Category: Hampshire

Farewell Oriana

*Update: 16/08/2019.*

Today Oriana sailed from Southampton under her new name “Piano Land”. Stripped of her new P&O corporate branding she headed off to an uncertain future in China. It is possible she will be very successful in her new role and only time will tell. Fair weather and safe seas for your future Oriana. You will not be forgotten.  

The images below are all courtesy of Steve Carrett and are used with permission. 

Destored and with her new name on her bows, Oriana is ready to leave

Aurora is berthed behind Oriana as she makes ready to sail

That last glimpse of a great ship

Steve Carrett shot this video of her departure.

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* end update*

Ships are strange things, they  are sometimes regarded with fondness by those who sail in them, and there are plenty of examples of that affection. I am sure that nobody really gives a hoot about a mass produced airliner, but a classic ship is a whole different ball game.  Sadly this month sees the withdrawal of one of the few remaining classic cruise ships left. It was announced that the Oriana was to be withdrawn and had been sold for service in China in August.

What makes her special is that she was built as a replacement for the legendary Canberra and incorporates aspects of her design in her structure.  While she does not have the wonderful curves of the Great White Whale, she was a worthy successor, becoming more popular each year and building up a legendary following.

Canberra in Durban

The logic behind her disposal is a puzzling one, and there are a few possible scenarios: she could be mechanically troublesome, she does not fit in with the Carnival Cruises group “image”, she is getting on in years (she was launched on 30 June 1994), there are not enough balcony cabins in her, etc. We are not privy to these decisions, but we sure as heck can condemn them. 

My own association with the ship dates from 1997 when I undertook a short hop from Durban to Cape Town on her and I was also able to work on her as a baggage handler back in 2013. It was never fun to work on board her when doing baggage because you literally worked yourself to a standstill. 

A VOYAGE ON THE ORIANA.
 22-03-97 to 24-03-97. Durban-Cape Town

The announcement that Canberra would be replaced by a new ship was greeted with much dismay by everybody. The concept vessel shown to the media was criticised as being too much like a wedding cake and too little like Canberra. She was built by Joseph Meyer of Papenburg, Germany and entered service in 1995. Soon it was announced that this ship, known as Oriana, would be calling in Durban during her 1997 world cruise. The time had come for us to sail again. I was one of the first South Africans to book the short Durban to Cape Town trip, I phoned as the voyage was made available. Needless to say I took what I could get! The berth that I chose was a shared 4 berth inside cabin. This berth was guaranteed but I would only know my cabin number once the ship arrived, something that would play in my favour once she was in Durban.

Then it was time to wait and watch the exchange rate. The ship was due in Durban on 22 March, arriving in Cape Town on 24 March, a short 1 day and two night hop. By now Rudi had booked as well and we started counting the days.

Postcard view of the Oriana shortly after she entered service

As the sailing grew closer I decided that I would return to Durban on Symphony just for fun and went ahead and booked that as well. Now I had two ships to look forward to and an empty bank account.

Early in the morning, on Friday the 21st we departed on the long drive to Durban. Howard was at the helm and for once we made the trip down in daylight! The problem was that the grotty weather was coming too and we hit the usual rain at Van Reenen and all the way to Durban. Duly arriving we headed off for lunch on board the 40000 ton container ship, MSC Samia. before dropping Rudi and his girl friend off at their sleeping place. The rest of us made for the tug Jannie Oelofsen where we would be spending the night. There were not too many movements on the go and yet they were all very interesting.
 
Our last movement was to a ship which seemed really decrepit, its lines could not reach the quayside and she was having engine problems. On arrival back at the tug jetty we found Ken Malcolm, who joined Neville and Clive Bush on the pilot boat while Howard and I hopped on to the tug. The pilot boat headed out to sea to drop off a pilot at Symphony and one at Oriana. Our tug was allocated to Oriana, and with the weather finally clearing, we awaited our first glimpse of this great ship. Symphony waddled in first, looking as great as ever but she was soon to be overwhelmed by what was astern of her.
Our first sight of Oriana was of a huge white ship which really was not attractive when foreshortened. However, once she was in view and had turned completely then only could we appreciate her. She was huge, dazzling white and perfectly trimmed onto her waterline. Equipped with three bow thrusters, twin screws, twin rudders and a stern thruster, she berthed herself while the tugs stood off in awe. As far as I remember she was the second biggest cruise ship to enter Durban (QE2 was the biggest)
 
Dropped off by the tug we quickly collected the guys and we headed for the ship. There was no doubt that she was big, she towered over everything in sight and made Symphony look like a toy. We headed down to the gangway where I attempted to get the guys on board as Rudi had not organised a ship visit. There was no luck in that department, however I was taken on board to get my cabin number and booked in as well. I now had a boarding pass and could come and go as I pleased. I got off again and we all went around to Symphony to look at her, alas there was no visit organised either. Time was passing, and the smell of food was rather urgent so I said my farewells to everybody and headed for my newest ship….
 
The entrance is on F deck where the reception desk and bottom of the 5 deck atrium is situated. The carpets are a light green colour and a fountain gurgles behind the staircase. One deck up are  the shops with the Peninsular restaurant midships and Oriental restaurant aft. The next deck has a spectacular wrap around promenade as well as the Pacific lounge, Lords Tavern, Harlequins lounge, the casino, Andersons with its club like atmosphere, and the really spectacular Theatre Royal. D deck houses the children’s playrooms, Chaplains Cinema, library, The Crichton complex and passenger cabins.
 
The next three decks are devoted solely to cabins with the Lido deck right on top of all of these. Here is found the conservatory where the buffet is served. The two pools are on this deck as well as the gym. The deck surrounding this area has a jogging track around the ship while the entrance to the Crows Nest is found forward. There are three sets of lifts in the ship and they all work!. The terrace pool is situated on the promenade deck aft and the view from the sun deck down to the stern where this pool is, is really spectacular. The massive buff funnel crowns the whole package and is easily recognisable for miles.
The images below were taken in 2013 with my cellphone and I make no excuses for quality.
Surprisingly enough, the ship, in-spite of its size is relatively simple to find your way around. My cabin was on E deck and the number two staircase was just around the corner. Inside, the cabin was small but neat. There were three other guys in the cabin, one of whom was on his sixth world cruise and who had been on since Southampton. There was a fridge, TV, mini-safe and every other amenity imaginable in that cabin. The missing porthole was not really a problem. Once on deck, I watched Symphony sail and as she passed I could almost look down her funnel. By the time we sailed it was late and the light was failing and it looked like rain was brewing again. The wind howled us off the decks and we all headed below. There was very little vibration or motion on board and it was very difficult to think that you were on board a ship.
Being such a big ship, there is never any feeling of crowds of people, in fact I wonder how full she really was? There was quite a bit to do on board, bars to visit, shops to ogle, movies to attend and of course food to scoff. I had eaten lunch at the conservatory and if it was any indication of the standard of service on board then we were really in for a treat. I was not disappointed as we sat down for supper in the Peninsular restaurant.
The service was brilliant with two very articulate and polite stewards catering for our every need. There was food galore, in fact too much food for one sitting as far as I am concerned. However it was dispatched with great gusto and we all retired that night feeling somewhat bloated. More food awaited us at breakfast, again in the conservatory. The place was so big that It never really was crowded and the queues were quite small.
Our next visit was to reception where we enquired whether it was possible to present our World Ship Society plaque to the master. After some phone calls we were told that we would be informed, so off we scuttled, meeting at the jacuzzi. We spent the morning eating ice cream in the jacuzzi with a howling wind around us. On arrival back at the cabin I discovered that our visit to the master was scheduled for 11H30 and it was 11H20 already. Needless to say I could not find Rudi and I had some quick explaining to do to the captain’s secretary. The visit was rescheduled for later that day and off we went for more food! Lunch over, we were introduced to the master and presented our plaque. I was also able to grab a pic from her bridge wing, and as you can see the weather was improving. 
Once we finished off there it was as if we had accomplished all that had to be done and the rest of the time I spent on a deck chair on that glorious promenade watching the sea go by. After all, isn’t that what sea travel is all about?
 
The next morning it was up early to watch the approach to Cape Town. We passed Cape Point around 06H30 but there were clouds around everything and we could not see very much. We entered Cape Town harbour about 08H30, the tugs were spraying water and on the quayside a band played stirring nautical type tunes.
This time Oriana had lines on the tugs and she did not berth herself. A mediocre crowd awaited us as we slowly started our disembarkation. Once off the ship I met up with my lift and we went to drop my luggage before heading out to town. The ship dominated everything and we could see that huge funnel for miles.
That night in cold weather the Oriana took her leave, sailing slowly past us as we stood at the quayside, her lights were all burning and the funnel glowed in the spotlights. As she dropped the pilot I could see the tiered decks that overlooked the terrace pool. I had stood there not too long ago, now it was over and Oriana was on her way home. I had another ship to catch the next day, but would anything ever compare? somehow I doubted it. The Symphony may be a great ship, but she is not in the same league as Oriana was.
Southampton 2013.
I saw Oriana many times in Southampton, and the biggest difference that I saw was a “ducktail” that had been added to her stern. It did not enhance her looks at all and you could see it was an afterthought. I worked baggage on her one day and snuck away at lunch time and took the pics you see above. It was like visiting an old friend, she was familiar, but not as familiar. I never thought that I would see her leaving P&O at such a young age and I really hoped that one day I would be able to do another short voyage on her. My shipwatch entry for Oriana may be found here.  
 
Farewell Oriana, long may you still be with us and may you care for those who sail in you the way you always did. Safe harbours and fair weather in your voyages. You will be missed. 
 
 

(1500×797)

DRW © 2019. Created 25/07/2019. Updated 17/08/2019.  Last sailing images courtesy of Steve Carrett. 
Updated: 09/09/2019 — 10:28

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: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

Retrospective: The Old Southampton City Walls (1)

Getting back to the city walls.

Cast your mind back to 1450 for a moment, and imagine that you were approaching Southampton by pigeon or seagull or UFO, and this is what you would be looking at (more or less). Use this image as a reference when trying to understand this post. 

Surprisingly a lot of the old walls still survive in the city, although it is a hit and miss thing because age, progress, bombers, politicians and n’er-do-wells have all left their marks on the remains. In some places there are ruins that are identified as being a specific feature of the walls and in this post I am going to try to make some sort of coherent exploration of the the town walls. A lot of of time has passed since I was last in Southampton so I do not really remember too much. However, the map below may be of use to somebody interested in them.  I have had to split this post into two separate pages as it has grown quite a lot since I started trying to create a coherent record of what I saw. This page deals with the western half from the Bargate to the High Street

Key to image above:

1 – Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower, 4 – Catchcold Tower, 5 – Castle East Gate, 6 – Medieval Boat Building,  7 – Westgate, 8 – Pilgrim Fathers and Stella Memorial, 9 – Yacht Club, 10 – The Wool House, 11 – Watergate, 12 – God’s House Tower 13 – Round Tower, 14 – Friary Gate, 15 – Polymond Tower, 16 – York Gate,  

The most obvious remnant of the walls is the Bargate. 

The Bargate (North side)

The Bargate sits plumb in the middle of High Street that originates (or terminates) at the shoreline, and at one point the road ran through the main gateway and it is quite odd to see images of a bus poking its nose out of there. Eventually the roads were diverted to either side of it but that meant that portions of the city walls were removed. Nowadays the area around it is pedestrianised but there were not too many viable businesses left in the shops around it.  

The other side of the Bargate (South side)

“During the 12th century the northern entrance to the medieval town was a single round archway. In the 13th century two round towers were added and early in the 15th century the North Front was extended. The Guildhall was formerly the town’s administrative centre and used for public functions and for performances by companies of strolling players” (text from a plaque on the Bargate). 

The building has seen use as a prison, Guildhall, police station, museum, storeroom and probably other things that I do not know about. Unfortunately when I was in Southampton no part of it was accessible, which was really quite disappointing. 

1- Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower

Looking at the map above, to the left of the Bargate is a feature of one of the walls that I covered in a previous blogpost called “Someone is watching you”

That someone is John Le Fleming, former Mayor of Southampton from 1295 till 1336, and I suspect he may be looking with distaste at the consumerism that happens at the nearby West Quay. The Bargate is in line with this set of walls and and you can see one of the lions outside it just behind the lamp post. If you turned around and walked away from John Le Fleming you will cross a bridge and this is the view you get after the bridge and you can see the Bargate in the distance.

Arundel Tower

The next major structure in the chain of wall is called “Arundel Tower”

Arundel Tower and old city walls heading south (1500 x 646)

“Arundel Tower may be named after the magical horse of Sir Bevois, one of the founders of Southampton. Legend has it that Arundel was so fast he could outfly swallows. When Sir Bevois died the horse flung himself from the tower in sorrow. 

Sir John Arundel, a knight and keeper of Southampton in 1377, could also be the Tower’s namesake.

In 1400 you could have looked out from the tower and heard the lapping of the water below. The Tower’s open back design prevented attackers from laying siege, while the wall, running south along the shore of the River Test, protected the town from sea raids” 

Arundel Tower and Orchard Street)

The above text and image comes from an information board at the tower.

In the image below, the tower is on the left and it matches up reasonably well with the painting above, although at the time I took this the area was a car park.  Apparently the round tower to the right of Arundel and in front of the office building was called Catchcold Tower. It is always possible the men standing guard there coined the phrase because of their exposed position.

Catchcold Tower

The view from Catchcold Tower looking South is very different now to what it must have been so long ago. The high building in the image may be the one mentioned in the information plaque for the Castle East Gate as standing on the site of the former Southampton Castle.

The Castle East Gate

It provided access into the town from the Castle’s Inner Bailey and while no longer connected to the wall it is surviving portion of the original Southampton Castle.

Unfortunately I did not photograph the information plaque, but the transcription reads:

“The remains of the drum towers flanking the principle gateway to Southampton’s Medieval Castle were discovered through archaeological excavations in 1961. the castle itself formerly stood on the site now occupied by a 20th century block of 12 storey flats. the twin drum towers, now partially restored, were added to the defensive bailey wall of the Royal Caste during the late 14th century and were originally over 20 ft high.”

Blue Anchor Lane

One of the gaps in the walls is at Blue Anchor Lane. “It was used to take imported goods from the Quayside into the medieval town and the Market at St Michael’s Square. The stone arch forms part of the town walls. The Portcullis slot is still visible. In the 1330’s Blue Anchor Lane was known as Wytegods Lane after John Wytegod, the owner of the property now known as King John’s Palace which stands to the south..” (Information board transcription)

The Arcades,  West Gate and West Quay

I did not take many photographs of these, which is a pity because I believe they are quite rare. The arcades closed  off access to West Quay other than through the newly built Westgate. I will be honest though, I do not really understand how this area comes together because it has an inside and an outside aspect to it. The original West Quay jutted out into the water near here. 

The image below is the back of the Westgate (town side). On the image above this gate would be on the right hand side of the white building (“The Pig”)

The information plaque on the outside wall reads:

“This important west gate led directly to the West Quay which for many centuries was the only commercial quay that the town possessed. The grooves of the portcullis gate and the apertures through which the defenders of the town could harass attackers may still be seen. Through the archway marched some of the army of Henry V on their way to Agincourt in 1416.

The Pilgrim Fathers embarked here from the West Quay on the Mayflower August 15th 1620.”

On the inside wall there is a somewhat mysterious plaque that really needs some research on.

Medieval boat building

If you followed this wall southwards along the Western Esplanade you will come across an area set up to display the long lost art of Medieval boat building, and the information plate credited the display as being funded by the Southampton International Boatshow. Personally I liked the display, but sadly it was being vandalised by the time I left the city at the end of 2013. I only photographed it twice when I was there, which with hindsight is a pity. 

There was a general information board that covers various aspects of ship (or boat) building the old fashioned way, and I am reproducing it here, unfortunately it will not really be legible as it is a large board on a small screen.

The arched area that you can see in the image above is called “The Arcades” but I did not photograph it. The White building is “The Pig” and the Westgate is the arched doorway next to it (closest to the camera) 

The boat above is a replica medieval cargo vessel and it would have been used in the 14th century to export wool and import wine and other goods.  This boat suffered the most vandalism as some bright spark made a fire inside it (or possibly tried to set fire to it). That is why people can’t have good stuff! 

You really have to view these items as part of a much bigger picture of Southampton so many years ago as opposed to the glitzy West Quay development nearby. As I mentioned before the city was walled and very different then to what it is now.  The current Western Docks required the reclamation of 400 acres of mudflats between Western Esplanade and Millbrook shore. It was the largest reclamation scheme ever undertaken in the country at that time and the work started in 1928 and was completed by 1934. Way back in the 14 century the shoreline was in a totally different place, even lapping at the quays that may have existed in front of these self same walls. 

Western Docks (1500×402)

Further down from the boat building and just before the Stella and Pilgrim Fathers Memorial are another short series of arcades.

The image below was taken from the battlements of this structure and you can see the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial behind the tree.

The arcades are really the last stretch of high walls on this western side of the city, from here onwards the wall is quite low and interrupted by the very beautiful former Yacht Club building that was standing empty during my time in the city.

While the building next door to it was the site of the former Maritime Museum before that moved to the Civic Centre Complex (and became a Titanic Museum and not a Maritime Museum). The building is actually called “The Wool House”

These two properties are prime real estate because they face onto the waterfront (actually the Red Funnel Ferry Terminal) and the length of street in front of them is a very busy one. Just after the old museum there is a grassed open area and the walls do not exist as a contiguous structure. The area around Porter Lane has ruins as opposed to walls. 

The only real part of the wall that exists in this area is known as “The Round Tower” and it is indicated by the red arrow below. This area is the southern entrance to the city and is also known as the South Gate.

 

From behind and in front.

There is also a Jane Austen plaque affixed to the stonework.  Like so many places Southampton, tries to grasp at straws from her life, and frankly I do not really see the connection too much. I will however allow you to make your own decision. As I have said before, the city I was seeing was very different to the one that was around in 1912 when the Titanic sank, or during the Victorian era and the Middle Ages. 

The Watergate (not related to Richard Nixon) was in this area. Although logically the land has been extended outwards from this point because the current Town Quay is no longer butting onto the edge of the city. As far as I can see the period quays were really where the Town Quay Road is today. 

Customs House and Town Quay

This area also has one of the main roads (High Street) into the city and the bus from Town Quay travels up this road to get to the station. If you follow the road on foot you will end up walking into the back of the Bargate.

Town Quay from High Street

That concludes the walls on the western side of the city, we will cross High Street on the next page. Use the arrow to turn the page. 

forwardbut

Acknowledgements.

There are probably much better sites out there that can give a more coherent picture of the walls, and one of these is CastlesFortsBattles.co.uk that has a whole page dedicated to the ancient fortifications of the city.

Wikipedia has a few pages dedicated to various parts of the wall, the Town Walls Page is a good place to start

Don’t panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition has a good write up on the walls  too

Sotonopedia has a searchable index that is quite helpful too

There is a very nice PDF available for download at at discoversouthampton.co.uk

The Southampton City Council also has an 1870 Ordnance Survey Map of the city available

Much of the information here is from the numerous information boards and plaques provided by the Southampton City Counceil that relate to specific places in the walls, and they are a mine of information as well as useful images. I do not know who did the original artwork that I have used and would love to credit them accordingly. 

DRW ©2013-2018. Created retrospectively 11-16/05/2018

Updated: 13/08/2018 — 12:51
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