Martin Howell Davies
Allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Martin Davies, I originated from a farming family from the Welsh farming village of Llanedeyrn, situated five miles North East of Cardiff. I joined the B & C group as a junior engineer in April 1967, after reading an advert in the local paper that Joe Mabbett, Superintendent Engineer from Southampton was on a recruitment drive & would be conducting interviews in the Angel Hotel for suitable candidates. My interview was successful & within days I was allocated my first ship being ss Sarah Bowater which I joined at the Smith's drydock in North Shields. My first trip ever out of UK was, what I then considered a thrilling experience & sea passage to Holmsund in the Gulf of Bothnia. The fact that there was nothing at Holmsund except for a solitary shed on the quayside stacked with paper pulp did nothing to dampen my adventurous spirits. I wanted more resulting in a lifetime attached to the marine service both ashore & afloat. I stayed with the Bowater fleet for a total of eighteen months, where most of my time was on ss Nicolas Bowater (flagship of the fleet) distributing huge rolls of newsprint to various ports on the East coast of USA. Our home & loading port was the famous? or maybe I should say infamous but nostalgic Cornerbrook situated in the Humber Bay on the Western seaboard of Newfoundland. I refer to Cornerbrook in those terms due to the many stories that have come out of the port luring Bowater seafarers back to their "Second Home." Many married local girls & settled there.
It was in October 1968 that my first taste of the ever spoken about mail fleet was experienced when I joined SA Vaal as Junior Fourth Engineer. I stayed with the mail fleet for the rest of my career with B & C except for a period on ss Argylshire during 1974/5. The remaining period was spent alternating between SA Vaal & Windsor Castle completing 48 round voyages on each. My final voyage was as Junior Second Engineer on the final voyage of Windsor Castle, completing that voyage No.124 at Southampton on 19th September 1977.
Whilst on Windsor Castle during July 1973, I met my future wife Terese` (Tess) a passenger, who hailed from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. We became married in December 1975 & after initially setting up home in Southampton where I spent 1976 studying & obtaining my Class Two Marine Engineer Certificate of Competency. On new years eve of 1976, Tess accompanied me on SA Vaal where we sailed to South Africa to set up home in East London. I stayed with SA Vaal for a few more voyages before transferring to Windsor Castle for her final few voyages. The penultimate voyage was most traumatic due to an outbreak of fire in the generator room, three days prior to reaching CapeTown on the main Southbound voyage. Devasting damage occured to the main switchboard & respective wiring, one of her turbo-generators was rendered out of commission plus completely blackened paintwork on the bulkheads & deckheads. Repairs were carried out during the SA coastal voyage & the mail schedule was maintained with the ship departing CapeTown on schedule again for the Northbound voyage. Ironically, a couple of technical representatives from the forthcoming new owner "John Latsis" were on board understudying the technicalities of the ship. After staying with the ship for the hand over & re-naming ceremony to "Margeritha L", I took the next convenient flight back to South Africa. A month previously, I had tendered my resignation with B & C to take up employment with the then SAR&H as a marine engineer in the harbour service.
Our settling in East London was relatively short lived as I was commandeered to Walvis Bay (the only position available in the Country so I was told) Hence at the end of October 1977, we boarded the ever so "slow & slower & slower" train to Walvis Bay arriving some three days later.
We spent almost four years in that desert port & made many friends, some long lasting to this day. During my employ with what became later "Portnet" I moved to various centres finally ending up in Saldanha Bay as Marine Technical Manager. I resigned from that position in June 1998 & since then have been gainfully employed on contractual basis, initially as chief engineer to the bulk fleet of Safmarine & then to the offshore industry following the disposal of Safmarine. For the past five years have been contractually employed by Smit Amandla Marine (Pty) Ltd on the Dept of Environment Affairs & Tourism (DEAT) fleet of vessels.
Sadly I lost my wife to cancer in February 2005, but she did bear me three lovely daughters & a son whom I cherish. Two of my daughters are married & residing in Holland & UK respectively. My son & youngest daughter are students at Stellenbosch University.
I have not kept in touch with past shipmates but have reached that time of my life where I find myself looking back at the nostalgic memories of my days with the mail fleet. Hence perusal of websites. I have commenced writing my memoirs, what started out as, what I thought would be a few pages, has turned into a manuscript of enormous proportions, which has yet to be completed. I have ultimately settled in Durbanville, Western Cape, & can be contacted thus:-
Tel / Fax 021 9792110
You may add my details to your staff register where I look forward to the possibility of communicating with past shipmates both afloat & ashore.
Martin Howell Davies