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A missing sail and compass … Part 1

March 5, 2012

My dad’s family home in Kensal Green, London was bombed during the 2nd World War so they went to live in their holiday home, on Canvey Island. My dad was always mad on sailing and had a dinghy.  The Master of a Thames barge lived nearby and Dad was always stowing away on the vessel and not coming out until it had left land, too late to put him ashore until the first port of call. His mother got tired of that and sent him to sea school- on the T.S. Vindicatrix. Dad hated it, apparently the treatment of the trainees was harsh and unforgiving – not unlike the environment he had left. He joined the Merchant Navy in 1940.  Meanwhile he continued to enjoy sailing his dinghy between trips.

He sailed to Zealand for lamb or to bring beef from South America. German submarines used to lay in wait off Freetown, Sierra Leone and on one occasion my dad’s ship was torpedoed there. So they took to the lifeboats, an American plane flew low over them and dropped some cigarettes but nothing to light them with. The airmen, via the radio gave them a compass direction to nearest land,  wished them God’s speed and flew on. The compass directions didn’t agree with what the bosun had worked out for them. He asked what he should do, the sailors said they would have gone happily with his readings if the plane hadn’t appeared so stayed with his directions – and they were proved right. During the long days afloat they discussed the future and Dad talked of his sailing at home, and said that when they reached land if nobody objected, he would like the ship’s compass for himself.  Another crew member who was a sailing enthusiast said that he would like the sail – and it was agreed.

Eventually they landed in Bahia, Sao Salvador where they sold the lifeboat to pay for transport. Taking the compass and sail with them they went inland to where a small charter plane could be found.  It was old and frail working on only one engine. The owner agreed to fly them to Cape Town where a plane was waiting to take prisoners of war and displaced seamen home. He couldn’t risk the weight of sail and compass, so regretfully they left them behind …

to be continued.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 20, 2014 11:17 am

    Reblogged this on Living, Libraries and [Dead] Languages and commented:

    Today my daughter left for her home in Brazil … While I am still in holiday mode and not yet prepared for daily writing (hoping usual life will return or not soon) I remember that by dad also had links to South America and even visited Brazil. My son-in-law was also a Sailor and would have loved my dad too!

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