BERNARD DREW This collection of material is about the Thames at War from 1941 to 1944 as it was observed by an intelligence officer whose wartime job was to board the merchant ships as they docked in war-torn London from the open seas. By profession the intelligence officer

was a journalist who managed to persuade the Port of London Authority that while they employed him to ensure seamen kept their mouths shut in the interests of port security he should write up his experiences and broadcast them far and wide in local and national newspapers! This document is a collection of the newspaper pieces he wrote (mostly dated and in chronological order). Allowances have to be made for the fact that they were written in wartime under censorship and, to be published at all, had to avoid using names of people and places that could be useful to the enemy or referring to disasters that could give them comfort. Half the stories come straight off the merchant ships putting into the Thames, many of them about their skippers from countries in northern Europe: Iceland to Estonia. There are yarns about the men – and women – below decks as well as on the bridge. Other stories are about the river, its fish, its old sailing ships, its coastal trade and the changing life on its shores. The stories are almost always positive: the sailors are brave, the skippers proud and no-one is afraid of being bombed or torpedoed. We do hear of tax avoidance among seamen and of pilfering in the docks. We don’t hear of the strikes and bitterness that lay behind the meagre increase in wages for Chinese seamen, though we do learn they are mostly working on the most vulnerable of ships, the tankers. An amusing story about the statue of old Robert Milligan being taken down from outside the West India Dock does not record he was a Slaver who got the dock built to promote the Slave Trade. The shipping on the Thames was international but Bernard never lost sight of the local people and places he knew on the shore. There’s the farm boy from his own village, Farningham, who died on his maiden voyage; the disastrous evacuation of Mr Newth’s school from Erith; the scaling down of Teddy Moore’s soft drinks output in Swanscombe; and a couple of curious tales about men he worked with in Port Security. One story Bernard generated himself when, needing to get ashore early from a coastal trip, he found himself unchallenged by any guard. There are stories of record: the disappearance of the old sailing ships from the Thames and the glut of fish apparently on account of the war (to the benefit of naval patrol vessels letting down nets). Some stories are unusual or unexpected: bombed out Limehouse being fenced off and used for Army exercises; Liberty ships from America braving the Atlantic to bring waste paper to Britain; merchant seamen in German P.O.W. camps being able to sit their exams there (all but their practical); security officers passing

“visiting” cards to careless talkers written in modern text-messagespeak. Stories rarely got away from Bernard but several may leave the reader with questions. Did London’s Christmas wine really arrive from Lisbon in June? What is the story behind Bexley’s determination, thwarted by the Government, to send food aid to Greece? And did the steward who was an artist paint only landscapes while he was at sea? The stories sometimes lapse for several months. This was probably because it was then that Bernard was sent off to do a cadre course (at Wentworth Woodhouse) or was switched to airport security (at Northolt and Speke). Behind the stories can be glimpsed the man who wrote them up. Bernard Drew was my father and, when I was a boy, his father, an engineer and inventor, would take me down to the waterfront at Erith to watch the wealth of passing traffic on the river. In the late 1940s, a boy could still thrill to the sight of merchant ships from all across the world taking their cargoes up to the East and West India Docks escorted by tugs and flanked everywhere by the coastal barges with their red-brick sails. Bernard was a North Kent man – Bexleyheath – and he had married my mother – from Erith – just before the war. Both were to contribute much to the life of Dartford and the Darent Valley. Bernard was a journalist who learnt his trade on the Kentish Times, reporting council meetings and the police courts as well as ferreting out stories from the villages and his nose for a good ‘human interest’ story soon led Fleet Street editors to publish his work. His stories from the Thames, when he was based at Tilbury, mark a transitional period in his professional career. After the Thames Bernard went East, being prescient enough to beg quires of paper from the Dartford Paper Mills to print a newssheet, The Eden Express and Noah’s Ark Final, on the troopship out to Bombay. After advising Indian journalists to unionize and giving radio talks in Ceylon about the resilience of Britain’s national newspapers during the war (they never missed an issue), he went on to run a broadsheet in Indo-China at the time of the Japanese surrender, The Times of Saigon. With a radio and a revolver (he was terrified of) on his desk, he brought out 120 issues. For even the French it was their only source of information about what was happening in the world. In Saigon, unlike Tilbury, the military authorities did take Bernard to task for filing stories back to Fleet Street. On his return to Kent after the war Bernard wrote a booklet about his frontline village, Farningham Against Hitler. It was the only village in England where the church bells rang to announce that

Hitler’s invasion had begun – and my father had motored out with photographer John Topham to cover the landing of the German paratroops. Fortunately, he was spared this particular scoop – the paratroops turned out to be ack-ack smoke – but he did graduate to Fleet Street and made his mark writing a special supplement for the Sunday Express recording the stories Canadians told of Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth’s Royal Tour of Canada in 1951. This supplement was largely responsible for his becoming News Editor of the Sunday Express. Sadly, he died early, aged 53. Bernard’s last outing, towards the end of June in 1962, was to watch the annual Barge Race on the Thames, a guest of the Everards, one of the great river families based at Greenhithe. He was hoping to return to North Kent and perhaps edit a local newspaper such as the Gravesend and Dartford Reporter. It would have brought him right back to his home territory and the river which is the setting, perhaps the leading actor, of these stories. Bernard was a landsman, not a man of the sea - his later account of trying to steer a naval pinnace through the upper reaches of the Thames brought tears to the eyes of many a Sunday Express reader. Conrad does not brood over his writing but perhaps Dickens (at his most sociable) does look over his shoulder. Pickwick, roaming about North Kent, was a particular favourite of Bernard’s and it may be observed that the portraits he draws of people on and about the Thames are, without being grotesque, Dickensian types: good old Ginger Milton, Tiny Breeds and his parrot Nazzah, Madame Dybek and the eggs she cannot get. There was more than a touch of Pickwick about Bernard himself - a lovely, lovable man – and the republication of these stories of the Thames show him at work in a familiar part of a wider world to which he brought his memorable conviviality and gaiety. John Drew. 2010

Beating the Bombers

Proudly playing their part in the Battle of Britain, many of the picturesque Thames sailing barges daily sally forth into the Front Line, carrying cargoes around the coasts. Nazi raiders hold no terrors for the tough skippers, who with a rifle as their only means of defence seem more concerned about the weather and the tides. Bombing takes a back seat with these old salts. At least, that was the impression “Cully” Tovell, master of the sailing barge Cambria, gave when, as the first reporter to make a war-time trip in a sea-going barge, I sailed down the Thames and round to an East Coast port with him. Cambria is the most famous of London barges. She holds both the championships of the Thames and Medway, won in the last races before the War, in 1937. The trip was not without dramatic incidents, though we were not attacked. I boarded the Cambria at her home port, where she was built 35 years ago “come November”, as the skipper figured it. “We occasionally get bombed”, he told me, “but I don’t take much notice of the planes. Not long ago one dropped two bombs 50 or 100 yards away. I thought he was one of ours. Two or three Hurricanes were up in a second, and he was gone like a flash”.

Hazards Braved
With sails hoisted, we got under way, tacking down river, and I learned something of how these barges, despite all the hazards, are carrying on with their job almost as in peacetime. There are regulations, of course, which have to be obeyed, and sailing is not made easier by minefields. But the skippers put up with these additional inconveniences, and trust in the Navy and R.A.F. to guard them. So far, I gathered, the only casualties among the Thames barge fleets in this war have been due to Acts of God. As we stood in the little wheelhouse, which should give the barge its quota of good luck, for two horseshoes hanging in it were once worn by the famous steeplechaser Golden Miller, the skipper told me something about his crew of two - Alf the mate, aged 19, and Jim, the 18-year-old cook and deck hand. “They are good lads and so they should be”, he said. “I was a barge master at 20 , but some of the youngsters you get to-day won’t be at 40. My first trip was to Antwerp, and I shall never forget it”. I found Jim the stuff of which British lads are made. Two weeks previously he was working at a factory in Essex - both Alf and he hail from Grays. Though he did not know it, there was salt water in his veins. Bombs, mines, U-boats or E-boats did not worry him. He tried

to get away deep-sea, but being without the necessary experience had no luck. So Jim became half the crew of the Cambria, and with us made his first trip to sea. Alf has been in barges since he left school.

The Minesweepers
Gallant minesweepers at their dangerous task went by. All craft, sailing ships and barges included, I learn, have to give way to the sweepers, who stick tenaciously on their courses. As I have said, we had some thrilling moments. Suffice it to say that barges can, in “Cully’s” words, soon get into trouble, particularly when war-time measures make the seas, to say the least, sporty. I take off my hat to these Thames bargemen. In the Battle of the Food the leviathans of the Atlantic naturally steal the picture. But these Thames craft, a familiar sight in peace-time to the thousands of Londoners on the pleasure steamers, are doing a job of work just as vital. A yarn and a pint when port is made satisfies skippers and crews. Then, when it is time to sail, off they go. To catch the tides is their chief concern. Battling with the elements all their lives, they know not defeat, and have contempt for the Nazi attempts to interfere with their work. [K.T. 20 June 41. A shorter version appeared in the E.S. 10 June 41, More British Lads on the High seas than Ever Before].

With B.B.C. Aboard Thames Barge
I have just returned from an adventurous voyage in search of “noises off” with a B.B.C. unit aboard a Thames sailing barge. Any noise is news to these explorers for sound and it is a never ending task. Our voyage gave good results. I boarded the barge at Greenhithe to find that the B.B.C. engineer had already installed his equipment on the main hatch just aft of the mainmast. The actual apparatus for recording the sounds is something like an outsize in gramophones. When the O.K. is given the record is set in motion, and a special needle cuts the sound grooves. I found they had fixed up a mike in the little wheelhouse right aft, where the skipper usually stands for long spells during the trip. Wire ran over the hatch to the recording apparatus. Much of what the skipper said as we were getting under way, however, was

quite literally “off the record” for it was thought the language of the river was “too picturesque” for putting on the air! - even though it was hoped to broadcast an extract in our propaganda programmes to America. Weighing anchor, with all the screeching of the winches and hoisting of the sails, provided plenty of promising noises - the sort that sometimes trip you up in those popular Red Cross competition programmes. Some noises reproduce exactly, I was told, others well, most of us know how difficult it is... Leaning over the side of the barge one of the B.B.C. men held a mike close to the bows to catch the sound of the water, being thrust aside as we sped for the sea. “Just lovely”, was his enthusiastic comment as he crawled back to safety. As each record filled so the description of the many noises was scratched on the surface, and the record was carefully packed away ready for reproduction on the unit’s return to Broadcasting House. As the barge swung round on her tacks the sails and gear crashed from one side to the other side, and some excellent effects were obtained. A bell buoy, intermittently clanging out its warning to Thames shipping, gave us an unexpected scoop, and the skipper having tacked close to it a long record was made. I found the skipper was rather nonplussed by the fact that such commonplace noises should be of value. “I’ve heard ‘em for close on fifty years”, he said, “and never thought anything of ‘em. Still I suppose they know what they’re doing”. The trip was in the nature of a holiday for the engineer. Not long ago, he told me, he heard and recorded more noises than he wished for or was comfortable with, for while stationed on Dover Cliffs he was bombed, machine-gunned, and shelled all in one day. [K.T. 22 June 41. A variant lead-in appeared in the E.S. 23 June 42: Noises Off Men Got 1000-Plane Scoop (14)].

WHAT NOTED SHRIMPER TOLD “KENTISH TIMES” REPORTER They are still shrimping in the Thames

Gravesend shrimps (which incidentally are caught down Southend way) have no peers in their line, so the connoisseurs say. And though you don’t see as many of the celebrated “Bawley Bay” boats trawling as in peace-time, the industry, which has flourished in the Lower Reaches for centuries, is by no means dead, despite the risks facing shrimpers nowadays. Passing us - we were on a Thames sailing barge - the Leigh-on-Sea boats, returning home one day this week, reported fair catches. Harvest time is July and August. Here are some shrimpy facts, as supplied by Bill Warner, noted Gravesend shrimper for more than 50 years. Shrimps don’t like snow, for instance. It makes the water cold. On the other hand they don’t mind frosts. And did you know there are two sorts of shrimps, brown and red (or “soldiers”)? Shrimping goes on for about eight months of the year, and who would have thought of octopuses in the Thames? Yet, Bill Warner assured me, you sometimes find a small one in a haul, among the mass of shrimps, jelly fish, dabs and seaweed. If the net catches in river bed wreckage, bang goes £12 or so, so you can see shrimping isn’t all profit. Shrimps have their favourite spots in the river, and a “tell-tale”, or small net, is frequently lowered to see if there are any about. If the catch is promising the “trim-tram” is let down and trawled for about an hour. Then it is drawn in and the contents shot on to the deck. The copper fire in the miniature hold is lit and the shrimps committed to the well-salted boiling water. Yes, sir, Gravesend shrimps are still on the market. [K.T. 27 June 41]

From the dinghy of a sailing barge bound with a cargo of wheat for an east coast port the other day, I scaled the pier of a famous resort and walked from it into the freedom of the road. I had neither pass nor permit. I passed two lots of sentries with fixed bayonets without challenge. The first directed me round the side of some of the pier buildings to the entrance, while the second lot at the gate, following a nod, bid me “Good night”. This happened in broad daylight. I had intended to stay on the barge till she reached her destination, but wind and tides put her behind time and I accepted the master’s offer to be rowed to the pier.

Thankful that a Bren gun had not opened up, and wondering when I would be challenged, I began to walk along the pier towards the shore. I did not see a soul. Eventually I passed two soldiers. They asked if I had climbed up, and explained, “If you haven’t a pass you won’t get ashore”. “I’ll have to chance that” was my answer. “Which is the way out?” I next inquired of the sentry. “Round the side and straight on. You can’t miss it”, he said. I then saw an array of uniformed men on duty at the gates. Were the guards eyeing me suspiciously or was it just conscience, I wondered. I kept going, however, and with a curt nod and a “goodnight”, which they returned, I passed through the gates. When I got home I told my story. “You were lucky not to get a bullet in you!” I was told. WAS I? [Sunday Pictorial, 29 June 41]

Cheap Meals at Tilbury
Within 20 miles of London Bridge big quantities of sea fish are being caught and landed. On the jetty at Tilbury I saw a Colchester-owned fleet of smacks, manned by East Anglian fishermen, return from a trawl down Thames. When great quantities of sprats were reported in the Thames Estuary recently, fishermen of Essex, whose usual grounds are between Shoeburyness and Clacton-on-Sea, decided to try their luck in the river. Hauls were good. Their first appearance at Tilbury caused excitement.

Bucketful – 2s.
Everyone “in the know” seized empty fire buckets, sacks or paper bags and rushed to the landing stage for cheap fish. They were not disappointed.

For 2s. [shillings] I received a bucketful of fine flounder and codling. There must have been a dozen lbs. Soldiers, sailors and A.F.S. men all took part in the fish hunt. I saw drivers and conductors at the bus terminus leave their vehicles and make for the landing stage – to return with as much fish as they could carry. The news spread swiftly. Soon all the fish except the sprats had gone. The sprats were loaded into lorries and taken to canning factories in Essex.

“Plenty About”
One of the fishermen, who wore a “Royal Thames Yacht Club” jersey, told me: “We have been going well out to sea off the Essex coast lately, but hauls have not been good and for the first time for many years we have come into the river. There are certainly plenty of fish about. It’s hard to say why”. While the activity continues on the Tilbury side, the Bawley Bay shrimpers, which go down as far as Southend, are returning to Gravesend, on the opposite side of the river – also with plenty of fish. Dealers bid for the catches, but most onlookers can get the next day’s family dinner for sixpence. [Evening Star, 19 Jan 42].

Cooks in E-Boat Alley
Bombed, machine-gunned and torpedoed when the ships on which they serve as cooks and stewardesses ran the gauntlet of “E-boat Alley”, a handful of brave women with the riskiest job in the war, scorn work ashore. They are, as I have just discovered, to be found among Britain’s Foreign Legion of the Seas – the fleets of merchantmen belonging to our Allies – and by nationality most of the women are Estonians or Poles. In normal times it is customary among Baltic States to have women members of the crew as cooks as well as stewardesses. A number of these women were serving on ships which were in our ports when war broke out, and have carried on.

Up and Down North Sea
I met several on ships which have been making almost weekly runs in the North Sea. They spoke little English, but through an interpreter told me something of what they thought about their job. There were three Estonians, cook, assistant cook, and stewardess on a well-known coaster. “Why should we be afraid?” they asked. “You get bombs on land just the same”.

Officer’s Tribute
All three are approaching middle-age. An officer of the ship told me that when the vessel had been attacked the women never turned a hair. “They were cooking a meal at the time”, he said, “and showed little concern, apart from inquiring whether the guns had got any of the planes. It’s the same every time”. That a woman’s hand had tidied the comfortable saloon was quite evident. There were even vases of flowers. The women, I learned, rarely go ashore. It takes them all their time to keep the quarters shipshape.

Escaped from Poland
One woman member of a crew, wife of a Polish captain, told me that she joined her husband aboard, as purser, after escaping from the Germans in Poland. Since then she has sailed with her husband up and down the North Sea. “Oh no, I don’t fear the bombs any more than anybody else”, she said. “But it’s the eggs. What am I to do? I want nine dozen and get nine!” She prides herself on still being able to serve Polish dishes. [Evening Star 27 Jan.42]

“Glut of Salmon” Days Recalled

The recent glut of seafish in the Thames (they’ve even caught shrimps off Erith) recalls the days when the river was well stocked with salmon. London apprentices, on one occasion it is recorded, rose up against their masters and complained because they were given salmon too frequently for meals! But that was long ago, when the river was a favourite hunting ground for fishermen. Till the dawn of this century, however, some of the more common varieties of fish were regularly caught in the lower reaches. The Thames was famed for its whitebait. Within living memory whitebait dinners at Greenwich were one of the “high spots” in the Parliamentary social calendar. In 1894 Lord Rosebery, as Prime Minister, received for the last time the traditional fish dinner at Greenwich for members of the Government. It was customary for the guests to embark at Westminster and make the journey there and back by boat. Tickets were normally about two guineas each.

Whales in the River
From time to time whales have been reported in the river, and within the past ten years schools of porpoises have rolled up as far as “the Pool” before turning back to the sea. A seal was once reported to have been seen sunning itself on the steps of Tilbury Hotel! But, as the pollution of the river increased, so the days of the Thames fishing fleet were numbered. Old salts can just recall when a fleet ran out of Barking Creek. I sought an explanation for the temporary reappearance of fish in the lower reaches. Thames-side authorities think the war has something to do with it. With the river quieter than it has been for half a century, small fish such as sprats have been more plentiful, thus attracting bigger fish. Codling, for instance, have been caught in good quantities. So have flat fish. But the Gravesend bawley boats (who catch the celebrated “Gravesend shrimps” nearer Southend), the Leigh-on-Sea cockleboats and smacks which have come round from Colchester, have to go well out into the Estuary for their trawls.

Dock Eels
Londoners who drop a line in the docks are not likely to feel a bite, apart from an occasional eel. There is increased pollution of the river, and as far down as Whitstable this is blamed by the dredgermen, who say it has affected the oyster beds. But it is fact that you can buy Thames fish again, for the present at any rate – and if you are very lucky.

[K.T. ?29 Jan 42. cf. K.T. 27 June 41, Star 19 Jan 42, E.S. 27 Aug 42, E.S. 31 Dec 42]

It is down Tilbury way. Big cargo boat is soon to slip out into the tideway and take her part in the battle of the Atlantic. The skipper jerks a thumb in the direction of a tough, broad-shouldered, greyhaired sailor man with a flattened nose and the ears of a second row rugby forward. “My bos’n”, he says, “Recognize him?” “No, but he’s been a boxer”. “And still is”, grinned the captain. “Meet Spike Sullivan, aged 68, pride of the crew and still can’t get rid of a partiality for knocking down big ‘uns. K.O.’d one this morning, they tell me. I don’t get much trouble with my deck crew”. Sixty-eight isn’t the age down in the ship’s articles, but it was Spike all right – Spike Sullivan, the grand old man who fought many of the world’s best at 9st. 8lbs., and one especially memorable fight with Jabez White at the N.S.C.’s famous Coronation tournament in 1902.

Torpedoed Three Times
“I’ve been torpedoed three times, but I was never easy to knock out”, he said. This Irishman who couldn’t stay neutral has been crossing the Atlantic ever since the first sirens. We talked a bit about the oldtimers and, for a reason, I spoke of the old Two Brewers at Chipperfield, where Spike, his brother Dave and Sailor Tom Sharkey have trained. “Do you remember Eugene Corri calling at the ‘Brewers’ when you were training for a fight with Bill Chester, of Bethnal Green?” I asked. He nodded. “You mean about Starlight?” Here’s the story as Corri told it.

Just a Friendly!
“I asked Spike if he would box an exhibition for a Stock Exchange charity show at the Kennington Social Club. “He said, ‘With pleasure, Mr Corri. Get me a black man and you will see a fight’. “The only negro I could find was a huge fellow with the dazzling name of Starlight. Spike took a quick look at him and said, ‘He’ll do’. I refereed that friendly. You never saw a more furious threerounder”.

Spike is an Irishman born at Knocknanosse, which said slowly isn’t a bad sounding place for a “pug” to be born in. The date is 1874. He fought most of his big fights in America, but his affair with Jabez White was the highlight of the Coronation Tournament of 1902, for which the N.S.C. had brought over nine of the best men in America. White beat Sullivan by a big points margin. Hackenschmidt should have figured in the tournament that night but didn’t appear and the much shouted tournament was a bit of a flop. Yet any one of the many fights staged in that show would fill the biggest hall in the land to-day. They don’t breed so many more like Spike Sullivan.

After lying on a river bed after being blown up, a British collier has been raised and towed into a dry dock. New bows were grafted on to the vessel and, after undergoing repairs for six months, she is now in service again. Proudest man aboard as the collier sailed on her first commission after repair was Captain Jones. He escaped with most of the crew when the ship was blown up, the only casualties being four men on the fo’c’sle. Captain Jones has been master of the collier for six years. He told me his experience. “There was a terrific crash and the ship started to heel over almost immediately.

Saved by Tugs
“With the exception of the four men working on the fo’c’sle, all the crew and myself got away in tugs. I did not even wet my feet. “Soon the ship disappeared and it was found she had broken her back”. After several months’ work, tugs raised her and towed her into dry dock. [E.S. 2 March 42]

The many hundreds of Chinese seamen serving on British ships and stranded in this country by the Japanese invasion are to have a “new deal” as the result of an agreement just signed between the Minister of War Transport, Lord Leathers, and Chinese Ambassador, Dr Wellington Koo. The agreement, which at the moment concerns

only improved rates of pay, is expected to meet grievances over wages which the Chinese have held.

“The Chinese will be guaranteed continuous service”, I was told today, “and repatriation to the home ports, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, as soon as this becomes possible. It is proposed to continue the talks to settle such questions as the men’s general welfare, compensation and pensions”. Chinese form a large proportion of the tanker crews - the sea’s most hazardous wartime job for merchant seamen. [E.S. nd April 42].

Now Playgrounds
Some of the notorious East End haunts of the underworld have gone for all time - because of bombing. Whole streets through which it was not safe for policemen to walk unaccompanied are a scene of desolation. Children returned from evacuation areas have turned them into playgrounds. Places which sightseers came many miles to view will form the sites for huge new blocks of flats when plans for the rebuilding of the East End are put into effect. London’s Chinatown suffered severely from the bombing for it was in the “Thames loop”, better known as the Isle of Dogs, which figured so frequently in the German communiqués of the Battle of London.

Limehouse Causeway
Touring the East End to-day I found Limehouse-causeway flattened out, apart from the end which joins West India Dock-road. Gone is all trace of the doss-houses, small shops and cottages housing decades of dramas. But one shop remains open, a Chinese barber’s. Ruins of a beef and pork butcher’s, at no. 23 and a restaurant at no. 25, stand in stark relief. A newly-bricked enclosure marks the side of the Causeway’s one public-house, “The Warrior”. Not far away, in the East End, rows of wrecked cottages with creeper covering the rafters, are enclosed with barbed wire. Warning notice-boards turn the inquisitive away. Here soldiers, under realistic conditions of street warfare, fight mock battles. While Pennyfields has not suffered quite so badly, the Chinese population has been greatly reduced and opium dens, so the police say, are few and far between.

The inhabitants of the Isle of Dogs are wondering what sort of future the architects are preparing for them. There is talk of a great airport on the isle. If the space can be spared it is hoped riverside promenades will be created. With many of the warehouses down, the river can be seen in some places for the first time for half a century. In Wapping High-street, where high buildings have been demolished - though the “Ginger Dick” type of seafarer of W.W. Jacobs’ creation remains - I heard the same wish expressed. [E.S. nd late 42?]

This is the story of a 47-year-old Swedish ship’s fireman who has gone back to sea again in the Allied cause to wipe off a debt to the British Exchequer. Before joining his ship the fireman, Olaf, who is married to a British woman and lives in London, told me: “In September 1940, while I was serving in a British ship, we were intercepted by the Admiral Scheer and taken aboard the sister ship to the Altmark. “Our ship was then sent to the bottom with a torpedo. We were taken in the prison ship to Bordeaux and, in fits and starts, travelled by land up to Hamburg. There we spent some time in prison but eventually I reached Oslo via the Kiel Canal.

Home at Last
“In May 1941, as I was a neutral, I was released and got back to Sweden. Naturally I wanted to return to England and was advised that the best way was to get out to South America. I did this, jumping my ship at Rio de Janiero. On a British ship I reached home in the autumn of 1941”. This is where the debt comes in. “While I was away”, Olaf went on, “my wife received an allowance from the Union but this was not enough to live on and she was given public assistance. I found I had a debt of £45 to clear. In the shore job I took there was no money to save for this and so I decided to go back to sea till the debt’s cleared”. [E.S. 13 May 42]


Where To-day’s Sea Heroes Were Taught
Father Thames is losing his “wooden walls”. But one, the cadet ship H.M.S. Worcester, anchored in picturesque Greenhithe Bay, remains. When peace comes and the pleasure steamers restart, Londoners who go down to the sea will miss these quaint vessels, upon which thousands of boys have learned the rudiments of seamanship. To-day, many of those lads have become the heroes of our Navy and the Merchant Fleets in the vital struggle on the seas. Commanding Gravesend Reach there stood for years, 100 yards out from the Kent foreshore, the Cornwall, the “bad boys ship”. In one of the early blitzes the Cornwall’s “wooden walls” were shattered by a near miss from a bomb. Quickly filling with water the ship heeled over. There she lies for all to see, battered but proud. Thanks to foresight there were no casualties, for the staff and boys had been evacuated some time before the bombing to a safe haven in another part of the country, and the old watchman aboard made a getaway. Higher up the river at Grays there stood two training ships, the Exmouth, run by the London County Council, and the Warspite, which began life 50 years ago as a British man-of-war. Though she looks a typical “wooden wall” the Exmouth is an all-steel affair. She has never been to sea. She was built as a training ship. Now she has been towed to Tilbury Dock for extensive refitting. I was told she is to serve “a useful war purpose” at a Naval base. In handing her over to the Admiralty, the L.C.C. have made it known that they will not ask for her back. The new policy is to give the training as before, but at a shore establishment.

Warspite for Scrap
In another way the Warspite is helping to rid the world of Hitler. In a well-known breakers’ yard, not far from where she proudly lay at anchor for so many years, I found her, or rather what was left of her. She has become scrap. Little more than a keel remains. But a part of a more mighty ship, soon she will be at sea again. With the Arethusa at Upnor in the Medway – she left Greenhithe Sound years before the war – there remains the Worcester, with that most famous of all sailing clippers, Cutty Sark, alongside, acting as auxiliary. With the grassy slopes of Ingress Abbey as a background, the Worcester, which prides herself as the last “wooden wall” on the Navy list, has an admirable setting.

Many famous sailors have trained upon her. It was here that Admiral Togo, “the Japanese Nelson”, learned his seamanship. But we would rather remember that she turned out heroes like “Evans of the Broke”. Admiral Sir Edward Evans has frequently revisited his old ship, and he speaks with great affection of his cadet days. Cadets on the Worcester are principally trained for the Merchant Service, but there is a Navy section, and the ship’s inspiring Captain-Superintendent, Commander G.C. Steele, V.C., has returned to Active Service. So far as we can gather, there is no likelihood of the Worcester going, though the boys are inland for the duration, visiting the ship for their practical lessons in seamanship. (K.T. 29 May 42)

When our bombers were making one of the two 1000-airplane raids on Germany it so happened that far below on the North Sea a ship was steaming South. On it a B.B.C. sound recording unit, in search of “noises off”, got an unexpected scoop. They recorded the sound of our machines going over. One of the crew told me: “I have never had an experience like it in all my life before. The air seemed to quiver. It was as though a swarm of bees had been let loose and the sound had been magnified a million fold”. (E.S. 23 June 42)

The East End’s opium dens are almost a thing of the past. Many were blitzed, and for this and other reasons the Chinese population there has been much reduced. It is estimated that there are now more Chinese on Merseyside than in London. With the West Coast booming at London’s expense for the greater part of the War, the Chinese, nearly all of whom are sea-faring men, migrated to these ports. London’s after-the-war sightseers will therefore lose what had become one of the most popular evening trips to the home of the capital’s “underworld”. But this is not to say that the great majority of the Chinese population were not law-abiding citizens, even if they did take “snow” and enjoyed a flutter. On national days Chinese flags fly from the windows in Pennyfields, for this part of Chinatown, though so close to the docks, has escaped serious damage.

The same cannot be said for Limehouse-causeway which, apart from the narrow, winding road, has disappeared except for a few squalid houses and shops nearest West India Dock-road, including, incidentally, the house frequented by the famous actress Billie Carleton, whose death led to a tightening up of police supervision. [E.S. nd. late 42?]

Delivers London’s Christmas Wine
London’s wine for Christmas has arrived from Lisbon. A small British “tramp” has just steamed proudly up the Thames with its precious cargo - for who will deny that a glass of port or sherry makes a vital difference to the celebrations on Christmas Day? This was the first wine ship to enter the Port of London for many months. As dockers rolled the hundreds of barrels from ship to warehouse, members of the crew told me that the voyage had been a comparatively uneventful one. Lisbon was a new port of call for most of them as the ship has been making the North Atlantic run.

No Enemy Airplanes
London’s wine, I gathered, could not be said to have been within an ace of being delivered to “Davy Jones’s locker” on the way over, for no hostile airplanes were encountered. But the ship’s plates (and no doubt the port and sherry) quivered more than once, as our escorts dropped patterns of depth charges on possible U-boats. One London lad was to be found among the crew but for the most part they are West Countrymen and the sights of London held no attraction for them with the alternative choice of some leave at home. “Quite like old times here again”, said the crane-driver as he swung the last barrel out of the hold. [E.S. 23 June 42]

Munition work was not exciting enough for two Newfoundland sisters. So they decided to “look around”. A few days ago they steamed up the Thames, taking their first glimpse of London from the deck of a Norwegian cargo ship on which they had signed on in

Nova Scotia as assistant stewards. Then they told me their story. The sisters are Mary Josephine O’Quinn, aged 24, and Theresa Josephine O’Quinn, born at Grand River, Newfoundland. “We worked for two years in a munition factory”, they told me, “but we found it monotonous. Then we saw an advertisement for two stewardesses on a foreign-going ship. We managed to get our release from the factory and joined the ship”. The captain and chief steward described the girls as “excellent workers” and the spick and span quarters testified to their handiwork. Their comment on a London air raid was, “It was O.K. by us”. The two sisters hope to contact a brother who is in the Canadian Army over here and to see the sights of London - and the shops - before their ship sails again. They have signed on six-monthly articles and intend to carry on a seafaring career until he war ends. [E.S. n.d]

George Anthony - “Grandaddy George” - is back at sea after ten years. He has forsaken the complacency of life on a pension in Shields to share the dangers of a ship that runs through U-boats and bombers. He must be pretty old because of his nickname. Yet he can’t be so very old because he’s a stoker - “and the pick of the bunch at that”, say the ship’s officers. But Grandaddy George is a windjammer man who sailed round the world three times back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “Yes, I have raced home against the Cutty Sark”, he told me. So he must be old. Well, how old is he? Official age: “Round the 59 mark”. Actual age: 74. “But”, he says, “since I went back to sea I feel 20 years younger”. He looks it. I asked him how he managed to get accepted. “Hearing a Swedish ship was looking for a stoker”, he said, “I saw the chief engineer and went straight down into the stokehold and did my watch”. Also on the high seas somewhere is Grandaddy George’s son, master of a British tanker. (E.S. 3 July 42)

Climax to the Drift Back This Month
This month will see a climax to the alarming momentum in the drift back by evacuated schoolchildren to their homes in the danger areas. When war broke out upwards of 1,000,000 children approximately 2,000,000 children were then attending school in the danger areas - were rushed off to safety zones. But by December

1939, thanks mainly to home-sickness, more than 500,000, including mothers, had returned home. London, which had sent away 339,000 children of all ages, had its full quota of returns. In spite of ministerial warnings, and even raids, the original numbers were never again attained, and with tragic results.

Continued Fall
Figures continued to fall, and by December last there remained away 400,000 unaccompanied children (including 100,000 evacuated from London after Dunkirk) and 375,000 mothers with children. A Ministry of Health spokesman told me: “When all the schools in the reception areas have broken up for the summer term this figure will be nearer 250,000 children. “Thus the Government face the position of having seven out of eight schoolchildren back in the danger zones”. Chaotic conditions exist in some schools. Some have come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to “pack up and come home”. “This is apparently quite contrary to official advice”, the headmaster of a secondary school on the fringe of London told me to-day, “but we have no option”.

Only 50 Left
“Upwards of 50 boys are due to leave this term and the newcomers, including the scholarship boys, will not come away to our school in Wales. We can’t run a school on the 50 boys who would remain, and so we shall have to come home ourselves”. My headmaster informant considered that the Government’s primary mistake with the scheme was to decide to evacuate institutions and not just the children from each school in the danger zones who wanted to go. “As it is, in many cases you can find a headmaster and the pick of the staff evacuated with a handful of scholars while a flourishing home school is being run by a makeshift staff”. [E.S. 17 July 4]

British boys still run away to sea. All the dangers of the deep in wartime fail to deter them. There is no shortage of volunteers when news goes round the docks that such and such a ship requires a

mess or galley-boy. You can come across a 15-year-old making his first trip to sea on many ships in the coastwise trade. It takes grit to join, say, a Polish collier with none other of the men speaking your language. And to have to learn the job with the possibility that the ship will be bombed or torpedoed - and that you will be sea-sick. I spoke to a lad whose home is on the Essex Thameside. It was his first trip to sea and the ship had brought coal up from the north.

Thrilled, Too
He told me that he had “only played about on barges before”. But his chum had gone to sea and written home to say how much he liked it. This youngster was thrilled too. “I didn’t mind the chance of bombs”, he said, “in any case we weren’t attacked. And just look at our guns”. There’s plenty on board our merchant ships these days to attract a youngster with an inquisitive mind. It’s an added experience for men to serve on board Allied ships, such as Norwegian or Dutch. Some of them soon acquire a working knowledge of the language. At a Mercantile Marine office I was told to-day: “We don’t encourage boys to go to sea under 16, in case they don’t stand up too well to the explosions but, of course, many youngsters of 15 do sign on articles. They don’t qualify for Maritime Board rates of pay, masters or owners fixing their own wages. The average is £4 a month and added to this is half-rate danger money and incidentals. Actually most earn a good £2 a week”. [E.S. 25 July 42]

When “red-caps” carried out a check on soldiers in a London district the other day they were presented with a poser. Lance-corporal Charles West, who claims to be a senior lance-corporal in the British Army (he received the “appointment” 42 years ago), produced a permanent pass allowing him to be out till midnight, providing his duty was done. The pass was issued in 1906, when he was serving with the Essex Regiment, in India. As it had never been cancelled, West held the pass to be valid. But in order to convince the “redcaps” he produced a permit of a much later date. West is now in a Port Section of the Intelligence Corps.

In 1899
He joined up in 1899, as a volunteer gunner with the Royal Garrison, Cinque Ports Artillery, long since extinct. A year or so later he

entered the Essex Regiment and served abroad throughout the last war. Shortly before the outbreak of the present war he retired on pension from the P.L.A. Police Force and made his home in Jersey. But he returned to serve his country once again. [E.S. 30 July 42]

Erith County School, which has been evacuated three times, finishing up in South Wales, set an essay for seniors on “How far my views have changed”. To-day the headmaster, Mr G.H.R. Newth, showed me some of these essays. “In a town a man rarely knows any other job than his own”, wrote one boy. “The average countryman knows quite a few trades. “A farmer is quite a wonderful man. He is a biologist, a chemist, a doctor, a surveyor, a gardener, a mechanic, a builder and an economist. “This war is showing up the fact that a farmer is a truly wonderful being.

To Sleep or Church
“I soon began to see sense in the countryman’s view of religion. After a man has worked very hard for six days he feels like, and is entitled to, a rest. Not living in a town, he has the choice of going to sleep or going to church. “The fact that rather more go to church or chapel than to sleep is because the countryman is more active than the townsman and he wants something to do. I don’t really think that, on the whole, the countryman is any more religious than the townsman. In fact, outside actions tend to show rather the opposite. A church naturally preaches temperance, yet the countryman drinks and swears much more than the townsman”. Almost every boy expressed the ambition to become a farmer. One wrote: “I cannot thank evacuation enough for the change it has wrought in me. The town is not a spot on the country”. [E.S. 31 July 42]

Because They Hate the Germans

Swedish ships under charter to the Ministry of War Transport provide the “plum” jobs for merchant seamen these days, despite the fact that they are unarmed. When a vacancy occurs in the crew of a Swedish vessel there is a rush to fill it. No wonder, for even a stoker receives upwards of £65 a month. With the Nazis having invaded all the other countries whose merchant ships were under charter to us at the start of the war, Sweden remains the one neutral. She naturally asks her price for cargoes, as we did in the Spanish war when “Potato” Jones and others of his breed bravely ran the blockade. Hence the high rates paid the crews, roughly three and a half times as much as on British and Allied ships.

Other Risks
But the Swedish fleet over here have to run additional risks, for no guns or balloons are provided. In convoy they enjoy the protection of our airplanes and Navy, however. What prompts these men to risk their lives in a war in which their country, directly at any rate, is not involved? When I went aboard a trim little coaster flying the Swedish flag the other day I came to the conclusion that the answer is: Part adventure, part the pay, part the realisation that seamen must sail somewhere and that round the English coast nowadays it is about as safe as anywhere, and – this is not the least - part an intense loathing of the Nazi regime and a desire to do everything possible to overthrow it. Nearly all the Swedes to whom I spoke - they did not monopolise the crew as there were Russians, Balts, Spaniards and Portuguese, as well as Britishers aboard - sailed to England in pre-war days. They knew the ports well, they told me in good English.

News From Home
Swedes are able to communicate with home pretty regularly and receive replies from their wives, families and sweethearts. In this they are more fortunate than so many of the seamen now over here, many of whom haven’t seen or heard from their loved ones for two or three years, not even knowing whether they are still alive. Our debt to these brave sailors must be all the greater when this constant strain is realised. That is why they treasure so much the photographs of their womenfolk and chubby children which are to be seen in saloons and cabins. The captain and chief officer of the ship I boarded told me they had not seen their families for two and a half years. [E.S. 19 Aug 42?]

At one of our busier ports, I have been seeing where ships of our Navy and Merchant Service come in from the Battle of the Atlantic for a “wash and brush up”. To go down into the basin of a great dry dock and stand beneath the keel of a big ship is a fascinating experience. At the port I visited, they can deal with anything from minesweepers to transports. Some stay a day; others weeks, perhaps even months if there is damage below the water-line. It may be that some plates need inspection, following a near miss, or the hull a paint-up. It’s all the same to the waiting gangs. I watched one of our modern wooden minesweepers of perhaps 100 tons enter dry dock. Lock gates were closed, and the gangs got busy. The ship was tied up, with the keel dead above the line of the elm blocks which run up the centre of the basin. Next job was to pump out the water till the ship’s keel rested on the blocks. From 30ft, the level ran to less than 10. Props were then lowered into the basin to shore up the hull. When these were tightly wedged against the sides of the dock the remainder of the water was pumped out and the ship was ready for the workmen. The basin dried out as quickly as a bath, and it was possible to walk about the bottom without getting wet feet. I noticed just a trickle of water through the lock gates.

72 Mines
Up above men were going aboard down the gangway for internal jobs. “They tell me she has 72 mines to her credit”, said one of the foremen, as he described to me the jobs that were done by “outside staff”. The “prop” had come off. The hull was to receive a coating of tar-like solution. “And it’s our job to do it as quickly as possible”, commented the foreman, who had had 22 years in the Royal Navy, seeing service off the West Coast, in the Boer War and in the Dardanelles in the last war. “Are ships still covered with barnacles?” I asked. “Very few these days”, was the answer. “They have to be in still water for some time, and ships don’t get the chance to-day. But I have seen one or two with mussel-beds on ‘em”.

The Latest

In the dock there was a wooden floor but in the next, where a Dutch tanker was being inspected, it was all concrete, and there were the latest gadgets for “fixing” the ship. Dry docks are modern miracles of engineering and ours are playing a vital part in the struggle for supremacy of the seas. [E.S. 21 Aug 42]

Your ration card, or perhaps that new form you have to fill in may have been a smart American magazine only a few months ago. A visit to the London docks prompted this thought, for there I saw being discharged a cargo of waste paper brought from America. The cargo was being unloaded into barges to be taken to the mills for re-pulping. There was waste paper of all sorts. I noticed a New York picture paper. The front page announced: “R.A.F. bomb Nazi-French War Factories”. There was a picture of the raid beneath. There were a number of letters too. In one an American girl was threatening someone with breach of promise. The recipient, apparently, had consigned the letter to the waste paper basket. [E.S. 25 Aug 42]

Londoners Will Have To “Pay Price” For “Royal Natives”
Whitstable’s celebrated oyster-men are giving their boats a final touch of the brush and looking over their nets in readiness for the fourth war-time oyster season, which opens on September 28, four weeks after the traditional September 1. When I visited this ancient Kent Coast town to-day, I found the dredgermen anticipating a fair season. There is little doubt that Londoners will have to “pay the price” again for Royal Whitstable Natives. Last year, I was told, they fetched well over 50 shillings a 100 in West End bars. With the loss of French supplies, oysters for Englishmen have become a luxury.

Doyen of Dredgermen
Re-filling his pipe on a promenade seat, 87-year-old Fred Foid, doyen of dredgermen, said: “And just fancy, you could have a good

feed for next to nothing at one time”. Fred, who, as a birthright of an eldest son, received 20 £10 shares in his father’s business, has seen the flourishing centuries-old industry come to face virtual extinction. “And I’ve been going out in boats from here all my life, shrimping and fishing when not after oysters. A hundred sailerships, each with a crew of three or four, were dredging for oysters. “I don’t suppose more than six or seven ships will go out this season”. Charlie Waters, another oyster expert, who keeps an inn in the “oyster quarter”, declares that the shellfish have been stricken with a mystery disease.

Oysters in His Boots
Old Fred recalled the day when there were millions of young oysters - the five-year-olds are the choicest - in the reserve beds alone, and Charlie Waters spoke of the times when a penalty of £1 an oyster was imposed on any member of a crew found illegally taking oysters home. “They once discovered one chap with 70 in his rubber boots and he had to pay the £70”, he told me. [E.S. 27 Aug 42]

Schoolboys will be able to go on buying ginger-pop after all. And the colonel can order a “splash” with his whisky without sighing, “There’ll be none in the New Year”. For these two beverages are on the retained list of soft drinks which the industry’s War-time Association are circulating to manufacturers. This body act for the Ministry of Food and it will be an offence for a firm to make, on and after January 1, any type of drink other than the 21 varieties specified. They are: Carbonated beverages: Ginger beer, fruit cup, dry ginger lemonade, limade, orangeade, soda water, sparkling special. Cordials: Lime flavour, orange ginger, elderberry, blackcurrant speciality, peppermint, lemon. Squashes: Lime juice flavour, fruit cup, lemon, orange, grapefruit. A Kent manufacturer of soft drinks [Mr Teddy Moore of Swanscombe] to-day estimated that the order means a cut of fourfifths in the range of beverages but pointed out that the most popular ones will still be made.

Same Gallonage

For the present, at any rate, there is to be no reduction in the gallonage, though the industry’s concentration scheme means the closing of roughly a quarter of the 1800 firms in the country manufacturing soft drinks. “Manufacturers of soft drinks”, my informant added, “Will be permitted to make one special drink in each class but they cannot retain the fancy name. The label on the bottle will bear a code instead of the manufacturer’s name. “The trade have until February 1 to dispose of all stocks of drinks banned from further manufacture”. [E.S. 16 Dec 42. Not 21]

The allocation of sugar to brewers since April, 1940, has been reduced to 70 per cent of usage in 1939, states Mr William Mabane, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Food, in a letter to Mrs Jennie Adamson, M.P. for Dartford. The Government have decided that the output of beer, in terms of materials used in its manufacture, should be permitted to continue at a rate not exceeding that of the year ended September 30th, 1939, Mr Mabane goes on. In each of the past three war years beer production was maintained at about this level, and this has meant that the total allocation of raw materials to the brewing industry has been approximately the same as the total usage in the basic year, although the proportion of the different materials has varied.

Barley Malt
“Barley malt”, he explains, “is the principal ingredient used in the making of beer but some sugar is also necessary”. “Although sugar is the more economical material of the two - one unit of sugar being equal for brewing purpose to 1.7 units of barley - the allocation of sugar to brewers since April, 1940, has been reduced to 70 per cent of the usage in 1939”. The allocations of sugar for the making of soft drinks and beer have been reduced in order to conserve stocks and release shipping space for more important war needs. The reduction will go on so long as the necessity arises. [E.S. 17 Dec 42]

Shares Husband’s Perils
Brave wife of a gallant captain in the Polish Merchant Navy, Mme Irena D[ybek], celebrated her thirtieth birthday somewhere off the coast of North Africa. She is believed to be the only woman member of a crew in the United Nations’ biggest-ever armada of 850 ships. Now her friends in this country are awaiting news of the ship’s return. For two years Mme D--- has shared the perils of the sea aboard her husband’s 1500 ton general cargo steamer. She acts as purser. A former member of the crew told me to-day: “When the Germans marched into Poland, Captain D---, who had been a pilot, escaped with his ship from Gydnia and ran through the mine fields in the Kattegat and Skaggerak, safely reaching this country. “Determined to join her husband, Madame D--- made her way south through Poland, pursued by the advancing Germans. Frequently the place she was in was bombed and machine-gunned by Nazi airplanes. After many months of travel and hardship, however, her pluck was rewarded and they were reunited in France”.

Captain D---, I was told, has been decorated for shooting down a Nazi bomber in the North Sea and also for escaping from French internment at Dakar. “I was on the ship then”, my informant said. “The French took away what they thought were important pieces of machinery but we got the engines going again and got away”. To escape recapture, the ship was disguised as Italian and Finnish at different times. Through the very worst attacks on our shipping down the East Coast, Mme D--- never left her husband’s ship. “I don’t fear the bombs”, she would say. “But it’s the eggs. What am I to do? I want nine dozen and get nine!” For Mme. D--- prides herself on still being able to serve Polish dishes.

“Special Job”
My informant described how the ship’s masts, in common with those of many other vessels, were strengthened for “a special job” some months ago. Then the ship went on her coastwise travels again. One day recently the long-awaited order came through and the ship, with Mme D--- aboard, went to join the greatest armada the world has ever seen. [Evening Standard late 42.]

A monk-fish, weighing about half a hundredweight, has been landed at a Royal Naval Auxiliary Patrol station in the lower reaches of the Thames. One of the biggest fish caught in the river for many years, it was found in the trawl of a small naval patrol vessel whose crew were trawling for shrimps. With small cod and flat fish being caught as high up river as Gravesend, most naval patrol boats have rigged trawls and catches have been good. It has been one of the best seasons for Thames shrimpers for years. They, too, have brought in a lot of fish. One Gravesend shrimper, out in his bawley boat, had a hectic 48 hours, finding his net full of fish each time he pulled in. [E.S. 31 Dec 42]

More British lads are serving on the high seas to-day than ever before in our history. Yet many youngsters entering the Merchant Service have never seen the sea until, their training over, they arrive at a port to sign on a vessel. Many sea schools moved inland soon after the war began and carried on their courses from river banks. That is why farm lads still don't see the sea till they pass out from the schools. But they are turning out first-rate seamen. Cecil [Dumnall], a son of the soil from Kent, who has just finished his training, is waiting for a ship. Apart from a vague recollection of a holiday beside a river once, Cecil has never seen a large expanse of water. But Cecil determined to go to sea. What prompted the urge is a mystery. All his family work on the land. Any night you could see Cecil lead the horses in. Then, about three months ago, Cecil decided he wanted to go to sea. Arrangements were made and Cecil's big adventure started when he travelled to London and then on to the sea school. To-day Cecil walks proudly down the village street with the "M.N." badge in his lapel. He holds his head particularly high as he passes the Home Guard headquarters where he was a promising private. [Evening Standard 1942]


Greenhithe Heroes
A hundred trips through E-boat Alley have been made by these gallant veterans of the North Sea, the masters, officers and crews of the fleets of British colliers who bring London’s coal and load Kent cement. They are the most modest men alive; you rarely see them ashore, yet for more than three years they have been in the front line. For 800 years and more coal has been shipped from the Tyne to London and, thanks to these heroes, Hitler has failed to stop it – despite the most desperate attacks of his airmen and sailors. In the middle of the last century there was a time when the railways seriously challenged the collier brigs. The shipping companies then introduced steam vessels. To-day, for all the coal dust on deck, the quarters of the most modern colliers, built since war began, are as clean and comfortable as liners. An average collier of 2,000 tons, such as can be seen any day alongside the wharves on the Kentish foreshore, carries the equivalent of ten coal trains. If these brave ships – and our Allies have played no small part in the achievement – had not got through in the past four winters, who will say that London, and we in Kent too, to-day would be free from fuel rationing?

“Thanks to the R.A.F.”
You can find local men in the crews, but the Tynesiders predominate. On board one ship I visited, just in from the North, the master, who had been on the run since before the outbreak of war, reported an uneventful trip and went on: “And it’s a change we don’t object to. At one time we never made a trip without trouble. Bombers were always attacking us. Now we rarely see them, thanks to the R.A.F.” This effective protection has led to a happy little scheme. Seamen have been visiting airfields from which their protectors operate, while pilots have visited the ships. But the dangers are by no means past. On dark nights the perils from E-boats are just as great as ever. Describing a typical attack the master told me: “We will be proceeding in convoy without being able to see or hear a thing, when suddenly comes an explosion as a torpedo finds its mark. Immediately our Naval escorts fire the rockets: it’s like day, and when the enemy is spotted bedlam breaks loose. Sometimes you can see the E-boats scooting for their hide-outs with our craft in full cry”. Keeping station in complete black-out imposes a severe strain on the men on the bridge. “We keep on until we see the wake of the

vessel in front, then it’s time to act!” Many seamen are wearing glasses for the first time in their lives.

Russian and Finn
We in Kent have to thank many nationalities for delivering our seaborne coal. Down in the stokehold I have seen Russian and Finn shovelling coal side by side – the least enviable job aboard ship these dangerous days. And you will find your Cockney on London’s very own fleet, the “flat irons” which, once they have gained the comparative safety of the Thames, pass under nearly a score of bridges to discharge their precious cargoes of “black diamonds”. Hitler’s mines haven’t driven the old-timers off the sea. Down Gravesend way they claim to have one of the oldest merchant seamen in the world – “Brigham” Young, who is reputed to be 78 and to have been going to sea all his life. He was away at sea again when we went to check the story. At Greenhithe Messrs F.T. Everard’s sailor men can claim more than half-a-dozen awards for bravery since war began. And more than one is a grandfather. I made a discovery. In the articles the official age for most of the septuagenarians is 59! And good luck to ‘em. We owe them a debt. I came ashore feeling that these collier skippers deserved the freedom of the City of London. What do our Kent boroughs think of the suggestion? [K.T. 19 Feb 43]

The statue of Robert Milligan, noted London merchant, which has stood at the main entrance to West India Docks for almost a century, has been taken down and will go into retirement with other Port of London treasures. Robert Milligan has been sacrificed to the call of modern transport. He came through the blitz with flying colours - but the entrance over which he stood for so long had become too narrow for present-day traffic. Milligan was one of the pioneers of the port of London. It was in 1799 that the West India merchants obtained Parliamentary sanction to build London’s first docks on the Isle of Dogs. The docks were opened in 1802. The statue stood near “Charlie Brown’s”, the tavern known to seafarers the world over and, like the public-house, it had some narrow escapes from bombs. Port of London employees fall into two categories, “A” (permanent) and “B” (temporary). The engineer told me to-day: “One of the labourers who removed Robert Milligan said:

‘Ah, he might have thought he was a perm, but he was only a “B” after all’”. (Evening Standard)

“Tell them to keep the old horses agoing till I return”, Cecil Dunmall, aged 17, wrote home before setting out on his maiden voyage as a member of the Merchant Service. All his days since leaving school had been spent farming around his native village of Farningham, Kent. This week his parents have been told by the shipping company that his ship was torpedoed soon after leaving these shores and Cecil was not among the survivors. Until a short time ago Cecil had never seen the sea. Suddenly last summer he announced that he wanted to go to sea. Arrangements were made and his first big adventure came when he travelled across England to the sea school on a famous river.

Enjoyed It
Letters home told of his progress and soon he was urging his pals to join him. In the eight weeks he was at the sea school, he passed the tests in compass, lifeboat drill and so on and came home on leave. Proudly displaying the M.N. badge, he looked up his pals at the Home Guard, to which he had belonged. When next heard of he had a Liverpool address and was enjoying life. “We get lovely food”, he wrote, “just like mother makes”. But Cecil’s test was to come. He had told them at home that if his ship was sunk it would be his fate and nothing could alter it. He was last seen in the captain’s lifeboat and that was the only one not picked up. Cecil is Farningham’s first loss of the war. When the news spread one of his pals volunteered to take his place and arrangements are being made for him to enter the sea school Cecil attended. [No date]

Novel forms of warning offenders against careless talk are being tried, and one of the most effective is a “visiting card”. Field Security men of the Intelligence Corps, whose job it is to combat

loose talk, can deal with bad offenders under the Defence Regulations. There is, however, a type of offender who, while the subject matter of his conversation is usually harmless enough, is the sort who might give something important away, thoughtlessly, on some other occasion. Sometimes a word of warning at the time is found most effective, but there are occasions when this is not possible.

Novel Idea
The indiscretion having been committed, the Security man takes a card from his wallet inscribed: “U.R. Requested 2 Refrain From Careless Talk. Tel. No. 1.” Placed in front of the offender, the reaction is invariably immediate. “The offender realises he was going off the rails”, I was told, “and usually appreciates the reminder. “The novelty probably appeals to him. “He can keep the card as a reminder, or he can pass it on to any friend he catches out”. [E.S. 30 March 43]

36. “JUNIOR” (E-Boat Alley Veteran at 4 and a half) IS A GREAT DANE
Veteran of E-boat Alley at four and a half - he has spent most of the war sailing up and down the perilous East Coast - “Junior”, a French refugee, is a great favourite in the ports. But he is barred by the immigration laws from formally entering the country. For “Junior” is a Great Dane. And dogs from abroad must spend six months in quarantine before being “landed”. “Junior”, in any case, prefers a life on the ocean wave. Mascot of a brave little Norwegian coaster, he helps maintain morale and keeps guard over his gallant master, Captain Thor H----, who claims the distinction of being both master in the Mercantile Marine and a lieut.-commander in the British Navy. The latter rank is for special duties. Capt H--- to-day told me how “Junior” was signed on the ship. “On the fall of France”, said he, “we were in Calais and brought back 1125 refugees to Southampton.

Stayed Aboard
“They included a millionairess and her dog – ‘Junior’. She could not take him ashore at Southampton and so he stayed aboard. “Bombings and E-boat scraps don’t worry him - he rarely stirs during an action”. How is he fed? “Junior” spurns the shore dogs’ zest for meat. Potatoes and a special sauce form his menu. And he will eat all they give him.

(E.S. 26 April 43)

The idea that Occupied Europe as a whole is threatened with immediate famine does not agree with the facts. This statement is made by Mr Dingle Foot, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare, in a letter to Mrs Jennie Adamson, M.P. for Dartford. But Mr Foot admits that undoubtedly there are acute shortages of certain foodstuffs in many cities and towns and says he does not wish to under-rate the sufferings of our friends in Europe now under German rule. Mr Foot’s statement was in answer to resolutions from committees for Controlled Food Relief in Occupied Europe. The Bexley (Kent) Committee felt convinced that the lifting of the blockade to allow the passage of foodstuffs to Greece was a concession which, under similar controls, could not benefit the enemy nor detract from Britain’s war effort but would save the people of potential Allies from extinction. “I am afraid that I am unable to agree”, retorts Mr Foot. He adds: “Even in the case of Greece, we are not prepared to say that the enemy has derived no benefit, direct or indirect, and for reasons which have been frequently stated, the benefit would certainly be greater in other Occupied countries”. [E.S. 29 April 43]

With the riskiest Merchant Navy job around the coast, the gallant masters of the “coasters”, which regularly run the gauntlet through the Straits of Dover, have nothing but contempt for the Nazis’ “Big Berthas”, whose target they are so frequently. After having fired so many shells in the past three years from the French coast, the enemy - apart from land damage - have hit but a handful of ships. The part these little ships play in easing the strain on the railways, and allowing more precious materials to be transported under conditions of greater safety, is considerable. A cargo of coal or cement in a medium-sized “coaster” represents perhaps a dozen full goods trains.

I spoke to-day to the doyen of the Straits - a skipper who has been taking his ship through the Narrows since the Nazis first reached the French coast. An Ulsterman living in Liverpool, he said: “Of course we usually go through in the dark. Jerry knows that but his shelling is anything but accurate”. Describing the bedlam that breaks loose overhead when the Germans open up and our guns reply, the skipper said that sometimes the shells hit the white chalk cliffs of Kent with a tremendous thump and the echo as it rolls down Channel is unearthly. The crews’ chief concern is to avoid shell splinters.

E-Boat Alley
On their voyage up from the north, the “coasters” have to run the hazards of E-boat Alley too. Half apologetically, the skipper told me that he had never seen an E-boat. But he’s had some narrow escapes. Of their perilous, almost weekly voyages through home waters, defying mines, bombs, torpedoes and shells and keeping station on the blackest of nights in gales, these skippers speak with the most casual matter-of-factness. They will tell you that the deepsea men run as great, if not greater, risks. No doubt they do but that in no way detracts from the brave show of the “coasters”, peace-time butt for derision. Most worthily in their own way do they uphold the proudest traditions of the “Red Duster”. [E.S. 3 May 43]

Captain S---, Swedish-born master of an American Liberty boat of the last war, is just one big headache to the convoy escorts of the North Atlantic, so his crew say. He has a habit of giving the convoy the slip. He was in a convoy to Russia some time ago, in his 25year-old ship which was under constant enemy air attack. Sailing among the ice, for he has as much contempt for icebergs as Uboats, Captain S--- made the trip back to America alone and reached port three days ahead of the convoy. Captain S--- was told he must keep in convoy, and the only acceptable excuse in future would be fog. Now, the crew say, “the old man prays for fog”. “I like plenty of space”, he told me, “and if I see a U-boat I guess I know what to do”.

Under the Ship
Captain S--- left Gothenberg in 1915 and in a four-master sailed into Hartlepool. Throughout the last war and this he has been on the

high seas and has never lost a ship. He became a naturalised American. “It could only happen to the captain’s ship”, commented one of the officers when he told me how during the Russian trip a Nazi bomber, coming to within 50 yards of the ship, fired a torpedo which ploughed its way under the keel and reappeared on the other side. (E.S. 29 June 43)

“As Good as When She Was Built”
Not all the old hulks which lay rusting at the mouths of Thames, Tyne and Humber for years before the war were broken up for scrap. Some were reprieved and proudly returned to active service in 1939. Before the Allies’ vast shipping programmes began to turn ships off the stocks in great numbers these “tramps” represented precious tonnage. They bridged the gap and thus rendered a precious service. Some were sunk and now the remainder struggle hard to keep station in the convoys of new cargo ships of the “Liberty” and “Empire” classes, whose speed is being stepped up as a measure of protection against U-boats. But that there is life in some of the “old girls” yet is shown by a recent visitor to London’s river. She was built in Belfast in 1902 for the Germans and specially rigged for the cotton trade. When war broke out in 1914 she was kept out of European waters and the way of the British Navy. She was in an American port when the States entered the war and was taken over by them. With the Armistice signed she was cast aside and, with scores of American cargo ships and destroyers, laid for 20 years at Newport News, Virginia. One in a graveyard of many. Then came this war. Americans scraped the rust off her, fitted her up with “hot and cold” in every cabin and gave her to Britain. She was christened “Empire -----”. Ten times she has brought valuable war cargoes to the United Kingdom. As she slipped down river for the elevator, her captain said, “Call her old-fashioned if you like but she’s as good as when she was built”. [No paper, no date]


Oranges from U.S. Seamen
American merchant seamen “are O.K.” with East End children. Many of them slip an orange or two into their pockets before going ashore to give away at the dock gates. “The kids deserve a break after all they’ve been through”, they say. At a Welsh port recently two Americans did things in a bigger way. Hearing that some of the children had never seen an orange, they hired a taxi, returned to the ship, loaded up two cases of oranges and took them to the nearest school. “Share these out among the kids”, they said to a teacher. “She was tickled pink”, they told me, “and, gee, did the kids’ eyes brighten”. [E.S. 25 Sept 43]

As Liberty and Victory ships roll faster and faster off the stocks, thousands of Norsemen, Swedes, Danes and Finns who have settled in the States, are repaying their debt to the country of their adoption by returning to sea under the Stars and Stripes. Without this “dilution” the War Shipping Administration would be hard put to man the ships. But for the second time in a quarter of a century, many of these modern Vikings have sailed back to the continent of their birth to help save Europe from the German tyrant. And they have done it of their own free will. When, daily, American ships make British ports, loaded with tanks and military transport, you will find few without some Scandanavians aboard. For all-round efficiency and smartness, Norway’s peace-time merchant ships, most sailors will declare, were second to none. Many of these Scandanavians are courageous to the point of rashness.... [E.S. 27 Sept 43]

£80,000 Safe Through E-Boat Alley
These are big-money days for Britain’s “dirty little coasters”. Fit only for carrying coal and cement in normal times, they ride the waves proudly these days with precious cargoes. Thus do they relieve the strain on the railways. Into the docks to-day I watched a small, drab vessel nose her way with a cargo of “timber”. “And what would you say those four bits of wood were worth?” the genial skipper asked

me as I boarded. The four “bits” were four huge four-sided lengths, 20 foot long. “£5 a piece”, I replied without a second’s thought. “That’s mahogany and that’s where you are wrong”, was his retort. “£2000 is their total value”. Well might the skipper have felt pleased with himself for he had brought a cargo worth £80,000 through E-boat Alley. [E.S. 30 Sept 43].

Under the noses of the enemy’s cross-Channel guns, South-East Coast fishermen, defying all comers, have enjoyed a record year. Never before has flatfish fetched 15s. 6d. and more a stone, and never have catches been so good. As befits the premier Cinque Port, the Hastings fleet has led the way, putting out whenever the weather has permitted. Thanks to the R.A.F. there has been little interference from Nazi raiders, though the danger of mines is ever present. Much of the fish has been sent to London. The richest bay in the world for its size - that is how Mr “Tiny” Breeds, one of the best known of south coast fishermen, describes Rye Bay.

Full of Fish
Of a long line of Plymouth fisher folk, “Tiny” went to Hastings 35 years ago to take over the license of the “London Trader”, opposite the fish market, and has held it ever since. Known locally as “the fishermen’s friend”, he has just retired after being a member of Hastings Borough Council for 20 years. “Yes”, he said of Rye Bay, “it’s been full of fish as long as I can remember. You can always find plaice there”. “Tiny” Breeds agrees that local fishermen are enjoying a boom. But, pointing to a photograph on the saloon bar wall, he asked: “How do we know that’s not going to happen again?”

Wasted Catch
The picture shows a catch of 13 tons of herrings by one of the Hastings fleet just 20 years ago - in November 1923. “They could not get 14lb a penny for them”, said “Tiny”, “and the whole catch was thrown into the borough’s refuse destructor”. They ask similar questions at other Cinque Ports I visited. These fishermen will face the dangers of sea, peace or war, but they want a fair return for their labours. The war has reprieved a dying industry so far as this part of the coast is concerned. It is a last chance. The fishermen feel that if the Government would only undertake to see that there is an equitable distribution of fish in the coming days of peace all

would be well and the younger men, back from the war, would again follow their fathers down to the sea. [E.S. 23 Nov 43]

Who Rescued Blitzed Seamen
With a Wren performing the christening ceremony, a large British coasting ship has just been named S.S.Wrenwood to mark the owners’ appreciation of the splendid service done by the Wrens during the war and to commemorate in particular their heroism during a raid. The launching was performed by Leading Wren Ursula Pelly, daughter of Mr Kenneth R. Pelly, chairman of the owners, Messrs Wm. France, Fenwick and Company Ltd. He told me to-day that it is the firm’s rule to name their ships after places in this country. “A rare exception was made in this case”, he added. During a heavy raid a coaster belonging to the company was sunk and the crew were hurled into the water. Wrens immediately went out in a boat and rescued a number of them. The incident was soon forgotten - except by the owners. Miss Pelly comes of a seafaring family and is skipper of one of the many naval shore establishment tenders which ply among the inland waterways, carrying stores and personnel. The launching took place in a North-east Coast yard and the ceremony was unofficial. The Wrenwood, which will carry over 4000 tons of cargo, will make her maiden voyage in a few weeks. [E.S. nd]

46. GAIETY COMES BACK TO THAMES Many Landmarks Survived Blitz
With rowing boats out once again, mingling with the mine-sweepers on the silver tides which betray the moonlight raiders, if unintentionally, the route to the Metropolis, the Thames, in the fourth Spring of the war, is recovering some of its peace-time gaiety. The paddle steamers which defied the Hun at Dunkirk are still away on active service as ambulance ships, A.A. boats and the like, as in the last war, but at the week-ends greater crowds than ever, denied a trip to the sea, flock to the riverside promenades,

while the children play on ground acquired through enterprising local Councils. Nothing makes a braver sight or cheers the heart of the Home Front workers more than the arrival of a convoy of gallant ships fresh in from E-boat Alley or the Straits of Dover. When the paddle steamers run again, however, those who know their Thames will miss some familiar sights. For instance, the Dutch eel boats, or schuyts, including the 100years-old De Stad Workum, moored off Custom House from time immemorial, have disappeared. They were taken away before the bombs fell. For the eels which were brought from Holland and stored in the tanks of these quaint and comfortable little craft for Billingsgate Market, a stone’s throw away, no longer arrived when the Low Countries fell. Bomb-scarred wharves and warehouses bear tragic testimony to the rain of bombs which crashed into and around the Thames during the Battle of London and, happily, many of the historic landmarks on the way down to the sea still stand. They throw into greater and prouder relief the ruin-cleared spaces around them. Down river ships’ balloons, swaying to and fro in the breeze, add a note of gaiety and the once white cabin-cruisers and motor-boats, in their grey-blue paint, criss-cross the river on matters of Naval defence. River folk will point out to the uninitiated No. 32 of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Patrol, for at the wheel will be found that champion of the Thames, Mr. A.P. Herbert, M.P., who risks often The Water Gipsy in the rougher waters of the Lower Reaches. Erith, Greenhithe, Gravesend, Greenwich, Tower Bridge and other Thames-side towns are getting more visitors than ever before. Every corner of the river has claim to something of interest. Meanwhile Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, and when the time comes to tell the full story of the part played by the first river of the Empire it will be found not unworthy of the great capital through which it runs, and not without drama. [K.T. May? 43]

“Ginger” Milton has gone back to sea again
His friends in every port around our coasts will be cheered by the news. River folk the length and breadth of the Thames will be glad. For “Ginger’ is known to them all. And his come-back is of particular interest to North-West Kent, for the indomitable “Ginger” is

Commodore of Everard’s merchant coastal fleet. Before recounting “Ginger’s” great work in this war, let us recall a memory. It was in May, 1937, as the good ship, the M.V. Suavity, last thing in British coasters, made down Thames for the open sea that we first met. Suavity was on a mission and looked fine in a coat of white paint. She was bound for the greatest Naval review of all-time to be held at Spithead a week hence, and would be the smallest unit of 1,000 vessels. “Ginger” can spin a good yarn with the rest of them. And he was soon telling us how on joining Everard’s at sixteen, when he lived at Swanscombe, he sailed barges before becoming master of the first motor-coaster to be launched in this country, M.V. Grit. She was sunk by enemy shells in the last war.

U-Boat Encounter
“I was off the French coast, about fifty miles north of Deauville, in 1916”, said Captain Milton, “when a U-boat began shelling us and we took to the boat. They fired sixteen shells into her and she went down. “The U-boat came alongside us, and the captain spoke to me in perfect English – apparently he had been educated at a school near Canterbury. “After he had had me aboard he let me go, and we sailed across the Channel to Beachy Head in the open boat”. After that, and some further experiences, including being washed overboard and rescued by the greatest of good luck, they called him “Lucky” Milton. After “Ginger” had safely conveyed Mr Everard’s party to Deauville and Trouville, and on to Spithead, we agreed that it was a distinction well deserved by a seafarer who had served his country well in war and peace, when he was presented to the King aboard the Royal yacht Victoria and Albert, along with such masters of the Merchant Navy as Captain Irving, of the Acquitania. Little did “Ginger” (little did we) know that war would be upon us in a couple of years time. Little did “Ginger” know that he would live through experiences more fearsome and stirring than all his past ones put together. And that the next time he would meet the King would be to receive an award for gallantry. For he is an O.B.E. now. It was in July, 1940, that “Ginger” saved his ship – the early Battle of Britain days. Through the Straits of Dover a convoy of more than a score of British coasters steamed. “Ginger” was at the helm of one of them. Armed trawlers acted as guard but, attacking without warning, Nazi dive-bombers wrought destruction to those gallant lines. Little ships were blown clean out of the water. When the smoke cleared there were sad gaps. There was a lull. Then, with

boom rack reloaded, back came the bombers. The fight was on again. Smoke covered the Straits. Watchers on Dover cliffs then witnessed one of those incidents which have brought honour and glory to the men of the Merchant Service for the second time in a quarter of a century.

“Ginger” Beaches Her
A motor-coaster of less than 1,000 tonnes slowly made for the shadow of Shakespeare Cliff. Direct hits had holed her, some of the crew lay dead and wounded on the decks, but the skipper (yes, it was “Ginger”) won the race against sinking and beached her. Helpers found him, covered in blood and some of the cement she was carrying, raging at the raiders and refusing assistance. “Look after the men”, he is reported to have said, adding, “Look at my ship! Look at what those ------s have done!” “Ginger” went into hospital. At sixty these sort of experiences play a man up more. It was two years before he was feeling right again. But give up would he? No. In blue dungarees you would see him crossing from Everard’s wharves to the tea shop. Then, some months ago, he boarded his bombed ship, which had been recommissioned, and berthed her. Now comes the news that Captain Milton is back in command and at sea again. Hats off to you, “Ginger”! (K.T.? 29 Oct.43)

Master of a British “tramp”, Captain W.D. Kirkwood, admits he is the luckiest seaman afloat – so far. Since the early days of the war he has been on the North Atlantic run, with two trips round the Cape of Good Hope to Suez thrown in. Not only has he yet to see his first Uboat, but he has never been in a convoy which has been attacked, and he has never seen an Allied ship sunk by enemy action. Captain Kirkwood, who lives at North-road, Darlington, told me before he left London: “I suppose I have made a couple of dozen trips across the North Atlantic. “I was down in the Caribbean, too, when U-boats were coming to the surface and shelling and sinking ships within sight of land, but we never saw anything. “My luck has certainly been extraordinarily good. Down in the Caribbean I had a pile of S.O.S.s four inches high on my desk reporting attacks from enemy submarines. “Those were the days when the only escort you got was a promise or, if you were particularly fortunate, an armed merchant cruiser”. Five Commands

Capt. Kirkwood has had five commands during the war, and the first four ships were all sunk within two trips of his leaving. Believing that a seaman’s job in wartime as well as peace is to keep at sea, his war leave so far amounts to one week and two Sundays, but he doesn’t complain. “My luck with air-raids holds too”, he went on. “I’ve never been in one”. “When I’ve touched port the Nazis have either dropped bombs the day before my arrival or the day after. “Coming home I saw two Focke Wulf reconnaissance airplanes, but they flew off without dropping anything. These were the first German airplanes I had seen in this war”. It is a remarkable record, but Capt. Kirkwood is not bragging. “I know what it’s like to be torpedoed”, he added, “for I was a survivor in the last war”. [E.S. 2 Dec 43]

Never Been Torpedoed
I have been searching for the oldest serving merchant-seaman, and a difficult job it is. The old hands are modest about their achievements and their ages – for a good reason. On most ship’s books they are listed as “aged 59” – and no one asks awkward questions. The “title” has been claimed by an American, 72-yearsold Richard Baldwin, who has gone back to sea, but associates of Gravesend’s “Brigham” Young tell me that he is “aged round about 78”. At any rate they say he is older than Baldwin. “Brigham” has been going to sea all his life. Now it is believed he is aboard a tug. “Grand-dad” George Anthony, a Tynesider, is 74. A few months ago, after spending 10 years ashore, he decided to go to sea again. He was a “wind-jammer” sailor during the ‘80s and 90s, but now: “I signed on a Swedish ship as a stoker”, he told me. “I went straight down to the stokehold and did my watch. I feel as fit as a fiddle”. Verdict of the chief engineer was: “And he’s the pick of the bunch”.

Their Mascot
So “Grand-dad” George is off deep-sea again – as the ship’s mascot. For he was on the high seas all through the last war and was never torpedoed. Another old-timer who has not been so lucky is “Spike” Sullivan, of boxing fame, from London, who has been torpedoed three times already in this war. “Spike” was boatswain of a big tramp the last time I saw him. All these tough “old ‘uns” go to sea voluntarily. Some time ago the Germans captured a number of British seamen, and their ages ranged from 15 to 75. The American

Ambassador to Germany intervened, and the older men were released in an exchange. [Evening Standard. Late 43- early 44?]

Allied Seamen Waiting
When the European invasion is launched it will be a great day for the many thousands of Allied merchant seamen, who will play a vital part in it. Among them are men who, at a minute’s notice, and in some cases without time for a last farewell to their families, got away from the advancing Nazis by a hair’s breadth and brought to this country priceless tonnage when the battle of the seas was blackest for us. To all the mental strain of manning ships in wartime must be added that of not knowing whether the loved ones they left behind are alive and well, or have been maltreated by the Germans. Small wonder, then, that this was the seamen’s happiest Christmas of the war and that morale to-day, on the verge of invasion, stands higher than ever before. It is an exhilarating experience to-day to board an Allied merchantman for, caring not whether you call them superoptimists, they believe they will see home again - in France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Poland - before next winter comes. Cryptic Red Cross letters, two or three times a year, have been the only link with home for most of them since 1939, and sometimes these have not brought good news - announcing a death, or that a brother, son or father has been hustled off to forced labour in Germany.

They Are Bitter
In his ruthless bid for victory, Hitler broke all the rules of sea warfare. Merchant seamen, for so long, were his main target. That they should be among his bitterest enemies is, therefore, not surprising. They are proud to play such an important part in bringing about this most hated man’s downfall. A chief steward is one of six members of a Norwegian ship recently decorated in London for gallant war service. Pointing to a picture of a baby, he told me: “My little boy is 4 and a half. I have only seen him once for 48 hours when we put into Sweden just before the war and I travelled over the border to my Norwegian village”.

[Evening Standard post Xmas 43?]

The Board of Inland Revenue has won its game of hide-and-seek with British merchant seamen, many of whom have not paid income tax since the war [began]. Under the “pay-as-you-sail” scheme, seamen will have their tax deducted by the ship’s master at the end of the voyage. “Many men”, a shipping official told me to-day, “have sailed on the principle of one ship one trip, and the income tax authorities have never been able to catch up with them. I have known of a seaman having five ships in eight months. “Now the game is up, and not only will the country get its dues, out there should be a more settled state of affairs aboard ship”. Like the officers, the men will stay with the ship, unless there is a good reason for leaving. Officers will have a grievance removed, for while all ranks receive the same war bonus of £10 a month, they have been paying £5 of it in income tax, while many sailors and firemen have gone scot free. [Evening Standard, probably late 1943-early 1944]

Ship and Crew Safely Home
The Nazi plot to sabotage Britain’s purchase of the orange crop from Spain was, I am able to reveal, on more ambitious lines than previously indicated. The plot failed. In addition to the ships which loaded eating oranges at Valencia, attempts were made to sabotage British ships bringing the bitter oranges for marmalade from Seville. A time bomb which exploded in the hold of one of these ships smashed scores of crates of oranges, but caused little damage otherwise. Both crew and ship made home safely.

An officer of one of the Seville ships told me to-day that the Spanish people generally were friendly towards them, and that the bombs might have been placed by Nazi agents in the packing cases before the cases were hoisted aboard. “We knew there had been an incident or two aboard some of our ships,” he said, “but all human

precautions were taken, and there was little else we could do about it. “You can’t start opening hatches and undoing cases at sea. Happily nothing happened”. [E.S.18 Jan 44]

Sails in Husband’s Ship
Aboard her husband’s little Polish cargo steamer of 1500 tons, somewhere in the Mediterranean between Cape Bon and Gibraltar, is one of the pluckiest women afloat. She is 30-year-old Mme Irena Dybek, who was the only woman member of a ship’s crew in the United Nations armada which took part in the North African landing. For more than two years she has sailed as a member of her husband’s crew, braving bombs, torpedoes and the perils of E-boat Alley. She was frequently in London when the ship ran into the Thames with coal from the Tyne. “Mme Dybek has one ambition”, a former member of the crew, who has just arrived back in this country from Gibraltar, told me to-day, “and that is to take part in the invasion of Europe. “She does not think she will be disappointed, for the vessel is at present coasting between our invasion bases and ports”. Known throughout the Polish Merchant Marine for their exploits in this war – they escaped separately from Poland – this remarkable couple have excited the greatest admiration from the British authorities.

Mascot Lost
When I was last aboard the ship, Mme Dybek proudly exhibited the mascots – a couple of monkeys. One has escaped since the ship went to North Africa. It was this little ship which broke out of Dakar after being interned by the French, and Captain Dybek has been decorated for shooting down a Nazi bomber into the North Sea. There is no objection to women serving aboard a British ship, I was told, but they are chiefly to be found on Polish, Swedish or Dutch vessels, having been going to sea for many years as stewardesses and cooks. They were caught over here by the war. When the sinkings began few sought shore jobs – in fact I learned of one Scots girl who married one of a Polish ship’s crew two years ago and has been going to sea with him ever since. Before they married she had never made a voyage.

[Evening Standard early 44?)

And Find The Chinese Barber Amid the Ruins
London’s East End bomb ruins are one of the main attractions for Allied Servicemen and particularly Americans now sight-seeing the metropolis in greater numbers than ever before. And Americans who war prevents revisiting their old haunts down dockland way show a keen desire to know “what’s doing” and whether their favourite spots survived the raids. The other day a letter was delivered to a Limehouse shop-keeper addressed: “The leading newsagent in Three Colt-street”. From New York the writer was inquiring whether the best known buildings in this part, such as Limehouse Church, still stood. Back to sea from comfortable retirement, many older American seamen, returning here for the first time since the last war, ask: “Is Charlie Brown’s still there?” For this famous public-house, stripped of much of its glamour since the death of its famous character-licensee, was in its prime when last they docked in London.

Battle School
As they walk down Limehouse-causeway, these visitors are surprised at notice-boards bearing such warnings as “Danger, unexploded bombs” or “Danger, street fighting area”. Streets of damaged cottage property have become an Army battle school, conducted under the most realistic conditions. From the roof of the ruined “Steam Packet” flies a red danger flag, and barbed wire keeps the over-adventurous out of harm’s way. Through all the bombs and this added hubbub, the sole resident of the Causeway, a Chinese barber, has gone on cutting hair and proudly telling his customers that he has “two boys in the British Army”. He agrees it would become lonely now if there weren’t explosions.

“Gee”, He Said
“Gee, if my wife could just see this”, remarked a navigating officer of an American Liberty ship, as he inspected the bars of the “Prospect of Whitby” which has stood for 300 years and since Pepys fed there. Desolation is all around. Many Americans have expected to find the devastation more severe, but appreciate there has been much tidying up. All are agreed that the destruction of the slums was the best thing that could have happened were it not for the loss of life. They are chiefly the older ones, however, who saunter

through dockland, for it has old memories for them. For the younger ones the West End holds more attractions, though few miss St Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. To them the Yeoman of the Tower are a never-ending source of interest. [Evening Standard 15 Jan 44.]

Discharged from the Royal Navy in 1942 as “unfit for further sea service, “Mick”, aged 37 and Cockney-born, joined the merchant service and is to-day doing one of the toughest jobs afloat – stoking. In London on leave, “Mick” told me to-day that he has only one good lung. In both the Army and Navy before the war, “Mick” has only one fear – that he will be “found out” and forced to take a shore job. “When I was discharged from the Navy”, he said, “they put me in an aircraft factory. I stayed three weeks. Never again”. That is why “Mick” will not seek a war pension. That is why he is just “Mick” in this story. [Evening Standard 22 Jan 44]

The Merchant Navy are to have a new training ship previously under the French flag. Built in Britain about 20 years ago, the ship has been running between France and Africa, and some months ago reached this country with a valuable cargo from the French Congo. Her French crew of a 100 have been paid off, and British officers and crew signed on. Experienced Merchant Navy officers who have been at sea throughout the war will act as instructors, and to at least one the experience will recall youthful memories, for many years ago he was a cadet on a training ship. Two hundred lads at a time will, I understand, be trained aboard the ship for the British Merchant Service. They will be attached to a naval school which has turned out thousands of young men who have played their part in the battle of the seas. The ship is of 5000 tons and I am told that the decision to use her for training purposes was taken when she was condemned as “worn out”. Now there will be a new sight for trippers when peace comes - a French passenger ship which has done her bit to liberate France. [E.S. 26 Jan 44]

Cement Factories Blamed
Housewives in North Kent are up in arms at the increased cement dust from local factories. The nuisance is said to be worse than ever before. Of Charles-street, Greenhithe, which lies in the shadow of factory chimneys, I was told there to-day: “You can wash a car and within five minutes it is covered by cement dust. “Housewives are losing heart as they see their homes covered in dust as soon as they have finished the daily dusting. “There are ‘tremendous upsets’ when husbands return home at nights and get the impression that nothing has been done. “Patterns on the lino are obliterated by dust; you can sweep up dust in the street in shovelfuls; gardeners cannot distinguish young plants because of the dust covering – and (for the information of schoolboys) if you pick an apple, the cement has to be removed before eating”. Such are the stories they tell a visitor in these parts.

A Protest
A protest has been sent to the Ministry of Health by Swanscombe Urban District Council complaining of the nuisance caused by the dust. Surrounding local authorities are being asked to support the protest, as also are Mrs Jennie Adamson, M.P. for Dartford, and Sir Irving Albery, M.P. for Gravesend. Councillor E. Moore, who moved the resolution, told me to-day: “The nuisance has gradually grown worse. It was bad in the 1920s and our medical officer of health, Dr Ockwell, went to Germany and investigated the dust abatement devices there. “Subsequently, the firm who own our cement factories spent about £100,000 installing special machinery for reducing the dust emission. “It was reduced but since the war it has become worse than ever.

All They Can
“The cement manufacturers”, Councillor Moore added, “answer that they are doing all they can to check the nuisance but they find it difficult to get replacements for machinery as the Ministry of Supply have placed the spare parts on a very low priority.

“We shall not be able to see the green grass soon”, declared Mr Moore. “It will be a case of ‘How White is Our Valley’. The dust causes great embarrassment to the food industry here”. [ES 28 Jan 44]

Company-sergt.-major Bert Baldry, who was at the Siege of Ladysmith 44 years ago, is one of the last British Army survivors still on active service. Mr Baldry, who lives at Southend, and is in a Port Section of the Intelligence Corps, has a vivid recollection of Ladysmith. War-time rationing is luxurious compared with the fare during those four grim months. “I was making roads in the hills”, Mr Baldry told me, “on two ounces of biscuit a day. We had to kill the horses, and you were lucky if you got half a pound of flesh and two pints of the water it was washed in”. Then, on February 27, 1900, came the storming of Pieters Hill, and the collapse of Boer resistance. General Buller’s cavalry joined hands with the gallant men who had so stubbornly held Ladysmith and the Boers were permitted to draw off unpursued. Enlisting in the Royal Artillery at Canterbury in 1898, Mr Baldry served his time and then joined the Port of London Authority Police Force. After 26 years’ service he retired with the rank of divisional inspector. In the last war he served overseas as a battery staff-sergeant. Mr Baldry, who will be 62 in May, rejoined the Army on the outbreak of this war, and now his only wish - to see it through in khaki. [E.S. 26 Feb 44]

Painted as U-Boats Stalked His Convoy
While U-boats have stalked his convoy, Mr E.F. Edevaine, a British ship’s steward, has sat in his cabin painting pictures. Sixty-four and still going strong, Mr Edevaine has been at sea for 50 years, was torpedoed three times in the last war, before being taken into the Army, and admits that this time he has had “the luck of the devil”. So far not a ship in which he has served has been hit. For Mr Edevaine, whose cabin is a miniature picture gallery and represents all his own work, painting, as well as being an effective antidote to nerves when at sea, is a profitable hobby.

His work has a price, in American ports particularly. Once, on a Customs declaration form, he wrote: “Two oils, by self”. Deciding that the paintings were dutiable, the officers asked who they were by. “Self”, was the reply. The Customs men liked the paintings so much they paid Mr Edevaine 20 dollars on the spot for them. Brought up from Brighton by his mother, young Edevaine joined the barque Amulree, at Greenhithe, Kent.

Captain Steele
“Captain Steele was in charge”, he told me to-day, “and I believe he was the father of Lieut.-Commander G.C.Steele, V.C., who is the present Captain-superintendent of H.M.S.Worcester. “How proudly I hired a rowing boat to take me out to the Amulree and, once on board, leaned over the side and watched the rest of the crew arrive by tug. “We took a cargo of cement to Valparaiso”. Mr Edevaine served a five-year apprenticeship in sail. He compared the luxurious trip he made six months ago to join his latest ship, one of the American-built Liberty boats. “We signed on in London”, he told me, “and, as passengers, crossed the Atlantic. Then we had a grand train trip right across America to San Francisco, where we took the ship over”. He is just back from India. Mr Edevaine’s home is in Stock Orchard-crescent, Holloway N.7. He is a self-taught artist, and specialises in landscapes. [E.S. 26 Feb 44]

Little Old Lady Finds Her Gold
The old black bag, soft and "bulgy", lay in the middle of Rotherhithestreet, S.E. It made a pretty good football, and the boys of Rotherhithe pounced on it. They kicked it about and dribbled adroitly with it until they were tired and then they left it. Along came a lorry belonging to W.B.Dick and Co., lubricant manufacturers. The driver spotted the bag. He picked it up and handed it to the watchman at his works. The watchman put it aside and forgot about it for a time. And then, curious, he opened the bag. Inside was a parcel done up in blue paper and tied with string. There were two small tins, a battered cash-box and a tea-caddy. And from the tins cascaded 22 shining half-sovereigns. The watchman opened the cash-box - item, 23 sovereigns. His brisk fingers explored further, flicked over 325 onepound notes - many of the out-of-date Fisher issue - and 125 tenshilling notes.

He had not quite finished. From the recesses of the old black bag came a little packet of jewellery - four old rings, one set with stones, two gold brooches and a gold locket. And ten National Savings books, fully stamped. The watchman reported to the police and the police "totted up" about £1000 worth, they reckoned. Only clue was a name and address in Weston-street, S.E....but they found that the house had been pulled down and replaced by flats before the war. Last night I found the owner of the bag, a little 70-years-old woman, living alone in one room in a block of working-class homes in Bermondsey. "I've been desperately worried about that bag", she said. "I must have dropped it the other day when I was moving here from my old place. "Please don't publish my name and address - I live here alone and you know what the dangers are. "I'm not married and I've been working for my living for more than 50 years. I put that money aside week by week. "I was terrified at the thought of ever being dependent". [Daily Mail, 14 March 44]

One of the last seafarers to have served in both Royal and Merchant Navies under sail, Arthur George McGuinness, who lives in the East End of London and is in his 77th year, is applying for the 1939-43 Star. Until an old war wound reasserted itself three years ago, he was still going to sea as boatswain and he claims to qualify for the award. "I've had seven ships in this war", said Mac, as we leaned over the ship's rail - he's now a watchman - "and two went down. "But that's nothing. I was sunk 10 times in the last war, three times with the Navy and seven times with the Merchant Navy. "I've had so many narrow escapes from death that I've become philosophical about it". Londonderry-born and proud of it, it is well over 60 years since he first went to sea. He has had adventures in all parts of the world. Two of the sons are now prisoners of war. On two occasions Mac claims that a premonition saved his life. "I felt the ship I was serving in would be sunk next trip", he said. "Each time I was unfit to sail. On each occasion the ship sank".

He Was Blinded
Badly wounded and blinded at Gallipoli, Mac was one of four men who underwent an experimental operation at Alexandria. "I was the

only one who fully recovered his sight", he said. To-day he scorns spectacles. His only grievance is that they took him off the active list because of his leg. That was when they found out his real age. "Mac" is applying for the 1939-43 Star not because he wants a medal - "I've got plenty already" - but because the entry in his discharge book will add to its value as a family souvenir. [Paper unknown]

Prisoners of war in Germany may now sit for part of their Merchant Navy "tickets" as master, mate or engineer, following negotiations between the Ministry of War Transport and the National Union of Seamen. Certain written parts of the examinations may be taken, the camp leader acting as supervisor. A union official told me today: "The paper will be adjudicated by the Ministry's examiners. "On the repatriation of a candidate his papers will be verified and he will receive a form granting exemption from those parts of the examination in which he has reached the required standard. "But before completing the examination for a certificate of competency the candidate will have to finish the sea service in which he is still deficient, after any remission which may be granted to him on account of the time he has spent studying as a prisoner of war". The first sets of examination papers are now on their way to the German camps. [Evening Standard 27 March 44]

Veterans of E-boat Alley, many of the pets aboard British and Allied merchant ships will take part in the invasion. Several dogs and cats have not been ashore (at least officially) since the fall of France. There is, for instance, a magnificent Great Dane, five-year-old "Junior", who monopolises the tiny saloon of a Norwegian coaster which frequently calls in the Thames. At [the time of] Dunkirk this ship left Calais with 1125 refugees, including a French millionairess with "Junior". When the ship reached Southampton and safety, "Junior's" mistress left him in the captain's care as regulations prevented her from taking him ashore.

The Cuban Pig

Through bombings and E-boat sorties "Junior" has emerged, like the ship, unscathed. "They don't worry him", said the ship's master, Captain Thor H-------. "In fact he rarely stirs during an action". Potatoes and a special Norwegian sauce are "Junior's" reward for steady nerves. Somewhere in the Mediterranean there are a pair of impish monkeys in a Polish coaster who have nipped the ankles of a good few officials when ship's business took them aboard the vessel when she ran between the Tyne and London in the early days of the war. Whether "Bing", a Cuban pig, pet in an American "Liberty" ship not unknown in London, will beat the dogs to it on Europe's beaches is a matter for the future. [Evening Standard 17 April 44

But Authorities May Bar Servicemen
With so many foreigners, particularly American Servicemen, sightseeing in London, night life around the East End haunts, dead since the blitz, has returned and, following a number of black-out incidents, police are checking newcomers to the district. Though much of the back-street property of Poplar, Limehouse, Stepney and Wapping was blitzed, there are still many hide-outs for men "on the run". Black Market racketeers find it convenient to live near the job, for the warehouses yield the stuff they want.

Police Job Harder
To-day a lorry load of cloth is a much greater prize than a peacetime smash-and-grab raid on a jeweller's. In a lorry recently stolen there was cloth valued at £6000. Gaps due to call-up have made the police job more difficult. The indication that life is returning to this part of the East End are the number of Chinese restaurants most of which have been closed since 1941 - which have reopened. "But it is not the Chinese who cause the trouble", I was told. "A lot of American servicemen find their way down to this quarter", a police officer said. "Although there's not much glamour about it these days. They set us a problem, due to their generosity very often. Hangers-on haunt the bars of the pubs and a dodge all too often at the moment is this: "An American calls for drinks for his party of four or five, say, and more often than not gives the barmaid 10s. or £1 note. He hands round the drinks and then inquires, 'What about the change?' In the

meantime the hanger-on - often one of a gang - has ordered up on the strength of the note and replies, 'You've had it'. If the matter is dropped, all's well; if not, then there's a fight". Big checks of identity cards have been staged at the dock entrances by P.L.A. police, "Red Caps" and Field Security personnel and in this way the authorities hope to keep check on undesirables which, respectable local residents hoped, raids had driven away for all time. If matters do not improve, I am told, the authorities may consider putting the district out of bounds for servicemen. [Evening Standard 18 April 44]

It’s Laundry Trouble
Nowhere is the swastika cursed louder than in Iceland's half a dozen small deep-sea vessels running for the Allied cause. Rather than risk embarrassing situations, Icelandic officers and crews, when they put into the United Kingdom or ports in the States, leave their uniforms on board and don civvies. Invariably laundries query their washing with the police. And they cannot get official crockery replaced. The reason? The Icelandic Shipping Company's badge is the "Thor's hammer", which closely resembles the Swastika, though it's blue in colour. Jon Sigurdsson, chief officer on a 1500-ton Icelandic ship which has just delivered a cargo of frozen meat here told me to-day: "We don't mind changing our clothes so much or explaining to laundry people that 'Thor's hammer' is not the Swastika, but with the crockery it's another matter, for no-one will put the company crest on our cups or plates!"

The Rescue
When the Battle of the Atlantic was at its worst, this ship rescued a number of British survivors who had been torpedoed. "I shall never forget the look on their faces", said Mr Sigurdsson, "as they climbed aboard. "Each one gave a look at our caps and then his jaw dropped. 'No, no', we had to explain. 'We are not Germans'. 'Then what the ---- are you?' the Britishers asked. We all had a good laugh afterwards”. The Icelanders have lost one of their fleet, the smallest running for the Allies. In broad daylight it was torpedoed by a U-boat in the

North Atlantic, though technically Icelanders are neutral. There were no convoys on the route then, but half the crew were rescued by a British warship. A footnote. Icelanders, I gather, are confident that they will be wearing their "Thor's hammer" badges long after the dreaded swastika has been burned and buried. "Then we shall wear our uniforms on foreign shores again", said Mr Sigurdsson. [Evening Standard 29 May 44]

Now the Watermen Work to Beat Hitler
Standing by throughout the 24 hours to ensure that there is no delay in the turn round of ships at the loading ports, are the dock pilots and boatmen to whom long experience has taught the tricky bends of the river and where the mud-banks are. They have never been so busy in their lives, and deadly rivals have agreed to band themselves in unofficial "pools". Houses have been commandeered so that they are always on tap. The watermen's business is a family concern. Take, for instance, the Francis family, of the Isle of Dogs, Millwall. In one dock group alone I found five working in the same pool. They are: T. Layland Francis, his son, A.G., a brother, A.J., and two cousins, J.W. and W.O.

Four Generations
Mr J.W. Francis told me to-day: "My father, grandfather and greatgrandfather were all watermen. In my great-grandfather's day they all wore top hats at work. The story goes that we are the oldest family in the Isle of Dogs, though most of us were blitzed out. I was twice buried". Hardy folk, these watermen. We could not do without them just now. At Dunkirk they sent their boats to the other side, and quite a few were lost. The Francises, the Ricketts and the Coes were answering the call to "stand by oars" when Napoleon thought to invade. Every "mud" pilot and waterman on the Thames is a Freeman of the River. And there are no honorary freedoms. You must serve your time, five or seven years. Then the River is yours. There's money to be made on it. [Evening Standard 17 June 44]

Seamen on “V-Run”
I have just spent a day in an Operational Pool Office for merchant seamen engaged on the V-run to Normandy, watching officials who work the clock round between themselves dealing with the hundredand-one problems that arise from the launching of the greatest invasion fleet ever. To carry out their duties, I reached the conclusion that the officials must possess, among other qualifications, the sagacity of a Judge, the wisdom of Solomon and the courtesy and patience of a West End commissionaire. That the manning side of our fleet has run so smoothly goes to their credit. The particular office I visited is in one of the oldest docks in the country and is housed in a building more than 100 years old which, built when the dock was opened, has seen the glorious days of sail come and go, and the conditions for seamen improved almost beyond recognition since the early days of the late Mr Havelock Wilson, founder of the National Union.

On the Spot
Gone are some of the worst evils, such as the "crimps", those repugnant boarding-house keepers who "shanghai-ed" and robbed the sailor home from the sea. Gone so completely in fact that your modern seaman doesn't know the word. In these Operations Pools everything is laid on for dealing with problems on the spot, Mercantile Marine officials, men of the Shipping Federation Ltd, representatives of the National Union of Seamen and Security Officers all working together within hailing distance. Scores of deck hands, firemen, greasers, bosuns, donkeymen, stewards and galleyboys stand by, ready to fill the vacancies in ships returning from the French coast. There was a vacancy for a second mate. A young man who had just taken his first mate's ticket, and was off a big boat, was called to take it. They told him it was a coaster. His face dropped. Pride was involved but he was told there was no difference in pay and when he returned they would try to find him a bigger ship. After hesitation he signed on. It was nearly midnight before the work was cleared up and the office staff turned in at the hostel, leaving one of their colleagues "on the bridge". [Evening Standard post-invasion June 44].

An Estonian boatswain, who holds the D.S.M. for bravery in the North African landing, has signed "V" Articles on a Second Front ship, and hopes to gain further honours. He is Waldemar Willemsen, aged 53, who came to England more than 30 years ago, married an English wife, and lives at Forest Gate. He speaks good English but, like so many seamen, free-and-easy in habit, has never troubled to become naturalised. "But that did not stop me joining the Royal Fusiliers in the last war", he told me, "and I was wounded three times before being discharged in 1917".

A Rough Time
All he would say of the incident which gained him the D.S.M. from the King was that he had "a rough time" during the North African invasion. "It was there I saw the bravest and most daring deed of my life. A pilot of a British fighter off a carrier attacked 16 German bombers single-handed, shooting down three of them. I should like to have known the man's name. The whole ship cheered him". [Evening Standard June 44]

Among septuagenarians engaged on the shuttle service to the Normandy coast is Captain Shaw, of the U.S. Merchant Navy, who keeps fit drinking hot water. "It's an old family recipe", he told me. "We have nearly all lived to a great age. I feel 50. If I couldn't get to the mast truck, let alone the yardarm, before half my crew, I will give you £5", said Captain Shaw. While he thinks he may have been the oldest ship's master in the invasion, Captain Shaw recalled meeting some 15 years ago the captain of a U.S. coaster carrying 500 passengers who was 98. "That's what I call a record", he commented. Captain Shaw served with the United States in the last war and has come over "to get this one finished as soon as possible". [Evening Standard sometime post-D-Day]

There has been a marked increase of pilfering in the London docks just recently, despite an intensive poster campaign by the National Dock Labour Corporation. Unless the position quickly improves, stern measures are likely to be applied by the authorities, I am told. A detective told me to-day: "Dockers and ships' crews are both among the guilty ones. On four consecutive days recently we had 18, nine, 11 and five men up in the courts on theft charges. Tinned foodstuffs appear to be a particular temptation and, though the amounts involved frequently come to only a few shillings, men still risk their jobs in attempting to smuggle such articles out of the docks". One of the penalties facing pilferers is automatic dismissal. A serious aspect of the epidemic is that much of the goods involved consists of foodstuffs, cigarettes and clothing. For the C.I.D. staff of the P.L.A. Police this is a busy time, with special plain clothes patrols and vigilant checks at the dock gates. He's a good man who "gets away with it" these days. [Evening Standard 22 Aug 44]

There is drama enough for a dozen thrillers in the air over the Channel these days. Captured German generals and their batmen share airplanes with British Service men hurrying home on duty or compassionate leave and with world variety stars returning from the battlefield stages they will never forget. Sometimes a party of dejected French collaborators are on their way to judgement. To France travel men of the Maquis. I spent a day at an airport watching the passengers come and go. Dakotas and Ansons came and went like taxis at a London railway terminus. Here one saw a party of war correspondents, begrimed and fresh back from the battle, with typewriters and kit - and perhaps a bottle of brandy or a camembert cheese to declare to the Customs. I met a Frenchman just back from a visit to Paris. He claimed to be the first civilian to re-enter the capital. “I went straight to my home” he told me. “It was just as I left it five years ago”. Some Americans passed through, carrying Nazi swords and helmets as souvenirs. [Evening Standard 20 Sept 44]

“Tiny” Breeds is leaving the London Trader, the famous old fishing inn in Hastings old town, known to thousands of London holidaymakers. “Tiny”, a former fisherman, has been licensee of the London Trader for more than 35 years. Known as the “fisherman’s friend”, he was for 20 years a member of Hastings Borough Council, retiring last year. With “Nazzah” - a parrot with a past - looking over his shoulder, “Tiny” Breeds to-day recalled some of the outstanding incidents connected with the Hastings fishing fleet and of the changes that have taken place in Old Town Hastings - of the blocks of flats which have supplanted the picturesque, tarred wooden homes.

Catches Destroyed
He spoke to me of the November in 1923 when Hastings fishermen saw their catches of herrings, not fetching a penny for 14 lbs., thrown into the borough refuse destructor, and of the deputations to Parliament to plead for a fairer deal for South Coast fishermen. “It’s all struggle still for fishermen”, he declared. “yet where would they have been for crews to man the Navy’s boats, but for our young men?” “Tiny” and his family, not forgetting “Nazzah”, who holds court in the public bar, have experienced a number of narrow escapes during raids in this war. “Three times the windows have been out and the ceilings down”, he told me. During a tip-and-run raid, bullets sprayed the bars, piercing a ship-in-a-bottle and pictures of old Hastings. These souvenirs “Tiny” proudly displays to customers. “He never raised a feather, though customers fell flat on the bar floors”, said “Tiny” pointing to “Nazzah”, adding, “But then he was in the last war, aboard a British warship at the battle of the Falkland Isles”. “Nazzah” used to go out with the Hastings fleet and will accompany Mr and Mrs Breeds into retirement to a little house not far from the London Trader and the fish market. [Evening Standard 12 Oct 44]

Stricter Control
Inquiries have been made at a number of Service airfields, in addition to airports in the Home Counties, into unofficial flights by A.T.C. cadets to the Continent. So far as is known, the number of

cadets who have obtained flights to France is small and a tighter control, which is likely to follow the investigations, is putting a stop to the practice altogether. What has surprised investigators, however, is the absence of security checking at some American airfields. I was told of cases to-day of 16-year-old cadets walking into U.S. airfields and staying a week or more in camp, during which time they have been taken for daily flights in airplanes, sometimes Flying Fortresses, and been shown photographic interpretation departments. All the time their parents have “thought they were with the A.T.C.”

“We do not want to dampen the lads’ enthusiasm”, said an A.T.C. officer to-day, “for it is the adventurous ones that win the V.C.’s but we must control the lads”. The officer admitted that he had heard of cases of cadets spending several days on airfields, and agreed there was a danger that the lads might, in their zest, acquire information of a secret nature. At present A.T.C. cadets may go for flights in this country, providing they have their parents’ permission, but if the flight is unauthorised there is no compensation if an accident occurs. That is the point which the authorities wish to stress. [Evening Standard 28 Oct 44.]

After an eight months’ voyage to the Mediterranean, the West Coast of Africa and South America, the greatest danger that befell the crew of a British tramp steamer was not from U-boats or bombs but - a snake. Telling me of the crew’s escape to-day, a deck officer stated: “At seven o’clock one morning, just after we had left Freetown, the saloon boy rushed into my cabin and said, ‘There’s a big snake in the saloon’. “There, comfortably curled up under the settee, was a 7ft long black snake. “We held a council of war. West Africans and Malays aboard assured us the snake belonged to a deadly dangerous species. “‘Sparks’ said, ‘And to think I spent last night on the settee listening to the radio’.


“The steward volunteered to be executioner. He missed with his first blow with a deck broom, but a second stroke struck the snake on the head. Though dead, the snake writhed till sundown and, not being convinced that he was not bluffing, we gave the saloon a wide berth for the rest of the day, before performing a ‘burial at sea’”. How the snake got aboard is a mystery. [Evening Standard 24 Dec 44]

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful