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Hello there, I am researching family history and looking for info on an Anchorline passenger-cargo ship called Caledonia, it had sister ships Cilicia and Circassia, was built to do the Liverpool-Bombay route in late 40s. I had two family members use this ship in 1950s and I am very curious about their experience. They have passed away now so I cannot ask them. I want to know specific things like how they passed the time, would there have been entertainment on a ship this size, I know it wasn't huge...I am guessing the voyage would have been around 6 weeks? Just wondered how they passed the time. Also what kind of food would they eat? And would it be noisy in the cabins from engines? Also, I have read the route would be Gibraltar then Port Said, Aden then Karachi/Bombay. Would passengers disembark at these ports? I am also curious about whether they would have passed many other ships during the voyage and what the sunsets and sunrises are like. Thanks so much for any details you can give which might be of interest. As you can tell, I really know very little!
 

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MV Caledonia. 11252 tons Built 1948. 483.6 ft long, 66.4 wide 31.0 depth.
2 diesel engines built by ship builders. DF,ESD, GyC, Radar. 2 decks. Cruiser stern. Code flags GCKR. Registered Glasgow. Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding Co; Glasgow. Owned by Anchor Line Ltd.
 

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In the late '60s she was tied up in Amsterdam and used as a hostel for the riff raff that eventually destroyed Amsterdam. Went aboard looking for the usual but missed out due to it still being the tie wearing days - they probably thought we were in the drug squad. You could still see what a beautiful ship she had been.

John T
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks so much, both, for your responses. I have actually googled quite a lot of the technical stuff, and I am keen to find out more about life on board! Trotterdotpom, Fascinating that you were almost on board...I have such a romantic notion of this ship, having seen photos online of the interiors of the sister ships. I understand too that she ended up as scrap in Hamburg. I wonder is there anywhere on the forum I could perhaps find someone who may even have been passenger or part of crew in 50s/60s? Thanks again.
 

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I sailed as Cadet and then Junior Deck Officer on Cilicia and then Circassia in the 1960's - passage time Liverpool to Bombay was app. 21 days - passengers could disembark at most of the ports - at Port Said you could leave the. Essel and visit the Pyramids etc and rejoin the ship at Suez. Passenger capacity was 300 on Cilicia and Circassia and 320 on Caledonia. Catering was first class and all passengers had the full run of the ship. Plenty of entertainment - films, small salt water swimming pool plus dances etc. The design of all the vessels was " Scottish Country House " style - very comfortable and relatively quiet at sea.
Many passengers were return bookings and they had favourite vessels - all in all happy ships, well run and very informal and friendly with a very Scottish feel.
Officers mainly Scottish with Indian Crew - many of the Indian Crew were third generation Anchor Line employees and very loyal.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent on board - we had a lot of fun and met some interesting passengers.
Hope this helps - let me know if you want further info.
Bob L.
 

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Hello, Bob L, Thanks so much, so interesting to hear of your time on board these ships! I am still curious about a few things, if you have time, I'd love to know (if you know):

1. What did you do for drinking water, was it just kept in huge fridges?

2. Was eating at the captain's table still a big deal on the smaller ships?

3. Do/did these ships have special pilots come on for the Suez canal stretch?

4. Did you ever come across the 'gullygully' man, an Egyptian magician, whom I've read would come aboard to entertain?

5. So I guess even the smaller ships like the Caledonia had bands come on board for dancing?

6. Was there both Indian and European/UK food, I imagine so?

I am a writer, hence my fascination with the details.

thanks so much, kind regards, Swansontheloch
 

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In Reply :
Drinking Water was available - chilled in flasks in each cabin - top ups available from the Cabin Stewards who were on duty 24 hours for all passenger requirements
The Captain and Senior Officers all had passengers at their tables and yes it was regarded as a perk for passengers - we had some well known passengers at various times.
Suez Canal Pilots advised during the Canal Transit but it should be remembered they were only advisors - The Master was in overall charge of decision making
The Gully Gully Man came aboard both Southbound and Northbound - his " cry" was Gully Gully - No chicken no mongoose !!!!!
No Band on board all dancing was to records / tapes - All the Catering Staff were Goanese and had mostly been schooled in mission schools where they learned to play musical instruments so they usually had their own Band/ Small Orchestra but any performances were usually only for the Ship's Staff
Choices of European ( and Scottish ) food plus Indian was always available - the ships were well known for their very high standard of catering and as Officers we were permitted to order any of the food on the menus so were all very well fed !!!
The vessels were maintained to the highest standard with decks pristine and all brass shining - they were very popular in their day but of course you cannot really compare them to the modern cruise vessels.
Both Cilicia and Circassia had been armed merchant cruisers during the second world war - Caledonia was built after the war - by the mid sixties competition from aircraft was the beginning of the end for the Passenger Ships - our competition was Lloyd Triestino ( Italian Flag ) and Messageries Maritime ( French ) although they ran from Genoa and Marseilles respectively - they also withdrew around the same time as Anchor Line.
Hope the above helps

Bob L
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks, Bob, most helpful. I have, in fact, recently been reading about Goan musicians, they were also often very skilled jazz players. You must have wonderful memories of this era on board these ships!
 

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sistership rms circassia

on 14th August 1955 I sailed from Liverpool to Karachi on the Cicassia. Life on board was very much the same as the Caledonia. I was 17 at the time travelling to Pakistan with my parents. Cabins were small and shared. You were allocated one and had little choice, I was in a cabin with a tea planter from somewhere in Assam he was about mid 30 and the other occupant was a Jute mill manager from East Pakistan seemed very old at the time, both travelling to Bombay. Life on board was pretty tedious, no real exercise, sports being deck tennis, and shuffleboard and walking round the boat,5 to 10 minutes per circuit. It was not a large ship. Rolled a lot in the bay of Biscay. First port of call was Port Said, with Simon Artz' Emporium being the only real shop and of course the Bum boats. We had a visit from the Gulli-gulli man who was very, very entertaining. We went down the canal at night until the convoy got stuck in the salt lakes, we roasted for a day and the crept down the Red Sea until we reached Aden for a blessed shore break. An unusual side line on this trip was a diversion to Muscat to drop off one passenger. Not a regular feature. After some 18 days we reached Karachi. Hope this has been of some interest.
 

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WildColonialBoy, Wow, thank you for such gorgeous details! So interesting for me. I have read about Simon Artz store - can you recall at all what kind of things they sold? Was it just tat, albeit 1950s tat? Or was it high quality stuff? Also, were the first class cabin windows above water level? What would you see typically from cabin the windows? And can you recall anything about arrival in Karachi, going through passports/customs? Was it Keamari wharf?And what kind of luggage, did people use trunks, or were suitcases being used then? These tiny details fascinate me from the writing point of view. Anything else you can remember is most welcome too. Many thanks indeed! Swansontheloch
 

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Swansontheloch - All the "C" Boats were First Class - all Passengers had the full run of all Decks and Facilities - the differences were the Cabins - The Boat Deck had Staterooms with windows - A Deck and B Deck Cabins had Portholes and were smaller - all Passenger Cabins were above the waterline - as were all Crew Accommodation.
One of my additional duties was as Baggage Officer and the Baggage Room was open every morning for Passengers to access voyage clothing - mainly large suitcases or trunks - for " Not Wanted On Voyage" clothing/ Personal Effects it was caged in a Baggage area in No.3 Tween Deck Hatch but was accessible if the Passenger urgently required - One of the Quartermasters acted as Baggage Master.
There were no inside Passenger Cabins - all Cabins had " Sea Views "
Trust this helps
BobL
 

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Hello, Bob L, Thanks again, very useful. I had read elsewhere about 'Not Wanted on Voyage' effects but in my head that would only have been for really long trips like Australia, but I guess not! So the first class cabins were pretty small, I guess staterooms only for VIPS? Could you ventilate the passenger cabins at all? And, also, when you go through Suez is it quite hypnotic - I have watched footage from 50s, what did you actually see, just sand on both sides for hours and hours? Many thanks! swansonloch
 

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Swansontheloch - All the cabins were quite adequate as far as space was concerned - obviously the Staterooms were the best - All cabins had opening windows or Portholes - you could slot in fly screens at the open windows to keep mosquitoes etc. out. - all Cabins had permanent fans - only the Dining Room was airconditioned - Yes the Suez Canal was sand on both sides with the occasional palm tree - both the southbound and northbound convoys met in the Great Bitter Lakes in order to pass ( in the 1960's ) - Passenger ships led the convoys so it was always a bit of a race to be lead ship ! - ahead of our "competition " Lloyd Triestino and Messageries Maritimes vessels - quite interesting times - it was the same at leaving ports like Aden or Bombay. - always tried to be first out and a lot of the regular passengers were aware of this - as a matter of interest, the first British Merchant Ship to sail through the new Suez Canal in 1869 was an Anchor Line Passenger Ship - and an Anchor Line Ship was in the first convoy after the Canal reopened in the late 1960's - the Company timed the vessel to do this - I was Chief Officer on the vessel - it was one of the nostalgic points that the Owners felt was important ! - and saved time from going round the Cape.
Regards. BobL
 

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anchor line circassia memories

found your reply and would add the following to my earlier comments. Also a correction I was 18 not 17 when I went out to Pakistan. We embarked at Liverpool having joined the special train from London at Crewe. We had ordinary suitcases and my school trunk (not wanted on voyage). As my parents were going out for a longish time all our household goods were sent in wooden lift vans, very large packing cases, by freighter. My cabin must have been on c deck and my folk were a bit better off on B deck. My cabin was about the size of a 4 berth cabin on Brittany ferries and had a wash basin using salt water. I seem to remember the head and other facilities were communal. Mealtimes were held in two sittings, one at six and one around 8 . On the later time most people dressed for dinner, but not the earlier one..Other onboard occupations were the Bridge fiends, playing every day and getting more and more annoyed with each other. Housey housey was a frequent evening pastime and Scottish dancing lessons in the afternoons . Apart from these the bar was a full time occupation for some.

Simon Artz was a very grand department store selling a lot of very good products, cameras, watches, clothes and perfumes all good brands not available for the most part in the UK at that time very little tat.The tat was sold by the bum boats and street vendors, watches powered by beetles, that worked for a day if you were lucky.

One other thing sticks in my memory is the number of Indian ladies who knitted nonstop from embarkation to disembarkation.

I do not remember the Cirsassia's dining room being air conditioned
in 1955.

My parents returned from Pakistan on the Caledonia in 1965, and made an intermediate but I am not sure how they travelled. I am trying to see if there are any photos they took on these trips still in existence.

I left Pakistan on an American Export line ship, don't know it s name and went to Beirut, in 1961 it was a marvellous place.
 

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Wildcolonialboy - Your comments bring back a lot of memories of the goings on whilst at sea - yes, fresh water was a problem and after a salt water bath you used fresh water finally - Your return from Pakistan must have been with one of the American Export Lines cargo vessels that carried 12 Passengers as none of their large passenger ships called at Indian Subcontinent ports.
Some Passengers on the homeward run left the vessel in Gibraltar and flew back to UK - The Lloyd Triestino Passenger Ships terminated at Genoa and I understand some passengers then got the train(s) back home.
Yes, first sitting for Dinner was informal ( if wished ) and second sitting was definitely formal - we had to comply with "rig of the day" and from 1900hrs itq was formal for all Officers who had any business in the Passenger areas.
These were interesting times and the end of an era - it was good to be involved. Regards, BobL
 

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I travelled on all three ships between 1950 and 1965, from Bombay to liverpool and vice versa via karachi, Aden, Port Said (thru' the Suez Canal) through the med, Bay of Biscay (via Gibraltar) and to Liverpool. I was very young, but I absolutely adored it, as you can imagine.....there is A LOT I can tell you about the ships......for me it was heaven whenever we travelled on these ships (12 times!!!) and I can truly say that I have experienced the world of cruising!!!!! (although for our family, it was a means of transport at the time)
 

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RMS Caledonia

My own recollections of this ship and of Anchor Line are amongst my earliest and fondest memories, only because my father was Anchor Line’s appointed pilot at Liverpool. In consequence I was privileged to visit the ships many times. The mixture of Scottish Country House and final days of the Raj in India summarises my own recollections completely. “Genteel” is probably the wrong word to use, but civility and gentility governed everything that I saw and learned – including, not least, how to mix a pink gin and to appreciate drinks properly served on crisp white linen on a silver tray – with Bombay mix, of course! I treasure a set of boxwood parallel rulers which somehow came my way, together with a pair of brass dividers, when the three passenger ships were sold. The parallels sit on my coffee table at home.

My father wore the Anchor Line tie regularly and I have inherited that, too, but did not aspire to wear it until recently, having always felt unqualified to do so. What has changed? Recently my good friend Rev Murdoch Mackenzie died. Murdoch was the son of Captain MacKenzie who was Marine Superintendent of Anchor Line. Directions for his funeral in Edinburgh declared that “dark clothes need not be worn” ; and so it seemed right to wear Dad’s Anchor Line tie, for Auld Lang’s Syne. A few days later my own brother died, too; and I recalled just how much he and I both owed to an education in which Anchor Line had played such a large part. And so I wore it to my brother’s funeral, also. I now feel properly qualified to wear it and intend to do so with great pride and pleasure!

Thanks for the memory!
 

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Guess our paths must have crossed as you were such regular travellers - we had a very loyal "clientelle" who had used the company vessels for years - indeed many of them timed their voyage for a specific ship - even a specific Master !! - which I can understand having sailed with all of the passenger ship Masters myself - only now do I realise how fortunate I was to have been working on the "C" Boats - never a dull moment on board ! Bob L.
 

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#17

Or might they be cedar-wood? Can anybody please confirm the type of wood which was used for Captain Field's Improved version of parallels? Once taken for granted, they are now treasured!
 

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Former passenger

Have just found this forum.
My wife and I sailed to India in RMS Caledonia in December 1957 when I was going to take up a job in a copper mine. We left Liverpool on the afternoon of Saturday December 7th. Tannoys were playing "Elizabethan Seranade" After settling into our cabin, afternoon tea was served in very dainty china. Ominously wind was whistling through the rigging even while alongside the dock in the Mersey. The next two days, through St George's channel and Bay of Biscay, storms so bad the ship rolled constantly - we were told later it had gone to 44 degrees from vertical. It had to heave to and head into wind. We got to Gibraltar too late so had to stand off overnight, making the ship one day late for rest of voyage. At Gibraltar they had to take on full new set of crockery, so much had smashed.
It was not long after Suez crisis, so we were allowed ashore at Port Said, but only briefly to shops. Because of what Egyptians called "The Action", stock in the shops had mostly passed its sell-by-date - my wife bought a swimming costume, but when using it later in the Caledonia's swimming pool its elastic had perished and it nearly came off as she dived in! After initial bad weather, a most enjoyable trip. I recall late nights on deck admiring the stars as we sailed near Aden. Deck quoits and other games passed the time. Two others who came to the copper mine six months later had bad weather in the Indian Ocean. The crew told them "this is nothing - you should have been on our voyage last December!"
I notice the original enquirer wondered what food was eaten on board, and I find I have three of the Caledonia's dinner menus in my scrap book.
 
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