DVD P&O Days Part 1

P&O Days - Part 1, Life in the P&O Fleet circa 1960's - A young officer's pictorial record

The first three DVDs produced by Captain Joe Welch (see Shop) covered his career with OCL, P&OCL and PONL, but the fourth might be considered a 'prequel' as it is about his early days at sea with P&O in the 1960s.

Through this 43 minute show we are treated to a fascinating series of still images starting, as the career of a trainee officer would have started in the late 1950s, with photographs of (the then) Cadet Welch and his classmates at the Nautical College at Warsash (including a great photo of a cadet on sentry duty complete with rifle and fixed bayonet!) Like all cadets accepted into the Merchant Navy at that time, Joe had to sign indentures as an apprentice but first he had to gain a merit badge from the Outward Bound School at Ullswater, and we are treated to a series of photos covering that course (what cadets joining Maersk today would make of this is anybody's guess!)

Cadet Welch's first ship was the ss Pinjarra, built in Hartlepool in 1944 as the Empire Paragon and acquired by P&O after the war in 1946. The photos of this vessel include shots taken in the Royal Docks in the Pool of London, an area now surrounded by London City Airport and the Docklands extension of the city. Joe may not have had his video camera with him, but the still shots he has taken as the Pinjarra makes her way through Suez and out to the Far East are just as emotive. The photographs of Singapore and Hong Kong are also fascinating as they show these maritime cities before the skyscrapers came to dominate the skyline. The images of Hong Kong, damaged by a passing typhoon, could so easily have been taken 15 or so years earlier as the city streets look like they've been hit by a World War 2 air raid. The Pinjarra then makes her way down to Australia and Sydney where we again see a city looking very different to today.

Joe's next vessel is the 1954-built passenger ship ss Iberia which he joins in dry-dock in Southampton prior to the summer cruise season. Anyone who remembers the old Ocean Terminal in Southampton (demolished in 1983) will probably have a lump in their throat as they view the photographs of this magnificent, and much missed building.

We see the Iberia in Trinidad, Madeira, Lisbon and Vigo, before Cadet Welch moves on to the STS Maloja, a Trident Tankers vessel built in Middlesborugh in 1959. He was on that ship for around a year before transferring to the 1949-built cargo liner mv Coromandel on in which he returned to the UK (again, what would today's cadets make of a trip of that length?!)

The next voyage was on the newly built P&O-Orient Lines' passenger vessel, ss Oriana. Joe was on the Oriana's voyage no.4 which was a world cruise out through Suez to Australia and New Zealand, then across to the west coast of Canada and the USA via Honolulu, before transiting the Panama Canal and then home to Southampton. The shots that Joe has included of Sydney are particularly interesting as they include cargo vessels berthed at Campbell's Wharf near the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House under construction. This was the voyage where the Oriana famously maintained an average speed of 30 knots, securing the Golden Cockerel Trophy for the fastest Trans-Tasman crossing (a record that this sadly long-gone vessel still holds).

In addition to the photographs, this DVD also has a number of line drawings produced by Captain Welch's own hand. The painting of the ss Iberia that is used to illustrate the disc is also one of his own. A man of many talents!

While very different from the three containership DVDs that Joe has produced over the last two years or so, this will be just as interesting for ex-sea staff, office personnel and anyone with a passion for maritime history. The photographs are a fascinating record of the early stages of a lifetime career at sea, the viewers literally seeing things through the eyes of a cadet and young officer in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Today, cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney bring no surprises. We've seen them in the movies, on TV and on the internet, and the logos on the shops, banks and city firms are the same the world over. The photographs on this DVD however show another world, one in which every port would have brought surprises.

Having seen part 1 we are really looking forward to being invited to review the second DVD in this series. Joe tells us that part 2 will cover voyages in the 1960s on the Stratheden, Ballarat, Baradine and the Canberra, so as the saying goes, do watch this space!

A copy of the P&O Days Part 1 DVD can be purchased direct from Captain Welch for £10.00, (including UK post & packing). If you wish to order a copy then please email jcwelch2@btinternet.com, providing your name and address. The price will then be confirmed, along with the payment arrangements.

Captain Welch is donating all profits from the sale of the DVDs to the Missions to Seafarers (www.missiontoseafarers.org/).