in merchant ships, especially in times of war, held privileged positions
as they were often privy to highly confidential communications between
ship and shore and ship to ship. These diaries are written by a Marconi
radioman who served throughout the Second World War: during most
of the hostilities he sailed in the BI ships Indora, Sir
Harvey Adamson and Warina.
by nationality and in his professional training, Alan Patterson adapted
to a life in BI quite different to the one he had left in Canada
in 1938 and the Great Lakes' steamers in which he was apprenticed.
The diary is full of his experiences in the East, particularly in
India and Burma, and his ships and shipmates. Accounts of
life on board are interspersed with entries of trips ashore, sightseeing,
hunting, photographing and 'rag chewing' with colleagues, mainly
in India, Ceylon and Burma. As the diary progresses it becomes, sadly,
less detailed, more generalised and contains fewer entries. This
is unfortunate because the interesting war years pass at ever greater
speed until the whole of 1943 is covered in just six pages. Nevertheless,
there are some interesting episodes. Among these were the four months
Warina endured in Trincomalee, a particularly 'hot' place to be in
a naval supply auxiliary in 1942, as the navy and merchant ships
assembled there were subjected to constant Japanese bombardment.
Despite the hostilities and the ever-present threat of being over-run
by the Japanese, though, it is clear merchant seaman still took all
the opportunities they could to get ashore and experience life in
the countries they visited. Patterson left Warina in July 1944 and
the sea altogether at the end of 1945. Despite his position as Marconi
sahib and the access that gave to communications, the book contains
surprisingly few accounts or even references to his professional
life on board, especially in BI and the war years. On the other hand,
the book, edited by his daughter, will evoke many memories for old
Burma, India and Coast hands.
The softback volume
contains a number of monochrome snaps from Patterson's collection
but they are produced at extremely small sizes as screened half-tones,
rendering most details almost impossible to see.
Man - Marconi Sahib edited by Mahrie Locket, published by iUniverse,
Lincoln, US, 2007. (ISBN 978-0-595-47022-8). A5 softback, pp214
with half-tone illlustrations and photographs. $18.95 (US).
(Available through Amazon).
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