musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: South Africa

Four years later

Temporarily under construction. 

On the 1st of March 2013 I landed in United Kingdom. It is true, I have been here now for 4 years. This is the final year of my visa and literally “crunch year”. I posted the following on Facebook at the time

“Alrighty. I am back. I am in luverly London. Flights were long, trip was not too awful. I am now in Kennington in London. This will be my base for about a week. And, Imperial War Museum was closed when I went there!!! aaarrrghhh!!”

On the 2nd of March 2013 I posted

“a busy day, Walked from Kennington to past Tower bridge. Took 790 pics. The morning was overcast and cold but it turned into a wonderful day later on. So much to see.. watch my pics!”


That long walk was exhausting, and I really overdid it that day. So much so that I ended up with extremely sore and swollen shins that took a long time to heal. I did a photo essay on my visit to Tower Bridge especially for this occasion. 

I started out by living in Kennington, and it  was very nice, being close to the tube (Northern Line), bus, shops and everything else. It was really an ideal area to live in

Kennington Tube Station

Kennington Station was not the one closest to my destination, I emerged at Oval Station, and I would use that station frequently, but that first exit with my luggage will always stay with me. I dragged my luggage nearly a kilometre to where I was staying, fortunately it was not too awful a day. (There is a Photo Essay on the London Underground at allatsea). Initially I used the tube quite often but found the buses were handier and cheaper in the long run. 

Not too far away was Peckam, Lewisham, Brixton, Camberwell, Newington (Elephant and Castle) and Deptford. Yes, it is true, I ventured forth into Brixton on a number of times and survived to tell the tale! Lewisham was interesting because it was at the local hospital that my grandfather was treated for the wound that he suffered in Delville Wood. 

The weather was grey on many of the days, and once again I gave thanks for my NATO Parka, it is still the most effective cold weather jacket that I have and is still in regular use. 

I was fortunate that I was able to remain in my temporary “digs” in Kenington for an additional month, and during that month I covered a lot of ground while simultaneously job hunting. It was evident though that I would not find the technical work I was looking for and accommodation prices were steep. I really need to get out of London and go elsewhere. That was when I decided that the time had come to venture forth to Southampton which was where I really wanted to be, but which proved to be somewhat of a bad decision job-wise.  I pretty much covered 2013 in this blog though, so you can follow a lot of my meanderings from March 2013 in the list below. 

I have just recently added in a photo essay about the London Eye as I had not covered it before. I almost forgot I had those pics. 

I have lived in London, Southampton, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Burntwood and Tewkesbury (which is where I am now). I have worked as a baggage handler, a test technician, a recycler, and a workshop bench technician. I have seen churches and cathedrals and graves and towns and all manner in between. I have traveled in numerous trains, seen a number of preserved ships, taken over 70000 photographs, visited the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries in London, I have seen many museums (including IWM), countless statues, and drowned myself in the weight of ages. I have been places and seen things and my bucket list has had a number of items crossed off it

I have learnt new habits and skills and forgotten old ones. I even had to relearn how to ride a bicycle. I have met people from all over the world, and from various parts of the UK, I was here when the Brexit Referendum occurred, and may still see the triggering of the negotiations to leave the EU.

Apart from the cities that I lived in I have also visited Romsey, Havant, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Lichfield, Bath, Bristol, Poole, Weymouth, Birmingham, Walsall, Portsmouth, Dudley, Chippenham, Reading, Winchcombe and Winchester. 

My health has not improved though, and I have started to feel my own age, having to rely on 3 pairs of glasses. I have also had to curtail my walking as it has become difficult at time.

The strange thing is that I am more aware of my environment, I look at flowers and trees with a new interest, I gasp at the beauty of an autumn day, and revel in those rare sun filled long days of summer, the chilly bite of winter is exhilarating and the feel of frost under your feet at midday still amazes me.  

I was last in South Africa for a short visit in May 2014, and frankly I do not miss it. I read in horror some of the events that occur daily in South Africa, and see how the economy is declining and political unrest becomes more of an issue. I may still end up back there if I cannot get my visa renewed, but that’s another story altogether. The strange thing is I struggle to remember a lot from South Africa, although that could be my brain that is full. 

The next 10 months will be filled with more of the same, and I look forward to returning to Bristol and Worcester as well as Gloucester.  If I have to go back to SA this blog will be my way of reminding myself of the time I spent here.

These are my memories, I have to make more.

© DRW 2017 Created 01/03/2017 

Updated: 05/03/2017 — 14:22

Connections: Woodbine Willie

Many years ago there was a programme on local TV called “Connections” and it dealt with how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It was fascinating watching it and I have often tried to link things like that in my own life. Yesterday I found a perfect example. The connection between a ship and an Anglican priest and poet.

It starts off like this:

In March 1986 I went to see the QE2 in Durban for the first time.

I did not see her again until 1991. At that time there was a small ship called Avalon in Durban harbour. Formerly the RMS St Helena, she was now seeking a new career doing cruises to the Indian Ocean Islands.

We managed to wangle a short trip across Durban Harbour on board her as she vacated the berth where QE2 would be the next day.  

Both QE2 and the former St Helena were Falklands veterans. In 1992 I sailed on the Canberra, also a Falklands veteran, and when we arrived in Cape Town the new RMS St Helena was alongside and I photographed her from the Canberra.

I mentally set a goal to see whether it was possible to get a trip on board the St Helena, and I wrote away for a brochure. As luck would have it there was a voyage to Tristan da Cunha coming up in 1993 and I was fortunate enough to book a cruise on this mini mailship

Many years passed, and the RMS St Helena ploughed her lonely furrow between Cape Town and St Helena while they constructed an airport on the island. Once it was completed the announcement was made of the St Helena’s last voyage in June 2016. Of interest to me was her visit to the Pool of London, where she would berth alongside HMS Belfast. I decided to head down to London and watch her arrive and say my goodbye to her.

Upon arrival in London I went to see the RMS arrive on the 7th of June, and it was quite an emotional moment for me. 

On the 8th I revisited Kensal Green Cemetery, and afterwards headed into London once again to see the ship. I first visited St Pauls Cathedral, before heading towards the Thames. In the maze of streets I somehow ended up in Lombard Street, and saw one of the many churches in London, it was now the home of the London Spirituality Centre, or, as it was formerly known: St Edmund, King and Martyr.

During my visit the person manning the front desk showed me a number of wall memorials in the church, and she was very proud of a memorial to somebody called “Woodbine Willie”.


I had to admit that I had never heard of him before, but the nickname stuck in my mind because Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was way too much for me to remember at once. Apparently he was the Rector of this particular church at one time. He got his nickname for his habit of handing out cigarettes to troops (Woodbines being a favoured brand).

I continued my walk down to the Thames to say my goodbyes to the RMS and the next day I returned to Tewkesbury to post my blog and recover from my short but exhausting London jaunt. 

Yesterday, I visited Worcester Cathedral, and after seeing the cathedral walked through Worcester, and while I was walking I discovered a number of small bronze statues in the area. I did not pay too much attention to them, just read the names and took the pic. At the one statue I did a double take because the one statue was of Woodbine Willie! 

I was even more amazed to discover that there is a memorial to him in Worcester Cathedral, 

as well as an engraved pane on the Window of the Millennium.

“Woodbine Willie takes the light of Christ to the Troops”

On the 13th of March I returned to Worcester to close the chapter a bit more, walking to St John’s Cemetery where I photographed his grave.

As strange as it seems, this sequence really revolves around how things connected to each other, from the QE2 in 1986 to a forgotten and reluctant war hero in 2017. The key to it is really the RMS St Helena, without seeing Avalon the chances are I would not have recognised the name on the statue. Had I taken a different route in London I would not have seen the church, had I not stopped to look at a statute I would not have read that it was Woodbine Willie. Come to think of it, it is all really the fault of the QE2.


There is a stained glass window dedicated to him in St Paul’s Church in Worcester, that will be the last step of this journey. 

Connections, they are all around us if we know how to tie them together.

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2017, updated 13/03/2017 

Updated: 13/03/2017 — 18:27

Remembering the Mendi 2017

Every year around this time I commemorate the lives lost in the sinking of the troopship Mendi on the 21st of February 1917. This year is no different and each year I know more about it.

Earlier this month I discovered a new Mendi Memorial in the churchyard of St John The Evangelist, Newtimber, Sussex. The memorial is to  “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” who perished on the Mendi.

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

Naturally I wanted to know more and took a good long look at my Roll of Honour and drew a blank. The big problem with the ROH is that it is really inaccurate, and there are a number of reasons for that. I consulted with the local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project and he replied as follows:

“This whole Mendi RoH is troubling, it seems to me that there were initial errors made in some of the names, errors crept in as a result of “tweaking” the facts and a general misunderstanding of the history of the casualties (probably due to the unavailability of any documentary evidence.) Many of these errors are now on memorials and plaques and seem to be copied from one to the next (or sourced from the internet) and how do we address that? We have forwarded copies of the documents at the SANDF Archive  that list the recruitment details of these chaps and I hope that these will eventually be filtered through the system and the graves/memorials amended. Lets see…

Typical documentation for SANLC

Henry Bokleni:   (7587)  His father was Bokleni and he was Henry. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. It seems he was a Chief/Headman at the time.

Richard Ndamase:  (9389)  His father was Ndamase and he was Richard. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Dumezweni so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Mxonywa Bangani:  (9379)  )  His father was Bangani and he was Mxonywa. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Nongotwane so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Isaac Williams Wauchope : (3276) His father was Dyoba (also known as William Wauchope). Isaac was a learned man, holding the posts of a teacher and a clerk/interpreter to the magistrate and married his wife Mina as per Christian rites. He was a minister at a church in Blinkwater when he got sentenced to 3 years in Tokai Prison for forgery. He enlisted in 16 Oct 1916 as a clerk/interpreter and not as a chaplain (it is unlikely he would have got the chaplain post as he had a criminal record) The Chaplain job went to Koni Luhlongwana (9580), who also died on the ship.

 It does not seem that he used his father’s name as surname at all during his lifetime and so the use of “Dyoba” is incorrect. The reasoning behind the attempts to ‘africanise’ his name remain a mystery.

New Memorial to the Mendi :  There is also a problem with the 670 (it was 646, including the crew) who died. We have identified the home provinces of some of the casualties – Transvaal (287), Eastern Cape (139), Natal (87), Northern Cape (27), OFS (26), Basutoland (26), Bechuanaland (8), Western Cape (5), Rhodesia (1) and SWA (1) so not all were from the Eastern Cape.”

The reality is that the memorial contains incorrect information, and it is perpetuated as there is no real way to correct many of the errors. I am relooking my own RoH and correcting it to conform with the data that SAWGP has.  

However, in spite of the errors, the fact remains that people have not forgotten the Mendi, in fact we probably know more about it today than we did way back in 1917. 

This year, apart from the Services of Remembrance being held at Hollybrook and Milton Cemeteries in Hampshire, a South African Warship, SAS Amatola, (a Valour Class Frigate) will lay a wreath at the site of the disaster.  On board her will be some of the relatives of the soldiers who died on board that ill fated troopship.

The Mendi has not been forgotten, it is now prominent in the military history of South Africa, The men who lost their lives have not been forgotten, the sea has claimed them, but their spirit and courage still resonates 100 years after they died. However, we need to broaden our vision and recognise that all of the men of the battalions of the SANLC and NMC who volunteered to serve overseas are remembered too, because the non combatant role that they played was equally important to the ending of the “war to end all wars” 

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Updated: 21/02/2017 — 08:21

3 Ships Month

It was brought to my attention that apart from the HMT Mendi and the SAS President Kruger there is one more naval loss that really made February a month of disasters at sea. 

HMSAS Southern Floe was one of the “little ships” that worked behind the scenes during both wars, often as minesweepers, convoy escorts, anti-submarine or any other number of crucial jobs that  did not require a specialist vessel  or a glamorous warship. In my meanderings I have encountered the memorial to HMSAS Parktown, and to be frank I had never really considered HMSAS Southern Floe until recently.

The ship was a  Southern Class whaler, one of four ships 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.


HMSAS Southern Maid. (SA Museum of Military History)

Each was approximately 344 tons and were converted for Anti-Submarine operations,  armed with a 3 lb gun for’ard as well 20mm canon and machine-guns.  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.

On 11 February 1941, HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at the rendezvous two miles east of Tobruk,  but there was no sign of Southern Floe; after all it was common for ships to 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. There had been other survivors but they had not been picked up and Stoker Jones had spent 14 hours in the water. Although never confirmed it is assumed that the vessel had struck a mine.  

Some months after her loss the ship’s badge was picked up in the desert, possibly by a German or Italian soldier and had been kept as a memento. The badge was donated to the South African Naval Museum in Simon’s Town.

After the war  Stoker Jones placed a memorial notice in the Cape Town newspapers. He continued to do this for many years until he also passed away 

Roll of Honour. HMSAS Southern Floe 

 ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
 BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
 BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
 CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
 CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
 CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
 FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant SANF,  MPK
 FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
 GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
 GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
 HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
 HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
 INNES, Ian Mck, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
 MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
 MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
 NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
 NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
 PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
 RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
 SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
 SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
 SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
 STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
 WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK


© DRW 2017. Created 18/02/2017

Updated: 18/02/2017 — 14:40

A Honey of a Tank

A few years back, in 2011 I did the rounds of the usual haunts, hunting down plinthed and preserved tanks, there were three models that fell into my research, namely Crusaders, Shermans and M3 Stuarts. This post deal with one Stuart in particular.  I will not go into the history of these M3’s, suffice to say they were popularly referred to as “Honey’s”.

This vehicle I photographed in 2011 while visiting the Roll of Honour at the Cosy Corner MOTH Shellhole in Brakpan.

The history of this particular vehicle is not known, but it is likely that she was a gate guard at a former MOTH Shellhole somewhere in the Springs area and she is currently situated at Google Earth co-ordinates: -26.252307°,  28.446881°. This is a former park, but sadly it is more of the remains of a park. The tank when I photographed her was not a total wreck yet.

Those open doors at the back set off alarm bells in my mind when I saw her, sooner or later somebody was going to get in there and remove parts off her engine, assuming that it had not been done already.

Wind forward to 2017, and Joe Borain from Cosy Corner went to see whether she was still intact or not. rumours were that she was not looking good.  I will post the images more or less in the the same order as the “before (2011)” images.

As you can see, the engine compartment has had lots of attention from the scrap metal thieves.

It also appears as if the open viewing slits have been used to “post rubbish” into. It is only a matter of time before they get organised enough to go after her tracks and idlers. The scrap metal industry is not averse to assisting those who decide to remove steel from monuments and memorials. Remember, watched a whole collection of steam locomotives systematically stripped by illicit scrap thieves in 2010. Anything can happen.

What can be done? According to Joe site has been fenced, although he did manage to get in. And, a local garage was supposedly keeping an eye on her too. But, what really needs to happen is they need to weld the front viewing ports and rear engine doors shut. And ideally get her moved from the spot where she is now. Who does she belong to? probably the SANDF, and getting permission to move her will be quite a rigmarole. Springs city council were supposed to have renovated the derelict war memorial by mid 2015 and that too stalled so there is not much hope of help from them. But the way things are, one day that honey of a tank will be no more. 

© DRW 2017. Created 08/01/2016. 2017 Images are by Joe Borain and are used with permission.

Updated: 18/02/2017 — 12:52

Bang! Boom!

Today, 5 November, is Guy Fawkes and tonight many animals will be scared witless by fireworks, and a number of children and drunks will will be injured by fireworks while celebrating something/someone that they know very little about. 

When I was very young Guy Fawkes was celebrated in South Africa (although we seemed to think it was called Guy Fox), and we knew even less about what it was about than people in the UK.  Frankly we didn’t really care either because it was all about shooting off fireworks!

Fireworks back then were a “controlled” item; they were only available before Guy Fawkes and on the 6th of November were removed from the shelves for another year. As kids we saved our pennies (cents) and bummed money from our parents to buy “crackers”. And, naturally it always seemed to rain on 5 November much to our disgust.

Once darkness fell we would go shoot off our horde of eagerly collected fireworks and watch those rare occasions when people splurged out on some really expensive “Roman Candle” that fizzed away to our accompanying oohs and aahs.  Occasionally there would be the swish of a bottle rocket and the staccato bangs of “Tom Thumbs” being lit by the boxful. Once our fireworks were done we would look for the squibs that had not gone off and break them in half and light the middle bit to burn the gunpowder that had escaped. They would briefly burn with a satisfying flame that the relatively tame “Sparklers” did not have.

And then it was over.

The next day on the way to school we would examine the burnt out remnants in the vain hope that we would find unexploded crackers or squibs that we could set off that night. But pickings would be meagre and that night there would be the occasional pop and squeeeeee and we would not see or hear from fireworks for another year

At some point Guy Fawkes died when the government decided to ban fireworks altogether and it soon faded into memory until the ban was lifted a few years back.

The problem was that the stuff being fired off now was not the tame Tom Thumb of our past but huge fireworks that seemed to pack more power than a thunderflash. There was also no control over them so they became available at the drop of a hat to celebrate  Christmas, New Year, Diwali, Guy Fawkes, favourite team wins and so forth. The amount of pets that got lost went up almost immediately and emergency rooms saw the usual crop of drunks and kids who had not played safely with fireworks. There were also the usual sadists who attempted to blow up their dogs or children and occasionally each other. 

Guy Fawkes did not feature in it at all. In fact if you asked anybody in South Africa who Guy Fawkes was they would have probably mumbled something about “that oke with the crackers who wanted to blow up the toilet”. 

In the UK though Guy Fawkes does have some sort of relevance, and tonight there will be some fireworks and bonfires and drunks and kids in emergency rooms.

Should we even care about shooting off fireworks?

Make no mistake about it, a controlled fireworks display is stunning to watch, but it is a short lived event that only exists for that period and is then over with. It does not carry on for the rest of the week and at random times of the night. A talented pyrotechnician can do some amazing things with fireworks, and in Southampton there were often displays over the harbour when a new ship sailed on her maiden cruise.

Unfortunately the effect on animals is not very good, and my brother always used to give his dog a tranquilliser to see him through the evening. 

Some religions do include fireworks in their celebrations, and I can understand their reasoning behind it, but frankly things that go BANG! do not cut it with the PC mob any longer, and I suspect we will see less and less of them as time passes. I am sure there is already an app to download your own fireworks to your smartphone. If that is what it takes to scare one less animal then I am all for it, make it so! 

Tonight will probably be a loud one, and the emergency services will be on alert as people loose their marbles. Let us hope it is of limited duration, for the sake of the dogs and cats as well as the kids, although I am not too sure about the drunks.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 05/11/2016. Images of fireworks kindly provided by  


Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:57

More small ships

Following my recent posts about Modelling the Union-Castle Line (2), I have added a few more additions to the collection. My major supplier so far has been Convoy Models and I have had excellent service from them them.

My newest acquisitions are the RMS Mauretania (aka the 2nd Mauretania) and one of the Ellerman Lines “City” boats.

The Mauretania does connect to my past as my father sailed “up north” on her in September 1941 when she was a troopship. The model is available as a troopship or as a regular passenger liner. or she can be painted in her cruising livery of various shades of green.   I am amazed at how detailed these resin cast models can be, especially the “Len Jordan” 1/1200 range. 

unfinished model

unfinished model (funnels unmounted)

I have been slowly working on her, and have gotten quite far already.

I still need to fix that wobbly sheer line, unfortunately when I was taping it I did not quite follow the curve of the sheer so really need to drop it slightly and correct it. Funnels have their first coat and have to be completed and I have to give the decks a second coat and touch up some of the superstructure.

My “City” boat is one of four sisters (Port Elizabeth, City of Exeter, City of York, City of Durban) that were operated by Ellerman lines and they were regular callers in South Africa. 

Unfinished model (funnel is separate)

Unfinished model (funnel is separate)

I am working on her at the same time as the Mauretania

I have painted her funnel in white and will do the divisions on it tomorrow and that will add some colour to her. I think I will call her City of Durban.  

Progress: 15/10/2014.

My other interesting acquisition I made some time ago, she is the Marco Polo. I was fortunate enough to visit her many years ago and she is still in service today, albeit under different ownership to when I saw her. 

She is a resin cast model in 1/1250 scale.

I have also been keeping an eye open for old battleships from the Atlas Editions series and found HMS Warspite to add to my collection.

HMS Warspite

HMS Warspite

I already have HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Hood in the series. although if they are all the same scale then against the other two ships Warspite is very small. 

HMS Prince of Wales. 1/1250 scale (Atlas Editions)

HMS Prince of Wales. 1/1250 scale (Atlas Editions)

HMS Hood. 1/1250 scale. (Atlas Editions)

HMS Hood. 1/1250 scale. (Atlas Editions)

Finally, I bought this on a whim.

R.N.L.B. Garside

R.N.L.B. Garside

The RNLB Garside is the St Davids station all weather lifeboat, and she was donated to the RNLI by Thomas Harold Garside and his sister Dorothy from Yorkshire.

I should be finished with the Maurie and City of Durban soon, and will update this page accordingly.

Till then.. 

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 13/10/2016

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:59

Hullo Teddy

This morning, while on my shopping round, I paused at the local farmers market and there was a stall that had a display of vintage Teddy Bears, 

These were not the modern fluffy organically grown, politically correct, CFC free, internet ready,  bio-degradable bears, but the coarse furred, padded pawed bears from my past. 

Like most children growing up I had a Teddy, (and by some weird co-incidence his name too was Teddy). I do not recall what he looked like originally, but by the time he ended up in a suitcase on the wardrobe he was almost bald, his eyes were loose and his limbs were no longer as tight as they had been originally. I have no way of knowing where or when he was bought, and I do not remember what eventually happened to him. It is probable that mum gave him away as she did during one of her cleaning sprees where anything is game.

The bears at this stall were the of the same style; they were play worn, and looked and felt so different but yet so familiar, but it was a texture that I recognised from my “days of youth”.

The price tags were steep, ranging from £40 upwards, and the oldest bear there was supposedly from 1908. I was tempted, but common sense was on my side this morning.

Two weeks after this nostalgic encounter I bumped into the stall again and this time came away loaded with pics and a name for future reference. The stall is run by Marjorie’s Bears  and the images were taken with permission.

However I could not help but think about the Teddy that I had, and the Teddy that was the unsung playmate and that silently kept vigil, ensuring that monsters under the bed remain under the bed and do not sally forth into the bedroom when children are asleep. Their presence alone is what what keeps children safe from monsters under the bed.  They are however powerless against monsters that lurk elsewhere, looking to lure children into the seedier side of the underworld.  


I still have a teddy bear amongst my collection of plushes, I bought him in 2013 in Salisbury and he is really a generic sort of Ted, with no real personality. If it wasn’t for the monsters under the bed I would probably have disposed of him awhile ago.

His aviator friend is a new addition, although he does appear to be missing his biplane. I do have other plushies, and I am particularly proud of this mob.

The LGM from Toy Story I bought in Hong Kong in 2010, and almost everybody knows the Minions. The pink dog is Courage the Cowardly Dog and the odd fellow next to him is a Zombie from “Plants vs Zombies”. Given this mob I really need more teddy bears!  I also used to have a large doll collection, although that has been seriously cut down, more about them may be found on the Tumbling Twinns webpage

I do have a Paddington Bear somewhere, but I think he is in storage back in South Africa, It was quite a thrill to see the Paddington Bear statue on the station with the same name in June.

Paddington Station

Paddington Station

And I seem to recall a whole host of assorted dogs, cats, dragons and city stomping monsters, but that is a different story altogether.

When we grow up we forget our old teddy bears and toys, but a part of us really would like them back; to remind us of the days when the biggest thing we had to worry about were the monsters under the bed and whether we could eat as much peanut butter as we could without getting ill. Never mind peanut allergies, those weren’t invented when I was young.

So all hail the Teddy Bear, protector and companion of children, and friend to adults who really miss the simpler days of growing up

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 08/10/2016, updated 22/10/2016 

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:59

It’s all about the box

On Friday a machine arrived at my desk for repair; this machine is quite large so has a really big box. When I opened it my retro alarm went off because it was festooned with “children’s artwork”.

I could just image a child sitting inside that box with a permanent marker and drawing all these strange stick figures and having a blast while doing it.  There was even a flower cut out on one of the flaps.

There is no real way to positively say that it was done by a boy or a girl. Although the flower makes me think it was a girl. If it had been a boy the flower would have probably been a car or a gun! 

So what am I trying to say here? it is simple really, when I was young a large box was a gold mine of fun for young children, your imagination could run riot and that box could become anything you wanted it to be: a car, a house, a fortress, the cockpit of a fast jet, or the bridge of a spaceship. You were only really limited by your imagination and the mutters of your mother about how that box was taking up space. In my case the box would have been associated with a ship or an aircraft, and I do recall the large box that the TV came in ended up providing me with many days of amusement until it was relegated to the dustbin. However, boxes are still fun, even 50 years later!

Cats understand this concept very well. 

As children we were very tactile in our play, anything could become something as long as we allowed it to. Sticks became swords or assault rifles, sheets became ghost costumes and nets to trap tigers with, pieces of paper became a place to expand our drawing capability on, even though the houses that we drew all had windows in the top corners and chimneys with a spiral of smoke coming out of them. I know I always wrestled with how to draw wings on aircraft, and I am afraid my stick men all looked like stick men. 

Play was something we indulged in at school and after school, and we ranged far and wide because we could. Close to where I lived was an industrial area and we used to pester the printers for paper off cuts, or root around in the dumpster at the local sweet manufacturers. A shopping trolley was something we really aspired to because it had wheels that could be used to make go-carts with, or pushed around at breakneck speed just for the heck of it. My brother and I had a go-cart that was purchased from some budding childhood entrepreneur  and we used to laboriously push it up the hill close to where I lived and then hurtle down that hill until we were covered in bruises and scrapes from the numerous falls that we took.

As somebody that read a lot I was naturally drawn to the work of Enid Blyton and her “Secret Seven” and “Famous Five” books. I could not understand how we could not form something like that where I lived, it did seem a lot more interesting than playing rugby or shooting birds. The problem really came down to the fact that the society and era I was growing up in was very different from that in the UK where the books were being played out; there were no mysteries to be solved in my neighbourhood.  

Somewhere along the line we stopped playing, and I suspect it was really when we entered high school. I remember standing with a group of primary school classmates on the rugby fields on the first day at our high school and seeing groups of boys, none of whom were playing. By the 3rd year of high school I was listening to pop music and reading even more than before, and doing endless amounts of homework that took up most of the hours between home time and bedtime. There was no more time to visit friends or engage in an impromptu battle with Germans or aliens. Long sums and compositions as well as reams of material to be summarised and illustrated left us with no time for anything else. Play was forgotten and school work became the norm.

Today tactile play has been replaced by a small screen with small buttons and imagination has been shunted to the side. Children spend way too much time clustered around visual stimulation instead of getting out there and doing stuff! 

The point I am trying to make with this seemingly nonsensical post is that I really miss play. It is probably why I still have a lot of toys as an adult. I collect all manner of strange things and enjoy adding to my vast collection of stuff that I missed out on as a child. Many adults feel the same way and today colouring books are becoming very popular with adults, although given how anal we can be the pictures will all be coloured perfectly.

Part of my previous collection

Part of my previous collection

That box with its strange stick people drawn in it was fun to see, and I am hanging onto it as long as I can, for all you know it may be the portal to another dimension populated by strange stick people with stick dogs and houses with windows in the far corners. I know shall have fun meeting them there.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 25/09/2016

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 20:00

That last voyage across the harbour

In March 1990 a group of us went down to Durban to see the arrival of the Cunard cruise ship Vistafjord arrive. By way of explanation, I was a member of what was then the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society. We would occasionally go down to Durban over a weekend to see ships. Many times it was to see a specific vessel with a visit organised, and it would usually incorporate a trip out on the pilot boat or one of the tugs. Most of the vessels we visited are listed on my ship visit book page at allatsea. These were the days of film so we were limited by how many pics we could take which depended on how much film we had or could afford to process. It was an expensive exercise, and I shot mostly slide film back then and conversions to digital media is not always successful. 

The subject of this post is about a short voyage we made across the harbour on board the dedger Ribbok. She was in her last days, and was laid up at the Ocean Terminal awaiting disposal. The berth she was in had to be vacated for Vistafjord, and we were “in the area” when the pilot arrived. He was an amiable Dutch guy and usually tolerated our puppy dog eyed pleading and would allow us on board.

On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)

On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)

Ribbok was a diesel electric suction dredger, built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Glasgow as Yard No 698, she was launched on 11 November 1961 and registered in Durban.  She was of 4594 grt, 1726 net, 5120 dwt. and just over 110 metres long with a beam of 18 metres and draught of just over 5,4 metres. (

She was a regular sight in Durban and I would have loved to have spent a day on her, but dredgers are working vessels and really would have not been an ideal way to spend a day. 

Entering the harbour after a days work

Entering the harbour after a days work

Ribbok alongside

We boarded Ribbok and took up position, I no longer recall where, but we always kept out of the way of the crew or pilots during their work on a ship. The lines were singled and we were soon on our way, dead ship, with a tug at the bow and possibly the stern. The pilot remarked that the poor old girl was in a poor condition and that was obvious from the many rusted areas and plated over decking.

A last voyage

The vessel literally on top of the tug is the Estrella Do Mar, a small ferry that used to run up towards Zanzibar and Mozambique, she ended up in Durban in later years and we always hoped she would do coastals but that never happened. 

Then we were tied up alongside and we disembarked. We all felt saddened to see this stalwart like this, but unfortunately like so many ships before her there comes a time when she has to sail away forever. Ribbok had very little time left, she was broken up in July 1990 at Alang.

The replacement for Ribbok was the RE Jones, and amongst my images is an image of her alongside Ribbok. 

Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard

Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard

Unfortunately the scanner chopped off the bows of the pair but in the background you can see the Achille Lauro in her short lived StarLauro livery which puts this image at December 1989. I don’t think Ribbok ever wore the new corporate livery and had her SAR&H funnel livery till the end.

RE Jones underway in Durban

RE Jones underway in Durban

And what about Vistafjord? I have to admit I did find her somewhat of a disappointment, and I only really appreciated her when I saw her as Saga Ruby in Southampton in 2013.

Vistafjord arriving in Durban. march 1990


Saga Ruby sailing from Southampton 2013

And so our short voyage slipped away into memory, to resurface during a discussion at our tug group. Good memories, but a sad one too.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 15/09/2016

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 20:00
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