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.  

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Naval Hymn & Naval Prayer

The Church Pendant

The Royal Naval Church Pendant evolved from the English–Dutch wars of the 17th century being made up from the then current English and Dutch ensigns. It was flown by both sides to indicate that the ships were at prayers and that there was to be a cessation of hostilities between both sides.

In 1941 a Royal Naval ship would fly the Church Pendant at the peak or gaff when holding a service on board to indicate to other vessels that “The ship’s company is at prayers” as a signal for passing vessels to proceed quietly and slowly in respect. The Royal Navy still flies it today for the same purpose.

The 1934 Royal Navy Signals Handbook, which, with very few changes was still in use when the cruiser Ajax was involved in the Battle for Crete, has the entry:
          89 CHURCH PENDANT
               (Flown at) Singly, at the peak or gaff in harbour: - “The ship’s company is at prayers”.
               It did have other meanings when flown singly at other positions or when flown in  
               conjunction with other flags. e.g. when flown singly just above the signal platform it
               indicated “Man overboard”.   
                           Source: Mr Jim Smith, “ The River Plate Veterans and Families Association”,
                                                                retired Petty Officer, Royal Navy.

The Navy Prayer 

Royal Navy Chaplain’s Badge
O eternal Lord God, who alone spreadest out the heavens and rulest the raging of the sea; who hast compassed the waters with bounds until day and night come to an end: Be pleased to receive into thy almighty and most gracious protection the persons of us thy servants and the Fleet in which we serve. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea and of the air and from the violence of the enemy; that we may be a safeguard unto our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth and her dominions, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions; that the inhabitants of our Islands and Commonwealth may in peace and quietness serve thee our God; and that we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land with the fruits of our labours and with a thankful remembrance of thy mercies to praise and glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source: Royal Navy, Chaplaincy Services

The Navy Hymn

Hear the Choir of the Northern Baptist Association, England, singing this hymn:

The words of the hymn now commonly known as “The Navy Hymn” came from William Whiting, an Anglican of Winchester in England who originally wrote them in 1860 as a poem reputedly influenced by surviving his ship sinking in a violent storm and by the words in verses 23 to 31 of Psalm 107. The text was published the following year in the first edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern, a hymnal which was quickly adopted throughout England. Whiting many years later became headmaster of Winchester College Choristers School.

John Dykes, an English Anglican clergyman, composed the tune "Melita" to accompany the 1861 published version of the hymn. Dykes was a well-known composer of nearly three hundred hymn tunes, many of which are still in use today. "Melita" is an archaic term for Malta, a Mediterranean island with an ancient seafaring tradition which had long been a British colony and Royal Navy base and was the site of a shipwreck mentioned in Acts of the Apostles.

This hymn is best described by Wikipedia as “a hymn traditionally associated with seafarers, particularly in the maritime armed services. It was popularized by the Royal Navy and the United States Navy in the late 19th century, and variations of it were soon adopted by many branches of the armed services in the United Kingdom and the United States. Services who have adapted the hymn include the Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, the British Army, the United States Coast Guard and the United States Marine Corps, as well as many navies of the British Commonwealth. Accordingly, it is known by many names, variously referred to as the Royal Navy Hymn, the United States Navy Hymn or just The Navy Hymn, but most often by either the first or last line of its first verse “Eternal Father Strong to Save” or “For Those in Peril on the Sea". The hymn has a long tradition in civilian maritime contexts as well, being regularly invoked by ship's chaplains and sung during services on ocean crossings.

Several versions now exist, I offer the 1861 version.
Verse 1:
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
Verse 2:
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
Verse 3:
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the waters dark and rude,
And bid their angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
Verse 4:
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.



Verses 23 to 31

23 Those who go down to the sea in ships,
      Who do business on great waters,

24 They see the works of the Lord,
      And His wonders in the deep.

25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
      Which lifts up the waves of the sea.

26 They mount up to the heavens,
      They go down again to the depths;
      Their soul melts because of trouble.

27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
      And are at their wits’ end.

28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
      And He brings them out of their distresses.

29 He calms the storm,
      So that its waves are still.

30 Then they are glad because they are quiet;
      So He guides them to their desired haven.

31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
      And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

The Patron Saint of Sailors & Seafarers

St. Nicholas of Tolentino

Feast Day September 10th

In this year of 2017, this feast day fell on a Sunday and was celebrated by the Author and Editor at the Anglican Church, Christ's Church, Castlemaine, Australia, together with the congregation. 

St. Nicholas of Tolentino, was a member of the austere Order of The Hermits of St. Augustine. Born about 1246, he died on 10th September 1310. His tomb lies in the Shrine of Saint Nicholas where his remains are preserved in the Basilica of di San Nicola da Tolentino, in the City of Tolentino in Italy He was canonised by Pope Eugene IV in 1446.   

A traditional account has it that a ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, caught by a storm, was forced into shallow waters where it became grounded. The sailors were unable to manoeuvre it back into deeper water and all feared drowning. Accounts of Nicholas's help, he was then a Bishop, to distressed sailors had already spread far and wide. The sailors called on Nicholas for aid, even though they were distant from him, as they believed they might be saved by his prayer and intervention.
Nicholas actually appeared on the ship and gave the sailors a helping hand. Together they retied and strengthened the ropes holding the masts and worked with poles to pry the ship away from the threatening rocks into deeper water. As soon as the boat was freed and able to again set sail, the image of Nicholas vanished.
The ship took refuge in a calm harbor and the sailors went looking

for a church where they could thank God for their rescue. It so happened that they had taken shelter in Myra and made their way to the cathedral church. Seeing a number of priests, they were suddenly startled to see Bishop Nicholas himself, whom they recognized from the image they had seen on shipboard, giving them assistance. They asked Nicholas how he had heard them and been able to come to their rescue. Nicholas replied that a life devoted to God allows a person to be so clear-sighted as to be able to actually see others in danger and hear their calls for help. The bishop urged the sailors to devote their lives to God and, thereby, to help people in need.
Icon: Niculita Darastean, Romania St Nicholas Centre Collection
Note - The St Nicholas Center is entirely web based.

A prayer:

Heavenly Father, in imitation of Christ your son our Lord, Saint Nicholas of Tolentino miraculously calmed the raging oceans and saved a shipboard crew from being lost at sea. Through his intercession, grant protection of all those serving in the sea services. May their hope be firmly anchored in the promises of Christ, and may they always seek and find the Light of Christ, their true compass and guide.