The East End geezer who rode to Giza on a camel

EAST ENDER Petty Officer Alan Walker alongside the Great Pyramid of Giza
EAST ENDER Petty Officer Alan Walker alongside the Great Pyramid of Giza
In Kingston Cemetery a salute is fired over CPO Leas grave while a bugler plays the Last Post.

NOSTALGIA: What did sailor do to deserve a full naval funeral in the city?

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Alan Walker was from the East End of London before joining the navy in 1945.

On retiring from the Senior Service in 1968 as a chief writer he settled in Portsmouth where he became a drama and English teacher.

The four-masted Brazilian barquentine Almirante Saldanha entering Portsmouth Harbour in August 1950.

The four-masted Brazilian barquentine Almirante Saldanha entering Portsmouth Harbour in August 1950.

Imagine leaving the East End and finding yourself at the Great Pyramid of Giza?

This is what happened to Alan when serving in HMS Sheffield.

At the time he was a petty officer and he told me that back then there were miles of desert to cross before you arrived at the Pyramids.

Nowadays ‘civilisation’ is on the doorstep.

In August 1950 the Brazilian four-masted barquentine Almirante Saldanha visited Portsmouth for a three-day visit.

The sail training vessel, built in 1934, had a crew of 59 cadets plus officers.

She is not a ‘ship’ as such, because a ship is a vessel of three masts, square-rigged on all of them – the same rig as that found on HMS Victory and Warrior.

A vessel square-rigged on the fore and main but with the fore and aft rigged on the mizzen is a barque.

A vessel square-rigged on the fore mast but with fore and aft rigged and the remaining mast, in this case the main, mizzen and jigger mizzen, is called a barquentine.

In those days a sailing vessel such as this was as rare as hen’s teeth and a visit was special.

The crew had left Madeira and made the 600-mile voyage to Spain entirely under sail.

On leaving Portsmouth the crew were looking forward to visiting Scotland, Sweden and Norway.

They left Scandinavia then set off back home to Brazil where they arrived on December 15.