Paul Mansfield               


My First Job

After leaving the PWSTS we were given leave before joining our ships, my mum found me a job working in a factory in Swindon making industrial blowers, I worked on a production line for about 3 weeks and my first wage packet gave me 36 which was quite a lot then for casual labour, a lot more than the 7.50 I was getting for the next two years at sea?

My First Ship

I joined the Rotherwick Castle in Birkenhead, an old tramp ship bound for Africa as an engine room boy, the lowest of the low, The ship was in all the newspapers because a few days earlier it had docked in Southampton where a young female stowaway had reported to the police of her friend that had been murdered by one of the crew, a young engine room lad a little older than me, one of the girls had been staying in his cabin when she broke an ivory carving meant for this lads father which he had purchased in Mozambique he got mad with her and rung her neck with curtain wire and then threw her over board, apparently, according to the inquest she would still have been alive when he threw her overboard !! Because there was no body, the lad that had killed this girl only served five years in prison. There had also been a lot of drugs found on board, so when I joined the ship most of the bulkheads (walls) and the deck heads (Ceiling) had been removed by the customs and had not been put back so it looked a right mess, every thing was strange and a bit daunting to me at that time but I was soon taken under the wing of another lad, my long time shipmate Keith who I still keep in touch with to this day, we got up to things that would make your hair curl. That night I had my first taste of navy life ashore? The Duke, a pub in the docks full of sailors and whores with the Rolling Stones 'Angie' playing in the background, the air thick with cigarette smoke and stale beer, a rough pub for rough men!! One of the lads had bought a case of beer so that we could carry on drinking back at the ship, and wanting to impress; I offered to carry it back to the ship; all went well until I reached the top of the gangplank, tripped and dropped the lot on the deck, broken bottles and beer everywhere, I wasn't the flavour of the month after that I can tell you.

The next morning the ship sailed for South Africa my first job was to work with the electrician in the officers pantry and because I was full of beer I felt quite ill and working aloft, the electrician thought I was seasick and suggested that I have some breakfast to soak up the bile in my stomach, more like the beer??

The first port of call was lobito in Angola before all the war started, it was a lovely place we arrived there just before Christmas of 1973, as the ship anchored in the vast blue lagoon surrounded by golden sands and coconut palms most of the lads on deck jumped into the sea for a swim, the Captain seeing this from the bridge ordered them all back on board, so boarding nets were thrown over the side for them to climb up, the reason for this was that the shark nets had not been closed and the all clear given.

I went on to have a fantastic 10 more years at sea.

Thanks PWSTS and all its staff for some of the best memories of my life.