Bombay Tigers

22nd December 2008, 14:36
Bombay Tigers was the name given to the large cockroaches which were plentiful on Brocklebank ships in my time. They were a golden brown in colour and over an inch in length and about half an inch beam. On the MAIHAR the apprentices' cabin was opposite the engineers' messroom and after dinner at night the stewards would deliver a plate of sandwiches to this messroom so that the engineers who came off watch during the night could have a snack. They were placed in the "safe" - a free standing cabinet with a wire gauze covered door and walls several inches thick. The plate had another over the top of the sandwiches. (No such luxury as a fridge on the ship)
The engineers started to complain that their sandwiches were being eaten and we apprentices were the prime suspects. In the end the C/E came to us and told us in no uncertain terms that this thievery would have to stop. Even the fourth engineer coming off at midnight found the safe empty. Of course we were innocent and in the end it was twigged who were the culprits.
The "safe" was taken on deck and smashed up with a fire axe. It was found that the lining was stuffed with hundreds of Bombay Tigers and the mess was horrible after they had been slaughtered.
In the hot weather we apprentices would remove the bulb from its socket in the cabin and open the porthole and the door to get some air. On coming off watch and undressing in the dark one would sweep ones hand across ones bunk to clear away the odd beatle.
Weevils similarly were into the cereals etc and would float to the surface. On a lengthy voyage we had smoked our way through all the Players and Capstan
cigarettes and even the Turkish ones. When we got to Sicily we were reduced to fags called ARDATH and when we opened the brown paper parcels which contained 500 we found the weevils had drilled through the lot. Each
fag would have three or four small holes and it was impossible to "draw" them. The only way was to study the fag and place a finger over each hole and smoke away. It was common to see chaps smoking as if playing a flute.
However on arrival in Sicily we managed to sell them at a fantastic profit which enabled us to invest the proceeds in wine ashore.
Happy days

Jim F
22nd December 2008, 16:02
Always remember these beasts,during crew change in Bombay.They would sometimes get drawn in by the Engineroom ventilation fans and come rattling down the ducts onto the desk and log book.Ruined many a good cup of char and sandwich with those mechanised bastards. Best of the Season to you.

22nd December 2008, 16:25
Met these horrible creatures on my first trip to sea whilst berthed in calcutta, not being fond of creepy crawlies they were a sight to behold..

Pilot mac
22nd December 2008, 16:49
I always knew them as Bombay Canarys, you had to 'crunch' your way ashore some nights.


Derek Roger
22nd December 2008, 20:58
I have related this story before but cant find it so will have another go .

On either Brocklebanks Maipura or Mahseer I recollect a yarn about a second mate who when on watch found with regularity the bridge lights would blow a fuse requiring him to get the Lecky to come up and investigate .

Fuses were replaced but no fault could be found .

As the vessel sailed east the time frame semed to change ?? That is the time of failure seemed to be staying with GMT rather than ships time .

After some discussion between the Lecky and 2nd Mate they decided it may be something Sparky was doing .

On investigation one night ; Sure enough the problem was found .

The Sparks had rigged up a wire across his door sill with some "Bait " and connected it to a spare " Key " . He would wait for a "Bombay Tiger " to try and get the bait then "Fry It " at the same time blowing the fuse which for some reason never explained was on the same circuit as the bridge lights.

As a Chief Engineer ( Allan Atack )I sailed with many times said " There is no such thing as a mystery. "

"Either we dont have all the facts or the facts we have are being analysed incorrectly . "

How true ! In this case the 2nd mate and Lecky solved the " Mystery "

Regards Derek

22nd December 2008, 21:37
There was an odd-ball sparks on a tanker I was on and he had his radio on in his cabin very loud. Some of the engineers decided to get their own back on him. The aerial he used went up through a small mushroom vent and then up to the triatic stay. When he wasn't about one day they cut the aerial in the vent and watched him carry out all sorts of antics to get the reception. Took him days to suss out what had been done.

Pilot mac
22nd December 2008, 21:41
When I think of Bombay I automatically think of the Harbour Bar at The Taj Mahal. Many a pleasant evening......Indian Gin and fresh lime. Wonder how it is at the moment?


23rd December 2008, 09:48
They were almost indestructible. I've mentioned this in another posting: I found one in the radio room on Malakand one night in Calcutta. There was a large, heavy tin filled with a random assortment of nuts, bolts, and washers that "would come in useful one day". I dropped the tin on the aforesaid creature from a great height with no discernable effect. Stepping on it had no effect so I ended up chasing it around the radio room floor whacking it with a hammer and it still wouldn't give in. It eventually disappeared under the furniture so I left it. It showed its face the next morning and only finally succumbed when it got a goodly squirt from the old fashoned brass carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher. Good sport but I now know that carbon tet was a carcinogen.

All the best,


Albert Bishop
23rd December 2008, 10:12
Oh dear, We used to use those carbon tet extinguishers as portable dry cleaning machines!!!!!!

23rd December 2008, 11:04
Apparently cockroaches have a body clock which makes them active between about 8 PM and 4 AM local time. I remember reading about an experiment which was performed using English and Australian cockroaches. Some part of their bodies which controlled the body clock was removed and the insects were flown to their opposite hemisphere. I can't remember what happened to their activity cycles but very soon they developed cancer - thus proving that jetlag causes cancer in cockroaches.
I don't think it worked as fast as carbon tet though.

John T.

Alistair Spence
7th January 2009, 19:43

your Bombay Tigers are hellish small at 1" x 1/2", infact I think we called them cockies. What we called Bombay Tigers were the monsters that came aboard with the copra in the phillippines. I wouldn't want to be accused of exageration, but these things were small if they were 2" long and no amount of shovel bashing would ever kill them.

7th January 2009, 20:40
One ship I was on with my wife, I forget which, but it was a Denholm's OBO,she was on the monkey island one early afternoon in the Red Sea with the 4th's wife when they both came down in some distress asking for some insect killer because they'd seen a cockroach. I gave them an aerosol can, and a hammer. They thought I was joking!
Once they'd tried to drown the thing in spray and it hadn't died, they realised that I wasn't! Of course they needed me to wield the hammer, which I did manfully and heroically, in true Denholm's style.

8th January 2009, 11:49
I was on a Brocklebank ship - forget which and we were in Liverpool. The C/E had his wife aboard and they and a couple of other bods and me were having a beer or 2 in his cabin one evening. A tray had been left for them to have a brew and late on the C/E's wife picked up the tray and went down the alleyway and into the engineers' messroom to brew up.
We heard a loud scream and a crash.
She had gone into the messroom, balanced the tray on one hand and switched on the light only to find the messroom floor covered with hundreds of Bomby Tigers which promptly vanished in all directions ! She had ropped the tray with her fright.

EJR Williams
25th March 2009, 21:04
see my entry in Strange cargos

25th March 2009, 23:48
We use to call them in Singapore joeys and they were big B*******s at night returning on the dockside the sport was to kick them into the water and watch fish silently glide up and swallow them whole,To kill them yourself your foot had to weigh about 2 stone Tony Allen