Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hands over my ears today

Today is ANZAC Day and I don't much like what ANZAC Day is becoming. War is just horrible and many returned servicemen took no pride in what they did and for me the whole commemoration is marred by the simple fact that many were just cannon fodder used by politicians, on both sides. They have my sympathy. Do you know what it must feel like to be burnt, or stabbed with a bayonet, or gassed, or shot, or have your leg blown off? It would really really hurt. Pain would be suffered of the sort a politician would rarely ever feel. Do others races hurt more or less? Of course not. I really am honing my grumpy old man skills, am I not. 

There, I have cooled down now, but there is a war connection in this modest piece. I was reading something, who knows what and where, and I came across a ship name that I thought might be interesting to follow up. I investigated no further and have left it to now. It is a ship called the Empire Windrush. I know nothing of it. Let us investigate.

She was a German cruise ship launched in the 1930s called the MV Monta Rosa. She was converted to carry German troops during World War 2 and served various tasks until she was captured by the British in the Baltic Sea in 1945.

The British renamed her Empire Windrush and used the ship as a troop carrier between England and Singapore and she also made a trips to Japan after the outbreak of the Korean War. Oddly, she was operated by The New Zealand Shipping Company but I can't find out he reason for that.

What she is best known for, somewhat symbolically, even though it was only one voyage, was a visit to the Caribbean. An advertisement was placed in a local paper offering cheap sailing passages to England and many accepted, mostly native Jamaicans, who as citizens of the British Empire had a perfect right to live and work in England if they wanted, and quite a number did. Also onboard was Nancy Cunard, the great anti-fascist and anti-racism campaigner, and of course heiress to the Cunard shipping line. Empire Windrush docked in England, I assume at Tilbury, in 1948 with her human cargo who received a good and welcoming reception, albeit a little patronising. They later became known as the 'Windrush Generation'.

She was quite stylish and attractive vessel.


Well, everything that floats, sooner or later does not and Empire Windrush was no exception. In 1954 she sailed to Japan and during her return loaded with military people and injured soldiers she became troublesome. She made it to Port Said but once out into the Mediterranean, she caught fire. Four of the engine room crew were killed but all passengers were saved. Later an attempt was made to tow her to Gibraltar but the hulk sank in bad weather in March 1954 off the coast of Algeria. I expect she had been extremely neglected and run into the ground.

While I may have known nothing of her she is not forgotten with a few of memorials to her in England and a small replica of her was used in the 2012 London Olympics.

30 comments:

  1. Interesting story Andrew, a ship that served on both sides in conflict. Reminds me of the story 'War Horse' in which a horse serves on both sides in the Great War.

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    1. That's a simple thought Victor, but one that did not occur to me. Ships have no allegiances. I suppose some labelling would have to be changed, forward, reverse and stop from vorwarts, umkehren and stopp.

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  2. War is indeed a horrible thing, first one side kills, then the other in retaliation and it never ends. It doesn't end at home either as damaged soldiers return to sometimes damage those around them, due to their war trauma.

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    1. Quite so Strayer and the effect on survivors families is often glossed over.

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  3. I know what the results were for my family of my grandfather having been exposed, at a distance, to mustard gas and his resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The only thing war is good for, in my opinion, is setting the bloody pendulum of revenge swinging ever faster. Okay, hopping off my soapbox now.
    Fascinating history of a beautiful vessel, the Cunard line has produced some real toppers.

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    1. I meant to finish the last sentence with 'although this isn't one of theirs, I can see why the Cunard heiress would have enjoyed sailing aboard her.'

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    2. Well said Jac. There was just one significant exception to Cunard's ships that did not go to plan.

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  4. There are lots of things that are almost but forgotten ~ and it is sad to think of all that lost history, stories. The 100 year marking of ANZACs has certainly brought another level of storytelling.

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    1. Carol, yes, the stories are important and fortunately much has been written. Yet still new stories are discovered.

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  5. An interesting and thoughtful post
    I need to learn more I feel

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    1. John, it is fine. The feeling will quickly pass.

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  6. I do remember reading a story on this ship in a Sunday supplement and like you, found the story unique and interesting. I'm a bit of a pacifist and can't really support any conflict no matter how hard our politicians try to convince me. Regarding the ship, we need to learn to scale down such ships again. Smaller is better in my opinion. These modern giants look dreadful to my eyes.

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    1. Craig, let them talk, let them talk long and late into the night, and then let them talk the next day, but don't send your younguns off to be killed. I've not thought about size of ships now, and I expect you are right. Modern ships are not elegant at all.

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  7. She is a lovely looking ship and nine years is a good age for one that did so much travelling.

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    1. River, your arithmetic is wanting. Built in the thirties and sank in 1954, so perhaps twenty years old. She is a lovely looking ship, regardless.

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    2. dang! I thought I'd typed nineteen.

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  8. I just finished a book about the Lusitania - another Cunard vessel - which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1815. I'll be writing a review on it probably sometime next week.

    Also in ship news, I had a friend who was stuck on the Carnival Spirit when they could not get into Sydney this week, and some of the video footage the waves looked like they were on Deadliest Catch instead of a cruise boat. My understanding of the general spirit of the people on the boat was please make it stop, where is the nearest porcelain bus for I desperately need to drive it, and no sleep was had by all. :(

    I think it will be a long time before they get back on a boat, of any kind!

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    1. Snoskred, I know that ship well enough and her story. For some reason I have forgotten she was a Cunard.

      It must have been awful to be on the Carnival Spirit but I think the company did the best they could, given the situation. Just really bad luck for your friend.

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  9. Interesting reading Andrew.
    I think the horses are often forgotten..

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    1. WA, there was a programme you may have seen about the horses. I know the story and I think I would have found the show quite depressing.

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  10. Andrew, you are right war is horrible. Europe has experienced WWI and WWII and it is enouigh. Never again..

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    1. Gosia, you know something of the results first hand.

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  11. "Do you know what it must feel like to be burnt, or stabbed with a bayonet, or gassed, or shot, or have your leg blown off?"

    The man with a knife in his chest was walking but gasping and could not speak. I dialled 000. Barton St Hawthorn 1970.

    The cycle cop with his leg ripped off was lucid, not screaming and asked for his leather jacket to be taken off. When I reassured him I had called the cops he said "I am the cops" and was not relieved at all. Alexandra Ave Sth Yarra 3am Saturday 1981.

    I get annoyed when fictional characters scream the place down to indicate the endurance of pain. Anticipating pain is another thing. In massive pain there is no air for screams.
    and yes, 'the horses'. I have been a regular attendee on Melbourne ANZAC marches, esp through the 1970's when hardly anybody came, but this year I have blanked out the commercialisation. awful. did you see those bright yellow "Gallipoli Beanies"? O.FFS

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    1. Strong examples Ann.

      Yes, I remember when ANZAC marches became very quiet and I was pleased to see ANZAC Day become more prominent, but too prominent now surely. I hadn't seen the beanies. Crass!

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  12. My Nan's partner, who is 92, still has nightmares almost nightly as a direct result of his participation in war. He will not talk about what he endured, he says no one should have to hear those stories. :(

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    1. Gee Fen, that is awful. I know some people prefer to deal with their demons on their own, I don't know that not talking about what he endured has served him well.

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  13. I always struggle with different emotions re Anzac commemorations Andrew.. It kind of irks me the whole 'lest we forget' thing when it's so obvious by the state of the world that we have forgotten.. It strikes me as a little hypocritical and to some extent it's all just words.

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    1. Grace, that hasn't occurred to me and we certainly have forgotten, not the people who were lost, but how bad war is, how destructive and ultimately so often pointless.

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  14. I have one answer for everyone who asks how I managed to get through the death of my son, "He never knew War" and I am forever grateful for that.

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    1. He was a lucky lad, to have such a loving mother. Life is no more than just so unfair at times.

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