Commodore Harold Charnley

From 'Clansman', No.32   August 1975

When Windsor Castle docked at Southampton on July 28, Capt. Harold Charnley commodore of B&C, completed his last serving voyage.

After more than 46 years afloat, Capt. Charnley, 63, is retiring and plans to settle in Southern Africa with his wife, Margaret, whom he met when she was travelling aboard Windsor Castle as a passenger.

Born and brought up in Barrow-in-Furness, Capt. Charnley first went to sea at the age of 15 in 1929 as an apprentice to the firm of Stephen Sutton of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, spending four years aboard tramp steamers, carrying coal to South America and bringing back grain.   He stayed with that firm until shortly before the outbreak of war, when he joined Shaw Savill as fourth officer in Waiotera.    

In December 1940 that ship was torpedoed and sunk, but a British destroyer was quickly on the scene to pick up survivors.   Capt. Charnley then joined Bibby Line and was involved in the evacuation of Singapore in 1941.

In 1942 he joined Union-Castle as fourth officer aboard Capetown Castle in which he served for five years. There followed a period of 10 years during which he served in a variety of vessels; then in 1957 Capt. Charnley was appointed chief officer and quick promotion came his way.   

In 1965 he was given his first command, Margaret Bowater, the fruit ships Roslin and Rothesay Castle, then of Good Hope Castle.   In September 1970 he took command of the passenger liner Pendennis Castle and moved to Windsor Castle in March 1973.   

His appointment as Commodore of the British & Commonwealth Shipping fleet was made the following month.

Memories of Harold Charnley from contributions on Ships Nostalgia

Chris Isaac

I sailed with him quite frequently and came to be known as one of "Chuckles's" men.

I first met him when i was cadet and he was on one of his early commands on Constance Bowater.

My first voyage as 3rd Officer was with him on Roslin Castle

I then sailed as Extra Second Officer and Second Officer on Pendennis Castle with him for quite some time.

I like to think that he asked for me to sail with him as I was an officer that could be relied upon during the night but I suspect it was really that we shared a passion for golf and would nearly always sneak off in Port Elizabeth and play at Humewood together. Whilst playing I was allowed to call him Harold...... (a secret I have never revealed until today).

He had a great love of classical music and always brought his hi-fi and record collection to sea. He was often found in his dayroom, music up full blast and Chuckles standing at a lecturn with baton conducting an imaginary orchestra.

I held him in great respect and affection he was one of those masters who was there when you wanted him and not there when you did not.

I understand he died by his own hand in Durban a few years ago.

Bob Preston

Is this the "Chuckles Charnley" I sailed with as Staff Commander on the Windsor Castle about 1964ish.( Wife is no help on this one, she can't remember the year either ). Every one in Union-Castle seemed to have a nick name.e.g. Swivel Eye Lloyd, Logger Lloyd, Windjammer Wilson, Happy Jack Wassell. It wasn't only the men. We had a Patsy The Nipple, a Titsallina a Tattyhead.Very few were complimentary.

Bob Preston ( The Golly )

Chris Isaac

Commodore Charnley was always known as Chuckles, although very professional he could always see the funny side of a situation.

He was held back being promoted to Master until quite late in his career. (something to do with a lady passenger on Kenya Castle if memory serves me right) I think the lady in question went on to become the second Mrs Charnley.

I recall that he was Chief Officer on Kenya Castle and Windsor Castle for a long time before rising to Staff Commander on Windsor Castle. Thereafter his promotion to Master was rapid and he quickly worked his way up from cargo ships back to the mail ships. Ending up as Commodore on Windsor Castle.

Bob Wilson

I sailed with him for about a year in PENDENNIS CASTLE (I was 2nd R/O) On inspections, he always jokingly asked if I declared my ship model proceeds to the taxman. One voyage, I was involved in making clear plastic paperweights for his wife who sold them to passengers. They contained small radio components such as transistors, capacitors, resistors etc. At he end of the voyage he brought me my "pay" in a brown paper envelope. Smirking insolently, I asked if his wife would be declaring the proceeds for tax - he never asked me again, but I am sure he saw the funny side of it!

Bob Wilson

James Lowe

Recalls some memories of Harold Charnley

Commodore Charnley and Commodore George Mayhew on the bridge of Windsor Castle

Receiving his Commodore’s pennant from the Nautical Advisor

Captain Raymond Hart

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