Saturday, 23 September 2017

Author & Webmaster

Site Author & Webmaster

Clive Sharplin

“From a Past Life”
In Transit, Panama Canal, August 1958 
My first deep sea voyage
M.V. Wellington Star (Blue Star Line)
Photo: Sharplin family archive ©
Coming from a family where the past four out of five paternal generations together with  two uncles, plus my mother’s brother-in-law, and my brother-in-law who all served in the Royal Navy one could reasonably assume that I would follow suit. Certainly I can readily recall that when I was approaching the first point of a career decision with one year remaining I was at Holcombe, Chatham Technical School for Boys, ensconced in the mock Tudor grand house which was its main building set in its own parkland and once the home of one of the Kent family of Style & Winch prominent brewery owners. I decided to start with an Admiralty Apprenticeship in the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham which I entered, aged 16, by way of a written examination as an indentured Marine Engine Fitter for five years.

Auckland Harbour, New Zealand, September 1958
aboard  M.V. Wellington Star (Note 1)
Photo: Sharplin family archive ©

At the second career decision point near the end of those five years, which included studying at The Admiralty’s Chatham Dockyard Technical College, I considered three choices. To enter the Royal Navy in the rank of a Petty Officer Engine Room Artificer, or as an Engineer Officer in either the Royal Fleet Auxiliary which operates the fleet replenishment and support vessels to the Royal Navy under the blue ensign rather than the white, or as an Engineer Officer in the Merchant Navy. For better or worse I chose the latter where I spent my next few years with Blue Star Line, one of the largest British fleets. I later learned that three cousins, all brothers, had preceeded me by also joining the Merchant all on the hospitality side.

It was a choice I have never regretted as it taught me to accept total responsibility, gave me a strong sense of duty and a deep work ethic, all of which still manifest themselves today in my more mature years of retirement.

All through my life the sea has influenced me and since leaving it I have been fortunate that my profession involved me in both national and multinational engineering environments, for many of them I  designed  engine room and boiler room automatic control systems thus giving me long periods still associated with ships, naval and merchant, and marine engineering. I consider myself doubly fortunate that my service in the British Merchant Navy in the late 50’s and early 60’s was at that period now regarded as to when it was at its zenith in size, quality and prominent place in the global fleet.

So I have moved from being the schoolboy in Kent, England, who devoured C.S. Forester’s “Hornblower” novels to now in retirement in the Central Gold Fields region of Victoria in Australia and having past entry into being an Octogenarian I impatiently wait for Julian Stockwin’s next  “Thomas Kydd” novel. His 19th "The Baltic Prize" the most recent has since arrived thanks to my wife Elizabeth (The Editor of  this Website)  as a birthday day gift to me, so now to await his 20th book  in the series "The Iberian Flame", while I enjoy my continual research and writing for this website.  Stockwin's 18th "Persephone" is I think probably one of if not the best in the "Thomas Kydd" series so far but start at the first as reading the logical sequence tells a better story.

These days I describe myself as an amateur maritime historian writing articles for the maritime press and undertaking commissions for personal naval research my most recent being a history of the Royal Navy's first iron clad frigate, the Chatham built HMS Achilles of 1863.


Note 1.

Wellington Star in Wellington harbour at Christmas time by Wallace Trickett

"Wellington Star"my first deep sea voyage ship in Wellington harbour at Christmas time -  note the Christmas tree hoisted to mainmast.
A paintingin in oils  by New Zealand based Wallace Trickett ©  now in the collection of Clive Sharplin
Wallace was a former  Blue Star Line Engineer Officer. 

                   Wellington Star - Blue Star Line Postcard - Fraser Darrah Collection
"Wellington Star"
Thought to be outward bound  in the English Channel

            My first deep sea voyage ship. Built by John Brown Clydebank in 1952, MV "Wellington Star" had the largest refrigerated space at 594,560 cubic feet of any ship owned by the Blue Star Line and it was claimed the largest of any ship in the world! Her naval architects gave her what was to become recognized as the  "Empire" Ships (or Class) a classic Blue Star Line profile. Of 12,539 grt she was fitted with two 6 cylinder John Brown Doxford oil engines.  At this time Blue Star Line with some 40 deep sea ships had one of the largest fleets within the British mercantile marine.

  Builder: John Brown & Co. Ltd., Clydebank, Scotland
  Order No: 184692
  Yard No: 670
  IMO No. 5387439
  Call sign: GNPD
  Keel laid: 31st March 1951
  Launched: 7th May 1952 as "Wellington Star"' for Blue Star Line Ltd.
  Completed: August 1952
  Ran trials: 29th August 1952
  Type: Refrigerated Cargo Liner
  Passengers: 12
  Dimensions: 573.8 x 72.7 x 37.1 feet
  Tonnage: 12,539 gross
  Propulsion: Two 6-Cyl, 2SCSA Doxford 2 stroke single acting oil engines by shipbuilder, driving twin screws developing  14,700 BHP
  Speed: 18 1/2 knors.

** Particulars sourced from (ibid) "Blue Star Line a Fleet History" P28  by Atkinson and Collard..

 Sold: November 1975 at Sydney to Broadbay Shipping Co. Ltd., Panama renamed "Hawkes Bay",  In July 1976 completed conversion to a partial livestock carrier by Keppel Tuas Shipyard, Singapore, Operated by Blue Star Line Ship Management.  
 Fate: Sold and on 14th August 1979 delivered to Nan Kwan Steel & Iron Co. Ltd., Taiwan and  arrived at Kaohsiung  9th August 1979 to be broken up.  

Ajax Prints ®
Victoria Australia
ABN (Australian Business Number): 53 509 791 496