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|Welcome to the Bowater Steamship Company website the site that is dedicated to the ships and crew of this small but well loved shipping company. I hope it brings some happy and nostalgic memories to all that visit.
A few tips on navigating through my website. It is best viewed if you crank the screen resolution up to 1024x768 you will get all the photographs and text on the page and it will save you scrolling left to right. You will notice that the "right click" function has been disabled, this is because alot of the photographs have a copyright on them and I have had to seek permission from the owners to use them. You will notice that the photograph credits are highlighted in blue text, if you click on the text it will take you to the e-mail address or website of the owner of that picture and if you want to, like I did you can contact them and purchase a copy for yourself.
The reason for putting this website sight together is the interest I have in my fathers merchant navy career and in particular the time he spent with the Bowater Steamship Company. This interest some would say has evolved into an obsession!
My interest started about ten years ago when I asked my dad for a list of ships that he had sailed on. Until that time I had been under the impression that he had only sailed with Bowaters, as he sent my brother and I a postcard with Gladys Bowater at the Snell Lock, in 1969 and this had been the only reference to his seafaring career so far. So imagine my surprise when he came back with a list of thirteen ships which included Shell Tankers, Clan Liners and Union Castle boats, as well as the Bowater vessels he sailed on.
Gladys Bowater at the Bertrand H.Snell Lock, St.Lawrence Seaway
From that list I started collecting photographs from magazine adverts in Sea Breezes and Ships Monthly, I searched through old copies of the same magazines in secondhand bookstores for the smallest snippets, pictures and articles. A letter to Bowaters head office and Shell UK were next and I am pleased to say both replied in full. Since then the collection has grown and is now a very sizeable collection with photographs having been purchased from all over the world, china, memorabilia, shipyard drawings, company magazines, crewlists have all been added and I have been fortunate to contact many ex-crew members and even found some of dads old shipmates.
So now it is time to share it all with you so sit back and enjoy the voyage....................................
"Our Fathers the greatest men that ever lived"
Pictures of Dad in Combined Cadet Force at Eastbourne College, Deck Apprentice in 1957 and in his cabin on the s.s Margaret Bowater 1968.
This is my dad Richard Howatson, born in Calcutta, India 10th March 1939. He first came to England at the age of 14 with his father onboard the P&O liner Strathnaver the reason for this was to finish his education at Eastbourne College, Sussex, and then hopefully join the R.A.F to become a pilot.
P&O`s Liner Strathnaver,
Dad bought this photograph in the souvenir shop onboard the ship
As a prelude to this he was in the Combined Cadet Force, and flew Chipmunks, Ansons and gliders.
Dads life changed dramatically when his father, was taken ill and died back in India, fortunately dad made it back there in time to see him, but what was he to do now. His relationship with his stepmother was not a good one, the finances to see him through Cranwell might not be available now, it was a difficult time.
Between Dad and one of his tutors at school, who had taken him under his wing, it was decided that the best thing for him was to join the merchant navy, get away from it all for a while. This was a relatively easy path for him as his father had been working for Shell Oil in Calcutta and so on the 14th January 1957 the Apprentice Indentures were signed and he was off to sea
s.s Hadriaina (Rene Beuchamp Collection)
His first ship was the s.s Hadriania which he joined on 22nd January, next came the Paludina, followed by Diloma, Patella, Hemisinus and last of all the then supertanker Zenatia.
After four years on tankers and having sailed as a 4th Mate Dad was looking for a new challenge. The day after he found out that he had passed his 2nd Mates Foreign-going examinations he went up to Leadenhall Street in London to look for a job as 3rd Mate. He wanted to join a bulk carrier or general cargo company. He called into a few offices but there were no jobs going at that moment, he spotted the United Baltic and thought that would suit him as the ships were quite small and mainly traded around the Baltic, U.K and Mediterranean ports, this would also mean that he could get home more often, the runs between ports would be shorter and he was just about broke having been at home for the past three months on study leave.
He went into the United Baltic offices and asked if he could have an interview with the Marine Superintendant. He eventually got to see him, was shown into a small cramped office and the interview was started. Dad could hardly hear what the chap was saying as his secretary was present clacking away on a manual typewriter. Dad was beginning to get annoyed and lost interest in the interview, also the Marine Superintendant was being a bit snidy as he thought Dad only had experience on tankers, so Dad pointed out to him that he had just passed his exams with questions mainly dealing with cargo ships!
The crunch came when the Marine Superintendant asked Dad if he would go to Hamburg the next day to relieve a 3rd Mate who was leaving the company, Dad was obviously taken aback there was no way he could join at such short notice, he didn`t even have a uniform to wear, and so declined the offer.
He had spent all day traipsing around these shipping offices with no joy and decided to call it a day. While he was waiting for his train, quite out of the blue he recalled the Bosun on his last tanker (Zenatia), he was an old wizened fellow from the Hebrides. They had become quite good friends and he had often told him tales of this company called Bowaters, with there fabulous little ships, Dad still had almost ten minutes before his train was due so he thought in for a penny in for a pound, found a phone box and rang Bowaters headoffice in Knightsbridge.
The Marine Superintendant came on the phone, asked Dad where he was and invited him to go straightaway to the office. What a difference, a very plush office and a friendly atmosphere greeted him. He was introduced to the Suprintendant by a very pretty secretary and was soon sitting in his office chatting over a cup of coffee and being put at ease. They discussed Dads experiences of the day, he just let him talk and talk, no"hurry up, i`m busy". After he had finished the Superintendant told Dad about the ships and showed him some photographs on the wall, they were super looking ships, the pay and conditions had not been discussed yet but Dad was already eager to join his first Bowater ship.
When the Supre` finally got around to how much the wages were going to be, Dad had to do a double take and asked if he could repeat himself. "What`s the problem, is it not enough"?asked the Superintendant. Dad said "Where do I sign before you change your mind" They both had a laugh, then the Superintendant dropped the bombshell, "You have seen all the photographs on the wall but you won`t be joining any of those as your first ship with us. We have a custom in this company that everyone starts off on he Liverpool Packet, which is our oldest ship". Dad was still thinking about the wages he had been quoted. "You probably won`t be joining the Packet for another three weeks". Dads face dropped, he was well short of cash,the.supre` must have noticed and offered Dad a sub, he was delighted and couldn`t wait to get home to Polegate to tell my Mum the good news.
After that he never looked back. At that time the Bowater Steamship Company was probably one of the best shipping companies to work for. They paid the top rates of pay, which attracted the best Officers and crews. The ships were built and maintained to the highest standards with an almost "money is no object" attitude. Food, accommodation and crew camaraderie was second to non!
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Authors Note; I have contacted as many people as I could to get permission to use photographs and material on this website that i have purchased or be given that may be subject to copyright, if I have inadvertently used something I shouldn`t have and the owner contacts me I will remove it immediately. I.H