Further to Chris Gundrys mention of loosing crew along the way- this was certainly not uncommon in the 50s/60s.
The repatriation of D.B.S. (Distressed or Displaced British Seamen)who had been landed sick or had otherwise attempted to become an "Illegal" was the responsibility of the British Consul,who had the option of placing them on any vessel bound for the U.K. In those days, the Australian authorities were fairly lax in apprehending them. However, I certainly recall a couple of instances where they emerged from Fremantle jail and deposited on the ship (minutes before sailing!) for homeward passage. In those days, jumping ship was par for the course and definitely not solely particular to RSL ships. John Cann. Posted on forum 5 January 2012.

This kind of links John Cann's Trevor Griffiths/Deserters entries. One voyage I made on the Great City in 1952 the 2nd Engineer was Frank Griffiths, getting his time in for Motor endorsement. The Chief was Alf Charlton from Sunderland I think, and the Third Eng was a "Pool man" Frank Griffiths was brother to Trevor.
Our final load port for the voyage was Fremantle, during which time the 3rd Eng got himself arrested and jailed for "borrowing" a car. Also during our time in Fremantle, a tidily dressed man of about 30 yrs of age presented himself ay the O.Ms cabin (Capt
Harold Sharp) on two or three occasions begging to be allowed to work his passage back to the U.K. Seemingly he had emigrated to Australia some years previously but had become disillusioned and homesick.
Capt. Sharp refused his request.
About four days out from Fremantle, bound Avonmouth, there was a tap on the O.Ms door, and standing there was the tidily dressed "Beggar". On hearing he was an aircraft engineer to trade, he was ordered to report to the Chief Engineer for work, and the Chief welcomed the extra hand to make up for the missing 3rd Engineer. By all accounts he turned out to be a better engineer than the missing 3/E, and worked very diligently to earn his keep. His passport was all in order, and on arrival Avonmouth he was free to go. Tony Lightfoot. Posted on forum 5 January 2012.

My only experience of 'deserters' were after I had left Smiths and was with Scottish Ship Management on the Cape Wrath. Two of the white crew (again my only experience) decided to experiment with exotic substances in New Zealand and were brought before the due process of law and fined. Before departure the pair jumped ship and on 24/12/74 we proceeded in ballast to Port Pirie in South Australia without them.

We had a pleasant New Year's Eve in Port Pirie before departing on 6/1/75 bound for Avonmouth with a part cargo of concentrates. We were dangerously low on fuel and needed to bunker in Freemantle. On arrival there were the two missing crew in the company of several of Australia's finest, ready (or maybe not) to join up again.

Incidentally as a consequence of their experiment we drew heavy customs attention in Australia, Walvis Bay (where we called to top off our cargo) and Avonmouth where we warranted the particular attention of the rummage squad and where I paid duty on obligatory Seiko watch and Japanese camera for the first and only time in five years at sea. David Ricketts. Posted on forum 6 January 2012.

In some ways, there is not a lot of difference between jumping ship (deserting), stowing away or bumming a lift (working your passage): all actions are intended to get you somewhere, for whatever reason, as cheaply as possible.

In this most interesting thread, it has been pointed out how “lapsed” the Antipodean authorities could be in matters such as desertion: back into the ‘20’s and 30’s they virtually encouraged it and after a very brief incarceration they would assist the offenders in finding work and accommodation. I have at least two uncles who used this ruse to settle downunder in the 1920’s.

Political unrest and warfare often produce numerous instances of people seeking refuge aboard ships. During the great waives of refugees after WW2, it was not uncommon to find them as permanent members of a British flagged crew. On my first voyage to sea, in 1955, it had only been eighteen months earlier that it had been possible to land such a person. From the end of hostilities in 1944, a Polish refugee served aboard the ship as AB, having managed initially to stowaway. Because he had no papers, it had been impossible for him to land ashore, and he had been forced to make countless voyages between the UK and the Indian Sub-Continent: only when the British Home Office relaxed the rules on Immigration, was it possible to leave the ship.

My own most memorable instance of desertion occurred a few years before joining RSL. I was Second Mate aboard a bulk carrier belonging to LOF. She was on a long charter to Krupp, carrying coal from Hampton Roads or Philadelphia, to a large, Krupp owned PowerStation in Hamburg. The crew were Hong Kong Chinese, and, without fail, at least three or four jumped ship each time the ship was in the US: compliment was “topped-up” once back in Germany, where there was a Chinese Pool in Hamburg. This practice had been going on since the charter had first begun, when the ship was new, over twelve months earlier.

On this particular passage, westbound in early summer, the situation came to a head. As we were coming alongside the coal pier in Norfolk VA, the ‘Old Man’, and the rest of us, were somewhat disconcerted to find the quayside swamped with Police Cars and even a small contingency of State Troopers: they were “minding” two greyhound buses. The passengers of these buses consisted of approximately 75 Chinese men.

Even though the theoretical era of McCarthyism was supposedly over, it remained embedded to the core of the US Immigration Service for many more years. This department had become so frustrated by the regular desertion of seamen from the ship, that it cast its wider web and, supposedly, rounded up the majority of those who had jumped ship during the previous year, searching the Chinese Communities of New York and Philly to do so.

The immediate problem for the Old Man was to order in considerable quantities of extra provisions, particularly pork. It was also necessary to purchase suitable bedding and such like for the new arrivals. The Old Man, was not a happy old man. And that became more evident once on the eastern leg of the voyage back to Hamburg: many of the newcomers were constantly seasick, and it was not long before the Bosun informed the Old Man, that many of the “newcomers” had never sailed beyond Kowloon in their lives, let alone been engaged aboard our ship.

Without commenting further upon the ethics, in those days, of the US Immigration Service, experienced first hand by several of us here, I would suffice to say that on that particular passage back to Hamburg, the Crew’s rec. room was even more raucous than usual with loud Chinese explicits and noisy table banging with mah jong chips. Mike Jones. Posted on forum 7 January 2012.

Whilst on the "Atlantic City" in 1973 a Deck Hand rejoined the ship voluntarily in Rotterdam.He had jumped a few months earlier and,according to the Engine-room Serang, had set himself up as an"Indian holy man" to survive, and make a few bob,conning one of the Hippie groups in Holland at that time. Mike Snook. Posted on forum 8 January 2012.



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