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    This title is currently out of print. It will be re-published shortly.


Sainfoin’s War
By W.J. Mitchell and Colin Buckenham

Some Chef's Stories - contd.


On board I rarely ate the dehydrated food and existed on Bread Roll (as made by me for the Wardroom, so the cooks always made extras for themselves) and soup. Somehow it kept me going until the next `Big Eats'. Once when ashore at Madras, the Shore Patrol found me and said I'd to report back on board. The other Baker had collapsed with the heat and lots of bread was at risk. I went slowly back to find the Chief Baker in a state too! God it was Hot! There were no fans at all and thermometers were U.S. The temperature topped 150 plus at the ovens. The flour was full of weevils, and must have resembled wholemeal bread nowadays! Flour must have been really old to be in such a state and of course the yeast was poor as well, so not a good loaf and difficult to make.

Six good looking stokers
from Sainfoin
Singapore 1945

Back Row left:- A Thompson
Front row:-B.Thorne - J.Baxter - W.Mitchell

Once when we called at Makassor in Celebes, word filtered to me that a nearby warehouse was `full of Yankee Tinned Beer' (in khaki cans). So that night I nipped ashore with others and acquired about thirty or forty tins of lager (Super!). I kept mine hidden in the Bread Room (off Cafeteria). What with a porthole there and now canned beer, things were looking up. However, Sainfoin seemed to always be at sea, and what with news from the UK that some high Demob No. in F.A.A. were being demobbed which made our low group men mad, and added to the general discontent re. conditions. We went to Bangkok and its fighting there with Nationalists and brought back a battalion of Dutch Paratroops, going on to retake Bali from the Japs. This was some months after VJ day!! Near to Surabaya, some of our passengers went sick and the Quack said "Smallpox". so we hoisted the Yellow Flag and anchored outside for a day or so. However the Bali landings had to go ahead - Quack decided that Smallpox was Chickenpox - meanwhile EVERYONE had been vaccinated again whether required or not and the landings went ahead. BALI! A Millionaires Paradise and I recall the lovely beach where our `Passengers' went ashore and disappeared into the jungle. Soon afterwards (up for a smoke) a Topless Maiden walked slowly along the beach, countless crew members ogling the view! So our little landing group withdrew, along with one of Sainfoin's sister ships `Sefton' and two frigates and two LST's. I have never been rich enough to return to Bali and so I keep my memories. Another port we visited now and then was Batavia, another place where fighting occurred. H.M.S. Sussex (6" cruiser) would fire from outside the harbour at the insurgents, sometimes over Sainfoin as we loaded or unloaded troops. It was from Batavia that we brought the 13th Batt. Parachute Regt. and took them to Singapore. Whether it was the effect of sampling the food on board or ?!?!? Anyhow within two days of leaving us and going to Muar near Kuala Lumpur, they mutineered over the conditions. The C.O. was demoted to Major in the subsequent inquiry. The 13th. Batt. was disbanded (there has never been another) and ringleaders jailed, some got ten years. Not a happy tale, but there was a lot of discontent amongst our forces in the E. Indies then. The war had ended and the men felt that they had been forgotten. Food poor, Demob Nos. scheme definitely not working, also the mail from the UK was really poor and seemed to be worse than in the war. That's just a few of the reasons. On Sainfoin we sailed for Rangoon next and a `Deputation' of six including Royal Marines went up to the Bridge (MUTINY) and `ASKED' for a meeting with the Skipper, L/Cdr. Longmuir who was told that things were at breaking point. There did seem to be an improvement after that, even the mail seemed to be better. Previously, Sainfoin and Mail seemed to always miss our Ports of Call. The admiral in Singapore put his Chaplain aboard for a trip and I was surprised one night on deck to be spoken to by this officer. Later, invited to his cabin (cool fan blowing) along with ten or so shipmates, and on other occasions we enjoyed a cool glass of Limers and a smoke and discussions, ending with a Prayer. I was told that he was aboard to assess the conditions on board etc. Some three years later in 1949 I had need of a Vicar's signature for Emigration Papers for Australia and so I went up to see the local Vicar. He went to a filing cabinet and found a letter (from the Admiral's Chaplain). He told me that he had waited a long time to show me this letter!! The letter said that would he please tell the Chef's Mum that her son was fine and still smiling despite the hard times, and sticking to his Christian Faith whilst some others were losing theirs and their heads! How I wish that I still had that letter now. So conditions did improve. Mail began to come regular and some crew went off home for Demob. Two Royal Marines (we carried about seventy to man the LCA's) wrote up to the Daily Mirror appealing for Pen Pals and one day when we reached a port, Sainfoin was swamped with mail. Sacks of it! Whether the female writers were feeling sorry for us lads or were looking for a husband I'll never know, but there were too many to reply to. The Royal Marines used to dump a bagful onto our mess table and say "Dig in boys". There were so many letters that many would never get a reply - Pity. I wrote to a couple of girls, but got cold feet eventually when I got home. So I never met Betty from Mill Hill or Rose from Stroud.