the crystal clear waters of the Thames, which probably after a heavy night ashore in one of the notorious dockside boozers, didn’t taste too bad!  

But generally the docks were safe places, especially when you consider that in the case of just London alone, there were over 66,000 ship movements a year, so heaven knows how many there were around the whole of the UK, and in those pre-computer days, all administered by much more reliable pens and paper, and it worked!    Doesn’t it make you wonder why on earth those idiot politicians are making such an issue out of trying to find a way of operating the cross Irish border… Give ‘em a pencil and paper mate, that’ll do it!

I mustn’t allow myself to wander into the weird world of deranged politicians, but, regardless of all our different political persuasions, I will just say, as long as you don’t mind me whispering a bit; I think two of the nastiest politicians we have been burdened with at the moment are that awful little wife of Mr. Ed Balls, Evette Mrs Balls, Cooper, and the biggest idiot ever to enter Westminster, the one and only (thank god!) Sir Oliver Letwin!

Now I say whisper, because not many people know this, but some years ago I was approached by the Conservative constituency members for West Dorset, which of course is Sir Letwin’s seat, to ask if I would stand as their candidate, and if I would, then they would see to it that common Letwin, as he was back in those untitled days, would be deselected and chucked, for in their opinion he was absolutely bloody useless. Sadly, I decided that it wasn’t for me, but now, having seen these lunatics at work, I wish I had.

Politicians! I bet you’ve all got stories about them… I actually went to sea with a bloke who went on to become one of the greatest leaders of all time, the great Prescott…  They even made him a Lord, which just about says it all.  Well, all I can say is that I hope he became a little brighter than he was when I sailed with him, but enough of all this, although I have had the pleasure of having personal dealings with a few really good politicians in my time, so there is still perhaps a little hope left.

That’s enough of all this, now I promise to remain focused on this News Letter and not to frighten you any more by deviating  into the realms of horror!

Latest DVDs:  

Even though we have produced a staggering 44 x 70 min DVDs, I still try hard to ensure that we never repeat what we have done previously,  and that every single programme is different, and episode 45, The Great Panama Canal,  is no exception,  Once again,  with the use of more rare film, we use our own unique way of looking and telling the programme’s story, which in this case is the story of the Panama Canal, and to tell this story we use as our foundation an actual transit of the canal today, from the Pacific to Colon and then, after a hot, heavy night in the Dog House Bar, out into the then wonders of the Caribbean and on into the Atlantic.

Picture5

Charts Showing Panama and the Atlantic

We had about 180 of our people on this transit of the Canal, which we did aboard the beautiful MV Discovery on one of our Maritime Memory cruises.  The Discovery used to be Princess Cruises Island Princes, which a lot of you will remember as one of the Love Boats from the famous TV series, and this transit was especially arranged to enable us to be able to make this programme.

When we arrived in Panama we had had for a two night stop before joining the MV Discovery, which gave us a rare opportunity to walk the streets of Panama City in search of old memories, but sadly most my old dives had long disappeared beneath the foundations of an almost futuristic city that now towered high into another world.

Old Panama City with just one maiden left
and the new, unrecognisable Panama City

On the second day there, we arranged with the Panamanian Government for our crowd to visit to the famous  Miraflores Locks, and were they excited.  Coaches arrived to collect us and off we all went on what we hoped would be a ship enthusiasts dream, but there was to be even more.   When we arrived, not only were we gifted with ringside seats to view the ships, but they had also laid on a party for us, which meant all the food we could eat and all the booze we could booze.

How strange it was to find us in the locks, but instead of standing out on deck of a ship looking down, we were down there looking up.    The activity was continuous, with ship after ship entering and leaving the locks… Not one person with us will ever forget that amazing day… Yes, this was Maritime Memories at its best, and that’s not counting the routine of… “Another scotch & beer please mate!”

So the oh so happy day mellowed into evening and still the great ships came and went, as did the booze, but not one person was anything other than calmly merry, for there was just so much to enjoy in this amazing maritime spectacle.  As evening took its way into night, so not a single soul wanted to leave, and as one of the crowd said, as he sat there sipping from his glass, his eyes, mind and thoughts deeply immersed into this magical maritime pageant. “This must be the 8th wonder of the world!”

Sometime after midnight, with the help of a little friendly persuasion, we left our wonderful experience to return to our hotel, but such was the excitement that once there, no one wanted to go to bed. So, we just sat there talking and drinking, and trying to keep our very special day alive for as long as possible.

The following morning, with many an enjoyable hangover in tow, launches came to collected us from the Panama City quayside, to take us out to join the Discovery, waiting patiently for us out in the bay.

As we approached her, we wondered what sort of welcome if any we would get, but we needn’t have even thought about it, for as we neared to come alongside, her Master, Captain Derrick Kemp, sounded Discovery’s whistles in welcome.

The Discovery waited for us in the Bay

Much needed liveners were also waiting to greet us, and as we all settled in, so her engines came alive and her bows turned towards the entrance of the Panama Canal. Then Captain Kemp hoisted our collection of  rare old shipping company House Flags up the main mast, the first time many of them had been flown for fifty years or more.  This was the largest collection of these flags ever seen flying from one ship, and what a fantastic sight they made… You know, there are a lot of things that old seafarers can get teary eyed about, but few more meaningful than that of seeing your old shipping company House Flag flying from high again, showing her old colours with pride.

MV Discover commencing transi of the Panama Canal.   The world’s biggest display of old shipping company flags. (Click on the images to enlarge)

Then as we sailed on into the canal, passing serenely through scenes that many of us knew so well from our own sea going days, we knew this transit was going to be even more special, all helped by the fact that this time we were all one big crowd together, and as we passed  ships of all shapes and sizes including great big cruise ships, we couldn’t help but feel more than a little moved after ship after ship, on seeing the famous old flags flying from our masthead, sounded their whistles as a mark of respect to all on board, and to our great maritime history… Yes, this was something that money really couldn’t buy.

In this DVD on the Panama Canal we then go to rare film and images showing its actual construction, a task that today’s ‘elf and safety and Snowflakes would surely just quickly pale and fade away from… Over 5,600 men died constructing the canal, and not just a close your eyes and have a peaceful death either, but ones caused by Malaria, Yellow Fever, Typhoid and other nasty full of pain and suffering deaths, yet still the work went on.

Endless digging by men working in impossible conditions and the first ship to transit the Canal. (Click on the images to enlarge)

We mix back to the MV Discovery and to film, much of which was shot from her bridge, allowing us an uninterrupted view ahead, and as we observe and absorb this special moment, so, as if by magic we cut to more rare old film  that gives us a strange effect as ships of old suddenly appear almost as if ghosts.  The effect is as if those old ships are actually there with us for real, ships such as the old Mauretania and  Britannic, with their pith hated passengers managing to cope with the high humidity and heat, and then follows more ships of the 20th century including cargo ships, tankers and some of the famous ocean liners of that age such as the Caronia, Oriana and Southern Cross, and for all you Royal Navy people, we even transit the canal aboard an aircraft carrier, filmed in WW2.

For me personally, and I know for so many more with us, my head was full of distant memories, thinking of the first time I sailed through the canal, and of all the excitement and adventure we so enjoyed when serving at sea.

We do go to a great deal of trouble to bring you both variety and things that are out of the ordinary when producing these maritime DVDs, and The Great Panama Canal is no exception.  Its informative, its full of action and things you will have probably never seen in such a programme before. In short, we wanted to bring you something not only for you to enjoy but also your family and friends as well, even if they’ve never been near a ship in their the whole of their lives, but for all ship enthusiasts and ex-seafarers, well this will be very special DVD to watch over and over again.  Oh and at the end of the transit I was hoping that we might have a night ashore in Colon, so I could revisit the house of a thousand scandals, the notorious Doghouse Bar, but unfortunately, we sailed straight on by… I wondered what happened to… Hmm, what was her name?..

The second DVD we are to make, which will be Eps 46, is basically a tribute to our Merchant Service, which celebrates its centenary this year. We are pleased to do all we can to help to bring this story to the nation and the world, for we must never forget that not so many years ago we could boast of having the biggest maritime nation in the world, and such a video programme will help ensure that a moving image record of our great maritime history will last forever,  so that if this world should last another 1000 years or more, then remarkably, adults and children then will be able to watch this film and see for themselves just what a great maritime nation we once were.

In this production, rather than do as most TV documentaries do, which is to cram in as many similar interviews as they possibly can, which is usually because it’s a whole lot easier and far less expensive than showing actual archive film.   Well archive film, which costs on average something like £40 per second to use is expensive, but this is a story that probably will only ever be told once on film, so we will spare no expense, and we will tell the story by showing as much rare archive film as we can find.  By doing this we should be able to capture the whole feeling of those days, and actually see young men joining their sea training schools, as cadets, engineers, or just ordinary seamen, and then follow them as they go to the ports all around our coasts to join their ships and then to even sail with them on their voyages all over the world.

Some joined the famous transatlantic liners, others ordinary liners, passenger cargo liners, ferries, dry cargo ships, tankers, bulk carriers, coasters, tugs and river craft.  We will look at our once great ship building industry, which also led the world, and then ask the question: how come it was all lost.  This is a question that a lot of people feel uncomfortable with, but the truth is there were several fractions to blame and sadly, it needn’t have happened at all.

TS Vindicatrix at her Sharpness berth
HMS Worcester at her Thames mooring

So, we will show the ships and the men and women who sailed aboard them, both in times of peace and sadly, also at war.  Graphic film will show convoys and the massive losses our young people suffered… Yes, it was often a hard, tough life, and without these young men and the sacrifices them made, then I doubt we would be here today, but it was also a life full of excitement and adventure, and dare I say, even romance. In short, it was a life that for most of these young men gave them the best years of their lives.

 

Ex-seafarers get a VIP send off from the Royal Navy as they join us on a voyage back to the same Arctic seas, where many thousands of their sea-mates lost their lives in World War Two. (Click on the images to enlarge)

It’s difficult for us to fund the huge costs involved in making these DVDs e.g.  searching for rare archive film thought to have been lost forever, and when found, then to spend often months restoring it back to its former condition, so it can be viewed again.  Now we have, after 23 years work, managed to build the largest maritime film and sound archives in the world, which even though I say so myself, it is one hell of an achievement, and in truth, if we didn’t do this work then no one else would, and then neither ourselves or future generations would ever be able to see these wonderful films, films so important to the historic record of our once great Merchant Navy and shipping industries.

We will also include are Royal navy and fighting ships, which although not part of the Merchant Navy Association, they were its protectors and back in the old day could also boast of having the world’s biggest fleet of fighting ships, but sadly today, that is also a tiny shadow of its former glory, but what we have left is still great, and hopefully it will rise to its former greatness again.

So there will be lots of ships and port scenes in this DVD, and in making it we hope it will be of great benefit to the Merchant Navy Association, and spread the story of just how important our Merchant Navy was and still is.

One thing’s for sure, all in all, this DVD will show the greatness of our fleets and service people, for they at least deserve to be part of a very special maritime memory… One final DVD request, please buy your copies, for not only will you really enjoy them, they are only source of funding, without which, we would have to stop and then there would be no more rare old films for you to enjoy.

Our Maritime Memory Cruises:

Now we promised you in the previous News Letter, that we would work really hard to ensure we would be able to tell you all about an amazing new cruise we have arranged for you all.   This is something so special, and we will be the very first people to ever cruise aboard this fantastic ship, and its owners have promised us that we can do all the things that we at Maritime Memories strive so hard to do, such as going up on the bridge, down the engine room, maritime talks and film shows, all sitting together when dining, having our special Maritime Memory Dinners, and even a special farewell fancy dress ball and dinner, so what more could you possibly want!   So, hold your breath and here goes… Ladies and Gentlemen, we at Maritime Memories are proud to announce to the world that our next cruise will be three luxurious weeks aboard one of the most famous vessels of all time, the one and only, the great…

Woolwich Ferry!

Okay, so it doesn’t have any ice rinks, shopping malls, swimming pools, discos and even on board golf, but it is British, and, although you won’t actually have the luxury of a cabin, unlike all the other cruise ships, you will be able to take with you your cars, caravans, motorbikes and even bicycles!

No, no, it’s a joke!

Actually, you’ll be surprised how many will call us wanting to book on the old Woolwich Ferry, and then get all stroppy when we try to explain to them that it was only just a silly joke.  

But, on a more serious note, we have been looking so hard to try to create a situation with a cruise line that really is interested in doing something different.   We have been approached by several shipping lines who would like us to be with them, but we really don’t want to be just other passengers and numbers, because most of us really like ships and the sea, and therefore going to sea is special.  and so we would really would like someone who understands that all important magic touch that has made our Maritime Memories cruises so special and popular, and, we think we might just have found them!

So all being well, you can forget the Woolwich Ferry and prepare yourselves for a really nice cruise, which will be the start of many, just like the ones we used to do originally…  Didn’t we have some wonderful, unforgettable  cruises, like the ones to the Antarctic, South America, the Far East, India, Africa, Middle East, America, Canada, Scandinavia, the Med and just about everywhere including our enjoyable ‘Around Britain’ voyages, and you know something, on every voyage we managed to arrange the most outrageous, joyous events, such as the amazing Arctic Convoy voyages to Russia, where we actually managed to involve the UK Government, Royal Navy, Air Force, the Norwegian Government and Navy, and what was the most difficult, but most rewarding of all, the Russian Government and Military…Wow, what a voyage that was!

Our South American voyage was unbelievable as was our Around Britain, with special receptions in every port of call, all arranged by us, and enjoyed by everyone aboard.  So, we should certainly be able to let you know the final information by the time of the next News Letter, which will be in May, or if you are linked to us by email, then before, or on our website, where we will be able to reveal all our plans and itineraries.  

We have taken thousands of you on Maritime Memory cruises all over the world, and in all that time I believe we have only received two complaints, which is pretty good going so let’s do it all again, and enjoy ourselves, because although we do sail to some truly wonderful places, and do have a fantastic time, the most important ingredient necessary for a great Maritime Memories cruise is simply having you with us!  

Here below are some of the ships we have enjoyed Maritime Memory cruises on, and each one special in their own unique way, which we love.

Yes, we’ve been on some great cruises and great ships, but what has made them all so great is, well it’s all of us being together, that make these cruises so special, and we are the only people in the world that do anything like this, so isn’t it nice to be a little different!   So pack up your old kit bags, Sowesters and hammocks, and get ready for some more laughter, fun and happiness at sea…   Are you sure we can’t add the Woolwich Ferry to our wonderful ship line-up!  

Great paintings of Ships:

We know that so many of you would love to own a great painting of a ship, but unless you have a lot of money, then this is beyond the reach of most of us, at least, it was until now.   Snowbow is so pleased to let you know that we have now been given the rights to offer you exclusively, the work of one of the world’s foremost maritime artists, Robert G. Lloyd.

In truth, we know a lot of really good maritime artists, but just every now and again one comes along that has that extra magic touch, that makes their work so special, and Robert is one of those rare finds.  His work is sought after all over the world by ship enthusiasts and great art collectors, and indeed, hangs in so many of the top maritime museums and houses, as well as in Shipping Company Board Rooms, and even on ships themselves such as the new Cunard Queens and P&O cruise ships. But now, thanks to the latest laser copying  technology, we are able to produce copies of such high quality that it is often almost impossible to tell the copies from the original masters, and what’s more, we can offer you these amazing copies at very affordable prices.

Normally, when you see offers for Limited Editions of prints, that usually means limited to several thousand copies, but with our Limited Editions, we’re talking about just 100/150 in each edition, thereby ensuring that your special print is not only special to you, but also very collectable as well, so not only will you enjoy and admire it for the rest of your lives, so will all your family and friends as well..

Here is a sample of Robert’s remarkable talent and work, and we are absolutely sure that he will remain an important part in the art wall of fame, and if the world is still spinning around in another thousand years’ time, then his work will still be sought after, just as the great masters of old are today.

The Three great new Queens arriving in New York together
The old Queen Elizabeth arriving in New York
The wonderful QE2’s final sailing from Liverpool for the final time

From the old to the new, from the great ocean liners and container ships, conventional cargo passenger ships, conventional cargo ships, tankers, bulk carriers, ferries, coasters to tugs and  other port and river craft, the work of Robert G. Lloyd is all-embracing and every single painting is a magnificent work of art, art that we at Snowbow are so proud to represent on an exclusive basis, enabling us to provide you with state-of-the-art limited edition prints that in all honesty, with the use of the very latest technology, gives you copies that have a quality as good as the original masters.   So, if you love ships, if you were an ex-seafarer or you or family were ever fortunate enough to have sailed aboard any of the hundreds of the beautiful ships we have in our unique Robert Lloyd collection, or just stood and watched them as they sailed in and out of nearby ports, then this is your chance to own your very own Limited Edition print, and we promise you, not only will you never tire of looking at your special masterpiece, but neither will visitors to your home, for the visually magnificence and quality of these prints are about as good as you’ll ever find.  

Because our Ltd Editions are so low in number, we only have a few copies available, so get yours whilst you can. For further in-formation re this unique offer, and all the Award winning maritime DVDs we produce, either go to our new Snowbow website at: www.snowbow.co.uk or call us on:  00 44 (0)1273 585391 We hope a copy of such a great work of art will bring you so much joy. 

We try to make these News Letters a more personal correspondence rather than a sales rag, but we know most of you will enjoy these presentations, and that you want to know what we have to offer, especially when its new… I’ve got a couple of these wonderful prints and I can tell you, they look great.

Now on with the show, although I have just about worn me fingers out typing this lot up… My fingers were a normal length when I started, but now they’re little more than stumps!

My record Album, which I think I mentioned in the previous News Letter, is now finished and ready to be released, which I hope will be within the next few weeks.

The artwork for the sleeve is a caricature of me on stage, and don’t I look silly!  Still, it is mainly a comedy record so its only right I should make fun and laugh at myself.    It’s a double album based on performances I have done on most of our Maritime Memories cruises, and like those performances, it is all adlibbed, which I am reliably told by people high up in the record business, has never been done quite like this before.

Like my performances aboard ships and cabaret ashore, everything I do is totally unrehearsed and adlibbed, which although perhaps very risky, I like to do because I want it to be real and full of fun and laughter.  Even so, the songs I perform vary from good old rock ‘n’ roll, country rock, ballads and even folk, and all as you will have never quite heard before, plus there lots of really funny stand-up comedy and very funny comedy songs.

One of the things that prompted me to make this recording was something that happened during one of our Maritime Memory cruises.  A couple came up to me and said.  “You know, Des, when you appear on stage we all come to see you, but no one has the first idea what you’re going to do, and we suspect, neither do you… You just come out on stage and for the next hour or so it just sort of happens, and then when it’s all over we all leave with tears of laughter in our eyes, and one thing we all know is that when we come out, we all come our feeling so much better than we did when we went in.”

That meant so much to me, especially as I am so sick and tired of all the political shenanigans, professional moaners and Snowflakes we have to put up with in this world today, that’s why I decided that I would record this in the hope that it will bring back to us all some good old fun and laughter… Mind you, as I’ve  adlibbed it all, then probably I’ve come out with the odd thing here and there that is bound to upset a few, but there again, we live in a world today where it’s difficult to say anything that doesn’t upset someone, so I expect the ‘Thought Police’ of today are already speeding towards me front door even as I write this, so your next News Letter could come to you courtesy of HMP.

I’d better finish writing this, because a few more pages and we’ll be in book mode!   Lots more things to tell you, but that can wait until the next News Letter,

We still have our special offer on the DVDs, whereby for every two you buy, you get another of your choice for free!   Actually, I don’t really understand the wisdom of us, struggling for sufficient funds to enable us to make the DVDs etc., to come up with such a generous offer.   In truth, our (Ulla and mine) reward is being able to do something to bring you happiness, and there are few things more rewarding in life than to get a call or email from say Australia, America, South Africa, Finland, Canada, the Far East, India, South America, New Zealand etc., from someone wanting to say how much pleasure the DVDs bring them… I know, you think I’m making this all up, but hang on, let me look at the latest emails… Hold on…

Here’s one:

Ship Society of South Africa and Cape Town.

Good afternoon Des,

I hope I am not repeating myself.  We have been very fortunate as one of our members who is British but lives out here, presented us with three f your new DVDs i.e. Episodes 42, 43 and 44.  To say we were thrilled to get them is putting it mildly.  In any event whenever we had a programme to organise for a month and run out of suitable DVDs or programmes off the internet etc., we always put on a Snowbow from the past and they still get enjoyed by all present.

Congratulations to you and your wife for your continued enthusiasm which brings so much pleasure to all.

Best regards

Pauline Brueton

Hon. Secretary

It won’t help our funding situation but it makes us very happy.  We used to have a lot of people collecting the DVDs in South Africa, but unfortunately things have really gone downhill out there in so many ways, and whereas just a few years ago we could mail stuff there without a problem, today it never reaches its destination, so we don’t begrudge all those society members the happiness that our DVDs bring them.

To make sure we leave you smiling:

Thanking you all for your help and support, it really means so much to us.

Best wishes,

Des and Ulla.

Newsletter January 2019

It’s difficult to believe that we now find ourselves in another new year, 2019.  Where did all the time go, for it only seems like yesterday that I was suddenly picked up from my almost uneventful life in the then rural High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire as a young 16 year old, and parachuted into a whole new way of life as I found myself in uniform for the first time, and behind barb wire fencing that kept others out and me inside what was one of, if not the, most austere sea training school in the world, the TS “Vindicatrix”

Age 15 all innocent
Age 16 at the Vindicatrix

I didn’t know what had hit me… forget going to prison for this was far, far tougher than any prison… We starved on a diet so severe that even a fishes tail of live cockroach was a luxury, and in the winter months when I was there, we had to sleep all but  naked in old WW2, ice cold Nissen huts, on beds with dirty blankets, no mattresses and only hard wire mesh for comfort… To make things worse we were pumped fall of injections to vaccinate us against nasty diseases we might catch on our journeys around the world. all of which took its toll and in my case, I even went blind!  

But at the end of that merciless training, I, and all the others of thousands of young boys that passed through the camp, left its gates so much more mature, stronger and capable boys, boys that from thereafter would be able to face the world and deal with almost anything it could throw at them, boys who had learnt that anything in life was possible and that whatever task given to them, they would, one way or another, get the job done.

I doubt that any kid today would be able to cope with what we had to deal with back then, but there weren’t any snowflakes  back then; we just hand to buckle down and get on with it until that wonderful day came when the gates to the camp opened and we were set  free, well almost.

Having past our final inspection, were marched out the gates and down the lane to the little railway station at Sharpness, where a steamy, hissy train waited to greet our pride, and to take us on the start of a journey that would open a book to a new chapters in our lives, a book that offered us the way to a whole new life, a life full of excitement, adventure, romance and opportunity, a life that would take us young kids to the far corners of the world to see countries and places most people back in those days (1950s) could only but dream about… It would be an experience that would give us the best years of our lives and days we would never forget.

I am writing the 2nd volume in my life story, “Jumping For Balloons” (part 2) which will tell this amazing story in great detail, delving into all its many attributes from those endless dreamy days of sailing through warm, blue, tropical seas, and seeing the true wonders of the world… my first palm tree, flying fish, shark, dolphin, or to play and swim on the shores of a tropical island. Mind you, we worked hard aboard ship, and we also had to learn to deal with being thrown into the middle of ferocious storms, which when just 16, really were scary,  but perhaps the girls, girls, girls, all helped to make battling through any storm worthwhile!   It was a way of life that sadly, young boys and girls of today will never be able to experience, and you know, 99% of the ex-seafarers and ship workers I talk to all agree that those years were the best of our lives.

My very first ship, the New Zealand Shipping Companies MV Hinakura seen here in a painting By Robert G. Lloyd, showing her as she heads into the worst Hurricanes I ever encountered.

On my first voyage we ran into two mighty storms, and to make it worse, they struck us just a few days after sailing from Liverpool in mid-December, 1954. I was cabin boy and wow! I never knew waves could be so ginormous, waves that were relentless as they tossed us about as if we were just a cork from a bottle… I had two buckets, one full of soapy water to scrub the decks with and the other to be sick in, and these two storms, one straight after the other, tore us apart for so many days has we battled our way across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and Panama.

I won’t write anymore about my personal life at sea for the moment, for that’s what my book is for, but I can’t resist this opportunity to recall the terrifying noise as giant wave after giant waves smashed down over the decks, tearing lifeboats and rigging away from the ship, and I certainly will never forget the morning that as I scrubbed away I heard the broad Scotch accent of the Chief Officer as he stood behind me. “Do you say your prayers, boy?”  I turned and looked up at this huge man, his whole being swaying to and fro as he fought to hold his balance against the ‘Big Dipper’ like rise and fall and roll of the ship.   “I do sir, I do.”  I replied.  He lowered his head a little and squinted. “Well tonight you’d better say a special one, because last night I thought we had lost it.” Then, as if I wasn’t already terrified into wishing that perhaps going away to sea was terrible, terrible mistake, and that I would have been far better off being a postman or road sweeper instead, he lowered his head and in a scary, frightening voice, described what had happened…  

“It rose before us like a monster, a huge rogue wave coming straight at us from out of the darkness, a ginormous wave as if it were a mountain of destruction, and we had no warning or time to try to escape…” He shook his head, “Aye, we didn’t stand a chance… It just rose, and rose, higher and noisily higher and as we hit it, so it lifted us up and up and up until there was nowhere else to go, and having reached its towering peak, there it held us in a deathly still for what seemed like an eternity, before suddenly tipping us forward and downwards,  plunging, crashing, deep down into its dark cavernous hollow where it took hold of us in its jaws, shaking and shuddering, twisting and turning and throwing us around as if we were just a toy. Then there was another brief moment of almost silent still, an almost silence that just for a couple of seconds gave us hope that perhaps we were safe, and then it happened… the very thing we had dreaded would happen.”

His eyes suddenly widened, emphasising his fear. “The whole ship seemed to scream as the giant monster lifted and then its angry, foaming crest broke and came crashing down all over us.” He closed his eyes for a few moments as he recalled the full horror of that moment, then with a scary frown he opened them again and continued to scare the living daylights out of me. “The roar of destruction was without pity as the full force of the sea flung itself over us, forcing our bow down and down before finally the sheer volume and weight of the water forced it to disappear beneath the surface. Aye, I thought we were a ‘gonna… I felt sure our bow would surrender as it lost its fight to rise again.”  He paused once again, sighing heavily as he took a deep breath and then nodded as if to himself. “But she didn’t surrender… No, she fought back and against all the odds she slowly and bravely creaked and groaned and slowly, slowly lifted herself out of its angry grasp,.”  He stood up straight again and smiled. “Aye, somehow we won and lived to fight another day.”  Sensing my fear, he bent over and patted me on my shoulder, before calmly swaying off down the alleyway to continue inspect the ship’s damage.

Just one precious photo taken when the storm had abated and it was reasonably safe to go on deck

If I hadn’t had gone to that sea training school, had I not had such a hard time there, I would never have been able to have coped with such a terrifying experience, especially as a poor 16 year old country Bumpkin, … As I say, my book will tell it all in great detail, but importantly it will also tell of all the amazing adventures and fun we had at sea in those days… The thrill of transiting the mighty Panama Canal, followed by seemingly endless days  of warm sunshine and blue, blue seas as we crossed the vast Pacific ocean to New Zealand… To tell of how there were always Dolphins and Porpoises swimming immediately in front of the ships bow, where they would stay for days before being replaced by another… Today, were you on a modern day cruise, you’d be lucky to see any dolphins and porpoises at all!

They were always there in front of the bow… they were our friends

Yes, the book will tell of all the wonderful experiences I so enjoyed, like sleeping out on the ship’s cargo hatches at night, lying there with just a pair of underpants on, looking up at night skies that were ablaze with stars, stars that swayed gently to and fro as the ship gently moved through the stillness of the night.

 

Back then hardly anyone anywhere had a film camera, so no one aboard was able to capture those wonderful scenes and moments… Oh, my mum did let me use the families old Kodak Brownie stills camera, but that only had sufficient film to take 8 photos, which was supposed to last me for the whole of the seven month voyage, so I had to be very careful how I used them…

 

Within a very short time I had matured beyond my years as the life at sea made me both worldly and a stronger, better person, and the things I learnt then have stayed with me all my life, and helped in me doing what I’m doing now, which together with wife Ulla (She’s a Swede, but other than that, she’s alright!)  has involved us dedicating 23 years of our lives to search the world for rare film, film that hopefully someone somewhere had taken, film of scenes and maritime incident s that one day would somehow enable us to bring back in great graphic detail, all those wonder memories of those wonderful and happy years.

 

Well, there were such people and thankfully we managed to find them and their film, all of which we have restored back to perfect condition, thereby not only bringing all those wonderful memories back, but in a way that makes us feel as if we’re back there for real, so no matter whether you’re an ex-seafarer, ship worker, ship enthusiasts or you just love the nostalgia of those days, you will all enjoy the special Award Winning video programmes we have made of  those days, days when we had the biggest and best Merchant Navy and Shipping Industry in the world.

 

It’s difficult to imagine today that it really was an age when the world was such a much, much nicer place, a world where it took so little to bring happiness, an age when a kiss was as wild and exciting as love could almost be, an age long before Political Correctness and ‘Elf and Safety’ were even considered let alone to rule and dominate our lives.  An age when we really laughed, an age when we loved and looked forward with great optimism to every day and to the future, an age when instead of walking down the road hunched over an IPhone, we actually talked to one another…

 

The video programmes we have worked so hard to make show all this, and interestingly, we now get letters and emails from all over the world and pleasingly enough, also from young children who, having discovered these video programmes, have taken the trouble to write to us (Ulla and Des) to say how much they enjoy watching them and how they wish they could have been alive back then so they could have also enjoyed the same type of lifestyles as we were so fortunate to have had.

 

I’m afraid I never started this Newsletter with the intention of writing in this way, it just sort of happened, probably because I’m sickened by so much about the world today and especially the mindless, infantile behaviour of so many of our so called leaders!   Oh, I know what I should just mention, which is something that one of our customers told me the other day… He’d called to say how much he enjoyed every one of the 44 DVDs we have currently produced, and wanted to know when the next ones would be ready.  We chatted away, as we do… (You wouldn’t get this sort of service if you called Harrods or even Halfords!) and then he told me this little story, which says so much about how the times have changed, and not for the good either!  

 

His dad used to be a London Docker, and when he was a young boy he often asked his dad as he was leaving the house for work, if he could go with him. “Come on then.” He would say, and off they’d go to London’s mighty Royal Docks, which then were the largest inland docks in the world.      But not only did this little nine year old go to work with his dad in the endlessly busy docks, when they got there his dad just took him on board whatever ship he was working on at the time, and amazingly, actually take him all the way down into the ship’s holds, where he would just sit and watch as together with the other men, they would handle imports and exports cargoes as they swung too and fro on their way in and out of the holds… Imagine that happening today! Why, you wouldn’t even get past the dock gates let along down a ship’s hold!

 

Yes, we had such freedom them, a freedom that this world of today has snatched from us, screwed up and thrown into a bin… The disgrace of the way Brexit has been handled is as far as I’m concerned, and everyone I speak to, just so angrily humiliating and soul destroying… Politicians that have been elected by us to look after our interests couldn’t give a fig about us, for all that matters and registers with them is their own greed and selfishness… If only they had been ex seafarers, if only they had all gone to a sea training school, then I think if they had, Brexit or remain or whatever way you personally wanted, would have all be done and dusted ages ago.

 

It does make me angry, because the world we lived in back then was so much simpler and so much nicer than the world we have today, and you know something; when they argue how we couldn’t possibly manage without the EU, well back in those days not only were our ports the biggest in the world, London alone had over 66,000 ship movements a year, with ships coming and going from all corners of the globe, handling masses of cargoes of every type, and we didn’t have one single little computer to help us cope with that, no, it was all done with just pen and paper, and it all ran like clockwork, and we did it all on our own!

 

Away that’s more than enough about the state of the nation, and do please forgive me if  I’ve said too much… Now back to what we are currently doing to try to spread a little happiness.    The latest release is episode 44,“The Great Port of London”  (Part 3).  In all honesty I never imagined when we first started this work 23 years ago that we would make any more than just one little episode that would perhaps show the world just how life was back then and what a great maritime nation we once were.  The 44 episodes currently available cover just about every shipping company that existed during the 20th Century, and the ships they operated.  Episode 44 is actually the third DVD we have been able to make about the great port of London in its heyday, and the rare film used to make it is so uniquely rare, but when you watch it, well, that is something really, really special.

From Tilbury to the Pool of London and all the many docks in between, the programme shows them crammed full of ships of every shape and size, so if you have memories of those days or love ships, then this has to be one of the finest programmes ever made to capture those maritime, halcyon days; days that now thanks to these unique programmes will never be forgotten and serve as a lasting reminder of a time when the UK really was the greatest shipping nation in the world.

 

Production has started on the next two episodes, but with only Ulla and myself to do all the work, and with all the desperate applications we’ve made for funding to the various bodies rejected, it is a lot of work and although we have already found and restored the films needed to make the new episodes, it will still take many months of hard work before they’re completed… Those new episodes are 45, The Great Panama Canal, showing scenes from the initial construction of the Canal, and of lots of ships transiting it through the ages, going right back to the very earliest including White Star’s “Britannic” and Cunard’s 1906 “Mauretania,” right through to modern day.  We also intend to include rare film of the Australian port of Freemantle taken in the 1960s, showing us more passenger liner footage of ships arriving and sailing from a port where so many thousands of passengers first saw and set foot on Australian soil, where to start a whole new life… Fantastic to watch.

Episode 46 is still in very early planning, but we want to show you more rare film of conventional cargo ships, and take you on them as they sail to ports all over the world.  There will be ships from all the well-known companies such as Port Line, Ben Line and Blue Funnel etc., but we want to include the ships operated be lesser known companies such as the Belfast  Steamship Co, Bowater Steamship Co, Reardon Smith, City Line and many others, so this should be another great treat.

Now here some very special news

 

At long, long, last, we have actually managed to build and open our brand new website, which might not mean a lot to some of you, but in this world of today, which is all but totally reliant on the internet, it is essential that we now shed our old clothes and get into fashion.  Now I (Des) am not the best person in the world to create a new website, in fact I really am the least practical person in the world and I remember once, when crossing the Atlantic in the old “Rangitata”, I tried to rig a radio aerial from my cabin to the top of the mast, which we did back then, an exercise that meant having to climb the mainmast (no safety gear of course) but no one really minded too much, and only a few of the ship’s crew had a radio anyway, so everyone wanted them to be working and picking up radio stations that they could all huddle around during the evening and hopefully start leaping about to the sounds of old Elvis or if preferred, Victor Sylvester!  

 

Anyway, I managed to get the aerial up and fastened to the mast then I returned to my cabin to try it out, but as I went to turn it on I remembered a warning one of the ship’s electricians gave me. “Make sure you earth it!” Well, I didn’t really understand much about electrical things, so remembering the warning, I climbed up to one of the pipes that ran through the accommodation and calmly scraped some of its paint off.  Then satisfied I’d scraped off sufficient paint, I then fastened the aerial to the bare metal.  in order to earth it, but when I turned the radio on, instead of Elvis leaping about it was me, for there was great big bright flash and a huge bang, as my brand new, posh radio became a smouldering wreck, but that wasn’t quite the end of the matter, for somehow I also managed to plunge most of the ship into darkness!

 

It took but seconds for the cabin door to burst open and there was a very red faced and angry Chief and 2nd Electricians. “I fxxxing knew it would be you.” The chief screamed… Can’t really remember what happened after that, but some weeks later, with help from the electricians I did manage to get it working, but by then we were way out into the Pacific ocean and instead of hearing Elvis rock ‘n’ rolling, all I managed to pick up was ‘The Voice of the Andes”, which as many of you will know, was a religious station that pumped out an endless diet of bible teachings, but at least it was working… Perhaps that’s why later in life I considered becoming a Monk!

 

Anyway, this new website is a must for you to go to, because using simple state-of-the-art modernisation, we can now offer you so much more, for example, you can go on there, put in the name of the ships, ports or places  you are interested in and the computer will not only tell you which DVDs they’re on, but also if there’s a Robert Lloyd print of ship or scene as well and it and also, where it is on our film and sound archive… even describing the scenes they appear in i.e. Chusan laving Tilbury for Australia, or Southern Cross transiting the Panama Canal or the Egyptian Prince transiting the Manchester Ship Canal… Amazing.

 

Speaking of prints, we are now able to offer you exclusively the whole range of specially produced prints of work by Robert G. Lloyd, an artist considered by leading experts as the world’s best maritime artists.  We have exclusively for you, the whole range of his prints, which in themselves are works of art produced to the very highest quality.  Also, and I think importantly, instead of offering these prints in limited editions totalling many thousands, which is the normal practice, we have, and again just for you,  agreed to produce them in very limited editions of around only 100 copies, which as well as being so stunningly beautiful to look at in your own home, they will also become very collectible. So, as well as being hung in top places like Buckingham Palace and museums, now you too can have your very own work of art…   Here’s a few examples.

Just a tine sample of the tremendous fine art prints we can now offer exclusively to you, so do check out the whole list on our website… This is a unique opportunity to own a wonderful work of art that everyone will admire and one you will never tire of, so please feel free to browse our gallery of prints here  

Maritime Memories

We couldn’t leave you without writing about our special Maritime Memory Cruises, cruises which so many thousands of you have enjoyed over the years, cruises that have taken us all over the world. But they’re not your regular cruises, no, for what we do it turn back the hands of time to the way things were and ships were operated during the Golden Age of Shipping. Instead of giant floating blocks of flats we use ships much the same size as they were back in those halcyon days, and we also go to great lengths to help make the atmosphere aboard as close to as it was in the days when people really mattered, and shipping companies went out of the way to make everyone and everything so special.  But perhaps what makes these special cruises so full of fun and laughter and happiness, is that your fellow passengers are so much like yourselves, which in turn give us the best crowd of seagoing friends in the world.

MV Discovery on a Maritime Memories Cruise in 2003

We go to great lengths to try to find the right ships for us, not too big, but not too small, and ships that look more like real ships, as ships used to be years ago, and I’m sure so many of you will have some very fond memories of all the ships we have used, and to mind comes the happy days we spent aboard the MV Discovery , especially our voyages to South America, the Amazon and when we retraced the routes of the WW2 Arctic Convoys, taking with us many WW2 convoy veterans, and that totally amazing reception the Russians gave us when we eventually arrived in Murmansk… Truly an unforgettable moment to treasure for ever.

 

By the way, it was that special voyage that finally persuaded the British Government to awards those brave Arctic Convoy veterans the special Arctic Convoy Medal, so not only did we all have an amazing time, we also did so much good as well.

 

So many of you have asked us for information on the next cruises we will do, but at this moment we are currently looking for the right ship and the right people to work with, people who share our belief that although a great itinerary is so important, equally important is to be able to have a great time aboard the ship itself, and of course, that. with our special Maritime Memory Dinners, lectures, film shows and parties make those Maritime Memory Cruises so special for us all. So we promise to let you know just as soon as we have found those right people and ship, so we can all meet up again and just enjoy being on a real ship at sea.

 

We wish you all the good wishes we can fine for 2019, and hope that the world becomes a better, nicer place again, much as it was back in those golden days we once knew and so enjoyed.

 

In the meantime, if you would like to help us in our work, well funding is so necessary, so if you can tell others about us and interest them in trying our DVDs and cruises, then that would really help as it is our only means of funding to enable us to continue this work.  You can even forward this Newsletter on to other people if you like.

 

Oh, two more sort of important things…  Together with Village Roadshow and Warner Bros, we made a feature documentary telling the history of Scouting and to make this programme we travelled all over the world to film relevant scenes, starting from the location of founder Baden Powell’s very first scout camp on Brownsea Island to scouts all over the world; Australia, the Far East, India, Africa. Europe including Scandinavia and the most northerly Scout camp in the world.  To North America, South America and then back to the UK including Windsor Castle. We interview Scouts of all ages and from all background, even including Royalty, and we even managed to interview the very last surviving Scout from that very first camp on Brownsea Island.

This 70 min film is something that everyone who is involved or has ever been involved with Scouting should watch.  To make it at all was a wonder, for to get the support and funding was indeed a struggle and I think it most unlikely that there will ever be another film to tell this amazing story.  We hope to be able to put the film on our website for sale in the very near future, so you can download or purchase on DVD, but really, if you have happy memories of scouting or are scouting today, then share our pride that we had in making it, for it seeks to tell the world what a wonderful job you have all done.

 

And finally, finally, because I am so sick and tired of all the doom and gloom that seems to have almost taken over this world of ours,  I (Des) decided that I would at least try to fight back against all those moaners, snowflakes and losers that have taken up arms, and attack then with the thing they hate more than anything else in the world… the sounds of laughter and people enjoying themselves.  So my first attack is by way of recording an album titled “A Little Ray of Happiness” which is all based on the stage performances I have given aboard ship on those special Maritime Memory cruises.

The album is very much the same as those on board shows, and although partly recorded in a studio, I have still ad-libbed the whole thing from start to finish… I even make up songs as we go along (another thing I do live on stage) but although I shouldn’t say this about my own work, there’s not one single song on the whole track that you won’t enjoy, plus there is so, so much fun and laughter.  

 

The songs range from good old rock ’n’ roll to country rock, ballads, folk and lots and lots of comedy songs and stand up jokes and impersonations that I know from live reactions, will have you all laughing and enjoying yourselves.   And why is there so much comedy on this album?  Well as I said, I got so tired of all the doom and gloom in the world today and sadly, most modern day comedy is so far from being funny.  In fact, things are so bad and people so fed up with it all that they’re actually switching off their telly, especially when the main news comes on, so that’s why I’m making this recording, and do please get a copy so you can play to family and friends and show them just how happy we and the world once was. Yes, I promise you, it might be all adlibbed, but the few people who have heard extracts have said its one of the funniest things they have ever heard, and the songs just great, so hopefully it will bring so much cheer and happiness, and you will play it over and over again.

 

It is almost finished and should be available on our website in a few weeks’ time, either to download or on CD… you will love it and if you don’t, then I’ll… I’ll… I’ll come round and do any maintenance jobs around your house… Oh, perhaps after telling you earlier in this Newsletter how I fused all the lighting aboard the old “Rangitata”, perhaps you’d rather I just stayed at home and did my own maintenance!

 

People who have heard parts have asked for different tracks to be released as singles as well, and at least three tracks will have special cartoon animated promo films made, which hopefully will both help their appeal and the enjoyment people get from watching them… Another very important thing I learnt from both sea school and my days at sea was that if in a disagreement with someone, it is so important to be able to see and understand their point of view, and at the end of the day, it would be very difficult to find anything quite as powerful as just plain simple laughter to make all sides happy again.

 

I promise this is the final thing I will write about in this Newsletter, but the cartoons we sent in the previous one went down so well, so we’re going to make them a regular feature on our new website, but being us, we’re going to present them in a way that has far as we know, has never been done before… This will mean that if you are feeling a little low, all you need to do is to go to our wonderful new website, click on the cartoon link and magically, happiness and laughter will be with you again, and just to get you started, here are a few more:

Thanking you all for your help and support, and as I said, if you could spread the word about what we do, especially as we do it all without profit, then please do.

 

Best wishes,

 

Des and Ulla.      

Newsletter September 2018

 
RMS Andes readying to set sail from Southampton in the late 1960s
  After a long wait, here at last is the first of what will be regular newsletters, which we hope will keep you up to date with everything we at Snowbow and Maritime Memories are and plan to do.

New Website

Firstly, well the reason for all this new super service is that at long last we have a brand new website, and one that can take advantage of the latest technology to enable us to not only keep up with the times but also, if anything, be ahead of them. All things relevant to shipping will be our main point of interest. But for the first time I will also let you know about the other things we do such as making Children’s TV programmes and documentaries such as “Scouts of the World”. This is a major production filmed all over the world that tells the complete history of Scouting from Baden Powell’s first camp, when he with 20 boys pitched their tents on Brownsea Island, right up to modern day. We’ll also show you music programmes featuring major names from the 1950s/60s  that we were involved with and books and records we are still making. So all in all there should be a lot to write about, things that we hope will be of interest to you and  which may even bring back a few memories of those once wonderful days, at a time when the world was a much nicer and better place to live in. So, let’s now try to bring you up to date with what we are doing ship-wise and what we have planned for the future.  

Our Latest DVD – ‘The Great Liners – Episode 43’

We have just completed the 43rd DVD in our video series of ‘The Great Liners’ so, if you haven’t seen it yet, then do get a copy because it is full of such fantastic footage that has never been made public before.
The Great Liners – Episode 43, A Maritime Medley (Part 3)
  It has taken a long time to make this programme, but when you see the content you won’t be surprised.  I guess when putting these together I put my old ship hat on and view what we do through that interest. We try hard to always come up with something that is not only totally original, but also to create a programme that will interest just about anyone, and one you will want to watch over and over again. That’s more than you can say for the average TV programme today. God, they are often so poor aren’t they, but this programme, which is 75 minutes long, has film that quite honestly made me so excited to restore and make available for you to enjoy.  

Tower Bridge to Margate

The handsome “Royal Sovereign“
  We start by joining General Steam’s ‘Royal Sovereign’ at Tower Pier in the very early 1960s, for one of her wonderful Thames cruises. The voyage takes us out into the river as the mighty spans of Tower Bridge open wide to allows us beneath.  We then steam down river past all those fascinating nooks and crannies and spooky little hidey-holes that back then lined every few yards of the river. As we go we pass ship after ship and sail past all the many docks that also lined the river, docks like St Katherine’s, Surrey, Canada, Canary Wharf and the then great Royal Docks, which were the largest enclosed Docks in the world.   We turn into the lock and then into the docks themselves, which are crammed full of so many fascinating ships of every shape and size, not like today’s rather samey looking giant floating blocks of flats!  No, we’re talking about the age when ships were mostly of individual and original design and, dare I say, looked like real ships.
Pleasure boats taking sightseers around London’s crowded Royal Docks in their heyday
We tour the docks taking a very close look at all the ships in there, before going back out into the river and continuing our journey downstream, on past the once mighty Ford factory at Dagenham and on to Tilbury, which is also crammed full of ships including those then so handsome P&O and Orient Liners. Our final destination is good old Margate, a favourite holiday resort back in those simple but so contented days when ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats and candy floss was about all you needed for a great day out. Plus a cruise like this of course, navigating us through an armada of ships of every kind  all the way from Tower Bridge to Margate. I wonder if kids today would be able to enjoy such a day out?  They’d probably  miss almost everything of interest as they bury their heads in their iPhones and tap, tap, tap away.  Actually, we have started to get letters from young children who are taking a great interest in watching the ‘Great Liner’ programmes. They have written to say how much they wish they could have been alive in those wonderful days and to have been able to go away to sea and experience such freedom and unrivalled adventure and excitement.  

British India’s ‘Uganda’

We leave the “Royal Sovereign” there and go back to the mid-1950s to join the beautiful British India ocean liner the ‘Uganda’ as she prepares to sail from Malta on another of her wonderful, queue and stress free Mediterranean cruises.
British India’s ‘Uganda’ setting sail from Malta in the 1950s
  I don’t know if you’re familiar with the ‘Uganda’, but she was just 14,430 gross tons and accommodated 167 1st Class and 133 Tourist passengers. Quite different from modern day ships with 6,000 plus! What a beautiful difference it made to be able to just meander along, taking our time as we sail to uncrowded places (The Uganda’s passengers are generally the only tourists there) without a sign of a queue and, to just simply enjoy being on a real ship at sea. We travel the whole of this Med cruise aboard her, and it helped me to appreciate, even more, the wonderful days that all us seafarers used to enjoy in those ‘Good Ole Days’. I won’t write too much about this for it’s something you really need to experience for yourselves. Something that this beautiful film we have used enables you to do.  

The Queens

Sailing of the “Queen Elizabeth from Ocean Terminal
At the end of the cruise we go back in time to the mid-1940s and with the help of more very rare film, which like all the other film used in the making of this unique programme, has never been made public before. We travel to the Ocean Terminal in Southampton, where we find the magnificent ‘Queen Elizabeth’ about to set sail on her first commercial voyage since the end of WW2, to New York .   We then take a look at more rare film showing us the wartime service of the ‘Elizabeth’ and the ‘Mary’, and how they, in the words of Winston Churchill, took two years off the war. Incidentally, the war time footage shows the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ making her secret dash from the Clyde to New York. She had been scheduled to go to Southampton where preparation had been made for her to finish outfitting. However her orders were changed en-route, sending her at full speed to New York and taking along with her some very surprised John Brown shipyard workers, who weren’t too well equipped for a transatlantic crossing!  
RMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ at speed on her WW2 maiden voyage to New York in 1940
This piece of film was given to us by the daughter of the then Chief Engineer of the ‘Queen Elizabeth’; how great and exciting is that! Do you know, the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ hadn’t even had any real trials at that point, so anything could have happened. As Hitler had ordered her and the Mary’s sinking a top priority, she could now have easily been rusting away somewhere deep in the Atlantic Ocean with all hands aboard. However, she made it and, so great were her speeds, that the paint on her bow and sides was worn away. The whole Nation seemed to be cheering her as she spectacularly pulls away from the quayside to start that first commercial voyage and such an illustrious career. Now we travel forward in time to cross to New York in September 1967, where the magnificent ‘Queen Mary’ is readying herself to say her final farewell to the city that had become her second home. After she sails on her final voyage we are so fortunate to have been able to pick her up again as she arrives off the Solent and prepares to sail into Southampton to embrace the huge reception waiting for her from the thousands of sad yet somehow joyous well-wishers, who have come from across the nation to show their admiration.
RMS ‘Queen Mary’ arriving in Southampton for the last time.
  Of all the film I’ve ever seen of the ‘Queen Mary’, and to be fair, there isn’t too much around, the footage seen here has to be the very best. She looks absolutely magnificent as she makes her way through the gathering noise and proud sightseers. I could watch just this film alone over and over again. It makes me so proud to be British and reminds me of the thrill and excitement that filled my every feeling, so I’m so pleased that we have been able to bring this for you to enjoy. The crowds were both excited and sad as the wonderful ‘Mary’ made her way through the orchestra of sounds as she showed her magnificence and supremacy to all.  Only too often when you manage to find actual film of such an important maritime occasion, it is spoilt by bad weather or the film is now so old and faded. But for this most important of arrivals this film is in absolutely wonderful condition and shot with so much care from an escorting sightseer’s pleasure boat. This gives us the rare opportunity to see this great ship from sea level, giving us an unrivalled view of her splendour.  I can say in all honesty that this must be the best film I have ever seen of the ‘Queen Mary’, and as you watch you can’t help but get caught up in the celebratory atmosphere as we follow her in from the Channel all the way to the Ocean Terminal. For the life of me I sometimes have to shake my head in confused wonderment at just how we have managed to find and restore all this amazing film. This particular programme is far from over as we now return to the most handsome ‘Queen Elizabeth’.  It’s December 1968 and she’s setting sail on her penultimate cruise before her last and final Atlantic crossing.
RMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ sailing on her penultimate cruise in Dec 1968
  Crowds are lining the banks of the Solent to see the ship I personally feel was perhaps the most handsome of all time. We hear the sound of her whistles as the Southampton tugs manoeuvre her ready to face the open sea.  Again the film has been shot from a sightseeing boat, allowing the film to capture her magnificence and grandeur in a way seldom if ever seen before. I will never forget those times when, as a young boy, I would be on the Waterloo to Bournemouth express, and as we slowed on the approach to Southampton, almost everyone would be up at the windows, eager to glimpse the great liners all proudly displaying their importance as they lined every quayside of that great port. And if ever the shout was heard, “Look, there’s one of the Queens!”.  Well  that would be sufficient to cause a mini stampede and, for young ship loving boys such as me, a smile and sense of pride almost a mile or more wide… I loved it! We end the Southampton story with film of the two Queen’s young sister, the ‘QE2’.  We ‘miraculously’ see her launch and then leave Ocean Terminal on her maiden voyage to New York.  I say miraculous because on that day the weather was absolutely foul, thereby killing all the carefully laid plans to capture this moment on film. But once again, those ordinary ship loving Brits are there, and if armed with a cine-camera then nothing could prevent them from capturing the majesty of the whole occasion. Once again, much of the film covering her as she leaves her berth and heads out into the Solent, has been filmed from a sightseeing boat. So, although duller than we would have liked, we must be grateful for small mercies that this moment was captured on film for us all to enjoy.
RMS ‘Queen Elizabeth 2nd’  sailing from Southampton for New York
 

South America

You know, I really didn’t mean to write so much in this newsletter. It’s a bit like waiting for a bus in a way, for its been months since I’ve been able to do one and then four of them come along at the same time!  Oh well, we’re almost at the end of writing about the contents of episode 43. We move into the finishing straight by returning to New York in the 1950s. We join the Grace Line cargo passenger ship the 1946 built ‘Santa Cecilia’ on a voyage to Chile via the Panama Canal and all the way down the West Coast of South America .  
Grace Lines ‘Santa Cecilia’ on her way to South America and Chile.
Grace Lines ‘Santa Cecilia’! Again this is very rare film and not something we would expect to experience, but we have it and how enjoyable it is.  It really is all back to basics and the real joy of being back at sea (for me at least). She was one of four sisters and only carried 52 passengers, yet all had their own luxury cabins with air-conditioning. Only the Americans could have done that. When I first went to see I had to either stick my head out the porthole or to sleep on the hatch covers at night to keep cool.  Anyway, the film lets you just relax and capture the moment of a timeless voyage. No planes to rush to catch, no security to battle your way through and no one seems to be bothered about having to entertain their passengers (You know how it is aboard a modern day cruise ship, with the PA system blasting out around the clock, urging everyone to go to lectures,  shows,  rock climbing, ice skating, golfing or surfing etc.). No, on the old ‘Santa Cecilia’ those 52 passengers made their own entertainment. I know what I would prefer! It’s another fascinating passage through the Panama Canal as always. No two transits are ever the same, but what helps to make this film so interesting to me is just seeing those South America ports, which in the main seem like a collection of old mud huts and little else.  And oh! wait until to you witness how they got the passengers ashore! Hopefully you will get this DVD and see for yourself, but I’ll tell you what, if any of our ‘Elf and Safety’ people watch it then get ready for a few severe coronaries. I doubt many, if any of you, have seen anything quite like this.
Grace/Delta Line’s ‘Santa Maria’ at Buenos Aires 1980s
Halfway through this voyage we go to San Francisco in the early 1980’s to join a much more modern ship, Delta Line’s 11,221 gross tons ‘Santa Maria’.  She’s the modern version of the ‘Santa Cecilia’, and we’re joining her for another voyage to South America but this time on a cruise they promote as “The Circle of Dreams”. A very apt title it is, as she will take us all the way around South America, starting off with a West to East passage through the Panama Canal in which our Captain gives us a running commentary on the running of the Canal. With just a 100 passengers, once again it’s very much a ‘being at sea’ experience, with those lucky passengers making their own entertainment and, in turn, getting to know just what it’s like to sail aboard a real working ship.   Once through the canal we sail down the East Coast of South America, calling at ports such as Buenos Aires and on down to what for all, including me, was the highlight of the voyage… A transit of the often volatile Strait of Magellan.  I wish I could have done this transit for real, but this is certainly a very good second best and, believe me, once again they have managed to capture the true awesome wonder of that strait. I’m so pleased that this film has allowed me to experience this transit, and enabled me to be able to imagine just what it must have been like for Magellan and his crew to have made that first transit back in the 1500s. At the end of the Strait we sail into the Pacific, and again, you can just imagine how Magellan and his crew must have felt when in their tiny little boat, they felt the freshness of the wide Pacific they had been searching for. The ship then takes us back up the West Coast of South America to San Francisco, where we position ourselves on her bridge for a fascinating entrance to that great harbour, passing beneath the great Gold Gate Bridge in swirling fog. All in all, yet another great experience and what better way to sign off one hell of a DVD. If anyone should wonder why we would use American ships in what is essentially a UK based production, well no doubt you will be pleased to learn that we get tremendous help from the States. They just love to see films of our merchant and Royal Navy, which we welcome warmly. So it’s nice for us to show some of their ships whenever we can, which will make them love us Brits even more!  

Next time…

In the next newsletter I hope to be able to reveal the content of our next “Great Liners” DVD, which we will have ready nice and early for Christmas. These DVDs really do make the perfect gifts, and image having something really nice to watch over Christmas. That would make a nice change wouldn’t it! I will also write about the our attempts to bring a classic ocean liner into the UK, to berth her as a reminder of our once great maritime industry and to use her as a hotel and entertainment centre.  We could have achieved this, but you won’t believe what we had to put up with from the various authorities and those supposedly in charge. You really won’t believe what became the final straw. Forget the EU and the arguments about an Irish Customs Checkpoint, for all that is so silly and infantile. I will reveal something so much sillier that, after many years of detailed negotiations, the London authorities suddenly produced to destroy everything, well you really won’t believe it. So hopefully there will be lots of interesting things in future newsletters. This one is already quite long, so I need to stop before I turn it into a large book.  Before I take my leave, please let me express how grateful we (Wife Ulla and myself) are for all your support. For as most of you know, we receive no external funding at all, not even from our Heritage funds, whom we really thought and hoped would be overjoyed at all we have done over the past 23 years to ensure the history and stories of our once great shipping industry and Merchant and Royal Navies last forever. Yes, they turned us down for any funding, basically telling us that in their opinion “There was little interest in these subjects”. So now, as we have done for 23 long years, we have to really struggle to fund all the work involved. Our only income is from the sale of our DVDs, without which, we would have no alternative but to cease, so in giving us your valuable support you are also playing your part in making sure we keep our maritime history alive. Oh, and I have to admit that doing this work is also so rewarding, for it would be difficult to think of any other way to be able to spread so much happiness around the world. Des Cox