Bmsml Bmsml

Ernest Fletcher


As I stood on the quayside and took my first look at this monster of a ship towering above me, I was amazed and speechless until some other member of the crew gave me a shove and told me to get aboard as I was blocking the gangway.


The “La Hacienda”, my first ship!  She was enormous, 9,313 DWT, 149.3m in length and 18.3m wide. She was a general cargo ship with the funnel, bridge and officers accommodation amidships. She was built originally for Louis Dreyfuss of France in 1953 and named the “François LD”. She was re-named as “La Hacienda” for Buries Markes Ltd. in 1961. I had the impression she could cross all the oceans of the world and be back home in time for Christmas!!

How wrong can you be?


I staggered up the gangway with my kit bag and case, and stood looking bewildered around me until some kind soul said “Cadet, starboard side, main deck first cabin”.


I fumbled my way aft into the accommodation and found the cabin, which consisted of 2 bunks, one above the other, 2 wardrobes no bigger than a hospital locker, a built in day bed and a wash basin; I was going to be living in close company with someone!


Now you have to appreciate that I was the junior Cadet, lowest of the low, and the guy I was sharing this coffin sized room with was above me in the pecking order. The other two above him in the pecking order had individual cabins on the next deck up. My room (Ha!) mate introduced himself in the usual way, (yours is the top bunk!) and told me to dump my gear and took me up to the next deck to be introduced to my other betters. “Snowy” was the senior apprentice (you didn’t become an apprentice until you had signed “Indentures”) tried to make me feel at home, asking me questions about where I came from, where I had done my training etc. I was starting to feel less like being “all at sea” (now I know where that phrase comes from!)


After a while, I heard a voice shouting “fore and aft for leaving port”, and I said “oh great, I think I’ll go up to the boat deck and watch us leave”.  

Talk about green as grass!


Snowy nearly blew a fuse! “Get into your working gear and get your arse up forrard”. I must have gone white as a sheet as I asked “what working gear?”

“You have got jeans and stuff, get into them!” he replied. With knees trembling, I answered “No, I’ve only got the stuff on the Buries Markes list”.


This was cause for great amusement for about thirty seconds by which time the exasperation of the senior apprentice took hold and between my shipmates they came up with spares that would fit me. I quickly changed and made my way up to the foc’sle. Being the last to arrive, and not having a clue what to do, I went and stood looking over the bows, until the kindly Bosun took me in hand and  told me to start heaving on the shore lines with the rest of the team.


By this time, I was wishing I had gone down the coal mines like the rest of my family!

Ernest Fletcher

Please be aware that I have no log book records for any of BM's vessels or any personal discharge books other than my own. The information on this website has been obtained through my own research & is purely for nostalgic purposes only. The copying of photographs from this site is stricktly forbidden unless you have obtained permission from me & the owner of the photograph.