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A Life at Sea Beckons

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Becoming a P &O Purser Cadet.


During my time at catering college studying hotel management it had always been my ambition to work on a cruise liner.


Luckily during my third and final year at college a P&O assistant purser Tony Horrocks was given leave to study for his HCIMA management certificate at my college. Tony became a friend and enlightened me to the delights of sea life.

Towards the end of my college time l applied to Union Castle Line, Cunard and P&O Cruises. I was too young for Cunard. Union Castle gave me an interview but did not offer me an immediate position.

Having been crammed with knowledge about P&O by Tony Horrocks l set off to London for my interview. London was a big adventure having only ever visited as a child. I arrived at Beaufort House with hours to spare. I remember drinking gallons of coffee in nearby Houndsditch Warehouse shaking like a leaf waiting for the appointed hour. The selection committee was three gentlemen, one was Mr Atkinson seaboard personnel manager but l cannot remember who the other two were.

130 prospective purser cadets was whittled down to the final twelve who where offered jobs. I was one of the lucky ones and had to report for training a few weeks later.

With three large suitcases I arrived in London. You had to find your own accommodation and I had booked into a hostel near to New Scotland Yard.

Little did l know that it was a Salvation Army Hostel. I was on the third floor with all my bags, a small partitioned room and shared toilet washing facilities

with about 20 other men. Wow what an eye opener for a boy from the Lake District.

It was a twelve-week training course commencing in the basement of Beaufort House. I cannot remember the names of all the cadets, but we seemed to get on pretty well together. After a some time in London we were sent to Southampton office for a couple of weeks. During this time we were all accommodated at the Merchant Navy Hotel. This was great as we all got to socialise after work, it was the first time we hung out together in the evening.

Part of time in Hampshire was spent at the Maritime School in Warsash where we were taught fire fighting skills. There was no messing, one guy came away with burnt hands and l remember missing a ladder completely and landing in a heap beside the fire and being dragged away by the instructor.

On returning to London,

l decide l had had enough of the Salvation Army Hostel and discovered that there was a Merchant Navy Hotel in Lancaster Gate and although the cost was reasonable for the next few weeks it was costing me as much to live in London as I was earning. It was while staying here that l met Stuart Bennett, who was to be SAP on my first ship.

Great excitement amongst the cadet, having been fitted out with our uniforms we were told that we were to go on a seven day training cruise on Oriana. We were appointed a seagoing purser (Peter Jenson I think) as our training officer.

The accommodation on G Deck as far aft as was possible before you were in the laundry. We were six to a cabin and it was hot noisy and vibrated, but hey

We spent very little time there.

During the week we were moved around different departments, but to be honest cannot remember much about it.

For me this was the first time abroad and it was a big adventure. In the seven days Oriana visited Lisbon and Casablanca, we were given a lot of shore leave and it felt wonderful and exotic. After Casablanca two of the cadets had to visit the doctor, but that is another story.

Back in Southampton we had to leave Oriana, which was very sad, as l had already fallen on love with her and my new career at sea. Little did l know that I would soon be back onboard 42,000 tons of Lust, Thrust and Rust.

Back to London for the final weeks of training, before a little leave back home.

We were informed that we would be sent to sea as purser cadets for a possible four months.

The letter came with my appointment to Oriana as Catering Junior Assistant Purser. I was over the moon at my first appointment. Four of the twelve cadets had been given immediate promotion to JAP. I think the other three were Bob McClellan, Steve Mann and David Stephenson.


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3 Comments


Jamie, The Purser
Jamie, The Purser
Jan 07, 2021

Hi there - love your website and look forward to reading all your posts in time - but your life on the ocean wave mirrors mine as I started off as junior purser with Shaw Savill in 1967. Can relate to many of your experiences on Oriana as I had on Southern Cross but your life was just starting as I retired from the sea in May 1973.

Your experience with the female tour operator in Papeete was a nightmare which no young purser should have to face on his own, we were lucky having a very helpful Frenchman, Claude, who went out of his way to care for our passengers and indeed the pursers staff who sold the tours.

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Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
Oct 18, 2020

Hi Peter. I think you may have been in the year before me. I believe I met you but can't remember sailing with you. Possibly on a Canberra dry dock

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Peter J Sackville
Peter J Sackville
Oct 17, 2020

I believe I was in that same group intake, under the supervision of Froggy French!

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