musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Hobbies and Interests

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: 14/04/2018 — 17:48

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 logic 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, so quick looking up reveals that the statue if 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 inbetween 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: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

Four Ships Week

Regular readers will know that I have slowly been adding in rerminders 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 war ships 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 informtation 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 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: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

Counting down the days

Having left South Africa we are almost at our destination… sort of.

En route to London

My post for 02/03/2013 has the following to say:

“It was time to put my new visa to the test, and surprisingly enough passing through immigration was easy. Now I had to find my way to Kennington in South London which was where I was staying until 8 Feb. There were 3 options: Heathrow Express, Tube, or Coach. I suspect I am sucker for a train so chose the Tube. I had to change trains at 3 different places but surprisingly that in itself was a breeze.  I do remember sitting on that tube from Heathrow with my luggage and heavy eyes from the lack of sleep; with people all around tied up in their own world of cell phones, headsets or books. They were on their way to work, I was on my way to a new life.” 

I have never forgotten that tube ride, it was my first time riding the tube too, but I think at that point I was feeling very uncertain of what I was doing. Fortunately finding your way on the tube is reasonably simple, assuming you know how to read a tube map  you can get almost anywhere in London. The only tube line that runs to Heathrow is the Piccadilly Line, and I rode it to Leicester Square where I changed to the Northern Line and bailed out at Kennington, and then did a short hop to Oval Station for some or other odd reason.

When I exited Oval Station I was very disorientated and I had been hoping to find a taxi to take me to my destination, but contrary to my expectations there were no taxis at Oval. I re-orientated myself, grabbed my suitcase by the hand and headed down the road. My suitcase was not one of the wheelie bags, it was a suitcase with a set of wheels on one corner and a handle on the other. It rolled easily enough assuming that the pavement was level. By the time I got to where I would be staying I was exhausted. But I had arrived. 

Camberwell New Road

The owner of the flat had cooked me breakfast although she was not at home at the time and a friend of hers showed me the ins and outs of where the loo was and how the shower worked and all that sort of stuff. I seem to recall I only met the owner the next morning. While I had not really crossed too many time zones I was still tired after being on the go from the afternoon of the 28th up till the afternoon of the 1st. I did not have a sim card for my phone yet and that was something I needed to do and I seem to recall that afternoon heading down to Camberwell after having a shower to buy myself a watch and a sim for my phone. The shenanigans of my watch having finally cheesed me off enough! Strangely enough I still wear that replacement Timex that I bought at Argos for $19.99.  

I spotted a cellphone shop somewhere and did some enquires about airtime packages. The person on the other side of the counter was a South African and she recommended I rather go try a place up the road because the people she worked for were overpriced. It was quite an odd encounter but I did appreciate her honesty so ended up going elsewhere and was connected probably an hour later. That cell phone package would come back and bite me in the rear end as we got to the end of the month, and my time in London. 

Brixton

Opening a bank account was easy as it had been pre-arranged, all I had to do was sign on the dotted line and bob was my uncle! However, the banking worked slightly differently to how we do things in South Africa and it took me a long time to get used to it. It too would bite me in the rear end when I left London in March. 

St Mark’s Church, Kennington

My immediate need for accommodation was solved when my landlady (another South African), let me stay for another month while I sorted myself out. She was very helpful and weaned me off the tube and showed me how to use buses! I had not travelled on one of those in years either and the bus service is London is amazingly efficient although it can be very crowded at peak times. Do not expect to see any smiles either because nobody seemed to smile on the buses. If only they had experienced the poor public transport back in SA they would have jumped for joy at what they had in this incredible city. 

I will admit I did a lot of the touristy things in that month, but it was very clear that there were a few snag in my job search. For starters I had to get my qualifications assessed and that would take at least 3 weeks. I was a tad too old to work in the customer service industry and I was really struggling with my hearing. There was a lot of competition for some of the jobs and I was at somewhat of a disadvantage. I was however prepared to relocate, although did not find any jobs outside of London at the time. The usual lack of feedback or responses by agencies also happened in the UK, and of course I also sat with that almost 2 year gap in my CV after my retrenchment. I did know one thing though, I had to get out of London and Southampton was really my city of choice. With hindsight it was a bad choice, if anything I should have headed to Reading or Basingstoke, but purposely avoided the latter  because it supposedly had a lot of South Africans in it. I wanted to avoid those if I could. It is not that I dislike my countrymen, its just that I tend to see things differently to how many of them see it.   

Kennington Park

My time in London spanned from 01 March till I left on 7 April. I saw a lot of things in that month and literally walked myself into exhaustion. The one issue that had plagued me in London was what I suspect may have been shin splints, although it may have been as a result of the extended cramped conditions on the 2 flights. Irrespective of what it was I was in pain for quite a lot of the time. Unfortunately I am allergic to ibuprofen and almost everything that I saw had Ibuprofen in it!  I also discovered that many of the pharmacists are really poor compared to what I was used to in SA. I battled for quite a long time to rid myself of the problem, but it was not fun at the time. 

I won’t even try to explain all I saw or all I did in London, there was just so much. My London folder has over 13000 images in it, and it is doubtful whether there are 2000 of them on this blog.  I started blogging halfheartedly in January 2011 and it really took off when I hit London. All of my travels are in here, and I often go back and reread what my thoughts were back then. I recall that I was at Lewisham one day and while I was there I found the old military hospital, and it was at that hospital where my grandfather was treated after being wounded at Delville Wood. It was a strange encounter, and I could not help but wonder what he thought of the place. I had a love/hate relationship with Lewisham for some unfathomable reason, and yet it turned out to be a very handy location for some of the places I visited. 

Lewisham

A lot of the places that I visited were “cities of the dead”;  when I left South Africa I thought that I would not be doing any war grave photography in the UK. I was very wrong and have photographed twice as many war graves here than I photographed in South Africa.  

At this point I will stop my waffling and draw your attention to the London galleries that I have added to the blog. They can be found under the old Photo-Essay pages.  My London Memorials page is at allatsea

It is also worth looking at the index for March 2013 and the many links inside it. Theoretically they all open in a new tab/page

Finally  I would like to thank my landlady in Kennington, we lost touch in 2014, and I hope that she is still well and has managed to sort herself out with a decent job. Thank you for everything you did for me. 

DRW © 2013-2018. Initially created around about 01/03/2013 but still adding bits as I go along. 

Updated: 18/03/2018 — 16:13

Three ships month

February has become known as a month where South Africa lost a number of men in shipping disasters. These are the three:

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. 

SAS President Kruger (18/02/1982) 

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. 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. 

HMT Mendi (21/02/1917)

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 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. Many would perish from exposure that night and 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. 

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The deep sea is a place fraught with danger, made even worse by wartime restrictions and the ever present weather conditions that often hamper navigation and the safe operation of a ship. In the case of the Southern Floe enemy action was responsible for her loss, while the President Kruger and Mendi sank following a collision. The Mendi has only recently become important once again and we probably know more about it now than we did before. Sadly, there are none alive who can tell us how it happened.  It is however important that we remember these disasters, and the loss of lives that were the result. And, to remember the families of those who never saw their loved ones again. 

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

We Will Remember Them.

 
DRW © 2018. Created 10/02/2018. 
Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:28

A last farewell

This post is one that I have dreaded for quite some time, and the time has finally come to make it. However, there is much more to it than a mere farewell, because it is really the culmination of many parts. It really starts way back in the in 1992 when I first saw the newly built RMS St Helena in Cape Town from the Canberra. Both of these vessels are legends, but at the moment we are more interested in the RMS. and this was the first photograph that I took of her. 

Because her prices were in £ she was very expensive to sail on, and a short cruise was not easy to get because she ploughed a long furrow between Cape Town, St Helena, Ascension Island and finally the UK. She was amongst the last passenger ships doing a dedicated line voyage and was also amongst the few ships left that flew the Royal Mail pennant. 

RMS at St Helena. Image courtesy of Sabrina Harper

By some weird piece of luck I heard about spaces being available on board her for the voyage to Tristan da Cunha  that was happening in  1993, and I took a chance and booked passage. It was not cheap by any means and I am thankful for my travel agent who helped me with my booking and the associated flights to and from Cape Town.

Naturally sailing day was a long drag away. I was stuck in a dead end job with a company I loathed, and was only too glad to get away from them for awhile. Around about the same time I picked up issues with my health and ended up having to lug a stash of pills on board with me. There was no way in hell I would be stopped by aches and pains. The report of my voyage exists on allatsea so I am not going to repeat it, suffice to say I enjoyed it thoroughly; Tristan was a fascinating destination, but the ship was so much better. She is really a hybrid passenger and cargo ship and of course does not have the glitz and glamour of the modern cruise ships, if anything she really came from a much nicer era of travel. Her crew were composed of a mixture of “Saints” and ex Union-Castle staff and of course that meant that I was experiencing just a tiny piece of the legacy of the glorious  Union-Castle mail ships. 

I was very fortunate to get that opportunity of a voyage and I kept an eye on her as much as was possible in the intervening years. At some point she stopped calling in the UK, and she was managed by Andrew Weir Shipping as opposed to Curnow Shipping. Work was started on an airport at St Helena and that was really the death knell of my favourite ship, although it was still a number of years away. 

A number of years have passed, the airport was ready to open and it was announced that the RMS would make one final voyage to the UK, arriving in June 2016. At first I thought “Who do I know that can get me pics?” And then I decided I would get them myself and set out for London  on the 7th of June to see the RMS for the last time.   I have told that story before and you can read about it on the blogpost.

The airport was not without its problems though and the RMS was granted a reprieve for another year and a half. 

A year and a half has passed, and sadly the RMS has sailed from Cape Town on her last voyage. The moment that all of her many fans dreaded has finally arrived. 

What of her future? she is came into service in 1990 so is already over 27 years old and is already in the zone where a replacement should have been on the table. She has always had engine issues, and recently had to return to drydock for repairs in Simonstown. The odds of her finding a reputable buyer is really very small, and the odds of her becoming a static hotel in St Helena is even smaller. Unless a buyer can be found she will make one last voyage to the beach, and that will be incredibly sad. However, rather she gets broken up than stuck in some backwater and left to rot.  I am a realist, and preserving ships in a very costly business, even one as small as her. 

I remember many years ago a print advert for Union-Castle that showed the inside of a jet aircraft and a view from the window. It more or less said: “From (date unknown) this is the view you will see when you go to England (or South Africa).” That is now also true of those who wish to visit St Helena Island. 

She will be sadly missed, there will never be another like her. 

The end of the era has come.

Glenn Kasner took photo’s of that last sailing and these images are copyright to him. I am using them with permission.

Sadly she had somewhat of a poor send off, but thanks to the tug for showing some respect.  And while Cape Town hardly budged from their torpor the same could not be said about her send off at St Helena. These images were kindly sent to me by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission.

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The Master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

Farewell RMS, fair weather for your final journeys. Thank you for the experience of real sea travel the way it used to be.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks. At this point there has been no announcement as to when she will sail from Cape Town for the last time. 

DRW © 2018. Created 25/01/2018. Cape Town sailing images are by Glen Kasner © 2018 and last 3 by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission, updated 15/02/2018, additional images added  18/04/2018

Updated: 18/04/2018 — 18:44

Lost at Sea: HMY Iolaire

This past year I have been busy with shipping disasters that tie into the First World War, and this post is about one of them. This particular tragedy occurred on the 1st of January 1919 and concerns HM Yacht Iolaire. I originally wrote this in October 2017, but am moving it to the 1st of January to commemorate the disaster. 

During the September and October 2017, while adding information to Lives of the First World War I encountered the grave of a crewman from HMY Iolaire that went down in the early hours of New Years Day 1919. I had bumped into the name of this vessel before so I decided to do some looking further and I was shocked by what I found.

The Iolaire was a former private yacht that had been pressed into naval service in the Outer Hebrides, and on old years eve 1918 she was hurriedly loaded with over 200 members of the Royal Naval Reserve to take them to the Island of Lewis.  That passage is fraught with danger for those who do not know these waters; rough seas, an unforgiving coastline and submerged reefs are all just waiting for the right moment to spring their deadly trap. The RNR men were all inhabitants from this area, most had served and survived through the war years, often serving in minelayers or small craft that performed a very necessary function, but without the glitz and glamour associated with a much larger vessel. Their own knowledge of the sea meant that these experienced seamen were much in demand by the Royal Navy, and they performed admirably in the roles they filled. It was almost the beginning of a new year and they had survived the war and the flu epidemic and Hogmanay was looming. The Iolaire would take them home to waiting families, and there were more men than spaces on that ill-fated vessel.  Crowded with happy reservists she would sail into destiny from the pier at  Kyle of Lochalsh. 

Back home on Lewis; parents, wives and children were preparing to welcome home their men, it would be a festive occasion because Hogmanay is very much an important part of the people around Scotland and these islands. Some of the men had not been home in a long time, and with the war over all that was left was demobilisation and a return home. There were brothers and neighbours on that ship from a small community that worked hard and who lived an often precarious existence. On board the yacht some of the men slept, some talked, others swapped yarns and compared their military service with men that they did not know. The master of the vessel was Commander Richard Gordon Mason and once they had sailed the commander went below, presumably to sleep, leaving  Lieutenant Leonard Edmund Cotter in charge. These were not amateur seamen but experienced men who knew how to handle ships. 

The Beasts of Holm is a rocky outcrop near the harbour and Iolaire was driving towards it, with seemingly nobody in charge attempting to rectify the situation.  To make matters worse the weather was starting to get rough, and the darkness compounded the problem.  It also emerged that there was no lookout stationed in the bows of the vessel, although given the darkness and how little time there would be to make course corrections it was really a moot point. 

Below the men had no way of knowing the calamity to come, and when the ship struck the rocks they were all in immediate danger. The chances are that many died almost immediately, but for others it was the beginning of a life or death struggle. Many were encumbered by their heavy uniforms and unfamiliarity with the ship, To make matters worse she did not have life-saving equipment for them all, the lifeboats were few, and in the heaving seas trying to launch them successfully would be almost impossible as the ship plunged and ground her iron plates on the rocks. There was also a lack of guidance coming from the bridge although Lt Cotter remained on it but very little is known of the whereabouts of Commander Mason.

The tragedy was unfolding almost 20 yards from land, but nobody on land was aware that a ship was dieing on their doorstep, and that the men had very few minutes to save themselves. Some tried to swim for safety but in the cold wild waters almost none would make it. One brave man managed to get ashore with a rope and a hand over hand crossing was established, but the sea would clear that vital rope of its cargo on more than one occasion, but men were getting ashore,  often battered and bleeding but alive.

On the bridge rockets were now being fired but these lacked the percussive element that would alert the people on the land, the rockets that were fired from the ship were taken as part of the celebration of the first year of peace, and a lookout on land reported a blue light as a “request for a pilot”. There were really many things that went wrong on that night and the end result would devastate the small community of Lewis

Once the alarm had been sounded on land things moved at a frustratingly slow pace; people had to be woken up, keys had to be found, horses found, cars hired and so on. By the time all of it had been coordinated it was too late, the ship had gone down, those who could reach safety had, although one man still clung to the mast. The morning light revealed the carnage, dead men washed up on the shore, or drifting in the sea, exhausted survivors looking for help and trying to find their friends or family that may have survived. The full horror was still to come as the islanders tried to take stock of what had happened. Isolated families were notified and the festivities of Hogmanay would be forgotten as married women found that they were now widows while their children were unable to understand the magnitude of the tragedy that was unfolding around them.

Aftermath.

The dead were gradually gathered in and taken to a hastily evacuated ammunition store that now served as a mortuary. Small boats scoured the area looking for and recovering bodies, while parties on shore walked the jagged coastline, hoping to find survivors, but the sea had not given up all of it’s dead.  Of the ship there was little trace, and a number of bodies were invariably trapped within its flooded compartments.

The community where this disaster had unfolded was never the same again, families would grieve for many years, while those who had lived through it would suffer from “survivors guilt”. A commission of inquiry was set up but it could find no real reason for why the ship ended up on the Beasts of Holm in the first place. There was nobody alive who could explain the sequence of events that had led to the ship hitting the rocks, and naturally scapegoats would be sought so as not to throw the spotlight on high ranking officers or the Admiralty. 

A further inquiry was launched to establish more facts and possibly apportion blame, and generally it seemed to do a reasonable job given the difficulties involved, but no real reason behind the accident was ever found. Those that knew went down with the ship.  

The dead are buried in many places. I found a crewman buried in Portsmouth while a search at CWGC under 01/01/1919 will bring up a long list of men who are buried in a number of cemeteries in the community and surrounding settlements, while some are commemorated on the Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham Naval Memorials. There is a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Island of Lewis, but is is a rarely visited memorial because the story is almost forgotten.

The Iolaire Memorial, Holm Point, near Stornoway, Lewis

Young children would grow and watch as the world plunged once again into a mad war, some would following in the footsteps of the previous generation and serve their country, and once again women would mourn those who never returned. The story of the sinking of the Iolaire is more than a story about a small ship foundering, it is about complacency and negligence and about a community ripped apart in the early morning of a new year. 

Sadly the men of the Iolaire are mostly forgotten now, occasionally someone like me will stumble on the story and ask the same questions that were asked almost 100 years ago. We will not find any answers either. Unfortunately a number of difficulties facing anybody who is researching the disaster is trying to make sense of the Scottish naming conventions that often leave a researcher with multiple occurrences of the same name. There is also a lack of information in general as to the men who served in the Merchant Navy as well as the Royal Navy Reserve,  most of these me were members of the latter. Fortunately somebody has done the work for me and there is a Roll of Honour that I found very useful. 

There is not a lot of information out there. A good place to start is the The sinking of H.M.Y. Iolaire – 1 January 1919 page, as well as the Wikipedia page and of course the relevant CWGC pages for individual casualties. I bought a very good book called: “When I Heard the Bell: The Loss of the Iolaire” by John MacLeod (Edinburgh: Birlinn Press. ISBN 978-1-84158-858-2.), and it went into aspects that I had not even considered before. 

The Iolaire was built in 1881 by Ferguson of Leith. (634 tons) and her original name was Iolanthe. This was later changed to Mione, and later, to Amalthaea. She is however not to be confused with the  Iolaire that was owned by Sir Donald Currie. In 1915, the luxury sailing yacht Amalthaea was commandeered by the Admiralty and converted and armed for anti-submarine warfare and coastal patrols. Her owner was Mr Michael Duff-Assheton Smith, who later became Sir Michael Duff. He had bought her from the Duke of Westminster.

I am not finished with the Iolaire tragedy, so I do not consider this page as completed. There is still so much to find out, but even if I do not complete it be rest assured that the story of the loss of the Iolaire will remain with me for a long time.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21/07/2017. Image of Iolaire Memorial is © Stephen Branley and is being used under the the Creative Commons  Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Image has been cropped, darkened  and resized. 

Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:29

Connections: It’s a record!

As I said in a post awhile ago, “connections” is all about how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It can be fascinating to work your way through a series and to tie it all together. I have been looking for a nice set of connections and today I found one. I call it “It’s a Record” and it is about gramophones, records and popular music.

This morning I was discussing something with the one manager and somehow we ended up talking about gramophones,  and he mentioned that he had a record from 1908 that he can play on his vintage gramophone but was not too sure about what it was about,  but he could make out something about “bells bells bells”. When I returned to my desk my brain would not let this go because in my music collection there is also a song about bells. Could it be a newer iteration of an old theme? Unfortunately the track I was after is not on my MP3 player but I know enough to be able to tie this into that most famous of poets Edgar Allan Poe.

I have read some Poe, and always found it somewhat dark and dreary to ponder this long forgotten pile of ancient lore, but I also have on my MP3 player an LP by one of my favourite groups: The Alan Parsons Project. The Project released a studio album in 1976 entitled “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. To quoth the blurb at Wikipedia “The lyrical and musical themes of the album, are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe.  The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe’s macabre stories of the same name, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, first published in 1908″.  This date is important, keep it in mind.

Now I have been listening to Parsons since 1981 after I was introduced to the music by some of the guys in our infantry company and I was hooked, and over the years bought the LP’s as they came out. But then the CD came into being and the record stopped being the dominant way to own music, and the CD took centre stage. I never liked how they foisted the CD onto us so I stopped buying music, instead I would listen to my old LP’s on my hifi until that was stolen in a series of burglaries in 1999.

I rediscovered The Alan Parsons Project in 2004 and found out that they had a whole wodge of stuff I had never heard before and I gradually acquired it all on MP3 and occasionally CD. Something however was missing from the official releases that I knew about and here my information is a bit uncertain. One of the original members of APP was Eric Woolfson,  who was executive producer, pianist, and co-creator of the Project. He was an accomplished musician in his own right, and somewhere along the line I heard about a project that he was involved in called “Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination“. I heard snippets of it and started to hunt down a copy, but alas trying to find something as obscure in South Africa was incredibly difficult due to monopolies in the retail music trade, the exchange rate and the lack of suppliers. I eventually managed to pick up one track at a time from various sources, and some were totally amazing (“Tiny Star”, “Immortal” and “Wings of Eagles” comes to mind almost immediately), others were strictly of the “listen to once, never again” class of music. One of the tracks on this LP that did not exist was called “The Bells” (see where we are going yet?).

When I heard those words this morning I thought of this piece of music, it is not one of my favourites because it is so strange, however, the LP is about the works of Edgar Allan Poe, could this be the same one? A quick Google and voila! The mystery is solved. 

It turns out that our 1908 recording of “The Bells” is a reading of the poem by Canon Fleming of London, who seems to have been quite a regular performer of poetry readings that ended up on those new fangled gramophone records like the original 1908 record in the image below.  It is very possible that this was released to tie in with the first publication of Tales of Mystery & Imagination in 1908!  

Unfortunately we do not have a handy gramophone at work, but a quick look found renditions of it available on Youtube. And, I rate it on the same scale of strangeness as hearing “Be British” sung by by Stanley Kirkby in 1912 following the sinking of the Titanic. These are really voices from the past of people long gone and an era that is very different from the one that we live in now.

Canon Fleming died in 1908, but his voice still exists on that round disk with a hole in the centre, and while his rendition of “The Bells” is somewhat melodramatic it really has to be taken in the context of the media that it was on. Families owned gramophones and would spend an evening listening to music or poetry readings on the gramophones (while their Fox Terriers listened at the bell end). I am currently reading Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, penned by the war poet Siegfried Sassoon and in it he describes how they used to listen to the gramophone in their dugout, and how they had a stash of records that were played over and over. We did a similar thing when I was doing my national service, only our gramophone was now a tape recorder or a portable radio. We certainly did have much more variety than those who rode out their time underground in the bunkers of WW1, and of course modern soldiers probably carry MP3 players or their music on their cellphones. The enjoyment of recorded media is common to us all. 

So, where did this all tie in together? It was really the remembering of that obscure piece on “More Takes of Mystery and Imagination” that rang the bells in my head, and of course had I not read Poe I would not have made the connection to the Alan Parsons Project, which I started to explore while in the army, listening to music to break the monotony, much like soldiers did in the trenches of battle. There you have it, another nice set of connections. 

As an aside  I really want to explore the portable music theme by finally posting images of two of the record players I have spotted locally in the one charity shop where I live. 

These are standalone record players that were used without a hifi or an amplifier. They usually had their own speaker attached, and most of the time that was in the detachable lid. 

The humble gramophone is a very nice collectable, and having a selection of records to go with it, whether they are tinplate, shellac or vinyl makes it a wonderful conversation piece, because most of us can relate to it from our past. Those odd crackly clicks and hisses from the speaker or horn gave those records an additional richness that is lacking in the digital reproductions of today. I know amongst my MP3 collection I had an MP3 that had been created from an audio recording of a vinyl record, complete with the attendant snaps and crackles from the original. There is something about that first touch of a stylus on a record that is missing from the MP3’s of today, not to mention that short burst of static that was a precursor to the actual music.  

Canon Fleming is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London which ties into my own visits to the cemetery in 2013 and 2016, although I was unaware of him at the time (writes note to self to find grave next time). As for “Be British”; many years back when I was still interested in the Titanic I bought a set of items from the UK (and it was one heck of a rigmarole to do), and part of it was an audio tape that had some of the period tie ins to the disaster. “Be British” really stood out because it personified the arrogance of those who decided that a ship was unsinkable, and would only carry enough boats for its size and not for the amount of people it carried. 

And that more or less concludes this post about connections. I hope to find more in the future because they are always around us if we only just stop and join the dots. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 30/10/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:02
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