Snow blizzards and erupting volcanoes on the Education Cruise from Sunderland

SS Nevasa on its way.
SS Nevasa on its way.
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Imagine going on a school trip where you get to see the Alps, Pompeii, Malta and Gibraltar.

John Rosenbrier did all that and more when he was at Grange Park School in Sunderland.

On the Devonia. A teacher points the way.

On the Devonia. A teacher points the way.

The year, he thinks, was 1963, and the occasion was a trip on the SS Devonia, which was spotlighted in a Wearside Echoes feature recently.

The Devonia, Uganda and Nevasa were vessels which were used for the Educational Cruise, which took Wearside children to all sorts of foreign spots.

We wanted your memories and John obliged. He told us it was “a holiday of a lifetime”.

He added: “We left Sunderland train station and travelled by steam train to Dover where we crossed the channel to France to pick up a train which would take us through France, Switzerland to Genoa in Italy where we joined the Devonia.

To have visited so many countries and seen so many amazing things for a boy of 14 years old, the memories of that holiday experience will stay with me for the rest of my life

John Rosenbrier

“On the train we were in carriages which had four bunks which were to sleep on during the journey through the night, although as I remember we were too excited to get much sleep and there was too much to see out of the train windows as we made our way down to Italy.

“As the morning came round, we passed through the Swiss Alps and we went through snow blizzards, and the scenery was outstanding.

“Arriving in Genoa we joined the Devonia with lots of other children from all around England and we left for the next port of call, which was Naples.”

The trip then took in some amazing places including Pompeii “which was situated under the volcano Vesuvius”, said John.

The Nevassa arrives on Wearside.

The Nevassa arrives on Wearside.

“We had the opportunity to visit the museum which housed human bodies and animals as well as many artefacts which had been engulfed in lava during the volcanic eruption.

“Leaving Naples, we headed around Sicily to see the erupting Mount Etna before heading for Malta. We arrived in Valletta and we visited St Paul’s Catacombs and also spent time at the famous golden bay beach.”

Malaga in Spain, Gibraltar, and Lisbon in Portugal all followed before sailing through the bay of Biscay.

John said it was “quite an experience as the area was very rough and we finally arrived in Liverpool where we completed our final journey by train back to Sunderland to be met by our parents at Sunderland train station.”

He added: “Since those days back in 1973 I have been lucky enough to visit many places throughout Europe with my own family.

“However, to have visited so many countries and seen so many amazing things for a boy of 14-years-old, the memories of that holiday experience will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Mick Carr was on the Devonia with boys from Commercial Road School in 1966.

He said: “We went to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Leningrad. The sea coming back was horrendous and only a few managed breakfast.”

Les Taylor was another to respond and said: “I was on the ship at the time the picture was taken, sailing to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Leningrad. On the second day of our cruise, we went to the rescue of a ship on which a fire had broken out. Exciting times for a young schoolboy from Seaham.”

Nicola Ratcliffe told us: “I remember the SS Uganda well. I went to St Wilfrids School and remember it leaving from the Sunderland port.

“Miss Alice Wasniouski, our music teacher, was in charge along with Mrs Alexander from King George School. Pupils from King George School came as well.

“Miss Wasniouski used to live in.Sunderland as my dad dropped her off as she had no transport to get home from the drop-off point in South Shields.

“The captain who was in charge of that journey, was called Terry but cannot remember his surname.

“The SS Uganda also took paying passengers along with schoolchildren.”

Nicola’s wonderful reminiscences continued and she said: “Rodenby was one of the pilots who guided the ship out of the port of Sunderland.

“He was married to the late Irene Rodenby who used to work in Laws Cleadon Village.

“Mr Rodenby later died not long after the SS Uganda had been to Sunderland. A very memorable event for all Sunderland and Shields school pupils.”

Thanks to everyone who responded to our story. Do you have a piece of nostalgia you would like us to examine? Email