I cannot recall what the food was like except that it was poor and the same pudding (dessert) was served every day. It was some form of duff. Not only did we get that each day but we got the same three meals whether we were in temperate or tropic climes. Like everything else on the Devonshire for troop deck personnel, the cooking and food preparation facilities were primitive. The galley in which the food was prepared was two (or three) decks above our deck. It was another metal box and situated in midships. It had no shelter from the sea and weather conditions being exposed to the elements because of openings in the ships sides on either side of it. That provided plenty of ventilation but it did not help in the food preparation in the inclement weather conditions we met of gales, storms, rough seas, strong winds and a typhoon.
It also made much harder the task of those detailed to fetch the food three times a day (one of whom was Ian Styles) and bring it to the mess table. For this required they had to brave those elements whilst waiting for the food to be given out. And then descend the companionways laden with the food containers whatever the roll and pitch of the ship. Sometimes they got dropped or spilt and the food was often cold by the time it reached us. We also discovered the cooks, probably lascars like the rest of the crew, used the cooking cauldrons for their laundry, to boil and so clean their overalls. We did survive all this but it was not haute cuisine.
More Daily Devonshire Life
Each day there was an announcement of the day’s run and where we were. As we got further east the time was adjusted from time to time by half an hour until there was eight hours difference between our time on the ship at the time in the UK. The days too got longer with earlier dawns and later sunsets. During these longer days, we could not see a lot except the sea. At the time there was a popular song called ’On a slow boat to China’ and this was so very true in our case. On a good day the Devonshire managed to sail about 300 miles or so at an average speed of around 12 knots. She was not a fast ship.
Below decks we only had the mess table around which to sit, to talk, play cards, usually solo or whist but some played bridge, wrote letters or read. Here again my father advised me to take some books, and I can recall reading an account of Admiral Anson’s ‘Voyage round the World’ in 1744. Seeing I was making my own voyage of discovery and adventure to the other side of the world this seemed appropriate, and it is an excellent book which I have re-read several times since. I also took Captain Slocum’s book of his adventures when he sailed single-handed around the world.
Cape Finistere, Landfall and Where the Devonshire Began her Eastward run
Landfalls were exciting and our first was Cape Finistrere in Spain; my first sight of a foreign country. The next was Cape St Vincent at the southerly tip of Portugal, and off which Nelson in 1797 had fought in a great naval battle. Being an avid reader of sea stories set in Napoleonic times and those of CS Forrester in particular, all this sea area and coastline we were approaching was familiar to me. Now I could now see the setting of so many of my hero Hornblower exploits.