Author Topic: Joining the QE1 in 1968  (Read 1810 times)

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Offline Bryce Foundling

Joining the QE1 in 1968
« on: Jan 20, 2015, 02:00 PM »
Joining QE1

I first joined the UK Merchant Navy at the age of 17 in July 1968. I had just completed my initial 8 weeks training at the land based National Training school at Gravesend in Kent. Here lads from all over the country and from all walks of life were sent to give them basic training in either working as a deck hand or alternatively as a waiter.
For many of the lads this was their first time ever away from home and the training included aspects of self reliance and an idea of what would be expected of you when you finally went to sea
I joined my first ship The Queen Elizabeth on the 16 th July 1968 as a commis waiter. When I first made my way to the gangway I will always remember the long row of ships, mainly cruise liners lined one after another along the quay, all with different destinations and cargos and thinking how exciting it was to be a part of all this.
In those days the crew cabins were fairly basic, at this time the QE was over 30 years old. There were 8 men to a cabin and space was very limited! You very soon learnt to keep your own area as clean as possible. There was a “Glory Hole” steward employed to keep about 20 cabins tidy plus a captains inspection once a week.
My first trip was to New York on the 5 day crossing which the ship did regularly through the winter carrying mail and passengers. During the summer months she normally went cruising in the West Indies. Thinking back my excitement knew no bounds. I was 17 and a week ago I was working at a fairground at home in Portsmouth and suddenly, here I sailing up the Hudson river, past the Statue of Liberty and finally berthing with the help of tugs in New York! The Market Diner at the bottom of 57th Street immediately opposite where the “Queens” berthed soon became my second home.
I remember walking up to Broadway , along to Times square down 42nd street taking in all the sights and sounds the smells and shear atmosphere. I think I thought I had walked onto a film set.
Not everything went exactly to plan and I did have a few run ins with my superiors. On my first night at sea I was sent to the first class restaurant and told to report to the cold larder chef. The cold larder was one of many specialist sections within the kitchens each producing their own unique foods and each having their own chefs. The cold larder provided smoked salmon, and a wide selection of prawn / fish dishes, anything chilled. Upon reporting to the chef I was given a trolley on which a prepared smoked salmon was beautifully laid out along with pre buttered brown bread and butter. Special serving dishes , slices of lemon plus a very ornate set of carving knife and fork.
I was to “work” 25% of the main restaurant and as I saw passengers being seated I would wheel my trolley over and politely ask “ would sir or madam care for smoked salmon”? Well things were going splendidly for the first half an hour. The salmon seemed very popular and I was getting over my initial nervousness and even starting to serve my salmon with a slight flourish .
Suddenly  the cold larder chef was at my side gripping my arm and steering both me and my trolley out of the restaurant back into the galley.  “ What the -------! Hell do you think you are doing sunshine”? “you’ve  used up nearly four salmon already which should have lasted all ------! night”?
It turned out that the normal method of serving smoked salmon ( which nobody had ever told me) was to carve it into wafer thin slices which are then layered with brown bread and butter and a slice of lemon on the plate. Unfortunately in my willingness to please I had been carving one inch thick slices for each passenger often giving two slices per portion.
 I often thought it funny that none of the passengers had thought to correct me.

Offline Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: Joining the QE1 in 1968
« Reply #1 on: Jan 20, 2015, 05:34 PM »
What a wonderful story, Bryce! I got completely caught up in your world and would have wanted it to continue ...

Looking forward to the next instalment of your adventures and memories. It must have been amazing for a 17-year-old lad, to be on board QE and immediately thrown in at the deep end. I would have loved to have been there that evening, receiving some of your generously served salmon... I would not have been the one to protest!


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