Oscar Baker's Memories of PSNC

On 23 August 2015 I received an email from this gentleman who, at 91 years young, must have been our oldest surviving former PSNC officer!


"Dear Barry,
I am Oscar Baker (known as "Ossie").  I am now 91 years old.  I was cadet PSNC February 1942 until April 1945.
I am very interested in your website which affords me great pleasure as I am now living in a care home.
{He said he had been there for 1 year and 2 days}

On the seniority list I fitted in between Geoff Turner and Bill Campbell.  I think all above me are now deceased.

As Cadet I sailed:

After that I spent 28 years in NHS from where I retired as Area Supplies Officer in 1984.  I have now been retired 31 years during which time I have been living in Kenilworth, where I met C.A. Fletcher, a PSNC apprentice who became uncertificated 3rd officer during the war.

My daughter has typed this email for me but my phone number is xxxxxxxxxxx.  I would welcome a call from you. (Number deleted for Oscar's privacy)

Kind Regards,
Salud y pesetas
Oscar A Baker"


Naturally, I was intrigued by this email and duly called Oscar.  A long, informative, humorous chat followed; what a memory he has!

Sadly, after sixteen years of marriage Ossie lost his wife in 1973.
One of the things that prompted him to write to me was the hand coloured photo of the Samanco on the rocks.   He also said this was in 1945, possibly 16th or 18th, and NOT 1946 as I had captioned it!
Cadet John Butterwoth, who was very good at signals, had joined the vessel at the same time as Ossie.   Apparently the vessel was deeply laden to her "marks" and was at an anchorage selected by the Pilot.  Capt J.H. Murdoch, (whose brother also held an Extra Masters Ticket and sailed in Titanic) objected to the location but was over-ruled.   This was their allocated anchorage prior to joining a convoy.

Ossie was the Senior Cadet and on the 8 to 12 watch that night.   At 2000 hours the weather was reasonable but later the wind got up.  About 2200 to 2230 it was a howling gale and snow storm.   The visibility was dreadful, so bad they could not see Number 3 hatch's Samson posts.   Ossie told the Third Mate who was in the chartroom, that he thought the anchor was dragging. 
The cable was eased and the second anchor was dropped . . . but it was too late!  When the engine was started the prop hit the rocks and she grounded.   (Capt Murdoch was later demoted to 1st Officer, not Chief Officer).
Some of the crew went ashore by breeches buoy but Johnny Butterworth and Ossie stayed on board.   a man from the salvage company came aboard by breeches buoy and the second person to do so was a WREN {aged 20 Ossie remembered!} who came to collect the sealed orders for the Convoy. The Navy came and collected the Admiral's barge which was deck cargo!
The vessel had hit the rocks on her side and split in two but Ossie said she was patched up with rivets under water.

Prior to this event he was sent to New York and was waiting 6 weeks to join a new ship which was being built in the USA.   One day he was told "Get your bags packed!   They laid the keel of your ship yesterday!"   They were churning ships out on a production line.
Horsfall, who was apparently "schooner rigged", was flown out to Captain the new vessel called Samothrace back across the Atlantic. (PSNC renamed her Talca.)

Operation Torch was the biggest invasion fleet ever assembled!  He was a Cadet on the Loriga when they landed in Algiers on Sunday 8th November. They were there for 3 or 4 days until the Vichy French caved in.  Home for Christmas then back out to Tunisia carrying aviation fuel.

He was in Orbita for 6 months ferrying people home from the Mediterranean.   "I still shudder when I think of the condition of the Japanese POW's we were taking home."
Orbita had been turned into a troop ship and she made several voyages taking brides out to Australia.

Some of the people he remembered were:

Ossie was Senior 2nd Mate in PSNC, waiting for a Mate's job when he left the company.  He approached CPR but was turned down owing to a hearing problem.

Our conversation terminated at this point as Ossie said he was tired and was about to go to bed.   However, he gave me permission to put all his reminiscences on the web pages . . . and here they are.

Obituary (23 Janury 2017)

Hi Barry,
I’m Oscar Bakers son and unfortunately I email you with the sad news that he passed away on January 9th 2017 peacefully.
His funeral will be held on Thursday 26th at 12.00 at St Augustines Church Kenilworth CV8 2JR.

I know he enjoyed your website and chatting with you.  The write up you have on your website of Oscar Bakers Memories has given us all great pride. Thank you.
If you do come across any other information that relates to his time at sea please keep me informed.
Great work you have done and do in developing the Web site.
Kind Regards, Joe Baker

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