British Bugler and British Drummer

23rd October 2006, 12:15
Anyone out there that has memories of these two characterful ships? Keeping Scandinavia topped up with BP products, in and out of port almost on a daily basis, not much money to spend and with an ever changing crew, life was never dull. I was Nav.App on the Bugler in 1957 and our major concern was clearing Grain on a Saturday evening, swinging the TV aerial so that we would not miss "Six Five Special"! Ring any bells?!

23rd October 2006, 19:55
Both sadly gone before I joined BP. Both built by J.L.Thompson of Sunderland, of 5070 dwt. BP sold both of them in 1957. The Bugler went to Cie d'Armement Maritime of Djibouti & renamed Montmajour. In 1963 she was sold again to Greek Tankershipping Co., of Piraeus & renamed Mantinia. She lasted until June 1981 before going foe scrap.
The Drummer didn't last as long. BP sold her to Pedersen & Blystad of Norway & she was renamed Anella. In 1958 she was sold again to Bucha Godeger of Norway & renamed Norse Commander. She was laid up in 1966 at Singapore & scrapped shortly afterwards. There is a photo of her in the gallery at
I have attached a photo of the Bugler, courtesy of Norman Middlemiss: The British Tankers.
Kind regards,
John F.

24th October 2006, 16:36
Thanks John. I was second year Apprentice on the Bugler when she was sold in 1957. Same year as the Drummer running aground near Stavanger! We went to take her cargo off her and lived in a cloud of gas for a few days. Only time I can remember nobody smoking! Apprentices and 3/O's cabins had bunks running athwartships - light ship with a wind on the beam alongside, the Bugler would heel over when loading and was a s-d to get upright. Can remember giving the 3/O a shake one cargo watch when this was happening and found him on his head, feet in the air! A hungry ship too. The Chief Steward had put a padlocked wire strop around the "Kelvinator" in the midship pantry. He never worked out that all you had to do was slide it up over the top and hey presto! Never much time for sleeping let alone studying. Would you believe, of the initial crew when I joined, I was the only one not to be sea-sick. She had a funny motion in a seaway at times. Thanks for the photo too. In front of me now is an oil painting I did a few years ago of the Bugler in Aalborg from a photo I'd taken myself. Once got a tray of Danish Pastries there for a couple of packets of Ritzlas! What you did when you were hungry!
Talk to you again?
Rod ( Journal Prize winner 1959 and 2nd Apprentice 1960 - got a watch and not a sextant - Oooooh!)

24th October 2006, 17:34
My Grandfather sailed on the Bugler, I believe in the late 40s. He was either AB or Bosun. I still have a nice photo hanging on the wall which I managed to source for him.
Sadly, he crossed the bar in May of this year.

24th October 2006, 20:10
My first ship as an apprentice was the Glory in February 1959 so missed the Drummer & Bugler by a couple of years. From what you say they sound very interesting ships to have sailed on.
Never won any prizes for my journal (which I still have in its entirety & must put to disc sometime). Always regarded it as a bit of a chore but something I now regret, of course, as Captain Ronnie Marsh always warned! I also have all my letters that I wrote home over the 6 years I was with BP that my mother kept. The journal was often censored by the Old Man but he couldn't touch letters home.
The smaller vessels with BP were always much harder work compared with the bigger ones, especially if you were on the coast with only 2 apprentices.
It was on the smaller ones that I learned that there were more than 24 hours in a day!
Speak to you again.
Kind regards,

25th October 2006, 16:23
Thanks for coming back to me James and sorry to hear about your Grandpa. I'm one myself and it's no fun growing old! BUT, it's great having grandsons! I've two at around 18months each. They trash our bungalow! Best wishes. Rod

25th October 2006, 16:43
Thanks John. Before the Bugler I was the Commodore's senior apprentice on the Soldier. Surrey Dagwood Bumstead was his name. Great ship full of practical jokers. Was never happier though became a screaming lunatic! How would you like to come back to your cabin after 1st house film show and find it stripped of everything which turned out to be hidden all around the ship? Answer, hang the 4th Mate over the bridge wing by his ankles, then push in the crash panel on the 2/O's cabin door (while he is at 2nd house film) and strip all out!!
I was 3/O on the Glory in 1962. Severe fuse box problems. When the Mate switched on his cabin kettle it blew all the fuses on our deck. Prior to having a cuppa, he used to shout GERONIMO and we'd switch everything off to reduce the load. What with him and Capt. Hill's screaming macaw at opposite ends of the alleyway and in the middle were me and the 2/O trying to play music on our armchair springs at beer time. It was my last ship in BP! It's a funny old world aint it?
Best wishes

26th October 2006, 09:04
Anyone out there that has memories of these two characterful ships? Keeping Scandinavia topped up with BP products, in and out of port almost on a daily basis, not much money to spend and with an ever changing crew, life was never dull. I was Nav.App on the Bugler in 1957 and our major concern was clearing Grain on a Saturday evening, swinging the TV aerial so that we would not miss "Six Five Special"! Ring any bells?!
Boy oh boy, yes I do have memories of the British Drummer,3/0 summer 1957, (would have been horrid in winter) happy ship, NO sleep, superb fry-ups 0200 hrs or there around, no recollecton of tv, but recall Decca Navigator, another recollection, I still have recurring nightmares, Kattigat or Scattigat (spelling?) I can only put this down to fatigue + possible error taking Decca position, whilst traverrsing these waters, 20.00 - 24.00 suddenly realised we were about 2nmiles INSIDE the UNSWEPT mined area, this I became aware with Drummers heading ok till I looked aft!! Master tucked up in bunk - what would you have done?
British Drummer (page 2)
Happy Days.

26th October 2006, 16:54
Hiya Mac, pleased I stirred up memories and hopefully, not any mines! Yeah, those minefields were a problem and most days one broke loose just to keep everyone on their toes. Wonder if the Master was Capt.Hiscox? He was Master when she went aground. I did my first trip as 3/O on the Lady, coasting with him. He wouldn't turn in until after midnight - which did my self-esteem loads of good! They were fast ships (I forget the speed - 15kts?) and with a loaded freeboard of around 5 feet, were as dry as submarines and as mentioned previously, had a peculiar motion. You certainly got the impression of speed though. Our saloon had two long heavy tables at right angles to each other. bolted down. One meal time, the Riffraffs table sheered its moorings and torpedoed Top Table. What a mess! Had settees around the outboard bulkheads I seem to remember.The Bugler was built as the Empire Arrow, as a water carrier, initially, to beat the Jap blockade of somewhere or other. There was a plan in one of the alleyways showing her wartime armour and armament. Talk about bristling. Shell had a couple of similar ships also. Being knackered and broke was a way of life. We could only afford one cup of coffee in a cafe in Helsingborg but it's owner took pity on us and gave us a free one and kept putting tokens in the juke box. Ahh! The days of Scandinavian free love!

Phil Williams
11th December 2007, 08:35
I was a second trip apprentice on the Drummer in 1957 until she went aground in the Stavanger fiord, courtesy of the Norwegian pilot. I remember the Bugler coming alongside to take off the rest of our cargo, so our paths have crossed,Cessna! She lost 180 tons of motor spirit from 1 Centre tank into the fiord, luckily in those days no-one got too excited about it, though with all the gas around it was fortunate that we didn't have a real disaster through someone careless with a match. After discharging to the Bugler we remained at anchor to tank clean-- on that ship that meant squirting a deck hose down through the tank lid--then gas freed before going up to the normal tanker berth at Sandnes where we lay until the ship was sold to Rosenbergs. The crew were then flown back to the UK in a charter plane belonging th Fred. Olsen Airline.

3rd September 2011, 10:19
British Drummer was an Empire ship - Empire Ensign. I've just written an article on the ship for Wikipedia. Would love to include details of her running aground, but unfortunately this forum is not a reliable source for the purposes of Wikipedia. Would it have been reported in newspapers of the time (foreign language sources are acceptable)?

Tony Maskell
7th September 2011, 06:18
The British Bugler was my first ship in BP, in the German Floating Dock at Falmouth. The saloon tables in my memory were parallel.
The first breakfast, the Captain came down with his wife, and he sat at the inboard table, directly opposite the pantry hatch. When he got to buttering his toast, he wanted marmalade which was not on the table only plum jam. So he picks this up and hurles this straight down the table into the pantry via the hatch, saying I want Marmalade not Jam for breakfast.
We left Falmouth for Swansea loading for Stanlow in the Manchester Canal, later on another trip went up the Canal as far as Partington, had to lower the topmasts! Left her in Swansea for the British Ardour and 10 months away.