The story of the Athina - Rafiah and her survivors is now the subject of a movie, in production and directed by the Israeli TV director Gadi Aisen and financed by the survivors and their descendants. Filming in the UK took place in late September 2011 and I am greatly indebted to the Chatham Historic Dockyard for allowing us to film on board the magnificent HMS Cavalier - at no charge - and to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners' HQS Wellington for the use of a committee room on board - for which I was charged! They also endeavoured to charge me extra for filming an interview to camera on board!  Made me glad I am a Freeman of the Shipwrights Company!

The movie we made,

    Code Name: Rafiah      

 Was selected for the Haifa International Film Festival, and screened to a full house on 24th September 2013.

http://www.haifaff.co.il/eng

Much more info further down the page.......


Click the link above to see the work in progress!


What a joy it was to find this book reprinted by Brown Son & Ferguson. As a young P&O deck officer in the 1960s, it was my indispensable means of  communicating and giving orders to our Indian Lascar ship's crews.

Written by a Seaman for Seamen, the words are printed as they are spoken. Correct Urdu it is not - but as the language of Indian crews from Calcutta to Bombay, it is a notable facet of Britain's love affair with India, ever since it was first published in 1930.


Malim Sahib's Hindustani
 by C.T. Willson

Date of publishing: 30/11/1987 
Publisher: Brown, Son and Ferguson, Ltd
 
Waterstones ~ Usually despatched in 7-10 days


It's never too late...

To run away to sea!

On Sunday November 11th, the two-masted schooner ‘Tecla’ left Den Helder and started her voyage around the world.The first destination for ‘Tecla’ on this epic voyage is Tenerife. On the way there the ship will probably stop at Madeira, hoping to get a permit to stop by the Salvage Islands. The voyage will start cold, wet and windy but sailing further South temperatures will rise day by day and sunny days are ahead!

www.tecla-sailing.com


 

Join the bark ‘EUROPA’ for a voyage to the White Continent. There are berths available on the 22-day voyage departing from Ushuaia, Argentina on December 28th 2012. An unforgettable way to sail into the year 2013! Once in Antarctic waters everyone will have the opportunity to go to ashore to see the many penguins and seals. The stunning panoramas and overwhelming wild life are very impressive and sailing aboard ‘Europa’ will be the  adventure of a lifetime!

www.barkeuropa.com



 

The topsail schooner Oosterschelde's second World Cruise started on 3rd November - berths available!

www.oosterschelde.nl


The 1982 Falklands War

"We never thought of how to fight this battle. We didn't know where we would land. It was all done in a way I believe only the British armed forces could do it and we pay tribute to everyone. I would like to say especially to Admiral Fieldhouse whom I went up to see quite frequently at his Northwood Headquarters: he was not only a tower of strength he was also a model of humanity, who was supported by another model of humanity and common sense - his wife, Midge, Lady Fieldhouse. I would also like to thank the Merchant Navy."

Margaret Thatcher ~ SS Canberra speech 1992

 The United Kingdom ’s strategic use of merchant ships was never more in evidence than during the 1982 Falklands War.  Faced with insufficient troop and military transport lift capacity, the necessary Statutory Instruments were signed on 3rd April, in order to permit the Ministry of Defence to take ships up from trade. 54 merchant ships were taken up from trade (STUFT) to assist the armed forces during the South Atlantic conflict. 43 sailed for the South Atlantic with Merchant Navy crews and Naval Parties embarked, before the Argentine surrender on 15th June.  5 deep sea trawlers were taken up from trade, manned by the RN and used as Minesweepers. The first ship to be 'STUFT' was the P&O flagship Canberra , Master : Captain Dennis Scott- Masson, homeward bound for Southampton with a full complement of  cruise passengers. She embarked two full Commandos and 3 Para. Much of their heavy equipment and ammunition, as well as eight light Scimitar tanks of the Blues and Royals, was loaded into the P&O Roll-On-Roll-Off ferry Elk, Master: Captain John Morton. John had extensive experience of the Antarctic, having once been a deck officer with the British Antarctic Survey. 

My Falklands War jottings 30 years on......

Merchant 'Ships Taken Up From Trade' - STUFT- What They Did in The Falklands War. (PDF Download)


Of prison hulks and training ships.....

HMS Worcester: The Great Tradition


About me......

Master Mariner - Class One, 1970

Qualified in RN Submarine Nuclear Science & Technology, 1972

Senior Research Fellow, University of Plymouth, 1974

Visiting Fellow at Strathclyde, Herriot Watt & Newcastle

Elected Fellow of the Nautical Institute 1982

Inducted as Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Shipwrights 1983

London Business School 1989

PLATO MBA Business Graduate 2005

Associate, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, USA 2012

Career Details

1961-1972 Deck Officer with the P&O Steam Navigation Company

1973 Norcontrol of Norway as DataBridge UK Project Manager

1974 Plymouth University as the Galbraith Wrightson Senior Research Fellow

1975 InterSub of Marseille France as Operations Manager

1978 Kvaerner InterSub of Oslo Norway as General Manager

1979 Occidental Aberdeen as Offshore Underwater Project Manager

1980 British Oceanics Limited as Business Development Manager

1981 Royal Navy - Recall Service as Lt Commander then Commander

1983 Director, Executive Dynamics & Christopher Gold Associates

1984 Chairman, OceonLink of Edinburgh and Oceonics Data Systems of Dartmouth

1985 General Manager International Sales and Marketing, the Plessey Naval Systems Company

1991 Managing Director, Nicholas Bray & Son and Freetrack Marine Limited

2010 Chairman, The Brixham Drydock Company


Class of '89 ~ The London Business School


Current projects:

Movies.....

Athina - Rafiah ~ ship of hope

The film was selected for the Haifa International Film Festival, and screened to a full house on 24th September 2013.

The photograph on the screen above was taken on board HMS Providence, under my late Father's command.

A story of courage and survival...... In 1935, the dainty little Greek steamship SS Athina was withdrawn from trade and laid up in Piraeus for four years, before being removed as an obstruction to shipping. She sank,while under tow, just outside the harbour, due to her many unrepaired leaks. Eventually salvaged, she was sold for her scrap value, her hull gutted and a diesel engine installed. She was then sold to the Caribbean Atlantic Ship Corporation of Panama, for 700 gold sovereigns. Back in service- flush-decked and with her handsome funnel and superstructure gone, she was used to transport cattle, until 1946, when she was purchased by the Mossad LeAliyah Bet, an arm of the Israeli Haganah, tasked with facilitating illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine, and re-named Rafiah. On December 7, 1946, with over 800 Jewish refugees onboard, she rounded the southern tip of Peloponnese, to the north of Crete, and arrived off Syrna Island in the Dodecanese, were she was scheduled to meet a boat that would take off some of her Greek crew. The following day, she sought shelter from worsening weather in the large but unprotected Agiou Soassin bay, and while attempting to anchor, hit rocks and rapidly began taking water. Her terrified passengers, many of them women and children, jumped overboard, in the freezing cold, and with 6-7 meter waves crashing on the shore, they clung to the rocks. Tragically, eight failed to make it and were lost. Abe Lichowsky, the radio operator, heroically returned to the sinking ship and retrieved a battery for his radio, at the same time saving the life of a young woman who was too terrified to jump. The following day, his radio signal alerted the Jewish authorities and an RAF reconnaissance aircraft from Cyprus, was tasked to sweep the area and drop emergency supplies........use the link below to continue the story.

My father's 1946 rescue of Nazi Holocaust survivors.


 Welcome to my InterSub International Submarine Services web page

www.intersub.co.uk


 MiniSub

 

I am currently updating my Galbraith Wrightson thesis, The Evolution of The Deep Diving Manned Submersible, which I completed as Senior Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, way back in 1973/4.

It will be published as a book, detailing the history and development of deep-diving manned submersibles, from their early origins to the present day. Chapters will cover all aspects of construction, from pressure hulls - to power and propulsion - to navigation and control systems. Three operating companies: Comex, InterSub and Vickers Oceanics Limited, will be the subject of detailed study, as will their Pisces and Perry submersibles. The final chapter will review current developments in China, Russia and the USA.

Further info can be found by following the MINISUB Link below....

Link to Minisub - working title.


  

Books and Stuff


A Selection of my Book Reviews ~ 2011-12

First New Year 2012 Book Review

In 1934, Leonard H. Delano of Portland joined the SS Islander salvage crew as its official photographer. Seventy-seven years later, his son, Doug, fulfilled his late father's dream, with the publication of this outstanding, finely illustrated book.

The SS Islander left Skagway on August 14th, 1901, proudly flying the house flag of the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company. This impressive twin-screw steamship had been built in Scotland specifically for the notorious Inside Passage run between Vancouver Island and Alaska. At 240 feet and 1,519 tonnes, the ship was luxuriously appointed, with electric light fittings and comfortable cabins for her many wealthy passengers, who often accompanied large amounts of Klondike gold bullion, checked through the Commissioner's office in Dawson.

At 19:00 hrs, she slipped her moorings and headed south with a crew of sixty-two and a full complement of over eighty passengers. She also carried a substantial cargo of gold, estimated at around six million dollars at 1901 prices. Drifting ice had been reported in the narrow confines of the Lynn Canal, north of Juneau, but Captain Foote pressed on at a steady fifteen knots.

With her passengers turned in for the night, and sounding her steam whistle at half hourly intervals, in order to echo-range off the rocky, narrowing channel, she reportedly struck ice on the port side forward at 02:00 hrs on the 15th. Probably a drifting remnant of the Glacier Bay ice field, the heavy ice punched a large hole in her hull, just abaft the bow. Captain Foot tried to steer the stricken vessel to nearby Douglas Island but it was hopeless. Like the Titanic eleven years later, the Islander had a mortal wound and would not remain afloat for long. Within five minutes, the tremendous weight of water flooding into her forward compartments, forced her bow under. The stern, rudder and propellers were raised completely out of the water. After drifting for about fifteen minutes in a strong southerly outbound tide, the Islander began her final plunge to the bottom.

Sixty-five passengers and crew were lost, including Captain Foote, whose final words were: "Tell 'em I tried to beach her."  For thirty-three years Islander lay out of reach in 360 feet of water, until Frank Curtis, a Seattle house-mover came up with a unique salvage plan, using two lift vessels, giant winches, diving bells, tidal power, and a determined crew of thirty or so house-movers, loggers, and riggers. Accompanied by eighty-five extraordinary photographs and illustrations, this is an insider's story of a two-year struggle to raise the Islander, a record-breaking salvage that focused on a single prize - an elusive fortune in gold.

The book’s author and photographer, Leonard H. Delano, joined the salvage crew in order to earn enough money to complete his studies at the University of Oregon. The United States was only just emerging from the Great Depression and money and jobs were hard to come by.  Sixty-two years later, I joined the 1996 expedition to locate the Islander’s missing bow section, onboard the MV Jolly Roger, with Ted Jaynes and his OceanMar crew, out of Seattle. It was an aerial photograph taken by Delano that guided us to the wreck, which he had marked with a cross in the traditional manner. The waters of the Inside Passage lived up to their  notorious reputation that year: drifting ice, dense swirling fog, driving rain, frequent storms, complex currents and a massive tidal range – and that was in late summer! Frank Curtis and his salvage crew are to be commended for what they achieved under such harsh, demanding conditions– and it’s all recorded in this magnificent book.     

 Copies of all my book reviews and magazine articles are available on request......

All books are available from Gazelle:-

http://www.gazellebookservices.co.uk

Some Recent Editorial Projects

Editorial and photographic research assistance with the new edition of  ""Tous Les Visiteurs A Terre!", the shipboard story of René Goscinny, famous for his ASTERIX comic books,  "All Visitors Ashore!" has just been updated and republished by Editions IMAV of Paris. Enriched with over 140 pages and awash with Albert Uderzo's marvelous Asterix cartoons, it contains the full text, first published in 1969. Most of the photos are from René's own family albums. With his inimitable humour, he describes a hilarious three-week trip aboard a passenger ship - a story inspired by his own memories of voyages aboard the France, the Pasteur, the Ile de France, Taiwan, the Eugenio C and the Caribbean. A big fan of cruises, Goscinny said: "I like big boats. A hundred feet to me is the length of the bar."  The tone is set!  In his account, written in the late 60s (sadly, he died in 1977) we learn many useful lessons, including : How to seduce a pretty girl. How to stay fit during an abandon ship drill. How to make good when seasickness strikes.  How to ensure the goodwill of the bartender. How to be invited to the captain's table, and  How to avoid looking ridiculous at the fancy dress party!

There's even a photo of me on page 99, straddled by a lovely lady on Chusan's dance floor - but that's another story entirely!


 

A freelance writer and editor on maritime affairs I am able to undertake a variety of assignments, including: nautical research into ships of all types ~archive searches for ships with a story to tell ~production of articles on all nautical subjects from mini- submarines to ocean liners and the age of sail ~proof reading of nautical articles and books ~checks on authenticity and accuracy in the use of terminology ~film script-writing and narration ~technical consultancy in film and TV production & book reviews.

In 1993, I began researching the loss of the Canadian Pacific Steam Navigation Company's SS Islander~ a story that was to prove almost as fascinating as that of the RMS Titanic. The Islander sank off Juneau, Alaska, in August 1901, while reputedly carrying 12 tonnes of gold bullion from the Klondike. In 1996 I sailed with an expedition from Tacoma Seattle to Juneau and located the missing bow section of the ship, on the 95th anniversary of its sinking - almost to the hour! I would be delighted to hear from you if you have any connections with the ship or her people.


My life to date......now in my 70th year......

 

My Father was invading Italy on the day I was born, in September 1943. He was onboard HMS Hilary,a Booth Steamship  Company liner, requisitioned by the Royal Navy as an infantry landing and headquarters ship for Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of mainland Italy. As the first wave of infantry approached the shore, a German Army loudspeaker blared,  

“Come on in and give up. We have you covered!”  

Through his telescope, my Father spotted a German Tiger tank, its 88mm gun slewing and firing. The first shot carried away the Hilary's signal halyards and radio aerials. Lieutenant W.E.Messinger was responsible for tactical communications between the ship and the landing force. Halyards and aerials were jury rigged in double quick time!.


Ark Royal

Click the ship's crest to visit the 'Mighty Ark'


 

On 21st September 1943, a telegram was despatched to my Father, onboard HMS Hilary, off Salerno. Needless to say it took several weeks to reach him. The left hand photograph was despatched shortly afterwards but 18 months were to pass before my Father saw me for the first time. 

In the right hand photograph I am with my Mother, Doris, in September 1944, shortly after my first birthday. I am wearing a pair of red camel skin shoes my Father sent me from Alexandria.  Until well after the War, we lived with my grandparents, John and Laura  Padfield, at Little Tawney Hall Farm, Stapleford Tawney, in Essex.


1953, back from two years running wild in Norway and enrolled at Loughton School - Self, Phillip and Robert.

All neatly brushed and as shiny as new pins!


My Father retired from the Royal Navy in 1961 and spent 14 very happy years at Westminster Abbey. Here he is with HRH, The Prince of Wales and the Dean, The Very Reverend Edward Carpenter, in 1966.  Lord Louis Mountbatten is on the far left.

Family History and Photographs


With Kathy at my 60th birthday party at the Eastbury Hotel, Sherborne, September 2003

I met Katherine, my lovely wife to be, onboard Oronsay, during the ship's 1967 Christmas Cruise to the West Indies. I was the ship's Navigator and Kathy a Hertfordshire Doctor's daughter, travelling with her parents and four brothers and sisters. It was what the French call a 'coupe de foudre'. We were married at Queenswood School, on 9th September 1972, and have three wonderful children - Timothy, a music publisher ; Laura, a Lawyer and Edward a Police Officer.

Gayle, Tim and Ed.  Val Thorens, France ~ January 2010

Tim and Gayle were married on 31st July


In 1980, following an injury sustained at sea and orthopedic surgery at Guys and UCH, I spent three months as an in-patient at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, DMRC, Headley Court. Their active, caring regime soon had me fit again, and to them I owe an immense debt of gratitude. I was fortunate: there were many servicemen and women with far more serious injuries than mine. It is for this reason that I support and recommend the tri-service charity Help For Heroes to you all. Help For Heroes has thus far raised a total of £23,526,700, of which £8 million has been donated to Headley Court's new hydrotherapy pool and remedial gymnasium.



My friends and I have a small charity, which can provide assistance and practical advice to young people, typically aged between 16 and 21, who feel they would benefit from a voyage as trainee crew aboard a tall ship. Please contact us for details, using the link below.


  Biographical Information:-

My Father second from left,  brother Phil, Mother, self. Brother Rob in foreground.

Taken at the Queen's Birthday Parade, HMS Ganges in 1959.

The eldest Son of a Royal Navy Officer and an Essex farmer's daughter, I trained for the sea aboard the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College Worcester.

 

 .

I was a reluctant Worcester Cadet - eventually attaining the rank of Cadet Captain, Yeoman of Signals, Cutter Coxswain and Queen's Standard Bearer for London's East End Boroughs. I cannot say, in all honesty, that I enjoyed my time aboard Worcester.  Joining in 1957 at the age of 14, the ship's brutal regime was difficult to accept - particularly the bullying. My ambition, up to then, had been  to follow my Grandfather into farming. Also as a Corporal, in the 4th Essex Cadet Regiment, it had been my intention to transfer to the Yeomanry at the earliest opportunity. In those far off days, however, one did as one's Father commanded. 

With my father, the day I received my Army Cadet Force uniform, c1955. Uniforms were all ex-Army, hand-me-downs ~ itchy material, some still bearing the scars of war!


Leaving the Worcester at Easter 1961, having been demoted from Cadet Captain and given six cuts with the cane on my penultimate day, I was appointed Midshipman in Her Majesty's Royal Naval Reserve. It having subsequently been discovered that the crime for which I had been punished, bringing intoxicating liquor onboard, had in fact been committed by a fellow Cadet!  Joining my first P&O ship, with six blue-black stripes across my behind, caused many a chuckle from my fellow Cadets - all Pangbourne College boys!  


Indentured to the P&O Steam Navigation Company, my first voyage was to Australia, as a Cadet aboard the company's SS Ballarat, engaged in the wool trade.


MV Strathardle maiden voyage, arriving London 1967, following the inaugural Yokohama Express, Japan-UK non-stop in 26 days. 


 

During my 12 years with P&O, I served in cargo ships and passenger liners, on voyages to the Mediterranean, Far East, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands, Canada, Latin America, and the United States. 

MV Somali, South China Sea                                     SS Surat, off the Cape of Good Hope

MV Somali hove to in a Beaufort Storm Ten, South of Taiwan


My P&O career culminated in ss Chusan's 1972 six month World Cruise. 

 

Passing my Foreign-Going Masters'Certificate in 1970, I served as Chusan's First Officer - until the ship was sold to Taiwanese breakers, in 1972. She was a beautiful, happy ship and her passing marked the end of the era of stately main-line passenger ship and the inevitable transition to jumbo jets - and custom-built cruise ships. 

Senior Officer's Horse Race - SS Chusan 1972 - The Happiest Ship in The P&O Fleet.

Staff Captain - Deputy Purser - First Officer (NRM) - Chief Officer - Second Engineer Officer


Joining the Royal Naval College, Greenwich,in late 1972, I completed nuclear submarine training in 1973, and joined HMS Valiant

 

Back row left, Bob Seaward, old chum from Otus days. Front row, third from left, Chris Belton,

then Andy Thomson and Dick Channon. I'm in the middle row, 3rd from left, grinning like a Cheshire cat!

Following sea time aboard HMS Valiant, I was awarded the Galbraith Wrightson Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Plymouth, where I wrote 'The History & Development of Deep Diving Manned Submersible Vehicles', before joining InterSub of Marseilles, a commercial submarine operator, as Operations Manager in 1975. In 1976, I set up the company's submarine operations in Dubai, in a joint-venture with Swires of Hong Kong. In 1977 I was appointed General Manager of Kvaerner-InterSub, a joint-venture based in Norway.

http://www.intersub.co.uk


Recalled to the Royal Navy in 1981, lecturing at the School of Maritime Operations and Maritime Tactical School, HMS Dryad,  I saw active service during the Falklands War.

 

Left to right: Myself;  Lieutenant Commander Lawrie Phillips RNR, Fleet Press Officer; Admiral of The Fleet Sir John Fieldhouse,GCB,GBE,RN, Commander in Chief of the Fleet,  Commander Task Force 317;  Admiral Sir David Halifax, KCB, KCVO, KBE,RN, Chief of Staff;  Rear Admiral Peter Hammersley CB,CBE,RN, Fleet Engineering Officer.

I was quite under the weather on the morning this was taken, and ended up in RAF Stanmore Park Hospital with virus pneumonia, for 10 days - transported there in the C-in-C's staff car!


 Promoted Commander List One RNR, I joined the Plessey Naval Systems Company in 1984, rising to General Manager International Sales & Marketing.

I was very touched to be elected a Fellow of The Nautical Institute and a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Shipwrights.


Military Service:

Appointed Midshipman RNR in April 1961, I was commissioned Sub Lieutenant in May 1964. After General Service I volunteered for Submarines in 1967, serving two tours in the Patrol Submarine, HMS Otus. 

In 1973, I qualified 'Nuclear' at the Royal Naval College Greenwich and served aboard 

HMS Valiant, a nuclear hunter-killer. 

 

As a Lieutenant Commander I served throughout the Falklands war on the Staff of the Task Force Commander, for which I received the Falklands Commendation. Transferring to Amphibious Warfare on promotion to Commander in September 1982, I served as Coastal Convoy Commodore and Senior Naval Officer (Afloat) on numerous AW exercises. I retired in 1990.


My Links.......

Some Family History and Photographs

My father's 1946 rescue of Nazi Holocaust survivors.

Falklands War jottings 25 years on......

Link to InterSub - International Submarine Services new web page.

Link to SS Islander - midlife crisis and hunt for gold in Alaska!

The loss of the SS Princess Sophia - work in progress

HMS Worcester: The Great Tradition

My P&O Passenger Ships

RMS Strathmore photographs 

SS Orcades photographs SS Oriana photographs 

SS Oronsay photographs SS Chusan photographs 

My P&O Cargo Ships

SS Ballarat MV Somali SS Singapore 

MV Salmara MV Strathardle SS Surat

 

 

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©Copyright Nicholas R Messinger 2013
Last revised: October 23rd 2013