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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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’! 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.
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!
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.