musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: July 2014

Heading back from Ryde

Carrying on where we left off….

There was one thing I needed to see and that was the Portsmouth Naval Memorial at Southsea, it was designed not only as a memorial, but also as a leading mark for shipping. In the image below the memorial is the white tower with the greenish ball on top of it. It is a very impressive memorial, and one of three similar memorials that were erected to the casualties of the Royal Navy.
 
Shieldhall was now heading back to Southampton at a leisurely pace. The weather was hot and cloudy in places, and the water was calm. Perfect cruising weather really. The sun had discovered that there were areas of me that needed attention and I often had to head to a shade deck just to cool off.
 
My presumption as to why we were dawdling along was twofold. There was a small tug dredging in the approach channel, and we had to wait for her to finish, or the master was waiting for the cruiseships to emerge from Southampton so that he could regale them with the siren. Any cruiseship is fair game and often some merchant ships get the siren treatment too. It must be quite odd to be on the bridge of your sparkling cruiseship to be accosted by a small steam powered ex-sludge carrier with an often obscene siren. Cruise ship sailing time is around 16H30, and we were not quite ideally placed by the time they started unberthing and moving. Get a move on Smit Buffalo!!!
 
We also passed a few smaller vessels going about their business, and a host of power boaters and assorted water craft. Sand Heron was being followed by 3 of those water scooter type machines that were using her wake as a launching platform. I had seen this vessel in Weymouth awhile ago, and photographed her sister transiting the Itchen Bridge.
 
By now I could pick up the movement in Southampton at the further-est extent of the lens of my camera. (which reminds me, the lens extending mechanism does not sound very good). The leading vessel was Independence of the Seas, and I expected that because they are quite prompt in their departures, unlike certain other vessels……
 
And then we were waiting, siren at the ready… but would they catch the hint?
 
Independence of the Seas is a real beauty, she exudes size and efficiency and I have never seen her looking shabby or run down. She is also prompt, but her master chose to ignore our plaintive bleatings, parps and belches. 
 
I was fortunate enough to catch her as she turned into the Western Solent, and with the sun on her.
 
Emerald Princess on the other hand wanted to play along and we exchanged salutes with her (much to the amusement of everybody on board).
  
And finally Oceana also exchanged salutes with us.
 
As we passed the mouth of the Hamble I spotted a strange contraption festooned with lifeboats. I suspect it is some sort of training facility for ships crews, or maybe for scouts? it may be worthwhile finding out more about it. (Apparently this is part of Warsash  Maritime Academy)
 
Somebody was missing from the sailing list, Azura had also been in the harbour and she was not amongst the sailings. We had left her at Ocean Terminal when we had sailed, although she was berthed bow first instead of stern first like she usually does. Hopefully as we got closer we would pick her up. 
 
We picked up Whitchallenger on her way downstream, she is a bunkering vessel and may have been heading to top herself up as she was riding quite high.
 
We were also overtaken by two separate members of the Red Funnel fleet, and the Red Jets really left us rocking in their wakes, although Red Osprey just made us wobble a bit.
 
As we got closer to the harbour I spotted Azura being swung in the turning basin and soon she was bearing down on us. This was actually the second time I had seen her like this, the first being on my Cowes trip. 
 
You only get a sense of how big these ships are when they go past you, sadly though they do not really appeal to me, although I do recall that both her and Ventura were easy to work onboard from a baggage handling perspective.
 
and then we were alongside Hythe Pier
 
and I got to wave at Challenge, she is looking very lonely in that corner of the harbour. I really wish they would have her at a better spot because she is liable to be forgotten where she is now.
 
And then we were ready to come alongside, our trip completed. Shieldhall and her crew had brought us home safely.
 
I still had to get to the station and catch my train back to Salisbury, and I was tired. But it had been a different trip and I had enjoyed it. My only gripe was that there weren’t more ships to see on the trip. My next cruise will probably be one of the short harbour voyages that they have during the Maritime Festival which is being held on the 22nd and.23rd of  August. I will see you then Shieldhall. 
 
 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 27/07/2014, images recreated and links changed 19/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:37

Heading down to Ryde

My ears pricked up when I read about the trip from Southampton to Ryde pier onboard the Shieldhall. I have done three trips on board her already, so she is not a new experience. However, there is something about this classic steamship that gets into your blood. Possibly because she is a real ship and not some floating gin palace? I did a general blog post about her in May last year, so there isn’t much to say about the ship that I haven’t said before. But, I usually find something new each time I go on board.
  
Southampton harbour was quiet, and the cruise ships in port were Independence of the Seas, Emerald Princess, Azura and Oceana. I was secretly hoping we would see them in Southampton Water on the way back. And, I was hoping to see lots of ships on the eastern Solent as we sailed along. The best surprise was the THV Galatea , she was berthed bow to bow with Shieldhall and was a very impressive vessel. 

And then we were off. Springing away from the quayside and turning our bows towards the stretch of water that reaches to the Solent. If you look at a map of that area you will see that with a lot of pushing the Isle of Wight would fit quite snugly into the area known as The Solent although the geology is a bit more complicated than that. The theory was that once we entered the Solent we would turn to port and sail towards Portsmouth. 

  
A major grouping of vessels is to be found at the refinery at Crawley, although mostly tankers, there is also a nice grouping of tugs to be found here.
 
These three (Ajax, Lomax and Phenix), are operated by Solent Towage Ltd. and are occasionally seen in Southampton Harbour assisting some of the cruiseships. The next important area is Calshot Castle and I believe it is quite a good ship spotting venue, especially for afternoon sailings.
  
Once past the castle, we headed towards Cowes before turning to Port and sailing towards our destination. 
 
I had done the trip to Cowes once before with the Red Funnel ferry, and it was an interesting trip so it was not new to me. However, I had only been to Cowes, so far the rest of the Isle of Wight had evaded me. Ryde is easily accessible from Portsmouth as there is a conventional ferry service to the island as well as a hovercraft that does the run rather quickly.
 
Shieldhall was not unaccompanied in her voyage though. A swarm of yachts and small boats kept pace with us or came in close for a second look. She is a very popular vessel and I suspect getting a chance to see her sailing is one that you do not pass by. The Solent is also a very popular boating area and there were a number of people doing things in small boats. Unfortunately there were also a lot of those unattractive modern power boats that always seem to have a blonde draped languidly somewhere on the deck. The only real traffic we passed was the Hapag Lloyd container ship London Express that was heading into Southampton. 
  
As we got closer to our destination the Spinaker Tower in Portsmouth started to take on more definition, as did the Spitbank Forts and the ferries passing across our bows. I was really hoping we would get close to the forts but unfortunately never did.
 
Eventually we arrived at our destination which was Ryde Pier  and frankly from where we were it was not really very visible, and if the Master had not sung happy birthday we would probably have missed it. I cannot even show a pic as I do not have one that I can positively identify as “that’s it!”. Suffice to say I need to physically go there and take pics on the spot, and that will give me an excuse to go on the hovercraft. 
 
And talking about hovercraft, that’s her, crossing our bows. 
  
We sailed a bit further to Bembridge , or I believe it was Bembridge, again I cannot be too sure. It didn’t really matter though because it is not always the destination that interests me, sometimes it is all about the trip to get there. At this point we turned around and headed back in the general direction of Calshot, which was a pity because I really would have liked to have gotten closer to the Spitbank Forts, there was a Brittany Ferries boat heading away from Portsmouth that I was hoping we would get to have a look at but she was moving quite quickly and we would have never caught her anyway.

Our trip back towards Calshot was taken at a leisurely pace, and there were two possible answers to that question. But, we will have to turn the page to find out what they are.

 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 27/07/2014. Images recreated 19/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:39

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum

Another bucket list item, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum was the first stop on my trip to Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery in Gosport. I have never been on board a submarine before, although I was always curious about them. Come to think of it, I had been on board a semi-submersible boat before, but that doesn’t really compare.

The museum has three major submarines, the biggest being HMS Alliance, the oldest being the Holland 1, and the one that really makes you shake your head HMS X24.  

Submariners are a different breed of sailor altogether, and when you come up close and personal with their weapon of choice you can see why. These vessels are not for the feint hearted, and they do have a tendency to never return. The list of those vessels that were lost is a long one, and for each ship name there is a crew.

The first submarine (apart from HMS Alliance which is not easy to miss), is the Holland 1. And I have to admit I am glad I got to see her because she really does not look very much like the images I have seen of her.  Possibly because she is not submerged? It must have taken a lot of courage to make that first dive, and I expect you need to have a lot of confidence in your design too.

Her interior is accessed by a door cut into her hull, and there is not much to see inside, but the emptiness is really dominated by her torpedo tubes and the lack of headroom. The image below is looking forward. I have no way of knowing what else was in this machine way back when, but I expect it was much more crowded.

And the image above is looking aft. Underneath the wooden deck is the battery, and the ladder goes up to the rather small “conning tower”. 

My next port of call was HMS Alliance, and she really dominates the museum. She recently underwent restoration, although I have no idea what was done on board her. 

Unfortunately you cannot just waltz on board and look around so I headed into the exhibition hall to book my spot. 

The hall really houses most of the balance of the exhibits, as well as a small souvenir shop and of course HMS X24. She is the only surviving X craft still existing (although the wrecks of them litter the ocean floor), and she is really claustrophobic (and I was standing outside her!). 

It really comes down to the men that sailed on these vessels, and the operations that they performed during the war. There is not a lot of space for all the bits and pieces that submarines need, in fact I expect it would easier to collect the bits together and build a hull around them, than building a hull and trying to fit everything inside afterwards.

I do think the latter choice was made. Bear in mind that 4 men lived in and fought these vessels, and their best known exploit was Operation Source, the attack on the Tirpitz

Heading outside I was once again confronted by a memorial to those that never returned. The Americans call it “On Eternal Patrol”, and I think that is a fitting description of the many submarines that never came home. Many were lost in events that were not attributable to enemy action, and those vessels have never been found.
Then it was time for me to board HMS Alliance through a door cut into her side just behind the forward hydroplanes and torpedo tubes. 
Alliance is a member of the A-Class and was laid down towards the end of World War 2, she was finally completed in 1947. She is no longer in her 1947 disguise though, having undergone a lot of modification and changes since she first put to sea. She has been a museum ship since 1981.
There is not a lot of headroom on board, and I expect it must have been even more crowded when she was in service. There are quite a few period items on board her and she is really a time capsule of a different life on board one of HM Submarines 
The images I took do not really show just how small the space is,  apart from there being people behind and in front of me, there was equipment and machinery above and below, as well as on either side. Although generally forward of the control room there is accommodation and living areas, whereas aft of the control room was more dedicated to engines and machinery (and accommodation) . Storage space was everywhere.  Of course the heads always interest me, and there are actually two on board (officers and other ranks). These are not your run of the mill porcelain telephone type either. The image below is of ratings heads and wash room. (Water is not plentiful on board, so any sort of shower was really impossible). The instructions on flushing them make for interesting reading:
Charge air bottle and open sea and NR valves (non return valves?)
Open flush inlet valve with CARE
Free (?) lever and bring to PAUSE
Bring lever to FLUSHING
Bring lever to DISCHARGE
Bring lever to PAUSE
Return lever to NORMAL and LOCK
Close all valves.

One mistake and you would probably be the most unpopular person on board.

Passing through the vessel I could not help think that many wartime submarines were much smaller than this, and their crews were still under the added stress of combat. I would be interested to see how she compares to a U-Boat, and she would be considered luxurious compared to the wartime U-boats. I visited U-534 in Liverpool in 2018, and you are able to see her rusty interiors and they do not compare at all.
We were now passing into the motor/engine rooms, and things were somewhat more open, but multiply that by the heat and sound of her diesels running and this could be a very noisy and uncomfortable place. But engineers have always been special, they really thrive on the heat and noise and without them the ship would  just be a steel box going nowhere.
And our tour ended at the aft torpedo tubes. I was ready to go around again, but the bottleneck was still stuck somewhere near the control room, so I gave it a miss. The fresh air felt good though,  and I came away with a whole new perspective of submarine warfare.
 
Then I made a quick circuit of the exhibition hall, and saw many things that I had read about over the years. Some were hard hitting, and all seemed to involve bravery and sacrifice. I was particularly glad to see that HMS Conqueror had not been forgotten
And that the infamous K-Class had not been neglected in the roll of disaster. Now they must have been interesting to see. Although if you think about it rationally, we have really returned to the age of the steam powered submarine, after all, nuclear powered submarines are really driven by steam turbines.
And one last reminder of disaster. HMS Thetis.
And then it was time for me to go, I had a cemetery to find, and it is probable that some of the men in that cemetery had a connection to the vessels mentioned at the museum.
The “Silent Service” is still one of the deadliest military forces around. They have become true submariners since the advent of the nuclear powered vessel, and they can be anywhere, ready to strike at any time. As a surface vessel fanatic I have never really considered the impact of meeting a submarine would have. I think I have a whole new appreciation of them, and of course much to read about in my travels. The museum is not a large one, but it is really a worthwhile one to visit. Gosport is easily accessible through Portsmouth, and it is worth taking the time to pay your respects. I know I will return one day.
 
DRW © 2014-2018. Created 24/07/2014, images recreated 19/04/2016, updated 03/06/2018
Updated: 03/06/2018 — 17:41

Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery

Part of the reason for my trip to Gosport was to take a look at Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery (aka Clayhall Royal Naval Cemetery), it is within walking distance of the ferry terminal, and equally close to Haslar Naval Hospital.   My curiosity about this site was piqued after watching a documentary about an investigation into the burial grounds inside the hospital which revealed that over 7000 individuals are buried there, mostly from the Royal Navy. Unfortunately I could not access the hospital as it was all locked and barred and there was nobody to ask any questions of. This is one place to bear in mind if ever I return to that area. The strange building in the photograph is a water tower according to the security guard that I met on my later visit.
 
The Cemetery I was after is a bit further along and it was a hot day, with scattered clouds and a bit of humidity. It was not uncomfortable weather, but I could see that I was going to take a lot of pummelling from the sun while I was photographing graves.  According to the relevant CWGC page, there are 1347 identified casualties here, and I really was going to go for the regular CWGC headstones on this visit. It may not seem like too many, but the logistics of photographing 1347 graves in one session is formidable.
 
 
The main entrance by the Cross of Sacrifice is locked, but access is via a gate by the sextons cottage (which is a site to see all of its own). The cemetery is an old one, with casualties dating back to long before WW1. It is an orderly cemetery too, with a block layout and very regular patterned headstones. The two biggest concentrations were what I was interested in, although I was really getting the smaller groups done before I headed in that direction.
 
I slowly worked my way along, sampling occasional headstones, but concentrating more on the CWGC headstones. 
 
To complicate things there were a number of non wartime graves with a headstone not unlike the regular CWGC headstone, they can usually be recognised by the different shape to the top of the headstone. In the image below, the headstone on the left is a non wartime death (1955) while the headstone on the right is a wartime death (1941). However, amongst the casualties in the cemetery it is likely that most died in the nearby naval hospital.
 
 
There are a number of group memorials, two of which were especially interesting. The first is to the crew of HM Submarine L55, which sank in 1919. The remains of 34 crew members were interred at Haslar in 1928.
 
 
The other memorial is to HMS Eurydice that sank in 1878 off the Isle of Wight with a heavy loss of life. It is a really imposing memorial, topped by the anchor from the vessel. 
 
The memorial to those who lost their lives when a boiler exploded on HMS Thunderer on 14 July 1876. 15 people were killed instantly, including her Commanding Officer; and around 70 were injured, of whom 30 later died.
  
 
In memory of those ranks and ratings 
buried in this plot whose names are recorded in
The Roll of Honour housed in the chapel
Mors Janua Vitae (Death is the gate to life)
 
And after all those distractions I started on the graves. 
 
I was fortunate that there was a bit of shade here, but it did not detract from the fact that there were roughly 64 graves in this group. The next group was even bigger, with over 400 graves in total. Between this group and the next was a huge plot of similar headstones that tie into the naval hospital.

And at this point I had a problem, it would be too much work to try identify each grave and decide whether to get the pic or not, it was much easier to get the pic and decide later, but there were a lot of these graves and I would prefer to leave them for another day. I was after those regular white slabs at this moment.

I lost count somewhere along the line, but I suspect I have about 650 graves from this cemetery photographed, but still to be sorted and labelled, only then will I have a final tally. I was ready to go home, and I slowly headed towards the entrance, on my way passing a small Turkish Naval Cemetery dating back to the 1850’s, and it took a bit of reading to explain this anomaly.

 
Apparently in November 1850, the Turkish warships: Mirat-i Zafer and Sirag-i Bahri anchored off Gosport on an extended visit. Some of the crew contracted cholera and had to be admitted to the nearby naval hospital where some of them died. They were subsequently buried here with other members of the crews that had died during training accidents. They are now sons of Gosport.
 
 
 
It was also time to head off back to Portsmouth to catch my train back to Salisbury, although I would be making a detour in Southampton to do some shipwatching It had been a great day, my visit to HMS Alliance was wonderful, and I will do a blogpost about it one of these days, but it was an equally tiring day, and I came away with 1175 images to process, that should keep me busy for awhile. But, I will return to Gosport, after all, somewhere along my route I may find my packet of biscuits that went missing.
 
*Update*
 I returned to Gosport in Sept 2014, completing the plot of graves that I had avoided this time around. I did not however find my missing boccies! 
 
© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 18/04/2016, added more images 07/02/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:42

Southampton Shipwatch 41: Emerald and Dawn Princess

I detoured on my way back from Portsmouth on the 12th of July to grab some pics of Emerald and Dawn Princess that were both in Southampton. The former at Ocean Terminal, the later at QEII. Unfortunately they are not really unique ships, Emerald  is one of the “Grand Class” clones and was launched in 2006. Her sisters are Crown Princess and Caribbean Princess. So technically I have seen her before. 
  
She was due to sail at 16H00, but as per usual the concept of time keeping was missing from her sailing, she finally started to drop her lines at 16H25, which was problematic because there were three others due to sail at 16H30 (Independence of the Seas, Oceana and Balmoral). There was quite a crowd of rubber neckers, fishermen and the occasional shippie watching her leave. 
 
 
Somehow though I cannot get much enthusiasm for these ships, I was considering that 30 years down the line these may be considered to be “classics” but I know I will really struggle to ever consider them that. 
 
 
And then it was time to head to the other side of Town Quay to catch Indie. Leaving the Emerald Princess to sail past her fleetmate Dawn Princess at QEII. I have to admit to a certain fondness for this big vessel, she is quite an attractive beastie and she is very prompt about her departure.
 
She was followed by Oceana, another ship for which I do not have much affection. 
 
One of the reasons I remained behind after watching Emerald Princess leave was to see Oceana alongside Dawn Princess.
 
Unfortunately QEII is an awkward place to photograph ships, it is too far away from Town Quay and unless they back the vessel into the Itchen or turn her when she arrives you only really get stern shots. These are the only pics I have of this 1997 built vessel. Her sisters are Sun Princess and Sea Princess, as well as Oceana. Incidentally the flat vessel alongside her is probably the slowest vessel in Southampton. I can walk faster than she can sail. Dawn Princess was due to sail at 21H00 (which probably means 21H30)
 
 
Then I turned my attention to Balmoral that was still being turned, unfortunately, being a bit of an old lady (and a classic too), she does not have stern thrusters so still needs a tug, but soon she too was heading down the channel. 
 
 

She was definitely the prettiest of the 5 ships in the harbour, but I could not really hang around as I had to get to the station by 17H36 for my train (which only arrived at 17H40). It was fun to do shipwatching again, and there are a number of unique arrivals scheduled for September that I will go down to Southampton for, so watch this space!!!

Emerald Princess 26/07/2014.
 
On the return to Southampton on Shieldhall on 26/07/2014 Emerald Princess was in the harbour too and I managed to get other pics of her. 
 
 
 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 13/07/2014, updated 27/07/201, images recreated 18/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:44
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