(FOR THE INTEREST OF WHAT ARE NOW
BECOMING ANCIENT MARINERS !)
UPDATED OCTOBER 26TH. 2015
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TO YOUR PAST !
TURN UP THE VOLUME AND BE THERE AGAIN !
DON'T KNOW WHY THEY CALL IT "HORRIBLE".
OBVIOUSLY THEY HAVE NOT 'BEEN THERE' AND FELT THE EXCITEMENT AND EXHILERATION........HAPPY DAYS
CLIFFORD COCKER HAS KINDLY PROVIDED THE FOLLOWING SHORT DESCRIPTION OF HIS VOYAGE TO THE ANTARCTIC.
I was born in Poplar in London in June 1930,moved to Dagenham in 1936 spent some of the war years in at Wales.
My father was a seafarer so I was drawn towards a career at sea, served an apprenticeship in a ship repair yard in the
Royal Docks in London and then started my seagoing career in 1951. Was with several shipping companies, obtained my Seconds
ticket whilst with Port Line, sailed as Senior Second on the TSMV Port WYndham, got married in 1955 started a a family,and
decided to come ashore, was ashore in various roles including 2 years as the Resident Engineer in the British Embassy in Jakarta
In 1974 was told that my next posting would be the rocket range at Benbecula in the Western Isles of Scotland.This II
refused, applied to Bank Line who took me back as Second Engineer, finished off my Chiefs ticket with them and promoted to
Chief. Made redundant in 1987, obtained a job as project Manager (New Works) at a local American Air Base,retired in 1991,
went into local politics and Charitable Work, served a term as Mayor of Woodbridge Town, then a year as Chairman of Suffolk
Coastal District Council. Gave up Council Work completely in 2010, and now fully occupied in caring for my disabled wife.
A Trip to the Antarctic
My first trip with Bank Line was in 1974 on the Birchbank on her second voyage, when I joined as Second Engineer, Jimmy
Cairns was Chief to be relieved by Mike Brannock on his first trip as Chief.
The Master was Angus McBain accompanied by his wife Flora and the bairn Kirsty, the mate’s name I can’t
remember he had come from P&O, the second mate was from Lincolnshire and accompanied by his wife, the third mate I cannot
remember and there were 2 apprentices.
We loaded in the West India Dock in London with a virtual Aladdin’s Cave of cars, booze and allsorts, if fact
we were that well loaded that we had to lighter our bunkers to get out of the Dock bound for the Persian Gulf.
The time in the Gulf was hot and boring, but did enable us to keep up to date with maintenance etc.
From the Gulf it was up to the Bay of Bengal to load for South America loading in all the C’s, Calcutta, Chittagong,
and of course Chalna. It was the usual selection of jute, gunnies, barbed wire and manhole covers with a few bicycles.
Then it was down to Durban for bunkers and this is where the Antarctic adventure started. It was during the Suez closure
and there was a great deal of congestion in Durban so we were anchored off, the weather was pleasant and the second mate and
his wife were allowed to take the sailing dinghy off for a sail.
The weather didn’t stay nice for too long and a radio message was received saying that a sailing dinghy with
2 occupants was seen heading for the South Pole under bare sticks.
The port lifeboat was launched with the mate in command, me, the fourth Engineer and 4 seamen to go and recover the dinghy,
recovery was a bit hairy as the only way, with the weather deteriorating was to bear down on the dinghy and catch a line as
we went past, it was recovered successfully and we returned to the ship.
The mate had left a line and a rope ladder over the stern to board but Angus had decided that he wanted the boat back
on the davits so then the saga started.
The dinghy was safely taken back on the ship complete with 2nd Mate and wife (Annie I believe her name was) and the mate
and I decided to try and hook the lifeboat back on, the weather having deteriorated even more with about a 10 ft swell it
was something that we were not looking forward to.
The first two attempts proved unsuccessful with the swinging blocks causing quite a hazard, at that time the block swung
at the 4th engineer who moving swiftly out of the way fell out of the lifeboat, he then swum for the ladder and started climbing
on board the ship, this was observed by the crew who presumably thought that we would follow jumped out of the boat and climbed
up the pilot ladder leaving the mate and myself looking at each other. We then agreed to try one more time to hook on. We
were then joined by the 2nd electrician and the 2nd mate to assist. The 2nd mate didn’t last long; he was hit in
the face by the block which opened up a nasty wound. The 2nd electrician offered to try and hook on and was given dire warnings
about the effects of not keeping ones fingers out of the way. This warning had no effect as he ended up with three crushed
fingers and was hauled out of the boat, which by this time was a little like a butchers shop.
The lifeboat then was left on a line and we left the boat feeling cold, miserable, and a little frightened (me) on the
consequences of what had started off as a pleasant afternoons sailing.
A doctor was called who came out with the pilot boat and decided that hospital treatment was required for the injured;
this was the only good thing to come out of the episode as we jumped the queue of ships waiting.
The 2nd electrician was repatriated from South Africa and we never heard what had happened to him after what was a disastrous
first trip for him.
One thing that does stick in my mind is that I was standing in the shower trying to get warm when a hand clasping a glass
of malt whiskey came round the curtain and a voice said “Angus says Drink this” it was Mrs McBain!