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Hubert Stanley Mollett  Peacetime at sea

1945-1959 At sea/East Ham/Hornchurch

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On the 10th December he joins the Stratheden as a canteen steward in Tilbury.  This vessel was the one which re-opened the P&O service to Australia so perhaps this was the first voyage for her back in her usual job rather than as a troup carrier.  Dad stayed with this vessel as a canteen steward until July 1946 when he was discharged from the Merchant Navy War Service and put in what was called the reserve pool in his seaman's book.  I do not know where he travelled to during this time but suspect it may have been Australia although on one website I read that the Stratheden did not return to it's Australia run until June 1947 and was being reconditioned before that.

The following year Dad joins the Empire Trooper in Southampton as a saloon storekeeper, remaining with this ship until August 1948.  During these years of service his first son is born in July 1947 so just before he is discharged from the Merchant Service at the end of his war service.  We hope that he was able to spend some time with his new baby and small daughters who were now living in East Ham close to the London Docks.


The Empire Trooper was a  troop ship during the war and remained so after the war as well as carrying other passengers.

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At the end of 1948 Dad joins the  Corfu in Glasgow as a tourist class barman.  This vessel was on what was called the China Mails.  The average length of each trip seems to have been about 3 months but a fast turnaround between each trip of only one night it would seem until June 1950 when finally Dad seems to have had 2 months leave.  One wonders what kind of a life it must have been for Mum and Dad being parted for so long all the time with small children, all under school age for a lot of that time.  


I do remember going to stay in a hotel near Southampton once and Dad coming to visit which was presumably just a short spell off whilst he was at work.  For us children it was what was normal as our father had always been away for long stretches at a time.


The Corfu always sailed from the London docks so at least we were able to visit Dad on board and wave him off as he passed through the lock gates.  The route the ship took was to India and China.  Exotic places especially China in those days being difficult to visit. He stayed with the Corfu until November 1950 working as a barman on what is described as the China mail runs in his merchant navy discharge book.  There was nothing Dad didn't know about drinks and often regaled us with the names and contents of exotic cocktails that he no doubt had to mix for the wealthy passengers!

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He transferred to SS Himalaya in November of that year as Lounge Barman which I am presuming was a step up for him, staying with this ship for several voyages lasting 3 months at a time until July of 1951. At least now the ships were docking in London and Tilbury so nearer to his home and family and I can remember going to the locks to wave him away and visiting him on board ship, very exciting for small children but taken in our stride as something we always did!!


The Himalaya was a newly commissioned vessel for the P&O in the postwar period having had her maiden voyage in October 1949. It was their fastest and largest ship and a record breaker in her day cutting the passage to Bombay by 5 days and reducing the overall length of the journey to Australia from 38 days to 28 days. So Dad was working on one of the newest and most moderns vessels of the day travelling to Australia and back twice a year.


Dad continued his service on passenger liners by transferring to the SS Chusan in July of 1951, this time working as a second steward, his first voyage with them being a cruising trip but his second and only other trip with them was an extended foreign voyage probably to the Far East as this was where the Chusan usually went and had in 1950 restarted voyages to Japan. 


In October of 1951 Dad transfers to what were know as cargo/passenger ships belonging to P&O.  This was obviously a big step up for our dear old Dad as now he is the chief steward and remained as such until he left sea service.  This is probably how we remember our Dad the most.  He was dearly loved by all the crew and highly respected by the officers on board the ships he worked on.  His crew were Goanese and I can remember one of them visiting us at home.  He was also a father to the cadet officers on board.  We often visited him on board ship whilst he was working in port as it was probably one of the only ways to see him more often both for us and for our mother.  We ate exotic food in the officers mess, with Dad popping up and down during his meals to check on things in the galley and make sure the Captain's food was all in order.  It must have been a tight knit community aboard ship during those voyages to the Far East and many of the officers became close friends to Mum and Dad.  His work entailed planning food, ordering food and all that that entailed for the officers and the 12 or so passengers that were on board, making sure they had everything they wanted.  He worked hard and was meticulous in his work but I imagine that he was fair to his staff and treated them with respect.


The ships he served on at this time were:


SS Pinjarra – Oct 1951-March 1953

MV Socotra – March 1953-Nov 1954

SS Patonga -  Dec 1954-Jun 1955    

SS Ballarat -  Jan 1956 -end of Jan

MV Soudan -   Feb 1955 – Mar 1959

Here they all are - mostly interchangeable as you can see.


All the trips he did at these times lasted from 4 to sometimes 6 months at a time.  This must have been a hard time for Mum and Dad especially for Mum with three teenage or almost teenage children at home.  He always brought us back exotic presents from his trips, my sister and I having a collection of foreign dolls.  It must have been difficult for him to fit into family life again at home and I can remember fighting with him a lot!!!  Our mother was the main figure in our everyday life, who we looked to for permission to do things etc etc and for Dad to come home and want to naturally be the head of the household must have been hard.


For us as children it had some perks, presents when he came home, trips on board ship, tales of exotic places (probably not appreciated at the time) and even once a trip taken with Mum and Dad to the continent so we could all be together for a family holiday even though Dad was working.  It was a memorable holiday and looking back now can see how hard Dad worked.

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But in the spring of 1959 when his children were 15, 14, 11 our Dad decided to leave the Merchant Navy, a job he had done for 30 odd years to come ashore and do a land job.  I wonder what prompted this change.  I don't ever remember asking Dad about this in later life but perhaps he decided it was time to be at home more with his family as they started to grow towards adulthood.  It was a difficult time for him and us as we were not used to him being at home and we all had to adapt.  I hope it wasn't all bad and that he did not regret his decision.  There were still trips abroad as he continued to work for P&O as a stocktaker which often required him to pick up ships in France or elsewhere on the continent.  And Mum and Dad had trips abroad too on cruises with the P&O so he still managed his trips at sea which he must have missed having spent the majority of his working life at sea.


And so his children did grow up, his eldest daughter, the apple of his eye emigrated to Australia, a sad, sad day for her dear old Dad but then he and Mum visited several times in the years to come sometimes by sea!

Dad  settled into life at home, he loved to garden and spent many hours together with Mum cultivating our plot and of course his other love, golf!!  He had played whilst at sea and continued to play all his life even getting our brother obsessed too.  Also there was West Ham football club, which he supported avidly even having a season ticket for the ground, another thing he enjoyed with his son.  

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