musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: February 2019

Onwards to Africa

Continuing where we left off

The flight was not too bad, food was ok, and the movies helped pass the time. I watched: The Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, The Hurt Locker and Bohemian Rhapsody. The last I was still busy with when we started our descent to OR Tambo Aiport in Johannesburg. 

Breakfast was not too bad, at least there was no sign of that awful spinach…

 

It was overcast outside and we landed at roughly 8.15 in the morning (2 hours behind local time in the UK). 

Flightline (1500×560)

I was collected by my brother and I saw my mother about an hour later. It is hard to describe my feelings when I saw her. It has been almost 2 years since she left her former home to go into frail care, and there was a marked deterioration in her physical condition. However, she can still outglare  a rattlesnake. The decision we made in 2016 was not an easy one, and of course there is a lot of guilt associated with putting into frail care. We did not have any choice though, because neither of us was in the position to take care of her. She is very frail and imprisoned in her own body, and at some point the inevitable will happen, but I do feel better about seeing her again, and I am sure she was happy to see me, although she would never admit so much. 

The duty done, it was time to unpack and bath and clean up after the flight. I was tired, having been on the go for almost 30 hours. My plans for this trip were to rationalise more of my collection, visit friends and family, look for my missing will, and have some serious discussions with my brother. I wont be taking thousands of images though as I won’t be travelling much while I am in South Africa. 

DRW © 2019. Created 27/02/2019

Updated: 10/03/2019 — 09:28

3 Hours in London

As mentioned in my previous post, I was going to South Africa to see my mother…. 

Ashchurch for Tewkesbury

Having set off from Ashchurch in the early hours of the 22nd I eventually arrived at Paddington Station in London. 

Paddington Station, London.

This was also the first time that I had traveled on the new rolling stock that was entering service with GWR and it was quite comfortable, although I did feel quite a bit of swaying in some parts of the journey. 

My flight was leaving just before 7 pm so I had a few hours to kill and like my last trip in 2017 I headed to the Natural History Museum in Kensington, determined to see the inside of that glorious building.

It was a bad idea; it is half term in the UK so one 3rd of London seemed to be queuing to get into the museum! I assume another 3rd of the population was queuing at the Science Museum and the rest were en route to them both! It was the longest queue I had ever stood in since the elections in 1994 in South Africa. 

The weather was glorious, and I had worn my warm woolies when I left Tewkesbury and suddenly it was an early Summer! I cannot however comment on what it will be like when I arrive back in the UK on the 7th. It is almost Autumn in South Africa and generally hot with the occasional rain or thunderstorm.

I think it took almost an hour to get into the building and it did not disappoint.

“…in 1864 a competition was held to design the new museum. The winning entry was submitted by the civil engineer Captain Francis Fowke, who died shortly afterwards. The scheme was taken over by Alfred Waterhouse who substantially revised the agreed plans, and designed the façades in his own idiosyncratic Romanesque style which was inspired by his frequent visits to the Continent. The original plans included wings on either side of the main building, but these plans were soon abandoned for budgetary reasons.  Work began in 1873 and was completed in 1880. The new museum opened in 1881, although the move from the old museum was not fully completed until 1883.

Both the interiors and exteriors of the  building make extensive use of terracotta tiles to resist the sooty atmosphere of Victorian London.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_History_Museum,_London)

Because of my time limitations I did not get to see the whole of the building, but what I did see was breathtaking. It is probably the most beautiful non cathedral I have ever seen, and the interior of the old building is jam packed with exhibits and visitors. This is not a stuffy collection of odds and ends, but a collection that encompasses everything. This museum is a bucket list item, and I bet no museums in South Africa would be able to house so many visitors and so diverse a collection without utter chaos. Because of the crowds and my inadequate equipment my images can never do it justice, and of course the sheer size of it makes photography very difficult.

Having completed my visit I headed back to Paddington from South Kensington Station and collected my luggage.

South Kensington Tube Station

After a quick lunch and loo break I left for Heathrow at least 2 hours before I had intended to. I had not been able to check in online and had been prompted to do it at the airport!  Surprisingly enough my booking was still correct and I suddenly had 4 hours to kill at Heathrow.  Airports are a drag; huge places with lots of bored people just waiting to be propelled through the air in a cramped narrow metal tube with wings. I was taking a direct flight again and the flight was scheduled to leave at 18.55.  

However, there was a problem with clearance for 5 people because comms was down with South Africa so we sat on the apron for over 30 minutes before trundling to the runway and then charging headlong into the air. I was on my way.

The flight was scheduled to take just over 10 hours, and while I had much more legroom the seat itself was like a brick and the plane was packed. I felt like yet another sardine….

Continued….

forwardbut

Random Images: Natural History Museum

Random Images: The Rest

DRW © 2019. Created 26/02/2019

Updated: 10/03/2019 — 09:27

By the time you read this

I am technically back in South Africa for a quick visit. My journey really started early on the morning of the 22nd, travelling from Ashchurch to Cheltenham and then onwards to Paddington Station and finally Heathrow for my overnight flight.

My mother took a bad turn last December and I decided then that I needed to go down to see her, although having enough leave and being able to get a slot to take it was difficult. I was also tied in by the date for Brexit, and will rather be back in the UK before it happens. Ideally I wanted to do this trip in March or April but beggars cannot be choosers.

So, if things get quieter for 2 weeks you will know why. I will catch up when I get back after the 7th.

Hang in there, keep calm and don’t panic!

Updated: 19/02/2019 — 06:59

Remember the Mendi

HMT Mendi (21/02/1917)

On 21 February 1917, South Africa lost some 607 African volunteers en route to the battlefields of France when their troopship; HMT Mendi, was in a collision with the SS Darro off St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight. The resulting death toll was high; of the 802 SANLC troops on board some 607 men of the South African contingent perished, as did 30 members of her crew.  The 4230 GRT Mendi (Official number 120875), was owned by the British & African Steam Navigation Company Limited. which was part of Elder, Dempster and Company. She was 370 ft long with a beam of 46 ft and was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow. She was fitted with triple expansion steam engines that gave her a maximum speed of 13 knots.

Model of the SS Mendi by Buddy Bacon, in Simonstown Naval Museum. Used with permission.

On 10 April 2013, while I was in Southampton I decided to visit Hollybrook Cemetery and the Hollybrook Memorial to the missing. 
 

 
This particular memorial at Hollybrook commemorates by name almost 1900 servicemen and women of the Commonwealth land and air forces whose graves are not known, many of whom were lost in transports, torpedoed or mined in home waters. The memorial also bears the names of those who were lost or buried at sea or who died at home but whose bodies could not be recovered for burial.  
 
Sadly, all that is left of their lives is their names on a plaque. And I think that in this case, there is a small piece of England that is uniquely South African. They were men that came from the tip of Africa, to participate as non combatants in a war that they knew nothing about, and they died far from their homes, never reaching their destination, but remaining here, far from the sunshine that was now fading as I took my last few photographs. But if I do think about it, these men were never really forgotten, their families remembered them, and their comrades, but they too have passed on, and  that duty has been passed on to us, a generation of ex-servicemen who also served their country. 
 
However, in a shocking newspaper article on the 17th of February it was revealed that “The department of military veterans has withdrawn support for an “imperial” commemoration of a World War 1 shipping disaster in which 646 mainly black South Africans died” 
A retired senior military officer this week described the department’s decision as “abominable and a disgrace”. He said: “This means no military band or guards in fact no formal military presence at a memorial for South Africans who died on service in war.”
(Article in the Sunday Times 17 February 2019 Front page.) 
 
The stance has drawn severe criticism from veterans and organisations, and sadly the Mendi is once again just a porn in a game called political correctness and white washing of history. 
 

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We Will Remember Them.


DRW © 2019. Created 18/02/2019. 

Updated: 18/02/2019 — 18:34

Remembering SAS President Kruger

One of three sister ships (President Steyn, Pretorius and Kruger),  was a Type 12 Frigate, acquired by the South African Navy in the 1960’s. Built in the United Kingdom, she was launched on 20 October 1960 from the Yarrow Shipbuilders, Scotstoun.

SAS President Kruger (F150)

On 18 February 1982, the vessel was conducting anti-submarine exercises with her sister ship the SAS President Pretorius, the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse and the replenishment ship SAS Tafelberg.

SAS Tafelberg replenishing a frigate (source unknown)

The President Kruger was stationed on the Tafelberg’s port side between 10 and 330 degrees, while the the President Pretorius had a reciprocal box on the starboard side. At approximately 4 am, the whole formation had to change direction by 154 degrees which would result in an almost complete reversal in direction. To maintain station the frigates would change direction first to maintain their positions ahead of the  Tafelberg on the new heading. President Kruger had two possible options: turn 200 degrees to port, or 154 degrees to starboard. The starboard turn was a much smaller one but was much more dangerous as it involved  turning towards the Pretorius and Tafelberg.  

The officer of the watch elected to make the starboard turn, initiating 10 a degree turn. that had a larger radius and would take longer to execute than a 15 degree turn, Critically while executing the turn, the operations room lost radar contact with the Tafelberg in the radar clutter. An argument ensued between the officer of the watch and the principal warfare officer over the degree of wheel to apply, it was however too late and the bows of the much bigger Tafelberg impacted the President Kruger on her port side.

The President Kruger sank 78 nautical miles (144 km) south west of Cape Point, with the loss of  16 lives. Because the impact was in the senior ratings mess most of the casualties were Petty Officers which impacted on the Navy due to the loss of so many senior ratings.

Roll of Honour:
AB. G.T. Benjamin
CPO J.P. Booysen
 PO. S.P. Bothma
 PO. G.A.F. Brind
 PO R.C. Bulterman
 PO. G.W. De Villiers
 PO. E. Koen
 PO. H. Lotter
 PO. R.A. Mc Master
 PO. R.F. Skeates
 CPO. H.W. Smit
PO. W.R. Smith
 CPO. W.M.G. Van Tonder
 CPO. D. Webb
 PO. M.B.R. Whiteley
 PO. C.J. Wium
 
1982 Naval Casualties at the SADF Wall of Remembrance
At the naval board of inquiry it was found that there was a  lack of seamanship by the captain and officers of the ship. The inquest apportioned blame on the captain and PWO. However none of the officers was court-martialled.
 
There is a comprehensive look at South African naval casualties on the Observation Post blog
 
DRW © 2019. Created 18/02/2019. The ship two images I cannot source. They come from my collection, but I have no idea where the originals came from. If you are the copyright holder please contact me so that I may acknowledge your historic images.

 

Updated: 17/02/2019 — 08:22

Remembering SAS Southern Floe

HMSAS Southern Floe. (11/02/1941)

One of four Southern Class whalers taken over by the Navy from Southern Whaling & Sealing Co. Ltd., Durban. The four ships were renamed HMSAS Southern Maid, HMSAS Southern Sea, HMSAS Southern Isles and HMSAS Southern Floe. The four little ships, with their complement of 20-25 men,  “went up north” in December 1940. In January 1941, Southern Floe and her sister ship Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk to take over patrol duties along the mine free swept channels and to escort any ships through them.  

HMSAS Southern Maid. (SA Museum of Military History)

On 11 February 1941,  HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at the rendezvous two miles east of Tobruk where she was to meet Southern Floe,  but there was no sign of her. A common enough occurrence as often ships would be delayed by weather or mechanical difficulties or even enemy action. However, a passing destroyer notified the vessel that they had picked up a stoker from the vessel, clinging to some wreckage. The stoker, CJ Jones RNVR, was the sole survivor of the ship, and he explained that there had been a heavy explosion on board and he had barely escaped with his life.  24 Men lost their lives; although never confirmed it is assumed that the vessel had struck a mine. 

CWGC lists 26 South African Naval Casualties from that date as being commemorated on Plymouth Naval Memorial.  

Casualty List from CWGC

There is a comprehensive look at South African naval casualties on the Observation Post blog

DRW © 2018-2019. Created 06/02/2019

Updated: 17/02/2019 — 08:21

Happy Birthday 747

On February 9, 1969, the “Queen of the Skies” made her first flight, and début in the world of transportation. The iconic Boeing 747 (aka “Jumbo Jet”), entered service on January 22, 1970, on Pan Am’s New York–London route, and has been around almost as long as I have; and it is expected there will still be examples flying in 20 years time. My own memories of the Jumbo date back to when the South African Airways pavilion at the Rand Easter Show had a full scale mock-up of the interior of the aircraft. We were in awe of the rows and rows of seats, and could only dream of flying in one. 

My first flight in a Jumbo was on board a Boeing 747-SP from Johannesburg to Seychelles in 1989, and it was chartered Luxair branded aircraft and not a regular commercial flight.

747-SP (Seychelles)

My next flights were with KLM and they were from Johannesburg to Schipol and back and they happened in 2000 and 2001. The return trip was on board a “Kombi” version and the image below I took on my way back to South Africa, but this is not the aircraft I flew in. This is a 747-206B.

747-206B (Schipol)

In 2008 I flew long haul to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, and this is probably my favourite airline.  The image below is of our aircraft on the leg from South Africa, but unfortunately I am unable to identify her.  Our return flight was at night so I did not get any images of the aircraft. However, I seem to think these were 747-400’s and they were very comfortable (or as comfortable as you can get in economy).

My next flights also happened in 2008 and that was a return to the UK, travelling with Virgin Atlantic. I do not have pics of the onward flight, but we flew back on 747-4Q8 G-VBIG “Tinker Belle”.

747-4Q8 G-VBIG “Tinker Belle” (Heathrow)

I also managed to watch this lady landing while waiting for a connection at Heathrow. I think she is a 747-400 but cannot be sure. 

Strangely enough I have not flown on an SAA Jumbo, although the images below are of the two 747’s preserved at the SAA Museum at Rand Airport that I visited in 2009. 

Boeing 747-200, ZS-SAN “Lebombo”

SAA 747-200, ZS-SAN “Lebombo”

Lebombo is the first Jumbo that SAA operated and she was delivered on 22 October 1971, and was in service for 31 years, 11 months, 14 Days. She landed at Rand Airport on Friday 5 March 2004 and it was a very close landing given that Rand Airport is not as large as the international airports that she was used to.  I was fortunate enough to have a tour of her at the museum, although the cockpit and upper deck was out of bounds. 

The museum page on the aircraft  and her service is well worth a visit (as is the real aircraft).

 

747SP-44 ZS-SPC “Maluti”

She was delivered on 11 June 1976 and made her last flight on 0 September 2006.  Unfortunately she was not open at the time of my visit, but she does make an interesting comparison to her fleetmate.

Museum page on Maluti

It is hard to think that in a few years time we will only see Jumbo Jets in movies or in pictures, however, it could be that this aircraft could enter the realm of long lived classics like the DC3. I like to think that they will be with us for a long time, although realistically there are much more economical aircraft around. It is probably the most recognisable passenger jet to fly, and I do not know about others but I really enjoyed travelling in a Jumbo. 

Jumbo passing at an airshow

The London Science Museum has a sliced section of a Jumbo on display, although getting a decent image of it is very difficult. 

When I saw it in 2017 I could not help but ask myself what happened to the mock-up that I saw as a child? it probably ended up as scrap somewhere.

The skies will not be the same without that familiar shape that we all took for granted, but the replacements are cleaner, more efficient and hopefully safer, but they all however seem to use toilets designed in 1920! I may dislike airports but enjoy flying and I am glad I was able to experience these before it is too late. I have flown on the A340-600 as well as the A380 and neither compare to my experiences with the good old Jumbo. 

DRW © 2019, created 09/02/2019 

Updated: 02/03/2019 — 09:06

Now that was quick snow

This past week has been like a giant countdown to the end of the world, or heavy snow depending on what you read. I was working the afternoon shift and Tuesday’s weather forecast was for heavy snow on Thursday evening. I don’t ride my bicycle when it snows or freezes so I could foresee somewhat of a problem with getting home after midnight. Fortunately the forecast was adjusted to light snow for our area, although other parts of the UK were hit by heavy snowfalls. 

This morning it was white outside again, although not as white as it had been in March last year, and because of the times I was working I more or less missed it. These are some of the pics I managed to take on my way to work. It was relatively dark and I used my phone to take them. 

While I was resizing the image above I could not help being struck by how much that looks like a trench during Winter. All that was missing was barbed wire and gunfire.

 

By home time this afternoon there was no sign of snow. Miss Emily is not amused!

DRW © 2019. Created 01/02/2019

Updated: 17/02/2019 — 08:21
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