Overview of David John Tomlinson’s life with British and Commonwealth Shipping Company

Firstly until this day I have no idea why I went to sea.

My only prior experience was that of an educational cruise at the age of fourteen years on board the British India Ship the SS Dunera.

I was sick as a dog and quickly learned you cannot vomit in to the wind. All I wanted to do was go below decks and die.

By February1970 I had finished my apprenticeship and had started work in Southampton as a Motor Mechanic on Heavy Duty Lorries and diesel engines. The company was situated near the central railway station and not far from the docks.

I had to repair a lorry that had broken down alongside what I suspect was the Pendennis Castle and regularly would drive lorries I had repaired along the dock road,or I think it may have been called Canute Road and still have no inclination to go to sea.

Every Friday I could clearly her the sound of the whistle blowing as the Union-Castle Mailship would leave port.

By November 1970 I was earning a good salary although working lots of overtime and thought I was happy.

For some reason on the 9 November 1970 I stopped by the Mercantile Marine office to make enquiries about the Merchant Navy.

Looking back the efficiency in which I was dealt with was amazingly fast.  Quickly had my photo taken, was given a Seaman’s Book and a Discharge book and told I should rather try and join a company than go on the pool. The chap said he thinks Union-Castle Line is hiring engineers and gave me directions.

I found the Office and a Mr Broomfield who advised me that he had just started training for the final intake for the year and that if I was serious about going to sea to come back in January.

I remember like it was yesterday saying “oh I’ll be back”.

So there we have it January 1971 I joined Union Castle Line and attended Broomfields Academy as it was affectionately known.

I am sure I must hold a bit of a record of some kind.

On the Edinburgh Castle I dislocated my shoulder and had to be sent ashore in Capetown to Hospital to have it fixed then back on board for the journey home.

Later on the Reina I was working by prior to sailing for Capetown when I dislocated the same shoulder.

I was promoted and sent to Windsor Castle and was on her 100th voyage. I met and spoke to Bernard Cayzer and realised the writing was on the wall, that the end was nigh and that the business could not be run on emotions which I think we all understood.

Also on the Windsor one voyage,  the day after leaving Las Palmas bound for Capetown, I thought I had food poisoning but it turned out to be an appendicitis, so I spent the rest of the voyage in the ship’s hospital until arrival Capetown where I was put in to Die Volks Hospital and operated on.

I have to say I have never regretted my experience and if anything I would have loved it to have lasted longer.

I still have fond memories of my first ship, the Rowallan Castle and like everyone else have lots of stories to tell.

I still have things like my lifeboat and firefighting certificates as well as my farewell invitation on leaving the SA Vaal to go shore side in Capetown.

Service Record



Rowallan Castle

Jnr Engineer



Edinburgh Castle

Jnr 4th Engineer



Nicolas Bowater

4th Engineer



Pendennis Castle

Jnr 4th Engineer



Pendennis Castle

Int 4th Engineer



Reina Del Mar

Snr 4th Engineer



Windsor Castle

Jnr 3rd Engineer



Pendennis Castle

Extra 3rd Engineer



SA Vaal

Extra 3rd Engineer



David John Tomlinson

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