Royal and Merchant Navy Days
|RKJ joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve whilst at school as a Boy Seaman. These were the days of National Service for all males in Britain and joining a particular reserve was the only way to guarantee being called up into the service of your choice. 15 days training followed aboard HMS “Vanguard” Britain’s last Battleship, then moored in Plymouth.
HMS Vanguard fires a broadside. (©Imperial War Museum FL20870)
The following year he signed indentures with the British India (BI) Company and joined their Cadet ship “Chindwara”. The Company had been established in Calcutta in 1856 and its principle trades were associated with the Indian sub-continent, but its owners had been closely involved in the development of British interests in East Africa and the UK to East Africa route involved a number of cargo and passenger vessels. The Company also ran troopers for the MOD, “Dunera”, “Dilwara” and the new “Nevasa” amongst its fleet of more than 80.
The officers were mainly British, the deck crew Indian, engine crew Pakistani and saloon crew from Goa. The “Chindwara” was one of a class of 13 shelter decked dry cargo ship, but the crew had been replaced by the apprentices who probably received the finest training in seamanship available, including learning to sail with a whaler and later 2 dinghies. She ran from the UK to East and South Africa. Leaving as a Petty officer in 1959, he joined another company ship on the Persian Gulf to Japan run and returned to the UK to take his Second Mate’s Certificate in 1960. He re-joined the Royal Naval reserve as a Sub Lieutenant and returned to BI as a Third Officer and spent the next 4 years on the Bombay to Basra mail run.
The Company had 4 sister ships, the 4,500 ton “D” Class, on this service, carrying mail, cargo and up to 1200 deck passengers, mainly Indians and Pakistanis to and from work in and around the Gulf, but large numbers of Arabs between Gulf ports. Towards the end of 1961 the “Dara” was blown up with the loss of 400 lives not far from Dubai, and all the other ships on the run suffered bombs in the next 2 years but without sustaining serious damage. He took 3 months leave in 1962 to take his Mate’s Certificate in London and get married.
With Suhaili incomplete in 1965, and having spent a month diving for gold for the Indian Government off Janjira, 40 miles south of Bombay, he returned home, sat his Master’s Certificate and then spent 5 months as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy completing a “P” Course, the Royal Naval Reserves equivalent to the RN’s Sub Lieutenant’s Course. He was due to go to Indonesia during the confrontation to join a patrol vessel, but war between India and Pakistan meant Suhaili had her insurance withdrawn, so he returned to Bombay, completed her and set off for the UK with his brother Chris and Heinz Fingerhut towards the end of 1965, and on the way back from India, running short of money, RKJ responded to an advertisement for a relief Master of the Durban Lines MV “Congella” and spent 3 months trading between Durban, Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) and Beira before an attack of jaundice forced him ashore. The next 5 months were spent as a stevedoring supervisor for Messrs Grindrod Gersigny in Durban.
HMS Duncan (©Imperial War Museum FL10968)
On reaching home with Suhaili in 1967, RKJ was appointed First officer of the liner “Kenya” running between the UK and East Africa. He left to do more time in the Navy, joining HMS “Duncan” a Type 14 anti-submarine Frigate in January 1968 as a watch officer and later Communications Officer. He left the ship at the end of April to prepare for the Golden Globe Race.
By 1969 when the Golden Globe was completed, changes were taking place in the Merchant Navy and BI, with a number of other Companies, disappeared to create an enhanced P&O group. RKJ left the sea and developed Mercury Marina on the Hamble. Two years developing St. Katharine’s Dock as a marina followed and then he went north to Scotland and developed Troon marina. He remained a naval reservist until 1989, spending time with Minesweepers with the Solent and Glasgow Divisions, the latter years, as a Lieut Commander, being spent as one of the founders of the Public Affairs Branch, working mainly in NATO.