Blood Sweat and Tears

21st January 2007, 17:31
Reading the posts on this site brings back a lot of memories of my time at sea with BP Tankers, I always wanted to go to sea as an engineer and I achieved the first step when I was accepted as one of Dan Allcocks boys in 1957.

My first ship was the S.S. British Valour, Charles Colburn was Master, John Christie was C/E (who died on the ship some months later), 2/E was John Donaldson, who achieved notoriety some ten years later when he was the Super in Capetown, where he aquired the name of "Mr. Ten Percent".

My next ship was the MV British Reliance, Davy Lisle and his wife Jessie were the Masters, Jimmy Little was C/E, he had been Chief when the crankshaft broke on one of our motor ships some years previously, 2/E was James Hanratty, 3/E was Willie Banks.

The Chief as a consequence of his earlier experience was very much aware of the need to ensure that all the cylinders of the main engine were balanced, which in turn required indicator cards being taken on a regular basis. As a consequence I would spend the best part of the morning under the exhaust belt at the back of the engine sweating buckets assisting him, the ironic part being that he couldn't read the cards and so I had to use the planimeter.

My next ship was the MV British Ardour, promoted from Cadet to acting J/E on BOT wages of 47.00 a month, as usual we spent the winter running up to Scandinavia then when the warm weather arrived we ended up trading in the Gulf and Red Sea. We sailed from Abadan less the 2/E, 3/E and J/E who were in the Ship's hospital suffering from a severe case of the Sh**s, with the C/E on the 8-12, me on the 12-4 and the 4/E on the 4-8. The C/E, John Proctor must have been getting on for 60 and he was so pleased to see me when I took over the watch at 12 midnight.

So I progressed through the ranks on Motor ships until having sailed 2/E on the Commerce with a Chiefs ticket, I joined the British Statesman as X3/E and then the British Beacon, what a disaster, to obtain my sea time for my Steam Endorsement. With my new combined ticket in my pocket I ended up sailing as 2/E on the Hussar then the Mariner, another wreck.

Whilst in dry dock on the Mariner, Tudor Pike the Super gave me the glad tidings that I was being transferred to the Honour as C/E, my response cannot be repeated here.

After sailing on various steam and motor vessels I eventually transferred across to BP Exploration and then spent over 13 years in Abu Dhabi until I retired in 1990.

I have always maintained that during my time at sea the BP Fleet ran on the blood, sweat and tears of the engineers, particularly in the case of the old twelves and sixteens. We were Company men and in most cases proud of it.

However this was destroyed when Ralph Maybourne declared that loyalty counted for nothing, implying that we were suckers for doing what we did. Tom Murphy, a product of Marks and Spencers, was also largely instrumental in destroying the bond that existed in the Company.

Imagine being in the middle of a 5 month leave and receiving a call to report to Shell Mex House in The Strand for a job interview, as happened to me and many others. The writing was on the wall, it was time for a change. In my case I was able to transfer within the Company thus retaining my pension rights. Many others who had served the Company well were cast aside in 1986.

Here we are twenty years later and BP Shipping have embarked on a major building and recruitment programme, because they now realise the importance of carrying their cargoes in their own ships crewed by their own personnel. Why, because they consider that the biggest enviromental disaster which could occur within the group would or could involve one of their own tankers.

If you are still reading this far and wonder if I would do it all again, the answer is yes. I had a wonderful time at sea, it wasn't the sea which drove me ashore it was the educated fools masquerading as managers in the head office.


aka Gerry Taylor

John Rogers
21st January 2007, 18:45
Good story Gerry, did you ever come across a CO by the name of Bernard Smart, ex Shell man,spent many years in the Gulf and then retired to NZ.

Pat McCardle
21st January 2007, 18:59
Good yarn bent on there Gerry. Governments(Maggies) involvement with all things 'British' appears, to me anyway, to have been the final nail in the coffin & all the loyal workers cast aside as if they never existed.

21st January 2007, 20:39
Aye Gerry, however the educated fools are still those who are running the office. The vast majority of them having never been to sea, those who have being failed 2nd Mates or 3rd Engineers.

21st January 2007, 21:08
Tell it like it is Gerry.Good on you mate!! Regards Arch.

22nd January 2007, 00:26
Well said Gerry. Your list of suspects reads bang on by my estimation ("Legends in their own lunchtime", sums them up adequately I think - some fairly poisonous characters.) I think you'd find it "trying" under today's conditions though?

Twenty years on from BP leaving me (and everyone else) I still get to spend a lot of time on all sorts of fancy offshore vessels but, while I have every sympathy with the guys still at sea, I wouldn't trade places.

There was a recent thread, from Gordon Smeaton I think, giving a link to the present BP fleet magazine (Son of Fleet News); the office still lays the bull***t on with a trowel!

30th January 2007, 10:05
I think I know where we met, were yu not involved with East fitting the ships out with the Carter Parret system of stock control?
I agree with all your other comments and I have Heaslip to add to the list of those in the office who made us all redundant in 1986.
What about sitting at home on leave watching the BBC news at 6pm and being told you had been made redundant!!!!!


30th January 2007, 13:09

I'm sure we met when I was working on the "Materialsand Shipboard Management" system 1972 to 1975.


30th January 2007, 14:01

Yes that was it I had just forgot the fancy title to the whole thing


30th January 2007, 15:17
That was as fine a precis of a sea-going career as one is ever likely to come across.Congratulations.
I think you must have responded to the same BP recruiting advert in The Evening Standard as I did in 1957.
It stated:- 'Young men with an aptitude for figures and a will to travel are invited to apply for an cetera....'
When interviewed, I had to decide engineer or deck, and fortunately I chose the latter. However,BP were not convinced and rejected me. Then, thanks to The Marine Society, I did a pre-sea course at Warsash and an apprenticeship with the finest,privately owned,shipping company of all time (Alfred Holt).
Thank heavens I failed that BP interview !!!!!!!!

30th January 2007, 15:49
Great story Gerry.

What dates were you on the Ardour.?


31st January 2007, 00:00

I sailed on the British Ardour from 11th November, 1961 until 2nd August, 1962