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The Haustrum Incident

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  #1  
Old 21st September 2012, 20:45
Ronald N Young Ronald N Young is offline  
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The Haustrum Incident

The S.S. Haustrum incident
A recollection, by Ron Young, Former Engineering Apprentice and crew member. It should be noted that no mention of the ship or the incident could be found in “Sea Shell” the history of the British Shell Tanker Fleet, even though it appeared in the British press at the time It should also be pointed out that after more than forty five years, memories get dulled over, but some parts remain crystal clear…..

I joined Shell Tankers in September 1962 as part of the alternative training scheme for marine engineers. After two years at Riversdale Technical College in Liverpool, I joined my first ship, the S.S. Halia on July 28th in Bute dry dock in Cardiff. I then completed my middle year of my apprenticeship on the S.S. Otina. I then spent a year at Southampton Technical College, before joining the Haustrum.
The Haustrum, one Shell’s numerous “H” class vessels, was by then exclusively carrying Lubricating Oil, and towards the end of 1966 we loaded a cargo in Houston, Texas, then proceeded to Curacao where it was off-loaded and then back-loaded, thus making it a non American sourced cargo. We then proceeded to Singapore for partial discharge. We brought in the New Year in Singapore (Tom Jones being currently Number One with “The Green, Green Grass of Home” which caused much nostalgia among the officers). We also changed crews there, as we had British officers and Chinese crew on board.
After leaving Singapore we headed for Saigon, intending to discharge a partial cargo at Nah be. We picked up the pilot at the mouth of the Mekong Delta early on the morning of the 9th of January.
Being an engineer apprentice, and lower in the pecking order than the ship’s cat (not that we had one), I was performing that valuable but long forgotten task of writing down the engine movements. As we proceeded up the river there was suddenly a series loud bangs which we were ableto hear in the engine room, it felt like someone hitting the port side of the ship with a large sledge-hammer. Then the chief engineer slid down the ladders, his feet never touching the steps, and landed on the control platform yelling, “The bridge is on fire.” This obviously was a matter of concern for all of us, but we didn’t have any time to digest it before the telegraph then went to stop engines, then the lights went out and we lost all power. As things were pretty quiet in the engine room, we could hear the rattle of machine guns from above us, so we could guess what was happening around us. We had both of our turbo-alternators running, but they had tripped off. The diesel alternator had not been running, as it had gotten wet and we were attempting to dry it out with heat lamps. So, there we were, in the insufficient glow of the emergency lighting, kicking away the heat lamps with our feet, and trying to bar round the flywheel with crowbars to get the engine into a starting position. After a few attempts in the sweltering heat we were able to get the diesel started and began to get the other systems up and running again.
. No word was coming from the bridge either by telephone of telegraph, so we were in the dark about what was going on up top. No one was exactly willing to take a stroll down the flying bridge to see what was going on, and we realized that neither the telegraph or telephone were functioning. As lunchtime was approaching, it was suggested that I go up to the saloon to scrounge up some food (remember the ship’s cat thing), as by now all the engineers were in the engine room.
I ventured into the saloon pantry and found that it had received a direct hit from a “recoilless rifle” as they called RPG’s in those days, then into the saloon which had also received a direct hit. I managed to scrounge a bowl full of apples, but before heading down below, I thought I would have a wee look outside to see what was going on, As I peered out, a Phantom jet screamed past about fifty feet off the ground, about a hundred feet from me. Needless to say, I shut the companionway door and beat it back down below.
I made it safely back to the control platform and distributed the apples, only to find that there were complaints as some of the apples had shrapnel in them (there’s just no pleasing some people). By now we had received word that we were aground, and that the good old U.S. Cavalry had ridden in to the rescue. The area around us was secured and we were awaiting tugs from upriver to get down to re-float us again. This was duly completed around two in the afternoon, and we steamed up to NahBe under our own power. As the telegraph on the bridge had been destroyed, engine movements were shouted from mid-ships to the engine room skylights and thus down to the manoeuvering platform.
Unfortunately when we docked we discovered that the quartermaster, who was on the wheel at the time, had been killed and that the captain had been blown off the bridge sustaining minor injuries . By now the ship was swarming with American troops, looking for unexploded ordinance. We were only supposed to be in Saigon for a couple of days, but our stay was extended as a new captain had to be flown out. While we were waiting, a dispute arose between the American and the South Vietnamese authorities over who had custody of the dead quartermaster. This lasted for several days before his remains were finally removed. (after a few days of his lying in our so called hospital, the locals wanted to know if we would say that he had been merely injured and had died of his wounds on the way to hospital. As he was as stiff as a board by then, this seemed to be a little far fetched.
While we were docked at Nah be, some of the harrowing stories came out. As we started up the river, two of the junior engineers were “bronzing” on the deck in front of the funnel, and a question was raised about possible hostile fire, “Oh they will never shoot at us, were British” was the response, This was followed by the sound of machine gun fire up ahead, and the engineers wisely abandoned their sun-bathing for the day. One of the stewards was in the doorway of the officer’s saloon pantry, when it received a direct hit, and as he ran into the officer’s saloon to escape, it received a direct hit also. Miraculously he was unscathed, but he was a nervous wreck for the remainder of the voyage. The attack took place at around 1030 hrs, and checking out the officers saloon, while in Nah be, I found three machine gun bullet holes in the back of my regular seat.
We were scheduled to depart on Friday, but as it was the 13th, the new captain decided that we would bow to superstition and leave first thing on Saturday morning. By this time the telephones and telegraph had been temporarily repaired, however we would be going to Singapore for repairs after a stop in Jakarta to discharge the remainder of the cargo.
When we cast off, every engineer was in the engine room, all three alternators were running, the extra nozzles on the H.P. turbine were open, the skylights were battened down and we were as ready as we could be. Unfortunately there was heavy fog on the river so the third officer was stationed on the bow with a walkie-talkie to assist with the navigation. Things went well initially as we headed downriver, and the bridge notified us that we had passed the place where we had been attacked on the way up, which brought a ragged cheer from the engineers. A little later the engine room telegraph went to “Stop Engines,” then to “Full Astern” then “Emergency Full Astern” in a matter of seconds, followed by a crash and an impact that knocked some of us off our feet.
Still going astern and fearing the worst, we called the bridge and learned that there had been a collision, and in the confusion that followed we found ourselves facing back up river towards Saigon. We had collided with another ship, which had dropped anchor in the fog, but which hadn’t started using it’s foghorn. The third officer on the bows had heard the rattle of an anchor chain up ahead, and ordered our engine movements. The ship was called either the American Falcon or the Falcon Lady (the old memory is a bit hazy after forty five years), and we had basically “T Boned” it with our bows striking it at right angles just below the bridge, causing quite a bit of damage to both vessels. The third officer, who had wisely retreated from the bows when he saw that a collision was unavoidable, was a bit of a comedian, and he yelled up at the American officers peering over their bridge wing, “It’s a swinging way to start your day”, a phrase that I’m sure that they neither understood or appreciated.
As our bow was now facing up river, we had to go all the way back up to Nah Be to the turning basin to face down river again, past the then-named Coup de Prepontis, where had originally been attacked. Naturally we felt that we were tempting fate once again, but the river passage was completed without incident and we all sighed with relief when we dropped the pilot off and headed for open water.
Ironically my next but one Shell tanker was the Amastra which was in dock for repairs in Singapore, after being damaged by a mine against the engine room in Nahtrang. The Amastra saga, following it’s repairs, is a story in itself, but that is for another day.
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File Type: jpg Haustrum2.jpg (269.9 KB, 229 views)
File Type: jpg Haustrum3.jpg (279.4 KB, 218 views)
File Type: jpg Haustrum4.jpg (332.4 KB, 225 views)
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  #2  
Old 22nd September 2012, 08:22
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A.D.FROST A.D.FROST is offline  
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Thank you for sharing your account on HAUSTRUM.But I feel you have posted this on the wrong forum(It may get lost) since there is one two posts on Shell Tankers 1967-1975 of this incident ,also some photos of the AMASTRA's main engine.No dout as a new member you are still finding your way around?With your luck and experiance were you not on the HARMATTAN.
The ship you collied with was AMERICAN FALCON (FALCON LADY'73 tanker)

Last edited by A.D.FROST; 22nd September 2012 at 10:36..
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  #3  
Old 22nd September 2012, 09:06
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Gulpers Gulpers is offline   SN Supporter
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Ronald,

Wonderful!
Thank you for taking the time to share such an excellently detailed account of your experience on board SS Haustrum.
I have taken the liberty of moving your posting into the Shell forum since it is more appropriate there.
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. . . . A closed mouth gathers no feet!
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  #4  
Old 22nd September 2012, 15:01
Ronald N Young Ronald N Young is offline  
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Thanks for the postings, and the mention of the Harmattan. Fortunately I was not on her when she was sunk in Karachi harbour, otherwise I would not be here. A good friend of mine, Colin Gemmell was the second engineer, and was killed. Ironically he was the third engineer with me on the Harpalyce on the voyage prior, and he called me while we were both on leave, wanting to know what to do, as he had been offered the second's job on the Harmattan. I told him to grab it with both hands and that conversation has haunted me ever since. Ironically it turns out that I had known relatives of his since I was five years old, which hasn't made it any easier. Of the seven people who were killed, I knew five of them, plus a couple who had very lucky escapes when the ship sank. The Haustrum incident was worth telling, but I feel a great deal different about the Harmattan
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  #5  
Old 15th October 2012, 11:59
woodcarver woodcarver is offline  
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Unhappy End of an 'H'

I had the privilege as a deck cadet of taking the Haustrum to scrap in Taohsiung in 1975. She was most unceremoniously rammed at full speed astern in between two 'ex super tankers of their day' the British Queen and British Power'. Needless to say moorings were not needed! Within hours the steel cutters were at work. Part of the sad end to the 'H' class and an era.
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  #6  
Old 20th June 2013, 16:28
raydeery raydeery is offline  
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Thumbs up Hostrum Shipmates.


I was on the SS Haustrum with Ronald when the ship was attacked. I was a 5th engineer off duty and on deck when the attack happened. Ronald's account of the events is exactly as I remember.As the only irishman on board the banter relating to they won't fire on us wer'e british was for my benefit.On deck with two other shell apprentices we were taking in the sights when all hell broke loose. My name is Ray Deery but my shipmates will remember me as Paddy , that is what I was called on board.
Would love to hear from anybody who was on board especially Ronald who gave such a good account of the incident.
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  #7  
Old 20th June 2013, 17:28
Ronald N Young Ronald N Young is offline  
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Hi Ray, Great to hear from you, after the Haustrum, I sailed on the Amastra and the Daphnella. Leaving Shell for greener pastures, I left the sea in 1972 after a couple of voyages as 2nd Engineer on Doxford engined ships. I emigrated to California in 1972, and spent 29 years with the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power, retiring seven years ago to Aberfeldy.
So how about you, are you still living in Ireland, and did you stay on at sea? We have good friends who own a hotel in Roscommon and another great friend from Charlestown , County Mayo, so we are over there quite a bit.
I look forward to being in touch with you, and exchanging old stories. My email address is [email protected]
Regards
Ron
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  #8  
Old 15th December 2015, 16:25
arcticpuffin arcticpuffin is offline  
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Haggis

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald N Young View Post
The S.S. Haustrum incident
A recollection, by Ron Young, Former Engineering Apprentice and crew member. It should be noted that no mention of the ship or the incident could be found in “Sea Shell” the history of the British Shell Tanker Fleet, even though it appeared in the British press at the time It should also be pointed out that after more than forty five years, memories get dulled over, but some parts remain crystal clear…..

I joined Shell Tankers in September 1962 as part of the alternative training scheme for marine engineers. After two years at Riversdale Technical College in Liverpool, I joined my first ship, the S.S. Halia on July 28th in Bute dry dock in Cardiff. I then completed my middle year of my apprenticeship on the S.S. Otina. I then spent a year at Southampton Technical College, before joining the Haustrum.
The Haustrum, one Shell’s numerous “H” class vessels, was by then exclusively carrying Lubricating Oil, and towards the end of 1966 we loaded a cargo in Houston, Texas, then proceeded to Curacao where it was off-loaded and then back-loaded, thus making it a non American sourced cargo. We then proceeded to Singapore for partial discharge. We brought in the New Year in Singapore (Tom Jones being currently Number One with “The Green, Green Grass of Home” which caused much nostalgia among the officers). We also changed crews there, as we had British officers and Chinese crew on board.
After leaving Singapore we headed for Saigon, intending to discharge a partial cargo at Nah be. We picked up the pilot at the mouth of the Mekong Delta early on the morning of the 9th of January.
Being an engineer apprentice, and lower in the pecking order than the ship’s cat (not that we had one), I was performing that valuable but long forgotten task of writing down the engine movements. As we proceeded up the river there was suddenly a series loud bangs which we were ableto hear in the engine room, it felt like someone hitting the port side of the ship with a large sledge-hammer. Then the chief engineer slid down the ladders, his feet never touching the steps, and landed on the control platform yelling, “The bridge is on fire.” This obviously was a matter of concern for all of us, but we didn’t have any time to digest it before the telegraph then went to stop engines, then the lights went out and we lost all power. As things were pretty quiet in the engine room, we could hear the rattle of machine guns from above us, so we could guess what was happening around us. We had both of our turbo-alternators running, but they had tripped off. The diesel alternator had not been running, as it had gotten wet and we were attempting to dry it out with heat lamps. So, there we were, in the insufficient glow of the emergency lighting, kicking away the heat lamps with our feet, and trying to bar round the flywheel with crowbars to get the engine into a starting position. After a few attempts in the sweltering heat we were able to get the diesel started and began to get the other systems up and running again.
. No word was coming from the bridge either by telephone of telegraph, so we were in the dark about what was going on up top. No one was exactly willing to take a stroll down the flying bridge to see what was going on, and we realized that neither the telegraph or telephone were functioning. As lunchtime was approaching, it was suggested that I go up to the saloon to scrounge up some food (remember the ship’s cat thing), as by now all the engineers were in the engine room.
I ventured into the saloon pantry and found that it had received a direct hit from a “recoilless rifle” as they called RPG’s in those days, then into the saloon which had also received a direct hit. I managed to scrounge a bowl full of apples, but before heading down below, I thought I would have a wee look outside to see what was going on, As I peered out, a Phantom jet screamed past about fifty feet off the ground, about a hundred feet from me. Needless to say, I shut the companionway door and beat it back down below.
I made it safely back to the control platform and distributed the apples, only to find that there were complaints as some of the apples had shrapnel in them (there’s just no pleasing some people). By now we had received word that we were aground, and that the good old U.S. Cavalry had ridden in to the rescue. The area around us was secured and we were awaiting tugs from upriver to get down to re-float us again. This was duly completed around two in the afternoon, and we steamed up to NahBe under our own power. As the telegraph on the bridge had been destroyed, engine movements were shouted from mid-ships to the engine room skylights and thus down to the manoeuvering platform.
Unfortunately when we docked we discovered that the quartermaster, who was on the wheel at the time, had been killed and that the captain had been blown off the bridge sustaining minor injuries . By now the ship was swarming with American troops, looking for unexploded ordinance. We were only supposed to be in Saigon for a couple of days, but our stay was extended as a new captain had to be flown out. While we were waiting, a dispute arose between the American and the South Vietnamese authorities over who had custody of the dead quartermaster. This lasted for several days before his remains were finally removed. (after a few days of his lying in our so called hospital, the locals wanted to know if we would say that he had been merely injured and had died of his wounds on the way to hospital. As he was as stiff as a board by then, this seemed to be a little far fetched.
While we were docked at Nah be, some of the harrowing stories came out. As we started up the river, two of the junior engineers were “bronzing” on the deck in front of the funnel, and a question was raised about possible hostile fire, “Oh they will never shoot at us, were British” was the response, This was followed by the sound of machine gun fire up ahead, and the engineers wisely abandoned their sun-bathing for the day. One of the stewards was in the doorway of the officer’s saloon pantry, when it received a direct hit, and as he ran into the officer’s saloon to escape, it received a direct hit also. Miraculously he was unscathed, but he was a nervous wreck for the remainder of the voyage. The attack took place at around 1030 hrs, and checking out the officers saloon, while in Nah be, I found three machine gun bullet holes in the back of my regular seat.
We were scheduled to depart on Friday, but as it was the 13th, the new captain decided that we would bow to superstition and leave first thing on Saturday morning. By this time the telephones and telegraph had been temporarily repaired, however we would be going to Singapore for repairs after a stop in Jakarta to discharge the remainder of the cargo.
When we cast off, every engineer was in the engine room, all three alternators were running, the extra nozzles on the H.P. turbine were open, the skylights were battened down and we were as ready as we could be. Unfortunately there was heavy fog on the river so the third officer was stationed on the bow with a walkie-talkie to assist with the navigation. Things went well initially as we headed downriver, and the bridge notified us that we had passed the place where we had been attacked on the way up, which brought a ragged cheer from the engineers. A little later the engine room telegraph went to “Stop Engines,” then to “Full Astern” then “Emergency Full Astern” in a matter of seconds, followed by a crash and an impact that knocked some of us off our feet.
Still going astern and fearing the worst, we called the bridge and learned that there had been a collision, and in the confusion that followed we found ourselves facing back up river towards Saigon. We had collided with another ship, which had dropped anchor in the fog, but which hadn’t started using it’s foghorn. The third officer on the bows had heard the rattle of an anchor chain up ahead, and ordered our engine movements. The ship was called either the American Falcon or the Falcon Lady (the old memory is a bit hazy after forty five years), and we had basically “T Boned” it with our bows striking it at right angles just below the bridge, causing quite a bit of damage to both vessels. The third officer, who had wisely retreated from the bows when he saw that a collision was unavoidable, was a bit of a comedian, and he yelled up at the American officers peering over their bridge wing, “It’s a swinging way to start your day”, a phrase that I’m sure that they neither understood or appreciated.
As our bow was now facing up river, we had to go all the way back up to Nah Be to the turning basin to face down river again, past the then-named Coup de Prepontis, where had originally been attacked. Naturally we felt that we were tempting fate once again, but the river passage was completed without incident and we all sighed with relief when we dropped the pilot off and headed for open water.
Ironically my next but one Shell tanker was the Amastra which was in dock for repairs in Singapore, after being damaged by a mine against the engine room in Nahtrang. The Amastra saga, following it’s repairs, is a story in itself, but that is for another day.
Hello Haggis,

This is Dougie Junior sparks on the "Haustrum" 1n 1966 retired now but still living in Falkirk.
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  #9  
Old 15th December 2015, 17:01
arcticpuffin arcticpuffin is offline  
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Haustrum Mekong delta

The quartermaster who was the only one to be killed was really unlucky, the shell that killed him had hit the radio room outside bulkhead first, it was really strange it made a half moon crescent shape in the radio room deckhead then continued through the inner bulkhead across the alleyway with stairs down to the Captains cabin then hit the chartroom inner bulkhead and continued until it hit the inside of the chartroom outer bulkhead and exploded. The bridge had been hit and the quartermaster left the wheel and ran into the chartroom and was killed by that shell. Later I nearly stood on him as I didn't see him under the debris. The Americans were more frightening than the Vietcong when they started dropping napalm close to the ship.
Dougie
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