- Minto, Thomas, MN, Captain
- Biographies and personal histories, Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2002 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
6 pm was Meal Time and then Study. We were not allowed on Deck. At 9 pm the Stand By Quartermaster walked in and switched out our lights. If you were not in bed you had to get undressed in the dark. We did not see much of the Passengers.
Reminder: Do not Fall Asleep on Watch
Towards the end of my stay on the Jervis Bay, we had loaded in Sydney Australia’s Exhibits for the Wembley Exhibition. They were stowed in No. 2 ‘tween Decks. We went on to Hobart where we were to load cased apples in No. 2 Lower Hold. I was stationed as a Watchman in the ‘Tween Deck. It was semi-dark. I had started my day at 0600 and was to be on duty until midnight. At 11 pm I fell asleep. The Second Mate awakened me. The next day I had to face Laycock, the 1st Mate. All leave stopped. Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle, Colombo, Port Said, Hull and one week in London. I never fell asleep on duty again.
Under our indentures we had to Obey the Lawful Commands of the Master, nor Frequent Taverns or Alehouses. He undertook to teach us the duties of a Seaman. Our wages were £2 a month, no rise, plenty of overtime but no pay for it.
Before we went ashore we had to report to the Mate on Duty. He would check if we were correctly rigged out in our Uniforms. We had to return not later than 11 pm and report to the Mate on Duty for a check out as to drinking. All times one apprentice had to stay on Board ‘On Duty’ even if no cargo was being worked.
In London Docks we were able to beat the system. Ship Lavatories cannot be used in docks. For each Cargo Berth there were blocks of toilets ashore. The Apprentice on Duty would carry civilian jackets to the Block. We would report in Uniform, change in the toilet, and the Duty Apprentice would take our Uniform jackets back to the ship. On return, we would reverse the Drill, chew a raw onion, and report to the Mate on Duty. They were human.
Sundays in port and the Mate would make us go to Church. Not very exciting. I thought of a scheme. In Port Said I bought a prayer mat. As the time for the Mate’s inspection for church approached, I was on my mat proclaiming Allah is All Merciful, facing the east. My rear end was facing the door. Laycock arrived, took it all in, and said: `What are you doing there, Minto?’ I replied, ‘I am a Muslim at worship,’ ‘Are you?’ he said, ‘Well, two religions could be an advantage. Get to Church,’ and gave me a hefty kick up the backside. I ceased being a Muslim.
Hard work but happy
Does all that I have written give the impression that we were being treated harshly. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were a happy group, all in one room, our own bunk, being well fed, doing our own washing, mending and cleaning, and seeing the world.
Laycock was the best friend we boys ever had. He was absolutely fair. He gave us such a good grounding in our Profession that we all sailed through our examinations for our certificates. I was at navigation school four days only for Second Mate, seven days for Mate and ten days for Master, all thanks to Laycock.
In World War II Laycock was Master in one of Harrisons of London vessels. She was sunk by enemy action- no survivors.
Just one more story about the Jervis Bay. Jock Bell was the Chief Engineer. We carried two Refrigeration Engineers. On the run London to Australia, ship’s stores was all they had to care for. On the London Bound we carried a large tonnage of refrigerated cargo. This required a twenty four hour service with eight hours overtime. The cargo was apples, and Bell and the Chief Refrig. decided in the cooler weather to shut down the plant for four hours a day. On discharge all the apples had Brown Heart. She was lost with all hands on the Australian coast. The things that shape our destiny.
I left the Jervis Bay and finished my time in cargo vessels. Before leaving, we lifted the brass door step into our quarters. In the space beneath we placed a list with all our names and dates of Service.
On the 5th November 1940 Jervis Bay, now an Armed Merchant Cruiser, was sunk by the German raider Scheer. Captain Fogarty Fegan was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallant effort to save his convoy.
I would like to think our list was still in place when she was sunk.