musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Personal

Back home in England.

It is now 19.30 on the evening of the 7th and I am back home, surrounded by washing, empty suitcases, clothing, postcards and heaps of other odds and ends that I brought back with me. My flight left last night at 9 pm, and we landed just after 6 this morning. I have spent the time between then and 4 pm in queues, trains, buses and Paddington Station. 

A lot happened between my previous post of the 24th of February and now. I split my time between my brother’s house and my friends on the West Rand, although was not as active in the local cemeteries as I was previously. My mother is surprisingly strong, but I fear that she is trapped inside her body and is probably hating every minute of it. Unfortunately we had to make the decision that we made in 2017, there were no more options available to us.  Sadly she is surrounded by other elderly women of various ages, many never get visited and lead out their lonely lives in the home. I am afraid that in some cases they have outlived their children, or their children are no longer in the area or in the country. 

Menu from my return flight

There is a lot I can say about South Africa. Corruption has seriously damaged the economy, and the continued demand by Eskom for higher tariffs is met with disgust as the public recalls how easily Eskom and the corrupt in it seemingly burnt money with impunity. To this date no high profile crooks have been arrested for corruption and  they continue to lead the high life, safe in the knowledge that they got away with it.

The few malls that I visited were also showing the effects of the economic downturn, with empty shops and fewer buying customers visiting them. Generally though I had good service from 99% of the people I encountered in my travels in and around the West and East Rand. The petrol price continues to bite though, and of course the traffic jams in Johannesburg are even worse as a large portion of the one freeway has had to be closed to repair some of the supports and bridges that are part of it.  

Muffin the cat continues to amuse, at this moment he is thinking of entering politics and is trying to register his own political party called “The Fishycookie Party”. By his reckoning he could be the chief poohbah in the next election because at least he wont be corrupt, although is liable to sleep in parliament. 

Again I got to enjoy the pets of my brother and friends during this trip, and it is amazing how they enrich our lives; there is never a dull moment when you have a cat or a dog.

The weather back in South Africa was hot and very uncomfortable as I really prefer the relatively cooler summers of the UK. I do not do heat well! We did have a typical highveld thunder/rain storm in my last week, and I had forgotten how much water these could dump and how bad the thunderstorms can get in Johannesburg. Back in the UK it was overcast and drizzly where I live, but the march to Summer continues.  

Suburbia (1500×671)

Prices.

Food prices continue to rise and I did quite a few comparisons with the prices I gathered way back in 2017.  These are just a few examples that I spotted, and some items may have been on sale. The items are not indicative of my own personal preferences and are sourced through leaflets and shops I visited in the West and East Rand. Petrol was R14.08 pl 95 octane and R13.86 for 93 octane (02/03/2019)

6 Eskort Gold Medal Pork Sausages: R44.91

Kellogs Corn Flakes (750gr) R49.99

Beef Biltong R320/kg

Oreo 16’s R14.99

Sedgewick’s Old Brown Sherry 750 ml R44.95 (R39 in duty free at ORT airport)

Milo 500gr tin R51.99

2 Litres Coke R16.99

Cadbury’s Chocolate (80g slab) R19.95

Oral B electric toothbrush R499.95

Jungle Oats (1kg) R26.99

Weetbix (900 gr) R38.99

Wellingtons Tomato Sauce (700 ml) RR18.99

Baby Soft 2 ply toilet rolls (18’s) R124.99

Lipice (4.6 g) R22.99

Sunlight dishwashing Liquid (750 ml) R32.99

Joko Tea (60 bags) R32.99

Milo (500 gr) R54.99

Ricoffy (750 g) R79.99

Mrs Balls Chutney (470 g) R28.99

Douwe Egberts Pure Gold coffee (200 g) R119.99

Crystal Valley salted butter (500 gr) R47.99

Nature’s Garden mixed veg (2,5kg) R25.99

30 Large eggs R49.99

Stork Country Spread 1kg R29.99 

Dewfresh milk 6×1 Litre R69.99 (R11.99 ea)

Gordons Gin 750ml R99.99

Hunters Dry 12x440ml Cans R129.99  

30 Extra large eggs R44.99  

Ultra Mel Custard 1 Litre R22.99

Enterprise Back Bacon 200gr R23.99

Fresh chicken breast fillets (R59.99/kg

Huletts white sugar (2.5 kg) R39.99

Lipton ice tea (1,5 litre) R17.99

King Steer burger R64.90, Regular chips: R15.90  2019

95 Octane petrol R14.08, (/02/03/2019)

4 Finger Kitkat R8.99

48 Beacon Mallow Eggs R79.99

Tabasco Sauce (60ml) R38.99

 

Random Images

DRW © 2019. Created 07/03/2019

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 14:03

Onwards to Africa

Continuing where we left off

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

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

 

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

Flightline (1500×560)

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

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

DRW © 2019. Created 27/02/2019

Updated: 28/03/2019 — 07:30

3 Hours in London

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

Ashchurch for Tewkesbury

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

Paddington Station, London.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Kensington Tube Station

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

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

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

Continued….

forwardbut

Random Images: Natural History Museum

Random Images: The Rest

DRW © 2019. Created 26/02/2019

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

By the time you read this

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

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

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

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

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

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

Remembering SAS President Kruger

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

SAS President Kruger (F150)

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

SAS Tafelberg replenishing a frigate (source unknown)

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

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

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

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

 

Updated: 17/02/2019 — 08:22

Remembering SAS Southern Floe

HMSAS Southern Floe. (11/02/1941)

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

HMSAS Southern Maid. (SA Museum of Military History)

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

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

Casualty List from CWGC

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

DRW © 2018-2019. Created 06/02/2019

Updated: 17/02/2019 — 08:21

Happy Birthday 747

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

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

747-SP (Seychelles)

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

747-206B (Schipol)

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

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

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

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

I also spotted this BA Jumbo overhead in London in March 2013.

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

Boeing 747-200, ZS-SAN “Lebombo”

SAA 747-200, ZS-SAN “Lebombo”

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

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

 

747SP-44 ZS-SPC “Maluti”

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

Museum page on Maluti

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

Jumbo passing at an airshow

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

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

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

DRW © 2019, created 09/02/2019 

Updated: 28/04/2019 — 14:27

The loss of HMY Iolaire

Over the years I have read about many disaster’s at sea and of course the Titanic springs to mind almost instinctively. However, in October 2017 I discovered yet another disaster that has slipped below the radar, and I was determined to create some way to commemorate the men who lost their lives  in the disaster 100 years ago on this day. It was an uphill slog because unfortunately accuracy is difficult because of the poor records, contradicting evidence and the multiplicity of the same names being used.  Unfortunately I was not able to get anybody involved with the disaster commemorations to look at what I did and assist in getting it correct. 

The HMY community on LIves of the First World War.

HMY Iolaire was a former private yacht that had been pressed into naval service in the Outer Hebrides during the First World War, and on old years eve 1918 she was hurriedly loaded with over 200 members of the Royal Naval Reserve to take them home to the Island of Lewis on leave.  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 approaching. 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 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 final return home and civilian life. 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 (Gael: Biastan Thuilm) 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. 

“The Beasts of Holm rocks near Stornoway on Isle of Lewis Scotland” by Dave Conner is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (image resized)

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.

The tragedy was unfolding almost 20 yards from land, but nobody on land was aware that a ship was foundering on their doorstep, Some men tried to swim for safety but in the cold wild waters almost none would make it. One brave man, John F. Macleod from Ness, Isle of Lewis, 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.

There were really many things that went wrong on that night and 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 on the bridge 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.  Another book is due to be launched in 2018 called “The Darkest Dawn: The Story of The Iolaire Disaster” by Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John Macleod. 

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.

© 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. “The Beasts of Holm rocks near Stornoway on Isle of Lewis Scotland” by Dave Conner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:42

Looking back on 2018

2018 had many high and low points, and it was really a year of change and renewal.  The biggest issue that weighed on my mind towards the end of 2017 had been the renewal of my visa which was done successfully for another 5 years. By the time you read this almost a year would have passed from those 5. My mother’s health took a turn for the worse towards the end of December and at one point I was looking for flights just in case I had to return to South Africa. Fortunately that did not happen, but she remains in high care and who knows what the future holds. (Update: I will be returning to South Africa for a brief visit at the end of February 2019)

I had also been contemplating resigning from my job as I was really getting tired of the atmosphere where I worked, sadly it was all caused by the same person and by the end of August I had made my decision and resigned. It just goes to show how bad things were, and I am amazed that I stuck it out for 3 years. I have a new job now, albeit it as a contractor and am still in Tewkesbury, but would probably leave like a shot if a better job came up elsewhere. My new employment is interesting though, I have learnt a lot of things that I had never considered before, and that is a good thing.

The weather was also surprising, with 2 snowfalls in the early part of the year. They were fun, and I got some great pics. So far (touch wood) we have not had snow, but that is pretty much how we felt at the beginning of the year too.

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We also lost Ray Thomas, Mort Walker, Billy Graham, Stephen Hawking,  Harry Anderson, George and Barbara Bush,  Aretha Franklin, Burt Reynolds,  Joe Jackson, Dolores O’Riordan, Montserrat Caballé, Hugh Masekela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, John McCain, Morgan Tsvangirai, Pik Botha, Margot Kidder, Sir Roger Bannister, Kofi Annan, Charles Aznavour, Paul Allen, and Stan Lee (complete list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2018

Because the weather was better I ended up gallivanting again, and visited a number of places during the year. Naturally I ended up taking way too many photo’s as usual. I also ate too much ice cream, read lots of books and watched too many anime and movies. 

The highlight of the year was definitely  the trip I made to Liverpool in June and it spawned a whole wodge of blogposts.

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and of course my visits to Evesham were amazing, and it is a place I enjoy visiting. Hopefully next year I will get to the light rail that runs there too. 

This was also the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and I am still involved in the Lives of the First World War Project.

The project finishes in March 2019 and I may find that I have a lot more free time on my hands from then. 

I was also lucky to get to travel to Wales and paid a brief visit to Swansea and Mumbles

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and I paid a few visits to Bristol in July and August. This time around exploring beyond the cemetery and harbour too. I will be returning there once the weather improves. 

Meanwhile back in Tewkesbury, we had the usual Medieval Festival as well as the Classic Vehicle Festival.

The one thing that I can be sure of is that I live in interesting times, and I expect 2019 will bring quite a few highlights and low lights to blog about. I may be making a short trip to South Africa in 2019, but haven’t made a decision yet, there are many factors involved in deciding, but really need to look into all of them. It is an expensive trip and with my job still being as it is I have to be rational about something like that. 

That is 2018 in a nutshell. I have deviated from my usual format this time around, its much easier to do, and I can always add bits on in these last days of the year. Irrespective though, with Brexit looming in the distance who knows what April may bring. The election in South Africa is also looming in 2019 and given how bad things are getting there who knows what the year will bring. You can bet that more money will be squandered on everything but the poor. We will just have to wait and see.

DRW © 2018-2019. 

Updated: 29/01/2019 — 13:39
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