Aboard

On Deck

Moldavia had four decks including the boat deck and passengers could go to most areas. Judging by the caption on the photo below - 'The Bath Forward - Alan and friends' - there must have been two canvas pools.

Life on Board
Children swimming in a temporary pool on Moldavia [1]


The pool shown is a temporary structure made of hatch boards covered with hatch covers and using ropes to hold it together and anchor it to the deck. It would be filled with seawater and I would imagine only available in the Mediterranean parts of the cruise.

The photo seems to have been taken on the port side on the main deck looking aft. If you look at the photo showing some of the crew at work further down this page you can see that the pool was next to various winches and other machinery. The arrangement would appall a modern Health and Safety representative but I am sure it was good fun.

The boat behind the pool is one of the ship's motorised launches which would be used to ferry passengers ashore at destinations such as Santorin.


The album photo below is captioned 'Alan steers the ship'.

Life on Board
Photo showing the young boy Alan posing at the ship's wheel [1]


It should be noted that Alan is not on the ship's bridge but standing at a 'docking station' - probably on the poop housing. The ship's telegraph shown is specialised and has indicators for Slack Away, Let Go etc. and was used in the docking of the ship. The steering gear would most likely have been disconnected when not in use but could be used in an emergency. There is also a full binnacle at this position to enable steering by compass.

I am grateful to my friend Rex Cooper OBE for the following summary of this arrangement and how it was used:

"Liners and well found ships had a docking bridge aft where the officer in charge could remain above the ropes and action on the poop deck, relaying orders to and from the bridge in connection with letting go or arriving and securing alongside. For many years the orders have been passed over a fixed intercom system, now by hand-held radio, but 100 years ago a mooring telegraph would be used (as in photo). Quite separately there is a need to be able to navigate and steer the ship from aft in the event the bridge or telemotor steering gear are damaged by fire, collision or enemy action. Thus also on the docking bridge or poop deck housing there will be a compass binnacle and a wheel which can be engaged by rods to the steering engine. The last resort is local control in the steering flat where there will be one of several arrangements: a huge wheel which directly operates the steering rams attached to the tiller; or worst of all, a series of wires and blocks attached to the tiller which are then led through the deck to cargo winch drums. Well managed ships usually practice for these eventualities."

The image below shows the position of the 'docking station' highlighted on an enlargement of part of a photo of Moldavia.

Life on Board
Docking Station [1]

The photo on the left below is a magnified part of the previous image showing the dial of the telegraph on Moldavia. That on the right is a Chadburn's docking telegraph - not quite the same but the only one I can find online showing this type of telegraph although there are literally thousands of photos of the standard engine room telegraph. Ship's telegraphs were often referred to as 'Chadburns' after the Liverpool company that pioneered the devices from 1872.

Life on Board Life on Board
Photos showing the docking station telegraph [1]

The album photo below is captioned 'Gipsy' and shows a young lady standing in front of a lifeboat. I presume she is the mother of Paul as she appears with him in a photo taken at Malta.

Life on Board
Photo showing 'Poppy' in front of a lifeboat [1]


Based on observation of other photos of Moldavia, this photo must have been taken abreast of the aft mast on the main deck. The lower lifeboat may in fact be a float or have canvas sides that have to be raised after being launched. One of the problems with having sufficient lifeboats for all passengers carried aboard ship, which was a requirement after the findings of the enquiry into the loss of life on Titanic, was the space taken up on deck and folding or collapsible lifeboats saved space. In fact Titanic had 4 collapsible Engelhardt lifeboats so this was not a new idea.


The album photo below is captioned 'The crew at work' and is the only one in the album showing the crew.

Life on Board
Photo showing some of the ship's crew busy with ropes and winches. [1]


P&O frequently employed Lascars as crew as they had a reputation for hard work, skillfulness and reliability. A lascar was a sailor or militiaman from the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Arab world, and other territories located to the east of the Cape of Good Hope, who were employed on European ships from the 16th century until the middle of the 20th century.

This busy area with power winches and ropes is right next to the pool in which children are seen playing in another photo - though the pool was presumably not used when the crew were busy as shown here. The photo was taken on the port side of the vessel looking aft and the superstructure is visible behind the launch. In the background you can see people sitting in deckchairs in an area of the deck below the bridge that does not appear to be roped off in any way. The crew seem to be stowing gear after leaving port. The raised steel covers between the pool and the hatches are covering the steam pipes to power the winch in the foreground. One of the crew is standing on the launch.

Health Matters

The leaflet below was issued to provide advice and guidance on health. The advice about food and drink is sensible but that about staying out of draughts was surely out of date even in 1936.

Excursions Excursions Excursions
Health advice booklet [1]

Sea Sickness

Sea Sickness was described by the ancient Greeks and Romans so is nothing new. We have products in 2019 that claim to help reduce what we now call motion sickness and there were patent remedies around in 1936 as can be seen from the advertisement for the "Seajoy Plaster" which was in the album and is shown below.

The advertisement gives no information whatsoever about any pharmaceutical content and just tells you to stick this plaster on 'the pit of the stomach' - which a medical dictionary says means just below the sternum. I presume that any improvement from using this product would be as a result of what is now known as the placebo effect.

Excursions Excursions Excursions
Seajoy Plaster advert [1]

Notices Issued on Board

There was certainly no shortage of notices on this cruise covering everything from booking excursions to where to go for coffee. At least they were nicely decorated and had a sense of style about them

Coffee

Presumably parts of the ship got congested during the voyage so a notice was prepared to show the various places that passengers could get their coffee.

Excursions
Coffee Notice [1]

Official Photographer

There was an official photographer on board and passengers could purchase photos or albums. None of the photos in the album are of professional quality and were probably taken with an Eastman Kodak 'Box Brownie' camera or similar. The notice says that films could be purchased and developed on board.

Photography
Notice about the official photographer [1]

The images below show an Eastman Kodak No. 2 Brownie camera from 1935 which took 2.25" by 3.25" photos and a roll of 120 film. My family had one of these and, if I recall correctly, they took either 8 or 12 exposures. The film had to be wound through the camera with the handle and had numbers printed on the back which were viewed through a tiny red window so you could move the film forward the correct amount. The end of the film was inserted in a slot in a second roll rather than having sprockets like 35mm film.

Photography Photography
No. 2 Eastman Kodak Brownie camera and film [3]

Purser's Office and Currency Exchange

The Purser's Office provided safekeeping for valuables and currency exchange services on board during the voyage.

Excursions
Notice about the Purser's Office and currency exchange [1]

In the case of Greek destinations it seems that Greek money changers came aboard ship to arrange conversions. I can't say I fully understand this notice and hope it was explained better to passengers at the time.

Excursions
Notice about Greek currency [1]

Communications

Post and Radiograms

People back home could communicate with passengers by post and radiogram. In the case of post, sailing dates of the mail ships were published and had to be taken into account; a leaflet explained latest posting dates and times for the various ports. Interestingly air mail service was available for Athens, Bizerta and Lisbon.

Excursions
Notice about posting dates and radiograms [1]

Writing Home

P&O provided rather smart and, it has to be said, somewhat pretentious, headed stationery for passengers to write home.

Excursions
P&O stationery [1]

Entertainment

Passengers Committee

Onboard entertainment in the 1930s involved participation to a degree that would horrify most people in the 21st Century. The ship's entertainment staff didn't waste any time and invited passengers to join a committee to work with them to organise activities and I suspect they were not short of volunteers.

The image below is the notice inviting passengers to a meeting to set up the committee on Sunday 2nd August 1936 - the first day after leaving Southampton.

Committee
Invitation to join the passenger committee for activities [3]

Programme of Events

P&O had a standard set of events that would be supplemented by whatever the Passenger Committee came up with. The standard programme for the two weeks of our cruise is shown below.

Events Events
Events programme for the cruise [1]
Scavenging Game

One activity that could involve lots of people was the 'scavenging game'. The aim was to collect as many as possible of the things on a list provided to all participants. There is no indication of when this took place. Some of the items seem very strange today!

Excursions
List for Scavenging game [1]
The Moldavia Jockey Club

A mock 'horse race' was organised for Tuesday 4 August during the leg of the cruise from Southampton to Portsmouth. I can only guess what was going on; maybe it was a series of piggy-back races? Whatever it was, I am sure it involved a great deal of audience participation. The owners and jockeys on the race card are all passengers so it must have been printed on board.

Race Card Race Card Race Card Race Card
Race Card [1]
Onboard Concert

A concert was put together on board and presumably took place on Thursday 20 August 1936 as a concert is mentioned on the 'Events for the Week' notice for that date. All but two of the performers were passengers as was the compere. Their names can be found on the Passenger List HERE.

Excursions
Concert by 'The Moldavians' [1]

I was curious about how much of the content of this concert could be found on the internet and was surprised to find much of it within a short period. Many of the items were well-known 'party pieces' - a term not much used nowadays and defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as a short performance or an action done in public, especially one showing an unusual or humorous skill. If you had a party piece and had practised it, you could perform it whenever called upon.

I can remember being mortified when I went to a children's party at the age of about 5 and being expected to perform such a 'party piece' - I didn't have one and had never seen anyone perform one!


Flo's Letter

It turns out that this, and several of the other pieces, was very old even at the time of the voyage. Nobody knows who wrote 'Flo's Letter' but it goes like this - and should be recited in as childish and innocent a voice as possible:

A sweet little baby brother had come to live with Flo
And she wanted it brought to the table, that it may eat and grow

Oh, why hasn’t it teeth dear Grandma, asked Flo in a great surprise
O dear, isn’t that funny, no teeth but nose and eyes

I guess the baby’s toofies must have been forgot
Can’t we buy him some like Grandpa’s, I’d like to know why not

That afternoon to the table, with paper, pen and ink
Went Flo saying, don’t you talk, if you do you’ll disturb my think

I’m writing a letter Grandma, to send to Heaven tonight
And because it is very important, I want to get it right

At last, the letter was finished, a beautiful letter to see
Directed up to Heaven, then Flo read it to me

Dear God, the baby you sent us was awfully nice and sweet
But because you forgot its toofies, the poor little thing can’t eat

So that’s why I’m writing this letter, in order to let you know
So please come and finish our baby, that’s all from Little Flo

A May Morning

The song 'A May Morning' was most likely written by Frederic E. Weatherly in 1894.

Excursions
Song 'A May Morning' [2]

Captain Mac

Captain Mac was a song from Ireland written by C.C. O'Reilly about a sea captain who had to fight off the ladies.

Oh, well set up and handsome as a sailor man could be
Was Captain John MacPherson of the schooner "Ben Machree".
A shy and modest bachelor of just two score and ten,
The idol of the ladies and the envy of the men.

CHORUS:

Oh, East and West, North and South, Frisco to Perim;
Didn't matter where he went, the gals were after him.
They chased him, pursued him, they would not let him be
Till Captain John MacPherson cursed the day he went to sea.


He dyed his beard a fury red. 'Twas not the slightest good!
To make himself a skeleton, he took some patient food.
He wore a pair of spectacles, looked morose and queer,
But the gals still flocked around him and said he was a dear.


CHORUS


At last he grew so weary that he said unto the mate,
"Unless this adoration stops, I'll go clean off my pate.
Why can't the gals leave me alone?" Said the mate, "I'll save you, sir!
You take a wife, that's my advice, and leave the gals to her".

A Birthday

There is a poem of this name by Christina Rosetti that may have been made into a song but I can't be sure. It starts:

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit
...


Invictus

This is described on the programme as a 'monologue'. It must surely have been the famous poem written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley. It has been quoted by Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Another Cruise

More information about onboard activities comes from the account below from a C. Ferrier that appeared shortly after our cruise finished; he may well have been on the cruise previous to ours as his account mentions the Spanish Civil War which had only recently started.

I am primarily interested in his account of onboard activities. He mentions deck-sports, bridge, whist drives, cinema performances, 'housey-housey' (also known as Lotto and nowadays Bingo) and 'physical jerks'. The latter being a programme of vigorous excercises - though worryingly they were a required activity for citizens in George Orwell's '1984' with party members being told how to exercise each morning via 'telescreens' and expected to have a look of 'grim enjoyment' on their faces. Which I have to say is the best face I am able to put on when forced to take part in such activities.

In the article, Ferrier has a pop at 'youth' and people with Oxford accents, says women are intellectually superior to men, defends the Jews, and condemns excessive makeup and gambling. I think I would have liked C. Ferrier - a man after my own heart.

Another Cruise Another Cruise Another Cruise Another Cruise
Cutting from North Devon Journal 27 August 1936 [4]

Image Credits

  1. From the website owner's album from the voyage
  2. By courtesy of the National Library of Australia
  3. By courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
  4. By courtesy of the North Devon Journal