Sunday, 7 June 2015

War Weddings & First Trips

Dipping back into the archives again, here we have the marriage of my mother, Elizabeth Bamber, to my father, Jan van Bergen, 3rd Mate with the Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaartmaatschappij (or VNS, which later became Nedlloyd) at St John the Baptist church, Birkdale.

I believe the wedding dress was made from parachute silk, as most wedding dresses at the end of the war were; it was in plentiful supply after all.

My mother, being a triplet, was always having problems with my father and the boyfriends of her identical sisters. My father was almost bopped by the boyfriend of one of her sisters when he thought the my father was walking out with his girlfriend.

Returning to my own past, here's a photo of the good ship Onitsha, a freighter belonging to Elder Dempters Line of Liverpool. Elder's were part of Ocean Fleets, which included Blue Funnel (also known as Alfred Holt + Co.), Glen line and Guinea Gulf. In the early 70s it was the largest British shipping company, and one of the largest in the world.

The Onisha had been built with 12 passenger cabins on one deck. By the time I sailed on her (my first and second trip) the passenger deck had been converted to accommodation for 12 cadets. When I say converted, I mean simply reallocated.

I joined Elder's aged 16 with a couple of my old school chums from HMS Conway and some blokes I'd never met before in my life: we are all still good friends. Those two trips were among the finest, most memorable and most enjoyable episodes in my life and helped shape who I am.

The captain was one Capt. Stuart Eynon; a borderline alcoholic, a chain smoker of prodigious capacity and a total martinet. First Mate was Mike Knight; totally unflappable and a consumate professional who carried the Captain in more ways than one.

Out first trip was a two month jaunt from northwest continental Europe to West Africa and back, followed by a week's leave and another voyage of some four months down to West Africa, across to the USA, back to West Africa and then home.

The amusing stories I could recount are legion, but best saved for another day.

The link between my seagoing career and that of my father was that my company was a major shareholder in Overseas Container Line, with whom I sailed for the last few years of being at sea. OCL morphed into P+O Container Line (can't do ampersands on blogger), which merged with Nedlloyd to form P+O Nedlloyd. After I left the sea and came ashore, the whole caboodle was eventually merged into Maersk, the world's largest shipping company. Amongst our weaponry were such diverse elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope....

Bottled water. Lifestyle statement, or a statement of gross stupidity? Unless you can't metabolise chlorine, I'd go with the latter.

Is it any surprise that the cockroach belongs to the genus Blatta?

1 comment:

  1. Keep swinging the lamps, this is interesting stuff. Me I did three weeks on one wave and that was just up short side :)