Saturday, 19 October 2019

Navy tackles sexual assault: 'banter' and buns

This is a straight lift from an article in Metro, 16 Oct 2019. 
Sex-charge sailor ‘poked hair of his female colleagues’ by Annabal Bagdi.
I have added sub-headings for readabilty, as well as links to related cases. 
A surprising amount of sexist behaviour still exists within this 30,000-strong organisation, in which women are 10 %. 
Since 1990 the UK Royal Navy has officially been hot on supporting respect and equal opportunities. The Merchant Navy's record is poorer. 
Women either tackle the matter informally, leave their jobs, or - in most cases - keep quiet. › hashtag › whyididntreport

Court martial

"A SAILOR has been accused of sexual assault after allegedly poking the hair-dos of female colleagues.
   PO Patrick Bennett made lewd jibes while repeatedly touching the women’s bun hairstyles, a court martial heard.
   He is said to have shrugged off the remarks as ‘office banter’, telling one woman at the Royal Navy Air Station in Yeovilton, Somerset, that she would have a short-lived military career unless she played along.
   The woman told Bulford military court in Wiltshire that on one occasion the serviceman, based on HMS Diamond, grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand towards his groin.
   She recalled ‘snatching’ her hand away and managing to only touch his trouser material.

PO Patrick Bennett RN: Yeovilton

'Banter' and PMT

She told the court martial: ‘He said once “if you don’t take banter, you’re not going to get very far in the Navy”, and once asked if I was in a mood because I was on my period.’
   When interviewed, Bennett said he never intended for his comments to be taken as innuendos and apologised when asked to stop.

'Hairy bun hole'

A second woman said Bennett had poked his fingers into her hair bun up to 20 times while working at the air station and made comments about her weight.
    ‘When you have your hair in a bun, it creates a natural hole in the middle, and he stuck his finger in the centre of that bun,’ she said. ‘He would say “how’s your hairy bun hole?”’
   She denied fabricating the allegations to ‘get back at’ the serviceman and rejected claims she disliked him.
   Prosecutor Maj Lindsey Jones said: ‘This was not banter — this was uninvited, it was unwanted and it was sexual assault.’
   Bennett denies four counts of sexual assault. The trial continues."

Recent related cases in UK Navy

HMS Vanguard, Wikimedia Commons

2016. In August 2016 Lt. Basil Purdue was sacked in disgrace following a court martial. He had groped a junior's breast aboard submarine HMS Vanguard. (pictured)
The  woman said  “I am constantly battling to show women are equal in the RN but they are not."

2018. There were 65 courts martial of naval personnel. Six of these were for alleged sexual offences. Four of the six were found not guilty. Of the two found guilty, the lieutenant from Northwood convicted of rape and attempted sexual assault was give a seven-year sentence.

US and UK Navies

US Navy policy tries to prevent sexual assault.
In 2011 the policy was found to be inadequate.
In 2016 in the US Navy there were 1403 cases of sexual assault reported. Under-reporting is common.

288 reported cases occurred in the Royal Navy in the years 2017 and 2018 combined. 
Investigators found a further 60 cases that were not reported.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The black cook, the cross-dressed wife, and the ship's hot kitchen 1852

Here's a little fragment for Black History Month, though it's mainly about a white woman who  worked her passage from New York to Britain. Her mate - but seemingly not her accomplice - was a 'man of colour.'
The emotional element is absent from this tale, which appears in The Bradford Observer, 26 August 1852.  (I am grateful to John Ellis for drawing the article to my attention. )

New York 's East River, 1848. Public Domain,

On Good Friday 1852  'a respectable female from Spilsby' (Lincs)  married a Mr Bealby. He turned out to a ne'er -do-well. 
He was supposed to be opening a grocery shop in Boston, Lincs. But instead he booked them onto a ship from Liverpool to New York, telling his wife they were going to Scotland for a few days to see friends. 
When they got to New York on this unnamed ship, he wasted their money in idleness then wanted to go on to California. At that time it was seen as a land of opportunity, including for gold prospectors. 
But 'his wife having no faith in him, refused to accompany him and decided to return to England.' 


Trousers for safety

'To accomplish this, having no funds, she donned  a garb that would insure her from insult, and obtained  an engagement as a cook's mate on board a vessel bound for Old England. (The cook himself was a man of colour.)'
Black, brown and disabled seamen, especially those with peg legs, were often employed as ship's cooks at that time. real versions of Long John Silver were assisted by able-bodied boys. 

See this poem and image about Billy Peg-Leg's fiddle, by Bill Adams (

I've a pal called Billy Peg-leg, with one leg a wood leg,
And Billy' he's a ship's cook and lives upon the sea;
And hanging by his griddle
Old Billy keeps a fiddle
For fiddling in the dog-watch
When the moon is on the sea.

She arrives intact

There is a somewhat happy finale to Mrs Bealby's trip. She ended the voyage 'in the exclusive possession of her secret'. After walking 57 miles she and arrived 'in her sailor attire', at her parents’ house at 2 a.m..  We can only imagine how traumatised she must have been.
This saga feels a very interesting combination to me: Mrs Bealby and the cook sharing a galley, and presumably a sleeping space.  It was extremely rare for women to be allowed to be ship's cooks at that time, except on very small family-run vessels. 
Of course I want to know what happened. 

The questions

1. What was it like to be cooped up together 24:7 producing food for perhaps hundreds of people? They were trapped in a tiny space. They worked side by side for maybe 35 days (It can reasonably be assumed that they were on a sailing ship. Steamships did not really start on that route for another decade. The voyage took 7-10 days)

Galley of HMS Warrior, as built ten years later and in more pristine condition than a working merchant ship would have been. Wiki Commons

2. As such precise details about her marriage were available surely Mrs Bealby, and therefore the cook, could be tracked down? 
No such luck. Census returns and directories show that there are Bealbys in the area but none that fits this picture. No wedding record exists.
We are left with a story of a stigmatised seaman (the cook)  working in a mixed-race team with an upset person who withheld a major secret from him  for five weeks.

3.So did the cook know? Did he side with Mrs Bealby in deceiving the ship's officers? We cannot know if he ever guessed her sex, or even, perhaps, her distress? 

4. Did the cook - and crew - ever find out later? Probably not, because the newspaper report revealed no details about the ship. And maybe Mrs Bealby used another surname while on board, anyway.

5. Was this the first black person she had met ( as she didn't live in seaport or big city)? And what did she learn from the encounter, in a working environment which is often hot and irritable? We can only guess how that proximity affected her attitudes to race.

This is one of those stories that needs to developed into fiction. I hope someone enjoys the process. 

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Girls ranging the seas: Celebrating 100 years

Sea Rangers 

2020 sees the centenary of the founding of the Sea Rangers. Keep an eye on the website for details: So far their plans include a Centenary Parade and Service in Portsmouth on Saturday 25th April 2020.

By chance, I've just recorded the story of Sea Ranger Janet G. I'm interested in the way young women found ways to connect with seafaring.

Born in 1939 Janet became a Girl Guide, a Sea Ranger, a Wren, then a Girl Guide leader. Rangers were part of the Girl Guide movement.

Janet and her Sea Rangers pals (pictured left) especially loved going on summer training trips. For one or two weeks a year a SR unit would have a solid spell on the water, usually on a shared boat. For Janet in the 1950s this included being on the Sea Rangers' own motor torpedo boat at Dartmouth.

Being in a Sea Ranger unit meant any city girl, whatever her poverty, could almost become a Nancy Blackett, the boaty heroine of Arthur Ransome's inter-war children's books like Swallows and Amazons.

You learned so much...

Not only was membership of the SR  a way for young women over 16 to learn small boat skills and gain access to the sea at a time when gendered restrictions on mobility meant women travelled less than men.
(Only one per cent of UK merchant seafarers in the 1920s and 30s were women. Many ships had no woman crew at all until the 1970s and even later.)

But also being with the Sea Rangers also meant former WW1 Wrens could enjoy passing on nautical culture, volunteering as Sea Ranger officers.

And the would-be ‘sailorettes’ these officers trained could then be fast-tracked into the Women’s Royal Naval Service, as Janet G was in the 1950s.

But usually members did not go on to work on merchant ships as stewardesses. The SR didn't funnel women  into a water-based career. Rather it helped develop transferable skills as citizens and responsible human beings.

Other ‘Daughters of the sea’

Being a Sea Ranger, or a member of the other related organisation, the Girls Nautical Training Corps, meant being proudly part of a sea-minded network: rowing and sailing boats, tying knots, communicating by Morse and semaphore, learning maritime lore.

1920: The SR began, growing from the Girl Guides
1942: The more militaristic GNTC started, then really took off until 1946.

Patriotically, some members of these organisations, especially in the mid-20th century, saw themselves as ‘daughters of the sea’.

They had fun, for all that there was naval-style discipline too, as the picture of Janet's SR colleagues shows. (Pictured left, above)

As part of a strong, can-do, adventurous team, girls and young women in the SR and GNTC developed confidence, a sense of agency and also a sense of motility - the idea that one was capable of travel.

Happy Families playing card. Mrs
Jack Tar, the sailor's wife, and Miss Jack Tar
were usually portrayed as being on land.
Master and Mr Jack Tar were seagoing.
Women and girls could live a sea-minded life, generation after generation, in this way. Mothers and aunts and babies were part of this sea-focused community.

Gender did not have to be an obstacle to accessing maritime life directly. Thanks to the SR and GNTC women didn't have to rely on being the daughter or wife of Jack Tar as a way to connect on to maritime life. Any member could connect in her own right.

Sea novels for girls 

From the mid-1930s to the 1950s Sea Ranger novels boomed.  (GNTC novels, by contrast, seemingly did not exist). 
In genre such novels were far closer to the girls adventure juvenilia end of the spectrum, than to cruise ships novels (the other booming genre of sea fiction for women in the 1930s).
Authors of SR books such as Helen  Beatrice Davidson  (fl.1898- 1998) - see below, Lucy of the Rangers - also wrote about Brownies and Girl Guides.

Frances Olivia Hartopp Nash  (1887-1953) shows her sea-minded heroine transitioning from the Girl Guides, as in: 

  • (1922) How Audrey Became  a Guide 
  • (1923) Audrey in Camp 
  • (1925) Audrey at School
  • (1933) Audrey, The Sea Ranger

In other words, becoming a motile young woman - who got away from home - was represented as natural progress. The novels encouraged readers to see that they could move on from earlier girlhood in wholesome organisations within the scouting and guiding community, become women who travelled, and even be heroic. Frances also wrote about girls' adventures on land, including at boarding school.

Some Sea Rangers include:

1929 (and 1938): Ethel Talbot,  Skipper and Co, A story of Sea Rangers
1933: Frances Olivia Hartopp Nash, Audrey, the Sea Ranger 
1934 : Helen  Beatrice Davidson, Sea Rangers of the 'Rodney'
1934; Mary Shrewsbury, All Aboard the “Bundy”: A sea-ranger story
1935: Helen Beatrice Davidson,  Adventurers in Camp: A Sea Ranger Story
1935: Ethel Talbot, Sea Rangers All
1937: Ethel Talbot, Sea Rangers’ Holiday
1938 (and 1955) Ethel Talbot: Rangers and Strangers
1943:  Frances Olivia Hartopp  Nash, Lucy of the Sea Rangers
1948: Geoffrey Prout, Sea Rangers at Sloo 

And in the air too...

Sea Rangers stories have a counterpart in flying novels for girls by Dorothy Carter (1901-1948). That thrilling new field, civilian air transport, was a profitable topic for the Josephine March-type writers of the day.

Had Louisa May Alcott  still been around and in the UK she'd surely have written another quartet for girls: Little Brownies, Good Guides, Great Air Rangers, and Brilliant Girl Pilots.  Actually it appears  that there were no novels about Air Rangers, Sea Rangers’ counterparts.

Celebrating mobility,  and making clear that long-distance travel was not just confined to boys, these inspirational Sea Ranger novels were the ‘daughters’ of earlier girls’ boarding school novels such as those by Elinor Brent-Dyer and Angela Brazil.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

New women’s maritime award shortlist revealed.

International Maritime Rescue Federation awards for Search and Rescue will include a special new award for women this year. Shortlisted women were announced yesterday. 
What follows is mainly an extract from part of the press release, but with added pictures and personal details.
The SAR award honours both professionals and volunteers. Often volunteering is a way in for women.
Winners' outstanding commitment' is honored. But the awards also make the wider world aware of SAR.

The Women in SAR Award is part of the  International Maritime Rescue Federation's wider #WomenInSAR initiative. 
This is in support of the International Maritime Organisation's Empowering Women in Maritime campaign.  
“The Award will recognize someone who is an inspirational role model for others.
Shortlisted finalists for this inaugural Award are Captain Song Yin of the Donghai No.1 Rescue Flying Service in China and Isobel Tugwell, a crew member at the RNLI Shoreham Lifeboat Station in the UK. 

 Song Yin

Song Yin joined the Rescue Flying Service after graduating from Shanghai Maritime University in 2008. She has gained extensive flying and technical experience to become one of China's first female search and rescue helicopter captains.
A People’s Daily online article about this ‘most beautiful female rescue pilot’ and her feats can be seen at See their pic.

See a video about her at work:

Isobel Tugwell

Isobel Tugwell joined the Shoreham lifeboat crew at 17 and has been taking a full part in SAR operations ever since – even while she was studying for her A-levels.
There are two other women in her RNLI team too. See
Isobel is also a community police officer in Brighton and Hove. Her dad is part of the RNLI team and so was  her granddad.

Why this award matters

On announcing the shortlist Theresa Crossley,  the chief executive of the IMRF said: "The calibre of all the nominations continues to inspire and amaze the judges. All around the world there are breath-taking search and rescue operations being conducted in harrowing conditions with SAR professionals using their skill and expertise to save lives in remarkable circumstances.  Here are just some of those people, selected today as our finalists."

The winners of all the Awards will be announced at a presentation ceremony on 10 September, on board HQS Wellington, during London International Shipping Week. The Awards will be presented by Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence. He is Anne, Princess Royal’s second husband.

My comment

Setting up this award is an important step in the struggle to encourage women into STEM jobs, and in recognising the achievements of those already in it.
‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ goes the slogan, highlighting the value of role models in helping young women see wider opportunities. This award helps us do that seeing.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Chinese women working with UK ships in 20C

British maritime labour history is largely a history of white and BAME men, and possibly 1 per cent white women. 
Women of other backgrounds, including Chinese, Yemeni, and African women are almost entirely absent. This is a brief introduction to Chinese women's relationship with sea mobility and British seafaring.

Adam Williams, his Chinese amah, and mother Anne at one of Hong Kong's many bays, 1956.
Chinese women accessed the sea and mobility because of their work. 
Image courtesy of


Q. Why the absence of Chinese, South Asian, Afro-Caribbean and African-origin women working on ships
A. The answer is that shipping companies deliberately excluded such women, despite their potential for being very cheap labour indeed, as both female and non-white. It's not that such women didn't want to go to sea.

Despite extensive research in shipping company and National Union of Seamen archives I have not found any  records of such women. Nor have I found discussions about excluding/including them. Reluctantly, I have to conclude that in the UK in 20C there were no BAME seafaring women. it seems extraordinary. 
I've had a lot of conversations with seafarers. From that I understand that the two main reason for this racialised and gendered exclusion are likely to have been on these grounds: 

1. PASSENGER ATTITUDES. Bedroom stewardess was the main job open to women until the 1970s. Companies probably believed that BAME women wouldn't have been acceptable to white lady passengers in the intense intimacy of a cabin. 

Yet such an objection doesn't seem quite plausible. White European women living in countries such as Singapore, Shanghai, Malaya, and Hong Kong readily employed Chinese servants, especially amahs (children's nurses, even wet nurses) in their homes. 
So it may be that actually the reason for the exclusion is about  the need for stewarding staff - as warders -  to subtly wield authority, to be a female-oriented part of the hegemonic and gendered control of passenger-inmates. 
Bedroom stewardesses and stewardesses had to, to some extent, regulate the passengers in their patch - for example ensuring they didn't request too much room service, and that they attended lifeboat drills.
It may be that shipping lines thought elite white passengers wouldn't accept such regulatory pressure from 'lower' status BAME women.

Also there were not enough Chinese or Indian female passengers to justify employers taking on women servants of the same nationality to look after them during the voyage. Cash-strapped shipping companies only do what they have to do, and employ specific staff only when it pays to do so. 
(This 'appropriateness' type of justification was later used in 1970s legal battles for equality. The concept of 'Genuine Occupational Qualification' was articulated, famously in a case where a gentlemen's tailoring firm remained men-only on the grounds that women should not measure male customers for trousers.) 
2.  UNION. The seafarers' union is likely to have opposed BAME women, on the grounds that white men, white women and BAME men - in that order - were more entitled to any available jobs. 


The main non-British women I have found working on ships have been:

 A. Europeans. Portuguese matrons or auxiliary nurses for migrants, pre WW2. They were employed by the shipping lines, usually Royal Mail and Blue Funnel, whose ships took some passengers of Portuguese background to Brazil. a former Portuguese colony. 
Crew agreements (registers of personnel aboard each voyage) show some of these women workers have British surnames. This suggests that local shipping agents in Portugal - say Lisbon - would have sought bilingual women, probably Portuguese women who were the wives and daughters of British men living there. 

Children were an increasing presence on ships after WW2. Their nannies, including ayahs and amahs, attended as part of their working day. Image from Tim Roberts' story,

B. Ayahs. 阿媽. Children's nurses - especially from India, Ceylon and non-mainland China. They were employed by the traveller's family, not by the shipping line. They therefore travelled as passengers although they worked all the voyage long. This included the usual nursing, dressing, playing with their charges, plus attending at children's sittings for meals on ship, such as the tea party pictured above.
There are records of Indian ayahs aboard, but few of Chinese or Japanese amahs. 
(For a brief summary of amahs' role on land see 'A Lifetime of Labour: Cantonese Amahs In Singapore', 

C. Gash Jennies, in port. These Chinese women in British colonies worked briefly on British ships in ports such as Hong Kong. 
Affectionate, if patronising, bonds existed between officers and well-organised teams of women who routinely serviced moored ships, doing women's work. 

The most famous 'Jenny', who died aged 92 in 2009, led  a gang who: 
took ''over the domestic economy and husbandry of each vessel. They washed and ironed, cleaned ship, chipped rust and painted, attended as buoy jumpers, and, dressed in their best, waited with grace and charm upon guests at cocktail parties.

Captains and first lieutenants would find fresh flowers in their cabins and newspapers delivered daily ...[jenny earned] by selling soft drinks to the ships' companies and scavenging every item of scrap and gash which could be found on board.' 

Could have been in...

1. Galleys and laundries. It never happened. But it wouldn't have been too abnormal for Chinese women living in the UK,  to be employed in jobs that didn't involve passenger contact, such as laundry and galley work. 
It would have been especially 'natural' for employers to take on those women who were part of British culture because of their family connections with British seamen, as in the Portuguese example above
(By the early 20th century Hong Kong-origin Cantonese men were routinely employed in the laundries of some shipping lines.)  And British women to do such work were so hard to get that in the 1930s shipping companies took on criminalised young women from penal institutions. 
One reason for women not being taken on for such backstage work may have been cultural resistance from the community. Chinese people in the UK possibly did not think it desirable for Chinese women work away from home for months on ships. Their shipboard position would have been lowly, and perhaps morally compromised.  

Amah holding Linga in HongKong, c 1919.
Image via
2. Ship's nurseries. From the 1930s major passenger ships had nurseries, staffed by one nursery stewardess. 
From the 1950s a hierarchy emerged, as was traditional in grand houses: a high-status 'children's nurse' supervised the nursery stewardess, who had a more maid-like status, for example cleaning up spills. 
It would not have been odd if Chinese women did this work on ship. In fact they were never employed in this capacity on UK ships. There was no transition from land-based amah to professional travelling amah, as there was with Indian ayahs.

Male counterparts

The UK history of Chinese men working on ships is as yet barely known, although this is now being addressed by some Heritage Lottery Funded projects. And perhaps men's history, in this case, is anyway not very helpful to understanding Chinese women's maritime history. It was so different.  
Any researcher wanting to go further in exploring men might try these sources, for starters:
A. 1915 crew agreements on line show brief details of Chinese seafaring men in WW1: 
To search you look up the seafarer by surname. So, for example, when I inserted the common name 'Ching' I found a firemen, carpenter, and steward. See

B. One of the recent digitally-available interviews with/about Chinese seafaring men includes this: Yew Chang (1919-2012). Pictured. From Hong Kong, he was a merchant seafarer from c1938 to the early 1950s. Initially in the engine room then a cook, he worked for the Netherlands company Shell, later Royal Dutch Shell group. Many Chinese seafarers in the UK worked for Blue Funnel.
In war BAME men were among those seafarers who were held in camps abroad. In WW2. Yew Chang was 'detained' in Calcutta for two years, and 'sent to repair damaged aircraft'.  
The British Chinese Heritage Centre has made available two interviews with him: and

C.You could try searching the records of the London School of  Nautical Cookery, currently held in the National Maritime Museum Archive, London, at SAH/63.They may include Chinese men, because cooking was one of the jobs Chinese men did on ships, especailly when Chinese food became more popular in the UK.
I recently looked through to find references to women of any ethnicity. The few female applicants were usually told there was no point in training, as no shipping company would take on women cooks.


I am grateful to Sha Zhou for inspiring this blog entry. Sha is at King's College, London, and looking for the history of amahs on ships as part of her Ph.D work on The Life Experience of Chinese Female Migrants in Britain after 1945.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Yachts, women and change: Maiden and Tracy Edwards

Maiden crew in 1989

This week in the US there’s much publicity about the new initiatives by pioneering yachtswoman Tracy Edwards MBE. 
In 1989, age 24, she skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World yacht race on the 58-foot yacht Maiden
Maiden, the documentary film about her and the crew, was screened in New York last week, It is just opening in Washington this week.
Tracy's original boat has been rescued. Since 2018 it is on a promotional voyage with a new crew, to enable greater opportunities for young women via the Anything is Possible program. 
And guess what? No-one is calling the boat 'she'.No-one is wondering if the women can cut the mustard.
But Edwards finds her new crew are part of generation who still face horrifying levels of sexism. And today it's more insidious, harder to tackle.

Maiden's new crew at Hawiai Yacht Club July 2019.
Picture from Maiden Factor blog


Maiden, the documentary about the original voyage, was made by Alex Holmes using much of the footage shot by women on board 30 years ago. 

++ When Maiden came out in the UK in March 2019 the Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw gave it 3 stars, commented on the sexism in articles of the time and added:
 “There is something that the film doesn’t address as clearly it could have done. In 1989, Edwards was asked if she was a feminist and she said no – and that she hated the word. ‘It’s probably clear enough what she meant: she just wanted an equal shot at yachting success, just as the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher once wanted an equal shot at political success. 
But, given that the present-day Edwards is interviewed at length, Holmes could perhaps have given her another chance to consider that question.’ See Maiden review – raging seas and sexist squalls, and some interesting comments by readers:

++ Yesterday's Independent, headlines its article 'Setting sail for feminism',

++ In current video interviews Edwards still refers to her colleagues as 'girls', not 'women'. But she does critique the sexists who 30 years ago asked her about packing waterproof mascara, handling female quarrels, and keeping one's lips soft with salve. 
There's also the men who said Edwards and her all-female crew 'would' - not 'might' - die in the process of competing. 
At the time Maiden's crew wanted to be seen as girly-girls when they arrived in port. They succeeded. But their impeccably-braided hair and makeup meant some people imagined their feat had been minor. It was, in fact, perilous,

++A Daily Telegraph article last year found 'Edwards is impressed by the voice of her daughter’s generation – ‘even boys her age are in MeToo T-shirts’ – and is amazed at the number of female applicants to crew the boat' on this new voyage.

The Maiden crew get together again in 2018.
Film-maker Jo is fifth from left. Tracy is first on the right.
 Picture is from Michael Chester and Maiden

Camera woman/cook

Many videos can be seen on YouTube including
It includes comments by Holmes but also Edwards' explanation of how Jo Gooding, their cook, had become the film-maker too. 
They had two cameras, not one (as on most boats), on board. 

Tracy and Mack at St Katherine's dock. Image courtesy of Mack and WP.

Moving on -- to help young women

Current online publicity heavily features Tracy’s daughter Mack Edwards-Mair, who, after seeing the film and the way her mother was acclaimed all over again, re-saw the situation.
‘Edwards and her daughter have teamed up to fight for gender equality in education,’ says the Washington Post. 
Maiden is at sea on its latest world tour, during which it is making 28 stops. 
‘The tour is led by a new generation of female sailors from around the world and is designed to help raise funds for the Maiden Factor’s affiliate charities.’
Mack Edwards-Mair, says the Washington Post, ‘will participate in a leg of Maiden’s journey as the ship sails from Vancouver to Seattle.
'While she admits she is actually “terrified” of the ocean and does not have a seafaring proclivity like her mother, Edwards-Mair said she is looking forward to participating in the journey. [She will take photos].
‘For her, it will be an opportunity to glimpse into the world of a woman she says has inspired her her whole life.
"She [Tracy] has made me believe that whatever I wanted to do, I could do it,” she said.’

The official blog is at

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Virgin's new cruiseship captain

This is a straight lift of a Virgin article, 11 Jun 2019 (with just some sub-headings and pix by me, for readability). 

I think the article is really interesting because of the way this woman captain - yet another to join the ten-plus in the cruise ship industry -  is applying emotional intelligence to the once patriarchal business of leading the shipboard team. 

Fascinatingly, Wendy Williams has been in the very hard work of fishing - as few UK women have been at all. No other women cruiseship captains have come from this gruelling industry.

Her adults-only ship, the Scarlet Lady,  is Virgin's first cruise ship. You can take a virtual tour of the ship here  

A captain's calling


The only thing that is going to limit you is your own imagination. A piece of advice Captain Wendy Williams’ parents gave her when she was a child, that she’s always held close.
 “Their message was that you can do and be anything you imagine,” she adds, “and I've always believed in that.
"You don't have to be limited by anything.”


As it turns out, they were right. Her imagination was vast, focused and driven, guiding her through a successful dream career at sea, where only under three percent of the world's mariners are female. That journey has led her to this moment, as she takes on the first captain role for Virgin Voyages’ premier vessel, Scarlet Lady, making her the first Canadian woman in history to captain a ship for a major cruise brand.


“If you're the heart of the ship and your heart’s in the wrong place, then you're not going to have a good ship. I’ve always been known as the captain with a heart.” she says about her approach to her new role, “I intend to be the best captain I can be and love every moment of it.” 
Born in Sept-Iles Quebec, on the Northeastern Coast of Canada, Captain Wendy is certainly no newcomer to the sea. She has spent the larger part of the last three decades on the water, in different capacities.
“I’m pretty sure I have sea water in my veins,” she says about her upbringing.


Commercial fishing was her first career at sea, starting out as a deckhand, then an observer and eventually working in all capacities, for her own vessels. During that time she became enamored with the sailing of the ships themselves and began to move in that direction.
She credits that background with giving her the confidence she has today. “Fishing brings you very close to the weather and how it changes,” she said, “I’ve learned a lot about reading the weather from being on a fishing vessel.”
After battling that very grueling industry for about a decade, during which time she met her husband, they decided to go to school together at The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Pacific Marine Training Institute, located in North Vancouver.  (Pictured)

Soon after Captain Wendy began her cruise ship career, still only one of very few women in the industry at the time.
Though she has captained many vessels in her career and was a Staff Captain for 6 of her 15 years in this industry, this Virgin Voyages role will be her first time mastering her own cruise ship.


“I think we're making amazing strides now,” says Captain Wendy about women in mariner roles. “When you walk onto the bridge you don’t have a gender. You’re a mariner. You’re an officer, this is what you do.
"This is what we do together. There should be no bearing on what our gender is. And that's the kind of bridge that we are going to have. There's no space in our day to have gender bias.” 
Captain Wendy says her primary focus at Virgin Voyages will be on crew. “While structure is of utmost importance for safety and order on a ship,” she adds.
“I'm driven to embrace inclusivity and set an example that all people should be treated with respect and integrity.”
A deep love for the sea drives all she does, and she’s described a life at sea as her calling, “For me, the sea is my religion. It’s where I think. It’s where I have clarity. I’m not afraid of it and I’m respectful of it.”
When this position with Virgin Voyages arose, she had been looking for a fresh perspective on the sea travel industry, which is why this partnership feels so destined, both for Captain Wendy and for the team at Virgin Voyages.

 Virgin's doing it differently in every way. This sort of advert for seagoing labour is no more standard in the biz than is the ship's revolutionary design.



“The whole thing for me is that [at Virgin Voyages] we’re going to do it differently,” said Captain Wendy, noting that she was drawn to the brand because of a shared drive for treating the sea with care and respect.
“I’ve encountered people in my career who feel being kind and smiling is a sign of weakness, but I believe it’s my greatest strength,” she says about her thoughtful approach to all she does.
“I have to care about everyone and everything. I’m the Captain.”
To that, we can only say: Aye aye! Welcome aboard, Captain Wendy!

This article is at

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Bisexual Falklands sailor takes action against MOD

Joe Ousalice (right) receives medal from Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, later Chief of Defence Staff.

This is a straight lift of a Telegraph article by Dominic Nicholls. 'Military veterans stripped of medals and discharged from the armed forces for their sexuality could have their honours returned as a bisexual Falklands sailor launches legal bid' appeared 8 May 2019, at 
You can see more pictures are there. I've added sub-headings here for readability.

'Military veterans stripped of medals and discharged from the armed forces for their sexuality could have their honours returned as a bisexual Falklands sailor launches legal bid. Joe Ousalice, 68, served for nearly 18 years in the Royal Navy but was discharged in 1993 prior to the lifting of the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces.
The Falklands veteran is taking action against the Ministry of Defence to have his Long Service and Good Conduct (LS&GC) medal returned after it was cut off his uniform following a Court Martial.

Northern Ireland and Middle East duties

An MoD spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment as legal proceedings are ongoing, but added, “we are currently looking at how personnel discharged from service because of their sexuality, or now abolished sexual offences, can have their medals returned.”
Mr Ousalice, a former radio operator, served in the Falklands War in which he lost two comrades, did six tours of duty in Northern Ireland and was also posted to conflict zones in the Middle East.
"I loved life in the navy, because of the comradeship," he told the BBC. "It was my life."
His work was praised by his seniors and he was awarded the LS&GC medal in 1991. Royal Navy regulations stipulate that LS&GC recipients must have served a minimum of 15 years continuous good conduct. It can be removed for later poor conduct.

Double life necessary

 However, Mr Ousalice said he knew when he joined up that he would have to hide the fact that he was bisexual.
"It was a double life I was living,” he said. “I was watching every day what I was saying, what I was doing."
He says that when ashore he never visited gay pubs and on board ship he didn't associate with sailors who he knew were gay.
"I knew if I did I would have the SIB (Special Investigation Branch) on my back doing covert operations, shadowing me with cameras, taking photographs of what I was getting up to."

Medal cut off uniform

Cleared at Court Martial of assaulting another sailor in the early 1990s, he was found guilty of being in bed with the other man - something he has always denied - and was dismissed on the grounds that his conduct was prejudicial to good order and naval discipline.
An officer wrote: "He may attempt to corrupt others in the future", adding that "the needs of the service must come first".
Although not official policy at the time, but not unheard of, Mr Ousalice had his LS&GC medal cut off his uniform following the verdict and hopes that the lifting of the ban on LGBT people in the armed forces in 2000 would help him to have his medal returned.

How many more?

The Telegraph understands that the MoD does not know how many individuals may be in the same situation as Mr Ousalice as it does not keep records of such matters, each one dealt with on a case-by- case basis by the respective service.
Amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill for England and Wales in 2017 allowed thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of now abolished sexual offences to be posthumously pardoned.
The new ruling became widely known as the Turing Law, after Alan Turing, the World War II codebreaker and computing pioneer, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952. Turing received a royal pardon (posthumously) in 2013.
The Turing Law could see military veterans who were previously denied medals have them awarded. The Telegraph understands that no medals have been returned yet or awarded in the wake of the government’s implementation of the Turing Law and that work is still ongoing in the MoD.
Any military veteran is able to apply to the MoD Medals Office, the department based at Imjin Barracks in Gloucester responsible for issuing medals to currently serving members of the armed forces, veterans and MOD employees.

Mod Medal Office, Innsworth, Building 250 Raf Innsworth.27 Nov 2018
Address: Building 250 Raf Innsworth

Next steps

The Medals Office says that individuals should only wear official decorations, medals or emblems to which they are entitled and which have been approved for acceptance and wear. Unofficial medals should not be worn with official orders, decorations and other medals.
It is common practice for the next of kin of a deceased service person to wear their relative’s decorations and medals as a mark of remembrance. It is custom to wear such medals on the right breast in civilian dress only.
The MoD says official approval is not required to wear a relative’s medals, although current serving personnel should not wear relative’s medals or unofficial medals whilst in uniform.
The Telegraph understands that Liberty is setting up a helpline to help other LGBT veterans stripped of their medals to come forward.

See Feb 1919 article about Liberty's general support for service personnel.

At that point the helpline number was 020 3102 9313. It was open 10 am to 4pm Mon to Fri. Sorry I can't confirm if this is still the correct number. I couldn't get any reply from the Press Office.

Readers may like to also see an article I wrote about the hidden queer history aboard the ships going to and from the  Falklands Conflict, in Polari Magazine, 31.5.2012:

Pictured: Crew enjoying a camp version of the Neptune Ceremony, 1982, aboard the Norland en route to the Falklands. Picture courtesy of Frank Green