You may be surprised to see the size of paper that I am using but I have a matter to relate which may interest you, and it will take quite a lot of telling.
You may remember that our programme was for us to go to the Chapman anchorage and there to load 975 tone of explosives. These explosives were nearly all ammunition of one kind or another for the Pakistan Government.
We left the R.A Dock at 1900 hours on Sunday, 6th, March and duly arrived at the Chapman without any bother at all. After that it came on to snow, which it continued to do intermittently until Wednesday, after which it blew from the Noreast, so that by Friday night we had still 100 tons D/wt to load, all of which was to go into No.1 hold and tweendeck. No labour came down on Saturday, but at noon that day a tug arrived and ordered us to the buoy off Cliffe. At the same moment C/E came with the welcome news that a boiler tube in the centre boiler had burst, so we had to mate the shift on two boilers only. This did not delay us any, as we had to slow down for the tug, which had to turn us off Cliffe, but it would have been pleasanter in the circumstances to have had full power.
At Cliffe there was a considerable pobble on the water (it was blowing a gale) and the jolly watermen let our best mooring shackle fall into the oggin, where it was drowned (to quote a tally clerk's report on a lost overboard cargo certificate). C/0 hastily sent down for another, and this proved to be a screw shackle, a thing which I always distrust on a buoy. However, in the circumstances we had to use it. We were fast to the buoy at 1500 hours.
On Sunday the jolly stevies were on board earlier than usual, having only a short distance to come from Gravesend, and since they were on double overtime they managed to finish by 1530, and were all off the ship by 1600, together with their gear, and also the riggers who had come down to secure a magazine on deck.
We went to Stations at 1600, the same watermen (Corby & Co) being on the buoy as yesterday. After an hour's work with crowbar and maul they had succeeded in doing nothing, except that one man slipped off the buoy and went waist deep in the river, which must have been pretty chill. Far worse, the clot had let go of our maul, and it had followed yesterday's shackle to be a hot water bottle in Father Thames' slimy bed.
After the bather had been ferried across to the tug to dry out in front of the galley fire we sent the watermen a hacksaw with which to cut the shackle; but they were notably unenthusiastic about trying to cut through a 2½" shackle pin, even though it was a nice sunny, calm afternoon, and after a few tentative cuts they declared the job non-possumus, and retired to the tug. Subsequently they left us in tow of a passing tug, without saying Goodbye or Kiss-my-hand.
With the aid of the tug's R/T we endeavoured to interest Siley Wiers in our plight, but they could only promise to send a burning gang at 0800 tomorrow. However, the tug people in Gravesend suggested a local firm named J & T Palmer, and as they were keen to oblige I gave then the job. It saved the ship 12 hours, the equivalent of £265.
Palmers came down at 1915, and by 2000 hours we were clear of the buoy and on our way.
The Pilot left us at Dungeness at 0330, and at 0400, being satisfied that, short of fog, we were now in the clear, I turned in.
At 05:30 the bridge telephone rang, and in less time than it takes to tell I was on the bridge. We were just altering around the Royal Sovereign L. V. when the steering gear failed. Fortunately we were not in heavy traffic at the moment, and we soon had the red lights hoisted and the &hip stopped. At 0800 we were on our way again.
After breakfast C/E came up to embroiler his original report, and this is what I learnt.
The IKAUNA's steering gear consists of (l) the telemotor, (2) a continuously running steam motor (2-cylirder); (3) an oil pump, driven by the motor; (a two way valve in the oil system from the pump: (4) an "oldraulic" system which consists of a pair of cylinders mounted fore and aft, between which works a ram: and (5) a thrartship tiller which is connected to the ram by a sort of universal coupling.
The motor, which ravolves in one direction only, idles at about 120 r.p.m. and when at full throttle (when the wheel on the bridge is moved) achieved about 200/300 r.p.m. The telemoter, in addition to opening the throttle, operates the oil valve, thus directing the oil into the forward or after cylinder of the oldraullc system, and so moving ram, tiller and rudder as required.
Now we come to the nub of the matter. The motor has a duplicated oil system for lubricating. There are two oil pumps, each of which is capable of adequately lubricating the motor. The lub oil is drawn from the sump, on the side of which is a projecting box about 6" fore and aft by 4" deep and 4" across. When the oil in the sump is at proper level this box is full of oil. In the box are two horizontal filters, from underneath each of which oil is drawn by Its respective lub-pump. The suction-pipes to the two pumps are at the fore part of the box, end each sipe is guarded by a valve which Is hinged at the top. One of these valves will only lift to the horizontal, so that as soon as the filter is removed the valve falls shut. It has to he lifted when the filter is replaced, but it is possible for the filter to be replaced with the valve shut. As the box is always full of oil, above the level of these valves, it would be possible for a careless workman to remove the filter (allowing the valve to fall shut) end replace the filter on top of the closed valve.
The second valve, when open, falls back to about 45°, so that, provided that it is open when the filter is removed, it will remain so, and to close it would have to be a deliberate action.
When C/E was called on account of the failure of the steering gear he found that the motor had seized. It was not badly seized, only one crank being tight; the engine was not very hot, and no further damage seems to have been done to the motor. From this C/E deduces that the engine had not been long starved of oil.
Now let us study the history of the steering gear since in London. The 3/E did some work on the steering engine, but he declares that he did not clean the filters. He is not certain if any of the men with him did so, but so far no-one has admitted to having done so. Whilst the ship was in London we had some of Siley Weirs fitters working every day in the steering flat, attempting to get the emergency fire pump (which is situated there)to work. The steering gear was inspected and tested by both the Eng-Superintendant and the Ministry Surveyor, but there is no evidence to show that they, or any other body, probed into the filter box to see if the two valves were open or not. But when C/E examined the valves after the failure of the steering gear he found both of the lubricating oil valves shut. The filter box cover is secured with two small bolts, but these are only hand-tight.
Between these two examinations the ship had steamed from R.A. Docks to Chaprnan Anchorage, from there to Cliffe, and from Cliffe to the Royal Sovereign L. V.. Moreover, on the day of departure from London (Cliffe Buoys) the steering gear steam was opened at noon, and the motor idled from then until sailing time with only an occasional turn of the wheel which is given from time to time to keep the lubrication of the motor going.
The questions to be answered are (l) Who shut the valves? (2) When were they shut? (3) How long would the motor run with only such lubricating oil as could be sucked past the valves, and possibly a certain amount of "splash" lubrication if, indeed, the cranks do dip into the oil in the sump at the bottom of their stroke?
The first question will never be answered. The second and third would tell us if the person who tampered with the valves, or at least with the one which falls back when open (for the other might have been shut for some time without the engineers knowing, or even being aware of its existance) was possibly a shore person or if he was certainly a member of the ship's crew.
Now let us look for motive, if the closing of the valves was deliberate. It is well known that the ship has on board 975 tons of ammunition for the Pakistan Government, so that it is possible that the motive was to wreck, or at least delay the ship in order to prevent or delay the delivery of the ammunition.
The first possible objectors to Pakistan being supplied with ammunition would be the Communists, but one must also hear in mind that only a few months ago the Indian Government made a great fuss because the U.S.A. had made a military agreement with Pakistan. Of course India objects to Pakistan having adequate ammunition because of their dispute over the future of Kashmir.
Following the first suggestion i.e. Communist action, one is posed with the question — on board or ashore? If the tempering with the steering gear were done by shore agency, then it must have been done before 1600 hours on Sunday. This leaves the motor with about 4 hours of idling and 9½ hours of normal running before it seized up.
C/E states that it is his belief that the motor could run only for about 2 hours without proper lubrication. If this is so, then the one open valve can only have been tampered with at about 0300 on Monday. This, however is not probable, for at 0310 the vessel was approaching the pilot vessel off Dungeness, and so, well out in open water and clear of danger from immediate grounding. In fact the vessel was clear of the shoals of the Thames estuary at 2300 hours on Sunday.
This logically suggests that the engine did in fact run for much longer than two hours without proper lubrication. It also suggests that if the valves were shut maliciously, then the engine did run much longer without proper lubrication than the tamperer expected.
In fact, for all that any of us positively know to the contrary it might be possible that, owing perhaps to leaky valves, the engine did run continuously without proper (but with a little)lubrication from some time prior to 1600 hours on Sunday until the time of the failure. And if it could do that it could equally well have also run during the shorter passage from the "Dock to Chapman, and thence again to Cliffe. But I do not consider this probable.
Reverting to this idea that the valves or one valve was tampered with by some person on board, what evidence have we?
If Communist action, then we have the Chinese Fitter and the Chinese Carpenter. Both hold Communist Passports, but that does not necessarily mean that they have Communist sympathies. When their former Nationalist (Chinese) passports expired they could only obtain Communist ones; in replacement, and had to take what they could get.
The Carpenter appears to be such an incompetent fool that he might almost be ruled out anyway. The Fitter is rather more intelligent & might be hiding his light under a bushel. But that is not the Communist way; they prefer to ensure keeping a good Job by being efficient, if they can.
The Engineroom crew are, with two exceptions, Pakistani Muslims, so they can be ruled out as being anti-Pakistani, unless, indeed any of them are under cover Communists. The two exceptions are Indian, one Ernest Paul being a Christian, and the other, Basan Goswami son of Sani Gopal being a Hindu. Either of these might be anti-Pakistani, but more probably the latter. This man is a Training Ship product (the other man is too)and may have learnt a certain amount of engineering. He might also be a Communist. He looks a smart man. He is fireman, whilst the Christian is a trimmer.
So far as the Deck Crew are concerned, they are all Hindu-s, and could all be considered as possibly anti-Pakistani, but I doubt if any of then has the ability of knowledge to do the tampering.
In summing-up what conclusions have we?
(l) Were the two valves closed maliciously?
Possibly the first mentioned valve was allowed to fall shut; the second valve might possibly have been knocked shut if the man who last cleaned the valves had been very clumsy; but it seems as likely as not that the valve was closed intentionally.
(2) If the second valve was closed maliciously when was it closed, and by whom?
From the arguement above it is improbable that the motor could have run unlubricated from 1600 hours on Sunday to 0530 on Monday. Therefore the valve must have been closed after the vessel's departure from Cliffe, and by a member of the ships company.
(3) If It is accepted that a member of the ships company tampered with the valve, amongst which sections of the crew would that man probably be found?
Either amongst the Chinese, but more probably the Fitter than the Carpenter.
Any member of the Engineroom crew who has a record as a Communist, but most probably the one Hindu member, because he is additionally liable to be anti-Pakistan in feeling.
It should be noted that enquiries are liable to be frustrated by the fact that since the ship arrived in Hull all the Engineer Officers have been changed, and the present 2nd and 4th Engineer Officers joined the ship only in London.
Well, that is the story. The next move is to report the matter to London and Calcutta, and have enquiries made regarding the histories of the various suspects. The Security Authorities in Gibraltar might also be interested in the matter.
We have just passed the Burlings. The Admiralty Hydrographical Survey Department have gone all native these last few years, and all the names which have sufficed for centuries and generations of British seamen are now being printed on the new charts in their native manner. Thus Burlings is now Ilha Berlenga. And so on throughout the world. Very trying, especially as the stars now have been renamed in the Nautical Almanac to suit the Americans.
I am sending you a photo of myself. If you like it as much as I do you will probably put it in the w.c., and I shall not blame you. But let me assure you that I did shave the day I had the picture taken.
My cat is becoming quite civilised. This morning she went into my bathroom to ………… (section unreadable)…… the two porcelain bowls and then tried to conceal her mistake by scratching the porcelain over it. I had the very dickens of a job removing the evidence before washing.
Well that is all the gen. I hope that you will find the problem more amusing than I do. And if the ship sinks mysteriously you may produce such evidence as you have here to the Authorities. But I do not think you will have to. So far as the people on board are concerned a little annoying delay is all that one may expect.