S.S. Baron Elgin (1946) - By John Filer

On the Members Ships page it is reported that four of our Barry members have served in the Baron Elgin. I am pleased to announce that the number has now increased to five. Member John Filer joined the ship in September 1946 as a Senior Ordinary Seaman (SOS) and this is his story of that trip.

On joining Baron Elgin at Barry Dock, I was a little perturbed to find that sailors and the Arab firemen were berthed under the foc’sle head, sailors to starboard, firemen to port. As my first three ships, two Forts, and one Park Type, were wartime built and only three/four years old, the state of the accommodation was disheartening.

Eight bunks, a long mess table and a Bogie stove (good for making toast), plus a number of lockers for your personal belongings. The bathroom, entered from the foredeck, was just a steel box, no showers or freshwater taps, with a shelf to slot your new galvanised bucket into. The one toilet was similar, and quite dangerous to use on the homeward leg of the voyage, when loaded. Probably a towel was provided, but no bed sheets or pillowcases.

As a three island type vessel, her only redeeming feature was her well formed cruiser stern. In my time onboard there was no accommodation block on the poop. The Chippie bunked there in the still remaining DEMS gunners quarters. In bad weather the lookout was kept on the bridge wings. These were also wartime fittings, being previously built as gun tubs. They were only waist high, therefore very exposed to the wind and rain.

Soogying was only carried out when it was raining, the galley pump being locked up most of the voyage. Another antiquity was the icebox alongside number three hatch. It was fortunate we were only away for five weeks, otherwise some of the edibles would be smelling a little.

Our loading port (just the end of a bay) was Springdale, Hall Bay, Newfoundland and consisted of three log cabins and a motor launch. We dropped anchor, swung, with help from the launch, and four stern lines were secured on tree stumps on the shore.

I believe the name of my fellow SOS was Gordon Wilson of Cadoxton. I sailed with Gordon and one of his brothers again in 1951 aboard Palestinian Prince. One AB from the Valleys had brought his weightlifting equipment, and would be out on number one hatch practicing his lifts at every opportunity.

We loaded wood pulp, with some fifteen feet of deck cargo and proceeded to Rochester, Kent where we tied up to the buoys, paying off the following day, weights as well.

It was a further eight years before I had the misfortune to sail on a vessel that also suffered with similar deficiencies. Another story, another time.

John Filer
Mem. No. 24