Captain Kenneth Cummins

Geoff_E
12th December 2006, 16:49
Not my Company or anyone I knew, but today's Daily Telegraph (12th December) carries the obit of Capt. Kenneth Cummins, who has just died aged 106!

Not often the MN gets a mention in the Telegraph obits., last one I can recall was Robert Williamson back in 2001. He featured in a book called "Tales from the South China Seas"

David Wilcockson
12th December 2006, 20:27
Geoff
Would you care to expand on the article as I`m sure not everyone gets that paper, guy must have had an interesting life.(Thumb)
David

John Briggs
12th December 2006, 20:30
Captain Kenneth Cummins, who died yesterday aged 106, served in the
two world wars, and always felt that the part played by the Merchant
Navy had never been never fully recognised.

Of the many ships in which he served, his favourite was the smooth-
running luxury liner Viceroy of India, which was requisitioned as a
troopship to land 2,000 men during Operation Torch, the Allied
invasion of North Africa.

At 0430 on November 11 1942 she was about 40 miles off the coast of
North Africa on her way back to Britain when Cummins, who was
savouring his coffee just after coming on watch, heard a huge bang.
Looking aft he saw there had been an explosion in the engine room. In
the dark Viceroy of India had almost run down U-407, commanded by
Kapitänleutnant Ernst-Ulrich Brüller, who had been on the surface
recharging batteries.

The torpedoing of the 20,000-ton ship was one of the largest single
sinkings of the war. Four men died in the initial explosion, and as
the ship lost power over the next few hours Cummins, the chief
officer, conducted a search with a small torch. The echoing sound in
the lower decks of water rushing into the hull was to haunt him for
the rest of his life.

When the captain gave the order to abandon ship at 0700, Cummins
calmly returned to his cabin to don his best uniform. Regretfully he
left behind the many rich presents which various maharajahs had given
him en route to India. A few hours later he was rescued by the
destroyer Boadicea.

Kenneth Alfred Hugo Cummins was born on March 6 1900 at Richmond,
Surrey, the son of a merchant navy officer. He was educated at
Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby. One of his earliest memories was of
holding a rope for the aviator Claude Grahame-White as he took off in
his single-engined biplane over Blundellsands.

When the First World War broke out Kenneth was on manoeuvres with the
school's OTC, marching behind the band of the King's Liverpool
Rifles. But instead of waiting to be sent to the Western Front as a
soldier he applied to join P&O as a naval cadet at 15.

His interview, which included a dinner with liveried servants and
silverware to test his table manners, was followed by two tough years
at HMS Worcester. He remembered seeing a Zeppelin shot down in the
Thames and the bodies of American soldiers who had died of Spanish
flu being carried off a ship.

When he joined P&O's Morea, which had been turned into an armed
merchant cruiser for convoy duties between England and Sierra Leone
in 1917, his action station was in command of a six-inch gun. But he
never had to open fire.

On his first voyage out he saw, south-west of Fastnet Rock, the
floating bodies of nurses from the Canadian hospital ship Llandovery
Castle, which had been sunk by U-86 in one of the notorious
atrocities of the war, when the survivors were fired on in their
lifeboats. Cummins remembered the corpses being driven across the sea
by their billowing aprons and skirts which had dried in the hot sun
to form sails; but the risk of being torpedoed barred any recovery of
the bodies.

With the restoration of peace, he returned to P&O as a merchant
officer ferrying troops home to Australia. The soldiers, he recalled,
were exuberant and lively. When Spanish flu broke out and his ship
was placed in quarantine in Sydney harbour, he remembered them
deserting by swimming ashore.

Among his other appointments he was a watchkeeper in the steamship
Macedonia, which brought Lord Carnarvon's body to England after his
mysterious death in 1923 following the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.

After Viceroy of India Cummins was sent to the commandeered French
liner Ile de France, and oversaw its conversion to a troopship before
making five voyages, with 10,000 troops a time, between Europe and
America.

With the end of the Second World War Cummins was given command of the
liner Maloja, which ferried home Italian soldiers and members of the
King's African Rifles; he was not impressed by the Italians, but
noted that the Africans were cheerful and well-disciplined.

For the next 13 years Cummins commanded ships in the sunset years of
the great passenger liners. He attributed his long life to a good
diet and the love of his wife and family.

Kenneth Cummins married Rosemary Byers, whom he had met on a voyage
from Australia. She survives him with their two sons and two daughters.

James_C
12th December 2006, 21:33
A fascinating story of an incredible Old Gentleman. A man from a different world indeed.
Interesting the bit about being tested on his table manners by P&O!
We're all the poorer for the passing of such men, I hope his relatives have a good record of his experiences, something that should be passed on to the next generation.

David Wilcockson
12th December 2006, 23:47
Nice one John thanks for that. Begs the question of how old is his widow? He wold certainly be a hard act to follow.
David

non descript
14th December 2006, 10:23
Nice one, and thanks for posting.

I did not know Captain Kenneth Cummins, but I also noticed his obituary and at least two things in the text caught my eye (apart from the reference to his great age); they were: “always felt that the part played by the Merchant Navy had never been never fully recognised” and the final part: “He attributed his long life to a good diet and the love of his wife and family” All in all he seems a very nice man.

Hugh Ferguson
15th December 2006, 00:01
Not my Company or anyone I knew, but today's Daily Telegraph (12th December) carries the obit of Capt. Kenneth Cummins, who has just died aged 106!

Not often the MN gets a mention in the Telegraph obits., last one I can recall was Robert Williamson back in 2001. He featured in a book called "Tales from the South China Seas"

One who got such an obituary was Stan Hugill. He was reckoned to have been the Last Shantyman, having sung the Shanty, "There's Fire Dahn Below"
at the time of the stranding of the big square rigger GARTHPOOL on a Cape Verde reef. (The "fire" referred to is nothing to do with a shipboard fire but is a reference to the hell awaiting sinners when they die!) I knew Stan at the time he was bosun of the Outward Bound Sea School in Aberdovey. A great character. You can still buy his C.D. of shanties from Chasse Maree.
Yours, Hugh Ferguson.

Hugh Ferguson
15th December 2006, 17:41
One who got such an obituary was Stan Hugill. He was reckoned to have been the Last Shantyman, having sung the Shanty, "There's Fire Dahn Below"
at the time of the stranding of the big square rigger GARTHPOOL on a Cape Verde reef. (The "fire" referred to is nothing to do with a shipboard fire but is a reference to the hell awaiting sinners when they die!) I knew Stan at the time he was bosun of the Outward Bound Sea School in Aberdovey. A great character. You can still buy his C.D. of shanties from Chasse Maree.
Yours, Hugh Ferguson.

STANLEY HUGILL, who has died aged 85, discovered a late vocation as "the Last of the Shantymen", passing on the songs of a youth spent before the mast to a more cosseted generation. Hugill's sobriquet was no media concoction. In 1929 he was leading the singing of the pump shanty Fire Down Below aboard the square rigged merchantman, GARTHPOOL only days before the vessel was wrecked on Ponta Reef, Cape Verde Is.. The shanty was perhaps the last to be sung in a sailing ship trading under the British flag.
Over a period of 20 years at sea Hugill collected shanties whenever an opportunity offered. In the Caribbean he met colourful characters like Harding, "The Barbadian Barbarian", a black singer who taught him the vocal hitches which, many years later, he would use to such effect at folk music meetings, and which no other performer was able to master. It was Kurt Hahn, the headmaster of Gordonstoun, who suggested that Hugill write down the shanties before they were irrevocably lost. A broken leg afforded the necessary leisure, and in 1961 "Shanties from the Seven Seas" was published-and soon acknowledged as the bible for shanty enthusiasts. This book was followed in 1967 by "Sailor Town", in which Hugill drew on the memories of his youth to evoke 19th century waterfront life in ports across the world.
By this time Hugill was much in demand at clubs and festivals up and down the country. In 1976, just as his fifth book, "Songs of the Sea", was about to be published, he went to American as a regular singer and lecturer at the Mystic Seaport Festival. "Shanties from the Seven Seas" was even translated into Polish; and in Cracow 2,500 fans chanted "Stachu, Stachu" in rapt admiration. Of seafaring stock, Stanley James Hugill was born in the C.G. station at Hoylake, on Nov. 19th 1906. To his regret his first voyage was in a "steam kettle", although when this was wrecked off New Zealand, he took
advantage of the occasion to learn Maori. Hugill's flair for languages was extraordinary; and many years later he was observed in a pub teaching Maori to a New Zealander. A place on the schooner Saucy Kate proved to be the prelude of 10 years work on trading vessels in the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands and the ports of Soth America. Hugill first rounded Cape Horn in 1928 in the German 4 masted barque GUSTAV. On Nov.11th 1940, he was at the helm of the Blue Funnel ship AUTOMEDON, when it was challenged by the German raider ATLANTIS. "The captain," Hugill remembered, "ordered hard a starboard and said, we will fight", but 3 volleys hit us within 3 minutes, and it was all over.
Unknown to the crew, the AUTOMEDON carried plans for the defence of Singapore. With the captain and officers dead, the weighted bags which should have been thrown overboard were seized by the Germans, Hugill, with other survivors, was transferred to a converted tanker and consigned to a PoW camp in Germany. He filled the vacant hours of captivity by painting The Sacking of Panama on a bed sheet. With the cessation of hostilities the Blue Funnel Line sent Hugill to London University, where he obtained a degree in Oriental languages that was intended to qualify him to be an agent for the company in the Far East. Instead, he took a job as an instructor at the Outward Bound Sea School in Aberdovey, where he remained until his retirement. Hugill left many etchings depicting the life which, even in his feted old age, he was never tempted to sentimentalise. Hugill was married with two sons.

slick
6th September 2008, 18:52
All,
I had occasion to write to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph over the Obituary of the above Officer which appeared on 3rd. September 2008 concerning his career at sea he left HMS Conway and joined Blue Funnel the ships named were the TUSCAN STAR and SYDNEY STAR, I felt I had to put pen to paper and correct the perceived error and advise him that the Company probably was Blue Star.
I admonished him for his papers generally poor reporting on M.N. matters.
I trust that this meets with your approval, trusting I am of course correct.

Yours aye,

Slick

jmcg
7th September 2008, 20:31
Well done Slick.

Noticed it myself, but didn't get round to having to correct him.

BW

J

slick
15th September 2008, 12:27
All,
The Obituary of a Ship's Carpenter Norman Owen appeared in the Daily Telegraph today (15th. September 2008).
A fascinating insight to his part in Operation Pedestal and the OHIO.
The rest of his career reads like something out of BOY'S OWN.
His son is a Master at sea in Cruise Liners.
Yours aye,
Slick