VE Day: 2020

The War in Europe is over.. we have won! Words like that must have been on everybody’s minds when 7 May 1945 finally broke. It has been 75 years since the event and on this day we can give thanks that we are not living in a Nazi dominated world, and the horror that the Soviet Union inflicted on it’s people and satellite states is no more.  For those at home they could go to bed safe in the knowledge that it was all over bar the shouting, although in the defeated Germany there was not much to celebrate over. Thousands of ex-Nazi’s suddenly grew a conscience and after a suitable period of time slipped back into civilian live unpunished and unrepentant. Millions of displaced people tried to return home, thousands of prisoners of war looked forward to repatriation and families everywhere mourned those who never came back.  

My father was one of those POWs interned in Germany when the war ended.  His records indicate that he  was repatriated to the UK on 31/05/1945. How he got there I do not know, and neither do I know where he was housed in the UK between then and when he boarded the ship back to the Union of South Africa on 26/08/1945.  I do not even know which ship he sailed on either, but he arrived in Cape Town on 11 September 1945 and was then sent to Pietermaritzburg. From there he seemed to have been on leave, until he was due to report back on 13/11/1945. Whether that was at Pietermaritzburg or Johannesburg I cannot say, however, the record confirms him as being at the dispersal depot at Hector Norris Park in Johannesburg on 20 November 1945, and he was finally discharged on the 28th of that month with the rank of Lance Corporal. He was one of the lucky ones. 

Unfortunately it would take two atomic bombs to convince the Japanese that the war was lost, and VJ Day was on 2 September 1945. The world however has never been without a war somewhere since then and millions of civilians  have lost their lives in conflict ever since. We have not learnt our lesson yet. The present pandemic has shown that it does not take much to throw a planet into disarray, and even in the midst of the current crisis we are still killing each other. 

The exuberance of victory was well deserved though. It had been a tough fight and the enemy was tenacious and adaptable, but the Allies had completed their task as best they could.  Reams would be written about the mistakes that were made and the armchair generals would pat themselves on the back and beam at the medals that they received, while the ordinary soldier was just glad to be back at home and able to get on with their lives. 

Both my parents lived through the 2nd World War and my mother lost her brother in Egypt in 1944; the passage of time would never heal that wound and the loss of that family member would always be a part of their lives.   

As we celebrate VE day on the Bank Holiday within the confines of our lockdown let us not forget that freedom does not come without a price, and that price is not cheap. 

Winston Churchill made the following speech to the nation:

“God bless you all. This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tried. Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the independent resolve of the British nation. God bless you all. My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny. After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year.

There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? Were we down-hearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of English men and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say ‘do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be-unconquered.’ Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle-a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgement and our mercy.

But there is another foe who occupies large portions of the British Empire, a foe stained with cruelty and greed – the Japanese. I rejoice we can all take a night off today and another day tomorrow. Tomorrow our great Russian allies will also be celebrating victory and after that we must begin the task of rebuilding our hearth and homes, doing our utmost to make this country a land in which all have a chance, in which all have a duty, and we must turn ourselves to fulfil our duty to our own countrymen, and to our gallant allies of the United States who were so foully and treacherously attacked by Japan. “We will go hand and hand with them. Even if it is a hard struggle we will not be the ones who will fail.”

Amongst my collection is a letter of thanks from Field Marshal Jan Smuts that was sent to every single South African who served in the armed forces during World War 2.  Unfortunately I do not have a good image of it because it is behind glass. 

DRW © 2020. Created 05/05/2020. “Tribute to the Millions” – written by Bruno Peak – VE Day 75 Pageant Master


And now: The Shipping Forecast

Many years ago I read a book called “And Now the Shipping Forecast” By Peter Jefferson and it was kinda of strange because it was really about the weather at sea in areas around the British Isles. It made for somewhat odd reading because there was no relevance to me or where I lived at the time, although I was interested in the shipping part of it. I put the book out of my mind until I was reminded of it while reading another book and decided that I must relook the Shipping Forecast. 

The British Isles are surrounded by seas and ocean so the weather on land is affected by what happens over water and the adjacent continents, and being a maritime nation it is important that the weather forecast is correct (or as close as one can get with the weather). The first warning services for shipping were “broadcast” in February 1861 via telegraph communications.  In 1911, the Met Office began issuing marine weather forecasts which included gale and storm warnings via radio transmission for areas around Great Britain and it has been going ever since. It is produced by the Met Office and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. 

The seas around Britain are divided into 31 areas, and are named in a roughly clockwise direction starting with Viking and ending with Southern Iceland. The coastal weather stations named in the Shipping Forecast are numbered on the map below.

Image license:  Emoscopes, UK shipping forecast zones, CC BY-SA 3.0  Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipping_Forecast. Image has been cropped and resized. 

By some strange quirk the service gained a regular following both on land and at sea and regular listeners are convinced that the report helps them get to sleep, and realistically it is not the sort of broadcast that would make you sit up and reach for your shotgun under the bed. However, the weather forecast is very important if you are sailing a small boat or navigating a container ship, although modern vessels have much better sources of weather information available to them. 

What does it sound like? 

Announcer:

And now, here is the shipping forecast.

There are warnings of gales in Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, German Bight and Humber.

The general synopsis: Low, Rockall, 9 7 3 moving northwards, losing its identity by same time. New low expected Malin by that time. Low, Hebrides 9 9 4, moving rapidly South-East, and losing its identity by midday tomorrow.

The area forecasts for the next 24 hours: Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire – Gale warning issued Oh, nine four two. South-Easterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 later; wind South-Easterly 6 to 8, occasionally severe gale 9; sea state rough or very rough, becoming very rough or high; rain later; visibility moderate or good

Forties, Cromarty—Gale warning issued Oh, nine four two. Severe gale force 9 veering North-Westerly and decreasing gale force 8–imminent. Wind South-East 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8; sea state moderate or rough; rain later and squally showers; visibility moderate or good, occasionally poor later.

Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher —Variable, becoming cyclonic, 3 or 4; but Easterly or South-Easterly 5 or 6 in North and East.Rain then showers. Moderate or good.

German Bight and Humber —Gale warning. South-Easterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8, imminent; wind South-East 6 to gale 8, occasionally severe gale 9 veering South-West 6 later; sea state moderate or rough; rain or thundery showers; visibility moderate or good, occasion-ally poor.

Thames, Dover, Portland and Plymouth—variable 4 or 5; but Northerly or North-Easterly 6 or 7, occasional gale in South backing North-Westerly later. Intermittent wintery showers. Visibility moderate or good becoming poor later.

Fitzroy and Sole—severe gale force 9 veering Westerly and decreasing force 7 later. Sea state rough. Thundery showers, visibility moderate or good. Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea,Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey—West or North-West, 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times in Irish Sea. Showers. Moderate or good.

Fair Isle, Faeroes—West or North West backing South or South-West, 5 or 6, decreasing 3 at times. Rain or drizzle later. Moderate or good.

And, South-East Iceland—Northerly or North-Easterly 4 or 5 increasing 6 to gale 8 for a time. Wintery showers, good, occasionally poor.

And that completes the shipping forecast.

(Retrieved from https://studylib.net/doc/7879599/script-for-shipping-forecast-by-adrian-plass) by Adrian Plass © 2012

You may also want to listen to 5 hours of the Shipping Forecast on youtube

Having heard the forecast on youtube I am now almost ready to hear it live seeing as I have a problem sleeping, although it would not be complete gobbledegook to me as I do have an interest in shipping and know where some of those areas are. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I do not live next to the seaside although the Severn Estuary would come under Lundy.  (02/05/2020: Wind: Variable 3 or 4, becoming cyclonic 3 to 5. Sea states: Slight or moderate. Weather: Occasional rain and fog patches developing. Visiblity: Moderate or good, occasionally very poor. ).

According to Wikipedia there are normally four broadcasts per day at the following (UK local) times:

  • 0048 – transmitted on FM and LW. Includes weather reports from an extended list of coastal stations at 0052 and an inshore waters forecast at 0055 and concludes with a brief UK weather outlook for the coming day. The broadcast finishes at approximately 0058.
  • 0520 – transmitted on FM and LW. Includes weather reports from coastal stations at 0525, and an inshore waters forecast at 0527.
  • 1201 – normally transmitted on LW only.
  • 1754 – transmitted only on LW on weekdays, as an opt-out from the PM programme, but at weekends transmitted on both FM and LW.

On 30th March 2020, as a result of emergency rescheduling due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the number of bulletins a day was reduced to three as follows:

  • 0048 – transmitted on FM and LW
  • 0533 – transmitted on FM and LW
  • 1203 (weekdays only) – transmitted on FM and LW
  • 1754 (weekends only) – transmitted on FM and LW

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) sea state code largely adopts the ‘wind sea’ definition of the Douglas Sea Scale.

Many links were used in this article, and they provide much more information than I can. I do recommend the following as well as the links in the above article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_state

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-shipping-forecast/

http://www.openculture.com/2014/06/stephen-fry-reads-the-legendary-british-shipping-forecast.html

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/specialist-forecasts/coast-and-sea/shipping-forecast

DRW © 2020. Created 02/05/2020


Remembering the Dorita

Many years ago the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society went on one of its periodic trips down to Durban. For some reason I was not with them but when they came back they told me about a small private yacht that they had had a visit to. The ship had supposedly been owned by Elvis and the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor pairing at some point. The next time I went down to Durban I spotted the vessel and took pics of her, but did not really pay too much attention. If only I knew what a historic ship she was back then.

I recently posted her pic on one of my shipping groups and drew a blank so I decided to go see what was available in the outside world. The biggest problem I had was her name. For some odd reason I had labelled the image “Doreeta” but her name was really “Dorita”. Incidentally, the image above shows the former pilot boat R.A. Leigh in the background with the blue and orange funnel.

I discovered that the Dorita was now called “Grey Mist” and looked a bit different to what she looked like back then when we saw her. Her current specs are:  38.71m with a top speed of 13 knots from a pair of 425.0 hp engines. She has accommodation date up to 14 people with a crew of 5. She was designed by Charles E. Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholsons in Gosport with delivery in 1920 with the name Grey Mist for H.N. Anderson. In 1926 she was purchased by Sir John Archer K.B.E but resold to Harry Vincent in 1934. In 1939 she was bought by Lady Maud Burton and her husband Ronald Rothbury Burton. When war broke out she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and participated in the Dunkirk Evacuation which makes her one of the few survivors from that episode in history. She later served as a “signal ship” throughout the war. She was returned to her owners after the war.  

She was then bought by Walter Mears in 1951 who restored and operated her as a charter yacht around the Greek Islands. She was resold to Albert Bachelor who took her out of the British Registry, and later re-named her Marina II in 1966. She then drops out of sight until she was discovered rotting away in Durban in 1993 under the name Dorita. She was purchased by Fort Worth businessman Holt Hickman and crossed the Atlantic to America in 1998.   (https://www.berwickcameraclub.co.uk/news/tuesday-24th-september)

She was berthed at Galveston in 1998 and her new owner began a complete refit of the yacht in 2003, which was completed in 2011. (https://www.coastmonthly.com/2015/01/grey-mist/)

I could not find any reference to Elvis or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton although part of her history is missing. At some point she must have been re-engined although it appears as if she was originally diesel powered which was quite rare in period when she was built. Fortunately she still retains her counter stern. 

There is a complete description of her at (https://www.superyachttimes.com/yachts/grey-mist) as well as an image.  There are two images of her at Shipspotting.com. Use the thumbnails to access the pages. 

© dirk septer

© stuurmann

The Dorita is remembered but it is such a pity that she has become so divorced from her history and her past but she has existed for a century and is a unique glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. 

DRW 2020. Created 27/04/2020. Special thanks to the owners of the weblinks that I have used in this bit of history.