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Nice looking ship, but horrible to sail on, I was told. Really poor accomodation, and the bizarre requirements of Sir John and his favourite Master to take into account.
 

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Sir John and the City of Oxford

I did my first trip as aprentice on the City of Oxford in October 1970 when we sailed from Liverpool to S Africa and Mozambique. We popped into Southampton on the way to pick up Sir John Ellerman, his wife and a group of friends and delivered them to Capetown. No cargo was loaded or discharged in either Southampton or Capetown, just the owner and his companions. The detours must have added a couple of days to the voyage.

Sir John was a very private man and the boat deck was completely surrounded by canvas screens to protect his modesty. We were allowed to use the internal stair to reach the saloon for meals within a very tight timeframe so we wouldn't bump into the owner but at all other times we had to use the external ladders.

F C O'Neil RD RNR was the master and he was a strange man. I also did my first trip as 3/0 on the Oxford with F C O'Neil again the master. He had no great regard for me.
 

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Sir John was a very private man and the boat deck was completely surrounded by canvas screens to protect his modesty.
Apparently that was his normal way of travel between the UK-SA-UK. He took over the entire passenger acccommodation on one of the 12-passenger ships and the ship's complement were kept away from that deck.

F C O'Neil RD RNR was the master and he was a strange man. I also did my first trip as 3/0 on the Oxford with F C O'Neil again the master.
A strange man as you say and a miserable shipmate. On the City of Lucknow he relieved Bernard Theodore Wortley for one voyage. Everyone moaned about BTW but they were all very relieved to have him back.

He had no great regard for me.
.... or anyone else other than himself.

Having those two in succession soured my view of Blue Ensign masters for some years afterwards.
 

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Sailed on City of Oxford from April 1962 to April 1963, my final voyages as apprentice. We did the East Africa run, then next trip out to Calcutta to take up the Canada-India run. One of my favourite ships despite Capt T Lovell, who was worse than the RNR Capts. I sailed on five of the 12 pass. ships, on Manchester and Coventry with JRE.
RNR Masters I sailed with were EHD Routledge, TM Williams, both Manchester,
BT Wortley on Ottawa, RS Steel on Exeter, FC O'Neill on Coventry and PE.
Possibly more, but I certainly had my fill of them.
Went up the P. Gulf with BT Wortley in the summer of 65 as 2nd mate on the Ottawa, and he actually relaxed some of his RNR rules, but objected to me wearing red socks with my khakis.
Andy.
 

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He had no great regard for me.[/QUOTE]

Join the gang !
1st day on board I was 1 minute late blowing the whistle at 0800 for the flags to go up. Downhill from there.
Said I was wasting my time doing a moon sight on the meridian one afternoon.
Last rant (pay off day )was when I switched the ensign from the gaff to the stern whilst in the locks at Hull and not when secure alongside.
Certainly glad to pay off, even got to my pals wedding reception that evening, whoop whoop !!!
I heard he was diabetic, which didn't help I'm sure.
 

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Went up the P. Gulf with BT Wortley in the summer of 65 as 2nd mate on the Ottawa, and he actually relaxed some of his RNR rules, but objected to me wearing red socks with my khakis

If I may be allowed to drop in, John's tale couldn't help reminding me of the time when we had the Commodore Naval Forces Gulf (CNFG) embarked for a trip to Karachi. CNFG was leaning over the port bridge wing as we left Bahrain, wearing khakis as a former aviator, whilst the rest of us were in whites, when the port lookout, an ordinary seaman, was heard to say to him, "Excuse me, Sub, but don't let the Jimmy (the First Lieutenant) catch you wearing wearing those purple socks"! What the Commodore thought or said about the matter is not recorded but, curiously enough, but very shortly afterwards the First Lieutenant made a broadcast welcoming him on board, emphasising that CNFG could be recognised by the thick stripe on his shoulder straps .....(Ouch)

This broadcast notwithstanding, the rest of us all referred thereafter to the Commodore as the "thick-ringed Sub Liieutenant"! (Thumb)

Jack
 

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Just checked my DB and see that I actually sailed with F.C. O'Neill twice on the City of Lucknow, both coasting round the UK after deep sea trips with B.T Wortley.

I see I also sailed with another Master on her on the UK coast but can't read his signature. Does anyone recognise this man?
 

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Hi Ron,
My first thoughts are that I recognise the signature as that of Capt. R Frame, (Dicky). I coasted with him once, on the City of Exeter in 66, but he didn't sign my DB, as I was on the deep sea voyage to follow.
Regards, Andy.
 

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Hi Jack,
Great story about the purple socks. As a poor 2nd mate, I was reprimanded for wearing the red socks, and didn't dare do so again that particular voyage.
Regards, Andy.
 

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Hi Ron,
My first thoughts are that I recognise the signature as that of Capt. R Frame, (Dicky). I coasted with him once, on the City of Exeter in 66, but he didn't sign my DB, as I was on the deep sea voyage to follow.
Regards, Andy.
Thanks Andy. I have no recollection whatever of him. However we were coasting so the OM would have spent most of his time dealing with shore-side wallahs of one sort or another and we would not have seen so much of him as we would have done deep sea.
 

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Switching Ensigns

I remember the City of Oxford in Durban during the early seventies. I was on the City of Winchester at the time. If I recall correctly, the blue ensign was replaced with a red ensign whenever the master was away from the vessel.
 

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One comment neither Sir John nor said Master ever interfered with the Pilot, you were introduced on boarding and left to get on with it!
 

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Hi Ron,
My first thoughts are that I recognise the signature as that of Capt. R Frame, (Dicky). I coasted with him once, on the City of Exeter in 66, but he didn't sign my DB, as I was on the deep sea voyage to follow.
Regards, Andy.
I concur I sailed with Captain Frame in 1973 on the City of Canterbury/Cap Cleveland/City of Adelaide
 

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Regarding comments about Capt F C O'Neill. I did my first trip to see as a deck cadet on the City Of Oxford in Sept 1969 (It was the usual autumn trip to take JRE to South Africa). He never spoke directly to the cadets as he would tell the 3/0 or 2/O to tell the cadet or 'snotty' what to do. I also did my last trip with him on the City of Liverpool in 1973. I found him to be a totally different character when you were the officer of the watch. I had some some very interesting conversations in the evenings with him when he came up to do his night order book. At least you knew where you stood with him - much better than some that I met later at sea!!
 

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As stated in the initial posting, this ship was Sir John Ellerman's 'yacht'. Apparently he sailed in her every year to spend a few months in East Africa.
I was driving the crane at no 4 hatch while loading her in Birkenhead, sometime in the late 60s, when word came that Sir John was arriving the following day. Meanwhile a furniture van pulled up beside the ship and a grand piano was landed on the quay. The dockers put a rope sling on it and I hoiked it up onto the after end of the boat deck.
The following morning some Ellerman functionaries appeared on the quay and unrolled a red carpet from the shed gate to the bottom of the accomodation ladder.
Then they waited by the shed gate to greet their boss.
After a bit, a stooped elderly chap appeared from another gate and scurried across to the ship and was up the gangway like a rat up a drainpipe, to the consternation of the welcoming committee.
Sir John, for it was he, disappeared into the accomodation without a backward glance. his uniformed chauffer followed with a couple of cases and a cage with some rats in it. It seemed rats were his main interest, his ships and their crews came a long way behind.
regards,
Pat(Jester)
 

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Did my "steam time" the 'Oxford in, I think, 1970 and my final tip as C/E in 1972 on the coast on her and got caught up with the burning of the British Embassy in Dublin.
Sir John was strange but not entirely without compassion as he allowed the vessel to divert to give medical assistance to the Esso Ulidia which had suffered a boiler explosion off the west coast of Africa. His wife was very charming - spent several happy hours in her bathroom try to fix the electrics which she seemed to often manage to flood with water!
 

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In the 50's and 60's, Ellermans had 14 twelve passenger steamships, of which 10 were of the City of Oxford class,(1948-50) and 4 were of the City of New York class. (1947)
There were always 4 of them on the South Africa Run, and JRE sailed on whichever one coincided with his travel dates.
I remember he went South on the City of Chicago in 1960, and had the Captain alter course to chase porpoises in the S Atlantic. This was reported in the daily papers. He came North on the City of Manchester in the spring of 1961. Also the City of Coventry in 1966.
The City of Oxford was mainly employed on the Canada-India run then, as I know from my time there. She would have come into her own in the 70's as the last steamer in the Ellerman group.
12 Passenger steamers were Hull, Pretoria, New York, London. (older)
then Birmingham, Brooklyn, Chicago, Coventry, Liverpool, Manchester, Ottawa, Oxford, Perth, and Philadelphia. Whichever one he sailed on was his private yacht for that particular voyage.
Andy
 

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1973

Hi there. I made my first trip to sea on the "City of Oxford" in early 1973. It could have been my last as it was not a particularly pleasant experience.

We picked up Sir John in Cape Town and brought him back to Southampton, calling only to drop him off then off to Hull to discharge the cargo.

I remember Commodore O'Neil well and the strict rules that were applied while the owner was aboard. I think it was his last voyage (Sir John's) and he died shortly afterwards.

I remember the third Mate well, Angus, I think his name was, he kept me sane and told me to have at least one more trip because the City of Oxford was not typical of life at sea with Ellermans. He was right and I went on to have a career with Ellermans until 1985, I have continued in the Merchant Navy until the current day.

There were some characters on board, I remebmber an Irish Carpenter, A Doctor who liked his pop and the Welsh Mate.

As a first trip apprentice life was pretty uncomfortable, but it was the launching pad of my career and so now I can look back at it without too much ill feeling.
 

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When I joined the "City of Lucknow" (a steam turbine vessel) in Birkenhead in 1962, her accommodation had already been converted from carrying 12 passengers to 25 navigation cadets and their instructors. Built in 1946, she was originally one of a class of five approximately 10,000 gross tonnage (500-foot long, 64-foot beam, 30-foot draft) 12-passenger ships constructed immediately post-war for Ellerman Lines; the others of the class were City of Khartoum, City of Swansea, City of Poona and City of Carlisle. I was told that prior to the conversion she had frequently been used by Sir John for trips to S.A. I don't know if any of the others in her class were also used by Sir John.

I left her in 1964, on return to the UK following a RTW trip (a sort of abbreviated MANZ run missing out NZ) but some 6 months later she was sold out of the fleet. I think that she may have ceased to sail as an apprentice-training ship at the end of the voyage when I left. She traded for a further 8 years before being broken up in Taiwan.

If it was smooth running that Sir John was seeking, he couldn't have chosen a better ship.

As an aside, can anyone offer any information as to where and when her conversion was made to an apprentice-training ship?
 
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