Haunting memories - Bank Line

Alan Rawlinson
22nd July 2011, 17:26
OK, so we've all run out of things to get nostalgic about, but count me out, because I still can conjur up the strongest recollection of sights, smells, and sounds aboard.

Probably it was the contrast from shore life, with all the distractions, but arriving at a Bank Line ship, still evokes the strongest memories.

The sight of the ships in a dock, and the straining, often in the back of a taxi, to see the first glimpse of the designated bank Line ship. Aarh, there she is - looks a bit rusty, but definitely solid and welcoming, with the all important Bank suffix on the name on the bow. Then the long climb up the gangway to see the new world. First, a trusty looking and welcoming Seacunny at the head of the gangway. An overpowering but warm and familiar smell of coconut oil and copra, perhaps.. Maybe a racket from a deck generator attached to a welding repair.

The trek through the accommodation to find a cabin, and a first meeting with shipmates to be. ( he looks a bit odd!) Could be a hand over involved. ( Wish he'd bugger off!) Soon, the routine kicks in and a meal in the saloon is the first sense of belonging, and a chance to meet everyone.

Everything starts to drop into place, and the anxiety fades - where's the nearest pub, I wonder? When are we sailing. Where are we going?

Here starts an adventure that is unique and so hard to beat.

Anyone agree?

Donald McGhee
22nd July 2011, 23:42
Aye, great smells when first joining any ship. The sort of "electricky" smell and the cooking odours trapped in the alleyways. The sounds of the engine room, gennies throbbing and distant clangings down below as one of our boiler suited bretheren dropped something large and metallic, or just walloped a bulkhead!

Winches, clangs and bangs from the holds, shouts and orders from the deck and the beery, stale cigarette smell in the saloon of some ships lucky enough to have a bar.

I could wax lyrical, but we all saw and smelled and listened to those things, which were so different to shore side and which I guess any one of us would love to relive.

I feel a dram coming on.

billyboy
23rd July 2011, 00:27
What always struck me was the blank expressions on the faces of the crew you were joining. Almost as if they were analyzing you.
Eventually someone would speak "where you from mate"? (oh Gawd one of them)
Then your first impression down below (gawd look at all them pipes and wheel valves).....(act as if you are not surprised).
But come smoko all that changes and you find you have some genuine mates amongst them. Mates like you never had ashore.
The stirring of the soul as the clang of the telegraph bells bring the ship to life.
Yep, miss every second of that.

spongebob
23rd July 2011, 00:27
You are spot on Don and Alan, there was nothing like the familiar sights sounds and smells of a ship on articles. Not the damp, dank odour and silence of a dead ship on survey and out of commission but a fuzzy combination that pervaded everywhere through the accommodation and felt like home once you were attuned to it.
Transfer to another ship and the feeling was briefly unfamiliar until you settled in. A bit like changing girl friends perhaps?

Bob

Donald McGhee
23rd July 2011, 01:16
You are spot on Don and Alan, there was nothing like the familiar sights sounds and smells of a ship on articles. Not the damp, dank odour and silence of a dead ship on survey and out of commission but a fuzzy combination that pervaded everywhere through the accommodation and felt like home once you were attuned to it.
Transfer to another ship and the feeling was briefly unfamiliar until you settled in. A bit like changing girl friends perhaps?

Bob

And a lot less bloody painful, with less repercussions!

Alistair Macnab
23rd July 2011, 18:40
Alan's phrase: "the start of an adventure" is the key to all of the sense stimulants that were invoked on joining a new ship. The reason we had become different from all of our shore friends was the fact that we had a completely new 'adventure' at regular intervals throughout our lives. Perhaps it was every two years....perhaps it was every six months. But new adventures were certainly on offer every time we joined a new ship: perhaps new ports of call; perhaps calls at familiar favourite ports; new shipmates; a new Captain and Chief Engineer (separate adventures in diplomacy and forebearance themselves!); a totally different ship even from her sisters; perhaps new cargoes; a fresh 'running away to sea' feeling; one step closer to promotion.....and so on.

Where was and is the equivalent of all of that on shoreside?

Donald McGhee
23rd July 2011, 23:07
Very true Alistair, especially the last section; I venture to say that the shore and sea will never meet, even today.

My experience of working on shore, especially in a large organisation is that pettiness and internal politics rule, where we had no time for this at sea, where promotions came as a result of time served and tickets passed, where time was spent on different ships, going to different places with different folk.

I think the variety was what made life at sea work, and that working within an organisation that is "static", same people, same place,same job encourages all that can be bad in a workplace.

John Dryden
23rd July 2011, 23:47
As Alan said ''When are we sailing,where are we going?''Truth is we never knew some times,even the Old Man,although the skipper would be well prepared for any change of orders.
As for haunting smells;new rope being uncoiled,burning oil in the engine room,Calcutta,the Kassabs paint store,sugar and the stench of Houston and the galley on the poop.

Alistair Macnab
24th July 2011, 00:32
If we could bottle all the different smells. Some might be hard to place but 'bottles' of aromas of Suez Canal, Houston Ship Channel, Gizo and Calcutta Moorings were all distinctive and would, even now, evoke instant accurate recognition.
(Thanks to John Dryden).

Ian Harrod
24th July 2011, 01:25
Where are we going? You all seem to have forgotten the source of all knowledge: The Bhandary's Radio!!

John Dryden
24th July 2011, 01:38
The news must have come from the well fed sparkie then!

oilkinger
24th July 2011, 02:46
January 1962. I was a young sailor in the Royal Australian Navy, 16 & 6 months, and with a bunch of other blokes of similar age we got off a bus in the Garden Island Dockyard / Sydney to join our first ship.
We stood on the wharf in awe. As far as we could see left, right and up was a bloody great grey steel wall. The aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. What an adventure for us young fellows. 20 days later the enthusiasm for a life at sea was shattered when we ran over the HMAS Voyager ( a Daring class destroyer ) sinking it and killing 82 of our comrades.
Interesting to contrast then and now. Not one person in authority ever asked us how we were handling this terrible event. No-one gave us grief counseling, no questions about stress levels or anxiety, no questions about our sleeplessness. At such a young age we certainly had issues coping with this traumatic event.
We arrived back in Sydney a couple of days after after the collision and, once the recovered bodies were taken down the gangway, our only "grief counseling" began. We went to the pub and got thoroughly pissed.

FME

Alan Rawlinson
24th July 2011, 08:54
Was giving it a bit more thought - about what we are all trying to capture here.... and believe it was the overall. feeling that we got from a sum of the parts. i.e. sights,sounds,smells, etc All the senses combined to make what was a unique and unforgettable moment (as proven by this site)

Sometimes elation was mixed with a ' sinking ' feeling ( Not so and so, as Captain) ( Not Calcutta again) and so on.

Is it possible that youthful optimism at the time, coupled with the calming influence of time passing has made things rosier than they were, or is it that life ashore was a darned sight worse!

Whatever, - for me, the flood of emotions on sighting that (sometimes rust streaked) hull, cannot be compared to anything else.

jimthehat
24th July 2011, 09:45
Was giving it a bit more thought - about what we are all trying to capture here.... and believe it was the overall. feeling that we got from a sum of the parts. i.e. sights,sounds,smells, etc All the senses combined to make what was a unique and unforgettable moment (as proven by this site)

Sometimes elation was mixed with a ' sinking ' feeling ( Not so and so, as Captain) ( Not Calcutta again) and so on.

Is it possible that youthful optimism at the time, coupled with the calming influence of time passing has made things rosier than they were, or is it that life ashore was a darned sight worse!

Whatever, - for me, the flood of emotions on sighting that (sometimes rust streaked) hull, cannot be compared to anything else.

1966 when I left bank line but even now i just have to shut my eyes and i am transported back to calcutta,all those weeks in kiddapore dock or on the bore moorings and the smell from the thunder box hanging off the stern,zanzibar cant compete.

jim

IBlenkinsopp
24th July 2011, 17:03
Ah yes, the smell of germaline applied tocaustic burns from cleaning out deeptanks, the incessant giggling of the mate when you explained how much pain you were in, what a jolly adventure it was.

China hand
24th July 2011, 18:19
The first Westbank chicken, with that gravy over it, and a little bump that moved, and turned out to be the first cockroach I ever saw in my life. Aint that sweet?(Eat)

Johnnietwocoats
25th July 2011, 04:52
Ah yes, the smell of germaline applied tocaustic burns from cleaning out deeptanks, the incessant giggling of the mate when you explained how much pain you were in, what a jolly adventure it was.

I still have the scars.....(Frogger)

Donald McGhee
25th July 2011, 05:25
The first Westbank chicken, with that gravy over it, and a little bump that moved, and turned out to be the first cockroach I ever saw in my life. Aint that sweet?(Eat)

Didn't we call them the Bank Line Chickopedes? The only chicken with 10 legs, as we never saw breast meat!!

Alistair Macnab
25th July 2011, 05:42
OK, OK.....there were a lot of things that were not to our liking. Who didn't feel queasy about a dead body caught up in the chains when at Esplanade Moorings? Who welcomes sixty days at anchor off Lagos or Sandheads? Who enjoyed cleaning out deeptanks after coconut or palm oils and getting the tanks clean and tested for arrival in the USA only to find the booked parcels had been cancelled? Come to that, who kept calm about working general cargo all day only to shift to a bulk oil terminal overnight and return to the general cargo berth for the morning shift? And, lets face it, who didn't feel positively hostile about sailing under a Master who was a known nut case?

Yes. But all these things and situations were surely part of the ongoing adventure? Nostalgia now, but a positive attitude then when all these things were happening and we made the best of them.

So many times have I seen mentioned in this site that we went off to sea as boys and came back as men. I, for one, welcomed the opportunity then and I rejoice in the life-lessons that came my way. I've just had my 74th. birthday. Some of our SN colleagues are older (God bless them!) but I'm getting up there, still working part time and still in good health. Isn't life just wonderful and all the better when it has positive and great things to reminisce about?

Here endeth the lesson.

Alan Rawlinson
25th July 2011, 09:51
Alistair, You have got me waxing all hysterical now!

We were a bunch of disparate, and not at all desperate characters, united by a unique experience.... Although destined never to meet, I feel I know so many Bank Line Officers through the ramblings on this site. How strange.

Truly - ' ships that pass in the night ' !

I would like to wish everyone a hearty " Fairwinds and a following sea "................

China hand
25th July 2011, 18:20
This is so true. A time in Bs.As. when the Royal Mail ship my buddy was on came and went twice, the third time when we were up river; I never met another Bankie! We knew each other by rpute. Absolute "ships that pass in the night".

Hamish Mackintosh
26th July 2011, 01:34
Quote-A trusty looking and welcoming seacunny,unquote,The writing was on the wall even then, and the day has come to pass that all are there now!

Alistair Macnab
29th July 2011, 20:01
Its quite true that we were all "Board of Trade Acquaintances" which means that out of the 100s of shipmates there is probably just a handful that we are still in contact with during these, our advancing years.

But I make the point that there are many others that we would have LIKED to have kept in touch with but didn't have the foresight to make the necessary arrangements at the time! You know how it is: "I'll phone you once I get settled in" etc.

Perhaps an example of how we eventually come to terms with our former shipmates is our reaction to Reunions. Many of our long-lasting friends have ceased to be in attendance at reunions for their own reasons so those that go certainly have the opportunity to review old shipmates.

I see that this contribution is my 1000th. I must say that SN has been the perfect substitute for company reunions. Through this site I have renewed contacts with several ex-shipmates and met, for the first time, several Bank Line people who were just 'names' to me before coming here.

Keep up the good work! Its true that we occasionally run out of things to say, but let's keep up the momentum. We're all scattered around the globe so this may be the only (and last) opportunity to keep reminiscences and nostalgia going! That's all we've got left!

John Dryden
29th July 2011, 21:07
So true Alistair.Sometimes this here Bank Line forum can transport you back on a ship and memories come flooding back.I love it and enjoy all the posts.
Havn,t come across anyone I sailed with yet but maybe one day someone will pop up out of the blue.

Alan Rawlinson
30th July 2011, 12:44
There was a life after Bankline, and a good one, of course. Isn't it strange however, that whatever our successes or failures, the Bankline experience was definitely unique. Regardless of the years, or the (sometimes imaginary) status we managed to achieve later, once the fact was out that we, or the person being addressed, was ex Bankline, an immediate and often unbreakable bond was formed.

Reverting back to status - a good shipping ( and ex owner) friend of mine tells that when he is passing any cemetary, he always reminds himself of the mantra " Look at all those indispensable people in there" !!

We do have a sort of club here, and reunions are good. They do mean considerable upheaval, cost, and effort however, compared to more or less instant exchanges from the kitchen table ( in my case).




Its quite true that we were all "Board of Trade Acquaintances" which means that out of the 100s of shipmates there is probably just a handful that we are still in contact with during these, our advancing years.

But I make the point that there are many others that we would have LIKED to have kept in touch with but didn't have the foresight to make the necessary arrangements at the time! You know how it is: "I'll phone you once I get settled in" etc.

Perhaps an example of how we eventually come to terms with our former shipmates is our reaction to Reunions. Many of our long-lasting friends have ceased to be in attendance at reunions for their own reasons so those that go certainly have the opportunity to review old shipmates.

I see that this contribution is my 1000th. I must say that SN has been the perfect substitute for company reunions. Through this site I have renewed contacts with several ex-shipmates and met, for the first time, several Bank Line people who were just 'names' to me before coming here.

Keep up the good work! Its true that we occasionally run out of things to say, but let's keep up the momentum. We're all scattered around the globe so this may be the only (and last) opportunity to keep reminiscences and nostalgia going! That's all we've got left!

RayL
30th July 2011, 23:01
<<No-one gave us grief counseling, no questions about stress levels or anxiety, no questions about our sleeplessness. At such a young age we certainly had issues coping with this traumatic event.>>

That'll be because PTSD was only recognised as a treatable illness and given that title in about 1990, so it's only since then that the pernicious effects have also been recognised. Prior to that time the condition tended to be called shell shock.

Joe C
1st August 2011, 09:19
My word the world has changed.I watched a man go over the side no more than half a dozen paces from me and frequently remember the event.Maybe councelling would have helped,I was eighteen at the time and seemed to handle it OK, although I did ask to be transfered fairly soon after.I wonder why?
Not to make light of this haunting memory,we recently had our garage broken into and we were telephoned the same day and offered councelling! The police turned up the next day and reprimanded us for not being at home when they called.

jimthehat
1st August 2011, 14:28
My word the world has changed.I watched a man go over the side no more than half a dozen paces from me and frequently remember the event.Maybe councilling would have helped,I was eighteen at the time and seemed to handle it OK, although I did ask to be transfered fairly soon after.I wonder why?
Not to make light of this haunting memory,we recently had our garage broken into and we were telephoned the same day and offered councilling! The police turned up the next day and reprimanded us for not being at home when they called.

I to often think of the time that the old man disappeared over the side and of the number of times that he had mentioned to me and my fellow app that he was thinking of ending his life.
No counsilling for us just a grilling from the coroner in brisbane and a rollocking for not informing any one.

jim

Alan Rawlinson
1st August 2011, 18:51
I sailed with an apprentice briefly (on the Inchanga) - think his name was Weston - and he was rare, and very lucky, in that he had gone over the side on a previous Bank line ship, and had been picked up in mid ocean.

It was a laugh at the time, but not so funny looking back and realising how lucky he had been. ( No snappy little rescue runarounds in those days in the 50's - only big cumbersome wooden lifeboats, often under radial davits on the older ships)

We had been school mates at the London Nautical School - ( Woolverstone) where he was I/C 11 dorm, if memory serves me right.
( Jim - do you remember the name, at all?)


I to often think of the time that the old man disappeared over the side and of the number of times that he had mentioned to me and my fellow app that he was thinking of ending his life.
No counsilling for us just a grilling from the coroner in brisbane and a rollocking for not informing any one.

jim

Waighty
1st August 2011, 20:08
Apart from a coasting trip on Rowanbank, my first deep sea Bank Boat was Avonbank. The telegram from the crew dept said readiness join Avonbank in West India/Millwall Dock etc. ect.

Clambered up the gangway and into Master's cabin to say I was here, after so many Ben Boats as a cadet the whole ship smelled differently and looked very different. The Marine Super (Clem Mossop)was with the Old Man (Austin Hall). They both stopped what they were doing and stared at me as if to say "young, green, capable?". I waited and then Clem said "3rd or 2nd Mate?" I said "3rd Mate", he said "ticket or not?" I said "just passed 2nd Mates", he said "congratulations on your promotion, you're signing on as 2nd Mate". Well needless to say I was very pleased. From then on everything was a whirl. Of course I came down to earth a bit after I was told that the reason I was signing on as 2nd Mate was because the original appointee had turned up, looked at the ship and then bug****d off again. Ex Port Line apparently.

The Mate (Jeff Mann) was extremely helpful and things went fine. Tony Coates joined as 3rd Mate and then the real baptism of fire arrived - midnight to four, a couple of hours out of Rotterdam bound for Panama, Austin decided to test me out and left the bridge. I felt somewhat alone, probably the same feeling as standing naked in the middle of Waterloo station concourse, not that I've done that you understand. That's the point where all the theoretical and some limited knowledge you've acquired suddenly leaves you for a short spell. Oh s**t what happens now? Maas Centre Buoy astern, traffic in all directions, check courses, check radar, check other ship's bearings, check lights, check soundings, don't forget a position on the chart. And so it went on even taking a round turn out of her for traffic avoidance, probably not necessary but lacking in experience you take the safe option. Must give Austin his due he never came up to take over but I'm sure he was watching out of a port somewhere! 0400 and Jeff on the bridge, relief all round.

From then on life got a whole lot better.

jimthehat
1st August 2011, 23:23
I sailed with an apprentice briefly (on the Inchanga) - think his name was Weston - and he was rare, and very lucky, in that he had gone over the side on a previous Bank line ship, and had been picked up in mid ocean.

It was a laugh at the time, but not so funny looking back and realising how lucky he had been. ( No snappy little rescue runarounds in those days in the 50's - only big cumbersome wooden lifeboats, often under radial davits on the older ships)

We had been school mates at the London Nautical School - ( Woolverstone) where he was I/C 11 dorm, if memory serves me right.
( Jim - do you remember the name, at all?)

Alan yes the name ring a very loud bell,11dorm that would have been quarterdeck i think closest to the shower block.

jim