In this article, I will be covering his first few voyages. Mr Charles Drewson, local Sketty resident was born 1922. On leaving school, after having a variety of jobs, including working in a chemist
shop, landscape gardener and then as a messenger in a cake shop, he got restless and wanted to go to sea.
Walking around the docks, Charles called at shipping agents, such as Fyffe’s, the
Norwegian Consulate, and the Swansea Shipping
Federation. He was given what was known as a Pier Head Jump, which is when you join a ship at the last minute. Charles was offered a position on the S.S. British Fusilier,
but when he arrived unfortunately the ship had already left the dock.
His first voyage was on 20 August 1938; Charles was a Mess Room Boy on the oil tanker S.S. British Grenadier.
The ship was bound for Dingle, Liverpool without a cargo. From Liverpool, it sailed via the Mediterranean to Abadan, Persia for oil, then on to Alexandria and Port Said for stores, passing through
the Suez Canal.
As Mess Room Boy, Charles had to scrub the long-planked deck and alleyway. Poor Charles was sea sick, and was often sick in the same bucket with the cleaning water. Mess Room Steward, another Swansea
man, George, would often
say, “Not good
enough, start all over again”. Second Steward Jack, was also a
Swansea man. While the S.S. British
Grenadier was at Abadan, it was loaded with 10 oil jetties. The crew were taken on a bus to the Bawada Club, where a cinema show was put on. The men had to stand whilst they sang the
National Anthem……. of Persia.
While the S.S.
British Grenadier was UK bound to Grangemouth it had its orders changed and the ship came back to Swansea. Charles had been away for 7 months in the Middle East, signing off at the Shipping
Office on 7th February 1939. The S.S. British
Grenadier was attacked and sunk by the U-103, on 22nd May 1941,
At the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, September 1939, Charles was on his second voyage aboard S.S. Loch Lomond,
signing on 16 May 1939. The voyage was from Swansea to Sierra Leone, West Africa, with a cargo of anthracite or tinplate, From Sierra Leone it sailed on to Australia. The ship’s clocks were altered
every hour every night to arrive at Australia at their time.
Landing at Fremantle, they were loaded with Anderson air raid shelters and other lengths of steel requisitioned to Newport, Wales. Charles signed back on the S.S. Loch Lomond, on
17th December 1939, the ship sailed form Barry to Portugal. Arriving back at Barry, 18th March 1940. S.S. Loch
Lomond was unfortunately sunk on 20th October 1940, by U-100.
Later, Charles joined his seafaring father on the M.V. Norrix. Charles was
now an Ordinary Seaman. They were ordered to Dunkirk, to assist in
the evacuation, and the M.V. Norrix pulled
a barge full of soldiers across the English Channel. Back in Blighty, on the 17th June 1940, Charles after earning his Dunkirk Medal,
was discharged. This wouldn’t be the end of Charles’ services with the Merchant Navy. He would later serve on S.S. Empire Gull, which
on 12 December 1942, was attacked and sunk by U-177 off East
Africa. Of a crew of 46, two were killed, including Mumbles man, Edward H. Coode. Charles
escaped with burns to his hands.
This family booklet makes very interesting reading – it is a shame that more people haven’t put into words their experiences, so that their descendents have a written account for posterity.