BOB HIND'S NOSTALGIA: Buffer's Hong Kong perks

A naval trio. Bob, on the left as a new recruit along with his father and brother.
A naval trio. Bob, on the left as a new recruit along with his father and brother.
Not some far flung island but Port Creek alongside Eastern Road, Portsmouth, earlier this week. I counted more than 50 plastic bottles along with other man-made filth.

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Robert Frederick Jones of First Avenue, Farlington, Portsmouth, joined the Royal Navy on October 5,1964 as an Ordinary Seaman. He followed his father, Frederick William Jones, into the Gunnery Branch.

The captain of his father’s ship, HMS Blackpool, discovered he had joined up and asked if Robert could join his ship.

Bob Jones today.

Bob Jones today.

Blackpool was known as ‘the family ship’ as there were several ratings and officers on board who were related to each other; including two sets of brothers.

In 1965 Robert was sent on his first overseas trip – six months on the Far East Station.

He recalls: ‘It was during this trip that my father pressed me into bundling up wood from food boxes, saving the staples that held the wire that went around the fruit boxes and making small coils with the wire

‘This, I learned, was for a Chinese lady called Jenny who had a team of Chinese women called Jenny’s Side Party.

‘We also recycled many other unwanted items on board ready for visits to Hong Kong.

‘On arrival, Jenny’s sampan would arrive alongside with a couple of other smaller Chinese boats called junks.

‘All the timber bundles and countless other recycled items was loaded on to her boats and taken away. All of this would be reused by the poorer communities in Hong Kong.

‘Jenny would then set about cleaning and repainting the ship after the long voyage having struck a deal with my father, the Chief Bosun’s Mate known as the Buffer. ‘This was how you did business in Hong Kong in those days.

‘Her team would also have a great big tub of water filled with ice and bottled soft drinks. These were sold to the sailors who enjoyed them during their breaks throughout the the day. They were commonly known as goffers.

‘Much to my embarrassment I did not have to pay for these as the Chinese lady selling the drinks would always say, “you no pay, you Buffer son!”

' During our visit,  Dad the Buffer and two other Chiefs were taken to dinner by Jenny, hence I still have the piece of paper with her address on it. This was her family home where her guests went to meet Jenny prior to going to dinner.

‘She also gave my father her side party hat to keep as a souvenir on our departure which I now own

‘These coolie’ hats are made of bamboo and worn on top of a coiled scarf which sat on top of the head to cushion the head. Sometimes the woman’s hair was coiled up to rest the hat on. The hat was then held in place with a hat pin or a strap, sometimes another narrow scarf went over the top of the hat and was tied under the chin.

‘Many ships’ services were provided by Jenny when warships called in to Hong Kong and in some ways she acted as a ships’ chandler for services not available in the naval base of HMS Tamar,’ concludes Robert.

n A picture of The Arcade in Edinburgh Road, Landport, Portsmouth, published on December 22, rang bells for Win Hopes of Kimberley Road, Southsea.

The Arcade led to the rear of the Arcade Cinema where her father Charles Webb was a cinema attendant in the 1930s. The ticket office for the cinema was outside the main cinema but stood separately, as I’m sure some of you will remember..

Her father took her to see many of the films and she suspects most starred the legendary child actress Shirley Temple.

Win recalls one of the shops along the Arcade was a religious bookshop selling all types of crucifixes, bibles, holy pictures and the like.

Amazing what sticks in memories isn’t it?