Even during his childhood days in the Cornish fishing town of St. Ives, Eric Kemp knew he was bound for a life at sea. While his mother was cooking pasties in ‘the slab’, better known as a Cornish range, young Eric would be upstairs watching the comings and goings of the ships as they were piloted into the nearby port of Hayle.
Being the son of a captain in the Merchant Navy left Eric’s upbringing mainly to his mother, but he remembers well the days when he was able to travel on ships with his father on short voyages, and particularly the time when he finally told his father that he wanted to go to sea himself. After trying in vein to dissuade him from doing so, both his parents finally gave their blessing.
So, after finishing his education at Truro School, he set out to become a cadet on HMS Worcester, then moored on the Thames. His training included work on the famous Cutty Sark and also brief spells of work experience on ships such as the MV Singularity.
Following training, Eric became a Merchant Navy apprentice in the shipping company Ellerman Lines. He remembers both tough times and amusing incidents; often involving the many characters of the seamen who made up the crews.
During these years Eric was to travel all around the world, with regular visits to ports in India, Africa, Canada and the USA. However, on marrying a local St. Ives girl he realised that he needed more time at home and this prompted him to join the Palm Line on shorter voyages.
Steeped within this account is the importance of the Merchant Navy in the postwar era through to the mid-1960s; a time when ships were still responsible for nearly all our imports and exports, and a time before containers changed the face of shipping forever.