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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is not an advertisement for fast food of a particular type because at the time the events reported in this story took place I don’t think that Big Mac’s were present on the UK high street. Instead it’s about my deep-sea voyage on the Magdapur when she carried passengers.

All of the Brocklebank ships that I sailed on had an owner’s suite. I was told that there were tax benefits to the company in having these as part of the accommodation. The owner’s suite always struck me as being very well appointed having a day room as well as a separate bedroom. Under most cir***stances this accommodation was never used, being accessible only to the Chief Steward and his staff. The only time it was occupied when I was at sea was on the Magdapur on a voyage from the UK to India.

The passengers who travelled on that voyage were a woman who was possibly in her early to mid-forties and her daughter who I think was in her early teens. They were returning to India at the end of the girl’s school term and were travelling back by sea as part of the Christmas holiday. I seem to remember that the woman’s husband ran an Indian tea plantation and it’s possible that Brocklebank ships carried his tea as cargo.

As you can imagine they were immensely popular additions to the ship’s company particularly as the mother was a great one for socialising. Henceforth I will refer to her as mum.

On the Magdapur as on most ships that I sailed on the engineers were the most sociable group amongst the ships officers and it wasn’t long before mum was spending a great deal of time in their company.

She was a good-looking woman but her lifestyle as a planter’s wife coupled with lack of exercise had added a few pounds to her figure. She was an extremely tactile person with a very warm friendly nature.

The outward voyage to Calcutta included a visit to Gan Island. Gan was an RAF staging post between the UK and the Far East for Vulcan Bombers and was a regular stop for Brocklebank ships.

As Gan is south of the Equator and because neither passenger had previously paid their respects to Father Neptune an appropriate ceremony was laid on to allow them to do so. This was a hilarious affair and great fun was had by all.

The ship’s company were in great spirits therefore when the ship later dropped anchor in Gan’s beautiful lagoon.

Now the RAF were great hosts and it was common for the ships officers to receive invitations to the officer’s and sergeant’s mess. The sergeants mess was the most popular because of the total lack of formality and because the drinks were cheaper. Now an important point to remember is that the service men on Gan were unaccompanied. You can imagine therefore that a female visitor would cause great excitement and interest.

On the night in question I had not gone ashore so apart from the last part of the story I did not witness events at first hand.

Apparently mum had gone to the sergeant’s mess accompanied by a couple of Magdapur’s engineers. Daughter had been left on board in the company of a good book from the ship’s library.

From all accounts the visit ashore had been a resounding success with mum receiving an enormous amount of attention particularly from an RAF Sergeant whose name I do not remember but whose nickname I think was “Big Mac”.

Big Mac was a very large man who must have stood well over six feet. He had a physique to match and would be the ideal sort of person to have on your side when faced by a mob of visiting supporters after they lost five nil.

It appears that good company fuelled by large amounts of alcohol together with mum’s friendly nature had left Big Mac with the distinct but erroneous impression that the evening would end up with more than a goodnight peck on the cheek. However it was not to be because when matters seemed to be getting a little out of hand mum called on the ships engineers who had gone ashore with her, to escort her back to the ship. Apparently there was some sort of altercation between mum and Big Mac as she waited at the jetty for the launch to take her back to the ship.

Mum arrived back on board with her reputation intact even if a little the worse for wear. She then went to her cabin for a well earnt rest. Big Mac meanwhile returned to the Sergeants mess to drown his sorrows and no doubt to reflect on how and where he went wrong.

I guess most people would lick their wounds and put their disappointment to the back of their minds reflecting on the mysterious ways of women. Not Big Mac.

After fuelling his ardour some more he apparently commandeered an RAF launch and headed towards the Magdapur who as I said lay quietly at anchor in the islands lagoon.

When Brocklebank ships were berthed or at anchor it was usual practice for one of the ships quartermasters to keep watch on the gangway. Usually things were quiet at Gan and on this particular night the gangway was temporarily unattended when Big Mac came aboard.

On the Magdapur the navigating officers cabins were on the boat deck, with the accommodation for all the other ships officers, including the owner’s suite one deck below on the accommodation deck. My cabin, on the port side was located forward of the owners suite where mum and daughter were by now peacefully sleeping.

I was woken from a particularly deep sleep by someone shouting. This was accompanied by a woman’s screams. I dragged myself out of bed stopping only long enough to pull on a pair of shorts.
On leaving my cabin to look towards the source of noise I saw what could only be described as a scrum in the narrow companion way. Engineers, quartermasters and Big Mac were all locked together in a heaving mass. Eventually Big Mac was subdued by sheer weight of numbers and the noise diminished from a football crowd roar to a point where Big Mac could be heard to say that he would behave himself if he were allowed to get up.

He did go quietly after that and was escorted ashore by one of the ships quartermasters in the same launch that he had arrived in. In the morning when more sober council applied it was agreed that no formal complaint would be made to the RAF authorities. Mum certainly did not wish to make a fuss and as far as I am aware no action was taken by Gan’s commanding officer over the unauthorised use of the launch.

Magdapur finished discharging her cargo and strange to say mum stayed on board and declined any further invitations to go ashore. From memory, she seemed completely unfazed by the incident. Whether her appetite for Big Mac’s was diminished by the experience I cannot say.

18,939 Posts
Great story, John.

I never had the pleasure of visiting Gan but a few years ago there was an article in Time magazine about it the island.

The RAF personnel had lengthy postings on the island and the only females to visit were RAF Stewardesses on the infrequent cargo/passenger planes. After each of these visits there were always numerous tales of amorous adventures, mostly taken with a pinch of salt. However, a few days after one of the planes had left, an Airman was diagnosed with a dose of gonorrhoea and was subsequently carried shoulder high round the base - sort of a "Clap of Honour".

John T.

1,507 Posts
Tale of a steamroller

Another mum travelling as a passenger was a surveyors wife on ED's 'Eboe'. She was accompanied by her three year old daughter. She was an attractive woman of about 30 and as may be expected was pursued by certain of the officers. Without doubt, the keenest was the 2nd mate who was constantly by her side or very close by, keeping 'monkey eye' on his rivals.
Obviously believing in safety in numbers she used to join us in the officer's smoke room for lunchtime drinks. Her little daughter played around with her toys, a favourite one of which was a toy steam roller which she used to push around the deck.
One day her steam roller suffered an accident, somebody trod on it (probably in an attempt to get nearer the mother).
Some bright spark sent her for advice and possible repairs to the engineer's duty mess where the oily ones were having their lunch.
Ten minutes later she returns with the still defunct steamroller and her mother asks, "What's the matter with your steamroller dear?" "Oh, it's f****d"

Premium Member
7,204 Posts
Arm Wrestling In Gan

This story is with a bit of Bravado but nonetheles true. My first and only visit to Gan was on SS Maipura in 1965. The lads had been ashore the Sergants Messs the previous day( us appentices were not allowed to that Sergants mess doo !) and apparentley the arn wresting champion of Gan had beaten our 4th Eng Ray Palfreeman in a final that evening .
The mess was invited to a piss up on board and we appentices were also invited to the bar ( The old man " Pem " and Chief " Pat Morris " having gone to the Officers mess ashore .)
As the night progressed the inevitable rematch with " Ray " and the Gan " Champ " who was a very well built black chap with bicepts like thighs was initiated . The Gan man won the best 2 of three . I should say at this point that I did a lot of Arm Wrestling with Ray who usually won as he was a well built man and I was but a strong but scrawny kid ; although I did have a height and arm lever advantage. Ray taught me how to maximise the lever advantage ; and how to " Lock " the arm .
Imagine my suprise after the contest when Ray says " We have someone here who can beat you !! "

Bets were placed (Free Beer for the winning side )

Then " Ray " says this is our Champ and points to me !!!!!!!!
I was astounded to see this muskular chap who I was supposed to take on .
Cut along story short I beat him best of three !!!
I must say that Ray had weakened him plus he was getting pretty pissed !
Nevertheless I was declared the Arm Wresting Champ of Gan in 1965 .
The fellow I beat apparenly took the beating very much to heart as he had never lost in Gan .
All of us apprentices were well thought of after that and Capt "Pem " allowed us a ration of 4 beers a day !!
After that I never beat " Ray "again either at arm wrestling or for that matter Crib . ( He was however easy meat at table tennis ; couldnt move fast enough )
Happy Days ; Derek

Premium Member
1,389 Posts
Another Magdapur Passenger

On reading Magdapur Mum's Big Mac the story seemed to have some familiarity but maybe the mother and daughter passengers are just a coincidence.
I attach a photo taken on Magdapur during the voyage Dec1964 -April 1965
From left to right - Wilma, passenger-John Halligan Jnr 4th Eng-Pete Tye 2nd Electrician. I cannot remember the name of the purser nor the deck apprentice at the front.
Wilma certainly enjoyed all the attention she got during the voyage.

Also attached Magdapur at Vishakhaptnam (to give the place its posh name, not the one usually referred to in Brocks)


Premium Member
2,044 Posts
Matra passengers

On either my first or second trip on Matra in 1964 we carried the retiring Brocklebank Secretary (male version that is) and his wife. He was a rather staid and boring accountant type as the position would warrant but she was great fun despite being what seemed an ancient 60 or so to me at the time ( she seems quite young now!).

I remember chatting to her by the side of number 3 hatch (where the swimming pool used to go) outward bound through the Med asking her what she had done for a living. It turned out that she had worked for many years as a simultaneous translator at the UN in New York and Geneva from memory. This seemed like quite an interesting job so I asked various questions amongst which was the obvious one "how many languages do you speak?" "Well my dear, it depends whether you mean speak fluently or just read, write and speak very well". This stumped me a bit because I had not thought a casual question through to that extent. Bat the question back to her I thought, "what is the UN definition of fluency" was my retort which I was quite pleased with. "Fluency at the UN means the ability to write, read, speak and think the language without translating into your Mother tongue" was her reply. This seemed pretty impressive stuff to someone who had not exactly set the GCE examiners alight with his language proficiency. "So how many languages do you speak fluently and how many do you speak well" was my inspired next question. "I speak 5 fluently by UN standards, I speak 5 fluently by most other people's standards and I speak another 4 languages where I get by quite well, once you have mastered 3 languages all the rest are variations on a theme". This was off the Richter scale for me and I was totally lost in admiration. This increased further when she told me that when simultaneously translating she never used English as one of the languages and she was most comfortable translating from Russian into French or German. That someone could be so good was beyond my comprehension and still is. Both my wife and son are very good linguists but they both say it is incredibly difficult to go between two tongues that are not your own without going into Englsih first.

I still remember that lady very well more than 40 years on as one of the most impressive people I have ever met.

8,377 Posts

I recall on Manipur we took out a rather well built lady to join her husband at Madras where he was something big in ICI (?) there.
Her favourite tipple was a half pint glass of gin to the halfway mark, topped up with water, and drunk as quickly as a soft drink too.
She suffered badly from heat rash and somehow was given the idea that a cure was ammoniated water, being Jun 3rd Eng in charge of the refrig. machinery I was was the ideal source of supply of this balm. I played it pretty cool and as our Ch. Eng. was sniffing around and I did not want queer his pitch so to speak. At end of the 2000-2400 I used to leave a basin of this mixture outside her cabin door and then call at the Chief's cabin to give him the log and update etc. etc. Problem was that he sometimes could not wait for my call so I usually had to dodge around the deck until I was sure he was back in his cabin.
She was a real sport though, and donated a whole rack of pint glasses to our bar.
She mixed with anyone, usually anyone who was drinking, invariably dressed in her mumu, if that is the right word for her ensemble, her method of parking was to back slowly up to the chair, which was safely up against a bulkhead, curl one leg on it and then sit down on top of it!
The twist in the tale was that when we anchored at Madras her hubby was rowed out in a boat and got totally p--- aboard the Manipur, and had to be lowered into the stern of the rowing boat, literally jammed in so he could not fall overboard, whilst she was most amorous at the reunion, the touching scene was a bit spoilt really as he confided to us that he had had the time of his life when she was in the UK!
Funny how we remember the daft tales!
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