Houston City (2)

Comments from the forum - 1

I made three voyages in the Houston City as 2nd Mate from September 1957 to August 1958 with Capt. George Harvey, Ernie Tickner, C/O and a L'pool gentleman C/E called Partington whose glasses doubled as a hearing aid! (Never did work out how that worked!!)
The third trip was the most interesting. At this time there was political unrest in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean was declared a war zone. In view of this, the Government deemed it prudent to augment our forces in the area. As a result, the MOD chartered in three vessels "Houston City": "Avismere" and a Hains vessel (can't recall her name!), and all were to load in Barry for an out and back voyage to Cyprus. Firstly the vessel was put under a coal staith where tons of gravel was loaded to the top of the side bilges- this to enlarge the bottom area to accommodate vehicles. We were designated to embark the effects of the East Surrey Regt. plus Royal Corps of Signals. consisting mostly of army trucks and Scorpion? 4 wheel steering scout vehicles. (A dream to drive around the tween decks!) All the paraphernalia that goes to form an Army Unit was put on board. I distinctly remember watching the Regimental Band Instruments being stowed in the Deep Tank and wondering what they would look like at the other end!
The ship was denuded of Apprentices and the boat deck accommodation taken up by four Army Officers.ther ranks were billeted elsewhere on board.
On passage out to Cyprus, we would conduct weapons drill by throwing a 40 gallon drum overside and shooting the hell out of it!
Discharge ports were Limasol and Famagusta conducted at anchor .Vehicles were deposited on flat topped barges (engined) operated by the Royal Engineers. These also served as water supply boats. I recall a burly Sergeant asking me who our Captain was and when I told him "Harvey" the chap couldn't believe it. He had started serving his time in Smiths under George Harvey. It transpired that a few of these motorised barges were skippered by ex part served M.N. Cadets who had given up and thus had to complete National Service(There might even have been a few ex Brocklebank chaps there- who knows!!)
The outcome was that Capt. Harvey considered himself much senior in rank to an army sergeant, and we never ran short of fresh water the whole time we in Cyprus.
During our time in Cyprus we were invited ashore to the base where we were entertained royally.
Vessel duly returned to Barry for redelivery. Length of voyage:- 44 days.
A consequence of the above, was that many years later with the introduction of the Armed Forces Veterans Badge,I was told I would be eligible for the M.N. version of the badge upon producing Discharge Book evidence of the voyage.The M.N. version depicts the Armed Forces badge supimposed on the Red Ensign. John Cann. Posted on forum 5 November 2010.

I joined "Houston City" at Liverpool on Oct 6th 1959 for what turned out to be her final voyage for R.S.L.
We sailed on Oct 10th for Casablanca where we loaded a full cargo of bulk Phosphates for China and sailed on Oct 16th. The voyage to China was via Suez Canal, Aden (Bunkers), Singapore (Bunkers/Stores) and thence to discharge port, Hsingkang, where we arrived on 1st December to a very frosty (in more ways than one) reception from the Chinese authorities. All hands had to muster out on deck, in freezing conditions, whilst a thorough examination of all accommodation and deck houses/engine room took place. We understood this to be primarily a search for stowaways wanting to enter China illegally. During our stay , many security guards were posted throughout the ship and on the gangway, and we had to show our shore pass even to go on to the quay to read the draft ! Hsingkang was an utterly dreary and uninviting place, and we were all relieved when discharge was completed and we sailed for Australia on Dec 7th. Prior to sailing we had to undergo a muster on deck similar to arrival, and we could better understand this one - a search for stowaways trying to leave the country.
We arrived Brisbane (Pinkenbah) Dec 28th and spent a delightful fortnight loading a cargo of Barley for Europe, sailing Brisbane on 12th January 1960. This was the only occasion during my 40 years at sea that I experienced passage through the Great Barrier Reef with Pilots on board, and it was a very interesting experienced. The voyage homewards was via Singapore and Suez Canal, and we arrived Bremen March 6th.
Distance Brisbane to Bremen 12,207 miles with an average speed of 9.73 knots. We part discharged the barley at Bremen and completed at Hamburg before sailing across to Blyth, arriving there March 12th.
"Houston City" was dry-docked on arrival Blyth and handed over to new Owner, Jack Billmeir.
I paid off and left vessel March 14th.
Personnel during voyage (As far as I can remember) :- Captain: G. Harvey, C/O: D. S. Sapp, 2/O: A. D. Lightfoot, R/Off: K. Pearson, C/Eng: J. Drysdale, 2/Eng: M. James, Extra 2/Eng: G. Probert, and Ch. Stwd L. Smith. Tony Lightfoot. Posted on forum 8 April 2011.

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Houston City Page [1] [2]
Memories from RSL staff. Page No. [1]