Posted by: eppingstrider | 08/07/2011

6c: HMS Emerald

This is now some further information in connection to Lindi station which I appear to have overlooked, in fact I’d forgotten anyway.  It was an incident which was terribly important for us in Lindi, because it only happened once, but, anyway I’ll tell you about it.

Mike Murphy rang me from his Marconi radio station to tell me that he’d got a peculiar call, on the air, for someone wanting to know what time the flying boat was arriving.  So I said, “well, who is it that wants to know”, and he said, “well, I don’t know because he was very chary about identification, and quite frankly I think it must be a navy ship, the keying is that sort of thing and the type of message is very controlled, I think it must be a naval ship of some sort”.

So I thought, well, there’s no harm in giving the information, so I gave him the ETA, and a little while later Pat [Mike] came back on the phone, and said “yes, I’ve got a message; they’re still not saying who they are but asking the question what time would it be necessary for the mail to arrive in Lindi in order to combine with the flying boat?” And I thought, well, something’s going on, but.. and I thought, well, half an hour, and gave him the time.  And he said “righto, I’ll let you know if anything happens”.

And so a little while later I got the message: would we stand by to receive a flying boat at such and such a time with mail for the north bound flying boat coming from HMS Emerald (stop).

So we had rather fun then a) because we’d never had this sort of thing happen before and it was rather nice because there we got.. suddenly saw a catapult-launched flying boat coming in to land. And we did our usual drill of showing him where we wanted him to land and took him up to where we wanted him to buoy because at that time the flying boat hadn’t arrived, so we wanted to put him on the mooring we wouldn’t be putting the flying boat on, and he came up and moored and passed us over some mail and we signed some papers for him, and just then the flying boat appeared.  And he said he’d stay on the water until after the flying boat had landed, so we [landed] the flying boat and took his mail and he went off!  He mentioned just before leaving that he was from HMS Emerald and that Emerald would be coming in to Lindi port to pay  a courtesy visit to the Governor in a couple of days’ time.  And I thought oh, that’s very interesting, thank you very much! He went off and we carried on with our flying boat and we added the fleet mail to our mail and put with the local mail and off we sent the flying boat.

About the next day a message came over from Dar Es Salaam to the Governor, sorry District Commissioner Lindi, indicating that Emerald would be coming in to Lindi on such-and-such a day at such-and-such a time and they were expected to carry out the ‘normal courtesies’.  This was fine, I didn’t know what the ‘normal courtesies’ were, that was a political matter, it was nothing at all to do with me, we were just bystanders for that sort of thing.  So we waited the arrival of the Emerald, that was fine, she moored and the local governor was on the quayside by the jetty, and the naval pinnace came in with all flags flying, and approached the jetty, and I indicated to the coxswain at the jetty not to come down to the side but to come to the end, because although there were steps on the side, I knew it was hazardous for launches because of my own experience in Lindi, so I indicated he come to the end instead.  But oh no, he came around obviously as instructed by his officers and pulled up at the side of the jetty where the steps were, and the inevitable ‘clonk, clonk!’  Yes, he’d fouled his underwater gear!

They moored, and the Captain of the vessel landed, did his stuff with the District Commissioner and they went off, and I spoke to the coxswain, the naval coxswain, and said ‘what’s the trouble?’  And he said, ‘oh we’re really in trouble, we’ve (I don’t know what it was, broken something underneath or something) broken the underwater gear or something and we’re going to be in trouble now.’  A little later on I was requested by our District Commissioner if I could make our launch available, our big launch, available to the navy for whatever needed to be done.  And I said “I can only do that provided I have my own crew using it, I’m not having any other crews using it.” And in the end the Captain of the Emerald agreed that I could use my crew, which was rather fun, as my crew had seen how the navy crew were doing their stuff when they were coming in, and their drill etc, etc, and we didn’t have any drill like that, no super super drills like that, but nevertheless, the lads, the natives, my boys, were thrilled to see these white men doing this job properly.  So I when I told them that because of the navy launch having been fouled we’d got to do our stuff, they were delighted! And it was amazing how much smarter they made themselves! I remember the last day when we had to take the District Commissioner in his full dress uniform out to the Emerald and he went aboard and signalled goodbye to the Captain and came away.  And we were instructed that the official drill was to approach the Emerald from the side at right angles and then moor up, and then when we left, when the District Commissioner re-embarked onto our launch, he was to stand in the rear of it and the launch should go at right angles away from the side for a certain distance (I forgot what it was) this was fine, but we did this and our boys, we really were smart!  They really did do their stuff!  I was thoroughly proud of them because this was something they’d never had before, never seen it before and they did it themselves – we didn’t drill them in it, they did it themselves.  But the only snag of course was that when we went out to the ship, we picked up the District Commissioner to bring him off, he stood in the rear of the big launch facing the ship and we went off at right angles, and when we got about fifty yards, a hundred yards, away from the vessel, they fired a salute!  And we hadn’t told our boys, well we didn’t know, and we didn’t warn our native boys that this was going to happen, and we nearly had a panic!  They jumped out of their skins!  They didn’t even know what was going to go on (laughing), well I didn’t either but I knew what it was, but they nearly jumped out of their skins but they recovered very well, and I was very pleased.  But it was an amusing incident anyway!

But in the couple of days that the Emerald was moored in Lindi, apart from them coming ashore to see what facilities were available ashore, we were invited, a number of people, I think it finished up probably as all the white population of Lindi, finished up being invited on board the vessel, and we were entertained on board the vessel.  And I had a long chat with the pilot of the craft that came in and landed and brought the mail.  He was a very interesting chap to talk to. That reminds me, I subsequently met him, where was it, I think it must have been in Nairobi some time later on, because (thinking) and we were chatting away… yes they went up to Dar Es Salaam, and they were invited up to the Capital, and he and the senior officers were invited up to visit the Governor of Kenya, and while they were up in Nairobi they were invited by various people up to various parties and he said he was shattered by one particular party they had which was in what they called the Happy Valley.  Well, you’ve probably never heard of the Happy Valley in Kenya, but it was a known area of mostly remittance men and people with lots and lots of money as they’d got nothing else to do but weren’t allowed back into England!  But anyway they were invited out to parties in the Happy Valley area and going into one house they were told, would they leave their cards on the left hand side.  Well, mostly the navy people didn’t have cards, this was one of the colonial customs that didn’t really happen with the Services, and anyway that evening they were subsequently told that they’d been paired up and they’d matched up the cards with the local wives because they were the wives that were their hostesses for the evening.  He suddenly found out that he’d been matched up with a woman that he didn’t know and apparently she was his sleeping partner for the night!  He said, he didn’t like this business and I’m afraid he caused a little bit of nonsense because he didn’t play ball at all! But he said it shattered him that that sort of thing could go on!  But that was the sort of thing apparently that did go on in Happy Valley.

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