'The good,the bad and the downright scary'

Graham Wallace
28th May 2008, 06:12
“The good, the bad and the downright scary”

I just saw a recent thread from Rushie about old time personnel and it started me thinking. For many years( since 2000) now I have been looking for old ex Engineering apprentices and now any crew member I can gently manipulate into giving me their details of those old days.

Here are a few of my own personal memories.

I did not sail with BP for long, 1958 to 1962 ( was a 1955 BP Marine Engineering Apprentice)but in that short time came across some quite different and talented people (some more than others) a few rose to heights within BP that at the time I never really knew existed, others made their mark in different ways. Most have now left BP and got on with the rest of their lives. I seem to have reverted back and now can remember (so I think) more about those highs and lows than I can about what I did last month...............That’s why I keep a diary and a website! Only wish I could read my scrawl.

I sailed on four ships.

The ‘Empress’ as an E/A; my first C/E was Tony Lowson, young and bright, disliked by the 2/E for precisely those reasons. Tony went on to take his steam ticket and sailed for many years on steam ships and I’m told slowly getting out of date. I am sure he would have liked the return of diesel power. Tony is retired in Spain.
Our only Empress fame was running aground in fog on the Banks (Hen & Chicken sandbanks)off Grangemouth and having to be lightened and pulled off by 2 tugs and the British Escort strapped alongside, oh the ignominy! On another time we did have slight ETA delay due to saving the company money by reclaiming some few tons of bunkers that had leaked into the E/R forward cofferdam, trouble was it was floating on a larger quantity of water which has a combustion factor of zero, so we burned all the wood in sight to keep up steam until it could all be drained off, the alternators were steam recip, not a diesel in sight.

Her next C/E was John Sutton (we took the ship to the breakers in Methil), the ‘we’ is a little exaggerated but I’m sure I did my bit. I was after the E/R clock but being low on the totem pole claimed some packing extractor screws instead. John was sunk in WWII and a POW for 4 years. I only recently found out from John’s son he went on to become Commodore C/E in 1965 on the Admiral and was well liked and respected, unfortunately I can hardly remember him.

On to the ‘Justice’ and Sammy Bodle C/E, I would really like to know what happened to Sammy he certainly was a character. My first introduction on joining ship (as an E/A) was that he was going ashore to find some ‘fun’ in Rochester/Chatham and I was needed to help him get dressed, least said about that the better. But I think he was successful that evening. And could Sammy drink, an especially useful attribute on breakdowns, he saved us all the opportunity of free beer, ‘cos he drank it all before we finished the job! Sammy had his own blow-up seat ring, suffering badly from those dreaded H’s. Maurice Whitehouse was his long suffering 2/E; I believe Maurice finally obtained C/E.

One of her junior navigating apprentices was David Rundle; we spent many hours on the monkey Island on a one boiler slow speed trip down West Africa trying to get the photo of the supreme wave over the bow. David went on to become Captain D.M.Rundle OBE , skipper of the Wye in the Falklands War, David passed away in January 2006 and I never got to get in touch with him.

The ‘Sovereign’; First trip J/E leaving Falmouth dry-dock. Great ship, nice crew and a couple of trips to Kwinana interspaced with repeated short runs to Bombay and Aden via Umm Said. The delightful resort of Umm Said via a 4 hour pilotage, boiler room temperatures in high 130’s and picking up the submerged loading pipeline, to leave some 24 hours later after viewing only sand. I learned some interesting tales about the local Sheik when researching the Crown disaster.

There were no real characters aboard her and except for a suicide and sea burial off Bandar Mashur my time aboard was relatively uneventful.
I had a pack of cards with her picture on the reverse and made the Airfix plastic scale model of her, not exactly earth shattering.

The ‘Light’ was next and last ship, she was relatively new and OK not like her later years. Joined as J/E and left as 4/E. The 4/E at the time was Phil Dalling who I believe went on to become 3/E and the saviour of many family relationships by becoming a relieving 3/E at Isle of Grain. I had never heard of the position before but makes sense to me!! I have been in touch with Phil who is retired in Wales.
Cannot remember the original 2/E (Murphy?) But his replacement ‘Big Wullie’ Mackenzie was a different kettle of fish, caused me untold problems when I reached heady heights of 4/E. There is a thread in Shipsnostalgia about turning gear problems, he was mine.

Roger Pickston was an E/A, went on to great heights in BP on the West coast of USA. Roger and I have rekindled our friendship.

FG Wilson (Frederick Gerald) was the Light’s 3/E a quiet, unassuming, confident engineer. He relieved me at the end of my 4/12 watch and on manoeuvring and pilotage I stayed over into the first 2 hours of his as 3rd watchkeeper , we naturally talked a lot. Fred (or Gerry to some) was killed while 2/E aboard the British Crown on 20th August 1966 in the explosion at Umm Said. Since 1995 I have made it a personal crusade to find out about the disaster, the ship , her crew and the circumstances up to and after.

I have shown some photographs of the disaster in my Website ( www.bpapprentices.com) but have vastly more material, photographs and information on people and the incident and one day will do more with it. I am told we all have one book in us!

There must have been many characters within BP in those days, who are they, what happened to them and where are they now?

Recently I came across Harold ‘ Bunkers’ Brown C/E, there must be a story there somewhere!

Graham Wallace

4th June 2008, 22:42
Maurice Whitehouse certainly made C/E. I sailed with him on the British Energy in 1972/3. He appeared to have a major drink problem and was, I believe, invited to leave BP. About a year later in drydock in Singapore a Superintendant from Mobil (I think) mentioned that he had to get rid of a C/E for drinking too much, ex BP with the same name. Coincidence?

6th June 2008, 19:34
Graham I remember Sammy Bodle well sailed with him for approx 12 mths on Br, Sergeant. He certainly liked his drink and in particular Black Label Whisky, At one port the ship was being made ready to sail I came up from the eng.rm. to be met by Sammy in full uniform wanted me to escort him ashore to get some bottles of said whisky, we had a taxi and bought 6 bottles, I think the reasoning was that the master wouldn't sail with us both ashore,as soon as we were on board we let go. Sammy drank his whisky by the tumbler.

D Sutton
7th June 2008, 21:08

I was after the E/R clock but being low on the totem pole claimed some packing extractor screws instead.

Graham Wallace

I have in the loft a bakelite clock, ex T2 I think, and also some dental instruments that came off a scrapper, father always said they would come in handy. Whatever for god only knows!

8th June 2008, 11:08
Got the chartroom clock and barometer from the 1948 Progress at home, together with some of those gimballed table lamps and a cabinet. All liberated by the old man just before she was scrapped!

11th June 2008, 22:53
how do you work this site

2nd July 2008, 00:50
I remember Sam well when I was young 3rd mate, Sam was C/E. Banned from the engine room by the 2/E. His day started with 2 glssaes of whiskey then he would get up. The first case of empties used to go down the lalleyway at midday. The ship never trimmed because Sam never knew where the bunkers were. His wife could drink well ! Put us all under the table one evening !! She told the story about him being on leave and going out in the morning for a hair cut and arriving home late plastered and it took the barber two days to recover. Tony White

Phil Williams
2nd July 2008, 04:49
I was sad to read the report from Clarkie59 about Maurice Whitehouse; I sailed with Maurice on the "Guardsman" in 1967 and got on well with him, and do not remember him having any drink problem then, he was 2/E at the time and I'm glad to see that he made it to Chief, though perhaps it was his undoing.