50 years this year Hampshire County Council Education Department charted the MV Dunera for a 15 night cruise to the ports around Scandinavia and other Baltic Ports which included Stockholm, Leningrad, now St Petersburg, Helsinki, Copenhagen, via the Kiel Canal.
This trip was a mixture of children from schools & youth groups. The children would continue studies whilst on board, the youth groups did their own things.
The ship was planned to leave Tilbury Docks in London, and to return the same place, but along the journey it was not to plan. About 900 children from Hampshire was mustered by Hampshire CC education department by train to London Waterloo, then by coach to Tilbury, we were colour coded with badges so we did not enter the wrong bus or train.
We boarded the ship, we understood that Southern TV were on board and were making a film called ‘School at Sea’, This was televised on Christmas Day 1962. Also on board was the Junior Leaders Band, who gave us excellent traditional band music & also popular music at the time ‘Trad Jazz’ like Kenny Ball and his Jazzman.
The ship Dunera was the British India Line (B&I) part of the P&O group we paid £38 for the trip, which equates to £666.90 in today’s money and could pay installments. Living accommodation was not bad, I was billeted with about 30 people, and we had a shower which in the 1960’s was a luxury. There was plenty of food at meal times, you did not have spam, but had everything with bake beans!, we had a pipe overflow that came through our billet, and we were told it was the surplus bake beans going into the sea!
We left England in June to go to our first port of call which was Stockholm via the Kiel Canal in West Germany, before approach Kiel, I remember I saw lights on land, this was the first time I saw a foreign country, then during the day we went through the canal, we were told it was the largest vessel to do this, but unfortunately one of the propellers struck the bottom and bent it. When we arrived at Stockholm an inspection was made. When we left port the Captain made an announcement stating that were going at a slower speed, and we will not be going to Helsinki.
We eventually arrived in Leningrad, we didn’t know what to expect, the local political commissar’s arrived with their military bands and local youngsters to give us a warm welcome, as we approached the Junior Leaders Band were playing British traditional tunes and so was the Red Army It sort of clashed!. Whilst the MV Dunera was in dock we waited hours to get off, they had a slow method of checking passengers of the ship, meanwhile, the Hampshire youths & children were throwing ball point pens to the local below in return they throw back gifts, it caused a bit of a minor riot! We had a cornet player on board, and went to the top deck and played ‘Midnight in Moscow’ the tune that Kenny Ball made a hit, which delighted the crowd and the military band. The authorities arranged trips around the city, one place we went to was the Young Pioneers Palace in Prospekt Nevskiy Street formally Anichkov Palace, they gave a concert, and in the background on the stage were two portraits, one of Premier Nikita Khrushchev the other Joseph Stalin. During the concert an official came and quickly removed it during the show, at that time Russia was denouncing Joseph Stalin. Despite what the west was saying about the USSR the locals were very friendly, and the young Leningrad’s spoke England and were very interested in Great Britain.
We left Leningrad to Copenhagen and we were a day late, it was wet and we had the tours and went to the Tivoli Gardens and the Hampshire Junior Leaders played there. After Copenhagen the Dunera went to Immingham Docks near Grimsby Lincolnshire for repairs, again Hampshire CC charted some trains to take us back to Hampshire.
The photograph is of the ‘Baffin Boys’ they came from Southampton, Winchester, Basingstoke, Alton, Havant & Portsmouth area. They were billeted in the Baffin dormitory, there were 30 lads in their teens, who gelled up very well. There was a lot of banter with the adults and leaders, they had their anthem which was ‘We are the Baffin Boys, we are the crew’ which was played with the tune ‘Anchors Away’. The dormitory was always untidy we our percentage points were low. Mr ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, Hampshire CC Youth Officer offered us a free drink at the bar if we achieved 100%. A couple of days later we did, and it cost him 30 pints of beer! I wonder how the Baffin Boys careers got on, since the trip, and what they doing today.