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Updated: Nov 12, 2022

P&O Purser Cadet - Passing out in 1974 - Cheeky face of Terry Williams (Front 2nd Left)

Shaw Savill Pursers taking a well-earned break.

Tavern Deck on Southern Cross in 1971

The mention of Officers Stripes inevitably led to stories of trips to Miller Raynor to be fitted out with, uniforms before taking up your first shipboard appointment.

Stuart Bennett, who l sailed with on my first ship Oriana in 1973, remembers the trip to Miller Raynor in Fenchurch Street. Mr Errington took care of the young gentlemen from the P&O. I recall the uniform bill equated to the first 10 months cadet's salary. I still have my stripes and buttons.

Happy Birthday Stuart

Philip Prescott is not quite sure if it all happened on the first day of Cadet Training.

From the Cadet training room, first stop at the Officer's Union to sign on. Then the Board of Trade to get a discharge Book and Seaman’s little red book. Finally, Miller Raynor to be fitted out with uniforms.

Salty Seadog

As a cadet on our training cruise on Oriana on 16th September 1973 (Thank goodness for the discharge book) Our training officer was Purser Peter Jennison. At the time I remember his patience and kindness to the 11 Purser Cadets in his care.

As lucky cadets, we shared three 4 berth cabins on F Deck aft. Any further aft and we would have shared the linen locker with “Lofty” the linen keeper. I believe that “Lofty” had been on Oriana since the maiden voyage, as had Norman the storekeeper, only leaving the ship to take leave occasionally.

SS. Oriana - F Deck aft Purser Cadet accommodation for our training cruise

September 1973

I am sure that Peter Jennison was enjoying superior accommodation in the old first-class section of the ship. We were too excited, we did not care about our cramped accommodation with shared showers along the alleyway, although I do remember one cadet who should have used the shower a little more frequently.

Back to the uniforms. Our training Purser Peter was always immaculately dressed. I discovered that Peter had his uniforms made at Gieves and Hawkes . This came to light in a conversation with his friend Howard who following the debate about officers ' Purser's four- stripes', informed me that I was wrong, in the 1970’s Pursers with three stripes were known as “Up and Downers” as they were more junior and often were relief pursers. There were however a few four stripe senior pursers at the time. Peter Jennison was one such purser. Sadly Peter was taken far too soon at the age of 60.

Four Stripe Purser - Peter C Jennison

Jamie Brandane - Remembers having to have his uniforms made to measure but for a completely different reason.

Shaw Savill Pursers - Wearing No 10 Uniforms

According to Jamie - The first thing we did after being assigned a ship, was a visit to Miller Raynor to be fitted out for MN uniform.

For me, I was tall and very slim, back in 1967, so my uniform had to be made to measure especially the jackets. We needed mainly tropical gear as most of our time at sea would be in the tropics, but of course, we needed barathea blues, including mess kit which was seldom worn, except approaching the UK Channel, and in NZ mid-winter.

Sundays at sea and every evening in port, was always Number 10’s , stiffly starched which was always difficult to jump into in a hurry. The exception to the rule was to attend church service on a Sunday morning. We would close the Purser’s office at 10.00, head to our cabin, pour a large G+T and ‘jump’ into no 10’s, and head to the interdenominational service in the main lounge. The service was usually conducted by the Master, and the lesson reading by one of the Pursers. For me, I could make a fool of myself calling bingo, MC'ing the dance, singalong with Jamie, or making public addresses on the tannoy without a problem, but to read the lesson, I shook like a leaf. The whole lectern was shaking as I was trying to steady myself, and control my trembling voice. The large G+T did help, but was desperate for the second wing as soon as the service was over, and back to the cabin to change into tropical gear. Two large G+Ts before lunch were quite normal!

On one occasion, the FAP, complained about one purser cadet who had BO and wore rather grey shorts and shirt. The idiot was told off by the purser and was banned from deck, till he had a shower and fresh uniforms. He returned to the office, looking a little better but according to the FAP still had awful smell. Apparently he had no clean uniform and had used shoe whitener to ‘clean’ his uniform shorts !!

Shaw Savill has FAPs Femail Assistant Pursers.

P&O had WAPs Woman Assistant Pursers

FAPs have fun too on Shaw Savill

Long before professional entertainers, the pursers provided entertainment for passengers running card games, deck sports, bingo sessions, quizzes, dancing and horse racing. Children's fancy dress , Mad Hatters, adult fancy dress, and many other daily entertainments. There was jog along with Jamie at 7am ( eh wot!!) it was on the programme so had to be on deck, sometimes after a Moscow Mule to wake me after a late night on deck partying till 2am! Then there was Singalong with Jamie or early morning bingo during morning tea. The stewards were primed to deliver us a large pot of tea and teacups to our desk, which was full of some refreshing alcoholic beverage, similar in colour to tea!!

We had fun at the officer's table in the restaurant, usually tanked up at a cocktail party before dinner, then two or three bottles of wine with dinner, followed by cocktails with the chatty girls, after dinner. Some of us had to host a passenger table for which we had complimentary best choice wines to share with our guests.

All in all, it was a very sociable life, interspersed with a few hours in the office getting an ear bashing from upset bloods about their cabin mate snoring, or problems with Aircon, or someone who had vomited his dentures down the toilet, what could we do about that !! Well, fortunately, we only had to take the complaints and delegated another Dept to take action. Thanks to a dedicated plumber, who found the dentures munching on a sausage, would you put them back in your mouth?

Oh well, that is the life of a purser, some great memories.

It would be great to hear your purser stories.

Please send them to

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Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
12 nov 2022

From John Martin

“An ex colleague of mine has written a book in part describing his ten years 'before the mast' as a trainee Purser and his time with B&I and Elder Dempster. We were both on RMMV 'Aureol' when it played host to Prime Minister Harold Wilson when the Daily Mirror chartered the ship for a 'Salute to Liverpool'. He was a Junior Assistant Purser, I a Catering Cadet. He goes on with the duties of a Purser on ED's cargo ships. He describes the various culnary delights during his life and we would all recognise items on ships menus. Written in a humorous and self effacing way.

The BooK 'Incredible Edibles' by Martin Wilmshurst”

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