British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd.      


THE WORLD BELONGS
TO HIM WHO HAS SEEN IT


AN ACCOUNT OF A CRUISE TO THE
NORTHERN CAPITALS OF EUROPE
ON BOARD THE S.S.NEURALIA
-AUGUST 1932 -

by
BASIL RUSHBY-SMITH
(1906-1991)
Assistant Master
(Later Headmaster)
Southwell Minster Grammar School




Transcribed and edited
by John Rushby-Smith





To the Neuralians





Published by John Rushby-Smith
Ledbury, England.


Email: john@rs.wyenetco.uk
Website: www.songbird.wyenet.co.uk


© John Rushby-Smith, 2004

CONTENTS


Foreword
By Way of Introduction
Chapter I The Start
Chapter II The North Sea
Chapter III The Kiel Canal
Chapter IV The Baltic
Chapter V Stockholm
Chapter VI Copenhagen
Chapter VII Gothenburg
Chapter VIII Oslo
Chapter IX The North Sea Again
Chapter X Immingham and Home




S.S./H.M.T. Neuralia in the Kiel Canal


Southwell Minster Grammar School in 1932
Today it is a comprehensive school with 1500 pupils!



FOREWORD

After my father died in 1991, it fell upon me to go through all the papers in the loft of my parents’ house in Buckinghamshire. Among them l discovered a thick, bound exercise book, containing the following account of a cruise to Scandinavia on board the S.S. Neuralia. The cruise was organised by “British Cruises for British Boys” in 1932, and the account, written in my father’s spidery longhand, is dedicated to “The Neuralians”.

Then twenty-five years old and unmarried, my father had just relinquished his first teaching post as history master at Southwell Minster Grammar School, but he accompanied a party from the school consisting of ten boys, plus the headmaster Reginald Matthews and his wife, their son Robert (who was later tragically killed on active service during World War II), Robert’s friend Gerald James and my father’s close friend and colleague, the mathematics master Dudley Doy, who was later to be best man at my father’s wedding in 1935. In 1945 my father returned to Southwell to succeed Mr. Matthews as headmaster and he remained in the post until he retired in 1971. Dudley Doy stayed on as his vice-master for much of the time.

The account is something of a period piece and the style of writing is both witty and vivid. It depicts the prewar age when foreign travel was still an adventure and when the arrival in a city of an enormous party of foreign schoolboys brought a welcome, not just from pompous civic dignitaries but, it would seem, from most of the population as well. The account also shows that many of the problems we face today, such as dilapidated trains and vandalism, are nothing new. The total number of boys on the cruise, drawn from schools all over the country, was a mind-boggling 1,300.

In editing the text I have altered only what I felt was necessary to make grammatical sense of the odd garbled sentence. I’ve also had to make informed guesses at one or two place names, as my father had a nice trick of allowing his writing to turn into an illegible scrawl whenever he was confronted with foreign words he wasn’t sure how to spell. I have added footnotes wherever explanation is necessary. The illustrations are photocopied from the snapshots and postcards that were glued into the original manuscript.

I feel that the account is interesting from the point of view of the history of the School and also as a record of a bygone age, and I dedicate this transcription to the memory of my father and to the school which played such a big part in his life.

John Rushby-Smith, January 1994



BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION

It was after dinner one evening in the middle of the Easter term that I first heard about the cruise. Mr. Matthews¹ had received information from some source or other about B.C.B.B. (British Cruises for British Boys) and had distributed to us certain literature. Sitting round the dining room fire we discussed the prospective cruise.

“I suppose it’s not possible for me to go as a lady teacher?” said Mrs. Matthews. We all examined our pamphlets with great care.

“No, I am sorry,” said Mr. Matthews, “I’m afraid it is not.”

Mr. M. imagined that he could persuade at least half-a-dozen of the boys to go and, of course, Rob² would come. Mr. Doy³ announced his intention of having an eight﷓guinea berth ﷓ naturally a hammock didn’t appeal to him. To me, on the other hand, it did, as I considered the six guineas would be as much as I could afford.

So it was decided that we should go. In a few days’ time the boys had signed on, I had decided to go for eight guineas after all and Mrs. Matthews had heard from another headmaster’s wife, a friend of hers from the West Country, that she was accompanying her husband, so she was going to join the party come what may.

The applications and money were sent in by April 1st and were accepted. Afterwards we learned that hundreds of similar group applications had been turned down as they were too late.

A difficulty then arose. One Smee wanted to come; he was a boy who knew something about cruises although only twelve. Then Rob’s friend at Eastbourne, Gerald James, also wanted to join us. Fortunately Mr. M. managed to arrange for two berths for Rob and Gerald and relegated Smee to a hammock.

Then I left Southwell, so the cruise was to be a splendid opportunity of renewing associations which would soon become old. Really this was another very strong reason for my going on the cruise at all.

Thus it was that on August 2nd I was to be found carefully packing my expanding suitcase, weighing it at intervals to make sure that it did not exceed the limit of 35 lbs. My family advised me to take at least one scarf and, of course, a sweater. “It could be cold on the boat,” they said.

So much for preparation. Now let us turn to the expedition.

1. Reginald Matthews, the Headmaster.
2. Robert Matthews, his son
3. Dudley Doy, Vice Master and Mathematics teacher.



Chapter I

THE START

(i) Southwell


In the morning of Tuesday August 2nd 1932, if you had happened to be in Southwell, you would have seen a dark brown and rather ancient Standard car waiting patiently outside the Grammar School. My father¹ and sister Kathleen bade me a fond farewell on the steps of the headmaster’s house, and then the Standard, rejoicing to be off, tootled down the road.

At about half-past six, had you still been waiting for your bus, you would have been surprised to see quite a crowd assembling outside the school. Luggage was being sent to the station in an ancient Morris belonging to Mr. Blair, an elderly master more familiarly known as Whiskers. Three other cars at intervals deposited luggage and boys. Then rapidly the crowd disappeared in the direction of the station.

Here, had you been inquisitive and followed us, you would have found a still larger crowd: parents and friends going to see their loved ones depart. Triangular labels were being stamped onto suitcases bearing the mystic words “B.C.B.B. The world belongs to him who has seen it.” That, you would have said, explains everything.

A train meanwhile has come into the station, driven from behind. Boys wearing school caps climb in. A stout, but tall figure accompanied by a lean and lanky fellow board next, along with two boys pretending to be grown up wearing trilby hats; then a smaller, but dignified figure with his charming lady. The whistle goes, hands are waved, and you are left standing among two or three anxious mothers, watching the Southwell “Paddy”² steam off into the distance.


The School (complete with tootling car!)

  1. Rev Canon J.Rushby-Smith, Vicar of Rampton and Canon of Southwell.
2. “Paddy” was the affectionate name given to the push-and-pull train
which once shuttled between Southwell and the main Nottingham-Lincoln
line at Rolleston Junction. Dr Beeching axed it in the ’sixties.


(ii) Lincoln & Grimsby

Picking up stragglers on our way, we arrived at Lincoln in due course. The party was now complete. Ten boys were there from the school: Cox and Humberstone from the sixth form, bent on enjoying themselves; Mason, Norfolk (who had recently broken a leg and carried a spare one with him in the form of a stick) and Hipwell; Thraves (the James of last year) and Payne (not one of the brightest); Smee (of whom we have heard) and of course “brother” Beech (one of the quaintest) and the austere George Wilson. Gerald and Rob attached themselves to Doy and me, while Mr. and Mrs. Matthews were the most important members of the six-strong staff party.

What a dilapidated old station the L.N.E.R. (one time G.E.R.) seems. Not even the Guinness, coffee and tea were sufficient to dispel this impression. Then the train came, into every carriage of which an ancient porter carrying a lighted taper penetrated in order to light the gas. Next the window refused to open and the dour guard talked about “damages” when bits of the blind came off in my hand. However we left by about nine o’clock, and stopped at every station until we reached Grimsby. On the way Gerald, after a sandwich supper, went off into a deep slumber; Doy was at his best, defending Lincolnshire and the G.E.R., and the rest of us snoozed or talked as we felt inclined.

Eventually we arrived at Grimsby, where a very definite problem awaited us. What were we going to do for the night? Others of the thousand-odd making up the cruise were going to lmmingham by special train, but we had the choice going on there by tram-cum-railway or staying the night in Grimsby. While the others were talking, I phoned through to the docks and learned that the S.S.Neuralia was late, and, in fact, was not yet in. So off we wandered into Grimsby, Gerald’s birthplace. Fortunately we discovered the Abbey Hotel - a private hotel with an annexe - and though it was after 11 p.m. the proprietor and his daughter were quite willing to do their best. Four of us had proper accommodation; the boys, almost as well off, slept two to a bed. Doy and I sat up a little in the lounge and drank ginger pop. Then we followed the example of the others and turned in.

Next morning we ate a good breakfast, each one of us inwardly afraid that it might be our last square meal for a day or two, in spite of the calm morning. We were slightly delayed in our departure as “brother” had left his camera behind and took some time finding it, but we arrived at the so-called railway just in time to catch the tram.

It was nearing eight a.m. when through the trees and fields we first sighted H.M.T. Neuralia (S.S. to us¹). As we drew nearer, we were favourably impressed. She looked steady, with her 9,000 tons and the blue line along her hull, and most seaworthy. Altogether a charming picture.

1. J.W.Thraves -one of the party -has kindly furnished some information about the ship. She was built in 1912 in Glasgow as a passenger liner for the British India Line. At the outbreak of World War I she was quickly converted for service as a troopship, as the prefix H.M.T. suggests. She undertook passenger duties and educational cruises between the wars but returned to troopship duties in World War II. She survived several U-boat attacks, but was finally sunk by an Italian mine on May 1st, 1945 with the loss of 4 lives.

It was not long before we passed up the gangway and found our way to our respective quarters. Lascars, speaking little English but most charming, showed us to our cabins. Doy, Mr. M. and I were in No 67 in the second class accommodation and very nice it was, next to the bathroom etc. The cabin was attractive, with three bunks, electric fans, wash basin and other requisites. I took the top bunk, Doy preferred the lower one as it was easier for him to get out, and Mr. M. had the one under the porthole.

Mrs. M. was somewhat disappointed with her cabin. The porthole was at the end of a short passage and there were four bunks. The question was what was the other occupants like? They turned out to be two unattached girls from Lancashire who were expecting to be ill, and one charming lady with whom she was soon to make friends. Rob and Gerald were given bunks in the R.A.M.C. quarters on the afterdeck. Then we all congregated on deck to watch the casting-off and the tugs nosing the boat away from the quay. It was a beautiful morning: high, silvery clouds, smooth water and gulls gliding lazily in the still air. Gradually from the hatches the boys made their appearance and joined us in watching the scene.

Joining a procession of fishing trawlers, we made our way down the Humber. It certainly was very delightful to sit, five of us, lounging in chairs on the boat-deck and watching the low shores of England disappearing into the distance.

Chapter II

THE NORTH SEA

The first morning had many things to interest us. Crowds of boys lay on the decks below sleeping, many of them having had little rest the night before. A few of them, we heard, had been sick. This must have been the motion of the ship only, as the sea could not have been calmer.

Then we discovered that there were crowds of unattached women on board. Quite why they were there we only found out later. It seemed that had we desired we too could have made up a large party ourselves and so helped to fill unoccupied berths.

Most of the crew were Indian Lascars, the officers only being white men. The head of the Lascars was an impressive individual wearing a fez of fur and a silver chain round his neck. He was speedily named The Grand Panjandrum. The more inquisitive amongst us had discovered the Captain. He looked hard-bitten - a dapper little man with many ribbons on his breast, a D.S.O. and whatnot.

Suddenly, in the middle of the morning, the alarm bells rang. A practice, of course. We duly appeared at our station and were inspected by one of the ship’s officers and a certain Mr. White - a Scotsman - who had been in charge of a previous trip. I was singled out to be one of twelve for special duty, still unknown because we were eventually told we would not be wanted. The excitement over, we retired to our chairs and read various books or lazed until lunchtime.

Down below a lunch consisting of pork chops among other things did not appeal to the boys, some of whom were suffering from sickness and all finding the heat rather trying. To us lunch did appeal. The second-class dining saloon differed little from the first; the food was exceptionally good, and throughout the whole trip we tackled these six- or seven-course meals like traditional ploughmen.

The Indian waiters, wearing “life-belt” hats, were most efficient. “Atchar,” with right hand raised, was their one remark. Their efficiency and rapid service were as much due to their desire to finish their work as anything else. One of them, “Noosleep” we called him, told us they got two hours off after breakfast and one after dinner in twenty-four. It was not surprising that towards the end of the voyage these Indians moved as in a dream.

We had an amusing dispute with three of the unattached women over places at table. Mr. M. had been the first to write our six names on the place sheet, but at dinner we found three of these places occupied. These delightful ladies refused to move, so Doy took the matter up. All concerned lost their tempers except the fat and complacent “Tweedle-Dee”, the chief-steward. Eventually a truce was declared when our party was given places at a spare table. Peace was signed when Doy at tea, which was a movable feast, sat next to the youngest of the unattached and passed the butter to her. Our fat friend, whose acquaintance Doy and I had previously made, had handled the situation, as they say, with amazing tact, but from then on we tended to refer to the women as the “untouchables”.

Later on during the cruise a special ritual was developed at meal times. Both Gerald, sometimes myself and occasionally the rest of the party used to rise from our seats to look out of the porthole in the hope of seeing something interesting. As a result “Up Jenkins!” became the word of command, and I, as the senior Jenk, obtained the nickname of Jenkins.

The rest of the day passed quietly as far as we were concerned. Mr. M. attended another meeting which Doy and I avoided. Then after supper a pleasant game of bridge in the second-class smoke-room and, after the M.s had gone to bed, one or two hands with the two second-class stewards, Tweedle-Dee, of whom we have already heard, and his partner Tweedle-Dum. These two men were delightful people. Though no relation to one another they were very much alike, especially in the matter of stoutness. Both of them were convinced that this cruise would be more peaceable than the last. On that occasion the majority of the boys were from Scotch schools and lacked any discipline whatsoever. The masters apparently had little control over them and the list of breakage and general discomfort owing to their hooliganism was enormous.

Tweedle-Dee then went on to tell us about his experiences during the war on a 900-ton troopship. This boat used to cross the Channel and when five hundred troops were on board conditions were far from pleasant. Even he had been seasick.

Bidding our friends goodnight, we prayed that the fine weather would last and, finding Mr. M. asleep and quietly snoring, we crept into our bunks.

Chapter III

THE KIEL CANAL

It is hardly necessary for me to say anything about the weather. With the exception of a shower of five minutes when we were leaving the Canal and one of twenty-five minutes in Stockholm, blue skies, bright sun, fresh air and occasional light clouds followed us the whole way.

Mr. M. arose about six-thirty the next morning and went down below to see to the clearing up of Mess No.7 where the boys slept, the storing of hammocks and so on. The boys had found them very comfortable. I had been down the night before and after pushing my way through the tropical forest had discovered the whereabouts of Cox and then the others.

Doy was the last to get up and I had visions of land passing by the porthole. As I was shaving buildings appeared and soon, after we passed a large sandbank, Cuxhaven came into view. I do not know what else passed as I was having a hot salt-water bath prepared by an Indian attendant. This man was most persistent: every quarter of an hour he used to push his head inside our cabin and tell Doy that his bath was ready.

This day there was plenty to interest us. The binoculars which my father kindly lent me proved very useful to our party, as Rob’s made one see double. Of course, whenever we passed a small boat or people on the shore all our boys waved and cheered, and every time they were answered in like manner.

At about eleven a.m. we turned off from the mouth of the Elbe and entered a lock at the beginning of the Kiel Canal. A small crowd had collected at the lock-side to watch us; vendors of postcards, cigars and cigarettes passed up goods by nets on poles. Several boys bought cigarettes, for presents we supposed, but when they looked at them they found they were Player’s Drumheads. A Fräulein und zwei Kinder attracted much attention.

By this time the water hand risen sufficiently and we steamed out into the canal. Many of us could not help comparing the peaceful entry and the passage of the canal with the conditions exactly eighteen years previously. The day on which we passed through was August 4th.¹ There is no doubt that the Kiel Canal, with its numerous bridges, deep channel and the sixty-two miles of its length, is a wonderful piece of engineering. The scenery differed very little from that of certain parts of England, with rich pasture, fine crops - some already cut - and sometimes low hills through which the canal cut its way.

There was no town of any importance until we reached the exit, but there were many pleasant villages, clean and neat in appearance, several ferries, and sometimes fine country houses.

Old women and children, men and maidens cheered lustily and waved as we went by, except one tiny boy who spat out curses and shook his little fist, probably because we upset his fishing. At one place near the end there were many people bathing, and four men, bronzed by the sun and almost naked, were very fine specimens. In the woods by the side of the canal there were picnic parties and one or two couples.

1. August 4th, 1914 was the outbreak of the First World War.


A bridge on the Kiel Canal

The most amazing thing was the way in which the masts just missed the bridges. To those on deck it seemed that they must come in contact, but the old lady appeared to dip in the water and so came up safe on the other side. It was in the Kiel Canal that I sent a marconigram to Lisa¹ at Västevik telling her of the day of our arrival. We reached the east end of the canal at about six p.m. Here there was quite a large town with several warehouses and so on. Again a crowd collected while other shipping, barges and the like were packed in the dock beside us. This time cigarettes were not so popular. A slight shower interfered with the buying and selling, but the vendors still worked and gesticulated hopefully.

Soon we were through the canal, and as all the children had to leave the boat-deck we went on the promenade-deck with Gerald and Rob. The scenery again was rather fine. In the distance to the south one could see Kiel bay and the town, as well as one or two grey warships. Along the coast were beautiful houses set among trees, low cliffs and little jetties.

An unusual phenomenon appeared: a rainbow making an almost complete circle and ending at the ship. At the point where the land began to recede there stood a large monument or broken tower set up as a war memorial and dominating the landscape. Then on the port bow a tug hove in sight dragging a target, and in the distance were the dark forms of several warships which must have been the complete German navy. This new interest lasted Some time, but our fear that we should be in the line of fire proved, of course, groundless. Nothing, however, could persuade Doy to leave his dinner in order to read the Morse signal from the flagship. “In any case,” he said, “I don’t know German.”

By this time Mrs. M. had discovered some people she knew who had come from Stroud, and had found that the husband of the lady who shared her cabin was from a school in Norfolk. These two were certainly very pleasant people. Doy had found one solitary youth who came from his old school, and was wearing the most startling blazer on the ship. He was also wearing his hat pressed in like a pork pie by Rob and Gerald, and his gabardine trousers.

1. It is not certain who Lisa was, but it is known the author had a Swedish girlfriend during his Oxford University days.

Gerald and Rob now had been moved into Cabin No 64, which was nearly opposite ours and if anything rather better. This they shared with a little man who took an hour shaving and was very apologetic and quiet. He came from Grantham.

After dinner we played rummy until Doy and I were the only people left. Though there was a dance on deck we did not join in; there was little attraction, the butter lady having turned her attention to one of the ship’s officers.

And so to bed after a little something to help sleep. Only Bass, iced.


Mr. Matthews, Dudley Doy, The Author,
Robert and Gerald aboard The Neuralialia


A lock on the Kiel Canal

Chapter IV

THE BALTIC

THE NEXT day was rather more quiet and restful. Many boys wore bathing costumes and sunbathed. On the boat-deck to which most of the unattached females retired there were several frights. It was like a lido except that there were few beautiful women. Chairs were scarce and were grabbed as soon as one left them. Some of the time was spent with the boys on the deck below playing spoof whist and so on, but the majority of the day was spent lounging.

I think it is time I spoke about the tour’s commandant Colonel Scott Chad, or Whiskers¹ as he was called generally. Up to this moment he had spent most of his time chasing boys off the promenade-deck and shouting through a megaphone “Get off that rail! Get off that boom! Get off that hatch!” Once he had seized a boy by the neck and hurled him off the deck while others came up at the other end. No doubt he had organised the trip very well, and it is only fair to say that his work was voluntary, but he made the mistake of not trusting the large staff at his disposal, arranging groups by “companies” instead of by schools and making irksome restrictions.

At a meeting on this occasion he was made to give way. As a result, certain “out of hounds” notices were removed and the promenade-deck became open to all boys. We shall hear more of the old colonel later. Towards evening Gotland appeared comparatively close to the east. The small island that juts out to the west was barren and rocky, and very fine in the light of the setting sun. On it there was a lighthouse - or as I called it, a “lichten-hausen” - and a wireless mast. As it grew dark the town of Visby appeared, dominated by a handsome Schloss or Burg. My descriptions caused much amusement to Gerald and Rob, quite why I do not know.

Later in the evening Doy and I made the acquaintance of a Mr. Body and his friend Mr. Smith from a school near Manchester - both very pleasant individuals who could tell many tales. Body had been a wireless operator on a cargo boat and to him the Neuralia was like a queen, so little motion was there.

So we were later in reaching our bunks that night, although we were expecting to get up early the next morning in order to see the approach to Stockholm.

1. Not Mr. Blair, the “Whiskers” referred to earlier. Note, too, the military term “commandant”.


INSTRUCTIONS
BOTH CRUISES


I. (a) Each member of the party is allowed one piece of luggage, not exceeding 22 lbs. for boys.
(b) For non-cabin passengers service kit-bags or rucksacks are recommended. Any non-cabin passenger bringing a suitcase must provide a leather strap capable of going round the case for the purpose of securing it on the rack.
(c) Equipment for boys should include the following: Shore dress - normal school attire. Suitable deck wear (e.g. grey shirt, pull-over, shorts); overcoat or mackintosh; change of underwear; sleeping-suit; toilet requisites; boot brushes; light literature. On board ship rubber-soled shoes should be worn - iron-shod shoes are a personal danger. All except cabin passengers must bring soap and towels.
For adults evening dress is not required.
(d) Each member of the party is responsible for the care of his or her luggage. Luggage must bear one addressed label outside and one inside, in addition to the special label which has been issued for the purpose of indicating the owner's quarters on board.

2, (a) Articles of value (e.g. valuable fountain-pens or valuable watches) should not be carried on the tour.
(b) £1.1s is suggested as a sufficient amount of pocket-money for boys.

3. Each member of the party has received an identity card. This card takes the place of a passport, and must be carried on the person and shown on demand at each port. (Any member possessing a passport is advised to carry this in addition to the identity card.)

4. Customs. Each passenger may bring into this country (as a favour, not as a right) half a pint of perfume, and a small quantity of tobacco, cigars, or cigarettes not exceeding half a pound. Almost every article is now subject to Customs Duty.

5. Discipline - (a) The conditions of the tour render it imperative that all regulations must be strictly observed by every member of the party.
(b) on board, Daily Orders will be issued from the Orderly Room. Each member must make himself or herself acquainted with these orders.
(c) The Forecastle Head, Crew's Quarters, and Engine-room are definitely out of bounds.
(d) Boys are not allowed on the boat deck or on the starboard side of the promenade deck. All other space on the decks is made available for boys.
(e) The first- and second-class dining saloons and smoke-rooms are reserved for adults.
(f) After meals boys will be excluded from the troop decks for such time as may be necessary for clearing up.
(g) Captain's Inspection:- The Captain will inspect the troop decks daily. During this period all boys will parade at their emergency stations with the exception of mess orderlies, who will stand to their tables.
(h) Boys are not allowed to smoke. For adults smoking below decks is strictly prohibited. On deck, lighted cigarettes must not be flung overboard, as there is danger that they may be blown through the portholes. Cigarette ends must be placed in the scuppers and stamped out.
(I) The utmost care must be taken of ship's property. In particular, there must not be any marking of walls or mess-tables.

6. Every boy must satisfy himself that he clearly understands the foregoing instructions, that he has received the necessary communications from headquarters, and that he knows when and where his party assembles and how he is to proceed to the place of assembly. Inquiries should be addressed to the headmasters.

WATCHES ON BOARD SHIP

The day is divided into watches as follows:-
12 midnight till 4 a.m. . . Second Watch.
4 a.m. till 8 a.m. . . Morning Watch.
8 a.m. till 12 noon . . Forenoon Watch.
12 noon till 4 p.m. . . Afternoon Watch.
4 p.m. till 6 p.m. . . Dog Watch.
6 p.m. till 8 p.m. . . Dog Watch.
8 p.m. till 12 midnight . . First Watch.

A bell is struck on shipboard every half-hour as many times as there are half-hours of the watch elapsed.
Thus 8 Bells are struck at noon, 4 p.m., 8 p.m., midnight, 4 a.m., 8 a.m.
At each hour in between the above hours 2 Bells, 4 Bells, and 6 Bells are struck.

Irksome regulations

Chapter V

STOCKHOLM

It must have been about four o’clock when I awoke. Soon after, through the porthole, the soft beams of the rising sun picked out warm and rosy patches on the fresh white paint of the cabin wall. Quietly I clambered down the narrow ladder and stepping gently on to the edge of Mr. M.’s bunk popped my head out of the porthole.

From the sea misty blobs arose rather like the peaks of drowned mountains. My interest was aroused. Quietly I washed and dressed. By this time snorts and grunts came from the other two bunks. Sleepy eyes, half-conscious eyes, glared at me from between the sheets. I remarked that it was a lovely morning and Left them to go on deck.

Already there were many people up, and while I was standing on the boat-deck watching the pilot climb aboard Mrs. M. joined me. On my way I had slipped into Cabin 64 and aroused Gerald whose remark “I do not want to see any islands” was remarkably perceptive, since I had said nothing.

The view from the deck was grand. Gradually the number and size of the islands increased. One could smell the scent of the pine woods as we passed within a few yards of them and we had to admire the skilful way in which the boat was piloted past these rocky promontories.

As we progressed and the air became warmer, the numbers on deck increased. Soon the rest of our party joined us and some of the boys popped up from the hatches. Mr. M., still rather sleepy, murmured something about the scenery being rather like Scotland and Doy smoked a pipe on a very empty stomach. But we were not the only people up. As we passed islands hiding charming little houses, boat houses and one or two large villas, we saw many Swedes. Some were fishing, others bathing, and one and all waved as we passed.

The boat turned and twisted along the channel, sometimes narrow, sometimes wide. Once we turned almost back on our tracks. As the boat turned so we followed the sun, taking up new positions. Next we passed a fortress cleverly concealed among low but steep-sided hills. Then nearing Stockholm the number of houses increased. Sometimes warehouses not in the least ugly came into view and then a small port and the Drottningholm Palace situated among beautiful gardens. At last the towers and spires of Stockholm appeared, glorious in the morning sun.

Then the bell for the second breakfast rang and as by this time we were all feeling famished and a little tired of watching scenery we chased one another down to the saloon.

The business of landing took some little time as the quayside was low and the gangways were raised with difficulty. Also the shore officials, customs and so on, had to examine the ship before we disembarked. At last the bugle blew and we joined our boys at their stations. Whiskers was in a bad mood. He shouted and waved his arms wildly.


Stockholm: Drottningholm Palace

By the time we landed we had already gained a fair impression of the appearance of Stockholm. Lisa was not among the crowd on the quayside, so that meant I would have to find the G.P.O. Our party was supposed to join a “company” as arranged by the Whiskers, but this was only for the purpose of seeing the Town Hall. Very disconnected, we followed someone who led us across the very extensive bridge which joins the two main islands of Stockholm, and then through the narrow streets of the Old Town. Here this so-called guide had to ask the way. However, it was not hard to find and soon we passed by the King’s Palace and other fine buildings, hotels and restaurants, until we came to the Stadhuset.

Some of the boys were beginning to suffer from party-fever and Gerald tried to persuade me to Leave the party and go with him to the Post Office. By the time we reached the Town Hall, an exceptionally fine building, brother Beech, Thomas and Payne had disappeared. At the entrance to the quadrangle some delay was caused by Doy, Cox and Humberstone trying to buy postcards and get change.

The place teemed with British boys, and after finding the rest of the party we passed through the Hall and, led by Mrs. Matthews, found ourselves in the quadrangle within very few minutes. By this time the party-fever was at its height, Mrs. M. vainly trying to persuade the boys to enter the building. They on the other hand were tired and thirsty, so naturally hung back. Eventually Doy and I left them to it, Rob and Gerald looking particularly glum. However, we heard afterwards that they enjoyed themselves, having refreshment in a beautiful restaurant at the top of the biggest store in Sweden and then visiting Gustavus Adolphus etc. in the City Museum.

Doy and I found a station and were redirected to the G.P.O. Here again we found many British boys, and I got what I was expecting: a letter from L. explaining that she had received my wire, but as they were seven hours’ journey away and had just returned from a two-month tour she was sorry that she could not be there to welcome us.

Iced Pilsener in a small but select café restored our spirits. We were very much amused by the antics of one of the customers who, feeling friendly, poured the dregs of a coffeepot onto the head of a friend who had not seen him. This, far from causing annoyance, pleased both of them and ended in a hearty roar of mirth. Then began our walk along fine Streets lined with modern buildings, past the twin skyscrapers of the Kungstornen, and down towards the water again.

At an excellent café near the Opera House we decided to have lunch .The charming waitress who served us spoke no English or French or German, but by examining the menu we perceived that we could have a lunch for 1.50 Kronor a head. However, “lunch” in Swedish seems to mean a kind of hors d’oeuvres, and when the waitress brought a long plate with a variety of small dishes on it and some cheese we decided that the best thing to do was to eat as much as we wanted and be on the safe side. This we did and then found that we could choose some other item as well. “Omelette” could only mean one thing, so Doy pointed to the word. I was more venturesome and pointed to something else which turned out to be fish. Eventually coffee ended a very pleasant, and what seemed to be exceedingly cheap, meal.

After lunch it rained heavily for about half an hour, but then cleared up completely, so we went on walking, Doy refusing to take a tram to the Museum. We passed more fine buildings and beautiful shops, wandered through lovely gardens and then into the Library. Here there were many beautiful old books, but as the descriptions were in Swedish and the Latin was hard to decipher, we did not leave very much the wiser. We called in one little shop on the way to buy postcards. The lady could speak some English but better German and French.

“Parlez-vous français?” she asked Doy.

“Yes!” he replied.

So I tried German. Very simple German, but with more success. I left that shop four crowns lighter as I had bought six cigars which were about eight inches long.

Tea we had at the top of the view-tower, which had a lift for old ladies and the infirm. The waitress, dressed in Swedish costume, did not bother about listening to our order. She just brought us tea.

By five o’clock we had drifted back to the boat and had a wash and brush-up. Thraves and party also turned up, so Mr. M. was not particularly worried. It was not until eight p.m. that we left, however, as two boys were reported missing. Whiskers went ashore to visit the British Consul. It was no good informing the police, the Swedish secretary told the Captain, as they had a holiday on Saturday. While we were having dinner Whiskers returned and one of the masters who was responsible was left behind. Of course there were many rumours flying around the ship: how they had planned to run away; how they had been kidnapped; how they had been knocked down. Strangely enough not one of them happened to be correct.

During this time quite a crowd had formed on the quay. Some Swedish Scouts had acted as guides and seemed to have made good friends of some of the boys. Some boys threw cigarettes to them out of the portholes and others flung pennies.


Stockholm: Kungstornen


Stockholm Strömsborg

At eight, amidst cheers from the deck and the shore, the Neuralia steamed away from Stockholm. She was in a hurry to make up for lost time, as no pilot liked to take a boat through the fjord after dark; there were too many unlighted rocks.

It was a glorious evening. After the sun had set it left behind clouds of luminous red, and occasionally the rays of the aurora, stretching upward, were quite distinct. The water reflected the beauty of the sky and when disturbed by the wash of the boat flashed back every variety of colour. The low hills and misty shadows lit by the lights of a villa or passing pleasure-boat acted as a contrast while, fast disappearing, the towns and spires of Stockholm stood up before the soft brilliance of the sky.

So lovely was the scene that we stayed for a long time on deck or walked to the stern of the ship to watch from there. It was, as Mr. M. remarked, more glorious than the morning and more pleasing as it was the end of the day. For me the perfect morning and the perfect evening, and the contrast between the two, though the scenery was the same, have left a lasting impression, a vivid memory.

I stayed up later than the others, as I was interested in watching the boat get clear of the islands. On the bridge there was dead silence except for an occasional word of command. In the bows stood an officer, in the crow’s nest was a sailor. Ahead shone six points of light marking low islands, and at intervals the more brilliant flashes of lighthouses. Suddenly the engines stopped, a brilliant light shone from the ship and the pilot, with a quiet “goodnight”, swung his weight over the rail and disappeared. The chug-chug of the little pilot boat faded away, and once more the ship started full speed ahead.

Then I went to bed.

The next day, Sunday, was a day of rest. It was a gloriously fine morning, but in the afternoon a light haze spread over the sky.

During the morning a service was held for the boys, conducted from the end of the promenade-deck overlooking the after-deck where crowds of boys were sitting. The Mayor of Canterbury, a clergyman, took the service and there was an orchestra of two violins and a piano. I listened from the boat-deck above.

No sooner had the service finished with the National Anthem than Whiskers addressed his troops. He told them that they represented the British Nation and had littered the streets of Stockholm. This address was like a wet blanket, coming after the uplifting address by the Mayor, but then he was Whiskers. Later in the morning a service was also held in the first-class saloon for adults and untouchables, conducted by the Captain.

The afternoon passed quietly for me as I wrote letters lounging on the boat-deck. Others slept. In the evening a concert was held. It was certainly amusing. Doy excused himself but the rest of our party smoked cigars or chewed while a fat and greasy teacher wearing gym-shoes played a violin solo. This was followed by community songs conducted by the model of all schoolmasters, an elderly man with bushy eyebrows and a cane in his hand. Two untouchables performed. One sang well and the other played a violin with her whole body. The star performance was given by a boy who played a mouth-organ with wondrous skill.

After supper that night the boys of one school put on three one-act plays in the first-class saloon. Although the six of us sat through the first play neither the actors nor the production were much good, so the two boys, Doy and I went on deck and amused ourselves in other ways. Later on we wandered along to the smoke room to meet our Manchester colleagues, Mr. Body and Mr. Smith, both good storytellers. And so to bed, Mr. M. snoring again.


B.J.R.S. (the author) and Dudley Doy


Whiskers” (Col. Scott Chadd) with the Captain




Chapter VI

COPENHAGEN

No one in our cabin got up early to see the approach to København. As usual Mr. M. was up first and then Doy, while I, reclining in my bunk, could see warehouses, cranes and ships slowly passing by. Breakfast was earlier than usual at 7.15. By the time we had finished we had docked and two super gangways, one with an awning, had been put up. Not far away we could see the Empress of Australia, full streamers out prior to setting sail.

The same landing formalities had to be gone through, of course, but this time better arrangements had been made, and orders had been issued about landing and the day’s programme. So after the bugle went and we had joined our boys it was not long before we had arrived on shore and arranged ourselves in companies in columns of fours along the quayside.

From the gangway a Herr Nielsen, the secretary of the organizing committee on shore, welcomed us to Denmark. He spoke briefly and clearly and to the point, and was heartily cheered. Then Whiskers, Heaven knows why, had to mumble through his megaphone something about “England expects...” The feeble cheer that followed his oration was almost entirely a boo. The whole 1,300-odd then marched off to the fleet of charabancs which were going to take us round the town.

It took some little time before everyone had boarded. However, the sixteen of us all got into one chara and, with the exception of a few other small boys, had it all to ourselves. Each chara was provided with a Danish guide who could speak English, most of them university students, and the wait of half-an-hour before departure was not tedious for us.

From an upper window in a warehouse labelled “His Master’s Voice” three fair-haired and charming Danish girls looked out and it was not long before they brought a gramophone and played records to us. Then they threw sweet peas to us, but alas they fell onto a roof below, whereat we wept. Suddenly we began to move, and waving a cheery goodbye, we left the wharf.


Grundtvigskirken “The church that looked like an organ”

In a long queue which would have disrupted the traffic in any city we started off round the gardens that fringe the edge of the harbour. We passed a beautiful statue and fountain where we stopped for a minute or two. Then on we went through broad and tree-lined streets, past the Kings Palace, government houses and so on, and an old hexagonal tower where the streets narrowed; past lovely shops into the Town Hall Square and then out into the suburbs. Every other person in Denmark has a bike and where the streets are wider there is a special road for cyclists, and my word they need it.

Whether the suburbs were their show ones I do not know, but they were beautiful. No dingy houses had we seen anywhere and if the dwellings were not flats then they were detached houses, small but all standing in their own gardens bright with flowers. And so on we went to the hills above the town near the Grundtvigskirken, that queer modern church which looks like an organ. Here once again we stopped and viewed the whole city.

It was not long before we were passing through fields where they were cutting corn, but one must say it seemed very poor quality. By this time it was beginning to be very hot, for there was not a cloud in the sky, and as we passed through a large park to the north of the city we raised clouds of dust. The countryside and the park were very English in appearance except for the little cafés and the railway station. Leaving the park we dropped down to the seafront again and passed along the Danish Riviera.

Copenhagen is called the Paris of the North, and those who have been to both see many points of similarity in the boulevards, statues, gardens and buildings; but if you live in Paris it is a long way to the Riviera. Not so in Copenhagen. You can get there by tram. It is a beautiful coast: large villas on one side of the road with lovely gardens, and on the other side summer houses and private beaches. At one place there is a huge café called Belle Vue, decked with flags and surrounded by brightly-coloured umbrellas. In front is a stretch of imported sand, for the coast is rocky and there is little tide, and Mr. Dane and Mrs. Dane and the little Danes were sunbathing or swimming. Throughout the whole ride everybody, young and old, smiled and waved and cheered as we went past and seemed tremendously pleased to see us.

At last we were back on board the ship and were able to refresh ourselves, wash and have lunch. It was during this interval that Mr. M. was told by one of our officials to interview the press. He did so, with the result that an article appeared in the evening paper, including a photo. Naturally Southwell received special mention as one of the oldest schools in England, and Mr. M. was mentioned while no word was said about Whiskers.

At two p.m. once again we formed up in fours and, with police at the head and tail, began a march to the Town Hall. Everyone except Doy had said that it was not far, but Doy was proved to be right. On the way we raised our hats at and gained smiles from many pretty Danish girls. Mr. M. led our detachment and Mrs. M. walked alongside carrying her sunshade. Still we walked on, holding up the traffic all along the route for minutes at a time while we all went past. We halted for a rest in the square of the Palace and eventually reached the Town Hall by 3 p.m.

An address of welcome was given by the Mayor, who spoke excellent English, and then Whiskers for once rose to the occasion and replied decently. We then gave three rousing cheers and melted upstairs to look over the building before the free tea. Doy and I were first into the room for adults and had already done quite well by the time the others assembled. As we had a seat in the corner of a small verandah we cooled down, but we did not miss the cigars which were handed round by a very official and extremely polite commissionaire.

Afterwards we crept out and had an iced Pilsener at a table in a street café and l bought a paper. Luckily it proved to be the right one, for on the front page was the photo of Matthews and party, the article taking precedence over the doings of Greta Garbo.

At four p.m. we all left the Town Hall and wandered a few yards down the road to the Tivoli or Pleasure Gardens. The gardens were certainly lovely but the amusements could not compare with Wembley. Here we turned the boys loose and the six of us went to amuse ourselves. The Mirror Hall and the Scenic Railway were fun, though not exactly novelties, but we enjoyed ourselves best on the Whirling Wheel and the Electric Cars. After this our supply of Danish money ran out so Doy and I left the gardens to go to the café where we knew they would give us change. We then took a walk round the town - or a small part of it - and another refresher in a queer little house before going back to the gardens.

By 7.15 the troops were ready to go back to the boat, Gerald and Rob well satiated by the delights of the Tivoli, while Mr. and Mrs. M. had already gone back by tram. On the march back we were near the front where a Scoutmaster wearing a kilt walked between two Danish policemen playing his drum. The route this time was different and crowds of people rode bikes or marched alongside. Some of us were at a low ebb by now (an expression which we often had occasion to use) but the march was full of excitement. At least three people fell off their bikes, but no one minded about that. At last we reached the quayside where a huge crowd had assembled.

A change, a wash and then dinner soon refreshed our party and then we were up on deck watching the crowds of people on the quay. As we moved off they cheered lustily and then, as it was growing dark, waved torches. It was really rather dark as we steamed out of the harbour, but even on quays farther away from the town crowds had collected and cheered us. What a reception and what a send-off! It really was overwhelming and will remain in the memory for a long time.

Gradually the harbour lights disappeared and we turned north, sailing towards the lights which all but enclose the sound at Helsingor, where Denmark and Sweden almost touch. I believe it is a lovely passage by daylight, but there was not much to see at night so we turned in.


Copenhagen: The Tivoli


Copenhagen Newspaper cutting
4th-6th from left in back row are Gerald, Rob and Mr Matthews
(Note the disturbing lookalike 3rd from left – Ed)


S.S.Chisholm in Gothenburg Harbour

Chapter VII

GOTHENBURG

When I awoke next morning we were in Göteborg. Breakfast was unnecessarily early as Whiskers had omitted to change the orders, but we were able to go on deck and watch the approach to Sweden’s port without waiting for “up Jenkins” orders during the meal. Again the way passed by rocky, pine-clad islands and hills rising from the water, but it was not long before we reached the harbour. Shipbuilding was going on and there were many whalers in dry dock. There were two large liners - the Chisholm was one of them - making up, in fact, two-thirds of the floating of the Swedish line of luxury ships. Finally we were gently pushed into the quayside and landed in quite good time.

The arrangements here were really rather sound. Everyone was given a free travel pass for the whole day which would take you anywhere, and tickets for the Trädgårdsföreningen and the Liseberg, where there were pleasure gardens and a very up-to-date restaurant, were issued. We were all expected to meet at the latter place for tea.

Our boys were allowed to go where they wished and the six of us, armed with towels and bathing costumes, boarded an open tramcar to go to the wonderful bathing place described by one of the masters at breakfast. We passed several fine buildings, open-air cafés and along tree-lined boulevards. At the terminus we changed cars, and on another tram gradually left the town.

Soon the tramcar left the road and became a railway, stopping at little stations. Lovely little houses in lovely little gardens stood on the hillsides, and after a run of seven miles we passed by the side of a lagoon and reached the terminal. We were right in the middle of the loveliest of rocky islands. For ten øre each we passed into a kind of park and then reached the bathing place. Here Doy went off to explore the park, Mrs. M. went into the ladies’ entrance, and we went in through the men’s. We found to our relief that bathing was not mixed.

It was a wonderful place, sheltered, but open to the sea. On the left as one went in were cubicles; to the right, pegs; in front, grass; then imported sand and a low, rocky mound beyond. Farther to the right was a swimming bath with a large stand for aquatic sports. There were several fine specimens of Swedish manhood. Bathing costumes were optional, and were in a minority, in fact, rather like at Parson’s Pleasure¹. As we had them, Gerald, Rob and I wore ours, but Mr. M. braved the elements.

We had a jolly time. The water was quite warm and the sun delightful. One could easily have spent the whole day there, but we had to have lunch and so, after climbing the rocky mound and gaining a glorious view of the harbour, we caught the tram and went back to Gothenburg. We eventually reached the terminus and then Doy took us on a personally conducted tour through the Trädgårdsföreningen. It was a lovely garden and we passed a typical café there, but this was only supposed to be a short cut to lunch and we eventually found ourselves about three hundred yards from where we went in, where, after loud cheers had been given, we arrived at another café.


Gothenburg: Trädgårdsföreningen

This was a delightful place, with the usual tables beside the road, but screened from it by trellised ivy. Unfortunately the typical Swedish waitress could not speak English or French. Each of us in turn tried our best, but it was no good, so we indicated that she should take care of things and give us what she thought we would like for Kr.1.50. The first course, with various kinds of bread, cheese and fish à la whatever, washed down with Lager or Pilsener, was a meal in itself, but we tried again. Doy, as he considered this to be still part of his personally conducted tour, ordered chops, but much to his surprise the waitress brought halibut steaks, and an extra-big one for the big man. The rest of us enjoyed them very much, but Doy gibbed badly. Actually we could have had assistance if we had desired it, as one of the guides and a small party of B.B.s were in the café, but it would have spoiled the fun.

After lunch we went shopping and Mrs. M. went into a shop to buy a bathing cap and Rob, Gerald and I took Doy into a hat shop to try and persuade him to buy a decent hat. I suggested a yachting cap to go with his gabardines; Rob thought a boater would be just the thing; Gerald favoured a super homburg costing thirty kronor. Anyhow, Doy’s head is like an exceptionally large cannon-ball, so he had to try on numbers of hats. At last he found one that fitted. It was a faint blue colour and the amused shop-assistant indicated that it was the ideal thing, so Doy bought it as it was cheap and had no lining.

We wandered down a street where there were shops and discovered Mr. and Mrs. M. also wandering. Then we found an arcade, and in it just the right kind of shop: an arty-crafty place with lovely china, old brass and poker-worked articles. A beautiful velvet dachshund would have made a lovely present but alas the total amount of Swedish money of the six of us would not have bought it. However, we all made several purchases, Doy wandering behind the counter and nearly sitting down on some precious china. Buying was easy as the lady who served us spoke excellent English. Mr. and Mrs. M. left us here and we arranged to meet at the Liseberg for tea.

In another street we found a stationer’s, and here we bought our cards and stamps etc. I had still not found what I wanted, so I suggested that we should go farther on. However, the farther we went the fewer the shops became, and the others began to ebb.

Finally when we reached a policeman the others called Latvian sentry, I thought it time to find the Liseberg, so I asked him the way. He said “Ja” to my query and the equivalent of “come along with me.” Gerald and I walked with him and the other two followed a little distance behind. This caused quite a stir and some people, by their looks, seemed to think we had been arrested. He was a formidable policeman and had a sword, and it was quite a time before I could persuade him that we did not want to go to the Liseberg then and there and certainly if it was far the others would not want to walk there. So he stopped when he had brought us to the place where Doy had bought his hat, waved his arms in various directions and talked a great deal. We did not understand a word, but I raised my hat and thanked him, and fortunately he left us.

We started to follow his first direction, but already it did not seem very promising, so Gerald boldly walked up to a kindly, bespectacled gentleman and asked him the way. Oh yes, he knew English, and if we wanted the Liseberg all we had to do was to jump on car number so-and-so and it would drop us there. This was splendid. We all raised our hats and thanked him most profusely, and very soon we were on the car.

1. A men-only bathing place on the River Cherwell at Oxford.


Gothenburg: The Liseberg by night

The Liseberg was some distance away, but the gardens and cafés were very beautiful, though the latter were only made of wood. Of course the gardens swarmed with British boys, though the four of ours were not there. We considered it rather foolish of them to keep us waiting for tea till the thousand-odd had turned up, as they would all have to go back by tram. Fortunately they turned up and when there was a sufficient crowd we were given our tea in a large hall decorated with modern wall-paintings. It was a Swedish tea, rather light and rather plain and not too substantial. We finished quickly and escaped from the Liseberg before the crowd. We passed some trees on the branches of which workmen were hanging lanterns in preparation for some gala, and out into the street, where some of us purchased walking-sticks for 25 and 50 øre to get rid of our small change.

We left the tram near the hat shop as there was plenty of time, and Gerald came with me while Doy and Rob (who only got off because we did) caught another tram back to the ship. This time, in a music shop, I discovered several small poker-worked articles, made locally and just the thing for small presents. It was not difficult to pay for these as one could trust the Swedes, and at any rate the price was written on the goods. We then walked round the square and wandered into the main railway station.

What a lovely place it was, with a beautiful entrance hall, very up-to-date, and two charming cafés with seats in front by some shrubs in boxes. This seemed a good spot to have a refresher, so with my last remaining Swedish money I bought one Pilsener and Gerald and I shared it. Of course it was iced and very refreshing. On the station itself were hanging baskets of flowers, and everything was exceptionally clean.

Then we left the station and caught a tramcar back to the quay, where we walked across the swing bridge at the entrance to the Gota canal, and after ascending the steep gangway we were soon washed and brushed up. Oh, I forgot to mention how steep that gangway was - far easier to climb up than to come down. Doy gently letting his weight down had been a sight worth seeing, as had been Humberstone’s magnificent slide which earned him loud applause from the quay; then there were the two young things from Mrs. M’s cabin, one of whom had collapsed into the arms of a shore official when she reached the bottom.

Nobody decided to stay behind at Gothenburg. Perhaps the news that the two boys who had remained in Stockholm had been sent home on a cargo ship was sufficient deterrent to further exploits of that kind. We remained on deck until dinnertime. On the way out of the port we noticed the bathing place where we had spent such a lovely morning.

We waved our goodbye to Sweden and went to bed early to prepare for Oslo.


The pass for the City of Gothenburg

Chapter VIII

OSLO

The Capital of Norway is at the head of a fjord. This is in its turn at the head of a gulf, so the approach is through scenery which gradually narrows until one reaches the fjord itself. The pine-clad hills are higher than those of Stockholm or Gothenburg and the channel is wider. The glimpses which I obtained from my porthole were very lovely in the morning sun.

By breakfast time we had reached Oslo. The bays, the branches of the fjord, and the harbour proper below pine-covered hills dotted with houses half hidden by trees, were most picturesque. The view of the city, the greater part of which lay hidden behind spurs of the hills, was as wonderful as any we had seen.

We were some time landing as we were expected to go in companies again, and one or two of us began to show symptoms of party-fever. Unfortunately the school behind our group was the crowd from Coventry, one member of which had been placed in the cells for stealing bananas. When we eventually left the ship and were standing on the quayside waiting for our company to move off, the Captain came down the gangway to talk to the Norwegian Secretary. He was promptly bombarded by boys with cameras, so he told them to get ready and posed for them “to get it over”, as he said.

Our progress was rather slow as we had to wait for the ferries to take us across to a residential quarter where the Folk Museum was situated, our company in the charge of a Norwegian guide with a Bennett band on his arm¹. He was already looking very agitated and was perspiring freely, for it was very hot.

The small ferryboat took us across the water, and on the other side we had to wait for the rest. Then we climbed the hill, past lovely villas mostly made of wood, surrounded by still lovelier gardens, and at last entered a park. This, we were told by Bennett-Band, was the museum. It was an extensive park and there were so many things to see we would not have time to see all the exhibits, but he was going to show us the most interesting ones. There were old farmhouses and so on, which had come from every part of Norway and had been erected there towards the close of the last century.

The first exhibit we reached was an old wooden church dating from the 12th century, quaintly, perhaps crudely carved inside, while on the wall of the apse were the remains of frescoes. Opposite the church was the farmhouse used for festal occasions, family gatherings and so on, with a towel behind the door used by guests for ceremonial washing. There was a main room, but as it was crowded with our party it was rather difficult to see.

1. Bennett’s Travel Bureau of Oslo.


Oslo: Church at the Folk Museum


Oslo: Farmhouse interior at the Folk Museum

We continued our walk, some of us suffering from crowd fever and ebbing fast. The next objects of interest were the huts which are normally built on the higher slopes of the mountains for use by herdsmen during the summer months -the methods of grazing cattle being much like those in Switzerland. Then we went on into another farmhouse consisting of one large room with beds of straw round the sides, some wooden dishes and so on. There was only one entrance to this log cabin, and this not a large one, so it took us some time to percolate through the opening.

Leaving the museum, we walked a little further along the road to the modern hall which houses the relics of the ancient Vikings. The hall itself is T-shaped. The walls are white and half-elliptical, so the two main Viking ships are shown to very great advantage. Little remains of the third.

On entering the hall one is at once impressed by the beauty of the first ship. It seemed to us unlikely that Vikings had sailed the seas in this boat as it was too flat, and we learned afterwards that it was a processional ship used only on state occasions. The second vessel to the left, partly restored, was the typical seafaring boat. As the Norwegian professor who lectured us pointed out, the Vikings possessed an excellent knowledge of design and seaworthiness which has been proved correct by subsequent experience. It is possible, he told us, that there were many such ships still in existence but, as the ones we were looking at had been, they were buried beneath the ground; it was the custom on the death of a Viking to bury him with his ship, fully equipped, even with oars, for his last journey. On the right hand, beyond the remains of the third boat, were two wooden huts that were the last resting places of kings, as well as a collection of weapons and cooking utensils.

We were fortunate enough to escape from the crowd on the way back, and this time we all had drinks at a table in an open-air café shaped like a ship and standing in the water. It was a beautiful place but we decided to go back and have lunch on the ship. The ferries were not running so frequently now and we had to wait a little, which gave us time to admire the view. To our left yachts of all kinds were anchored; in the distance over the water were the city and the ship, and in front of us a fine sailing vessel standing vividly outlined before the darker hills behind. On board the ferry, Mrs. M. chatted with a Norwegian who could talk English. In a few minutes we were across and arrived on board the ship just as the bell rang for lunch.

By two o’clock we were on shore again and the six of us strolled away from the quay down the Munkedams Veien which led us into the Karl-Johansgate. Here we paused and, sitting in some gardens beside the State Theatre, decided what to do. We did not think it worthwhile climbing the hill to the Slottet, as one could not go in, so we wandered down the Karl Johansgate, that lovely street which Doy - and I think rightly - said was the finest single street we had seen yet. There were fine shops on one side after one had passed the Universitetet (this kept Rob laughing for ages), and on the other side tree-lined gardens. Farther down, the street narrowed and there were shops on both sides. In a bookseller’s we purchased cards etc. and met some of our boys, and then we strolled down the street, admiring particularly the well-dressed windows and lovely modern silver. We were looking for a green shirt for Gerald, as it was his birthday, but in spite of all our efforts we were not successful in finding what we wanted. In any case things were dearer here than in Sweden, so, giving up our search, we took seats in a café whose windows opened wide onto the street, and we all had a drink to cool off.

This café is worthy of a word or two: it was in the modern style, secretly lighted, and on one side was a large mural depicting what it had been like in previous times. A fine orchestra played first-class music, so you can imagine we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly sitting there watching the passers-by. After this we split up and arranged to meet at the Theatre underground station for the free ride up the skiing mountain. Gerald came with me and we wandered round the Tivoli, a large open-air café, and, after a wash and brush-up in the Hotel Continental - a super, modern building - we met the others outside the underground.

Once more we were in our crowds and Mr. Bennett-Band put in an appearance. The station was cool and neat and the train just a glorified tramcar. We had to queue up for it, but did not have to wait long before it started. In a very little while we came to the surface and were soon speeding up a gradual incline up the side of the mountain. Past lovely houses, chalets, gardens and neat little stations we went, and as we reached a greater height we obtained a glorious view of the country - mountainous country with a lake in the valley and fields below the pine woods. Away below us was Oslo and there were thousands of houses peeping out from between the pine trees. Far in the distance were the fjord and the hills surrounding it.


Frognasaeterens Sportsrestaurant

We stopped, clambered out, and were led by our guide to the Frognersaeteren Skiing Centre: two large wooden chalets and a museum - similarly built - filled with skis from every country where they are used, and the relics of various Arctic explorers. Here we were told to get our tea in the Sportsrestaurant. We lost Mr. and Mrs. M. but were joined by Humber, Cox, Beech and Smee. As the main room was full, Old Bennett showed us into a small Spisesalen - a side room - and there we ate. In front of each person was a plate containing egg and lettuce on bread, tongue etc. ditto, a large cake and one or two other things. No sooner had we finished this than they brought us more plates, and there was as much as we liked to drink.

Slowly we staggered out, overwhelmed by Norwegian hospitality, but everything had been well planned, because after the tea we had to walk down to the fifth station down the wooded hillside and along part of the road which during the winter months makes a ski-run of 32 miles, the slope continuing all the way. At the corners were planks used for making a banking. As we walked down the hill there appeared, above a lake and on the side of a precipice, a huge tower of wood. This, they told us, was the ski jump for the world championships, and down it competitors sometimes reached the speed of 80 mph We shuddered at the thought and walked on to the station.

When we arrived at the State Theatre again, Doy and I left the troops to make their way back to the ship and, as adults were allowed off until midnight, we decided to go to a show - preferably a vaudeville if we could find one. We asked the commissionaire outside the Tivoli and he directed us to the “Casino”, but somehow we went wrong, passed two theatres which were closed, and had to be redirected to the Casino by a hotel waiter. We found it at last only about a hundred yards from the Tivoli.

The show was entitled Fra Havn til Havn (From Port to Port) and turned out to be a musical comedy. Once again we were back on board ship, but it was difficult to follow. The villain was a Herr Schmidt of Nottingham, and this, with about two other phrases, was about as far as we could go. There were times when it was boring, as conversations between characters had no meaning for us. However the chorus consisting of eight beautiful Norwegian blondes revived our interest, and the humorous old sailor must have made several good jokes as the house rocked with laughter. His sparring partner, a big, vulgar woman, was splendid and the songs had catchy tunes.

After the show we strolled back to the ship. We found Mr. and Mrs. M. and their Norfolk friends sitting near the gangway. There had been some trouble, they told us. One master had taken some of his boys off after 9 p.m. and this had proved rather annoying to the other boys. The Coventry crowd, to show their disapproval, had thrown five hundred plates through one of the portholes. This was not as serious as the exploit of two of the others who, when we had been sailing full speed ahead in the Baltic at night, had unfastened the bolts that held the anchor. Two boys had reported the incident to the watchman and he had told an officer. The Captain, when he heard it, went purple. It took seven or eight tons of coal to get the donkey engine going to haul the anchor back in place, and so was a costly business. It is fortunate that this was discovered as had the anchors gone down they would have ripped the front of the boat out.

With a little time left we strolled off onto the shore again and went into the Pleasure Garden which was in full view of the ship. They were closing down, but we spent our last øre there trying to hoopla or knocking heads off stands. We went on board again at 11.15 and turned in.



Chapter IX

THE NORTH SEA AGAIN

When we awoke the next morning we were just leaving Oslo, the boat having started at 6 a.m. It was going to be a long day and we spent most of the morning watching the coast recede, picking out the mountains of southern Norway, until they finally disappeared below the horizon. Two peaks stood up clearly above the rest of the land and were the last to vanish into the hazy distance.

In the afternoon Doy retired to his bunk, and when I went down I found Gerald fast asleep on mine, so I left them till tea. After dinner we reclined in chairs normally used for the dances, Doy and I smoking some of our many fat cigars and the boys testing them and finding them rather distasteful. After the others had retired, Doy and I found our friends from Manchester and chatted till midnight.

Next day was very much the same, Gerald and Rob playing cards in their cabin with Mason and Norfolk, while the rest of us formed a pleasant corner on the promenade deck. We slept most of the afternoon and then raided Gerald and Rob’s cabin to get them out for tea. After tea we were passing the Dogger Bank and we watched soundings being taken until it was time for the concert, for which I joined Mr. and Mrs. M. down below on the after-deck.

During a break in the concert the Captain presented prizes for the various sports which had been held on deck earlier: sack-race, tug of war, the ping-pong championship in which Humber had done well, and so on. He then addressed the troops, asked them to remember the bright spots and forget the black ones, and said that we had been extraordinarily lucky with the weather. On the previous trip they had hardly seen the sun and the sea had sometimes been unkind, but this time the sun had shone and the sea had been calm the whole time. He hoped that our luck would continue. He was cheered lustily.

That night there was a final dance. The deck was decorated and refreshments were served. Mr. and Mrs. M., the Norfolk couple and Doy and I made up a party. After it was over we found our Mancunian friends and chatted and smoked cigars until 12.30.

On our way down, there was old “Noosleep” cleaning out the cabins, poor devil.


Tug of war

Chapter X

IMMINGHAM AND HOME

It was a beautiful morning. While we were having our breakfast we were fast nearing Immingham. Mr. M. had arranged for our party to be among the first ashore as we had no special train, so we were soon ready to leave the ship. We assembled in the mess below. It was hot and greasy, and it was easy to see why Whiskers had retired from action the previous day: when rushing down to cane some boy he had slipped and strained his leg. However, the presentation made to him by the adults only for his work, which had been voluntary, cheered him up. Unfortunately while the customs were examining our suitcases we found Humberstone and Smee missing. We were told that Smee had fainted. A glass of water and head between the knees soon cured him and we finally walked down the gangway and formed up all present and correct. We caught the tram and watched the Neuralia disappear beyond the fields, while in a dock nearer by the S.S. Arcadia Star¹ was just about to start on a luxury cruise. At Grimsby we had some time to wait and there we met Mr. Body and Co. again. We wandered round the town and bought Gerald a yo-yo before finding ourselves on the train to Southwell.

It was one-o’clock when we reached home, and by this time the “Old Neuralians” had dwindled to a small group. Norfolk alone was left of the boys, but he disappeared in the afternoon. Doy and I went to watch a cricket match. On the Sunday Body appeared in Southwell briefly, apparently on the way to Whipsnade.

I stayed a few days in Southwell and saw the Matthewses and Pierre² set off for Cornwall, Mr. M. unfortunately not too well. Doy left for London and Gerald went to stay at his aunt’s. On the Thursday I left for home but this does not concern the cruise which really ended at 1 p.m. on Saturday August 13th. We had arrived in Southwell exactly on the tick.

The world did not yet belong to us, for we had not seen it all. But we had seen much and we will never forget the wonderful hospitality and generosity of the Scandinavian people.

1. As deciphered (Ed).
2. It is not known who Pierre was.



THE END