musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Southampton

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 2017-2018. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:40

Photo Essay: Just in Time

I won’t say I am an expert on clocks, but I do appreciate the engineering that goes on inside one. Many years ago I used to work for Transnet in Germiston and I was responsible for the very decrepit station clock; I was not amused. 

This short photo essay really starts out about an old clock in Tewkesbury, and then heads off on a tangent all of its own. 

Situated on the outside of what is now a funeral directors, the clock is mounted on an elaborate bracket that sticks out into high street.

I have seen a number of similar clocks in the towns and cities I have visited in the UK, and way back then a public clock would have been very useful to townsfolk that did not have the convenience of a wrist watch or cell phone with which to tell time. 

Age? in this we are lucky because affixed to the side of the clock is a small sign.

Does it still work? yes it does; because a bit further up high street is the clock above the Town Hall. Although this image was not taken today, the time on the clock above was the same as that below.

A bit higher up in town there is a nice clock on top of the Library. I do not know how many times I have walked past the building and never really noticed it before. 

Clocks elsewhere.

There is a very nice public clock on the House of Fraser in King William Street, London

and a station clock in Victoria Station.

and Waterloo Station.

Somewhere in London, St Paul’s is in the background and I was in the Bank area, so it is somewhere there. 

I photographed this beaut in Birmingham, and as a bonus it has the 3 balls that indicate a pawnbroker.

Now, about those other time pieces:  many towns had clocks in towers, and many are loosely based on Big Ben in London.

Salisbury had one on the outskirts of the town centre in Fisherton Street, and it is a very interesting structure.

On the side of the small structure at the base of the tower were two indicators of what used to stand on that site before. 

At the time I did a double take because that was not the sort of thing you expected to see on a building. However, on the other side of the structure, and half covered by foliage is another sign that explains why the image below was there.

I rest my case. Unfortunately, the placing of this plaque means that unless you are lucky you would never know what secret this part of the town was used for in days gone by. The proximity to the river would have made that gaol a damp and miserable place to be locked into.

There is a really nice clock tower in Worcester, although it is not in the centre of town.

Lichfield also has one of the grand clock towers, and one day I made a quick trip to it to see what it was like up close and personal.

There are two plaques that can date this structure.

The Crucifix Conduit? In St John Street, next to the Library is a water fountain that may provide a clue.

The filenames of the Lichfield images are all marked “Birmingham” and that is where we will head to now; because there is another clock tower of interest in that city.  Called “The Chamberlain Clock”, it was unveiled during Joseph Chamberlain’s lifetime, in January 1904.

This clock ties into South Africa and Joseph Chamberlain, and it is worth reading the article about how Joseph Chamberlain and Alfred Milner  helped to drag South Africa and Great Britain into a long and costly war that devastated the country; and created rifts that would never heal. “Chamberlain visited South Africa between 26 December 1902 and 25 February 1903, seeking to promote Anglo-Afrikaner conciliation and the colonial contribution to the British Empire, and trying to meet people in the newly unified South Africa, including those who had recently been enemies during the Boer War” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Chamberlain#Tour_of_South_Africa)

He is buried in nearby Key HIll Cemetery 

Heading back South again we are suddenly back in Southampton, and another clock tower of interest, although it is more of a monument than a dedicated clock tower. This clock is no longer where it was originally erected,  

The monument was designed by Kelway-Pope and bequeathed to Southampton by the late, Mrs Henrietta Bellenden Sayers, After 45 years in its original location in Above Bar it was then moved to its present site in 1934 when roadworks were being carried out in the city centre. 

There are two plaques on the clock, as well as a small drinking fountain. The first plaque dates from when it was inaugurated,

while the second is above the drinking fountain.

The clock is situated on a triangular island at the east end of Cobden Bridge in Bitterne, between St Deny’s Road and Manor Farm Road (Google Earth  50.924432°,  -1.376106°) . 

Southampton still has a clock tower in its City Hall, but I really prefer the one above.

While living in Southampton I attended a job interview in Surbiton, and it was there where I spotted the Coronation Clock. 

I did not really investigate the structure, but did manage a photograph of the plaque.

More information about the Coronation Clock many be found at http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/art/architecture/johnsonj/4.html

The seaside town of Weymouth has a clock tower too, although again I did not really investigate it as I had limited time available.

Known as the Jubliee Clock, it was erected in commemoration of the reign of Queen Victoria in 1887. Originally positioned on a stone base on Weymouth sands, in the 1920s the Esplanade was built around it to protect the sands from the encroachment of shingle from the eastern end of the beach. The clock is a Grade II listed building.

Bath Abbey has a clock in the Spire that we saw from inside, I seem to recall it faced the municipal offices. 

It really reminded me of those days when I used to fix that clock on Germiston Station, although I am sure that the Abbey clock was less decrepit than the Germiston Station clock. 

And having said all that I shall now head off into the sunset. I am fortunate to have seen these buildings with their clocks and plaques. Generally they are ornate structures, and many are very old and have acquired listed status. Yet, in our modern world they are anacronisms from a different age. We are all so tied up in our plastic devices that can do almost anything, that we miss the beauty right under our noses. 

I am sure as I wade through my images of London I will find more clocks and towers to add to here, after all. I still have to consider the mother of them all…

But that’s another story for another time.

 

© DRW 2013-2018. Created 22/01/2017 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:42

Looking for Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel looms over the transportation system of Southern England, his influence left a legacy that can still be seen today, many years after his death. His influence on the Great Western Railway (GWR) is easy to find if you know where to look. 

I suspect the first real discovery I made was when I found his grave in Kensal Green Cemetery in London in 2013 

Image from 2016

Image from 2016

My travels took me to Southampton, and inevitabley to Portsmouth too, and it was there that I found a monument to the engineer; that was unveiled on 7 April 2006 to commemorate the bicentenary of his birth on 9 April 1806 at Portsea. 

From Southampton I moved deep into GWR territory and relocated to Salisbury where I used GWR trains quite regularly.  The current station at Salisbury is not a Brunel building, however, the former GWR station still exists, albeit in a different role as the Railway Social Club.

A blue plaque proclaims the heritage of this small easily overlooked building.

One of my expeditions took me to Bristol in January 2014. And it was in this city that I encountered one of the very tangible relics of Brunel.

The SS Great Britain was one of the many ships I had read about as a child, I even remember seeing photographs of it on it’s way back to Bristol for preservation.  Standing on the decks of this grand old lady was really something, It is however one thing to read about a ship like this, and a totally different thing to stand on board her.  I have been hoping to get back to the ship, and almost got there in 2015 but got distracted along the way. 

Bristol is also home to Bristol Temple Mead Station, yet another Brunel creation. However, the current building is not the original Brunel station.  I have still to investigate the Brunel station, although it seems to be perpetually under renovation. The glorious wedding cake of a station that is currently in use was expanded in the 1870s by Francis Fox and again in the 1930s by P E Culverhouse. Brunel’s terminus is no longer part of the operational station. It stands to the left of the current station façade (where the coaches are). I do not have images of the entrance of the station yet, but hopefully one day. 

Bristol also houses yet another Brunel creation, the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge that I visited in August 2015.

Between Bristol trips I was somewhere else, and while I was there I paid a visit to “Steam, Museum of the Great Western Railway” in Swindon. It was here that GWR had it’s locomotive workshops. You can also come face to face with the great man and one of his broad gauge creations. 
Actually those drive wheels are from Brunel’s broad Gauge Locomotive “Lord of the Isles”, built in Swindon in 1851. They are 8 feet in diameter and weigh about 4 tons. Brunel was just over 5 feet.

Inside the museum I came to a replica of  the 1837  “North Star”, and it is really a comparatively simple loco when compared to the machines that rule the rails 100 years later.


The original was purchased by GWR and ran one of the first trains between Paddington and Maidenhead in 1837. There is no consideration for crew comfort in this machine, although I am sure these locos did not break too many speed records. This locomotive was not a Brunel design though, but it was modernised to run on his Broad Gauge (7 ft (2,134 mm), later eased to 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm)). Unfortunately Broad Gauge was not too good an idea and was not universally accepted and GWR had to change all of its rolling stock and relay its track down the line.

Leaving Bristol the train passes through Bath Spa, and the station there is also attributed to Brunel.

In June 2016, travelling South East from Cheltenham I passed though Swindon, Reading and finally into London Paddington Station which is where GWR terminated. The station today is quite a hodge podge of design, having to cater for the massive expansion of rail into the capital.

If you known where to look you will even encounter Brunel seated on a chair watching the comings and goings. What would he have to say about what they did to his station?

And if you tarried long enough in London you could always retire to your hotel that was a part of the station.

This imposing building is the London Hilton Paddington, or, as it was known: The Great Western Royal Hotel and it was opened in 1854. 

And that sums up my Brunel discoveries for now, I know there are others, because most GWR stations had a hotel attached to it, and I am quite sure that Brunel was involved in at least one of them, but that is another exploration for another day.

Brunel was an engineer. He was a man who could turn his mind to bridges, ships and tunnels. He left behind a legacy that has endured, and his work will probably be here long after this blog has closed down. He created and designed and influenced, he was an inspiration, and the world sadly has been replaced by accountants who create nothing, or managers who could not manage their way out of paper bags, and directors who dip their hands into tills with alarming frequency. Where did we loose the engineers?  why do we not have engineers that create on a scale like this? Brunel made mistakes, but his success outweigh his failures. He was a man of legend and we are so much richer because he was in the right place at the tight time.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 01/11/2016  

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:35

Modelling the Union-Castle Line (2)

Continuing where we left off, my newest additions have arrived and I am about ready to transform them into members of my ever expanding fleet  

However, before we paste their pics, I also have another commercial model of the Pendennis Castle in 1/125 scale by CM, She is a beauty, just like the real thing.

My new additions are:

Athlone Castle

And Durban Castle

When I eventually finish this pair I will have (counts on fingers…) 8 UC ships in total. The next one I will buy is probably Southampton Castle and one of the mailships in troopship guise. But, we are quite far from that point.

Here is my Stirling Castle and Athlone Castle together. Stirling is in front. (image from 10/2017)

MV Rochester Castle, my current work in progress.

 

Many people are curious as to where I get the resin cast ships from. I buy them from Convoy Models,

The next step in the process is to paint the superstructure white, and while I am doing white I will also touch up the other UC ships that I have built. Next time you see this pair they will be partly painted.

24/07: Hull, superstructure and decks partly painted.

06/08/2016

Basic painting is completed and most masts are fitted although no booms are in place yet. I also used the opportunity to touch up some areas on the other fleet members. 

07/08/2016

Booms fitted. I was amazed at how many had to be fitted to the Athlone which does give an indication of how much cargo space these vessels really had. I have to sort out the sheer line on the Athlone, it is wobbly and paint booms and touch up more areas that I may have missed. The ships are more or less complete though. 

My U-C fleet now stands at 8 ships and here it is.

(L-r) Capetown, Athlone, Pendennis, Edinburgh, Reina Del Mar, Durban, Dunnottar and Llandaff Castles.

The fleet as at 26/11/2017:

The two ships behind the fleet are both called “Victoria” The right hand ship being the former Dunottar Castle, that had a very long life. First operated by the Incres Steamship Co and later by Chandris Lines under the names Victoria and The Victoria. In 1993 she joined Louis Cruise Lines as Princesa Victoria and was finally scrapped in India in 2004. 

The model I have is by Mercury I believe, and here she is with her UC iteration. 

The other Victoria on the left is amongst the many ships that I like. She is the former Sea Princess (built as Kungsholm), and she called in South Africa on a number of occasions, although mostly in Cape Town.

My usual source for UC ships also had her available in a resin cast, and she was easily adaptable to Sea Princess or Victoria, a name she carried later in her career with P&O. It was as Victoria that she did the Union-Castle 100 year centenary voyage in the year 2000.

I decided to make Sea Princess in the P&O livery

This sublime model above was in the window of a travel agent in Salisbury. How I coveted that model! 

Anyhow, here is the before

and almost completed

She too will be joining my fleet one of these days. I still have a few things to do on her though so it will take a few more days. Unfortunately I messed the model up by sticking the one deck in the wrong place. I have since rectified that but the deck now looks kind of lopsided. Why is it that super glue sticks like mad when you don’t want it to stick?

I am considering repainting her in the Union-Castle livery so that she can join the fleet. 

Tomorrow? The Second Mauretania and City of Durban; read about them on my More Small Ships page

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 22/07/2016 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:25

Dry docked.

While rooting around amongst my pics I remembered that I had some interesting ones that I took in Gloucester in August 2015. I was hoping to get back to the city at some point, but then other things intervened and I never did (since rectified).
 
This post is about dry docks and ships, and it is really a series of images that I took way back in the 1980’s when we were in Durban and got the chance to go down into the Prince Edward Graving Dock. There were two vessels in the dock on that day and it was quite a thrill to walk underneath those tons of steel. The ships were Mobil Refiner (top image) and Regina D (lower image)

Mobil Refiner

Mobil Refiner

Regina D

Regina D

For those that are interested in these things, the principal dimensions of the dock are:

Overall docking length 352,04 m Length on keel blocks 327,66 m
Length on bottom 352,04 m Width at entrance top 33,52 m
Width at coping 42,21 m Inner Dock 138,68 m
Outer Dock 206,90 m Depth on Entrance MHWS 12,56 m
Depth on inner sill MHWS 13,17 m    
You really get a sense of scale when you get to see how big ships actually are, and these two were relatively small vessels compared to what is floating around nowadays.
 
Unfortunately my images are not great,  The problem with taking pics down there is that there are patches of deep shadow and patches of bright daylight which really messed with the camera (and operator). Then the conversion process from slide to jpg further degraded the images. But, it is a great memory.

graving02

 

Cape Town has the Sturrock and Robinson Dry dock, and Clinton Hattingh was kind enough to send me these images of the latter showing the keel blocks 

The Robinson Dry dock is the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world and dates back to 1882. The foundation stone for the dock was laid by Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

Now wind forward to August 2015 and to Gloucester where there were two dry docks, and one was occupied by a sailing ship.
gloucester 548

I don’t think that caisson has been opened in many years, although in 2017 I revisited Gloucester Harbour and that dock was occupied. 

The vessel is the Den Store Bjorn, built n 1902.

Of course there are a number of these drydocks around in the the UK, The most famous one in Southampton is the King George V,  and it was the place where the really big liners were overhauled. Many images exist of the dock with one of the Queens in it but sadly the caissons have been demolished and the dock is now used as a wet dock. What a waste!

Southampton also used to have the Trafalgar dry dock which is close to the Ocean Terminal, it too was used by many of the famous liners, including a number of Union-Castle ships. It has been cut in half and the one half has been filled in while the other is a rectangular pool of water.

These facilities were built for the ship repair industry that the city once had, but that trade has moved offshore to Europe and today these spaces are only really known to those who have an interest in ships of the past.

There are two other dry docks of interest in Portsmouth, both inhabited by famous ships.

The first is the dock where the Monitor M33 is on display.

and the drydock where HMS Victory has been for so many years.

And finally, there are two more dry docks that I would like to mention, both with preserved vessels in them. The first houses the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

and the other houses the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Both of these provide an interesting glimpse at the underside of ships, as well as the opportunity to marvel at their construction and how large they really are. 

When this post started out originally it was only really about the Durban trip, but it has grown into much more as I have experienced other similar docks, and what a fascinating journey it turned out to be.
 
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 02/05/2016, more images added 04/06/2017
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:27

Train Trouble

This has been a week of train trouble for me. And it all started on Monday.
 
I had an interview at Meltsham which is on the way to Gatwick Airport. The trip would mean that I had to change trains at Clapham Junction and board a Southern Trains local to East Croydon, and then catch another local to Meltsham. The train times I had selected had enough time built into them for me to find out where to go, and to get there without a last minute dash. Theoretically.
 
Clapham Junction was the easy part, however, I did not have my camera with me, so some images were taken in January.

Clapham Junction passageway

I managed to grab an earlier local for East Croydon and was soon on my way. Unfortunately Southern Trains is having a lot of bad press lately regarding delayed trains.

A typical Southern Trains local

A typical Southern Trains local

 

I had not travelled with them much before so I could not really comment on their punctuality. However, once we reached East Croydon chaos reigned. There was a signalling fault somewhere on the system and trains were delayed, cancelled, missing and all permutations in between. To exacerbate matters renovations were being done at the station so information signs were not legible or hard to see. I was directed to platform 5 and when I got there was told that the train would arrive on platform 6! That was difficult because platform 6 was occupied by a train going to Gatwick. The poor platform attendant was having a hard time doing his job and trying to assist with enquiries. It also did not help listening to announcements as they were either too soft, or happened as the train was leaving. By some miracle I caught a train, and it turned out to be the right one, although it was running 45 minutes late and some stops were cancelled. I just hoped that things would be less chaotic on my way home.
 
Later that day, on arrival at Mertsham to catch my train back to East Croydon, I found that it too had been delayed. 
Merstham Station

Merstham Station

In fact 3 trains went past while I was waiting, although had I dashed into the loo you could have bet that the train would have arrived at the most inopportune time.
 
 
The trip back to East Croydon was punctuated by long pauses and the ever diminishing time left to catch my connection. By the time we arrived it was time that my connection would have arrived too, although that was unlikely as we were occupying the space it was supposed to be occupying. The ever unhelpful information boards were not being informative at all, and the poor platform attendant was being harassed by all and sundry. 

 

In the image on the left you can see two trains, in fact there were actually 4, two already occupying the platform on both sides.  I could not make any sense out of this, but by chance heard an announcement that the train to Clapham Junction would now be arriving on Platform 1 and not the one where I was or where it was supposed to be. Thanks for the advance notice! I arrived at Platform 1 as said train left. In fact the “Welcome to East Croydon” sign on the information board  did not help me, or any of the other people who came running down hoping to catch the train we had all missed.  I decided to hang around there because it did seem as if this was where trains to Clapham would leave from, and 10 minutes later one arrived (probably 45 minutes late). Clapham Junction was like paradise after that mess, and it is unlikely I will go through East Croydon ever again, which is maybe a good thing.
  
After the chaos of Monday, I was very tempted to stay in bed on Tuesday, but I still had some graves to find in Reading so I headed there instead. There is a First Great Western local that goes between Basingstoke and Reading, and I had had a bad experience with it early in February when the train had failed and we were stranded for almost 90 minutes at Mortimer. Surely something like that can’t happen again? or could it?
The trains currently being used on that line was 150001 and 150002, a pair of 1984 BREL built prototype 3-car Class 150/0 units. 150002 proved to be the worse of the two for reliability. Both sets were  in service with London Midland until 2011. 150001 entered service with First Great Western in January 2012, with 150002 to follow after refurbishment and relivery. 
 
 I had travelled with 150001 and 150002 the previous week when I had been to Bramley, and thought that they were very noisy and uncomfortable compared to the usual 165 or 166 class I had used before. Their interiors were an odd purple colour and reminded me of a kitchen.
 
 
Once I had completed my graves in Reading I headed back to the station, and as I arrived I kept an eye open for any new trains in the station. When we had arrived that morning I had caught a brief glimpse of something other than the usual FGW intercity HST, and I was hoping to see another. I was lucky because there was one at the platform and I quickly grabbed some pics. 
 
It turns out that this was a British Rail Class 180, and reading between the lines these were troublesome beasties.  This particular one was 180 102, and it pulled out just as I headed back up the escalators. 
  
When I got to my platform I saw my train was in so I could get on board and head off home. How wrong I was! A train had broken down at Bramley and we were not going to Basingstoke unless we went via Guildford and Woking. The train just after 14H00 was cancelled, as was the one at 14H30 and the next one may have been leaving at 15H00, although that was unlikely.  150001 joined its sister and neither was going anywhere. 
  
I knew that there was a Cross Country train that used to leave Reading for Basingstoke and then onwards to Weymouth, and it left at 14H45ish, so I decided that it was a preferable option to going to Guildford so headed down the platform to see if there was anything else interesting in the station.  I soon discovered another train that I had not seen before, and it was wearing a Southwest Trains livery.
 
It turns out that these are Class 458’s, and they too were not very successful. I must admit they were not good lookers either, and during my wait I saw 8026 and 8016 in the station. 
 
Heading back to my platform I was unable to get an answer as to whether I would be able to catch the Cross Country train as the platform it normally used was currently occupied by 150002. In fact the customer service person did not know either and she dashed off to find out, just as the Cross Country pulled into Platform 8. 
  
I had never caught one of the Cross Country trains before, although had seen them quite a lot in Southampton. They tended to come and go and generally lead separate lives from the other Southwest Trains all around them. It could be that I now had an opportunity to catch one, assuming I could get to Platform 8 before it left.     
 
We all dashed across to the platform and hurriedly boarded the train, although whether it was going anywhere was another story altogether. Just then another Class 180 pulled in and I was tempted to bail out and go photograph it, but they announced that we were holding for awhile and would leave as soon as the line was clear. Bailing now would mean I would have to hang around till 15H30 for one of the 150’s to leave.  Then we started to move, and I was finally on my way home, and with Cross Country too. They aren’t too bad interior wise, and they definitely were quick, but I was really just glad to finally be on my way home. Two days of train troubles in a row was asking too much.
 
Hopefully I was done with train troubles, or had I?
 
This morning I had to go to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of the Britannia. Would my train timings be correct?  Lo and behold when I got to Basingstoke Station I discovered that the trains coming from London via Clapham Junction were delayed. The Salisbury train was running 19 minutes late, and my Southampton train was running equally late. However there was a Cross Country leaving at 10H10, and it came via Reading and not Clapham Junction so theoretically it would not be delayed so I crossed to platform 1 to catch it (followed by half the people from the platform I had just left).
  
I arrived at Southampton in time, and by co-incidence I caught another Cross Country back home. It was kind of odd because in the two years I had been in the UK I had never been on one of these before, and suddenly in a week I had traveled on three!  Maybe it is my reward for all the other train trouble I had been having this past week? 
 
So that was my week of train trouble. The moral of the story? the rail system in the UK is not perfect, it is subject to delays, and things do go wrong (and there are leaves on the line, the wrong snow and even trampolines to muck it up further). The delay at Clapham Junction was as a result of a woman threatening to jump onto the tracks, thousands of people ended up being delayed as a result. The difference is in how passengers are notified of a problem. The East Croydon mess could have been handled so much better, and I think the Reading delays could have also been dealt with a bit better, but it is really a lot to do with customer service and service levels as a rule. Lets put it like this, in South Africa they would have set fire to the train. 
 
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 06/03/2015, images migrated 27/04/2016  
 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:24

Southampton Shipwatch 44: Britannia

On this slightly overcast morning I made my way to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of  P&O’s new ship Britannia. I was hoping that the weather would not turn nasty and that the sun would shine on her arrival. The ship was due at the dockhead at 12H30, and would sail down to the swinging grounds by Mayflower, turn, and then hold her position for a parachute drop, before sailing to the swinging ground at Ocean Terminal and then going in stern first for the first time in Southampton. This would be the 8th maiden arrival that I have witnessed from the city.
 
I arrived early, although fortunately I did plan for an early train as there was an incident at Clapham Junction that delayed trains from the east, most were running roughly 30 minutes late. It did mean I had some time to kill and I mooched around like a lost soul until I saw tugs heading from their berths towards Southampton Water. She was close! 
 
That first glimpse is an important one, because that is where you get to see a ship that may exist for 30 years, and who could become an old friend as you see her regularly. The first thing I spotted were the two big blue funnels
  
P&O have been doing a rebranding exercise, the traditional yellowish funnel being replaced with blue, and hull art being painted on the bows. On a new ship it does make sense, but on a ship like Oriana or Aurora it does not. Those two vessels were built for P&O, and I don’t think rebranding them was a good idea, they are both very British ships (inspite of their registry), and they should not have been touched. 
  
Then they turned on the window washers and from this point onwards the tugs went crazy with their water canon. So much so that a decent pic of the ship was almost impossible. Having seen other images taken at Mayflower and Hythe I should really have gone there instead of Town Quay.
 
I have to admit I do like her, she does bear a resemblance to Royal Princess but does not have that overly top heavy appearance of the Princess ship, and of course the twin funnels really make a difference. 
  
Town Quay was packed, and it was good to see so many people out there to welcome this new ship, although a part of me was unhappy that so many people were getting in each others way and ruining the shots! (We won’t even discuss the worm drowners).  As you can see the water jets were huge and the wind was blowing the spray onto us rubber neckers, so I did get a taste of the harbour water (and it was salty).
 
People now started to dash off to Mayflower to join the hordes that were already there. I chose to remain where I was (probably because I did not feel like going all that way), but I was really hoping to get better images when she returned having been swung.
 
As modern ships go she is not unattractive, she does look slightly bulky in the rear end, and of course that downward sloping stern and ducktail does nothing for me, but I can live with that. The branding on her bow is not too distracting either, in fact it does provide a nice break from all the white.
  
For those that are interested, Svitzer Sarah was the main culprit that was washing windows. 
 
They started to swing the ship and we finally got a chance to see all of her with not too much spray, and I think she probably looks at her best from that angle. She does have reasonably clean lines without all the top hamper and clutter that the two NCL ships (Getaway and Breakaway)  have. 
 
Once she had swung everything stopped while overhead a small aircraft dropped 3 parachutists. I must admit I did find that a bit of an odd thing to do, but then there was probably some publicity reasoning behind it.
 
 
 
The show over, the vessel slowly made her way towards us, although this time around we would all move away from the spray and keep our lenses dry! 
 
  
They then started to swing her once again so that she could go astern into the berth. Usually the ships manage to accomplish this without the use of attendant tugs, but it seems as if nobody was taking any chances today.
 
  
And then it was time for me to make tracks. I had a train to catch, and it was at least 25 minutes walk to the station. I turned my own bows to home and bid the newest addition to the worlds cruising fleet a fond farewell. I hoped to see her again one day, but till that day comes, may she have a long and successful career, unfortunately, she will become the new P&O flagship, taking the title from Oriana. 
 
On Sunday 10 March, The Queen will officially name the vessel, and she will commence her cruise programme shortly thereafter. 
 
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 06/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2015
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:26

Southampton Shipwatch 43. Quantum of the Seas

RCL’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, had her maiden arrival in Southampton this past week. Unfortunately, as I am in my last days at work I was unable to get leave to see her, although she did arrive in the late afternoon, which would have made photography difficult anyway. The only window I really had to see her would be on the Sunday afternoon when she sailed for the United States.
 
The weather has not been kind to photographers lately and I was in two minds to go down to Southampton to see the ship. The timing was awkward because of trains, and a 17H00 sailing would have been do-able, but only just.
 
I arrived at the station at roughly 15H30, and caught the bus down to Town Quay. The walk was just not something I felt like tackling. Ever since my ankle started to play around I have been trying to cut down on the top speed charges that I tend to make when I am in a hurry. The ship was alongside at 101, and the weather was grey, although the rain seemed to be staying away. 
 
First impressions? that baby blue hull, heaps of unshiplike appurtenances,  the eye in the sky thingey, and lots of superstructure and a small hull. It is however hard to be definitive about her because I was not able to get a full side view of her or a front view.
 
 
At least she did not have an open plan stern like Oasis of the Seas has. Although what lurks behind that strange glass area is still a mystery as I have not looked at deck plans of her. Mayflower Park was packed and I moved across to Town Quay to do my photography from there. Quantum was occupying the berth usually used by RCL ships, which meant that Adventure of the Seas was sitting at QEII, she was due to sail at 16H30. 
 
The sun was busy setting by now, casting a nice orange glow on the surroundings. Its just a pity that it would not give us that extra hour we needed to see Quantum away. From Town Quay it was possible to see her a bit better, although the clutter from the derelict Royal Pier messes up the view.
 
I must admit I definitely prefer her to Oasis, she does not have that large superstructure overhang, and her lifeboats are stowed further inboard on her hull. The top decks look horribly cluttered though, but given all the goodies she has on board she still doesn’t look too awful. The eye in the sky thingey is actually called “The North Star Observation Tower”. I keep on thinking of the London Eye when I see it, and while it does seem a lot over the top it must really be an experience to see the view. The crane arm is 41M long, so it is a long way to fall.
 
Just after 16H30 Adventure sailed, and my gut instinct was saying that the ship would not sail on time. I had planned my visit that the latest I could leave Town Quay would be 17H35 to catch my train by 18H10. If I missed that train I would have an hours wait for the next. 
 
It was getting dark really quickly, and the ship was slowly coming alive with light, although not as much as I really wanted. My camera does not deal with the dark very well, and for that matter neither does the operator. 
 
I was lucky to catch the eye in the sky thingey raised. and it did look odd. Come to think of it, where was the foremast? Sailing time came and went, and I decided that I was really wasting time and would head off to the station, pausing at Mayflower to see what she was like close up in lights. 
 
She towered over the area, and stuck out like some garish disco over the darkness. The area was still packed, but you could see a lot of people were leaving because they did not know when she was going to sail. That’s the problem with waiting for a ship to go, it could take ages. She sailed 2 hours late the other night, and that was bad news if you are standing shivering waiting for the lines to drop..
 
It is interesting to compare the night and day shots of her stern.
 
Then I was out the door. The lines were still down and it did not look like she was going to sail soon. She was probably waiting for me to reach the station, that’s what usually happens.
 
One last shot through the fence and I was off. I could still catch the 17H54 train if I rang down full ahead. And, I made it in time too. I believe she finally sailed at 18H00. So what does she look like from the front? unfortunately I do not have images of her from that angle, however I did find these two on the Royal Caribbean Press Centre website.
thrr1
 
 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 02/11/2014. Images recreated 20/04/2016
 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:58

Southampton Shipwatch 42: Oasis of the Seas

This morning I headed off to Southampton on half days leave because due to arrive was one of the largest cruise ships in the world: Oasis of the Seas. The weather was overcast after a weeks rain, and as we approached the station I could see that there was mist over the harbour. The other cruise ship at Mayflower was MSC Magnifica, and I managed a glimpse of her as we came into the station. From Town Quay she was just a white blob in a grey sea/sky and this is all I really saw of her, certainly not enough for a shipwatch on its own.
 
Oasis was due to arrive at 9.30ish and berth at 101, she has some very peculiar berthing arrangements and this maiden arrival had had to be carefully planned. Apparently she only berths starboard side to and once she was ready to sail would have to be swung up at the swinging area by the container berth. She was due to sail at 23.59 but there was no way I was going to hang around that long! I headed across to Town Quay via Mayflower Park. There was already a crowd gathering there, and there was probably a mob gathering at Town Quay too. The weather was still lousy, and Hythe was almost hidden in the mist. Saga Sapphire was berth alongside at QEII so would provide an interesting comparison.
By 9.25 there was movement, and it turned out to be a tug with her water canons open, and there was a buzzing helicopter making excited movements as its occupants photographed the ship that was now emerging between the buildings and Saga Sapphire. It was hard to get an indication of what was coming along at slow ahead, but soon the bow emerged, and then the broad front of this huge vessel. There was an exchange of hooters and either Saga Sapphire or her had a wonderful old style ships hooter. And I am glad that at least that occurred because this is after all, a maiden arrival.
Then the ship was clear and you could see how big she was, or should I say how broad she was. This was a really big ship and my first impression was of a large superstructure on a small hull, with a huge overhang on either side.  She was not a pretty ship from this angle, if anything she looked like an ungainly one, but that was really because of the odd angle. As she came closer the foreshortening effect diminished and you could finally get a feeling for her length. She was big, very big, and would probably make Independence of the Seas look small!
As she came alongside you could get a sense of how high the accommodation was, with its cluttered upperworks. The stern interested me because I had never been able to understand what was going on there. It appeared as if there were some sort of fabric sails that hid the hole in the back. Unfortunately, with our low vantage point there was no real answer. I would have to try get other pics from Mayflower.
 
 

Strangely enough her hull was a baby blue colour which I will reserve judgment on until I have seen her in sunlight. Then she was past me and I headed off to Mayflower to join the crowds. She was berthing a bit further towards 102 than the ships usually do and was coming alongside without a tug. She was quick though, there was no fussing or messing around, from arrival to this point had probably been 15 minutes.
 
Then I got a chance to look at that stern. I can see a hang glider there, and a large logo…
I took my pics, checked my watch and decided it was really time to get back to Salisbury. I stopped at Dock Gate 8 and took a few pics, although could not get past the gate to get other images.

I was glad that I had made this trip, although to be honest she doesn’t really appeal to me, although I would love to go on board to poke around. But sail on her? probably not. There could be over 5000 people on board (that’s probably 10000 items of luggage that has to be moved between ship and terminal), and that is 4999 people too many for me.

The nitty gritty is that when she was built she was the largest cruise ship afloat, although her sister Allure of the Seas is a smidgen bigger. Awhile ago I explored large cruise ships in a blog post called Really Big Ships,  so will have to make a few changes to that one

 

On 30 October the latest of these mega ships is arriving: Quantum of the Seas will be here and occupy the same berth. By then they will have sorted out all the peculiarities involved with a ship this size and things should go smoother. It is unlikely that I will be able to go down to see her as I am changing jobs next month so my leave is all tied up. However, I will see how things go, I wouldn’t mind seeing her, after all, it is not every day that the opportunity arises to see such huge moving objects. Its just a pity the weather had not played fair.

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated and links repaired 20/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:01

Heading back from Ryde

Carrying on where we left off….

There was one thing I needed to see and that was the Portsmouth Naval Memorial at Southsea, it was designed not only as a memorial, but also as a leading mark for shipping. In the image below the memorial is the white tower with the greenish ball on top of it. It is a very impressive memorial, and one of three similar memorials that were erected to the casualties of the Royal Navy.
 
Shieldhall was now heading back to Southampton at a leisurely pace. The weather was hot and cloudy in places, and the water was calm. Perfect cruising weather really. The sun had discovered that there were areas of me that needed attention and I often had to head to a shade deck just to cool off.
 
My presumption as to why we were dawdling along was twofold. There was a small tug dredging in the approach channel, and we had to wait for her to finish, or the master was waiting for the cruiseships to emerge from Southampton so that he could regale them with the siren. Any cruiseship is fair game and often some merchant ships get the siren treatment too. It must be quite odd to be on the bridge of your sparkling cruiseship to be accosted by a small steam powered ex-sludge carrier with an often obscene siren. Cruise ship sailing time is around 16H30, and we were not quite ideally placed by the time they started unberthing and moving. Get a move on Smit Buffalo!!!
 
We also passed a few smaller vessels going about their business, and a host of power boaters and assorted water craft. Sand Heron was being followed by 3 of those water scooter type machines that were using her wake as a launching platform. I had seen this vessel in Weymouth awhile ago, and photographed her sister transiting the Itchen Bridge.
 
By now I could pick up the movement in Southampton at the further-est extent of the lens of my camera. (which reminds me, the lens extending mechanism does not sound very good). The leading vessel was Independence of the Seas, and I expected that because they are quite prompt in their departures, unlike certain other vessels……
 
And then we were waiting, siren at the ready… but would they catch the hint?
 
Independence of the Seas is a real beauty, she exudes size and efficiency and I have never seen her looking shabby or run down. She is also prompt, but her master chose to ignore our plaintive bleatings, parps and belches. 
 
I was fortunate enough to catch her as she turned into the Western Solent, and with the sun on her.
 
Emerald Princess on the other hand wanted to play along and we exchanged salutes with her (much to the amusement of everybody on board).
  
And finally Oceana also exchanged salutes with us.
 
As we passed the mouth of the Hamble I spotted a strange contraption festooned with lifeboats. I suspect it is some sort of training facility for ships crews, or maybe for scouts? it may be worthwhile finding out more about it. (Apparently this is part of Warsash  Maritime Academy)
 
Somebody was missing from the sailing list, Azura had also been in the harbour and she was not amongst the sailings. We had left her at Ocean Terminal when we had sailed, although she was berthed bow first instead of stern first like she usually does. Hopefully as we got closer we would pick her up. 
 
We picked up Whitchallenger on her way downstream, she is a bunkering vessel and may have been heading to top herself up as she was riding quite high.
 
We were also overtaken by two separate members of the Red Funnel fleet, and the Red Jets really left us rocking in their wakes, although Red Osprey just made us wobble a bit.
 
As we got closer to the harbour I spotted Azura being swung in the turning basin and soon she was bearing down on us. This was actually the second time I had seen her like this, the first being on my Cowes trip. 
 
You only get a sense of how big these ships are when they go past you, sadly though they do not really appeal to me, although I do recall that both her and Ventura were easy to work onboard from a baggage handling perspective.
 
and then we were alongside Hythe Pier
 
and I got to wave at Challenge, she is looking very lonely in that corner of the harbour. I really wish they would have her at a better spot because she is liable to be forgotten where she is now.
 
And then we were ready to come alongside, our trip completed. Shieldhall and her crew had brought us home safely.
 
I still had to get to the station and catch my train back to Salisbury, and I was tired. But it had been a different trip and I had enjoyed it. My only gripe was that there weren’t more ships to see on the trip. My next cruise will probably be one of the short harbour voyages that they have during the Maritime Festival which is being held on the 22nd and.23rd of  August. I will see you then Shieldhall. 
 
 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 27/07/2014, images recreated and links changed 19/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:37
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