Fun and Games
This ship had a large crew of officers, seamen, and deck and engineer cadets. We were I think around 45 people on board, not counting passengers. It was a young lively crowd, and I well remember some of the games we used to play (especially after a few beers!) One of them was to play "Doxfords".
Seven of the engineers (We had lots of them) would stand in a line, representing the pistons of a Doxford diesel engine. Then the Chief Engineer (or the 2nd) would call out the firing order of the engine. (E.g. 1,3,2,5,4,7,6). The engineers had to bob up and down in that order, first at slow ahead, then faster and faster. If he was really mean, the commanding engineer would then put his "engine" astern, which could sometimes be hilarious ... especially when the "alcoholic oil" had been flowing!
Another game we used to play was done in a totally blacked out cabin (usually that of the four cadets, as it was bigger). Each participant had a large stack of beer mats (usually square ones as they flew better). Then after everyone had separated into different spots around the cabin periphery, the lights would be turned off. The object of the game was to pelt your opponent(s) (it was generally deck cadets/officers against engine cadets/officers) with beer mats as weapons. (Thrown at high speed, they can HURT!) It usually degenerated however into a free for all! Everyone tried to move around as quietly as possible, and to find out where the others were. Glowing watches and/or cigarettes were a dead giveaway! If our "ammo" ran out, we would of course try to pick up any off the deck, but it was not always easy to find. Also, even with the noise of the engine, fans and blowers, it was surprising with what accuracy the ear could pick up the direction and identity of quiet breathing or the furtive sliding of a hand on deck carpeting. The loud “ouch!” as one scored a direct hit was most satisfying!
I remember visiting the seaman’s mission in Port Swettenham Malaysia and the one in Singapore called Connell House, as well as some of the seedier areas of Singapore and Bangkok. We rarely went off alone, both for safety and also because it was more fun in groups of friends. Singapore at this time was a totally different city to now, with lots of small shops and businesses in old dilapidated buildings both near the docks and in the town itself. It had a very mysterious and adventurous feeling, which somehow seems to have been lost in the modern cosmopolitan city of today. Being taken to a seedy bar ashore by my chief – then being left there when he disappeared off with one young lady - was an interesting experience, not to mention having to be helped back to the ship by two engineer cadets who “rescued me” from the clutches of another!
On arrival back at London, we had to go through the locks, which kept the dock water in during low tide. One of the crew or dock workers was not fast enough, and we started moving whilst a rope was still attached. It became bar taught, started to thrum like a bass guitar string. Then despite its size (a mooring rope was often thicker than a mans thigh) it started to smoke, then snapped with a crack like a gun. Luckily it was a hemp rope. These do not stretch much and so don’t fly back like wire, nylon or poly ropes do. It did no damage. Its quite usual for a broken synthetic or wire rope to fly back like a huge elastic band, bending iron railings and spars, well capable of killing anyone in the way. There are some horrific (true!) stories about where this has happened. Ships ropes under stress should be (and are) given a wide berth.
After a 4 month round trip, I returned home by train after being duly signed off by the Shipping Master at London Docks. I had survived my first voyage, my first storm, my first foreign port - and learned a lot as well.