March 2012

8th March 2012 by Des Cox

London’s Royal DocksYou would think that sending out a regular news letter would be one of the easiest tasks in the world, but somehow so many things come colliding into my little world that throws everything out of joint. Anyway, here we are again with the chance to bring you up-to-date with all that is happening.

It has been over three years since we last produced a new programme in our very successful series of “The Great Liners”, mainly because we were so heavily involved in producing the documentary about the “Arctic Convoys” – “The Worst Journey in the World”, which if you haven’t seen already… is a must! (On our website: www.snowbow.co.uk)

It really was a difficult programme to make and required working with the Russians on all levels including politically and military, all of which took so much time. We also worked with the Norwegian Government and military, together with the RAF and RN, so all in all, when you appreciate that I do all this on my own, it is a huge task.

Thankfully I had help on the actual filming and editing, which would have been a step too far for me, especially knowing that I am not the most able person when it comes to modern IT and its use… in fact. Anything operated by electricity is usually way beyond my ability.

Olympic making a complete crossing of the AtlanticAnyway, what I hope you will take as good news is that we are now in the pre-production stage of a new Great Liners programme. Not totally sure what final form it will take at the moment, but we do have some amazing rare film to share with you and I just sort of fancy putting together something a little different from anything we’ve done before.

The rare film includes amazing footage of the Olympic making a complete crossing of the Atlantic. It’s been fully restored and I’ve recreated the sounds to take what was a silent movie and bring it alive in such a way that you feel you are there onboard the ship.

You know, we’ve seen what Hollywood believes it was like to have been a passenger aboard the Titanic but this film, part of which was shot at that time, shows us exactly what it would have been like to have sailed on her sister. It shows us everything right from the bridge all the way down to the cooks and assistants toiling away in the galleys, with amazing footage of passengers in dining rooms, public lounges, swimming pools, gymnasium and in their own luxury suites… it really is something quite special.

NormandieWe also have tremendous colour footage of the Normandie, which was such an amazing ocean liner that only but a few could not want to see. This film, some taken during its maiden voyage and some a little latter, also takes us on a complete Atlantic crossing on and what a ship that was.

You have to view it in colour to be able to fully appreciate the luxury spread throughout the ship, and just how amazing it must have been to have sailed aboard that legend of the seas.

Oddly enough, the luxury was for some people a little too much and overwhelming, causing them to prefer other Atlantic liners with a closer to home feel about them, which caused the Normandie to often suffer low passenger numbers.

Anyway, it’s an amazing film and one we have put all the sound back on including the roar of her mighty whistles. (We leave no stone unturned!)

Then to go with this I was thinking; what other great ship would we all like to see in this programme? Well that’s not easy when you consider how many are already featured in the series, and then it came to me… the QE2, which I still think was the very last of our truly great ocean liners. (Don’t want to know about today’s floating blocks of flats, although Costa do seem to offer unique entertainment, which is great, especially if you’ve got a lifejacket!!!)

QE2 by Robert G. LloydNow back to the QE2; I sailed on her a few times and always, always enjoyed every little second. She just felt so good, she just sailed so good and once, under the command of Ron Warwick, she had been delayed with engine problems and sailed from New York twelve hours late for Southampton.

Do you know, we crossed that Atlantic in a moderate swell at 29.5 knots all the way and arrive din Southampton bang on schedule! And what an experience that was, just feeling the ship hardly move other than in a forward direction at great speed, cutting through the waves as if she were queen of all.

Rangitata in Royal Albert Docks 1950sOf course, my old ships when I was at sea, back in the days of The New Zealand Shipping Company, could barely make 15 knots on a good day with the tide, wind, waves and a school of dolphins behind them, so racing along at twice this speed was special. (Don’t think they could do it today because ‘elf and safety’ would be out there issuing hard helmets, fluorescent jackets, life belts, flashing lights and for extra good measure, locking everyone in their cabins and tying them down to their bunks!)

So I think I’ve decided to include the QE2 as well, for which once again we have some tremendous footage, right from her build, launch, trials and voyages through her lifetime including an ‘Around the World Voyage’ that I did as a lecturer. And then, for the very ending, I was one of those people who froze their balls of one very cold evening in November 2011, 2008, I was out there on the Solent, capturing her final sailing on my special camera and what an evening that was.

Fireworks, bands, a myriad of small boats all blowing their whistles in long, long tribute to a ship that I believe rested in the hearts of practically all of us. So I’m pretty sure she will be my third choice, giving us a never seen before line up of three great liners of the past; Olympic – Normandie and the QE2

Hopefully this will be ready in the not too distant future, but do let me know your thoughts… well, if they’re nice ones!

Other news in brief:

Courtesy of David HutchinsWe have a great crowd for our next Maritime Memories Voyage, sailing o and from Portsmouth, taking us to the Baltic via Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and then a three day stay in St. Petersburg, where we hope to celebrate a special “Arctic Convoy Day” with the Russians, who are busily working hard to see how best we can all create something quite special.

It is important because the surviving veterans on those convoys are now mostly in their ninth decade and won’t be able to travel such distance again, especially if having to negotiate airports, which is where going there by sea is so much easier.

We are fortunate enough to have quite a few actual veterans coming with us and hopefully, with the support of relations and friends of those lost on the convoys and all our ex-seafarers aboard, we will be able to do these men proud and once again help in their fight to be awarded a Campaign Medal… It really can’t be that difficult can it?

By the way, on the homeward voyage aboard our ship the Discovery (Chosen by us for these voyages because she’s as close to a real ship as you’ll find, with wide open teak lined decks and just over 600 passengers, she much as ships used to be in the good old days!) we will call into Germany for a WW2 tour of Berlin, and Latvia, we will also transit the Kiel Canal. Which I suppose many of you have already done but I haven’t so there!

You know, what I find difficult to get my head around is that people like Elton John and Paul McCartney who are so mega rich and have everything that money could possibly buy, making lots of cash not by helping other people but doing the thing they enjoy most, get knighted, medals and every kind of recognition, yet those brave men that sailed on those notorious Arctic Convoys, many hardly out of school uniform, suffered horrendous loses in freezing seas whilst under continuous day and night attack by the might of the German navy and air force and they won’t even recognise the vital part these convoys played in saving Russia from possible capitulation and in turn, winning WW2… It just doesn’t make sense does it!

There are still some cabins available if you want to come with us, and we would love to have you with us, so just call us on: 00 44 (0) 1273 585391/584470 and we’ll take care of you on a voyage that really will be extremely special.

The BubbliesJust one final thing for this news letter: Years ago, when I was at sea, to amuse the passengers and crew I used to do cartoons and hang them on the ship’s notice board. It was something that was just natural to me – not like electricity propelled things! Anyway, years later when I settled ashore and took up a life in show-business, one of the things I did was to turn the cartoon characters I had originally created when I was at sea, into a series of Children’s stories for a TV series titled: The Bubblies

At the moment I am working to bring the series, which consists of 52 x 5 minute programmes back again after an absence of thirty years. (It was shown on TV in over ninety countries around the world).

I have restored all the original 16mm film and enhanced further, bringing up to today’s spec. I am also as I write this, in the recording studios making a new recording for The Bubblies (The characters form their own band and play some fantastic music!) a recording that, if we get it right, could well become a big hit, which would do so much to bringing them back to our screens.

I’ll keep you informed and do my best to make sure these news letter are more regular; it’s not as though there isn’t much to write about because they’re here and if it was left to me, I would probably write a 100 pages! By the way, my Autobiography “Jumping for Balloons” is now in the final editing stages and with luck, will be out this summer.

This book is going to create havoc in certain circles, exposing some really nasty, famous people for stealing copyrights submitted to them in good faith and, telling the truth about others such as John Prescott, someone I had the please (?) of sailing with… now there is a tale or two worth reading!

Maritime MemoriesI’m going to be a little bold now but from the feedback given by people (From all different backgrounds and ages) who have read it for a trial, report that they laughed and laughed so much, but were also taken about the way I wrote, described and felt life as it was back in those days and how they wish they could have shared it as well, which for me and I’m sure for many of you, were the best years of our lives!

If you want to pre-order a copy (Still haven’t determined price, but that doesn’t matter does it) then just call us on the 00 44 (0) 1273 585391/584470 and we will both make sure your copy is safe plus… dedicate it especially to you; can’t get any better than that can it! Don’t answer that!

Look after yourselves and do order some new DVDs soon, especially with the special offer we have on at the moment, where you can order two DVDs and have another one of your choice for free! which is ridiculous, but then we never did all this work to make money, we did, in all honesty, create The Great Liners and the world’s largest maritime film archive because quite simply, if we hadn’t it would have all been lost forever and that would have been sadly that.

Really best wishes and thanks for all your greatly appreciated help and support.

Kind regards,

Des Cox