The day King Charles III visited an OCL Bay Boat

On the Coronation Day for King Charles III in London it seemed appropriate to remember the occasion just over 53 years ago when he visited one of the first OCL Bay Boats, the Encounter-class Discovery Bay.

From the left: Captain Brian Hinderwell, 2ON Joe Welch, King Charles, 2ON Colin Johnstone and A S Mayne, OCAL Director for Victoria (photographer not known but image thought to be a company publicity photograph).

From late March to early May 1970 Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Charles and Princess Anne were making an extensive tour of Australia in connection with the bi-centenary of Captain James Cook.  In 1770 the British explorer, then a Navy Lieutenant had charted the east coast of Australia and claimed the eastern seaboard of the continent for the British Crown.  

On Sunday 5 April the Royal party on board HMY Britannia arrived in Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria.   

During the four-day visit to Melbourne, King Charles (then the Prince of Wales) visited the OCL container ship Discovery Bay.   She was then one of only a handful of purposed built container ships plying their trade around the globe, so this was an opportunity for him to see one of these new vessels up close.   

In the photograph on the left, King Charles is seen talking to the Discovery Bay's master, Captain Brian Hinderwell and 2ONs Colin Johnstone and Joe Welch.  Joe has kindly provided us with a number of photographs and the following recollections of the day:

"On my first voyage on the Discovery Bay the ship happened to be in Melbourne with the Royal Yacht Britannia when the Queen was doing one of her Royal Tours of Australia.  HRH Prince Charles expressed a wish to see for himself one of the new container ships and a visit was arranged for him.  Prince Charles was about to start on his career in the Royal Navy and was interested in the new container revolution.

"Captain Hinderwell showed Prince Charles around the ship and as Second Officer my job was to show him around the deck to see how the containers were loaded.  At that time I had a full beard.  The workings of the cell guide 'flip flops' were demonstrated but the loud bangs which they made startled the hidden security men who dashed out from behind containers thinking HRH was in danger.  The Australian wharfie driving the crane was so overcome by it all he could not latch on to the OCL container - so a new one was sent for, but this container belonged to our competitors 'ACT' - Red faces all round.  Later HRH called in for a drink in the Officers' Wardroom and I got him to sign the Visitors' Book."

The signature in the Discovery Bay's Officers' visitor book.

Out on deck, watching containers being loaded.

An article on the visit written by the Captain B N Hinderwell (reproduced below) 


"It was only with passing interest that we originally heard of Prince Charles' request to visit one of the Bay class vessels.  But after a period of delays it became more certain that Discovery Bay would chalk up another first for OCL and CFL.

"The visit was finally made definite on our arrival in Melbourne, and a meeting was arranged with Mr. Stan Mayne, OCAL Executive Director, to discuss a plan of action.

"Owing to the limited time allowed for the visit, a total of 25 minutes, everything had to be timed to the second, so that afternoon the terminal stop-watch was brought into use when a small party could be seen panting up and down gangways and interior staircases.  For all those who arrived out of breath at 'A' deck or the Bridge, the time allowed from the gangway to the bridge was two minutes flat.  From these activities developed the final itinerary.


"Over the weekend preparations were put in hand to have Discovery Bay at her best, with everyone playing some part in this activity, even if some ideas were cribbed from the Queen's Coxswain, Royal Barge.

"A break was called just before noon on Sunday to watch the passage of the Royal Yacht Britannia, carrying the Royal Family, pass up the River Yarra.  The Royal Family showed much interest in the ship and waved enthusiastically.

"It was afterwards learnt from Prince Charles that they could not understand why the containers did not fall off in heavy weather.  We sometimes wonder ourselves!

"The day of the visit, 6 April, arrived, a day we will long remember, and final preparations were completed in time for all and sundry to obtain a 'wash and brush up'.

"Security police arrived by the dozen, together with the Press, and we all awaited the arrival of the Royal Barge and His Royal Highness.

"Right on the scheduled time the Royal Barge swept round our stern and, with beautiful precision, moored to the Harbour Board pontoon.  Prince Charles disembarked and was met by Mr. Mayne and Captain Ross, Melbourne Harbour-Master.

"On behalf of the ship I met his Royal Highness at the gangway head and we then climbed to the Bridge, myself trying to answer questions without getting winded.  Perhaps I should take up polo during my long leave.  The three Senior Officers were introduced, and the ship's Visitors Books signed.

"Cargo operations were explained from the Bridge wing, a keen interest being taken by our Royal Visitor.  Safety helmets were then issued before descending to the main deck to watch the loading progressing.

"Arriving at the bays being worked, a glance at my watch indicated that we were still keeping time, but at this stage a slight technical hitch occurred ashore which lost precious seconds.  While our party awaited for the arrival of the containers to be leaded, the operation of the flip-flops was demonstrated, to the alarm of the security officers who, I am sure thought something dreadful was happening to their Royal 

charge.  Eventually the two containers swung into sight but by some oversight (?) they were both ACT boxes.

"As they swung towards where we were standing, Prince Charles did raise the hope that the Portainer driver was not an anti-royalist!

"As time was running out, we had to head back to the gangway.  In passing our two bearded Second Officers (N) Prince Charles asked if it was necessary to have a beard before being employed 2.O (N).


"Farewells were made at the gangway, and during his descent our visitor noticed Mesdames Evans and Anderson, the two wives being carried, and stopped to have a chat with them.

"Unfortunately the bulwark prevented the chance of a curtsey being seen, which was a disappointment, especially after the practice they had put in.

"The post mortem was held over R and R drinks in my cabin, and all felt it had been a worthwhile experience and honour, especially as Prince Charles had requested the chance to visit one of those vessels at greater length when we eventually berth in Tilbury.

"Our only regret was that owing to the shortness of the visit, very few of the ship's company could meet our Royal Visitor."

Captain Joe Welch

There is also a photograph of King Charles' Discovery Bay visit in British Box Business: The History of OCL (edited by Alan Bott and published by SCARA) - See left.

With thanks also to David Burrett who was 2OC on the Discovery Bay at the time of the King's visit.  It was David's recent comment about the day under a post about Captain Hinderwell on OCL Bay Boats (the ex-sea staff Facebook group) which prompted this article. 

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