Many Greek Migrants had joined the ship at Piraeus, headed for Australia and New Zealand.
After Suez, this led to an additional source of entertainment every day, in the form of Greek Dancing in the Ballroom. Most of the participants were, of course, Greeks, but lessons were also provided by Greek instructors for Non-Greeks who wanted to learn. Such dances as the Sirtaki, which featured in the 1964 film, Zorba The Greek, were most popular. That particular dance featured in Greek Restaurants in Perth we discovered.
Also after leaving Suez, a School was set up for Non-Greek kids, and a creche for the toddlers. The School was staffed by volunteers with teaching experience, and the creche by willing mums … this was great for the kids, and, unlike home, it wasn’t compulsory, so they loved it!
It also gave the parents some free time to do their thing, which usually meant out on the open decks in the pool or playing deck games. There was a marked change in the temperature in the Red Sea, almost summer in March, but it wasn’t the same as being on the beach at Bournemouth, or my wife’s home town of Bognor, as there was no sand (or pebbles), Donkeys, or Punch & Judy!
The Greeks had their own areas where they did their thing, but we were of course all able to mix anywhere on the ship, and I am sure this led to language lessons and friendships. The Greeks (as with Italians) are a very friendly people and the interaction was good and ‘healthy’.
Aden in sight !
Conflicts in Aden
t the time of our arrival at Aden, the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews was still on, and over the tannoy system we were advised, if going ashore, to stay in the Port area and not to venture in to the city of Aden itself. We were also told that no children could go ashore, and to close all portholes above sea level, as we were about to be boarded by boat-traders scaling the side of the ship, and they had been known to climb into cabins and steal things … nice !
The traders did indeed arrive, displaying all sorts of interesting and, by English standards, cheap items, but we resisted the temptation, and went ashore, because I wanted to buy a camera.
Arriving in the Port area, the first thing we saw was an armoured vehicle driving along the street we were on, machine gun sweeping from side to side, as well as armed British soldiers patrolling the streets … an uneasy feeling descended upon us … let’s get the camera quickly and get out, so it was in to the first shop we came to that sold cameras. The transaction was a short one, because I had been advised by a friend from home what to get.
Getting back to the ship, however, was not going to be quite as easy, because we were confronted by four local Arabs, demanding to know why we had bought from a Jewish shop. It took us quite a while and a lot of talking and pleading ignorance, and saying we were sorry if we had offended them, before they eventually stepped aside to let us pass.
Hairy, to say the least. We did not run, although we were tempted, but it was back to the ship and to the cocktail bar for a stiff drink!
I still have the camera by the way, a Braun 35mm. but unused now in this digital era.
The following morning, a notice was pinned to the ships notice board saying a British soldier had been killed in the City of Aden the previous afternoon.
The ‘Australis’ takes on water and fuel at Aden, in preparation for the 7-8 day haul across the Indian Ocean to Fremantle, our destination in Western Australia.