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Oriana in Sydney Harbour

On 3rd November 1973, I boarded Oriana for my first appointment as a Junior Assistant Purser. I was lucky, I was assigned to the Catering Deputy Purser as his assistant. My desk was tucked away at the back of the office outside the private office of my boss, away from the passenger counters. My desk was back to back with Stuart Bennett, the senior assistant purser, in charge of the bureau operation. In the other corner was that of the senior woman assistant purser Gill Angrave, who was responsible for the ship's documentation and was also the personal secretary to the senior officers, namely the Captain and Staff Captain.

It was almost 49 years to the month that I first met Gill Angrave the SWAP (senior woman assistant purser). We were sailing to Australia, where we were to embark on Australian cruising before our voyage back home, arriving in Southampton at the end of April.

The Charleston Oriana 1974. - Gill Angrave (3rd from left), Salty Seadog (centre)

During our time at sea, we got to know each other, mainly through work but also on the dance floor where along with the other female officers onboard we would entertain the passengers by performing various shows in the evenings. This of course was voluntary but a very enjoyable part of our lives at sea.

Female Officers Accommodation on Oriana- Red Indicates Alleyway Parties

As an assistant purser, our cabins were up on the boat deck just below the bridge. The girls however had their own separate accommodation on A Deck forward. This was often the scene of an alleyway party or “Pour Out” as they were known. The girls would get together and decorate their alleyway and hold fabulous parties.

I particularly remember one party when the theme was set for “Island Night”, the alleyway being decorated like a tropical paradise, I am sure the drink of choice was a lethal rum punch which got us rather lubricated for dancing the “Hukilau” and limbo dancing on public decks later that evening for the passengers.

Limbo Dancing with a Passenger

on Island Night.

I had not seen Gill since we departed company in Southampton, in April 1974.

Until last Sunday some 49 years later we met up in the shadow of Arundel Castle.

Gill was promoting her book

“From Oceans to Embassies” a memoir of her life at sea and her time spent working for the Diplomatic Service.

She had mentioned in an email to me that she was proposing to attend the “Christmas Book Fair”. I thought this was an ideal opportunity to drop in and surprise her.

Gill and I Meet up after 49 Years - We haven't changed a bit.

It immediately felt just like last week when we had sailed together. We were soon chatting away about our life at sea on Oriana. Although we have recently made contact through email and shared stories, nothing is quite the same as meeting face-to-face.

Since Gill retired from the Diplomatic Service she moved south and settle near Chichester where it was not long before she took a new job as a Registrar. In the summer she is busy with weddings, when weddings slow down in the winter, Gill has more time on her hands and is once again putting pen to paper and writing another book about her life in the Diplomatic service. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, in her first book she had to be aware of the 30-year rule. But who knows what the second book will hold when she is no longer restrained by this rule.

Gill’s first book was a very good read and is still available either direct from Gill or from Amazon. Of course, Gill is very happy to personalise her book if you buy it directly from her.

Gill shared the title of her new book with me but has sworn me to secrecy. But as the 30-year rule does not apply I will share it with you soon.

Gill self-published her book, in both hardback and paperback.

Find out why Craig House Books, by reading it.

You can buy through Amazon or Waterstone

But buying from Gill direct has the great advantage of being personalised.

Contact her either through

or email her on

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Gillian Angrave
Gillian Angrave
12 בדצמ׳ 2022

David, it was wonderful to see you again after so long, and looking so well. I couldn't believe it when you walked through the door. We had such a great time reliving memories of times gone by, didn't we? In particular, it was such fun putting on the entertainment for the passengers. You were a great dancer, I remember. Again, thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to come and see me in Arundel. Happy Christmas and all the best for 2023. I just love Salty Seadog. Keep going! Gill

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