SS Strathmore at Sierra Leone harbour



SS Strathmore at Sierra Leone harbour


A short story about the SS Strathmore in Sierra Leone harbour during a transit to South Africa. Fishermen were diving for silver coins and one was singing a crude version of 'Bless em all'.




One typewritten sheet


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War time stories, SS Strathmore MK2. In Sierra Leone harbour, warnings about the Bum boats that came alongside, trying to sell us tropical fruits etc, although, since we were about 20 feet above them, any transaction would be diffuct [sic], if not impossible, but one episode is worth recounting. As was usual, all the officers and their ladies, as well as other ladies, nurses, government officers etc were lining the rails for a good view from their open upper deck, while us lowly ones were on the rails of the covered decks. It was usual for the local men to come out in their little one man canoes, and dive for silver coins thrown overboard, but only silver coins would do, as they could see them glinting as they went down in the water, they would roll out of their canoes and intercept the coins as they went down, they would rise to the surface, gleefully showing the coin, it didn’t take long for the clever dicks on board to wrap a farthing or a halfpenny in a piece of silver paper and throw it over, as the diver surfaced, he held it aloft shouting, you b--------rd, Glasgow tanner. The natives seemed to have an idyllic life, they appeared to launch off the beach, letting the tide carry them out to sea to fish, and return with the tide as it turned, and took them home. They went out as a small fleet, very boisterous singing and shouting but one day was quite memorable, for as the fleet of fishermen approached all the passengers crowded to the rails for a grand stand view, when one of the fishermen, louder than the rest, who stood out with his sun toupee, painted bright red, belted out his rendition of Bless em all Bless em all, the long and the short and the tall, etc, but made a substitution for BLESS, which more or less complied with the usual version, sung by most members of the armed forces of the day, I recall that we taught it to the B17 boys that shared our airfield, on our big booze night, since their side was dry. This guys voice rang out all around the harbour, confusion reigned among the ladies and their escorts, since in those days that kind of language was certainly infra dig as it were, of course all the rabble on the lower decks found this very amusing and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it quite made our day. After a few days taking on supplies and re fuelling, we turned about went through the gap, into the Atlantic and continued on our way to sunny South Africa.



Ted Neale, “SS Strathmore at Sierra Leone harbour,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 20, 2024,

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