musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: April 2018

These Two Days in History

Tonight history was made way back in 1912 as the RMS Titanic sailed into disaster and became a legend. The story has oft been told, and so much misinformation and downright untruths have permeated into legend that it is like watching the proliferation of fake news on Facebook.  

The fact remains though, many would loose their lives in the disaster, and so many lives would be altered, interrupted and irrevocably changed that they affected people from all around the world. Maritime safety legislation would be one of the many changes that would benefit from the sinking of the Titanic, although that would be way too late for those on board, but those regulations directly influence cruise ships over 100 years later.  The unimaginable happened in April 1912, but it can happen again in 2018, assuming we don’t all get exterminated in a nuclear holocaust this coming week. 

Titanic Engineers Memorial, Southampton

My own interest in the Titanic ended many years ago. There were too many instant experts that knew everything after seeing the James Cameron Titanic movie. And of course every Tom, Dick and Harry has taken to writing a book, and documentaries abound. There is nothing new to see, move along.

Postal workers memorial

Part of the closure I had came about as a result of seeing the artefact exhibition in the USA in 2000. It really helped to close the door on that chapter of my life, although it had a brief surge of interest when I finally got to Southampton in 2013. It had always been part of my dream to go there, and once I had seen what there was to see I was ready to call it quits. However, every year around about now I remember those events, and those people who never saw home, and those who waited for a loved one to return. It is part of history, you cannot change it, it did happen. Aliens did not sink the ship, an iceberg did the dirty deed. 

Charles M Hayes Memorial, London

So tonight, when I am bedding down after a long days vegging I will know that way back in time a ship was heading towards her end, nothing could change it, and her memory would carry on long after the last survivor passed away.  

Titanic Musicians plaque. St Mary’s, Southampton

She is not forgotten, and the souls who died on her will always be remembered.

Assuming that we don’t get destroyed in a nuclear holocaust first. 

DRW © 2018. Created 14 April 2018

Updated: 23/05/2018 — 12:19

Retrospective: Woolston and Weston

This is yet another of my retrospective posts about my time in Southampton. and it really encompasses the area I lump together as Woolston/Weston/Southampton Water and of course the River Itchen. I grew up in a landlocked city so never really had the opportunity watch the tide come in; Southampton has an unusual phenomenon known as “Double High Water” and frankly I am not qualified to explain how this works because there are so many factors that come into play. If you are really interested please go read up at the Associated British Ports website where it is explained in detail. The important thing to know is that it results in unusually prolonged periods of high water which makes things easier for large ships (of which there are quite a lot) calling in Southampton.

My exif data has 4 separate dates for the images I took in this area, so I am really going to lump them together as one.  To understand where the images occur you really need to see the River Itchen from the bridge. The area I am dealing with is on the left of the image just past the pier that juts out from the land.  Southampton is to the right of the image. 

The ship underway is the Arco Dee, and I did a whole series of images about her transiting the Itchen Bridge en route to Southampton Water.  Our story really starts at Woolston Station, which is below.

Actually I cheated by crossing the bridge and not using the train.

The line extends all the way to Fareham and onwards to Portsmouth.  I then took Victoria Street to get to my destination. Woolston is really a village and is rich in maritime and aviation history, but unfortunately the Vosper Thornycroft yards closed in  2004 and when I was in the area the site of the yards was being redeveloped. ​

 

The Woolston Millennium Garden  was completed in 2002. Its focal point is a 10-metre tall metal and recycled glass feather intended to signify Woolston’s history of flight and sail. The garden is divided into three areas, signifying the earth, the sky and the sea. Many of the crew of the Titanic came from Woolston and there are bricks in the pathway through the garden that are inscribed with their names. Unfortunately I did not realise that the bricks did have those names otherwise I would have photographed them too. Many of those who died on the Titanic are remembered on graves in Southampton Old Cemetery.

The church I associate with Woolston/Weston is the Holy Trinity Church. there is one Second World War casualty buried in it’s churchyard. There is also the grave of Ada Maria and Charles Valentine Clarke,  2nd Class Passengers on board the Titanic. Ada survived while Charles was lost.  
 

   
   
   

Eventually you will come to a sewerage plant. You will probably smell it first though. Carry on a bit further and  you will run out of land unless you start following the road to the left. It was here that I spent some time observing the tide and exploring the area. This is also the route I took to reach Royal Victoria Country Park in August 2013

The Domesday Book has the following to say about Woolston:

  • HundredMansbridge
  • CountyHampshire
  • Total population: 6 households (quite small).
  • Total tax assessed: 1 exemption units (very small).
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 1 exemption units. Taxed on 0.12.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £0.5. Value to lord in 1086 £0.3.
  • Households: 3 villagers. 3 smallholders.
  • Ploughland: 1 men’s plough teams.
  • Lord in 1066Tovi.
  • Overlord in 1066King Edward.
  • Lord in 1086Reginald (Cnut).
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086Reginald (Cnut).
  • Phillimore reference: 59,1

It was a hot day, the sun was strong and the sky blue, that water looked very inviting. Fortunately I am not one of those who dash into the water flinging clothing aside and then doing a swan dive into it. 

The ship at Ocean Terminal was Queen Mary 2, and this image I took on a different occasion. (1500×443)

That is the Itchen Bridge in the distance.  I found the water fascinating, and the yellow boat was on the slipway when I arrived and was afloat and heading out to sea when I left. I wonder where it eventually ended up?

The movement of the water really transforms the shingle beach, it creates a whole new submerged environment that is inhabited by numerous critters that depend on the tide and the ecosystem around it. Dogs however are not included in that equation, like me they are casual visitors.

And of course the comings and goings of cruise ships do not affect the dogs but they do sometimes cause people to shade their eyes and stare, wishing that they were on board and looking at the shore. This is Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth in Southampton Water (1500×707). 

If you continued to walk and follow the road through to Weston you would see the buildings that comprise a housing estate. These buildings sufferer some of the problems that are associated with this type of housing, but Hampton TowersHavre TowersOslo TowersCopenhagen TowersRotterdam Towers and Canberra Towers are a very distinctive landmarks when viewed from Southampton Water. Just imagine what the view must be like from there…. The recent fire in a tower block in London has thrown the spotlight on fire safety in buildings like this, and I suspect a lot of rethinks will be required to sort out any potential issues in these buildings.  

The final oddity I wanted to add in here is called “Fox’s Monument” and it may be found in Mayberry Park.

This memorial is a tall unadorned obelisk on a square base commemorating Whig politician Charles James Fox. It was erected in 1810 in the grounds of Mayfield House by his admirer and friend William Chamberlayne of Weston Grove. Charles Fox’s name does not appear on the memorial but there is an inscription that reads: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and the Fullness Thereof“. 

That concludes this disjointed diatribe, it did not quite turn out the way I would have liked, but I hope it does leave some sort of impression on what the opposite bank of the Itchen River looks like. I am hoping to do a similar sort of post about Northam, but not today. Bits and pieces will be added to as and when I get the urge. 

DRW © 2013-2018. (Domesday image and data available under the CC-BY-SA licence, with credit to Professor John Palmer and George Slater, (Opendomesday.org)

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

Hopping Across to Hythe

While doing my Southampton retrospective I realised  that I never did a post about Hythe, although did do a short page on the Hythe Pier Train at aas. Realistically there is not much to say about it, although like everything it does have odd quirks that are worth highlighting.  How do you get there? you hop a ferry at Town Quay of course. Please note that things may be slightly different now and this post is about how I experienced it way back in 2013. 

When I was in Southampton there were two ferry boats that operated to Hythe, the main one being “Great Expectations”

and the standby boat “Hotspur IV”. Sadly she is no longer available as she is “on the stocks” and in a poor condition. 

Technically the ferry runs every 30 minutes from point to point and the first time I went to Hythe was to see the Oriana on the 14th of April 2013. You get nice images of ships berthed at QEII terminal from the ferry, and of course you get nice images of everything coming and going into the harbour. 

This was the first time I had seen Oriana since 1997, and it was like seeing an old friend once again.  Also in port was Azura at Ocean Terminal, Arcadia at Mayflower and Saga Sapphire at City Terminal. 

Arcadia and Saga Sapphire

Hythe pierhead

Our ferry ride over I strolled down the pier, more interested in seeing the sights than rattling down that short stretch onboard the pier train. 

The pier opened on the 1st January 1881, and at the time was the 7th longest pier in the country.  The pier train came into operation in 1922; it had been built in World War 1 and was originally used at the Avonmouth Mustard Gas Factory. It is the world’s oldest continuous operating pier train. 

(1500×640)

My pier promenade over I was finally in Hythe and there was not a lot to see.

   

Don’t blink now, you have just seen Hythe. Actually there is much more to it, but I did not explore too far from the ferry terminal.  I did however find a War Memorial to the Royal Navy (Beach Head) Commandos that embarked from Hythe en route to the beaches of Normandie on 06 June 1944

Parish church of St John, Hythe

Hythe also has a small boat marina, and it was a favourite spot for ship viewing because of the view of the harbour. 

At this point we will leave Hythe and return again on the 26th of April 2013 when I went to photograph the Queen Mary 2 that was sailing from Ocean Terminal. 

Return to Hythe

My next expedition to Hythe was to see that Queen Mary 2 sailing, I had watched her arrive from her world cruise in the morning but wanted to see her sail from here.

As much as Town Quay is a useful viewing platform for ships in Ocean Terminal you still end up battling sun, mist and clouds. At least at Hythe the sun is behind you so things are easier. The problem was that on this particular day the weather was iffy and there were dark ominous clouds in the sky. I headed across to Hythe and walked up to the marina and a suitable photography spot. Occasionally drops of rain splattered against me and I was really in  bad position if a storm broke out because there was no shelter nearby. 

The lifeboat below does not seem to be in operation, as it was high and dry in the marina. She is named R.N.L.B Ruby and Arthur Reed, she was built in 1966 at the yard of William Osborne at Littlehampton, West Sussex and is an Oakley class self-righting design which combined great stability with the ability to self-right in the event of the lifeboat capsizing

She is a really famous old lady and lives out her retirement safe from the battering of the sea. It is sad to see a vessel like this because ideally she should be afloat.

By 19H00 there was movement at Ocean Terminal and they started to back the QM2 out of the terminal. It was quite strange that she had berthed bow inland, usually they back the ships into the berth, but then I have seen many odd things while ship watching and without local knowledge of why and wherefore it is just conjecture as to why she was berthed like that.  

I have not reproduced the complete sequence of movements but the image above is her best angle as far as I am concerned. I just wish they would raise her funnel. 

Photography completed it was time to head for home. I had already started walking towards the terminal because at some point the ferry stops running and I did not want to be stuck on the wrong side of Southampton Water.

While I waited I poked around and investigated the rolling stock of the railway. It is really self contained and is an attraction all on its own, albeit with a very short track and only 3 coaches.

The late afternoon sunset was beautiful though and I captured quite a few stunning images on my walk. Fortunately I managed to make it in time to get back to Town Quay.

I made one final trip to Hythe to see Black Watch sail past, again it was late afternoon and once again I was blessed with beautiful sunsets.

And that was Hythe in a nutshell.  I always regret not having a good look around, but was always really tied to the ferry schedule. I really needed a reason to visit a place like it, and sailaways are always great, and there is the added bonus of a wonderful sunset. I should have really gone to Hythe for the maiden arrival of Britannia but never considered it at the time, and of course once again I was on the clock.  Who knows, maybe one day I will return. 

Random images

 
 
   

DRW  © 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 09/04/2018

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

And then I was in Southampton

Continuing with my retrospect of events that happened 5 years ago.

By the end of March 2013 I was ready to leave London, although disaster was about to overtake me on the day before I left. The first disaster was forgetting the pin number of my new bank card, and the second was discovering that my cellphone package was not working as it expired at the point where I needed it most. The other disaster was a phone call that I received from the place where I was going to stay in the city, which left me having to scramble around for another place in a hurry. I literally grabbed the first I could see and hoped that it was not a dive. I was going to travel by bus to Southampton and duly reported to Victoria Coach station to catch my bus. Gads, the place was a mess!

I will never understand why long distance bus stations are such awful places, and why the Victoria  Coach Station doesn’t connect to the railway station in a logical manner!

Two things happened on that bus trip that would come back further down the line. On our way out of London we passed a set of really magnificent buildings that I eventually found out were the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the Natural History Museum. I took the image of the Natural History Museum with my phone and kicked myself for not checking out the museums in that area (I was too busy in cemeteries).  I would rectify the V&A and Science Museum in June 2016 but sadly the Natural History Museum was closed for renovations when I tried to see it in 2017.  

The second odd thing to happen was when we stopped in the city of Winchester to collect onward passengers.

Winchester seen through the coach window

I did not really connect the dots at that point as to where Southampton was in relation to London, Portsmouth and Hampshire as a county. That was still to come. As was my visit to Winchester where I went for a job interview a few months later.  Oddly enough I never saw that statue on my visit, which makes me wonder whether that was Winchester at all. However, some quick looking up reveals that the statue is of King Alfred the Great, and it stands close to the site of the city’s medieval East Gate.

The first thing that struck me when I hit Southampton were the ancient city walls that still exist in places in the city. 

I have never done a complete post about the city walls, because it is difficult to work out how they came together, a lot were destroyed in the bombing of the city and a lot were lost by the town planners who rebuilt it. Southampton was badly affected by the bombing and would never be the same city as it was prior to World War 2. 

I also met my new landlord “Bob” who is still one of the nicest guys I have ever met in the UK. If it wasn’t for him I would have really been in serious trouble as my finances started to dwindle when I could not find work. He was a pillar of strength and an understanding ear, he was also took me to places that I ordinarily would not get to see, and when I finally left Southampton I was very sad to say goodbye to him. Thank you Bob. I will never forget you.

The first impressions of my new “home” were not favourable, in fact I was tempted to run away when I first saw it. The entrance was in a parking lot and you were immediately faced with a steep flight of stairs that were always chilly.  A further flight took you to the room and the bathroom on that floor. Inside the place was not great, there was a window, bed, washing machine, toaster oven, fridge, table and a broken wardrobe. The view was of the rooftop of Debenhams and in the distance a park. Somebody had dumped a whole dustbin load of rubbish on the rooftop and I needed to get that cleaned before the seagulls had a party. First thing though was to get the bank card sorted out as I needed to pay rent. I had the money for the deposit but my months rent was still sitting in the bank. Bob was not impressed but understood the situation. The problem was that I had to wait for a new pin and only the bank could issue that via post! Fortunately I was able to withdraw money through the cashier and pay my rent.

Next on my agenda was the harbour! and Bob took me up to the harbour to see the Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately you could not get closer to her than the pic shows. She was the first cruise liner that I have seen since 2010 and  was berthed up at what is loosely known as “Mayflower” (aka 106). This image is the first ship photograph that I took in Southampton, and by the time I stopped taking pics in it there were 45 individual cruise ships in my collection.

After that he dropped me off at the pier and I was left to shiver in the cold and try to catch my breath as I stared agape at the cruise ship (P&O’s Ventura) berthed at the Ocean Terminal and the Red Funnel ferries sailing past as I watched. I would get to spend a lot of time at Town Quay photographing ships, and each was a special occasion. 

I hung around till the two ships sailed before trying to find my way home. To be honest I was not even too sure where home was! Technically I was living in town as opposed to any of the suburbs (St Mary’s being the closest to where I was). On my way home I passed an employment agency and made a mental note to go register with them as there was a job advertised that was just up my street. 

Many things would happen in the time I was in Southampton (7/03/2013-10/2013), I  cleaned up my room and found my way around (did I mention ships?), but jobwise I could not find anything. The agency turned out to only be interested in numbers and like so many other agencies did not do me the courtesy of a call back even after I registered with them.  I was able to snag a part time job as a baggage handler for the ships, but it was not consistent work and it really just tided me through till I found permanent work.

Unfortunately that job was way too heavy for me and I really battled with pain in my left arm as a result of it. However, from a ship buff’s point of view it was strangely interesting. I had sailed on ships as a passenger but here I was seeing things on the other side of the shell door.  I worked onboard some of the vessels as well, and Oriana was really the hardest to work on because it was always chaos. But, sometimes we had lunch and breakfast on board and that was great. 

From a cemetery point of view Southampton has three major cemeteries: The Old Cemetery, Hollybrook and finally Netley Military Cemetery They were all fascinating places to visit, and I spent many hours in the Old Cemetery hunting down war graves and the graves of people connected to the Titanic. Southampton has a number of Titanic memorials and other Titanic related places to hunt down, but the Titanic mania has meant that a lot of the other maritime history connected to the city has been neglected, and this was reflected in the Sea City Museum. Fortunately I am no longer obsessed with the ship.

Southampton is geographically close to Portsmouth and all of its history, and of course the Isle of Wight is just a ferry ride away. Hythe is situated across from the city and it is quite a popular shipwatching spot, assuming you manage to get back in time for the last ferry. 

Hythe Pier

The pier even has it’s own railway line, and close to the pier is a monument to Sir Christopher Cockrell (1910-1999), considered to be the father of the hovercraft. Unfortunately I never really explored Hythe properly so I am sure there is a lot that I missed. I did do a retrospective post on it though to add to my memories.

(1500×576). The Itchen Bridge

The harbour is fed from the River Test and Itchen, and there is a wonderful road bridge over the itchen with Southampton on one side and Woolston on the other. That bridge was a long steep climb though but I saw so much from it.  

Southampton links in 3 directions to almost anywhere and was quite a convenient base to search for jobs, but realistically I should have lived in Reading to get more out of jobhunting. Jobwise Southampton was a dead end, and while I did go for interviews none were successful except for the last interview that I had in Salisbury. The irony is that in all my time in Southampton I went for more interviews and made more applications than I did between 2011 and 2012 in South Africa. 

South Western House

St Mary’s Southampton

Terminus House

Central Hall

The Bargate

Civic Centre

Former Royal Pier building

Netley Castle from Southampton Water

Queen Mary 2  at Ocean Terminal

Former docks post office building

I found permanent employment in Salisbury in September 2013, but only moved at the end of November so lived in between the two cities for over two months. I was sad to leave Southampton though and will always consider it to be my equivalent of “the place where I was born” (for want of a better description)

(1500×247) Hamtun Street Mural. Depicting landmark buildings and events from Southampton’s history, from the Romans and Saxons to the modern docks and liners. Created in 1978 by artists Henry and Joyce Collins, and restored in 2011

Unfortunately Bob lost his wife in mid 2013 and I saw much less of him after that, but he was always a friendly face in his trademark blue shirt. The empty shopping centre next to the flats was demolished, the original plan was to build a Morrisons there. By the time I left the city the plans were seemingly intact but I heard that it all fell through and chances are they would have erected student accommodation or yuppie pads in it’s place. The sad fact is that Southampton is really like a giant parking lot with many of the historic buildings made into yuppie pads or care homes. In fact that is also true in many of the cities in the UK. 

(1500×284) Town Quay

There were lots of places to visit that were not connected to the Titanic, and some of these may be found listed in the links (the links work from the top downwards chronologically).  

DRW © 2013-2018. 

Updated: 15/03/2019 — 06:54

Four Ships Week

Regular readers will know that I have slowly been adding in reminders about important dates in South African naval history. The most prominent being in February when I commemorate Three Ships Month. Sadly though, it does not all end with those 3 disasters (although technically the Mendi was not a naval vessel as it sailed with a civilian crew while doing trooping duties). 

There are however four more ships that I am adding into these reminders, and they were all lost in April of 1942.  The men killed in these sinkings were seconded to four British warships that were lost in what has become known as “The Easter Sunday Raid“. 

I am not in a position to elaborate about the disasters that befell these ships, as there are others who have done a much better job than I have. I am heavy reliant on Wikipedia for the information below.

HMS Cornwall, was  a County-class heavy cruiser of the Kent sub-class built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1920s. Cornwall was transferred to the South Atlantic in late 1939 where she escorted convoys before returning to the Indian Ocean in 1941. she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet in March 1942 and  was sunk on 5 April by dive bombers from three Japanese aircraft carriers during the Indian Ocean Raid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Cornwall_(56)

HMS Dorsetshire, was a County class heavy cruiser  and a member of the Norfolk sub-class, of which she was one of two ships (HMS Norfolk was the other).  Launched in Portsmouth in January 1929, she was completed in September 1930.  After a long and varied career she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet to support British forces in the recently opened Pacific Theatre of the war.   On 5 April, Japanese aircraft spotted Dorsetshire and her sister Cornwall while en route to Colombo; a force of dive bombers then attacked the two ships and sank them. More than 1,100 men were rescued the next day, out of a combined crew of over 1,500. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Dorsetshire_(40))

HMS Hermes, was the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier, her construction began during the First World War but she was not completed until after the end of the war.  She  was commissioned in 1924, and served briefly with the Atlantic Fleet before spending the bulk of her career assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet and the China Station.  When the Second World War began she was briefly assigned to the Home Fleet and conducted anti-submarine patrols in the Western Approaches  before being  sent to patrol the Indian Ocean. She was refitted in South Africa between November 1941 and February 1942 and then joined the Eastern Fleet at Ceylon.

While berthed in Trincomalee on 8 April a warning of an approaching Japanese fleet was received, and she sailed that day for the Maldives with no aircraft on board. On 9 April she was spotted by a Japanese scout plane, and she was subsequently attacked by several dozen dive bombers shortly afterwards.  Without air cover she  was quickly sunk although most of the survivors were rescued by a nearby hospital ship, but 307 men were lost in the sinking. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hermes_(95))

HMS Hollyhock, a Flower-Class Corvette, was laid down on 27 November 1939 and launched on 19 August 1940. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 19 November 1940. Hollyhock was bombed and sunk by Japanese naval aircraft on 9 April 1942 east of Ceylon in the Indian Ocean, along with the aircraft carrier Hermes, the Australian destroyer Vampire and two tankers.  53 men lost their lives in the sinking.  (http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-20Cor-Flower-Hollyhock.htm)

64 South Africans lost their lives as members of the crew of these 4 ships.  Unfortunately these losses were conveniently shunted aside in the quest to sanitise history, but slowly we are recognising that there is much more that we need to discover and commemorate.  

Further Reading:

The major inspiration for this post is The Observation Post, a  blog that was set up to keep contemporary South African Military history alive and reveal the truth – because historical “truth” in South Africa is so often skewed to some or other political agenda.

Recounting South African Sacrifice on the HMS Dorsetshire

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Cornwall

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hermes

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hollyhock

DRW © 2018. Created 02/04/2018.  The Observation Post is created by Peter Dickens 

Updated: 09/05/2018 — 12:47
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