Me and the Memsahib

The eldest Son of a Royal Navy Officer and an Essex farmer's daughter, I trained for the sea aboard the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College's HMS Worcester, serving subsequently as a navigating officer with the P&O Steam Navigation Company. After passing my submarine qualifying exam and sea time in HMS Otus, I passed my Foreign-Going Masters' Certificate in 1970, and served as First Officer SS Chusan, before joining the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, for nuclear submarine training in 1972. Following sea time aboard HMS Valiant,  I worked with Norcontrol of Norway on integrated navigation and engine control systems, prior to receiving the Galbraith Wrightson Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Plymouth, where I wrote 'The History & Development of Deep Diving Manned Submersible Vehicles'. Joining InterSub of Marseilles, a commercial submarine operator, as Operations Manager in 1975, I spent two years on underwater operations in support of offshore oil and gas, before setting up the company's submarine operations in Dubai, in a joint-venture with Swires of Hong Kong.

In 1977 I was appointed General Manager of Kvaerner-InterSub, a joint-venture based in Norway. Following the tragic death of three French friends and colleagues - InterSub's Managing Director, Technical Director and Commercial Director, in a plane crash at Milan, I spent a year as Offshore Underwater Project Manager with Occidental, before joining British Oceanics, in Edinburgh,  as Business Development Manager, working alongside Herriott Watt, Strathclyde and Newcastle Universities, on innovative underwater technology.

Recalled to the Royal Navy in 1981, initially lecturing at the School of Maritime Operations, the Submarine School HMS Dolphin, and the Maritime Tactical School, HMS Dryad,  I saw active service during the Falklands War and after a year head-hunting, and managing a small Oceonics Data Systems Company, I joined the Plessey Naval Systems Company in 1984, rising to the position of General Manager International Sales & Marketing.

On 21st September 1943, a telegram was despatched to my Father, onboard HMS Hilary, off Salerno. Needless to say it took several weeks to reach him.


My personal tribute,covering the 'heyday years'

www.pandosnco.co.uk


The best job I ever had......

1974-1980 underwater adventures.....

http://www.nickmessinger.co.uk/intersub.htm


The ill-fated ss Islander - My Story

1996 ~ Intrigue and adventure in Alaska....

http://www.nickmessinger.co.uk/islander.htm


2011

A Rhine River Cruise.....


2014

Kalkan, Turkey

Family holiday


2016

I had always wanted a boat of my own!

I found just the thing on E-bay - for £500 - A Stella Folkboat, lying abandoned and forlorn in the yard behind the Lowestoft Boatbuilding College.

After six months shipwrighting she was shipshape, seaworthy and ready to sail.......

Alongside at Portland Marina

Maiden Voyage


2018

House extension....

Most people my age downsize - but we decided to upsize - with a new kitchen, utility, guest bedroom and ensuite!

But first we needed a plan....

Before.....

After....


2019

We meet The King...


2020

We are going to build a wall......

And a terrace and new patio......

Fortunately, all the work was completed by mid-March!


Lockdown!

Like millions of people, we stayed home, relying on our friendly village shop and local Parish Council folk to deliver our essential supplies.


Meanwhile, Some History.....

The 1982 Falklands War

"We never thought of how to fight this battle. We didn't know where we would land. It was all done in a way I believe only the British armed forces could do it and we pay tribute to everyone. I would like to say especially to Admiral Fieldhouse whom I went up to see quite frequently at his Northwood Headquarters: he was not only a tower of strength he was also a model of humanity, who was supported by another model of humanity and common sense - his wife, Midge, Lady Fieldhouse. I would also like to thank the Merchant Navy."

Margaret Thatcher ~ SS Canberra speech 1992

 The United Kingdom ’s strategic use of merchant ships was never more in evidence than during the 1982 Falklands War.  Faced with insufficient troop and military transport lift capacity, the necessary Statutory Instruments were signed on 3rd April, in order to permit the Ministry of Defence to take ships up from trade. 54 merchant ships were taken up from trade (STUFT) to assist the armed forces during the South Atlantic conflict. 43 sailed for the South Atlantic with Merchant Navy crews and Naval Parties embarked, before the Argentine surrender on 15th June.  5 deep sea trawlers were taken up from trade, manned by the RN and used as Minesweepers. The first ship to be 'STUFT' was the P&O flagship Canberra , Master : Captain Dennis Scott- Masson, homeward bound for Southampton with a full complement of  cruise passengers. She embarked two full Commandos and 3 Para. Much of their heavy equipment and ammunition, as well as eight light Scimitar tanks of the Blues and Royals, was loaded into the P&O Roll-On-Roll-Off ferry Elk, Master: Captain John Morton. John had extensive experience of the Antarctic, having once been a deck officer with the British Antarctic Survey. 


Day two of Easter leave and I was putting up some shelves for my Mother-in-Law at Tewin, and had popped down to the hardware store at Hatfield for a few bits and pieces.

"Someone called the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet just phoned and wants you to call him back," said my Mother-in-Law.

I had delivered a paper on the integration of merchant shipping into a Naval Task Force on out of NATO areas operations at the Escola Naval in Lisbon on conclusion of Exercise Ocean Safari, which had gone down quite well.  'The Merchant Navy is the Mother who provides - and the Royal Navy is the Father who protects', something along those lines. At the time I was serving as Lecturer in Maritime Trade at the School of Maritime Operations, HMS Dryad, and based at HMS Vernon, as a Lieutenant Commander, on a two year 'Recall to Naval Service' - having recently recovered from major orthopaedic surgery, and rehabilitation at RAF Headley Court.

"Your country needs you. Report to Northwood at 0630 tomorrow for the morning briefing."

I rushed back to our married quarter in Portsmouth, collected my kit, bade farewell to Kathy and the children, and passed through security and into the underground headquarters known colloquially as 'The Hole'.

Captain Freddie Fox, Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations and Plans, gave me my first task, which was to get the salvage tugs away - asap. And thus began my tour of duty as the Fleet Merchant Navy Defence Liaison Officer.

 

My task was to board and brief the Masters of all the Ships Taken Up From Trade - STUFT , at ports throughout the UK - and when back at Fleet HQ Northwood, to watchkeep in the STUFT Cell, deep below the Northwood Hills. only problem - apart from myself and SONCS, the Staff Officer Naval Control of Shipping, Commander Tom Allen RN, there was nobody else to man the cell! Amazingly, in April 1982, there was no mechanism to mobilise individual Royal Naval Reserve Officers with MN experience. 'One out - all out' was the rule, and under a Queen's Order in Council, it would result in the call-up of the whole Royal Naval Reserve! The solution was to identify RNR officers on leave from their shipping companies, and invite them to Northwood for two weeks 'annual training'. The only problem was that we had no idea who they were and how many were available! To make matters worse, CinCNavHome Reserves Division were all on Easter leave, and their offices unmanned. Fortunately, I was able to gain access at Portsmouth, locate the shoe box with officers on leave details - and make a few calls. Lieutenant Commander Colin Marsh RNR, Harbour Master at Rye, and Lieutenant Commander Peter Starkey RNR, Chief Officer with Townsend Thoresen Ferries, were eager to help - and invited to join us.

The STUFT Cell was now fully manned - 24/7 - and with a considerable amount of merchant shipping expertise available to the Task Force Commander, Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse. The STUFT Cell was right opposite the Admiral's office and two down from the 18 Group RAF Commander, Air Chief Marshall Sir John Curtiss,  

The Prime Minister had complete faith in Admiral Fieldhouse, and greatly admired the Royal Navy, attending frequent briefings and showing an amazing grasp of detail.

Woe betide anyone not totally on top of their game - mainly the RAF, who were subjected to regular admonishment.

"Wing Commander - please do tell us about an airdrop that actually managed to deliver the Navy's much needed equipment!"

and my favourite put down:

"But you really should know how much runway an Argentine  Mirage Three requires to take-off. You are an Air Vice-Marshall after all!"  

Self; Lieutenant Commander Laurie Phillips RNR - Fleet Press Liaison Officer; Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse - Task Force Commander; Vice Admiral Sir David Halifax - Chief of Staff;  and Rear Admiral 'Spam' Hammersley - Chief Staff Officer Engineering.

Photograph taken mid-July, a month after the Argentine surrender. I was feeling rough - unbeknown to me I was suffering from a severe virus pneumonia, and was rushed to the RAF Hospital Stanmore Park, on the back seat of the Admiral's car - in the early hours of the following morning!

Promoted! My Father bought me my knew cap.

Celebration!

Translation: Anaya has no balls - Viva Fieldhouse......


 

work

in

progress

BELOW!

 

 

 

 

Of prison hulks and training ships.....

HMS Worcester: The Great Tradition


About me......

Master Mariner - Class One, 1970

Qualified in RN Submarine Nuclear Science & Technology, 1972

Senior Research Fellow, University of Plymouth, 1974

Visiting Fellow at Strathclyde, Herriot Watt & Newcastle

Elected Fellow of the Nautical Institute 1982

Inducted as Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Shipwrights 1983

London Business School 1989

PLATO MBA Business Graduate 2005

Associate, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, USA 2012

Career Details

1961-1972 Deck Officer with the P&O Steam Navigation Company

1973 Norcontrol of Norway as DataBridge UK Project Manager

1974 Plymouth University as the Galbraith Wrightson Senior Research Fellow

1975 InterSub of Marseille France as Operations Manager

1978 Kvaerner InterSub of Oslo Norway as General Manager

1979 Occidental Aberdeen as Offshore Underwater Project Manager

1980 British Oceanics Limited as Business Development Manager

1981 Royal Navy - Recall Service as Lt Commander then Commander

1983 Director, Executive Dynamics & Christopher Gold Associates

1984 Chairman, OceonLink of Edinburgh and Oceonics Data Systems of Dartmouth

1985 General Manager International Sales and Marketing, the Plessey Naval Systems Company

1991 Managing Director, Freetrack Marine Limited

2010 Chairman, The Brixham Drydock Company


Class of '89 ~ The London Business School


 

Code Name: Rafiach

The film was selected for the Haifa International Film Festival, and screened to a full house on 24th September 2013.

The photograph on the screen above was taken on board HMS Providence, under my late Father's command.

A story of courage and survival......

My father's 1946 rescue of Nazi Holocaust survivors.


 Welcome to my InterSub International Submarine Services web page

www.intersub.co.uk


 MiniSub


  

Books and Stuff


A Selection of my Book Reviews ~ 2011-12

 Copies of all my book reviews and magazine articles are available on request......

All books are available from Gazelle:-

http://www.gazellebookservices.co.uk

Some Recent Editorial Projects

Editorial and photographic research assistance with the new edition of  ""Tous Les Visiteurs A Terre!", the shipboard story of René Goscinny, famous for his ASTERIX comic books,  "All Visitors Ashore!" has just been updated and republished by Editions IMAV of Paris. Enriched with over 140 pages and awash with Albert Uderzo's marvelous Asterix cartoons, it contains the full text, first published in 1969. Most of the photos are from René's own family albums. With his inimitable humour, he describes a hilarious three-week trip aboard a passenger ship - a story inspired by his own memories of voyages aboard the France, the Pasteur, the Ile de France, Taiwan, the Eugenio C and the Caribbean. A big fan of cruises, Goscinny said: "I like big boats. A hundred feet to me is the length of the bar."  The tone is set!  In his account, written in the late 60s (sadly, he died in 1977) we learn many useful lessons, including : How to seduce a pretty girl. How to stay fit during an abandon ship drill. How to make good when seasickness strikes.  How to ensure the goodwill of the bartender. How to be invited to the captain's table, and  How to avoid looking ridiculous at the fancy dress party!

There's even a photo of me on page 99, straddled by a lovely lady on Chusan's dance floor - but that's another story entirely!


 

A freelance writer and editor on maritime affairs I am able to undertake a variety of assignments, including: nautical research into ships of all types ~archive searches for ships with a story to tell ~production of articles on all nautical subjects from mini- submarines to ocean liners and the age of sail ~proof reading of nautical articles and books ~checks on authenticity and accuracy in the use of terminology ~film script-writing and narration ~technical consultancy in film and TV production & book reviews.

In 1993, I began researching the loss of the Canadian Pacific Steam Navigation Company's SS Islander~ a story that was to prove almost as fascinating as that of the RMS Titanic. The Islander sank off Juneau, Alaska, in August 1901, while reputedly carrying 12 tonnes of gold bullion from the Klondike. In 1996 I sailed with an expedition from Tacoma Seattle to Juneau and located the missing bow section of the ship, on the 95th anniversary of its sinking - almost to the hour! I would be delighted to hear from you if you have any connections with the ship or her people.


My life to date......now in my 70th year......

 

My Father was invading Italy on the day I was born, in September 1943. He was onboard HMS Hilary,a Booth Steamship  Company liner, requisitioned by the Royal Navy as an infantry landing and headquarters ship for Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of mainland Italy. As the first wave of infantry approached the shore, a German Army loudspeaker blared,  

“Come on in and give up. We have you covered!”  

Through his telescope, my Father spotted a German Tiger tank, its 88mm gun slewing and firing. The first shot carried away the Hilary's signal halyards and radio aerials. Lieutenant W.E.Messinger was responsible for tactical communications between the ship and the landing force. Halyards and aerials were jury rigged in double quick time!.


Ark Royal

Click the ship's crest to visit the 'Mighty Ark'


 

On 21st September 1943, a telegram was despatched to my Father, onboard HMS Hilary, off Salerno. Needless to say it took several weeks to reach him. The left hand photograph was despatched shortly afterwards but 18 months were to pass before my Father saw me for the first time. 

In the right hand photograph I am with my Mother, Doris, in September 1944, shortly after my first birthday. I am wearing a pair of red camel skin shoes my Father sent me from Alexandria.  Until well after the War, we lived with my grandparents, John and Laura  Padfield, at Little Tawney Hall Farm, Stapleford Tawney, in Essex.


1953, back from two years running wild in Norway and enrolled at Loughton School - Self, Phillip and Robert.

All neatly brushed and as shiny as new pins!


My Father retired from the Royal Navy in 1961 and spent 14 very happy years at Westminster Abbey. Here he is with HRH, The Prince of Wales and the Dean, The Very Reverend Edward Carpenter, in 1966.  Lord Louis Mountbatten is on the far left.

Family History and Photographs


With Kathy at my 60th birthday party at the Eastbury Hotel, Sherborne, September 2003

I met Katherine, my lovely wife to be, onboard Oronsay, during the ship's 1967 Christmas Cruise to the West Indies. I was the ship's Navigator and Kathy a Hertfordshire Doctor's daughter, travelling with her parents and four brothers and sisters. It was what the French call a 'coupe de foudre'. We were married at Queenswood School, on 9th September 1972, and have three wonderful children - Timothy, a music publisher ; Laura, a Lawyer and Edward a Police Officer.

Gayle, Tim and Ed.  Val Thorens, France ~ January 2010

Tim and Gayle were married on 31st July


In 1980, following an injury sustained at sea and orthopedic surgery at Guys and UCH, I spent three months as an in-patient at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, DMRC, Headley Court. Their active, caring regime soon had me fit again, and to them I owe an immense debt of gratitude. I was fortunate: there were many servicemen and women with far more serious injuries than mine. It is for this reason that I support and recommend the tri-service charity Help For Heroes to you all. Help For Heroes has thus far raised a total of £23,526,700, of which £8 million has been donated to Headley Court's new hydrotherapy pool and remedial gymnasium.



My friends and I have a small charity, which can provide assistance and practical advice to young people, typically aged between 16 and 21, who feel they would benefit from a voyage as trainee crew aboard a tall ship. Please contact us for details, using the link below.


  Biographical Information:-

My Father second from left,  brother Phil, Mother, self. Brother Rob in foreground.

Taken at the Queen's Birthday Parade, HMS Ganges in 1959.

The eldest Son of a Royal Navy Officer and an Essex farmer's daughter, I trained for the sea aboard the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College Worcester.

 

 .

I was a reluctant Worcester Cadet - eventually attaining the rank of Cadet Captain, Yeoman of Signals, Cutter Coxswain and Queen's Standard Bearer for London's East End Boroughs. I cannot say, in all honesty, that I enjoyed my time aboard Worcester.  Joining in 1957 at the age of 14, the ship's brutal regime was difficult to accept - particularly the bullying. My ambition, up to then, had been  to follow my Grandfather into farming. Also as a Corporal, in the 4th Essex Cadet Regiment, it had been my intention to transfer to the Yeomanry at the earliest opportunity. In those far off days, however, one did as one's Father commanded. 

With my father, the day I received my Army Cadet Force uniform, c1955. Uniforms were all ex-Army, hand-me-downs ~ itchy material, some still bearing the scars of war!


Leaving the Worcester at Easter 1961, having been demoted from Cadet Captain and given six cuts with the cane on my penultimate day, I was appointed Midshipman in Her Majesty's Royal Naval Reserve. It having subsequently been discovered that the crime for which I had been punished, bringing intoxicating liquor onboard, had in fact been committed by a fellow Cadet!  Joining my first P&O ship, with six blue-black stripes across my behind, caused many a chuckle from my fellow Cadets - all Pangbourne College boys!  


Indentured to the P&O Steam Navigation Company, my first voyage was to Australia, as a Cadet aboard the company's SS Ballarat, engaged in the wool trade.


MV Strathardle maiden voyage, arriving London 1967, following the inaugural Yokohama Express, Japan-UK non-stop in 26 days. 


 

During my 12 years with P&O, I served in cargo ships and passenger liners, on voyages to the Mediterranean, Far East, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands, Canada, Latin America, and the United States. 

MV Somali, South China Sea                                     SS Surat, off the Cape of Good Hope

MV Somali hove to in a Beaufort Storm Ten, South of Taiwan


My P&O career culminated in ss Chusan's 1972 six month World Cruise. 

 

Passing my Foreign-Going Masters'Certificate in 1970, I served as Chusan's First Officer - until the ship was sold to Taiwanese breakers, in 1972. She was a beautiful, happy ship and her passing marked the end of the era of stately main-line passenger ship and the inevitable transition to jumbo jets - and custom-built cruise ships. 

Senior Officer's Horse Race - SS Chusan 1972 - The Happiest Ship in The P&O Fleet.

Staff Captain - Deputy Purser - First Officer (NRM) - Chief Officer - Second Engineer Officer


Joining the Royal Naval College, Greenwich,in late 1972, I completed nuclear submarine training in 1973, and joined HMS Valiant

 

Back row left, Bob Seaward, old chum from Otus days. Front row, third from left, Chris Belton,

then Andy Thomson and Dick Channon. I'm in the middle row, 3rd from left, grinning like a Cheshire cat!

Following sea time aboard HMS Valiant, I was awarded the Galbraith Wrightson Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Plymouth, where I wrote 'The History & Development of Deep Diving Manned Submersible Vehicles', before joining InterSub of Marseilles, a commercial submarine operator, as Operations Manager in 1975. In 1976, I set up the company's submarine operations in Dubai, in a joint-venture with Swires of Hong Kong. In 1977 I was appointed General Manager of Kvaerner-InterSub, a joint-venture based in Norway.

http://www.intersub.co.uk


Recalled to the Royal Navy in 1981, lecturing at the School of Maritime Operations and Maritime Tactical School, HMS Dryad,  I saw active service during the Falklands War.

 

Left to right: Myself;  Lieutenant Commander Lawrie Phillips RNR, Fleet Press Officer; Admiral of The Fleet Sir John Fieldhouse,GCB,GBE,RN, Commander in Chief of the Fleet,  Commander Task Force 317;  Admiral Sir David Halifax, KCB, KCVO, KBE,RN, Chief of Staff;  Rear Admiral Peter Hammersley CB,CBE,RN, Fleet Engineering Officer.

I was quite under the weather on the morning this was taken, and ended up in RAF Stanmore Park Hospital with virus pneumonia, for 10 days - transported there in the C-in-C's staff car!


 Promoted Commander List One RNR, I joined the Plessey Naval Systems Company in 1984, rising to General Manager International Sales & Marketing.

I was very touched to be elected a Fellow of The Nautical Institute and a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Shipwrights.


Military Service:

Appointed Midshipman RNR in April 1961, I was commissioned Sub Lieutenant in May 1964. After General Service I volunteered for Submarines in 1967, serving two tours in the Patrol Submarine, HMS Otus. 

In 1973, I qualified 'Nuclear' at the Royal Naval College Greenwich and served aboard 

HMS Valiant, a nuclear hunter-killer. 

 

As a Lieutenant Commander I served throughout the Falklands war on the Staff of the Task Force Commander, for which I received the Falklands Commendation. Transferring to Amphibious Warfare on promotion to Commander in September 1982, I served as Coastal Convoy Commodore and Senior Naval Officer (Afloat) on numerous AW exercises. I retired in 1990.


My Links.......

Some Family History and Photographs

My father's 1946 rescue of Nazi Holocaust survivors.

Falklands War jottings 25 years on......

Link to InterSub - International Submarine Services new web page.

Link to SS Islander - midlife crisis and hunt for gold in Alaska!

The loss of the SS Princess Sophia - work in progress

HMS Worcester: The Great Tradition

My P&O Passenger Ships

RMS Strathmore photographs 

SS Orcades photographs SS Oriana photographs 

SS Oronsay photographs SS Chusan photographs 

My P&O Cargo Ships

SS Ballarat MV Somali SS Singapore 

MV Salmara MV Strathardle SS Surat

 

 

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Last revised: February 2020