After steaming for some time we eventually saw a mountainous land
- the ship had reached Madagascar and was now slowly steaming towards
Tamatave, the only real port on the East Coast. Here we spent the
next few days lounging around the deck and sunbathing, where we
carried our own rations and fed ourselves until the end of the third
day when the ship was ordered to return north to Diego Suarez, a
port at the extreme tip of the island. This port was supposed to
be the biggest anchorage in the world and certainly seemed like
The ship steamed it's way through a narrow entrance and amongst
the fairly large number of other vessels, finally anchored. Finally
a little barge-like craft took us and our gear off - our part in
the invasion of Madagascar was over and we had seen and heard nothing.
The craft ran alongside what turned out to be a L.S.I. (Landing
Ship Infantry) which turned out to have been an Irish Sea ferry
from Dublin to Holyhead.
Three days were spent aboard and I was co-opted into watches on
the bridge. However, I also got three days leave in Diege Suarez
but it hadn't much to offer. The buildings were a sort of compromise
between Frenaf and the Wild West and there wasn't much to be seen
besides an interesting crowd of natives, especially the women.
One item of interest was a silver painted upright tank which stood
along the shore and was alleged to contain rum - the ingredients
were certainly grown there but "Jack" was certainly not allowed
to get any! The Navy, so we heard, had recently been carrying out
experiments to see if this stuff would propel petrol landing craft.
One day I was on watch and idly looking harbourwards when I noticed
a landing craft coming towards the ship. The sailor at the helm
stopped the craft and went down the hatchway that led to the engine
before re-emerging to take the wheel. The craft then took an erratic
course and finally started to turn in a wide circle, so I used the
binoculars on the bridge to observe him just lying there against
The Yeoman was called to take a gander. "There's something wrong
with that lad", he said and called down to some of the craft moored
alongside for somebody to investigate. A boat eventually left and
went alongside the craft to discover that the helmsman was in fact
drunk. If it hadn't been well known that he was normally a temperance
man things would have been extremely hard for him. I never did find
out if the local rum was ever used for craft fuel, but he had certainly
put it to more traditional use.