Rummaging through some old photographs I came across pictures dad took during the Kings Own Scottish Borderers trip from Hong Kong to Poona in 1930. He included this postcard of the SS 'The City of Marseilles,' ship built in 1912. I suppose many would call this a 'tramp steamer' these days but she sailed happily from 1913 until 1940 including time between 1923 to 1930 when she carried troops around the Far East. A mere 8250 gross tons she managed 14 knots with the wind behind her. Ellerman's Hall Line provided accommodation for 141 first class and 46 second class passengers, what the troops were classed as I would not like to say. A tough old girl she was attacked by a submarine en route Liverpool - Bombay in 1915 and hit it by her gunfire but survived by running!
For me, a journey over the sea waves in tropical warmth would be an acceptable adventure. For a thousand troops it may have been less enjoyable. The playing of 'Housie Housie,' was allowed, probably to avoid the men throwing their cash away on gambling, deck quoits and other innocent pursuits may well have appeared to some the height of luxury, or as high as they might reach anyway. The thought of leaving Hong Kong where five years had been spent
Sadly the poor ship continued to plow its course until once again requisitioned by the needs of world war two. She survived hitting a mine off the River Tay in 1940 but repaired having journeyed later to Ceylon she stranded herself in 1943. She was scrapped 1947.
'HMT Nevasa.' This card accompanies the above ship and suggests they both were involved in moving the troops in some way. HMT, as you know, stands for His Majesty's Troopship. Not that we have many of those these days, if we have any boats left at all under this cost cutting bunch of incompetents! Built in the Clyde, as most were in those far off days, the 'Nevasa' became a troopship in 1915 and later served as a hospital ship also. During the twenties she returned to commercial work travelling to East Africa and India. Consider for a moment how many people were on the high seas in those days. Today the vast number of ships will probably be container vessels, with a large number of ugly looking cruise ships touring the warm bits of the planet, but between the wars vast numbers of people sailed the seven seas, many on Imperial business. Today we fly and think little of it but then travel took time, enabled the passenger to adjust to the differing climate, and allowed the young women to look for wealthy, proactive men heading up the gravy chain as they sailed. Sometimes they just looked for willing men of course. A month long voyage, away from family and friends, possibly with several years abroad ahead, this sounds a better way to go than crammed into a Jumbo Jet! I can hear the splash of the waves a s the boat cuts through them, the gentle thumping of the engines down below, I feel the warm air, note the helpful service, the pretty girls, and the pretty awful ones who will cause trouble, the clink of glasses filled with gin and tonic, all this while typing in woollen gloves with the fingers cut out. 'Sigh' Roll of Honour : Ships
Also spotted on what I think may have been a Kodak Box camera, the folding ones would be too dear, and I remember one being used by us as kids, we see a blurry 'HMS Enterprise.' Protecting the Empire demanded the Royal Navys presence in the Far East Station and 'Enterprise' spent time there from 1928 onwards. Yet another John Brown ship she was launched in 1919 but not commissioned until 1925, I know not why, they wouldn't tell me state secrets. Her twin gun single turret was an experimental type and the heat must have been great as in the picture a shelter is provided for the men working beneath. This gallant little ship was reduced to the naval reserve in 1938 yet when war cam she served in the Atlantic, Norway, South America, the Indian ocean, the Med and also on D-Day. She served well right through the war and was rewarded by being scrapped in 1946. Not much different treatment than what the sailors themselves received.
Look close, in the middle of the Chines harbour there lies an aircraft carrier! Squint your eyes through the heat haze and note the difference between this one and the huge beast being built for the Royal navy today. Yes, that old one has aircraft! You like the harbour, I wonder how different it appears today?
How peaceful with no skyscrapers, flashing lights or hordes of people. It is however busy and many still live on such craft today.