I wonder if anyone can explain this? HMT Empire Fowey | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

I wonder if anyone can explain this? HMT Empire Fowey

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I wonder if anyone can explain this? HMT Empire Fowey

Does anyone else have one of these? Quite amusing I think.


I never travelled by troopship, but recall a friend telling me about his ritual 'crossing the line' ceremony.  This certificate proves that B H Tunnicliff survived the ceremony.  I don't know whether all the first time passengers on board were subjected to the indignities - that would have taken hours!

As Andrew rightly pointed out, an initiation or water baptism ceremony for first-timers in King Neptune's court onboard ship.

Hi David & Stephen. Interesting certificate this, l crossed the international date line one month later on HMT Nevasa and do not have any memory of a ceremony taken  place surrounding the 1000 or so troops on the troopdecks, for the vast majority the first time leaving G.B.  but do remember that part of the this  troopers decks  (we were not allowed to fraternise with them whosoever) reserved for military wife’s /husbands and civilian personnel did have a ceremony.  l think these certificates were picked up from the pursers office and we would self sign them and could then post them home at next port of call to parents/ girlfriends.  David do you recognise this signature as your fathers ? Remember posting one to my mother but did not see it afterwards, but do have a spoof notice collected on board on homeward journey to post to my parents. From this record l now know your father sailed from Southampton on Thursday 3 January 1957  on Empire Fowey heading for Hong Kong, hopefully - Eurasian- David-  if he sees this  (or another of the helpful forum members) will be able recall the ports of call and date of arrival in Hong Kong. I note I was conscripted one month after your father and was posted to Hong Kong one month after him!  12800 miles each way, so I was told.   Regards.   Bryan.

Hi Bryan the signature is definitely my fathers. I am going to see him tomorrow so I will take the ceremony card with me and see if he can tell me anything about it. I will ask which ports he called at though he may not recall but you never know?

i will post some pics of other bits and pieces which you will probably have or know about. You've been a great source of information for us. I hope your enjoying it as much as us.

thanks again David.

Hi   I took the 3 pictures above and showed them to my father. When he looked at the picture of the ship he kind of recognised it. "Wow that's lovely" he said. Suprised me! I read the induction notice to he but he didn't recall it though he did recall going to Hong Kong and Kowloon and getting lost but getting back just in time. He couldn't tell me where else the ship stopped at although he did remember the white lady singing to the ship so that must have been Durban.

I will try again next time.

regards David.

Hi David,

It would seem that your father's  comment about   '...going to Hong Kong and Kowloon and getting lost but getting back just in time. ' perhaps suggests that Hong Kong was a port of call for him rather than the final destination and that he was on route to either Korea(?) or Japan(?).  Any thoughts?  Regards, Andrew

Sorry, I was wrong!  He was clearly stationed with one of the tank regiments in the New Territories. Seeing the letter, I can now see that he was worried about getting back to camp before his pass expired.   Life in the R.A.F. was much more relaxed - as long as we turned up to do our shifts at work, we were free to be off camp at all hours. Andrew

We've got a couple of descriptions of King Neptune's ceremonies when crossing the equator:

  • Ted Harris in 1945: There was the fun time of crossing the Equator when Father Neptune dressed in all his glory performed the “Crossing the Line Ceremony” The men, particularly, were told to don their bathers or underdaks and we were dabbed with what seemed to be like kitchen refuse. Sounds ghastly, but it didn’t smell all that bad, after which we were tossed into a tank filled with water.
  • Suziepie in 1955: Another, more pleasant memory, was the 'crossing of the equater' - it was a fun occasion organized by the crew: 'King Neptune' would hold court - near the swimming pool - and the poor victims [volunteers of course!] would be brought to him for 'sentencing' - which always involved being decorated with paint and then 'walking the gangplank' to be tossed into the pool - if you didn't jump first!

When I was serving with the RHKP Marine District in the mid-1970's, I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a deployment by 2 of the Royal Navy patrol craft of the HK Squadron, HMS Wasperton and HMS Wolverton. I was attached to the latter. The deployment was to the Philippines, Malaysia (Tawau) and Indonesia (Bali) and was of 3 weeks duration.

I recall the Crossing the Line Ceremony being held on board for all those participating in this event for the first time. It was conducted along the lines described above by Ted Harris and Suziepie - rather like a "Court trial" held during rugby tours, for those who are familiar with such things!

A certificate was presented to all those who were Crossing the Line for the first time. I'm sure I still have mine somewhere.