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Can anyone remember when Lebanon was a good place?
I seem to recall that in the 60s & early 70s Lebanon was a sort of jewel in the Mediterranean. It was well run and wealthy without any trouble. The government was traditionally Christian and had some influence from France.
Then came revolution, hijackings, planes burned on the tarmac, the "Green Line" and death.
What the hell happened?
 

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In March 1967 I waited 5 days to join an EDs ship coming from the USA. I noticed at that time, that it was a civilized city with lots of bars, cafes and night clubs, but there was already signs of discontent mainly groups of people gathering in the streets being addressed by guys with megaphones and large crowds gathering outside banks, the agent told me they were trying to get their money from the banks.
In 1979 I change planes at Beruit airport, it was a frightening experience, guards pointing sub machine guns at us and using their guns to wave us into lines.
 

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A few lines I wrote for my grandchildren re; Beirut 1975,
A few times in my life I unwittingly got involved in smuggling on a commercial scale. Once, a month or so after the civil war in the Lebanon had started, I had just joined a Ro-Ro carrier in Cyprus, and was not even a little pleased to find before I had the chance to unpack my bag a gang of men began loading “goodies” into the Chief Engineers bathroom and my own. The agent and ship chandler were sent for. For Greeks, they were very patient, waiting until I had finished ‘letting off steam’, they then explained the drill and what the charterers expected of the ship and me. In a nutshell our cargo of containers and road building equipment, transhipped from Marseilles, and the contents stowed in the two bathrooms, (‘negotiable currency’), as in all war zones the world over would be landed by me the next morning in Beirut. Nor should I worry, as the fighting would stop when some distance from the breakwaters, for my ship and cargo was of great importance to the combatants, in the continuation of their war. I would enter the harbour and a team of men from both warring factions would board, along with the port officials to clear the ship inwards, then remove and pay for the “negotiable currency” . Imagine my horror when this great unwashed brute off a man weighed down in multiple ammunition belts started counting out a wad of dollars onto my coffee table in front of the port officials, all of them dolled up like ‘Italian Admirals’. No one passed comment. The money was still sitting there when the ship left later that day. The poor old Chief Engineer thought we were bound for the slammer, so did I. All went well until a month or so later in the old port of Tarabulus the firing stopped as promised. Hours later, still discharging containers and the last of a fleet of repaired armoured trucks and tractors onto the quay they started fighting each other…. No Ro-Ro berth here, a Mediterranean moor was the norm, the chief ran to start the engines, the mate, with ‘chippy’ on the windlass forad heaved like mad on the two anchors to pull us clear off the berth. It seemed like forever before they were off the bottom and we got a wee kick ahead on the engines, we were piggy in the middle, with little room to manoeuvre, the local militias were using mortars to hammer seven bells of out of each other. The whistling from the mortars was frightening and none of us was aware until much later small arms were being used to rake our remaining deck cargo
 

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the sequel to that trip

Going home on leave some months later I advised my relief to stop for Greek, Syrian or Turkish warships when instructed to do so and certainly any Israeli, but treat with suspicion any craft flying the Lebanese flag.

He ignored good advice and suffice to say he had to be relieved shortly after he relieved me. His nerves and the ship got shot to pieces by the canon on a little gun boat. The canon shells went through three mild steel bulkheads before stopping. The damage caused by a little boat with a big gun surprised me. Luckily there were no injuries but the incident frightened the life of all hands and the cook.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I never went to Lebanon on a ship, but did pass through several times while going to/from the Gulf. Often with MEA. I was quite aware how things worsened over the years, and how (Supposedly) security was stepped up at the airport. I was never quite sure how secure the airport was after two planes got burned out on the tarmac a few weeks before I passed through. That was before the real troubles started.
 

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Then, those with the wherewithal in the Lebanon spent the hostilities at an hotel, 5 stars of course, on the coastal road near Limassol towards the old airport at Larnaca. Changed times, a sorry business, but not surprising, for the many innocent poor souls caught up with this fertiliser stuff altering their lives.
 

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Beirut lebanon

I was fortunate enough to be there in '56 onboard HMS Eagle. We berthed starboard side to alongside on the north side of the mole which ran out from the docks and HMS Birmingham and Surprise berthed on the south side.
It was a fabulous run ashore in those days. The French had mainly gone but there were lots of incredibly wealthy people living in the hills above Beirut and many more very poor people in the city. We were besieged by invitations from wealthy ladies for healthy sailors to spend their shore leave with them, which resulted in a large number of our engineering department being returned later in big limousines, exhausted with smug silly grins on their faces.
When we sailed we demolished the silly little lighthouse on the end of the mole, which wasn't seen in the rear-view mirror on the bridge until too late! Oops!
 

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HMS Enterprise to be sent to Beirut to survey the port.
 

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Always a good run ashore in the early 50s you could buy gold ingots there if you had the money.On this terrible disaster it could happen here,my brother was a shift supervisor at a plant close to the shell refinery Ellesmere Port where there are tons of this nitrate as the company makes fertiliser he says if it goes up like Beirut it will clear the country for miles around including Shell and imagine the chain reaction that doesn't bear thinking about pray to god it will never happen.
 

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Beirut, lebanon

"Always a good run ashore in the early 50s you could buy gold ingots there if you had the money"
Not if you were in the RN, Tom - we weren't paid enough!
 

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Tom

That plant was known as the Shellstar plant - a loose tie up with Joe Shell in my time . They sold it off to Kemira who subsequent "sold" the trading name. It is now CF Fertilisers.

I read today that one of the ships alongside at Beirut at the time of the disaster capsized with the reported loss of 6 of her crew. Tragic end to a life on the seas.

May they all rest in peace.


BW

J(Gleam)(Gleam)
 

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I imagine Russia will take an interest in the rebuilding of Beirut.
A Mediterranean foothold for their navy ....... a long held aspiration worthy of investment.
 

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Good point Sparkie, I can·t see many others being all that interested ,especially in the present World economic crisis?Regards. keep safe :..... Its NOT over by a long way! K:M:
 

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The French are there, the Russians are there, we're on our way, all that's needed is the US to turn up, then we can wall it all up, and build Checkpoint Charlies all over the city. :) :) :)
 

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It may well come to that in the fullness of time.....a Mediterranean Shanghai.
A very central location in which to have a stake.
 

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A Lebanese friend here in Mexico had his mother in country. We invited him and her to eat at the house. Turns out it had to be during daylight and no windows could be closed! That was it, early lunch, plenty of ventilation and Mom off to bed before sundown.

I remember her asking us why we didn't have diagonal masking tape strips over the windows!

Poor people.....
Rgds.
Dave
 
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